A Thought About Gospel Teaching and Sacrifice

An idea that came up in our ward’s teacher council: to be effective teachers, we must diligently prepare lessons, but we must also be flexible to the needs of our friends during class and must be willing to let go of all that we prepared as the Spirit directs us. We could spend hours preparing a lesson, and only end up using some of it because it becomes clear that a discussion needs to go in a different direction.

And yet, if we do no preparation, no such inspiration is likely to come. A friend remembered a sacrament meeting where a man started his talk by taking the script he’d written, putting it in his pocket, and saying, “Well, I had one talk prepared, but the Spirit is now leading me to say something else entirely,” and the resulting talk was exactly what people needed to hear. I then remembered a time about 20 years ago, where a speaker decided to improvise the entire talk on the fly in order to illustrate the workings of inspiration; he only stumbled and rambled for a few minutes, confusing himself and the congregation, before closing and sitting down.

It’s almost as if the Spirit says, “I will guide you, but only if you put in the work first.”

And that makes me wonder if good teaching is related to the basic law of sacrifice. If we research and draft and prepare good lessons, we have something that we can then give up as needed, so greater blessings can come. If we do no preparation, we have nothing to sacrifice.

Similarly, like the rich young man in the Savior’s parable, we can create materials and then cling to them in spite of what the obvious needs are around us, like a teacher who checks off every item on their lesson no matter what real world needs come up spontaneously in class, which demand that we give up our plan and serve others, if we really want to help.

The classroom, then, is a microcosm of life, and we are all teachers.

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Politically Unprepared Mormon Virgins

The LDS Church has made another statement about illegal immigration, emphasizing their disapproval of “mass expulsion,” among other things.  I saw a news story yesterday about it and how, apparently, Church headquarters is being inundated by calls from conservative church members who are outraged by what they see as a betrayal of their principles. 

I won’t rehash what I’ve said about this before, but here’s a scripture-based illustration of my point:

In my neck of the woods, our Sunday School lesson next week will be about Jesus’s parable of the ten virgins.  In this story, ten women were going to meet their bridegroom.  Five had prepared, and five hadn’t.  When the surprise announcement was made that the hour for the wedding was at hand, the prepared five got to go in, but the other five were left with no groom but regret. 

The interpretation of this parable for Latter-day Saints has always been pretty standard: it’s meant to teach us about preparing for the Second Coming.  Since all ten women had clearly accepted the invitation to go to the wedding, they all represent members of the Lord’s church.  The sobering warning in the parable is that only about half of us–even half of those who are at least nominally on board with the Church–might be ready for the rewards we want when the final day comes. 

There are plenty of reasons why those five virgins (and many more Latter-day Saints) might be slack in their preparation for the Lord’s return, but in light of the blowback over the Church’s recent political stances, I wonder if some of those virgins might represent good people who let their faith be compromised by being offended by the Church’s positions on gay marriage and illegal immigration.