Sunday School Lesson #43

November 12, 2006 | 31 comments
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Lesson 43: Ezekiel 18, 34, and 37

Chronologically we turn backwards at this point. Jeremiah was the prophet in 595 B.C. when Jerusalem was finally captured and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and its people were carried into Babylon. Like Lehi, Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah, but Ezekiel did not prophesy with them. Instead, like Daniel, Ezekiel was with the large group from Judah taken captive into Babylon earlier. He began to prophesy only after arriving in Babylon, so prophets in Juersalem, like Lehi and Jeremiah, may not even have known about Ezekiel. Tradition has it that he died and was buried in Babylon. With that in mind, as you read Ezekiel, ask yourself what difference the absence of the Temple makes to his preaching and teaching.

Chapter 18

Verses 1-4: The people of Israel seem to have used this proverb as a complaint against the Lord. Can you explain how the proverb works as a complaint? Why might that complaint have arisen in Babylon? Why does the Lord speak here of his ownership of all souls? What point is he making when he speaks of the soul of the father and the soul of the son?

Verses 5-9: In the Old Testament, what does it mean to be just (verse 5)? Does it mean perfect obedience to all the commandments? Can you explain why you answer that question as you do? What does it mean to walk in the statutes of God (verse 9)? To “deal truly”? Why does verse 9 end by repeating what was said in verse 5? What does that suggest about the material in between?

Verses 10-20: What is the point of these verses? How do they apply to Israel in Babylon?

Verses 21-24: What has been the Lord’s point in the chapter so far? What does the Lord mean when he asks, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?”

Verses 25-29: What complaint is the Lord responding to in verse 23? Do we ever make a similar complaint? When? What is the Lord’s answer? Explain the last part of verse 29.

Verses 30-32: Why does this section begin with the word therefore?

Chapter 34

Verses 1-10: How does this describe the shepherd “leaders” that Israel has had? How is the Babylonian captivity related to these verses? It is easy enough to think of ways that these verses may apply to others, especially those who lead earthly governments. But how might they apply to us? (Remember that Nephi says “I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” He doesn’t say, “I did liken all scripture unto others.”

Here is an alternate translation of verse 10: “Thus says the Lord GOD: I swear I am coming against these shepherds. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves [i.e., feed themselves instead of the sheep]. I will save my sheep, that they may no longer be food for their mouths.” (New American Bible).

Verses 11-22: How does the Lord’s leadership contrast with that of the leaders of Israel? Can you list the different things that the Lord does as shepherd and explain what each of those might model for us? Consider the context and the theme of these verses and the previous 10 verses: What do you think the rams and the he-goats in verse 17 might represent? What about the lean cattle and the fat cattle in verse 22?

Verses 23-31: Why does the Lord use King David to represent the ideal shepherd who will govern Israel? Do you see the ways in which these verses promise to fulfill the covenant made to Abraham (Genesis 17:2-8 and Genesis 22:16-18)? Does it fulfill the restatement of that covenant that the Lord made through Moses (Exodus 19:4-6)?

Chapter 37

Rather than a “mere” prophecy, we have here the record of a prophetic vision.

Verses 1-14: Can you think of different ways to understand this prophecy of the resurrection? For example, what might the dry bones have meant to the Israelites in Babylonian captivity and what might the resurrection represent to them? What do you make of the fact that Ezekiel brings about the resurrection of these bones by preaching “the word of the Lord”; to them? What might “word of the Lord” mean here? In verse 11, “we are cut off for our parts” can also be translated “we are clean cut off.” What is Israel saying in verse 11? What does verse 14 promise? The word “spirit” could also be translated “breath.” How does that connect verse 14 to verses 5 and 9? Does this give us any clue as to different ways of understanding the resurrection described here?

Verses 15-23: What is the overall theme of these verses? (Notice that verses 15-20 describe an “object lesson” that is used in Ezekiel’s preaching in verses 21-23.) In that context, how would those in Babylon have understood the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph? How do we understand those two sticks? How are those two understandings related to each other?

Verses 24-28: Is there a difference between a king and a shepherd (verse 24)? Why is David used as a figure of the Messiah? What promises does the Lord make in these verses? How do those promises correlate with the Abrahamic covenant and its Mosaic clarification? How does this promise relate to the new covenant that Jeremiah promised (Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 8:8)?

31 Responses to Sunday School Lesson #43

  1. Douglas Hunter on November 14, 2006 at 10:37 pm

    Jim thanks for the post. This is off topic but are you aware of any place on the web that hosts a general discussion of teaching, and / or an exchange between us teachers about how we approach the lessons, what we find most interesting / challenging in the material etc.? I’ve been looking and have not found one.

    thanks
    -Douglas

  2. Jim F. on November 16, 2006 at 12:47 am

    No, I don’t know of one. Why don’t you start one up? With some ground rules that could be of real interest to those of us who teach.

  3. Douglas Hunter on November 16, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    Honestly, I’m notexactly sure how to do it. Seems to me that it would be best if the dialogue occurred on an established web site such as this one.

    Thought about starting a thread on the FAIR board but I don’t think the audience is there; nor am I confident that the discussion would stay on topic etc.

  4. Jim F. on November 17, 2006 at 2:21 am

    Before going further on this, perhaps we should take a straw poll: How many are there out there who would be interested in reading and participating on a thread or site devoted to a general discussion of teaching, including or perhaps even focusing on “things I tried that worked well”?

  5. Hank on November 17, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    I WOULD!!!!!!!!

  6. Shelly T on November 17, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    I would. I am a first time G.D. teacher and have enjoyed coming here to read the lessons. They really help me with my studying of the scriptures and the lessons. I have a lot of diversity in my class from new members to those that have taught this class for years and years. I feel like I do a lot of preaching and not enough teaching.

  7. Ben S on November 18, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    Perhaps feastupontheword.org could add a blog section devoted to these discussions, and links to all the people who put up lesson notes, like Jim F., Mike Parker, Wendy Austin, etc.

  8. Jon L. on November 18, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    I vote YES

  9. Ardis Parshall on November 18, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Jim F. — Count me in.

  10. Robert C. on November 18, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    I think this is a good idea too. Here’s a page for Sunday school material at the Feast wiki—it could probably use some cleaning up. The problem is that the wiki is a bit harder to use than a normal blog, and I don’t know anyone who wants to start a blog focues on this (though if someone starts a blog, I would be happy to try read and perhaps even contribute a bit)….

    I teach 12-14 year olds and I’ve had to drastically switch gears in covering the writings and prophets. Through the Pentateuch and historical books, I could just read passages and tell stories and ask the kids the point of the stories and things went quite smoothly. With the Prophets, I have to work a lot harder to keep their interest. I’ve resorted to playing some games, though frankly I feel a bit guilty about that (since I was able to keep their interest without games during the narratives…). Sometimes I find the manual helpful, but often I will just pick a few passages from the reading that I think are interesting and focus the lesson and discussion around that passage. For this lesson I’ll probably discuss the sheperd issue in Ch. 34 and ask the kids about teaching, coaching, parenting techniques that they think are effective vs. not effective, then I’ll probably discuss how this can be applied to the way they treat younger siblings, teammates, classmates, friends, etc. I’ll probably also discuss the two sticks in Ch. 37, both the traditional LDS Bible-BOM interpretation, but I’ll also talk about ways we can “be one” (since I’ve spent some time talking about the notion of Zion during Isaiah lessons), in terms of accepting others who are different (esp. non-members since I’m in Utah), and learning to love others even when they have traits that annoy us….

  11. Kevin Barney on November 18, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    Some may find my post on Ezekiel’s Sticks of interest:

    http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2006/01/ot-ezekiels-sticks/

  12. BrianJ on November 19, 2006 at 12:43 am

    My main wish for the Feast Upon the Word wiki is that it would incorporate a blog-like feature, specifically for the purpose proposed in this thread.

  13. DMP on November 19, 2006 at 3:04 am

    Chapter 2, though not required, is recommended reading for this lesson. In it, I counted seven (7) times that the word rebellious, or some form of it was used. (Do you think that the Lord considered that people to be \’rebellious\’)? Like some might say today, \”Duh!\” (…for they are most rebellious)!

    Are we not today? Just this evening, I spoke with a neighbor of mine (still lives in my stake, we use to be in the same ward together, he\’s been a bishop for about 18 months). He was telling me about his oldest son, who married a girl in the temple after he served a mission. He\’s been divorced now for nearly two years. She ran away with a guy in the military!

    Then, just a few months ago, when his son was within a week of marrying another girl in the temple, she was murdered in front of him by her former husband, after he (her former husband) had received his cancellation of sealing and found out she was remarrying!

    To say that his son has struggles is to put it mildly! Rebelliousness and treachery (the latter was perhaps more Jeremiah\’s theme).

    Of course, these Jews are, for them, in a new land. The Lord is, most certainly, trying to underscore a theme here. Certainly, \”rebellion\” and \”rebelliousness\” could be considered a theme (of what the Jews and House of Israel have been.

    Certainly, one supposes that Ezekiel got \”looks\” (the kind that, if they could, would \’kill\’). Verse 6 of Chapter 2 really brings this out, as the Lord throws in a few more descriptive terms to apply to the remnant of his people—

    \”And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.\”

    Are we \’steeled\’ against the looks we will and do receive and the words they will and do speak, when we say what the Lord wouild have us say? And do what the Lord would have us do? Certainly, Ezekiel\’s mission would have likely entailed a lifetime full of much loneliness and difficulty!

    I think it is important to keep in mind that a relatively very small remnant came out of \”Jerusalem\”. The Babylonians attacked Jerusalem three different times (once about 2 years after Lehi left – about 598 BC); again around 587 or 586 BC, when Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon were destroyed. And, once more about 5 years after that. Jeremiah 52:28-30, for a quick refresher course, puts the total number of remnants that survived the three Babylonians attack on Jerusalem and were carried to Babylon were only 4600 persons total. This is equal, perhaps, to all of the members (active & inactive) of one modern LDS stake. Certainly, hundreds of thousands, if not over a million, likely perished. Hence, this ancient holocaust, among many, echoes Isaiah\’s observation—

    \”Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.\” —Isaiah 1:9

    Once again, the Lord, and his servants, are pinpointedly accurate (neither overstatement nor understatement are used)!

    One estimate of survivors of the \’Nazi\’ holocaust as of May 1945 puts that number at around 900,000 (or a \’tithing\’ short of 1 million persons in Nazi occupied nations in Europe), after around 6 million Jews were killed. This almost suggests a \”Sabbath\’s portion\” of survivors to the \”week\’s worth\” that didn\’t.

    If we assume there may have been a half million Jews alive at the time that the Babylonians began to attack Jerusalem and vicinity. This would put the ratio of victims to survivors at close to a 100 to 1 ratio. Even if there were only a quarter of a million, the ratio is close to a 50 to 1 death/survival ratio! Both were horrible. But this earlier holocaust, in terms of proportions, was perhaps much worse, in that respect.

    Hence, one must imagine the sobering effect that such a \’pogrom\’ would have had upon the Jews of Ezekiel\’s time (and, it certainly underscores Lehi\’s hasty need to exit Jerusalem)!

    But, if Laman and Lemuel are any indicator (after all, the Lord favored them, so that they and their posterity would, far more than their Jewish cousins, survive the Babylonian \’pogroms\”). If they were better (they were certainly very sympathetic and \”vouched\” for the \”righteousness\” of the Jews of Jerusalem (& vicinity), imagine what type of people Ezekiel had to bear with!

  14. Robert C. on November 19, 2006 at 10:11 am

    BrianJ #12 (and others interested), I don’t think there’s an easy way to incorporate blog features on the Feast wiki. However, I think it makes a lot of sense to start a scripture-focused group blog which works together with the Feast wiki (and alread-existing SS series such as this one) in establishing on-line scripture- and teaching-focused discussion. I nominate BrianJ to host (at his blog) a discussion about starting such a blog. It looks like there are enough interested people (i.e. potential permablogger recruits!) here that it shouldn’t be hard to get enough momentum to launch a new group blog such as this.

    Here are a list of questions to get the discussion started: What should we name the blog? Where should it be hosted? How can we make it easy for others to get involved? Since I don’t know much about blogs, the only ideas I have for this last questions are to either (1) make it really easy for someone to become a permablogger, although then I’m not sure what to do if a permablogger becomes “problematic,” or (2) keep an ongoing (weekly? bikweekly? monthly?) “roundup” type thread that invites non-permabloggers to suggest topics and/or post links to their own blogs on scripture-related discussions….

  15. Diane A. on November 19, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    I teach the 15-18 year olds and have enjoyed getting some background information from this site. It is hard sometimes to adapt the lesson to fit this age group. I really liked Robert C. idea for todays lesson. I really enjoy hearing ideas for the youth from other teachers. We are also going to focus on the idea of a sheperd for the lesson today. I will try to put some of my ideas for next week on here. (If I can get my act together and stop finishing my lesson Sunday morning! We have church at 2:30pm!)

  16. Douglas Hunter on November 20, 2006 at 12:17 am

    I didn’t check the comments for a few days so I’m pleased to see a good amount of feed back. Just the people who posted here could be enough to get something started. I think structure is a good thing to consider. Robert C. (#14) suggests a blog form. I admit I was thinking something more along the lines of a list or a thread. That’s not to say that a blog couldn’t work too, but a blog requires more work from specific individuals while perhaps making it more difficult for others to pose questions or open up discussions that they want to have, clearly Robert was thinking about this as well. In any case I think it would be valuable to have people posting their approaches to the lessons, as well as feed back concerning what worked in class and why, as well as discussions about how we can and should engage sacred texts in teaching, how we read and create meaning from the lessons and the scriptures covered there in, etc. I think there are a number of directions that we can and should go in that would be beneficial, its just a matter of packaging it. I think a moderated thread could be best, it would allow for the most questions to be raised and differentiated from one another. Different individuals could post their lessons on the weeks they teach and issues of theory, and textual interpertation could be addressed in an on going manner.

  17. DMP on November 21, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    Lesson 43

    Correction on what Jim F said. From what the GD manual indicates, Babylon attacked “Jerusalem” circa 597 BC. Of course, they may have still been “doing stuff” in this regards as late as 595 BC. From what I have read, Nebuchadrezzar or aka “Nebuchadnezzar the Great” (the ‘r’ and ‘n’ before the ‘ezzar’ seem to be switched back & forth in the KJV a bit), came to the throne ‘around’ 605 BC. In the Book of Jeremiah, it gives the first exile of Jews 7 years after Nebuchadnezzar reign began (which may put it about 598 BC).

    I found it interesting in the Gospel Doctrine class I attend, that few seem to care much about the historical aspect of things. Everything is treated, mostly, for its metaphorical aspect. And while the exact date is not often essential for our Sunday School or “church” purposes, it does seem to promote, in my estimation, a lot of sloppiness, carelessness, and worse—sheer apathy in most gospel students.

    It would be helpful, I think, to pull out what little we can glean (but glean we can) about things from the Book of Mormon narrative. As we consider how long Lehi’s family et al were wondering in the desert, building the ship, etc, much of what happened in Jerusalem was well begun in earnest. The bulk of the prisoners from the vicinities near Jerusalem were taken captive in the first military conquest of that city, over 3,000 captives were then taken. That some less, as noted in my earlier post, were taken captive in the next two military campaigns, the second, of which, was when Jerusalem and the Temple were laid waste, and LIKELY, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IF NOT MILLIONS WERE LIKELY KILLED, EITHER BY THE SWORD OR INDIRECTLY FROM EFFECTS OF THE MILITARY CAMPAIGNS INCLUDING STARVATION! Hence, the reason why Jeremiah, like Mormon later would, lamented the great loss of their people. From thence came the Book of Lamentations.

    I strongly believe that Jeremiah’s lamentation (Book of LAMENTATIONS), as well as that of Mormon (Mormon 6) give us godly insight into how God, and his prophets, rue the loss, the sinking, to rejection of goodness and right by those who should have embraced it (Israel), those who were among the “noble and great ones” of our premortal life.

    This is a timely warning for us (and the Book of Mormon underscores this with great emphasis and repeatedly). Where we see, not only among the Gentiles of whom we live, but also among those of our faith, who turn to the mire of sin, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, violence, and the takers of usery, the financiers, the bankers, those who put and keep so many in perpetual bondage, those who grind the face of the poor, the war mongers, the hater mongers, the drug dealers (including those who sell and dispense liquor and tobacco products), etc. All of this, where neighbor oppresses neighbor, in various ways (socialism included), will invariably lead to the “sweeping” off of the face of this land, as promised in the Book of Mormon when we become totally ripe in our iniquity!

    Certainly, too many church members appear to be under the mistaken impression that since God has been merciful to his people heretofore, that he will always be so merciful. But, we fail to see that we, in total, are as rebellious as Israel has ever been in the past. And though we have enjoyed relative peace and prosperity for many decades, even for much of over two centuries, that it will always remain so.

    Isaiah’s, Jeremiah’s, Ezekiel’s, Mormon’s, Joseph Smith’s (in other words, the Lord’s) warnings to us still stand. We cannot continue to tempt God, by doing what we do, both individually and collectively, and suppose that his judgments will forever be kept from coming upon us.

    DMP

  18. Douglas Hunter on November 21, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    ” that few seem to care much about the historical aspect of things. Everything is treated, mostly, for its metaphorical aspect. And while the exact date is not often essential for our Sunday School or “church” purposes, it does seem to promote, in my estimation, a lot of sloppiness, carelessness. . .”

    I noted with interest the total lack of the hostorical aspect of the lesson in my ward, on sunday. Not in terms of the dates but the historical context in which Ezekiel was writing. How readers of the time would have understood it, how the metaphor of the shepards would resonante to those living in exile. I think this is too bad, espically concerning the two sticks part of the lesson. Our instructor was fine saying that they represented the bible and the BOM and leaving it at that. Of course Jewish readers would understand the metaphor as meaning the bringing together of the nothern and southern tribes and the end of exile.

    But it seems that the lessons are not really about the text anyway. If one engages in a close reading of Ezekiel the lesson as printed in the manual is pretty underwhelming. For better or worse, a close engagement with the scriptures is not the point of the lesson. The theme is the point of the lesson, the scriptures are included to the extend they can be seen as helping provide an example of the theme.

  19. DMP on November 22, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    “But it seems that the lessons are not really about the text anyway. If one engages in a close reading of Ezekiel the lesson as printed in the manual is pretty underwhelming. For better or worse, a close engagement with the scriptures is not the point of the lesson. The theme is the point of the lesson, the scriptures are included to the extend they can be seen as helping provide an example of the theme.” —(Quote from Douglas Hunter, just above)

    Elder Oaks recently stated in an address at BYU-Idaho—

    “Elder Oaks spoke about the importance of living the simplicity of the gospel, not looking beyond the mark to find answers to deep doctrine questions. “There is enough difficulty in following the words of plainness, without reaching out for things we have not been given and probably cannot understand…”

    I agree with Elder Oaks on this completely. However, it is sad that few appear to be interested in learning what the scriptures mean, and this, without necessarily delving into anything deep or of mere esoteric interest. (See 2 Nephi 32:7)

    It seems that the Gospel Doctrine lesson themes are intended to accomplish, among other things, the following—

    • Much of what is written in the scriptures is “bad news”. That is, many times “woes” and “burdens” are pronounced for the sins of Israel and the world. Large doses of this, without a balancing “good news” portion can be, for anyone who has read the scriptures enough, downright depressing. Having a theme, can be a rallying point to help Gospel Doctrine students keep a balanced view and perspective.

    A downside to lesson themes, however, seems to be the tendency to view most all aspects of scriptures largely in “spiritual” terms. The symbolic aspect is emphasized to such a degree, that most everything, it seems at times, is gleaned mostly or exclusively for its “spiritual” meaning. This can be taken to an extent, it appears, that one might read the story of Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream, and be inclined to store up “spiritual food” for a “spiritual famine”. If actually followed, however, substituting instruction that is meant to be taken literally, by say “laying up spiritual food” will not only lead to actual hunger, but also to literal starvation and physical death. Salvation, it must be remembered, is often intended to be a physical thing, and not a “spiritual” one only.

    Again, where the Savior apprises those to flee to the mountains without going back to get something has a literal, and not so much of a “spiritual” meaning (Matthew 24). Those who did not and do not heed this instruction will perish in an absolute literal and physical sense.

    I personally was chagrined when, in a lesson regarding the prophecies of Micah, a prophecy by him was used as a metaphor for the Lord’s support of missionary work. Class members were to be asked, according to the Gospel Doctrine manual, “What are the Lord’s people compared to in Micah 5:8? What does this image suggest about the strength and power of the Lord’s work? (Just as a flock of sheep have no power to stop a young lion, no power on earth will be able to hinder the work of the Lord.” Old Testament – Lesson 33). This metaphor was, in my opinion, not only misapplied, but misleading to members in understanding what this scripture actually means.

    This same prophecy by Micah was reiterated by the Savior, in a near word for word quotation, as found in 3 Nephi 21:12. Apparently the same prophecy was also given by the Lord while he sojourned among a remnant of the Nephites and Lamanites as found in 3 Nephi 16:14 & 15, 3 Nephi 20:15-17, and Mormon gives a warning that alludes to this prophecy, in Mormon 5:24. It seems that the tendency to not only stick to a theme, but occasionally even to force the meaning of a theme where it may be inappropriate and/or probably non-applicable, is a hazard of trying to stick too hard to a theme. Scriptures should first and foremost, be read and understood as they were intended, and not used merely as supports for an established theme.

    • Of course, anyone who has taught lessons in church, and in a Gospel Doctrine class perhaps especially, for any length of time, knows how many different paths class members can divert a lesson to (not to mention what the teacher alone may do). We may do well to have a lesson on following the spirit, not only when we teach, but also when we are being taught.

    While occasional diversions from a strict lesson plan may sometimes be more fruitful and more appropriate than adhering to the intended direction of a given lesson, it would seem that allowing this to happen more times than not would suggest that we have become more like “…children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (Ephesians 4:14), rather than being “led by the spirit.” Exceptions are, by meaning of definition, not the rule.

    • It should be apparent, to any member who has been in the Church for any length of time, that church manuals and lessons are designed to cover basics of Church doctrine, and to keep re-anchoring us on common core beliefs and understandings.

    This said and understood, if is imperative upon any Church member who wants a stronger and better understanding of the scriptures, that a sustained and sustaining study of the scriptures is essential to getting and keeping more than the mere cursory acquaintance and understanding of them that one will get by only following along the minimalist readings and coverage of Gospel Doctrine lessons.

    One must “watch oneself”, however, as one does so, so that one is not led, as too many have been, to go overboard. When diligent scripture study leads us more away from the Church than toward it, we must evaluate what spirit we individually are following. Even when printed curriculum may be less than perfect, we need not suppose that the leaders of the Church have strayed, nor that we have been called by God to correct them, as the priest who stretched for his hand to steady the ark of God, and was smitten by the Lord.

  20. Robert C. on November 26, 2006 at 12:42 am

    Re lesson #44 (since Jim hasn’t posted it yet): I plan to focus mostly on the river passages in Ezekiel 47. I will probably ask them about how the water from the Great Salt Lake or Utah lake tastes, and then ask them if they’ve ever had mountain spring water and then try to get them thinking about how moving water stays fresh whereas stagnant water becomes dirty and gross and compare this to the idea of giving vs. receiving (if we are always just receivers, we become like these dead seas…). I may also get them talking about their favorite part of the holidays, sort of baiting them to discuss things in a selfish way, then talk about the Thanks in Thanksgiving and Christ (the ultimate Giver) in Christmas. If I’m able to successfully bait them, I may make them sing “Give Said the Little Stream” as penance for not remembering this Primary lesson….

  21. Robert C. on November 26, 2006 at 12:55 am

    Re discussion of teaching: I think we’re going to go ahead and try a Feast Upon the Word blog as a companion to the wiki. Matthew (Faulconer) is working on setting up the blog site, code, etc. and I’ve committed to post at least a short blurb about how I’m planning to teach each Sunday School lesson each week (and Joe Spencer has also committed to participate). We are very interested in finding others to be permabloggers and/or help in any other way. If you would like to help in any way, please email me at: rAcBoCuDcEh@byu.edu (delete all capital letters, so the user name will be rcouch at . . . ). I’ll continue to post developments of the blog here on Jim’s Sunday School lessons.

  22. Robert C. on November 26, 2006 at 1:28 am

    DMP, I like many of the points you make–thank you for your posts. However, I have a hard time understanding your point about Micah 5:8 b/c I feel the opposite. Many of the least inspiring lessons I’ve been in (and taught) have been focused on the prophecies of the last days precisely b/c of their focus on the literal physical interpretation of these prophecies in a way that is not personally meaningful to class members. How is the literal physical aspect of the prophecy not just an academic interest? What is “the meaning” of this passage on your view? In my experience, the danger of focusing on the physical meaning of scripture as it applies to the past or the future oftentimes is that it can lead to discussion that is far-removed from our own lives. Don’t get me wrong, of course I think it is very helpful and interesting to carefully study the historical context and prophetic nature of scriptures–but I think this is interesting precisely b/c it helps us understand how we can apply it to our own lives better (analogously, I think studying history is important precisely because it can help us understand the present better…). But I have a hard time when I teach (and listen to) “last days” lesson in knowing how to make such lessons meaningful to my students without moving to a spiritual or poetic reading. (Of course, there’s always the “these scary things are going to happen so you better repent” drum to beat, but I don’t think this is very effective….)

  23. Dave Sandberg on November 26, 2006 at 10:55 am

    I am a first time poster and rare subsitute teacher for Gospel Doctrine. I appreciate the richness of what is offered here and found it helpful both last week and for this week as I prepared lessons. It opened up a dry and dead reading my first time through, to the following connections between the two weeks of Ezekiel lessons, thanks to you, an astute class and the themes from the manual.

    Summariy of last week.

    Bold statement of complete accountability in chapter 18. Coupled with no desire by God for the death of the wicked. This concludes with a commandment (“Therefore”) to get a new heart and a new mind in 18:30-32.

    Mentioned that the pain of what seems to be a very orthodox, devoted to family man having to see in vision the desecration and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, experience the death of his wife and to live in exile the rest of his days.
    Then be taught by God his own calling to be a shepherd to a people likely very similar to Lamen and Lemuel. How could he do this when his own world would have been filled with so much sorrow and the outside people so challenging. (At least Alma gets to leave the Ammonites to their own destruction).
    Yet even with all of this, a miracle does occur. There is a shift in the consciousness of the people. No more will backsliding, passive aggressive (claiming to be religious while really being carnal) nor accommodating to outside cultural norms, mark the Jewish people.
    But first the reality is that the Jewish people are a valley of dead bones. They have failed and they have failed not out of noble striving, with honor, but have failed with shame and uncleanliness. Ezekiel may have failed with personal honor, but he is called to be a shepherd to a people who have failed w/o honor
    The manual pointed us to Moroni 7:41 And that hope comes through the atonement. This may have been the road that opened up for Ezekiel. The vision of the dry bones being breathed alive had meaning for both Ezekiel personally and for his people.

    One way this occurs is through being willing to be a shepherd and recognize that neither excuse of: We are too messed up or they are too messed up is reason to not being willing to
    Search
    Seek
    Deliver
    Gather
    Feed
    Bind up
    Strengthen

    This weeks theme highlights two additional avenues needed to fulfill the commandment to get a new mind and heart
    Giving thanks
    Temple participation

  24. Jim F. on December 1, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    Dave Sandberg: Glad to see you here, and thanks for your contribution. Until the wiki gets set up, I’m happy to have people post suggestions for teaching lessons here.

    I think I will have lessons 44 and 45 up today (1 December) some time.

  25. DMP on December 3, 2006 at 2:49 am

    Prior to 9/11(/2001), I said some things to a Jack Mormon business neighbor that he remembered when the attacks happened, and he came and reminded me of them.

    Let me mention here that I understand, in part, why the Church works Sunday School (and other priesthood and auxillary) lessons around themes. It makes it easier for the teacher to keep the class together. It also greatly minimizes speculation and discussions in classes dwindling into areas that can be spiritually dangerous.

    However, I have also thought that it is important not to misapply scripture. I am a “Constitutionalist”. I believe that what God inspired our founding fathers to put in that divinely inspired document, what their “original meaning” or “intent” was, and as I believe they would have us apply it in our day if they were here, is not only important, it is critical.

    Likewise, scripture, like doctrine, is not meant to be convoluted into whatever lulls the congregation into a (possibly false) sense of security, nor in responding to warnings meant to be taken quite literally, as if they were merely “poetic”.

    Yes, there is no greater poetry than what the “Davids”, :”Isaiahs”, and others in the scriptures, including by the Savior himself, spoke and or wrote. However, there is a great danger in supposing that it is all largely positive spiritual prose.

    The Lord said the following to Ezekiel to point out how “church members” respond, perhaps more often than not, to prophets (and, might one way also, prophecies)?—

    And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
    — Ezekiel 33:32

    I watch and listen week-after-week as too many in Gospel Doctrine classes and elsewhere at church “spiritualize” so much in the scriptures that is to be understood literally.

    Sure, much of what is written therein (in the scriptures) has ALSO great symbolic meaning. I have gone through so many things in the scriptures where I find the powerful parallels, the types and the shadows, the tokens, and the similitudes. Anyone who carefully reads the story of Joseph, son of Israel, can (or should) see the multitudinous parallels between his life’s experience, and that of the Saviors. Likewise, I could show you (and perhaps you could show me), where parallels between prophets and other personages in the scriptures either parallel or contrast with the Savior, or with other Christ-like persons—or, with devils!

    For example, have you ever stopped to consider some contrasts and similarities between Joseph Smith and Mormon? Both had the same name as their father. One wrote the bulk of the Book of Mormon, the other translated much of it. One was very sober, while the other was often jovial and light-minded (but, certainly, had also many a solemn and sobering moment). Both men were killed by enemies. One was at the end of a gospel dispensation, the other at the beginning of one. Both were generals. Both began to accomplish great and weighty things virtually as “babes”. So-on-and-so-forth!

    However, Joseph (Smith) would be the first to tell you that if the Lord, or the Lord’s prophet told you to build an ark, it better have some wood in it, and some tar on it!

    I oftimes wonder what members of our Church would do without prayer and Prozac. And while I’m certainly not talking about “hell fire and damnation” (vs your comment “(Of course, there’s always the “these scary things are going to happen so you better repent” drum to beat, but I don’t think this is very effective….)”, it was used at one time in Book of Mormon times, and thereby apparently condoned, because it was, according to one author (Enos), about the only thing that was effective—

    “22 And there were exceedingly many prophets among us. And the people were a stiffnecked people, hard to understand.

    23 And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things–stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep
    them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.”
    —Enos 1:22-23

    But, frankly, this is not my purpose at all. It was not what I alluded to doing in contrast to what is done.

    Let me give YOU the verses in the Book of Mormon that I believe correspond to Micah 5:8. One of them, in 3 Nephi 21:12 is almost direct quote of Micah 5:8, but the none other than the Savior himself, says some more, to help us better understand what it mean, and to whom it refers. First, Micah 5:8, as it reads in the KJV. Then the excerpt from the SS lesson and the poetic angle it gives on this prophecy. And then, I will list for you four (4) verses in the Book of Mormon. And then I will ask you to tell me what you think they can possibly mean—

    And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
    —Micah 5:8

    What are the Lord’s people compared to in Micah 5:8? What does this image suggest about the strength and power of the Lord’s work? (Just as a flock of sheep have no power to stop a young lion, no power on earth will be able to hinder the work of the Lord.)

    In 1842 the Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done”
    —(History of the Church, 4:540).

    — — — — — — — — — — —

    6 And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.

    7 Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.

    8 But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles–for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel; and my people who are of the house of Israel have been cast out from among them, and have been trodden under feet by them;

    9 And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become hated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them–

    10 And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people
    of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.

    11 And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them.

    12 And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you; but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel.

    13 But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.

    14 And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.

    15 But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.

    16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me–that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance.

    —3 Nephi 16:6-16
    — — — — — — — — — — —

    14 And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance.

    15 And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people–

    16 Then shall YE, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.

    17 Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.

    18 And I will gather my people together as a man gathereth his sheaves into the floor.

    19 For I will make my people with whom the Father hath covenanted, yea, I will make thy horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass. And thou shalt beat in pieces many people; and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth. And behold, I am he who doeth it.

    20 And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles.

    —3 Nephi 20:14-20 (emphasis added by DMP)

    — — — — — — — — — — —

    12 And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can
    deliver.
    —3 Nephi 21:12

    — — — — — — — — — — —

    After recounting the demise of his own people (evidently in the millions), he gives us this warning (after all, isn’t the Book of Mormon intended for us, in our day)? —

    22 And then, O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways?

    23 Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?

    24 Therefore, repent ye, and humble yourselves before him, lest he shall come out in justice against you–lest a remnant of the seed of Jacob shall go forth among you as a lion, and tear you in pieces, and there is none to deliver.

    — Mormon 5:22-24

    Now, Jim C, I sure hope that I haven’t lost you. My replies, unfortunately, tend to be as lengthy as the need. I try to be thorough and comprehensive (I know this is bad in a Sunday School teacher—unless you are REALLY good)! But, you asked me my understanding of Micah 5:8. I gave you most of the context I got my understanding in. Before I give to you my scenario, based upon the scriptures I have given you, tell me what you think Micah 5:8 likely means?

    —DMP

    p.s. If there is sufficient interest manifested by you, I will tell you what I realized in regards to another “nearby prophecy” to this one!

    p.p.s. I wrote my reply to you twice. My “first reply” (which of course, I did not send, was even LENGTHIER—if you can imagine that!

  26. Jim F. on December 4, 2006 at 12:30 am

    DMP, I think you may have misunderstood Robert C (not “Jim C”). As I read him, he wasn’t saying that the literal meaning of scripture is unimportant or relatively unimportant. He was saying that sometimes those who are interested in the history at the time of the scripture, the ancient langues, etc. get bogged down in those things to the point that they don’t see that there is a lesson in it for us. I think you are preaching to the choir.

  27. DMP on December 4, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Jim F,

    My point is that if you use a scripture, such as Micah 5:8, for a purpose and a meaning for which, I believe, it was never intended or given, you may gravely mislead all students in Sunday School. I believe that it would be better to never be used and misapplied, forcing it to a particular lesson theme, than to foist it upon the Church for that which it is not!
    Certainly there is a “lesson in it for us”. But if we are talking about missionary work, Micah 5:8, I would assert, is rather a reference to that “…it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished.” The quote from the Doctrine & Covenants was by itself appropriate. But, in my view, Micah 6:8 either should have been skipped over completely (as many verses are), or, it should have been tied to the corresponding prophetic verses in 3 Nephi and Mormon 5 that I gave you in my last post.
    As I read the Book of Mormon, including those verses similar to Micah 5:8, as well as the Isaiah chapters, and understanding that the Book of Mormon is meant for us in our day, I am seeing that there foreboding things on the near horizon.
    Last night, for our family scripture study, we were reading in Luke. I found this prophecy of the Savior regarding Jerusalem and its people to likely apply to us—

    “And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” —Luke 19:44

    That last phrase, “…because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation…” I found to be particularly instructive.

    I believe 9/11/2001 was one of the major “warnings” given to us. Are our enemies righteous? No. But are we as a nation? Or even as members of the Church? Not necessarily!

    I am afraid, for my people, for my nation, that we are not only ill-prepared, for the most part, for what appears to be coming, but even to see that we are, largely, clueless, as to what is headed our way.

    Your “the ‘lesson in it for us’”, and Robert C’s (thank you for the correction), “…is not personally meaningful to class members…” (speaking of historical understanding) is definitely more important than for a mere academic interest or discussion.

    If I give you the answer, (to Micah 5:8), without any input on your part, you will dismiss me and what I am trying to get you to see and understand.

    Am I preaching to the choir? If I am, then the choir, though it may be able to read the words of the music, apparently does not understand the meaning of at least some of those words!

    Again, I understand the purpose of themes for lessons. I am not suggesting that that be done away with in the least. I am just saying that forcing a scripture to a theme, when it does not fall under the umbrella of that theme at all misleads and increases misunderstanding of the scriptures, rather than reducing it, as one would suppose they would with materials from the Church.

    Your brother,
    —DMP

  28. DMP on December 4, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    Jim F,

    My point is that if you use a scripture, such as Micah 5:8, for a purpose and a meaning for which, I believe, it was never intended or given, you may gravely mislead all students in Sunday School. I believe that it would be better to never be used and misapplied, forcing it to a particular lesson theme, than to foist it upon the Church for that which it is not!
    Certainly there is a “lesson in it for us”. But if we are talking about missionary work, Micah 5:8, I would assert, is rather a reference to that “…it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished.” The quote from the Doctrine & Covenants was by itself appropriate. But, in my view, Micah 5:8 either should have been skipped over completely (as many verses are), or, it should have been tied to the corresponding prophetic verses in 3 Nephi and Mormon 5 that I gave you in my last post.

    —DMP

  29. Jim F. on December 4, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    DMP: forcing a scripture to a theme, when it does not fall under the umbrella of that theme at all misleads and increases misunderstanding of the scriptures, rather than reducing it

    You say that this is your point. I accept that it is. And it is the very point that I think both Robert and I would agree with. That is why I said you are preaching to the choir. I don’t disagree that one should not force a scripture to fit a theme that is irrelevant to it. I doubt that Robert disagrees. So we are singing the same tune and using the same music as you on that point.

  30. Robert C. on December 4, 2006 at 8:29 pm

    DMP, I think you bring up very interesting cross-references and issues for Micah 5:8–I hope you’ll add them to the Feast wiki! (The wiki’s probably a much better place to discuss these issues since they have nothing to do with the SS lesson.) I do agree with your point that we should be careful not to force the meaning of a scripture onto a particular theme, though I do not necessarily believe that there is one and only one meaning to prophetic passages such as Micah 5:8. As a minor quibble with your point about the lesson manual, it does seem to refer to Micah 5:8 as part of the “work of the Lord,” not specifically missionary work (and since it’s not clear to me what exactly Micah 5:8 and other quotations of Micah 5:8 mean, I’m not even confident that missionary work is a misapplication of that scripture; the Jews, after all, seemed to mistake Christ as the Messiah precisely b/c they expected too literal/physical of a fulfilment of the prophecies…).

  31. Patrick N Amenyah on February 12, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Pls kindly give some hostorical background information to the killings in Luke 13:1-9 which lead to \’\’unless ye repent ye shall likewise perish\’\’