Author’s note: This is the fourth post in a series about my experiences with and reflections on teaching seminary on a volunteer basis this past year. Its observations and opinions do not necessarily represent the teachings or policies of the Seminaries & Institutes program or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It is natural for modern readers of ancient religious literature to read their own lives into the text. This is fine. That’s why we read the texts we read instead of ancient account statements. However, as tempting as it is to think of ancient “wards” and “stakes” when we read about ancient assemblies, we ought to realize the essential differences between our culture and theirs, separated by dozens of centuries of intellectual change and economic change. To do otherwise is to miss out on essential interpretive insights at best. At worst, we do violence to the text.
One of my favorite activities came at the first of the year, as, while introducing the Old Testament as a whole to my students, I wanted to teach them just how far removed the people of the OT were from us. I believed this would help them understand our differences in culture and worldview. For instance, notions like “all people are created equal” and “women deserve the same rights as men” would not be thought of for thousands of years. As closely aligned as religion and politics are today, they were even more inextricably connected then. Though also an ancient concept, it had not yet occurred to many that their deities presided over all humanity and not just their given tribe or land. Even money was yet to be invented for many OT peoples. Continue reading “Seminary Series: Just how long IS three millennia?”
Author’s note: This is the third post in a series about my experiences with and reflections on teaching seminary on a volunteer basis this past year. Its observations and opinions do not necessarily represent the teachings or policies of the Seminaries & Institutes program or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I was a bad seminary student; out of the nearly 100 scripture mastery verses in all 4 years of seminary, I memorized three of them. Back then, I thought it was a waste of time, but it could not have been more of a time-waster than flipping and fumbling through my scriptures — later, while teaching as a missionary — for passages I knew I should have had memorized. Besides that, memorization is an underrated pedagogical tool. I learned my mission language in large part by memorizing the discussions in it. Classically educated people memorized large works of literature for centuries before the modern age, and we usually consider them pretty smart.
So I’m strongly in favor of rote memorization. But memorizing little scripture packets also has its downsides: 1) It’s boring. I don’t really care about this one. Work is hard. Suck it up. Besides, the Church develops thoughtful, innovative tools for the students to memorize and the Sons of Ammon have even composed some fun, albeit corny songs, without which I don’t think I could have memorized them myself this year. I realize that some students will still be better at memorizing than others, but since Scripture Mastery does not count as part of their grade anyway … Continue reading “Seminary Series: Scripture Mastery”
(update:) Author’s note: This is the second post in a series dealing with my experiences teaching seminary on a volunteer basis over this past year. The thoughts and observations contained therein do not necessarily represent those of the Seminaries and Institutes program or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The introductory post can be found here.
I support and deeply value the seminary program and its role in the lives of LDS youth. That’s why I accepted the call. But as I began to contemplate the coming year, I struggled to come to terms with the difference between how I would teach the Old Testament in seminary and how I had been taught it in graduate school. I had many questions. How much should these students know? Should I tell them that Moses did not write the “Five Books of Moses?” Should I tell them that he did? Should I acquaint them with ancient literary concepts of fiction and satire, and point them out in the ahistorical books of Job, Jonah, Esther, and even Ruth? Can the Old Testament be properly understood without doing so?
Continue reading “Seminary Series: What Is Seminary For?”
(update) Author’s note: This post is first in a series about my experiences and reflections on teaching seminary on a volunteer basis over the past year. No statement therein necessarily represents the positions of the Seminaries & Institutes Program or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Most universities are already out, but high school students are still wrapping up their year (poor kids). Our seminary class is no different; we’ve basically got Jonah and Malachi ahead of us and then we’re done.
I’ve spent the past year teaching seminary on a volunteer basis (a calling from the stake), and, per curriculum, we’ve focused on the Old Testament. I’d like to post a series (of to-be-determined length) on my experiences as a teacher coming from a graduate religious studies background outside of the CES training environment. This first post is about me and my students as a way of setting the stage.
Continue reading “Seminary Series: Introducing the Class”
In 1971, Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a talk in which he stated:
The gospel might be likened to the keyboard of a piano—a full keyboard with a selection of keys on which one who is trained can play a variety without limits; a ballad to express love, a march to rally, a melody to soothe, and a hymn to inspire; an endless variety to suit every mood and satisfy every need.
How shortsighted it is, then, to choose a single key and endlessly tap out the monotony of a single note, or even two or three notes, when the full keyboard of limitless harmony can be played. (BKP, The Only True and Living Church, Ensign, Dec 1971) Continue reading “100 Years of Seminary. And BTW Gay Marriage”