I’ve just been called as a seminary teacher. Today I was sustained during sacrament meeting. I’m really excited about it — I enjoy working with youth, I enjoy the scriptures, and I enjoy teaching. Heck, I’m even a morning person. The course of study is the Doctrine & Covenants. It has me thinking about how to help them understand the role that the scriptures play in the church.
When I was twelve-or-so years old, I had a teacher who wanted us to understand the importance of the scriptures. He encouraged us to bring our scriptures to class each week, and even took roll on who brought theirs. However, I remember consciously asking myself, “What’s the point? We don’t learn from the scriptures at church. We learn from the lesson manual.” In other words, I hadn’t made the connection that the doctrines in the lesson manual were based on scriptural teachings. Like most Sunday school classes, the teacher would have us read passages from the scriptures, but I didn’t understand that the purpose of those scriptures was to provide a legal basis for the principles in the lesson. (Of course, twelve-year-old boys mumbling quietly through verses of KJV prose doesn’t leave one understanding much of anything at all.)
So it was kind of a revolutionary connection for me when I finally realized that church policies and doctrines weren’t true for their own sakes, that they were at some point founded on scriptural interpretations. It gave me a sense of power to realize that if I understood the scriptures, I could understand the practices of the church, and even evaluate them. I could test them against my own readings of the scriptures — I could say, “I don’t think that’s what that scripture really means.” And that was really cool. I had a reason to reach beyond the 100 “scripture mastery” verses I had learned in seminary. Rather than treating each verse as a stand-alone prooftext, useful only for proving my rightness in religious debates, I felt a desire to understand the context of those verses, the intentions of their author, and relevant interpretations for them in my life.
I have no idea what it will be like to teach seminary, but one of the goals I have set for myself is to ignite an understanding of and love for the scriptures among my students. I want them to feel comfortable, comforted, and confident with the scriptures. I want them to feel ownership and empowerment in their scriptures. So my questions for you today are: (1) When did the “scriptures are actually relevant to my worldview” light turn on for you? and (2) what made that change happen?