Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Back to the Basics? Our New/Old Gospel Principles Manual

As most of us know by now the Church has decided to use the "Gospel Principles" manual for Priesthood and Relief Society lessons next year. I know that this has raised many questions in my own mind, so I thought I would put some of them out on this blog to see what everyone thinks.

I personally like this move. I have taught the Gospel Essentials class for the past 2 years. I often find that the class tends to have more stimulating discussion, which generally fosters an atmosphere of learning. If you have not looked at the lessons, after a brief look and you will easily see that discussions are necessary at least because many of the lessons only take 1-2 pages.

But the real question is: why would the leaders of the Church utilize this lesson book in this setting? I have a couple of theories, neither of which reflect well on the general membership of the Church... so hopefully there is an alternative theory that one of you are thinking.

A few posts back Jeremy discussed 2 Ne 9:48 which states "Behold, if ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness; but as ye are not holy, and ye look upon me as a teacher, it must needs be expedient that I teach you the consequences of sin." Granted, the material in the Gospel Essentials manual certainly consitutes things of "holiness." However, is it possible that our Church leaders are looking upon the Church as a whole and making a judgment that the general membership needs to revert back to the basics? Could this decision be tied to the general spiritual state of the Church membership? Are we predominantly not prepared to receive higher, or holy, doctrine through our Sunday School manuals?

Along the same lines, in February I posted about my own perceived differences in the doctrine taught in Gospel Essentials class versus doctrine taught in the regular Sunday School classes. Our discussion seemed to conclude that there are a great deal of cultural expectations or teachings that seem to infect the actual doctrine of the Church. Are the bretheren perceiving similar occurrences?

Joseph Smith stated that for the Saints "I teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves." (“The Organization of the Church,” Millennial Star, Nov. 15, 1851, 339). I believe that the general membership of the Church could use more of this concept in our lives. I have found that learning principles, and then determining by means of personal revelation how I am to apply those principles in my life is probably the most effective way to progress, commit to living a teaching, etc.

So what do you think? Was it some or all of the above, or something different which has inspired this change. Either way it will be an interesting year and I look forward to going back to the basics.


Anonymous said...

Our January Enisgn arrived yesterday with Elder Nelson's answer to your question.

Nate said...

The January Ensign isn't available online yet...I look forward to reading it.

I would also imagine that there are many answers, not just one.

Anonymous said...

As to your first theory, I would say that is accurate. First, because in the December Ensign they said one concern was that millions have joined the Church since 1998; that puts many as unprepared to receive gospel meat (though that's not a bad thing). Second, we've learned that the 10 virgins represent members of the Church, and half will be unprepared, so in a bit of a negative respect we are as a Church not prepared.

But your second theory is probably not far off either, which may be another thing which leads to the 5 virgins being unprepared.

I agree with both, and I am totally siked for this coming two years.

lou said...

If you think about it, the basics are always the most important (in the sense that if you don't learn them first, you might miss something along the way).

I had an experience as a Gospel Doctrine teacher where I had teach the story of Noah and the arc. I struggled to find a way to teach people something "new". I decided to start with the basics and was surprised how many basic details I didn't know. And with the help of the class and their knowledge it ended up being a great "basic" lesson.

I am excited for the upcoming year and to see what I personally can learn.

Thanks for the post.

Russ said...

I feel that by teaching the basics we have an opportunity to open ourselves to personal revelation. I am very pleased that we will spend the next two years learning directly from the spirit, what a blessing.

Serendipity said...

I'm fairly new to the church (baptized in September 2009), but I'd been coming to church for 1 1/2 years before that. During my "dry mormon" time, I'd attended Gospel Essentials and learned a lot, but my time speant in Relief Society and Gospel Doctrine were a little over my head. It wasn't that they were completely misunderstood, but there seemed to be a middle ground that I was missing. I'm looking forward to having more mature discussions with seasoned members of the church about the basics to achieve that middle ground. Then perhaps I will be ready?, be more knowledgable?, have better understanding? of the lessons afterward.