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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : The Church’s Rotation Causes Us To Miss Way Too Much!!! » The Church’s Rotation Causes Us To Miss Way Too Much!!!

The Church’s Rotation Causes Us To Miss Way Too Much!!!

Don - June 29, 2006

I’m so tired of our four year rotation schedule for Sunday School.  Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, D&C / Church History.  Why is the Church so bent on getting through these scriptures every four years?

As a teacher I get frustrated at the lack of depth to the study materials.  I explain it to the class by telling them I feel a lot like a little kid throwing flat rocks out across a pond.  We’d count the number of times the stone would skip on top of the water.

Our church rotation is the same thing.  We just skip along the surface.  We don’t have time for in-depth study.  Hit the basic principles, the ones where the answers are always "personal prayer", "FHE", "attend church", "keep the commandments."

Are those who write the manuals so inept they can’t go deeper…I don’t think so.  Are the members so slow they can’t learn more, don’t want to learn more, need to have it repeated over and over because they can’t "get it", or they just don’t realize there is so much more?

Why can’t the brethern put us on a 6 or 8 year plan?  Are they afraid we’ll forget what’s in the BOM if we don’t "study it" every four years.  I mean the gospel principles are found in all the scriptures, in depth study crosses back and forth between all of them.  I’d like to see something like 2 years for Old Testament, 2 years for the New Testament, 2 years for the BOM and 2 years for the D&C.

Example: read the last few verses of Ruth and tell me why the verse about Tamar is there and the verses showing the genealogy is there.


  1. I would recommend that instead of running through each of the scriptures every 8 years, that we go towards a topical study. And do more than just study a topic for a week and move on. Instead, spend a month on a single topic, and what all of the standard works and recent Conference talks say on the subject. Only then will we have the opportunity for the members to learn and get interested in the topics at hand – and not have to rush through each subject.

    Comment by Gerald Smith — June 29, 2006 @ 10:05 pm

  2. I agree with the idea of topical study, as long as the topics are defined broadly enough. The topics ought to be doctrinally focused, and not application focused as is more appropriate for PM / RS. There should also be an effort to relate the doctrinal principles to one another so that people can understand the gospel as a whole, and not just a collection of precepts.

    Then I think there should be a standard reading plan and some way to promote it, e.g. having members speak briefly about current material in sacrament meeting. No need to impose an artificial structure on Gospel Doctrine class.

    Those who want historically organized classes should take Institute, and Institute of course should be scholarly in nature, not merely devotional. That is what sacrament meeting is for. Same with “seminary”.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 29, 2006 @ 10:31 pm

  3. LOL, this is so funny to me. I’ve only attended Gospel Doctrine 10% of the time in the last 9 years. I’m so often in Primary, or I’m nursing a baby, or even taking care of a toddler means I’m keeping them quietly entertained, not really listening to the Sunday School class….Family Relations class was much more conducive to a toddler so I appreciated that, plus I did a Teacher Development stint once, plus all those times someone is sick or I go to my MILs so I’m not at church at all.
    But I have to remember that there are people like you in Gospel Doctrine who are there eager to learn and really study the scriptures.

    Comment by JKS — June 30, 2006 @ 12:21 am

  4. I agree with your post.. tonight in institute, we covered the second half of 3rd Nephi in half an hour. It was sad that the book that is arguably the pinnacle of the BofM was given as much study as somebody nonchalantly perusing the nutrition facts on a box of Lucky Charms.

    I want more depth. I want more enlightenment. I don’t want the teacher asking obvious questions like “so who came down after his Resurrection?” to force mundane class participation. I want discussion. I want thought-provoking questions.

    Comment by Connor Boyack — June 30, 2006 @ 1:52 am

  5. My approach to teaching Gospel Doctrine this year has been to not cover all the material. Instead, I let the class decide what they want to talk about in class, and we get as deep as we want. Then I encourage the class to continue their study at home.

    When I was called, the bishopric member asked if I would be comfortable teaching on my own, or if I would like to alternate weeks with another teacher. I told him I much preferred having my own class, so I could have the ability to carry over discussions from week to week should the need arise.

    Comment by Bryce I — June 30, 2006 @ 9:45 am

  6. In kinda’ in with JKS. Having 5 kids and spending a number of years in Primary or teaching the youth Sunday School, I haven’t spent much time in GD until this last few months. I’m enjoying the class a lot and we have a teacher who brings in lots of deeper study material about Hebrew and Jewish custom, which I really get into. I’m a convert, so I never was in seminary or went to BYU, so a lot of what some people might find repetitive is pretty new to me.

    Comment by Kristian — June 30, 2006 @ 10:34 am

  7. The problem here is that depth in the scriptures is highly personal and subjective. Someone may believe that the last half of 3rd Nephi is the pinnacle of the Book of Mormon. Another may believe it’s the books of Alma. Someone may not care about Tamar and the genealogy– it strikes me as just another of the random bits of the OT included for man’s reasons and not God’s. And while we’re happily (or not so happily) discussing these various bits, people who — because they’re recent members or because they’ve been in Primary for so long that they’ve missed the adult lessons for the last year or more — are losing ground or just being confused.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — June 30, 2006 @ 10:51 am

  8. “people who — because they’re recent members or because they’ve been in Primary for so long that they’ve missed the adult lessons for the last year or more — are losing ground or just being confused.”

    That’s a major incentive for in-depth personal study. Being a newbie to the OT, I’m just keeping up with the lesson with my own study.

    One thing that I really appreciate (both as a student and a teacher) are when people who have made that in depth study speak up in class and take part in the discussion. I’ve noticed that it’s a very small percentage of people in any class setting that will actually open their mouths, which in a class like GD is sad. There are so many of you that could add nuggets of wisdom to my own study and understanding.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 30, 2006 @ 11:28 am

  9. I’m not sure it is the rotation that causes us to miss so much. It seems to me that it is almost entirely accounted for by the quality of the teacher. I had a whole semester at BYU on the PoGP from one of the religion departments experts on the Book of Abraham, and it was the most boring, trite, surface skimming experience ever. On the other hand, I have seen fantastic teachers stretch a class week after week in the Old Testament (where there is never enough time) by skipping things judiciously and zeroing in on important parts and digging in. It is tempting to blame it on a lay ministry, but I have been disappointed by our professionals and impressed by our lay people on many occasions. Also, there is nothing to stop you from picking a topic from the block of chapters for the week and doing a topical lesson, even with our current manuals. But I doubt that’s the problem. Elder’s quorum manuals are organized by topic, and that has never solved the problem in my experience.

    Comment by Jacob — June 30, 2006 @ 11:28 am

  10. ^^^

    That last one was from me. I forgot to sign in…

    Comment by Kristian — June 30, 2006 @ 11:29 am

  11. Yeah, and I could spend a year on the PofGP easily. Why they lump it in with OT is beyond me. It’s NOT the OT.

    Mark and Gerald — the lessons are topically based as they are now. They might start the lesson in sequential (read: canonical) order, but in reality what they have the teacher do is find the “core doctrine” in the material for the week, and suplement it with (sadly) restoration scripture. My expertise in graduate school was the book of Joshua, and I was saddened when I read the manual on the book because they hit only some history, then the obligatory scripture mastery verse of 24:15, and then moved on to “choosing God” over “choosing the world,” which I found to be somewhat of an erroneous hermeneutic. But that’s beside the point. The point is: I would argue that the lessons might begin with something in canonical order, but that’s just a smokescreen for having a topical-based discussion.

    Comment by David J — June 30, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

  12. I’m not wild about the idea of topical study being the fix for the current way the scriptures are being studied.

    Rather, I think the schedule by which the scriptures are studied should take into account an amount of time that is needed for a class to get through the books. If it would take six to eight years, that would be fine with me.

    The idea that the classes would cover all the chapters of scripture in the canonical books would be an incentive for people to read the assigned material. It could get really interesting.

    However, I am guessing that there are numerous Old Testament stories that are considered problematic or troubling and thus it becomes preferable to skip rocks on the scriptural waters, so to speak.

    Comment by danithew — June 30, 2006 @ 1:17 pm

  13. Kudos to you teachers who go deeper than the manual, and those who attend SS class where the teachers will do that.

    I once had a Bishop who told me to stick to the manual and quit going into “other” areas. So being the obedient person that I am, I did it somewhat less and then reverted to my old habits when he was released.

    I also am somewhat embarrased that many of my “Born again” friends know the historical background and relationship scriptures better than I do. Obviously I’m not studying hard enough!

    Comment by Don — June 30, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

  14. Yes, yes, the church and teachers are to blame for lack of in-depth study. Sure.

    1. It couldn’t possibly be that almost every SS and PH class I have ever been to averages about 2% of the class having actually even read either the lesson manual or the reading assignment.

    2. It couldn’t possible be that the church is afraid that delving into the “other” parts of the gospel might actually lead to discussions ending up like they so often do on the bloggernacle – with the discussion being dominated by a few loudmouths who get all controversial and heated. (Yes I realize that I am currently a prime example of heated and loudmouthed)

    Comment by Ryan — June 30, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

  15. many of my “Born again” friends know the historical background and relationship scriptures better than I do.

    Sadly their knowledge about something as essential and important as the nature of God is so off-base, it more than overcompensates for any historical background they may have on the scriptures.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 30, 2006 @ 4:14 pm

  16. To the last poster:

    Perhaps, but the two are inextricably connected. Knowing what’s going on in a verse prevents cavalier exegesis. So, for example, I think the Mormon take on Ezekiel 37:15ff is rotten to the core, totally eisegetical, and a hermeneutical stretch in all its forms. If one realizes where Ezekiel is, what time period he’s in, to whom he’s talking, and the great importance of the message he’s trying to deliver, the meaning is crystal clear. And this goes for so much more than just the Ezekiel passage as well.

    Comment by David J — June 30, 2006 @ 4:57 pm

  17. Yes but one of the problems with “understanding” the history is that in reality, we don’t know much about the background or time period at all beyond archaeologists and their speculations (educated speculations I’ll admit, but speculations nonetheless).

    There is soooo much room for error in thinking we understand a culture, especially one as ancient as the biblical cultures that I am no more inclined to believe what a “born again” claims to know than I am in believing that David Koresh was the Messiah.

    I flipped through a book one time and now wish I had kept it.. the setting was about 2000 years from now, our civilization had gone through a complete collapse and the archaeologists from AD 4006 were sorting through the remnants of our culture and explaining to people all about an ancient ceremonial head piece (a toilet seat and lid) and other such outrageous falsehoods based upon the fragmented records and trash of an ancient society.

    I don’t doubt that much of the same goes on in our current archaeological research.

    Nibley wrote an interesting article on this topic (History vs. Religion) wherein he points out that history unfairly gets a free pass as accurate when it is pitted against religion. Religion is challenged to measure up to the bar that history has set when, in reality, events as recently as 9/11 are still in debate as to “what happened”.

    Comment by Ryan — June 30, 2006 @ 5:37 pm

  18. The geneology and specifically Tamar is there to show the “curse” put upon him and that it is not lifted from his line till ten generations hae passed. I believe David was the first post curse in that line and thus worthy to become king and such.

    I know I’m missing something too.

    Comment by Bret — June 30, 2006 @ 5:58 pm

  19. “However, I am guessing that there are numerous Old Testament stories that are considered problematic or troubling and thus it becomes preferable to skip rocks on the scriptural waters, so to speak.”

    I have to agree. I taught Joshua to a primary class of 9 year olds last week, and I have to tell you, I am glad that I could stay at a high level (obviously this is not Gospel Doctrine). That whole book is basically the story of a genocide of a whole people!

    That said, I would love to get in a little deeper, but we have to remember, the classes are always filled with people with different levels of progression in the gospel. The church has to balance the lessons so that they fit the largest possible group of people. Those looking for depth are always going to be disappointed, unless they decide to have different levels of classes (kid of like Gospel Essentials class now).

    Comment by Jolard — June 30, 2006 @ 6:10 pm

  20. I think there are many who feel they are missing out by the break-neck pace of the Gospel Doctrine class. Several years ago I was asked to teach the Gospel Essentials Class. I asked the bishop’s permission to take up to 4 weeks on individual lessons, promising that I would never leave the “basics” but would give a fuller understanding and background to the basic doctrines on the church. He consented. Within two months, the class had grown from 5 to over 30, threatening attendence in Gospel Doctrine. This increase had nothing to do with me and everything to do with feeding a hungry flock.

    Comment by larryco_ — June 30, 2006 @ 7:02 pm

  21. David J, The following seems significant here:

    Ye remember that I spake unto you, and said that when the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled—behold they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them—

    And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.

    For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles.

    And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.
    (3 Ne 20:11, 23:1-3)

    Now I am not so sure we shouldn’t apply the same principle to Ezekiel. And of course later prophets often appear to add on new meanings that perhaps were not conciously intended by their predecessors. I think Paul does that in a few places.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 1, 2006 @ 5:00 am

  22. The problem (or a problem) I have with many of the materials is how they focus on some distintive LDS belief or practice instead looking at the work as a whole. We may have one Sunday, for example, to study 1 Corinthians, and then the lesson focuses on 1 Corinthians 15:29, which is in the context of things is somewhat obscure and surely not a major point of Paul’s. Or a lesson on Malachi may focus on tithing and ignore his other pronouncements. It’s not that I think baptism for the dead and tithing are unimportant; they aren’t. But Malachi and 1 Corinthians have so much more to offer, things that are also important.

    That said, I have found that the value I get out of a class is proportional to two things: how much I have prepared in advance, and how good a job the teacher does in promoting constructive thought on the material.

    Comment by Copedi — July 1, 2006 @ 10:16 am

  23. Bret wins the prize for the last question in my original post…although not much of a detailed explaination.

    Comment by Don — July 1, 2006 @ 5:13 pm

  24. I’ve been in the nursery for a long time, so it’s been awhile, but one of my biggest irritations in GD class was teachers who’d go on and on about how little time they had to cover all the material. Just teach it already and stop wasting time complaining about not having enough time!

    Comment by Susan M — July 1, 2006 @ 11:23 pm

  25. Ryan, the reason history gets a free pass and religion doesn’t, is because history is more objective and isn’t attempting to create an agenda for anything. Religion, on the other hand, has been the “cause” by which history has been twisted out to make things appear as they were not. Religion, especially when it employs history for backing up its claims, is nothing more than a theological apologetic for the given historical fact we’re viewing. This is all nicely laid out for us in William Dever’s What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?.

    To say that we don’t understand background or history in effort to open the door for religious interpretations of a given verse is too convenient. You think there’s a lot of room for error in historical speculation, yet you don’t see that religious speculation is even more removed from the historical reality at hand. One could say it’s twice removed.

    And to attempt to bag archaeology as a subjective science over and against religious speculation or theological agendas is truly naive. The toilet seat example (I’ve heard something similar with archaeologists finding a Pink Floyd album and thinking similar things) is hyperbolic, implausible, and inadmissible. When archs. go on a dig, they know what they’re looking at; ancient culture is rarely as complex as one might think. I’ve never been on a dig, but I did have a class in Syro-Palestinian archaeology in graduate school, and I don’t want you to get the impression that these folks don’t know what they’re recovering, or how to interpret what they recover. In fact, the few little things in dispute (such as the presence of Asherah at Kuntillet Ajrud, the possible uses of the Tel Siran bottle, etc.) are of such minor importance to the overall scheme of what they have retrieved of ancient Israel that little would change if in fact the more “dangerous” or liberal conclusions were reached regarding what they have found and subsequently interpreted.

    Also, many of our greatest archaeologists of today and yesterday were Born Agains. Many of the “findings” of the FARMS folks like Nibley (who you lauded above) has come to them piggy-backed on the dirty, grimy, and arduous work of a select few “born agains” who are tirelessly working to discover what the earth can tell us about ancient Israel. So yeah, I’d listen to a Born Again tell me about Biblical Archaeology if I had the chance — after all, at least their so-called archaeological agenda isn’t tainted with stories of seemingly made-up Egyptian dialects which anachronistically purport to discuss an Israelite Messiah (250 years before messianism emerges). Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believing Mormon, but I just say that to illustrate that our “archaeological interpretations” are viewed by others in the world as terribly sketchy, very contrived, and often faulty. For the most part, the current scholarship in “Biblical Archaeology” is quite neutralized, balanced, and honest in its findings and interpretations. (Once again, cf. Dever’s book for more on this).

    And of course later prophets often appear to add on new meanings that perhaps were not conciously intended by their predecessors.

    Mark Butler, go read Virkler’s book Hermenuetics as soon as possible. Maybe even Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies when you get the chance. Your guess on this issue (which, by the way, is what we call sensus plenior) is just that — a guess. Ezekiel’s words had meaning for his immediate audience. There was no second-guessing what he meant when they heard it. We (Mormons) came along and added something to it, perhaps at the expense of the original meaning and in effort to plug our own theological agenda. You and I are both at the mercy of our (Mormon) interpretation of the Ezekiel 37 material being wrong. Not very historical, I know. Meaningful? Yes. Exegetically sound? Probably not.

    Comment by David J — July 2, 2006 @ 5:10 pm

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