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Ben Spackman’s thoughts on Sunday School


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3 minutes ago, Rain said:

THIS is the biggest problem I have with the lesson I am first supposed to teach.  I am struggling so much with that genocide idea right now.  I recognize that I have very strong feelings on it because of my work with refugees.  The church always says that we should pray about things and it took everything I had to go to Heavenly Father who I know loves me deeply and all his children if he really command that because it feels so blasphemous to ask.  So I finally had to say "You said we should ask if we lack wisdom. It feels so wrong to be asking you this, but I lack wisdom." 

But how Come Follow Me words it just makes me angry.  That if only we had enough faith we would believe there are reasons God commanded this.  Says nothing about being translated correctly or that this is bravado language or whatever.

And yes, that anger is something I am trying to get past so I can listen to the Spirit better.

Yes it was bravado language. But it was also warfare. They were trying to displace a people that were already settled in the land. I’m sure fields were being burned and animals slaughtered to force people out.

No, it wasn’t actual genocide, but it wasn’t kindly asking them to leave either.

And it went both ways. Look at the conditions Gideon was living in at the beginning of his narrative.

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

There are about 1,184 pages in the KJK Old Testament used by the Church.  A typical Latter-day Saint will have maybe 46 or so Sunday lessons during the course of a year.  That works out to about or about 26 pages of text per lesson.  

 

It's even more than that.  Of those 46 Sunday lessons, less than half of them will be Come Follow Me Lessons.  The others will be 5th Sunday lessons and EQ/RS lessons (which in my stake, at least, focus on a talk from the most recent General Conference).  Assuming that none of your stake conferences happen on a first or third Sunday, there are only 22 CFM lessons in a year, which works out to 54 pages of text per lesson.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, JarMan said:

No. The devil of the BofM is clearly not in the OT. 

Of course, those are two different texts. But presumably Lehi was a student of Isaiah (Isaiah 14:12; 2 Nephi 2:17). If not, then his supposition is even more interesting.

Edited by CV75
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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Duncan said:

One thing I wish they would bring back or people locally would lead out on is bringing back Gospel Principles class. As it is now you have people who don't know anything about LDS temples and in the same class you have temple presidency members and people who have been going for 50 years and have a lot of knowledge about the subject-which is good but it could also lead to disconnection, people talking about stuff others don't know anything about and are shy to ask about 

I was going to say basically the same thing. It was nice to have a gospel principles class I could take my non-member sister to so she could learn the basics. Before CFM I felt like we delved deeper in Gospel Doctrine class and it was over her head. I think with CFM and everyone in the same class, we are more at a GP level. 

Edited by Peacefully
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7 hours ago, Saint Bonaventure said:

There are the church ladies who go to daily Mass, the guy who is flirting with Eastern Orthodoxy and who has a book about the filioque in his satchel, the trads who will inevitably reference Vatican II, the libs who are in the Communion line but not the Confession line....you get the idea.  

This is a classic list of Catholic folk, well done! 😂

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1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

The unknowns about the text's production and redaction history causes another layer of problems, as does the fact that it is hard to tell which portions of Isaiah's prophetic utterances were shaped by him and which parts were shaped by the Lord.

And the fact that biblical scholars often say that true prophecy and its fulfilment don't exist, so anything that is specific and later fulfilled is a later addition.

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29 minutes ago, JustAnAustralian said:

And the fact that biblical scholars often say that true prophecy and its fulfilment don't exist, so anything that is specific and later fulfilled is a later addition.

This is one reason why I stick with the bible scholars that are also faithful members of the church.

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4 hours ago, filovirus said:

Yes it was bravado language. But it was also warfare. They were trying to displace a people that were already settled in the land. I’m sure fields were being burned and animals slaughtered to force people out.

No, it wasn’t actual genocide, but it wasn’t kindly asking them to leave either.

And it went both ways. Look at the conditions Gideon was living in at the beginning of his narrative.

I'm aware of the bravado language and warfare.  The issue I have is when the church says:

"While we don’t know all the reasons Saul was commanded to kill all of the Amalekites and their animals, there are lessons to learn from his response to that commandment. To help class members identify these lessons, you could write on the board To obey is better than … and invite class members to ponder this phrase as you review together events from 1 Samuel 15. What are some good things we do in our lives that we sometimes choose instead of obeying God? Why is obedience to God better than those other good things?"

The assumption is God did command the killing.  No "it could have been bravado talk".  No "the writer might have meant that when they were in  battle with their enemy the Lord was on their side " - like Captain Moroni. No "the book of Samuel comes in various pieces with some keys parts missing."  No "as far as it was translated right.  

Just the implication that we need to have faith and some day God will tell us why he commanded some of his children to slaughter his other children.  

Yep, the way the bible and the church tells it then it wasn't kindly asking them to leave either. I imagine those that got away felt much the same way that 100 million refugees and displaced people feel today.  Some of them probably prayed to that same God for help just like many do today.  

Yes, I believe in the next life, but if you look at the life of Jesus he cared for people in THIS life too.

So I think it is perfectly fine to be teaching context and other things about how the bible was written that might shed light that the passages may mean something else.  I imagine telling an Afghan woman who ran from the Taliban that God sometimes acts like the Taliban, but it's ok because he is God and had good reasons.

Out of all the Christian churches I know we are the one who could best have reasons to put alternate possibilities in our lessons instead of clinging to if we understood God we would be ok with it.

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9 hours ago, bluebell said:

I think that's true for some hard things.  But not all.  There are some hard questions that I think we very much need to tackle in SS.  Things like "did God actually command His people to kill women and children and what do we do with these kinds of narratives in our scriptures".

I think this is a very good example of the sort of hard things that should be discussed in a Sunday School class. Which leads me to . . . 

7 hours ago, Rain said:

THIS is the biggest problem I have with the lesson I am first supposed to teach.  I am struggling so much with that genocide idea right now.  I recognize that I have very strong feelings on it because of my work with refugees.  The church always says that we should pray about things and it took everything I had to go to Heavenly Father who I know loves me deeply and all his children if he really commanded that because it feels so blasphemous to ask.  So I finally had to say "You said we should ask if we lack wisdom. It feels so wrong to be asking you this, but I lack wisdom." 

But how Come Follow Me words it just makes me angry.  That if only we had enough faith we would believe there are reasons God commanded this.  Says nothing about being translated correctly or that this is bravado language or whatever.

And yes, that anger is something I am trying to get past so I can listen to the Spirit better.

Rain, you may consider asking the class how they account for or explain the genocide commands. I'm confident that every class across the world will have a range of views (spectrum: God really did command it --- God would never do that. And hybrid views in between). With this question in particular, I think it's good for everyone to see that there is a range of views on this, and that's okay. The class (many brains and life experiences are better than one) could also be very helpful with a follow up question: how do we help someone who is very upset by this? What can be said? God will help you in the moment with what to say if genuine concerns arise, but it's not all on your shoulders. The class can be very helpful here. 

There is another group of possible concern, and that is people of a more fundamentalist mindset who are disturbed by a tendency for many people today to explain away "hard things" like this (scriptures meaning what they say, and saying what they mean) because they clash with 2022 sensibilities. It's not always the people who struggle with "hard things" who have concerns; there are also people who are concerned with a slide away from literalism due to modern sensibilities. 

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4 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

There is certainly a danger in an overemphasis on eisegesis. I think there is also real danger of assuming that the best available exegesis is a sure way to get into the mind and culture of the ancient writers. In some cases, what seems to some like naive eisegesis may actually be a better representation of the original author's intent than the most informed exegesis. I'm not saying that is always the case. It's almost certainly not. But there are a lot of clues in Restoration texts that hint at how much we are missing from the ancient world.

For instance, I'm not really very confident in the biblical scholar's ability to pin down what Isaiah was really thinking and saying in many of his oracular utterances. Those inclined towards biblical scholarship sometimes act as if they know exactly what Isaiah's immediate audience was like, and who his intended audience(s) surely were, and what his immediate culture was like, and what the immediate context of his prophecies involved, and what he thought about the layers and applications of his own prophecies. The fact is that the relevant biblical and extrabiblical texts give us very few of the types of specifics that would be needed for a strong exegetical interpretation, especially for such oracular literature. The unknowns about the text's production and redaction history causes another layer of problems, as does the fact that it is hard to tell which portions of Isaiah's prophetic utterances were shaped by him and which parts were shaped by the Lord. And that is a real problem because as soon as an omniscient being with miraculous foresight gets involved, the less a text's meaning can be confidently confined to a particular historical milieu. 

This is a real tension right now. Insistence that "context" isn't opinion doesn't really hold up --- a lot of the "context" is a scholarly opinion based on their interpretations. This is so funny --- I had a conversation with a student before lunch a few weeks ago (near the end of school) where this came up. It wasn't even a gospel discussion, and wasn't Church related, and I forget the particulars of what the student brought up, but I had replied that if the Statue of Liberty were dug up thousands of years in the future, it would probably be interpreted as a fire (torch) or sun (rays emanating from her head) goddess, even though that is not at all what it meant to us. I thought of how far distant archaeologists might interpret our chapels (obviously, the ceremonial ball courts were central to our worship, being at the center and the largest part of the building :) ). I think a lot of what we think about the "context" is off --- sometimes far off. 

This becomes important from a believing Mormon perspective because there are many elements from the D&C and PoGP that paint us in a corner on literalism. We Mormons need there to have been a real Moses, a real Abraham, a real Adam and Eve. We need the Exodus and the invasion of Canaan to be real, and we need the tribes to be historical realities (many of the LDS scholars, if pinned down, would admit that they don't believe that the tribes actually existed. They would say that they were always there as Canaanites and retrofitted the history and identification with legendary tribes after the fact). This poses problems with patriarchal blessings and the teachings associated with them. There are a host of examples like this.

@JarMan's example that he's been pounding away at in this thread is a prime example. If he's correct that the LDS concept of Satan was completely foreign to OT people, what does that do to the JST and the Book of Moses? It makes it ridiculous, just pretending on the part of Joseph Smith. Restored scripture (including the temple) give a more complete and fuller picture of what ancient people thought and taught about Satan, even when this doesn't have scholarly cachet outside of Mormonism. This is why things like this, or the creation accounts simply being mythical Near Eastern texts borrowed by the Hebrews, are never going to be included in LDS curricula. 

You are dead on about Isaiah. Again, we're painted into a corner with Isaiah, because the Book of Mormon claims to contain its Isaiah writings from the brass plates, while containing portions of what scholars (including the LDS scholars) consider to be from Deutero-Isaiah (a postulated nameless man or men centuries removed from "proto-Isaiah"). 

There are very good reasons why the Church's official Sunday School, magazine, and study help material is never going to embrace and endorse secular or sectarian scholarship. 

 

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16 minutes ago, rongo said:

Insistence that "context" isn't opinion doesn't really hold up --- a lot of the "context" is a scholarly opinion based on their interpretations.

PhD in history here: exactly!

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15 hours ago, JarMan said:

Oh, please excuse me. I didn’t realize I was sitting in F&T Meeting. 

That’s no excuse.

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Posted (edited)
On 6/7/2022 at 5:15 AM, Calm said:

Which manuals…if you can share?

I was just notified that there is a zoom meeting tomorrow for all stake Sunday School presidents --- with the general Sunday School presidency. That's certainly different. 

I already know,as mentioned, that part of Sunday's broadcast (open to everyone) will be announcing the combining of the CES handbook and Teaching in the Savior's Way. I know that many here scoffed at my source saying that seminary and institute are on their way out (not overnight), but this would seem to be a step on that direction and in line with home centered. 

Edited by rongo
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6 minutes ago, rongo said:

I was just notified that there is a zoom meeting tomorrow for all stake Sunday School presidents --- with the general Sunday School presidency. That's certainly different. 

I already know,as mentioned, that part of Sunday's broadcast (open to everyone) will be announcing the combining of the CES handbook and TNGC. I know that many here scoffed at my source saying that seminary and institute are on their way out (not overnight), but this would seem to be a step on that direction and in line with home centered. 

I didn’t even know there was a broadcast this weekend. 

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6 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I didn’t even know there was a broadcast this weekend. 

https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/event/teaching-in-the-saviors-way-churchwide-broadcast

Quote

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will speak in a special broadcast, Teaching in the Savior’s Way, on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

This unique event is for all members of the Church who teach either in their calling or in their home.

Elder Uchtdorf will share principles meant to help every member find joy and success in teaching the gospel and increase their ability to teach like the Savior.

Local leaders are encouraged to determine a viewing date and time that best serve the Church members in their area. Teacher council meetings may be an ideal opportunity to view the broadcast.

 

Edited by Calm
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10 hours ago, rongo said:

 

@JarMan's example that he's been pounding away at in this thread is a prime example. If he's correct that the LDS concept of Satan was completely foreign to OT people, what does that do to the JST and the Book of Moses? It makes it ridiculous, just pretending on the part of Joseph Smith. Restored scripture (including the temple) give a more complete and fuller picture of what ancient people thought and taught about Satan, even when this doesn't have scholarly cachet outside of Mormonism. This is why things like this, or the creation accounts simply being mythical Near Eastern texts borrowed by the Hebrews, are never going to be included in LDS curricula. 

 

The Satan anachronism is fatal for the BofM, as well. Nephi’s words on Satan are centuries too early. Actually, two millennia early since it’s really Milton and his contemporaries who gave us Nephi’s Satan. 

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18 minutes ago, JarMan said:

The Satan anachronism is fatal for the BofM, as well. Nephi’s words on Satan are centuries too early. Actually, two millennia early since it’s really Milton and his contemporaries who gave us Nephi’s Satan. 

Forgive me if I'm missing the obvious, but are no longer a believer, @JarMan?

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20 minutes ago, JarMan said:

The Satan anachronism is fatal for the BofM, as well. Nephi’s words on Satan are centuries too early. Actually, two millennia early since it’s really Milton and his contemporaries who gave us Nephi’s Satan. 

I don't think this is the case, at least with Nephi. The Tree of Life dream (vision) may be one of the most important visions recorded in scripture. Many things that Nephi learned are different to the teachings at that time and were very progressive in their pointing toward Christ. This put the people of the BoM with a theology separate from what they left behind in Jerusalem. Following the Law of Moses but knowing that it has no saving power. Living as if Christ had already come. A correct understanding of moral agency, including opposition brought on by Satan. Because they were a break away offshoot, they could essentially start anew with many of these teachings.

But, there are things that are troublesome for the BoM. The Isaiah chapters in particular. This is still one of the items I struggle a bit with. I still haven't heard a compelling case about some of the anachronisms found in these chapters.

As for others things found in the Old Testament that are troublesome are just stories we often leave out. This year we studied about Judah and Tamar. This may be the first time the church has taken on this chapter. I had to read it multiple times to make sure I was understanding it correctly. As I read it, it implied to me that Judah went to a fertility temple when he impregnated Tamar with child. I then looked into what scholarship said about it, and many have come to the same conclusion. This is so far from the Law of Chastity that I can see why it would be tough for many members.

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12 hours ago, rongo said:

I had replied that if the Statue of Liberty were dug up thousands of years in the future, it would probably be interpreted as a fire (torch) or sun (rays emanating from her head) goddess, even though that is not at all what it meant to us. I thought of how far distant archaeologists might interpret our chapels (obviously, the ceremonial ball courts were central to our worship, being at the center and the largest part of the building :) ). I think a lot of what we think about the "context" is off --- sometimes far off. 

You need to read "Motel of the Mysteries." A motel from the 1980s is discovered by archaeologists in the year 4000. They excavate it like King Tut's tomb (if you know the story of that excavation, you'll notice the similarities). I was able to find a truncated version that's mainly the pictures here: https://www.plainlocal.org/userfiles/352/Classes/32796/Motel of the Mystery PDF Version.pdf

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3 hours ago, JarMan said:

The Satan anachronism is fatal for the BofM, as well. Nephi’s words on Satan are centuries too early. Actually, two millennia early since it’s really Milton and his contemporaries who gave us Nephi’s Satan. 

Prophecy can certainly appear to be anachronistic when comparing earlier forms of scriptural expression (e.g. the serpent in Genesis) with more recent expressions and their translations (Satan, Lucifer, devil later in the OT).

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14 hours ago, rongo said:

if the Statue of Liberty were dug up thousands of years in the future, it would probably be interpreted as a fire (torch) or sun (rays emanating from her head) goddess,

Planet of the apes

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15 hours ago, rongo said:

 

There are very good reasons why the Church's official Sunday School, magazine, and study help material is never going to embrace and endorse secular or sectarian scholarship. 

 

I believe this to be a true statement.  Critical biblical scholarship is incompatible with traditional views of the Book of Mormon, PGP Moses and Abraham in so many ways that I doubt the Church's manuals will ever do much to introduce Saints to such scholarship.  It's safer to expose members to such materials through the work of "faithful scholars" who weed out the troubling bits of critical biblical scholarship and only present the results of such scholarship that confirm LDS beliefs.

For those interested in Ben Spackman's take on the issue of genocide in Joshua see: https://benspackman.com/2022/06/gospel-doctrine-lesson-18-joshua/#more-430.  Essentially Spackman argues that the genocide never happened.  Of course, that requires seeing parts of the books of Exodus and Joshua as non-historical.

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14 hours ago, rongo said:

I think this is a very good example of the sort of hard things that should be discussed in a Sunday School class. Which leads me to . . . 

Rain, you may consider asking the class how they account for or explain the genocide commands. I'm confident that every class across the world will have a range of views (spectrum: God really did command it --- God would never do that. And hybrid views in between). With this question in particular, I think it's good for everyone to see that there is a range of views on this, and that's okay. The class (many brains and life experiences are better than one) could also be very helpful with a follow up question: how do we help someone who is very upset by this? What can be said? God will help you in the moment with what to say if genuine concerns arise, but it's not all on your shoulders. The class can be very helpful here. 

It's a good idea.  I'm just not sure if I would be the right one to do that. I had a good talk with my husband about it and he wasn't sure I should do it either.  I go back and forth on it because I do think it is important to be able to talk about these kind of things.  I'm just not sure I can do it without anger if people try to convince me that God really wanted these people to die.

14 hours ago, rongo said:

There is another group of possible concern, and that is people of a more fundamentalist mindset who are disturbed by a tendency for many people today to explain away "hard things" like this (scriptures meaning what they say, and saying what they mean) because they clash with 2022 sensibilities. It's not always the people who struggle with "hard things" who have concerns; there are also people who are concerned with a slide away from literalism due to modern sensibilities. 

 

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