Notes for my writing

This blog is made up of notes on the gospel as found in the only true and living church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This includes notes that are either excerpts from or ideas for books I either have in draft or may yet write.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Gospel Teaching

We believe gospel teaching is done by committee and community, and hence instead of teaching we host discussions. The scriptures portray a teacher as someone who teaches. Christ doesn't do his teaching by asking each of his apostles how something ought to be done. He doesn't ask everyone for their input so he can gather up everything that anyone has to "add to the discussion". He teaches. And if we really believe he is the master teacher then when we are teaching we should teach, just as he did.

The scriptures speak multiple times of the gift of teaching. It is a spiritual gift. That is completely than the gift of "discussion hosting". The whole method of the gospel is that truth descends from above. This is not a grassroots church. This is a church of teachers and teaching.

Modern ideas about teaching seem to be among those notions born out of psychology and its educational ilk. They are the philosophies of men. And are nowhere found in the scriptures. In fact it oppose them.

And doing things opposite to what is in the scriptures is a problem. It is a problem now because we have come so far that we actually oppose teaching of the sort found in the scriptures. A teacher who fails to host a discussion is, in our eyes, a poor teacher.

It is simply ludicrous that we speak so freely of Christ as the master teacher, and then immediately roll our eyes and mentally cast out anybody who teaches a class like he is actually called to teach truth, rather than hosting a discussion. We mentally tune out and believe we have no obligation to listen and learn because so-and-so is such a lousy, uninspired instructor who doesn't know how to keep things interesting.

And what we really mean by that is that the instructor doesn't know how to be an entertainer. Pondering and careful consideration of the scriptures are less entertaining than a fun personal story that can be turned into a religious object lesson.

We want our teaching to be Sesame Street. It needs to entertain us darnit! Anyone who doesn't entertain doesn't know how to teach. Or at least, that is, if we are to be honest with ourselves, the way we have come to judge good teaching. We don't care about the teaching, but the entertainment.

I remember visiting a class once of a religious instructor. It was a Doctrine and Covenants class by Joseph Fielding McConkie. The students were stony eyed. At one point, he paused and asked if anyone was awake out there. He paused, then asked again whether anyone was awake.

Of course, he wasn't hosting a discussion. He was teaching. He was teaching truth more clearly than any other instructor in that building would ever come close to during their mortal lifetime.

But what would our society say about it?

He wasn't hosting a discussion. He was just droning on. The fact that he was droning on about eternal truth and with incredible insight would be irrelevant. By our standards, he was being a lousy teacher.

And that is because our standards for teaching are not the standards of the scriptures. We read of Christ "and there was no beauty that we should desire him." Christ's teaching wasn't based on being dynamic. It wasn't about energizing people. It certainly wasn't about entertaining them.

What Christ had to offer was truth. And if truth was what you wanted, then you, like Peter, James, and John would follow after him.

But if you wanted something else, there were plenty of others willing to offer it, as the temple itself informs us.

We don't want teaching. We want a return to Sesame Street every week where we feel invigorated by the teaching method whether or not there is anything that requires the restoration and the Holy Ghost to teach. Sadly, I don't think we generally even distinguish between these anymore.

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