I’ve wondered how much blame for “uninformative” (Pres. Kimball’s description) or “uninspiring” (Elder Holland’s paraphrase) teaching in Gospel Doctrine comes from collective failure. Yes, a good teacher can do wonders, but if many classes don’t really talk about the scriptures in question, it’s because virtually no one but the teacher has read them. If the teacher feels compelled to be merely a “discussion leader” instead of, you know, the Gospel Doctrine TEACHER, and no one is actually prepared to discuss Ezekiel or Daniel, then the class discussion is going to wander to other things, like food storage, random evils of The World™ or stories from the mission, that relate only in the vaguest of ways to the two verses of Daniel we read out loud. Even worse is when we conclude afterwards that the passage in question really was speaking prophetically about whatever random topic we’ve hit on (see my old post here.) Getting people to read is its own bucket of issues, and I’d be interested in suggestions on that.
But I, at least, as teacher, don’t feel compelled to turn over the discussion to people who aren’t prepared to contribute to it in a substantial way. I know Gospel Doctrine is not and shouldn’t be grad school, and I don’t expect it to be, but if I were a professor and all my students came to a seminar not having done any work at all to prepare, I’d be beyond angry. As is, I’m merely frustrated and sad at the missed opportunities for good inspiring edification through collective sharing of knowledge, and the people we lose through boredom and lack of interest.
I did not consider my teaching philosophy unusual until I had this recent conversation with someone teaching Daniel 2 this week, in response to my post.
Q- Do you think it’d be fruitful to discuss Mormon millennialism and its decline and our assimilation in American culture? I can just imagine a lot of pushback. (Ben says, I talked about millennialism in my post.)
Ben- Maybe a 20 second aside, on something like D&C 130:14-17 as an example. (Wherein Joseph prays very earnestly to know just how soon the Second Coming will be).
Q- It just seems like it might get weird if I go there.
Ben-I just don’t give people opportunity to talk until I get through my entire spiel, which provides necessary context and steers things in the right direction.
Q-Lol. I like your style. But then my wife says, “You need to ask more questions.”
Ben– I prefaced last week with “I think discussions about scripture work best when everyone has recently read the scriptures in question. Most of the time though, that doesn’t happen. So I’ve prepared a mix of 80% lecture and 20% discussion… unless my assumption about no one reading is wrong. So how many people read Ezekiel 43,44,47 by a show of hands? Huh, well, while I wish we had disproved my assumption, I’m prepared to do most of the talking. Read for next week.”
Q-That’s probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard a GD teacher say to the class.
My interlocutor’s response surprised me. I’m as appreciative of validation/ flattery as anyone (maybe more, given my professional failures), but doesn’t everybody do this? If not, why not? I can think of some reasons, perhaps, but I’m interested in other thoughts.
How do we get Gospel Doctrine classes to read? How should we teach when they haven’t read?
(If you are not the teacher, however, and the teacher is doing a “less effective” job, see my post here for how Teaching: No Greater Call authorizes you to help.)