Lesson Aids

Literary BMGD #16: Forgiveness

April 16, 2012 | 2 comments
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Literary BMGD #16: Forgiveness

The culmination of King Benjamin’s address to his people was the “mighty change” they experienced which led them to repent and covenant to keep the commandments and to seek to do good continually. While the scripture says that they “had no more disposition to do evil,” given the later history of this people, we might surmise that the disposition didn’t last. Nor did Benjamin expect that his people would remain sinless, but instead they would likely need a disposition to seek and obtain forgiveness. I suspect that one aspect of the “mighty change” described in the Book of Mormon... Read more »

Literary BMGD #15: If I Had Time

April 9, 2012 | 4 comments
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Literary BMGD #15: If I Had Time

King Benjamin’s oft-cited dictum that service to our fellow man is service to God is well known among Mormons. And, if surveys like the recent University of Pennsylvania survey are accurate, Mormons do quite well putting the idea in practice. Still, better than others doesn’t mean that we are where we should be or ought to be. And, like all humans, we have our rationales for failure to act. So perhaps a poem that addresses our failures will work well with Book of Mormon lesson #15. Read more »

Literary BMGD #14: Awake! ye Saints of God awake!

April 2, 2012 | 3 comments
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Literary BMGD #14: Awake! ye Saints of God awake!

Perhaps the most dramatic incident in gospel doctrine lesson #14 is Enos’ prayer; an example that has no doubt led many LDS Church members to wonder about their persistence and perseverance in prayer. Indeed, Enos’ story of his prayer is generally taken as a lesson in how to pray and what prayer means. It might also be said that Mormonism began with a prayer, and an answer to that prayer that came by way of a vision. That fact, as well as many other examples of prayer, is common in Mormon literature. However, few poems actually discuss the role... Read more »

Literary BMGD #13: Pratt’s Historical Sketch

March 19, 2012 | no comments
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While eclipsed by the Iron Rod imagery in Nephi, the Olive Tree imagery in Jacob is still well-known and referred to frequently. Like so much of Mormon theology, it attempts to give an explanation for the whole swath of human history and show that we are in the last days. Since both images are unique to the Book of Mormon, they are only found in Mormon sources. The earliest use of the Olive Tree imagery in literature is from Parley P. Pratt, who included it in his poem, Historical Sketch from the Creation to the Present Day. This poem... Read more »

Literary BMGD #12: Aristocracy

March 12, 2012 | 4 comments
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Literary BMGD #12: Aristocracy

A major element of Jacob’s sermon in Jacob 2 is his condemnation of pride and those caught up in their riches. In that sermon, Jacob not only preaches against pride, but argues for equality, saying “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.”(2:17) and adding “one being is as precious in His sight as the other.” While Jacob likely lived too early in Nephite history for inherited classes to develop, still these views seem to clearly argue against classes and social hierarchy. Read more »

Literary BMGD #11: Eternity of Matter

March 5, 2012 | no comments
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Literary BMGD #11: Eternity of Matter

In Nephi’s final writings (2 Ne. 31, discussed in Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine lesson 11) he teaches about the “doctrine of Christ,” focusing on Christ’s baptism and redemption of the world from sin and on urging his readers to “endure to the end.” This doctrine is the heart of the gospel, the key element of the plan of salvation and eternal progress. Which makes the following poem fit well with the lesson. I only wish that the poem also somehow mentioned baptism. Read more »

Literary BMGD #10: An angel came down from the mansions of glory

February 27, 2012 | 4 comments
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Literary BMGD #10: An angel came down from the mansions of glory

Perhaps the most common theme in early Mormon poetry is the restoration. But while the Book of Mormon itself prophesies about the restoration (as it does in the 10th Book of Mormon lesson), it wasn’t until this hymn was published in 1833 that Mormon poetry addressed the subject. Of course, soon after the Restoration became a very common theme in Mormon poetry from many authors. William Wines Phelps, the author of this hymn was also one of the first and most prolific of Mormon poets, although unlike his contemporaries Parley P. Pratt, Eliza R. Snow and John Lyon, Phelps... Read more »

Literary BMGD #9: A Paraphrase of Isaiah 60

February 20, 2012 | 2 comments
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Literary BMGD #9: A Paraphrase of Isaiah 60

Scripture is often repeated in scripture, and poets have rarely been shy about re-using lines of poetry, often without attribution. Plagiarism is everywhere, and our view of it as a faux pas is really relatively recent—this view is certainly more recent than the mid 19th century, when Mormon newspapers started churning out poetry and other forms of Mormon literature. The 9th Book of Mormon lesson is also about repeated scripture, specifically Nephi’s use of the early chapters of Isaiah which seem to make up the bulk of 2nd Nephi. Perhaps Nephi served as an example for the poetry I’ve... Read more »

Literary BMGD #8: Twas on that dark, that solemn night

February 13, 2012 | 5 comments
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Literary BMGD #8: Twas on that dark, that solemn night

Active Mormons hear poetry about the atonement each Sunday in the sacrament hymn, so finding a poem to go with Jacob’s discourse on the atonement in 2 Nephi 9 isn’t too much of a burden. The hard part is finding something that isn’t already well known and is unique to Mormonism, which I’ve generally tried to do in this series. There are 28 sacrament hymns in the current hymnal, most of which are probably familiar. However, there have been a number of other sacrament hymns that are no longer in our current hymnal. Most of those are not by... Read more »

Literary BMGD #7: Joseph, From Out of the Dust

February 8, 2012 | 2 comments
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Literary BMGD #7: Joseph, From Out of the Dust

Lehi’s final counsel in the Book of Mormon is to his son Joseph makes an interesting literary link between Joseph in Egypt, Joseph the son of Lehi and Joseph Smith, Jr. But, LDS authors have largely ignored this link, especially before 1900, when any mention of Joseph was usually a reference to Joseph Smith, Jr. But I did manage to find an exception in Orson F. Whitney’s epic, Elias. As far as I can tell, other than general righteousness, the only real link between these three is that they happen to have the same name. Their histories aren’t really... Read more »

Sunday School Questions

February 4, 2012 | 16 comments
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Sunday School Questions

We recently had a teacher training workshop in our ward. There was a good turn out with lots of very positive contributions and an overall great discussion. For my own part I talked about the use of questions as a teacher. I’m sharing what I prepared since it may be useful for some of you, but even moreso because I’m interested in your feedback. Do you take issue with any of my points about the use of questions? Are there other reasons or ways we ought to use questions in a Sunday (or in our case, Friday) School setting?... Read more »

Literary BMGD #6: Man’s Free Agency

January 30, 2012 | no comments
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Literary BMGD #6: Man’s Free Agency

One of the fascinating things that happen in Lehi’s fatherly advice to Jacob in 2 Nephi 1 and 2 is that he tries to put together an overall philosophical basis for the gospel. Here the war in Heaven is related to our ability to choose, the fall is related to the atonement, and our choices are related to the very nature of existence, which, Lehi says, requires that there be an “opposition in all things.” Read more »

BMGD #6: 2 Nephi 1-2

January 30, 2012 | 8 comments
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Literary BMGD #5: Trials

January 23, 2012 | 2 comments
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The story of Lehi’s family and their travels to the promised land perhaps reaches its height in the crisis point during the storm while they are on board the ship they built. The internal divisions within the family have lead to yet another dispute, and the Lord puts them through a trial to help them work it out. In fact, this is just the last of three stories in this lesson, all showing a similar pattern — and  in each case showing faith and diligence (as the lesson describes it), leads to the Lord’s assistance in resolving the trial. Read more »

Literary BMGD #4: On the Latter-day Dispensation

January 16, 2012 | one comment
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From a literary point of view the second part of Nephi’s vision, his vision of the future, is very like an epic. It covers a broad sweep of human history and mentions the actions of a series of heroes and heroic groups who have an impact on the fate of humanity. Unfortunately, the broad nature of this epic vision is difficult to cover in a short form, like a blog post or something you might share in a Gospel Doctrine lesson. Read more »

BMGD #4: 1 Nephi 12-14

January 16, 2012 | no comments
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Note that I will not be posting notes for lesson #5; I’m taking the week off.  (Notes for lesson #6 should be right on schedule, however.)  Also note that when I teach this, I plan on covering 1 Nephi 11-15, since I think it makes more sense to treat Nephi’s vision in its entirety and in its context. Read more »

Literary BMGD #3: Hymn of Praise

January 9, 2012 | 5 comments
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While perhaps not the most important symbol in the Vision of the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8-11), the Iron Rod may be the one that has received the most attention, at least in recent decades. But I think I was able to find something that kind of fit with the whole vision instead of just mentioning the Iron Rod. I like this hymn for not just (vaguely perhaps) invoking some of the imagery of the vision, but also for placing an emphasis on the Lord’s role in assisting us. Read more »

BMGD #3: 1 Nephi 8-11; 12:16-18; 15

January 9, 2012 | 16 comments
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This isn’t a lesson; it is the notes from which I will prepare a lesson.   Read more »

Literary BMGD #2: The Pilgrims’ Hymn

January 2, 2012 | 8 comments
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In looking for a literary work to go with the second Gospel Doctrine lesson this year, I was struck by some of the parallels between what Nephi experiences in the first few chapters in the Book of Mormon and what the early Mormons went through in traveling to Utah. Many of those we call the pioneers left comfortable homes, like Nephi and his family, and traveled to a “promised land” “into the wilderness.” And perhaps half or more of the pioneers also had to travel over an ocean to reach the promised land. Read more »

BMGD #2: 1 Nephi 1-7

January 2, 2012 | 29 comments
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Again, this isn’t a lesson. It is the notes from which I will prepare a lesson.  Sorry it is so long. (The rabbit trail of the week was related to the killing of Laban, but I don’t plan on discussing that with my class.) Read more »

Literary BMGD #1: Address to the Book of Mormon

December 27, 2011 | 3 comments
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I’m pleased that Julie has begun a series of posts that cover this year’s lessons on the Book of Mormon. With this post I will begin a kind of companion series: Mormon poetry and literary texts that can accompany each week’s lessons. Since Mormon literature often gets short shrift (usually from those who haven’t actually read what they dismiss), I think that connecting this literature to a regular part of our worship may help members become more aware of and familiar with our culture. Read more »

BMGD #1: Introduction

December 26, 2011 | 23 comments
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These are the notes from which I will create my Sunday School lesson. It is not a Sunday School lesson, unless your ward has Sunday School for five hours and a high tolerance for rabbit trails that happened to catch my interest. Read more »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 46: Revelation 5-6, 19-22

November 24, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 46: Revelation 5-6, 19-22

The word “end” has at least two meanings in English: the point that marks the boundary or limit, such as the last point in a series, and the purpose or goal. Of course, these two meanings are not necessarily mutually exclusive. When speaking of the end, Latter-day Saints often use a phrase that is worded in a somewhat unusual way: we speak of knowing the beginning from the end. (See, e.g., Elder Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience 38.) This not a scriptural phrase. The closest scriptural phrase is “knowing the end from the beginning”... Read more »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 45: Revelation

November 24, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 45: Revelation

As with other Sunday School lesson notes, these are intended primarily to help people study for the lesson, not as lesson preparation materials. Of course, anything one uses for study can also be used to help one prepare a lesson. But study rather than lesson preparation is the main purpose of these notes. Background The article on Revelation in the LDS Bible Dictionary is excellent. You should read it before you read the lesson material. In addition, here are some things that may be helpful: So far in our New Testament study this year we have seen three kinds... Read more »