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Should I Or Shouldn't I . . .


consiglieri

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I am in a bit of a quandry regarding the lesson material for Sunday school this week.

I teach gospel doctrine class and a substantial portion of this week's material deals with the story in John of the woman taken in adultery.

This is a highly cherished story among Mormons as well as non-LDS Christians. It is frequently quoted in General Conference.

The problem is that I know the story probably never happened at all, as it is not found in the earliest manuscripts of John; and when it does start showing up in manuscripts, it is inserted in different locations.

Even as we have it in John, it is clearly an addition to the text.

Here is my dilemma:

1. Should I teach about it as if it really happened?

2. Should I teach the truth that it probably never happened?

3. Should I avoid the subject altogether?

I haven't made a decision on this yet, and would appreciate the input of board members, whose opinions I respect.

Thanks in advance.

--Consiglieri

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It is a good gospel story...or fable. I don't think there is anything wrong with teaching it. I teach my kids fables all the time for the moral. I am not sure if there really was a little boy that cried wolf or not, but that is a big on in my house. (My old has a lying problem sometimes.)

The story in the Bible is a good reminder of us not to judge others and also that Jesus wipes away our sins.

The story might actually be true....we wouldn't know. It could have been one that was told instead of written. Many stories in those times were told rather than written, doesn't make them false. Or it could possibly be that it was a mostly true story, only not Jesus that it happened to.

Either way since we use it to teach and the moral of the story is good, I would say teach it. It is up to you whether you mention that it wasn't originally in the Bible.

(Not sure if I am a board member whose opinion you respect....but gave it to you anyway.)

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Even as we have it in John, it is clearly an addition to the text.

Here is my dilemma:

1. Should I teach about it as if it really happened?

2. Should I teach the truth that it probably never happened?

3. Should I avoid the subject altogether?

Although I'm a fairly controversial Sunday School teacher, I would mention the textual history of the Pericope Adulterae and talk about how some later scribes probably heard the story as an oral tradition and added it or thought the story exemplified the forgiving nature of Jesus. :P

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I haven't made a decision on this yet, and would appreciate the input of board members,

Well, I think you should...

whose opinions I respect.

Oh... never mind.

If you decide you want an opinion from someone you don't respect:

I think a happy middle ground would be to teach it the same way you'd teach a lesson on the Exodus, or on Genesis. It might not have happened... or it might have happened, but vastly different from what the scripture account has. Regardless, there is still a potential lesson of compassion and not passing unrighteous judgment to be learned from the story (regardless of whether or not it occurred).

I guess you could potentially mention as a side note, that modern scholarship shows that it was probably added to the Gospels at a later date, but follow up with an affirmation that it still has value (that way, you can appease the intellectuals while at the same time avoiding wholesale apostasy).

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A Gospel Doctrine teacher, in our Church, should teach from the approved lesson materials of our Church.

You should avoid giving information from any other materials, and simply focus on the materials you have to work with.

If you can't do that, you should ask to be released from that calling.

It's as simple as that.

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I am in a bit of a quandry regarding the lesson material for Sunday school this week.

I teach gospel doctrine class and a substantial portion of this week's material deals with the story in John of the woman taken in adultery.

This is a highly cherished story among Mormons as well as non-LDS Christians. It is frequently quoted in General Conference.

The problem is that I know the story probably never happened at all, as it is not found in the earliest manuscripts of John; and when it does start showing up in manuscripts, it is inserted in different locations.

Even as we have it in John, it is clearly an addition to the text.

Here is my dilemma:

1. Should I teach about it as if it really happened?

2. Should I teach the truth that it probably never happened?

3. Should I avoid the subject altogether?

I haven't made a decision on this yet, and would appreciate the input of board members, whose opinions I respect.

Thanks in advance.

--Consiglieri

Consiglieri,

I know what you mean. I've had the same question many times. Mostly I feel prompted to leave textual criticism and other issues out of the lessons unless the passages in question would be hard to understand or apply to our own live without bringing up the textual/manuscript problems. Also, most in my ward wouldn't have the background to understand some of these concepts. However, there have been a few times I've felt prompted to bring these issues up at a basic level and felt that the resulting discussion was very rewarding.

On the lesson in question, I would look at the way S. Kent Brown discusses it as part of the Our Savior in the Gospels discussion by BYU faculty. It would be epidsode 120 "Light of the World" and starts at about the 12.18 minute mark.

Kent brings up the facts you mention but says his personal feeling is that it is an authentic story and gives his own personal feelings and similar stories from early Christian literature as the reasons.

One of the patterns he points out is Christ stooping to write with his finger. This finger-writing motif is found throught scripture, mostly in the context of God revealing something to man. In Moses 6, a Book of Remembrance is written "according to the pattern which was given by the finger of God," and in Exodus, the law was written on stone by the finger of God. The application being that here is the Creator of revealed law and of the celestial books standing before them, and they are trying to trap him in the context of that very law which he wrote with his finger.

In other words, I like the way that S. Kent Brown handles this subject. He very simply acknowledges the textual problems, gives his personal feelings on the subject, then draws some good insights from which we can be edified and apply in our lives.

All the inspiration!

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Although I'm a fairly controversial Sunday School teacher, I would mention the textual history of the Pericope Adulterae and talk about how some later scribes probably heard the story as an oral tradition and added it or thought the story exemplified the forgiving nature of Jesus. :P

I like this option. I like learning about the textual history but I suppose some don't. We don't know for sure if this woman and story was actual fact or not and, in a way, it doesn't matter. The lesson is what the story can teach us.

If a discussion about if it's true or not, I've had to speak up before (when evolution came up) that we are not bound about how we believe the story and can accept it individually how we will. It's usually the literalists that get uncomfortable with these discussions but they are a breath of fresh air for the non-literalists.

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When in doubt..just teach the lesson as outlined. That has been my general rule of thumb. In my experience, next to no one cares about theories of myth vs. reality, historical context, etc..you'll probably just recieve a bunch of blank stares.

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I have been the Gospel Doctrine teacher in four wards. I never seek opportunities to stir up controversy, but I do make reference to issues like this in a contextual way.

However, in regard to this passage, I'm not sure how big a deal this is. We need to remember that the KJV as we have it now is formal and official canon of the LDS Church. As such, I think we ought to be very comfortable teaching from the KJV as it is written. The fact that there is an academic dispute over the authenticity of this passage is not really relevent to the lesson to be learned.

Gospel Doctrine classes are made up of a wide spectrum of Saints. There are Gospel scholars, the

I'm-here-bacause-I-have-to-be" attendees, new members, newly activated members, casual/occasional visitors. I tend to teach to a level that is more about the spirit of the lesson...and the inspirational aspects of the scriptures rather than doing a hard core scriptrual analytics class.

That is how I'd approach it, your milage may vary.

Regards,

Six

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There is no way of knowing whether this story was in or not in the original texts of the gospels. We do not have any originals, only copies. It may have been present and the early copies we have may have left it out, possibly because there was a period of time when an adulteress was thought to be unforgivable. Later copiers may have had acess to an earlier text and then put it back in. It may not have been in the actual original document but in another document which we have no knowledge of or as suggested may have been oral tradition. There is no reason to believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the only written histories of Jesus's ministry, in fact there are several others mentioned and there is some discussion of whether they are true history or fabrications designed to falsefy the true history of Jesus's ministry.

If it were me, I would teach it just as it is presented in the manual. I seldom introduce extraneous material into a GD lesson unless it enhances the intended message. The Gospel Doctrine class is not a place to try to enlighten the masses about possible faults in the historical record. These are topics for firesides, personal study or private discussions.

Larry P

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When in doubt..just teach the lesson as outlined. That has been my general rule of thumb. In my experience, next to no one cares about theories of myth vs. reality, historical context, etc..you'll probably just recieve a bunch of blank stares.

"Outlined" is a good word here -- because there's usually not enough substance in a lesson plan to make anything more than that.

In my experience, the lessons where I explored textual variants, historical context etc. were the most popular, sparked the most discussion, and gave the class the most reason to go home and re-commit to study of the Scriptures.

My personal rule of thumb is to never teach anything that I'm not passionate about. When I'm passionate, the class feeds off my energy and regardless of the subject matter it makes for a good 35-40 minutes.

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I would indicate that the story is not present in the earliest Greek manuscipts. Consequently, many scholars think that the story is a late insertion. Regardless, modern prophets have often used the story for moral instruction. Therefore, we LDS are on safe ground in concluding that the story is inspired.

Clearly, the Bible is NOT inerrant, and the errors in the early Greek manuscripts attest to the validity of the 8th Article of Faith, as well as to the existence of a widespread apostasy. Nonetheless, the KJV Bible is inspired and worthy of being called scripture.

I do not think the points above need to take up more than 3 minutes of your lesson.

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"Outlined" is a good word here -- because there's usually not enough substance in a lesson plan to make anything more than that.

Maybe not, sometimes, but we do have approved lesson materials to work with.

In my experience, the lessons where I explored textual variants, historical context etc. were the most popular, sparked the most discussion, and gave the class the most reason to go home and re-commit to study of the Scriptures.

I also like that approach, as long as the textual variants and historical context is based on the approved materials.

My personal rule of thumb is to never teach anything that I'm not passionate about. When I'm passionate, the class feeds off my energy and regardless of the subject matter it makes for a good 35-40 minutes.

I'm passionate about my testimony that I have from God and I share that pretty much all of the time, but I also like to hear other people share their testimonies from God. I'm very passionate about all testimonies from God.

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"Outlined" is a good word here -- because there's usually not enough substance in a lesson plan to make anything more than that.

In my experience, the lessons where I explored textual variants, historical context etc. were the most popular, sparked the most discussion, and gave the class the most reason to go home and re-commit to study of the Scriptures.

My personal rule of thumb is to never teach anything that I'm not passionate about. When I'm passionate, the class feeds off my energy and regardless of the subject matter it makes for a good 35-40 minutes.

I'm of the same mold. Can I teach in your ward? Please? LOL :P

Lets just say that YSA Wards are well...different. I cant tell you how many times I have had to make a mental "audience maturity check" before saying much of anything

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I'm of the same mold. Can I teach in your ward? Please? LOL :P

Lets just say that YSA Wards are well...different. I cant tell you how many times I have had to make a mental "audience maturity check" before saying much of anything

I think I understand what you mean.

For those who don't know...

The same lesson manual used in the adult Gospel Doctrine class is used for the other Sunday School classes, ages 14 and up, during Sunday School.

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A Gospel Doctrine teacher, in our Church, should teach from the approved lesson materials of our Church.

You should avoid giving information from any other materials, and simply focus on the materials you have to work with.

If you can't do that, you should ask to be released from that calling.

It's as simple as that.

This is an interesting suggestion, which I will have to give some thought.

I am wondering how many others think that, if I cannot avoid teaching anything other than what is in the "approved lesson materials of our Church," I should ask to be released from my calling.

My perception is that the only time the class is enjoying the lesson is when I am not teaching the "approved lesson materials."

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I have been a GD teacher for many years (we don't have SS in my Branch now). I have always taught this from the perspective that it happened, that we can learn a great deal from it and even though it wasn't in the earliest texts, other sources relate the same occurance. I also teach the way it was related in the Gospel of Phillip (or was it Thomas I can't remember). Christ didn't just draw on the ground, he wrote the sins of each of her accusers on the ground. I love this touch. The accusers didn't just walk away, they cringed and then slunk away. If one were as prideful as the Pharisees of the day, wouldn't this make more sense and demonstrate the divinity of Christ?

Dr Fatguy

I use this to teach forgiveness more than non-judgement. He would have forgiven the Pharisees as frankly and as quickly as he forgave the woman had they but asked.

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Just an additional thought:

Although we are talking about the New Testament, this general subject would seem to apply to Church History, as well.

If I know that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by putting the seer stone into a hat and looking into the hat, should I teach the truth, or should I pass the truth by because it is not in the "approved manual"?

At what point is truth expendable? What place does truth have in a class on gospel doctrine?

What role does keeping church membership in ignorance of the truth have vis-a-vis teaching only from the "approved manual"? Does this type of teaching style not set members up for some nasty surprises from anti-Mormons?

Just some questions.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

I use this to teach forgiveness more than non-judgement. He would have forgiven the Pharisees as frankly and as quickly as he forgave the woman had they but asked.

Thanks for your comments.

This makes me think of something else unusual about the story:

How is it that forgiveness is given?

The woman does not ask for forgiveness. She does not repent. She does not join the Church. She does not profess a belief in Jesus as the Savior. And Jesus requires none of this from her.

It is an unusual story all around.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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This is an interesting suggestion, which I will have to give some thought.

I am wondering how many others think that, if I cannot avoid teaching anything other than what is in the "approved lesson materials of our Church," I should ask to be released from my calling.

My perception is that the only time the class is enjoying the lesson is when I am not teaching the "approved lesson materials."

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

I think it might be good to wonder what others think about that.

Try asking your Sunday School presidency and your bishopric.

And try reading your teacher's manual, and your "Teaching, No Greater Call" manual.

Our leaders in the Church have told us what we should be teaching.

... and I'm sure they will be happy to repeat it for you.

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Shortly before I moved from California I was released as EQ instructor (actually, fired is the more appropriate word) for departing from the lesson manual one too many times. He was a nice guy, and actually liked my lessons but was rather button down about what should be taught. Ex-Airforce, if that adds perspective. My attitude was, "Fine.. no one has to call me as a teacher. But if you do, I teach the way I teach. I want to give my best. If I don't teach, I'll listen to who ever does. And comment when moved upon by the spirit." Shortly after I arrived in California, I was called as EQ instructor. In all the time I lived in Kansas, I got no complaints from the Elders there. Indeed, I was called as HP instructor expressly because the quorum leader wanted interesting lessons. Then when I moved to Pittsburgh, I was very quickly called as the HP instructor and as a Sunday School teacher here. I still teach the HP quorum, after 2.5 years.

I'd have no qualms about mentioning that the woman taken in adultery story is not in the oldest manuscripts we have, but I also think that it would be dicy to claim that the story does not belong there. I think it does.

Matthew Brown's FAIR essay on the Joseph Smith accounts of the First Vision is suggestive here. He points out that several details that appear in Joseph's 1838 account, but which were not mentioned in the 1832 account are clearly attested in other early sources. That shows that the additional details in this case could be accurate memories rather than creative embellishments.

Somewhere, Orson Scott Card wrote something illustrating what different kinds of answers might have been given, and just what those alternate narratives might imply. That was an interesting way of demonstrating the Christ-like power of the story. I do not personally care much for the speculations about what Jesus was writing, but that is just me.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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I think it might be good to wonder what others think about that.

Try asking your Sunday School presidency and your bishopric.

And try reading your teacher's manual, and your "Teaching, No Greater Call" manual.

Our leaders in the Church have told us what we should be teaching.

... and I'm sure they will be happy to repeat it for you.

Which is why people are shocked by relatively unimportant issues when they hear about them long into their membership in the Church.

Dr. Peterson was on the GD writing committee and he has expressed his opinion on the manuals. They are not canon. We are allowed to add our insight to them.

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Which is why people are shocked by relatively unimportant issues when they hear about them long into their membership in the Church.

Dr. Peterson was on the GD writing committee and he has expressed his opinion on the manuals. They are not canon. We are allowed to add our insight to them.

Well, if Daniel said so, then it MUST be true.

Thank God we have Daniel to guide us.

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