Lesson Aids

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 »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 44: 1-3 John

November 6, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 44: 1-3 John

1-3 John seem to be letters written to different churches in the region of Ephesus mostly in response to a group of apostates whom we call Gnostics. Most scholars believe that John wrote these letters before he wrote the Gospel of John, though that is not a unanimous opinion. There are, for example, some who believe that at least 1 John was written after the Gospel of John, and some such as Stephen Smalley (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 51) argue that the John’s gospel was written before any of the letters. There is also dispute as to whether all... Read more »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 43: 1-2 Peter, Jude

November 5, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 43: 1-2 Peter, Jude

Before you read the letters from Peter, take a few minutes to recall who he was: What was his position in the Church? What particular experiences did he have with the Savior? What might he have learned from those experiences? How does that background inform these letters? Outlines of 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude 1 Peter (adapted from Bo Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude) Like Ephesians, 1 Peter appears to be a baptismal sermon, perhaps written to be read at baptismal services one year and, it seems, addressed primarily to non-Jewish converts. Greeting (1:1-2) The... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 42: James

November 5, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 42: James

We do not know who the author of this epistle was (there are several persons named James in the New Testament), but tradition says that it was James, the brother of Christ and the presiding elder in Jerusalem after Christ’s death. (See, for example, Acts 15:13, where he presides over the Jerusalem conference called to deal with the Gentiles joining the early Church.) What do we know about Jesus’ family’s relation to him prior to the crucifixion? (See, for example, John 7:1-5.) When do you think James became a follower of Christ? Is 1 Corinthians 15:7 relevant? Does that... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 41: 1 and 2 Timothy; Titus

October 23, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 41: 1 and 2 Timothy; Titus

1 Timothy 3 3:15-16: How is the Church “the pillar and ground of truth”? What metaphor is Paul using? How does that metaphor help us understand what the Church does? What does he mean when he speaks of “the house of God”? Does he mean the church as a whole or individual congregations? What does Paul mean when he says “without controversy”? To what is Paul referring with the word mystery? Why is the word mystery an appropriate reference for that case? (Verse 16 seems to be another quotation from a hymn.) What is Paul talking about when he... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 40: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon

October 23, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 40: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon

There is even more to cover than usual in this lesson. The result is 12 pages of study material. Because it usually helps to understand the context in which the verses one studies occur, I will supply some background information about each book, as well as an outline of the text of each. Then I will follow those with a few study questions. Remember as you read these materials that they are to help you study the letters assigned for the lesson. They are not suggestions for teaching the lesson. Of course a person could use these to help... Read more »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 39: Ephesians

October 8, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 39: Ephesians

For a variety of reasons most New Testament scholars do not believe that this book was ever an actual letter written to a specific Christian congregation in Ephesus. For one thing, the words “to the Ephesians” in verse 1 is not part of the best manuscripts. Instead of a letter, it appears to be a treatise written as if it were a letter. A significant number of scholars, though perhaps not a majority, also question whether the book was written by Paul. As with Hebrews, for me the best response is that answering those questions doesn’t matter, though I... Read more »

New Testament Sunday School Lesson 38: Acts 21-28

September 25, 2011 | no comments
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New Testament Sunday School Lesson 38: Acts 21-28

I will focus these study notes on Acts 21:1-Acts 23:11. As you read this story of Paul, notice that the Church of his time has spread to many communities. Paul is able to move from place to place, at least in the general area of Palestine and parts of Asia Minor (now western Turkey), and to depend on local branches of the Church as he does so. For example, in verses 3-7 we see him visit the branches at Tyre, Ptolemais, and Caesarea. Clearly the early Church grew rapidly after the Day of Pentecost, roughly thirty years before the... Read more »

Books of Interest to the LDS Nerd

September 6, 2011 | 18 comments
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Books of Interest to the LDS Nerd

A few of these are forthcoming, a few have appeared recently. I am compelled to read them all, as soon as I can get to them. Now Available Charles Harrel,“This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (Kofford Books) “In this first-of-its-kind comprehensive treatment of the development of Mormon theology, Charles Harrell traces the history of Latter-day Saint doctrines from the times of the Old Testament to the present.” I have my doubts that someone who does not equally control original Biblical sources and LDS history, as well as the vast amounts of secondary literature on historiography, exegesis,... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 37: Hebrews

September 3, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 37: Hebrews

The book of Hebrews is what scholars call a “homiletic midrash” on Psalms 110, meaning that it a sermon responding to Psalm 110. It might be useful to read that psalm before reading Hebrews and to keep it in mind as you read Hebrews. Most contemporary scholars, including some LDS scholars, do not believe that Paul wrote this book. It is last among the letters of Paul because those compiling the New Testament (in the early 3rd century AD) were not sure that Paul had written it. There are a variety of reasons for these doubts, but the most... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 36: Romans

September 3, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 36: Romans

I have to confess that Romans is perhaps my favorite book of scripture. Given the way that most Latter-day Saints think of Romans, that marks me as at least strange, if not perverse. It also means that I will have to restrain myself to keep the notes for this lesson to a reasonable length. To do that I have selected a few verses that I think get at the heart of Paul’s message and focus on those. I have also appended an outline of the book as a whole so that you can perhaps understand Paul’s overall message better.... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 35: 2 Corinthians

August 20, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 35: 2 Corinthians

Background 1 and 2 Corinthians are two of perhaps four letters that Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth. The first letter (referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13) has not been preserved. 1 Corinthians is the second letter, written partially in response to reports of problems in Corinth and partially in response to questions that the Corinthians had written to ask Paul. As we can see in 1 Corinthians 16:3-6, when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he intended to visit Corinth later, and he promised to send Timothy to Corinth. Timothy may have been the messenger who carried 1 Corinthians... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 34: 1 Corinthians 11-16

August 20, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 34: 1 Corinthians 11-16

Every so often I insert this reminder: These are study notes, not notes for a lesson. Of course, studying the chapter can help one prepare for the lesson, and the same questions used for study can be used to teach a lesson. But the primary purpose of these notes is to help people think about and prepare to talk about the Sunday School lesson. Recall that in this part of his letter Paul is responding to questions that the Corinthians have asked him by letter. (See the questions for lesson 33.) Chapters 7-15 comprise his response to their questions,... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 33: 1 Corinthians 1-6

August 14, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 33: 1 Corinthians 1-6

Some background on 1 Corinthians (in addition to that given in the Bible Dictionary): The church at Corinth was founded by Paul in 51 A.D, and this letter was probably written in the early spring of 57. Corinth had a reputation for debauchery in the ancient world, and that in a world that was tolerant of sexual promiscuity of all kinds. Paul and Sosthenes (the two of them are the senders of this letter—see verse 1) are responding to two things: reports from Chloe about what is happening in Corinth (chapters 1-6) and a letter that the Corinthian members... Read more »

NT Sunday School Lesson 32: Acts 18:23-20:38; Galatians

August 3, 2011 | no comments
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NT Sunday School Lesson 32: Acts 18:23-20:38; Galatians

The readings from Acts tell of Paul’s third missionary journey, to Galatia, Ephesus, Macedonia, and Greece. (See the maps in your LDS Bible.) Acts 20:28-32 Verse 28: To whom is Paul preaching in these verses? (See verse 17 and footnote “b” for verse 28.) The Greek word translated “overseer” is episkopos, the root word for the English word “episcopal.” It is often translated “bishop,” but “overseer” is a good (and very literal) translation because it shows what the episkopos does: he watches over others to see that they do their jobs properly. It may or may not refer to... Read more »

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