Tag Archives: new youth curriculum

New Sunday School means, no Scripture classes?

We saw on lds.org that the adults will soon be getting curriculum similar to that of the youth.
I have served in Young Women’s before, during, and after the change and it has been a definite blessing to our youth. The Young Women lessons are consistently better than they were before the change. I think our youth are learning the doctrine much better and their opportunities to teach and talk are helping them think more carefully.
All of that has been a great blessing.
If this is applied to adults, there is only one concern I have. Will we lose the focus on scripture? This one concern is also the only concern I’ve had with the youth curriculum: their Sunday School time is no longer focused on working through scripture together, and I think that has been a great loss for them. I am disappointed that that might also be coming for the adults.
The principles of more participation, more prayer in determining what to teach, of more preparation of the students are all great principles, but is there a way to keep those without losing the focus on the standard works?
Having one hour for scripture and one hour for themed lessons (often focused on the talks of general conference) seems a healthy balance. It can show that scripture and modern revelation are both applicable and support each other. Right now, I worry that some of our youth see Sunday School and their YW lesson as redundant.
I am very curious to see what this new curriculum will look like!


New Adult Curriculum?

Okay, so, I’ve enjoyed the improvement in the YW program. A lot. It’s been great. No question that the average YW class is miles beyond where it was two years ago.

But, there are a few things about the way we talk about it that irk me. A lot. And as I see this new program “roll out” for the adults, I have many concerns.


I’m going to be criticizing the article specifically.

The youth curriculum eradicated lecture-style teaching

Eradicated? Whoa. I don’t know that it is eradicated. And should it be? The older lesson manuals weren’t bad because there were times of lecturing, but because we were presuming that the manuals were scripture. Put a suggested lesson in place of scripture and then lecture that, and you’ve got a problem.

I still lecture. Sometimes. Sometimes not. But we’re so quick to decide that was the problem — not the fact that we need to learn better how to listen to the Spirit.

“The principles are so representative of the way the Savior teaches,” said Brother Tad R. Callister

Ouch – really. Why do we need to look at the stories of Christ and try to imitate what we think He looked like when He taught, instead of going to the Doctrine and Covenants, which actually do tell us how God wants us to teach?

D&C 42? D&C 46? D&C 50 and 52? All of these describe teaching “in the Lord’s way” and none of them talk about whether to lecture or lead discussions. That, my friends, ought to be the “how” that the Spirit directs while you prepare, or in the moment.

So I think this curriculum has made an improvement, but not because of lecture vs. not lecture. I think its improvements come from:

1) Our material is no longer a suggested lesson development, but words of scripture, leaders, & prophets. Those were options before but too many treated manuals as words of scripture, leaders, & prophets. The loyalty shown to the manuals is now being placed in the right places. 🙂 And I think the Spirit is much more likely to come when we start with the scriptures and prophets as our main texts than with object lessons, poems, etc. (or so D&C 42:12 seemed to say way back then!).

2) Too many didn’t know how to lead discussions, so telling them to “not lecture!” has been a great move because it has opened them up to another way of teaching. Besides, lecturing when you aren’t really preparing by the Spirit can be death! Discussions and questions are much more likely to bring the Spirit, because we come to those moments open and ready to learn. I this new development has definitely opened teachers and students to the Spirit. The Spirit can still be a part of lectures, though. I think it is the attitude not the method that has made this way of teaching effective. (See D&C 42:13, too.)

3) Student involvement. I do think this aspect of the new curriculum can’t be overrated. It’s been a great idea to put some responsibility on the youth, and to help them know where to find answers to their questions. Fantastic.

So I want to reemphasize that I do think this has been a great move. But not because manuals, lectures, etc. are in themselves bad. And I don’t think that we’ve magically all of a sudden found out the way that Christ taught so we can imitate it. I still am bothered that we don’t go to the D&C to see how to teach. All those are problems, I think. But all the same, there’s improvement, so I’m not bothered by the program itself. Also, it has certainly opened up a place where those who want to teach by the Spirit can without anyone telling them they should be following a manual’s suggested lesson outline instead. 🙂

Just another point or two from the article:

“Youth curriculum was the first step,” Elder Pieper said. “What we have to do is take youth curriculum to adult curriculum. We have to get all of this connected to teaching and learning in the home so that what happens on Sunday supports what happens during the week, and really this is a man raised up by the Lord” to guide that.

Okay, whoa. First of all, perhaps he was “raised up” for this, but I think we’re getting way too excited about curriculum. It was already going on, and now we’re pushing it on to the next step, as he says. Why did someone need to be raised up specifically for that? Especially when it was already going on? I get the idea that we are excited about the Church and any new program, but this seems a little too much. And I’m afraid that whenever we get over-excited and over-blow things, then opponents of the Church have something to criticize all-too fairly. Anyway, I just think we ought to be much more careful.

Church leaders hope the new programs for church classroom settings improve teaching in members’ homes, both when families gather for weekly home evenings, a church program for gospel teaching and family time, and for spontaneous teaching moments and discussions.

Well, I hope it does too. What I hope doesn’t happen is that we think that the monthly themes have to be what we teach in the home, and also (more especially) if we teach that, then we know we’re teaching by the Spirit and all will be well! I am afraid that all the over-exuberance about this “new” and exciting way of teaching is making us as a people all the more reliant on the Church instead of really making us more independent. It’s great when we talk about Church things at home. That should have been going on already, right? If a new curriculum is going to make it happen, then what was wrong with us before? I don’t know what I’m really getting at just yet, but I think there’s something to wonder about in this move.

They also believe that improved learning and teaching and participation will make members better missionaries.

Very, very true, I think. I think this is an awesome point.

Brother Callister is the popular LDS author of “The Infinite Atonement.” First published 14 years ago, both that title and an illustrated version are on Deseret Book’s best-seller list.

Brother Tad Richards Callister earned an accounting degree at BYU in 1968, a law degree at UCLA in 1971 and a master’s degree in tax law at New York University in 1972. He worked as a tax attorney in a family firm in Southern California until he served as president of the Canada Toronto East Mission from 2005 to 2008.

His family tree includes…

I like how they mention his book, in a way that almost sounds like it’s explaining why he’s good pick for a curriculum changer – he’s written a book popular with LDS readers. But then we hear his schooling, which doesn’t have anything to do with writing or religion. 🙂 I just think it’s funny – why mention it? 🙂 And then we have to include his “important family tree.” 🙂 Doesn’t this communicate that we can’t really be leaders without a proper family tree? 🙂 I assume really they just think people are interested in personal details of someone’s life, and they’re right, people are. 🙂 The way it was ordered just struck me as odd and made me smile.

So anyway, there are my rambling thoughts on the new move, as presented in this article.

I have other thoughts on changing Sunday School from a week-by-week working through of Scripture, to a theme-based discussion. Those are in the next post.

Handout on Zion for Beehives today (YW Youth Curriculum December 2013)

I loved teaching Beehives today! I love talking about foundational concepts with them and seeing them really grasp a simple but powerful sense of those concepts. Today we learned about Zion. We talked about Zion of old, Zion to come, what we can do in our families, or what to do when you find yourself surrounded by people not being good (do you escape? teach? hide out?). Lots of good conversation. Anyway, I thought I’d copy the handout we used here, for my own future reference if nothing else:


Zion: Moses 7:16-18 (the story of Enoch’s city, in the Pearl of Great Price)

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object.”…In our families and in our stakes and districts, let us seek to build up Zion through unity, godliness, and charity, preparing for that great day when Zion, the New Jerusalem, will arise. – D. Todd Christofferson, Oct 2008 conference

To come to Zion, it is not enough for you or me to be somewhat less wicked than others. We are to become not only good but holy men and women. – D. Todd Christofferson, Oct 2008 conference

We can make Zion, or we can make Babylon, just as we please. We can make just what we please of this place. The people can make Zion: they can make a heaven within themselves. When people gather here, they should come with a determination to make Zion within themselves, with the resolution that “I will carry myself full of the Spirit of Zion wherever I go; … for I mean that my spirit shall have control over evil:” and do you not see that such a course will make Zion? – Brigham Young

We will become of one heart and one mind as we individually place the Savior at the center of our lives and follow those He has commissioned to lead us. – D. Todd Christofferson, Oct 2008 conference

Admit that the Spirit of the Lord should give us understanding, what would it prove to us? It would prove to me, at least, and what I may safely say to this congregation, that Zion is here. Whenever we are disposed to give ourselves perfectly to righteousness, to yield all the powers and faculties of the soul (which is the spirit and the body, and it is there where righteousness dwells); when we are swallowed up in the will of Him who has called us; when we enjoy the peace and the smiles of our Father in Heaven, the things of His Spirit, and all the blessings we are capacitated to receive and improve upon, then are we in Zion, that is Zion. – Brigham Young

Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit (October 2013 YW Curriculum)

I wanted to very, very quickly mention our YW lesson yesterday.

The Beehives and I were discussing “Becoming Christlike.” We looked at 3 Nephi 12:48 where Christ asks us to be “perfect.” Since that could mean all sorts of things we looked at all of chapter 12 to get an idea. We started on verse 19, where Christ says we need a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.” We spent a while talking about both of those phrases. Then we looked at the stories in the rest of chapter 12. Most of them use the word “heart.” We wrote up three ways in which heart was used: 1) what you care about, 2) hidden, and 3) loving everyone. We were going to read some stories from Chapter 13 but we ran out of time. They are going to read it for next week so we can talk more about it.

I really enjoyed studying scripture with the Beehives! I learned a lot. A broken heart means, or leads to, a purified heart. A perfect heart. A heart with full-purpose. A heart that is honest. A heart that loves everyone, because Christ loves everyone.

It was a nice lesson.

Revelation (May 2013 YW New Curriculum Topic)

What a beautiful scripture to (perhaps) quote to the  YW:

“If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”

That’s D&C 42:61. It is of course talking to Joseph Smith, but I think every word in there has applied to me personally.

I am thinking of talking about personal revelation for this week’s lesson. I thought about using Two Lines of Communication, but that didn’t feel right yet. Then I thought about Sis. Dibb’s talk on finding holy places, since I think revelation comes in holy places. But that hasn’t settled on me yet either. Right now I’m thinking of other scriptures that talk about having faith that you can receive your own revelation, like 1 Nephi 15 where Nephi asks his brothers why they haven’t thought to ask God.

I also thought about connecting it to the Restoration lessons by talking about how the Gift of the Holy Ghost comes by the priesthood, which is part of the Restoration.

I guess I could also have a lesson on the Priesthood, which is what I would have taught on last week but plans had to change last minute. Hmm. That’s an option.

But, my study wants to go elsewhere this morning, so I’ll have to work on this more tomorrow. Adios!

Grace in Elder Bednar’s talk “In the Strength of the Lord”

Today I read through the talk “In the Strength of the Lord,” where Elder Bednar shared his thoughts on Grace when he was called to be an Apostle. I like some of the scriptures he brought out (&I’m going to add them to my growing list of scripture stories that demonstrate grace). I really liked this story, too:

On the night of June 20, 2000, several colleagues and I were working late in the executive offices of then Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. We were making final preparations for an unexpected and historic assembly on our campus the next morning and the announcement by President Hinckley that Ricks College would become a baccalaureate-degree-granting institution and take on the name of Brigham Young University–Idaho. As an administrative team we were just beginning to realize the monumental nature of the responsibility and challenges that were before us.

As we walked out of the building that night, one of my colleagues asked, “President, are you scared?” As best as I can recall, I answered something like this: “If I thought we had to execute this transition relying exclusively upon our own experience and our own judgment, then I would be terrified. But we will have help from heaven. Because we know who is in charge and that we are not alone, then no, I am not scared.” And we who serve at BYU–Idaho unitedly testify that there has been help from heaven, miracles have occurred, revelations have been received, doors have been opened, and we have been greatly blessed as individuals and as an institution.

I think we could apply that to life generally: “Are you scared?” “If I were on my own, yes. But I know who is in charge and that I am not alone, so no, I am not scared.” That is at least part of what I’ve been trying to describe when I feel consecrated.

Grace in Brad Wilcox’s talk “His Grace Is Sufficient”

Still looking at Grace and the language of “enabling power” etc., Looking at Brad Wilcox’s BYU speech this morning. Here’ are some parts of his message that really get at the heart of what he is saying, I think:

Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. How many know what I am talking about? Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.

If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn’t yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn’t see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane.

In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask (“Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”), maybe it is because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes. We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.

They are so happy the debt is paid that they may not have considered why the debt existed in the first place.

As my friend Omar Canals puts it, “While many Christians view Christ’s suffering as only a huge favor He did for us, Latter-day Saints also recognize it as a huge investment He made in us.”

But the older I get, and the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.”

A lot of what he says I like, but a lot I’m still uncomfortable with so far. This paragraph helps me explain what I’m unsure about:

We would be left forever with only willpower, with no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic rather than sinking inside us and becoming part of us—part of who we are.

I get the idea, but the attitude doesn’t follow for me. I get the idea that we spend a lifetime changing, but I don’t get the idea that after we have given into grace that we still need to be coaxed into keeping the commandments. From my experience, either I’m oriented to God or I’m not. What happens is that I have a moment of decision to give my heart to God, and from that follows a lot of joy and peace. Then at some point I choose otherwise, and I can feel that I’ve chosen that, and then I’m not oriented to God and I have to repent of that mis-orientation. Of choosing something other than fully giving myself to God. Even if it wasn’t “sin” that was the problem. I can tell when I’m loving something more than God. Even something that seems completely innocent or justified. It’s like taking a few extra minutes at the store when you know your spouse is waiting for you. It isn’t sinful to check on one more sale. But it isn’t putting your spouse first. It’s something like that with being oriented to God. “Sin” designates certain unacceptable actions. But for me, it’s where my heart is that makes the real difference. (Something like Augustine and the Pear tree – it wasn’t stealing that really bothered him later, it was just doing something “bad” for bad’s sake – it was giving in to the wrong orientation that really bothered him later.)

So the statement “if Jesus did not require endurance to the end…” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in my head. If we’re still feeling like this is a matter of requirements we don’t want, then we haven’t really made the change of heart in the first place. Perhaps it’s not bad, though, perhaps it’s something like Alma talking about “if you no more than have a desire to believe.” Perhaps the group Wilcox is addressing are those who have a “desire for a change of heart.” And that’s still awesome. But it makes me a bit sad and uncomfortable at the same time, because I feel like it’s still a sad and uncomfortable way to live! For me it’s one or the other – completely in grace and stress-free, or slightly out of grace, and stressed.

I think that is why I like this quotation from Eliza Snow:

When I am filled with that Spirit, my soul is satisfied, and I can say in good earnest, that the trifling things of the day do not seem to stand in my way at all. But just let me lose my hold of that spirit and power of the Gospel, and partake of the spirit of the world, in the slightest degree, and trouble comes; there is something wrong. I am tried, and what will comfort me? You cannot impart comfort to me that will satisfy the immortal mind, but that which comes from the Fountain above. And is it not our privilege to so live that we can have this constantly flowing into our souls?

That is how I experience Grace. I am filled with that Spirit and I can see how nothing stands in the way of God’s work! But if I “partake of the spirit of the world, in the slightest degree” then yes, “the trouble comes.” I’ve felt like that a lot over the last few days. But, fortunately, there is a comfort that comes from the “Fountain above” – it’s His Grace, which is ready at every instant to take me back again.

What I haven’t talked about here or in the last post is what happens after we “give in” to Grace. Then comes the other side of the coin – consecration. A consecrated life is one in which we see that “the trifling things of the day do not seem to stand in my way at all” because we are working together with God. We see things as they really are – God is fully in charge. We are just along for the ride. The change I think is seen quite clearly in that we stop asking God to help us in our work, and we start asking God how we can help in His work. I see in my mind the council of the great women and men that surround God’s throne, all counseling together about how to do good in the world and push God’s work of saving souls forward. Then at times I see myself also in that council, and/or being assigned by that counsel. I feel like I’m on the “inside,” a part of plans and great schemes to help in God’s work. And that’s fun and exciting, and very very real. It feels like the realest thing I could feel. It’s so happy and just perfect.

And for some reason I don’t stay there?!? That’s the most surprising thing in all of this. That the “world” or my “flesh” could ever call me away is amazing. But, it does. But, the Holy Ghost is always calling me back, asking me to “yield” once again (Mosiah 3:19). It’s just a matter of giving my heart all over again, and trusting, when I jump over that line, He’s there to catch me. And also, that when I jump over that line, He really is in charge of everything in this world and I can live again in trust. It really does feel like being a child again, trusting that your parents have everything under control, and you can let go of your stress and just start exploring and enjoying the world again.

So there’s my thoughts on Grace and why I’m a bit uncomfortable with Brad Wilcox’s talk. Lots of it I like, and I think describing it as to those who “desire for a change of heart,” like those Alma was talking to in Alma 32. But I think there’s a big way in which it misses the peace and joy that can come from really giving all of one’s heart and jumping in with both feet. Yah, that’s the way to say it. It’s jumping in, but keeping a hand or foot on the side still and thereby never really fully experiencing the love and joy that I’ve felt (though not constantly). And so it leaves me feeling a bit saddened, even though I know it’s still pushing many in a good direction. I just worry that it can’t push them all the way.