How Can I Use Church Music to Learn about the Plan of Salvation?

This is one of the teaching outlines from the new youth Sunday School curriculum for February.  I thought I’d share how I plan to teach this lesson.  

I prepared these two things before class:

(1) Using this pictures from the Ensign, I made a quick Power Point presentation for the hymn “O My Father.”  One slide for each picture, with the corresponding lyrics next to it.  (I’m not giving you the presentation because I don’t know how the copyright should work on this.  But seriously, it only took like 10 minutes.)

(2) I cut-and-pasted the lyrics to “O My Father” from the church music website onto a text document.  Beneath that, I put this:

O premortal life

O mortal life

O postmortal life

And printed one copy for each kid and brought it with colored pencils.

Here’s my lesson outline:

Pass out handouts.  Have kids read along while they listen to  “O My Father.”

Ask:  Are there any words or concepts here that you do not understand?

President Kimball:

“Since infancy we have been singing the beloved song “O My Father,” its meaning only partly understood by many people. Sister Eliza R. Snow gave us these words and I think they are magnificent. In every funeral of the Kimball family so long as I can remember, “O My Father” was the principal song.  [Then he read the entire hymn and then said:]  That speaks to the whole gospel program, doesn’t it?”  (Citation)

Our topic today is “how can I use church music to learn about the Plan of Salvation?”

Pass out colored pencils.  Have them do key [pick a color for each circle] and then mark the hymn accordingly.

Discuss what they marked and what we learn about each part of the Plan of Salvation (premortal, mortal, postmortal) from the hymn.

Explain John Hafen, art missionaries (=SLC Temple), pamphlet.    (Info here and links intra.)

Show Powerpoint.  Discussion topics for each slide:

1st slide:  How would you describe this guy?  How does he relate to the lyrics here?  (Point:  parts of this life are really hard, we should long for our heavenly home.)

2nd slide:  What does this picture suggest to you about the premortal life?  (I love the idea of God as a kindly, portly dad who would hold my hand on a walk.  I love the idea of being nurtured by God.)

3rd slide:  Would you have illustrated this stanza with a baby, or something else?  What are the lyrics teaching here?  (My thought:  we each have a purpose for being here, but we generally won’t know what that purpose is unless we work to figure it out.  I really like the word “friends” here.  [Pre-mortal] “birth” is also interesting.)

4th slide:  What do you think of the art work here?  Interesting how forests can be kind of scary/creepy or can be the Sacred Grove.)  If you ever feel like the odd one out, or lonely, that is something that you can turn into a powerful spur to turning you closer to God.  I like “secret something,” as if she doesn’t quite yet understand what the Holy Ghost is, but still can learn from it.)

5th slide:  What is this slide telling us about the role of the Restoration in the Plan of Salvation?  (My thought:  I like, again, the idea of getting and acting on what is admittedly partial knowledge.)

6th slide:    Joseph F. Smith:   “God revealed that principle that we have a mother as well as a father in heaven to Joseph Smith; Joseph Smith revealed it to  . . .  Eliza Snow [who] was inspired, being a poet, to put it into verse.”  Thoughts about or reactions to this picture?

7th slide:  I like thinking about this happy reunion, especially contrasted with the “frail” body.

8th slide:   What do you think the artist wanted to convey by showing exactly the same posture late in life and in post mortal life?  (My thoughts:  we don’t change when we die and also that being bowed by age is transferred to being bowed by humility.)  What do you think of his depiction of “heaven”?

If you were to illustrate this hymn, what might you do differently?  Do you like the illustrations?  Did they teach you anything about the hymn that you didn’t already know?

If time, maybe ask what hymns have special meaning. Or:  have them scroll through [yes, mine all have phones or tablets.  sigh.] and see which other hymns teach us about the Plan of Salvation.   If lots of time, could sing some of them.

Conclusion:  The First Presidency taught: “Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns. Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end” (Hymns, ix).

10 comments for “How Can I Use Church Music to Learn about the Plan of Salvation?

  1. Cameron
    February 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Very nice. Thank you.

  2. Eric
    February 4, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I would be interested in knowing how it turns out. I plan to teach this lesson later in the month. I thought about having one or more of our musically inclined class members sing.

  3. Kristine
    February 4, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    As you might have guessed, Julie, I LOVE this! And I second Eric’s request for a report :)

  4. Julie M. Smith
    February 5, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Considering the constraints under which we were operating (8am church, teenagers, Fast Sunday), I felt that the lesson went pretty well. I got two literal jaw-drops when I explained the concept of art missionaries, so that was kind of fun. They also seemed to respond to analyzing the artwork for what it could teach us about the plan of salvation. I did not have time for looking at any other hymns. I’m glad I asked them if there were any words they didn’t understand in the hymn, because there were several.

  5. rp
    February 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    When I took the GRE exam, one of the words in the verbal/vocab section of the test was “approbation”. I didn’t know what that meant until I remembered the line, “with your mutual approbation…” and I totally rocked that question. Just thought you’d all like to know that.

  6. Julie M. Smith
    February 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    rp, that is awesome!

  7. Eric
    February 5, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks for the report. Out of curiosity how many students do you have and what age group. I have about 18 priests and laurels.

  8. Julie M. Smith
    February 6, 2013 at 8:11 am

    It varies from week to week, but I have about a dozen 14-17 yos, about an equal male/female mix.

  9. Capozaino
    February 8, 2013 at 11:44 am

    “How Can I Use Church Music to Learn about the Plan of Salvation?” asked no adolescent youth, ever. I hope your version of this lesson went better than mine.

  10. July 26, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    I used to be able to find good advice from your blog

Comments are closed.