Lesson Aids

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #09: James H. Hart’s Interview with David Whitmer

March 30, 2014 | no comments
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James H. Hart

I think that we often think of witnesses as something outside of the event, added to fill a particular need or satisfy the desires of the world. But I wonder if this perception might not be incorrect, if witnesses are not, in fact, an important part of the process of communicating truth. A testimony is, after all, what a witness provides, and, at least in the church, it is hard to imagine communicating truth without testimony. In the fourth D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson witnesses to the Book of Mormon are an important part of the story of the scripture’s... Read more »

Literary OTGD #14: excerpt on Israel in the Wilderness from chapter 1 of The Millennium

March 23, 2014 | one comment
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Literary OTGD #14: excerpt on Israel in the Wilderness from chapter 1 of The Millennium

Are commandments also spiritual fare? When Moses received the law on Sinai, was he spiritually fed? Were the children of Israel? Lesson #14 of the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual discusses Israel’s trek across the Sinai, their partaking of manna from heaven, which we interpret today as a symbol of the spiritual feast that our Heavenly Father provides for us. But when we read or talk about the commandments, we sometimes don’t talk about them as spiritual food—instead seeing them as temporal duties to be performed. But, the miracle of their delivery to Moses is a spiritual story, and... Read more »

Literary OTGD #13: excerpt on the Exodus from chapter 1 of The Millennium

March 20, 2014 | no comments
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Literary OTGD #13: excerpt on the Exodus from chapter 1 of The Millennium

The story of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt is one of the iconic stories of western religious culture. And that story has descended to Mormonism, showing up, of course, in lesson #13 of the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual. And we Mormons basically see the story in the same way as other Christians—an oppressed people is led by the hand of God out of opression and into a promised land. But the story has gained other cultural meanings for Mormonism. Best known is naming Brigham Young as the American Moses, and the Mormon pioneer trek... Read more »

Literary OTGD #12: excerpt on Joseph from From Out of the Dust

March 15, 2014 | no comments
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Orson F. Whitney

Today, we Mormons see the “coincidence of names” between Joseph of Egypt, Joseph the son of Lehi and Joseph Smith as anything but a coincidence. They shared names allow us to make connections between the three cases, adding to our understanding of their histories. And Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson 12 allows us to revisit some of the parallels, such as Joseph’s separation from Israel, and eventual reunion, as well as his visionary nature. Elder Orson F. Whitney, who served as an Apostle from 1906 to 1931, recognized this connection, and included it in his epic poem Elias in... Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #08: What fair one is this, from the wilderness trav’ling

March 14, 2014 | one comment
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William Wines Phelps

The purpose of the Church as an organization is sometimes ignored by Church members, who take its presence as given. While we know we are supposed to have a Church, we don’t often think about why the organization is needed. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith manual, chapter 8, examines the purpose and the future of the Church through the statements of Smith. Of course, looking at the reason for a Church is nothing new. Early Mormons struggled with aspects of this, since many of them were influenced by the congregationalist models of other restorationist... Read more »

Literary OTGD #11: Joseph’s Temptation

March 13, 2014 | one comment
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TheProphet-1845-04-19-p1

Temptation is a constant. We all struggle with temptation to do that which we should not, and often these temptations involve significant sin or things that could lead to significant sin. Worse, as Joseph’s story indicates, even when we have acted properly, we can be seen as a sinner or in error, and treated accordingly. Sometimes this is because others are mistaken, and other times it is because those who judge have... Read more »

Literary OTGD #10: Our Golden Wedding

March 1, 2014 | 3 comments
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Literary OTGD #10: Our Golden Wedding

The marriage process in Abraham’s family (covered in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson 10) is very different that the common experience in the Church today (at least in North America). Arranged marriages, polygamy, dowries and working for a wife are all discussed in the source chapters in Genesis, while the marriages are still eternal, evidently the same way that marriages in LDS Temples today are eternal. But while there are clear differences, there are also similarities in how these marriages work. Isaac and Rebekah, as well as Jacob and his wives, work together to make the union productive and... Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #07: Restoration

March 1, 2014 | no comments
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Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #07: Restoration

Given how much we talk about Joseph Smith in lessons such as lesson 7 of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith manual used in Priesthood and Relief Society meetings, you might think I would run out of poetry about him. That isn’t likely to happen. Smith is also a common subject of Mormon poetry — but nowhere near as common a subject as Christ. As the prophet who introduced the current dispensation, restoring the gospel to the earth, according to what we teach, Joseph Smith’s role and the restoration he initiated and shepherded is vital to the... Read more »

Literary OTGD #09: Saturday Evening Thoughts

February 16, 2014 | 2 comments
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Literary OTGD #09: Saturday Evening Thoughts

Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac is one of the most difficult to understand episodes in the Bible, and it is also a regular subject of LDS lessons, such as Lesson 9 of the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual. Despite its troubling nature, this event is seen as a clear type of Christ’s sacrifice, and it is often portrayed as an ideal of the righteous sacrifice we should ourselves be willing to make. Both of these views of Abraham’s dilemna appear in LDS poetry, and the latter view—that we too are expected to sacrifice for sake of the gospel—is expressed... Read more »

Literary OTGD #08: Go search and say

February 9, 2014 | one comment
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Literary OTGD #08: Go search and say

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is found in the material covered in the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual, lesson 8, is one of the more bleak stories in the bible. Its depressing to think that a city cannot be saved from its own wickedness, and that there was not one person there who was innocent enough to merit its salvation. Regardless of what their sins were (lets not go into that), the destruction of an entire city is heartbreaking. I think the following poem captures some of the pathos and the meaning that can be found in... Read more »

Literary OTGD #07: The Gathering

February 2, 2014 | no comments
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Literary OTGD #07: The Gathering

If doctrines can have ideological parents, then the doctrine of the gathering is clearly descended from the Abrahamic covenant, the same that is discussed in Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson 7. Throughout the scriptures, when the Lord talks of “gathering” his people, he is refering to Israel, the descendants of Abraham. The covenant speaks of giving his people a promised land—the place where his people will be gathered to. Indeed, the gathering is simply a part of how the Lord’s covenant with Abraham is fulfilled. I think that many of the elements of the Abrahamic covenant are found in... Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #06: Testimony Meeting in New Guinea and Brown-Crusted Bread

February 2, 2014 | no comments
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When we cover the sacrament in our lessons, the focus is usually on the doctrines behind the ordinance. In lesson 6 of the Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith manual those doctrines are found in remembering the atonement and in the covenant made at baptism and renewed by the sacrament. However, I think there is a bit more to the role of the sacrament and sacrament meetings than these doctrines—social meanings that might be found in the following two poems. Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #05: Over the Waves of Sin

February 1, 2014 | one comment
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Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #05: Over the Waves of Sin

When we talk about faith in Mormonism, we often emphasize the idea that the important part of faith is not just belief in something true, but faith in Jesus Christ. And while we use lots of examples of faith, sometimes those examples leave out the role of Christ in our lives and in our faith. The Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith manual lesson #5 explores both faith and repentance, including the role of Jesus Christ in each. So the following poem seemed to fit very well. Read more »

Literary OTGD #06: Gleanings from Scripture

January 31, 2014 | one comment
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Lesson 6 of the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual seems like a difficult lesson to me. It covers both the story of Noah and the flood as well as the story of the tower of Babel. The lesson combines these disparate stories under the very general topic of worthiness and avoiding the evils of the world, which may not give most teachers much to work with. While I can’t really tell teachers where to go with this, I did find a poem that also addresses these stories (and a few more) in a very general way. Read more »

Literary OTGD #05: Age after age has roll’d away

January 27, 2014 | 4 comments
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Literary OTGD #05: Age after age has roll’d away

While many teachers will focus their teaching of Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #5 on the story of Cain and Abel, that is only half the lesson. The other half of the lesson is the story of Enoch and his city—perhaps a more positive example for us today as we strive to live the admonition “be ye therefore perfect.” The following poem is like the story of Enoch, one of the most unusual works in its corpus. As the prefatory paragraph indicates, it came out of an LDS meeting in which Elder David W. Patten (still at least 2... Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #04: The Old Folks

January 26, 2014 | no comments
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Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #04: The Old Folks

While ‘strengthening the family’ might seem like code for a political position these days (please, no politics on this post), lesson 4 in the Joseph Fielding Smith lesson manual seems to boil the idea down to the ways in which we live together. The lesson says stronger families come from “spending time together, loving each other, and living the gospel together.” In most of our poetry, this is something assumed—background to another message the poet is trying to communicate. So in the following poem the ideas behind strengthening the family are part of another message, celebrating those who have... Read more »

Literary OTGD #04: O Adam

January 19, 2014 | one comment
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Literary OTGD #04: O Adam

When we talk about the Fall and its roll in the plan of salvation, as Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #4 does, the focus naturally (and properly) is on the effects of the Fall and its relationship with the atonement. But the Fall is also the story of a relationship between Adam, Eve and God. his makes it easier to put ourselves in the place of Adam and Eve, and in the process learn, in a very palpable way, the consequences of a separation from God and the need for a way to return to Him. In that sense,... Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #03: A Christmas Idyl

January 15, 2014 | no comments
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Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #03: A Christmas Idyl

When we talk about the plan of salvation, as Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith lesson #3 does, we focus on several key elements: the pre-existence, the fall, the atonement, the resurrection and the judgment. That’s a lot of ground to cover—and often our lesson manuals cover each of those elements separately. Likewise, it is difficult to come up with a single poem that covers all of this territory. But Elder Orson F. Whitney, who served as an Apostle from 1906 to 1931, seemed to love writing poetry about the gospel and the plan of... Read more »

Literary OTGD #03: Eternity of Matter

January 15, 2014 | 3 comments
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In our science-oriented world today, its hard to see the creation stories in the Bible and Pearl of Great Price as recounting actual events or having meaning beyond a simple myth explaining the origin of life. So when we teach the creation in classes like the current Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson 3, I believe the best option is to put the story in a gospel context, and emphasize its meaning as part of our understanding of the purpose of life, rather than historical or scientific events. Although written in the 1840s with a traditional view of the creation,... Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #02: A Stranger Star O’er Bethlehem

December 29, 2013 | 5 comments
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Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #02: A Stranger Star O’er Bethlehem

The second lesson in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual, used in Priesthood and Relief Society lessons in the coming year, discusses the life of Jesus Christ and his role in the plan of salvation; quite a lot to cover in a single lesson. In the texts included, Smith ranges from Christ’s birth as the only begotten son of God, to his role establishing a pattern for us to follow, to how we are His sons and daughters through the atonement and through our obedience to His teachings. Fortunately, Mormon poetry, like our teachings, emphasize the role of Christ, making... Read more »

Literary OTGD #02: Shadows and Whisperings

December 29, 2013 | no comments
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Literary OTGD #02: Shadows and Whisperings

Mormon beliefs about the pre-existence are an important part of our understanding of our purpose in this life and the meaning of the life to come. The beliefs covered in the second lesson in the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual, “fore-ordination” and the “war in heaven,” are no exception. But, it is also worth remembering that what happened in the pre-existence is veiled from our memories. The details most relevant to individuals are something we don’t know. Our own specific missions aren’t clear. We are left with “shadows and whisperings.” Read more »

Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #01: O My Mother

December 22, 2013 | 7 comments
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Literary Joseph Fielding Smith #01: O My Mother

The new Joseph Fielding Smith manual for the Relief Society/Priesthood lessons presents a minor logistical problem—it has 26 lessons, which may mean teachers will have to drop two of the lessons (since two lessons each month are taught from the manual). Because of this I will post poems for the next few weeks so that teachers can choose from at least 4 of the lessons each week. The first lesson focuses on God, his attributes and nature, and our relationship with him. But while we have poems and hymns that discuss this, I though the following poem would be... Read more »

Literary OTGD #01: Metamorphosis

December 22, 2013 | no comments
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Literary OTGD #01: Metamorphosis

For the coming year, I’ve decided to post poetry for use in Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society classes two weeks ahead of when they would normally be used, instead of a week ahead as I’ve done in previous years. I’m doing this to allow teachers a bit more time to prepare and integrate the poetry into their lesson plans (if they wish to use the poetry), and because, in the case of the Priesthood/Relief Society manual, there are more lessons than can be covered in a year. Working two weeks ahead will give the teacher time to decide which... Read more »

Literary Lorenzo Snow #24: Christ is Born, the Joyful Story

December 8, 2013 | 3 comments
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Literary Lorenzo Snow #24: Christ is Born, the Joyful Story

Finding Mormon poetry that talks about Christ is not hard at all. In fact, of all the Mormon poetry that I’ve read (considering only poems written by Mormon authors), the number of poems about Christ surpasses by far the number of poems about any other single individual. If this is a good proxy for what Mormons believe, then there is no doubt: Mormons worship Christ, not Joseph Smith. But the final Lorenzo Snow lesson for the year focuses on the mission of Christ, mentioning also that he has visited the earth in the latter-days and will come again. That... Read more »

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