Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Lesson - How did the Savior compare gospel truths to familiar objects and experiences? - What I Did.


1.  Read together and mark Matt 18:1-6 (The Savior uses a child to teach about the kingdom of heaven.)

2.  Read together and mark Matt 5:14-16  (The Savior compares his disciples to light and candles.)

3.  The lesson wants the students to explore why the Savior used objects.  A good answer is in a quote by Elder Boyd K. Packer.

Quote #1

Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

“In teaching the gospel, we do not re-create the material world around us; we deal with the intangible world within us, and there is a big difference. None of the ordinary tools are available to us. To convey to a youngster the idea of a cat is much simpler than to convey the idea of faith; faith is very difficult to describe.

“For instance, how big is faith? We soon learn that size is not helpful. Only vaguely can we talk to a youngster who knows nothing about faith by talking about an amount, such as much faith, or little faith. We can't tell him what color it is. We can't tell him what shape it is. We can't tell him what texture it is.”

Then Elder Packer shared a teaching tool we can use to teach about intangible principles: “Tie the invisible some tangible object the student already knows about and then build from that knowledge” (Teach Ye Diligently, 31-32).

4.  Bag of objects - the lesson suggested to provide the students a bag of random objects and have them decide what gospel principle could be taught using the objects.  Each student drew one object out of the bag.  Here were the contents of my bag:

I basically raided our storage room.  A camping lantern, pedialyte, waterproofing spray, a box of kraft mac & cheese, a pack of playing cards, a bar of soap, a miniature treasure box, a set of keys, a rock, a dime, and a toothbrush. 

5.  My object - a bachelor button.

I showed the students a picture of a bachelor button bloom (since mine have died back for the season) and read them this blog post I made a few months ago, comparing the bachelor button plant to overcoming trials:

Kay.  So I had these flowers called bachelor buttons in one of my front flower beds.  I was initially tickled with them - they were sooo hardy.  And they grew at an astronomical rate.  And they looked cool and were a cool color when they bloomed.  But then I got upset with them, because they grew too tall and covered everything behind them.  And then they started to choke out all the other plants.  They were driving me nuts.

So I took them out.  I had plans to put them into the back flower bed.  But then my elderly neighbor came and talked to me for like seventeen hours.  And the plants lay there on their sides, totally wilting in the hot son.

To add to the indignity, I planted them in very inhospitable soil.  Very clayish and hard.  Nothing much is able to grow back there.  I should have mixed some potting soil in with the clay.  I should have given them a little haircut, too.  But I was out of potting soil, and by the time my neighbor stopped talking to me, sunlight was fading fast and I had to just hurry and dig holes, stick them in, fill in the holes, and get inside.  I also should have immediately watered them, but I didn't.  Too late.  Too busy.

"If they die, oh well," I thought.  And they look HORRIBLE.  I still need to trim them down quite a bit.  They have wilted and died.  They have, as my dandelion weed killer bottle says, "experienced plant death."  And I was okay with it.  I don't like plants that behave like weeds.  It makes me mad.

So today, as I was mowing, spreading lawn food, watering my back plants, and then throwing away the little plastic pots from some callies I just planted out front, I saw one of my little bachelor buttons.  One that I supposed had experienced plant death.

And the dang thing hasn't died.  Well, most of it has died.  But it has a little bit of new growth and even a bloom. This plant has risen from the ashes.  When I thought it was done for.

I thought about my situation.  I had a really hard week.  One of those I-want-to-wilt-and-turn-grey-and-lie-down-and-experience-plant-death weeks.  But if this little guy can withstand all that I've put him through and still bloom, I can go through the things I'm going through and still bloom.  I can thrust my roots into this nasty clayish soil I'm in right now and just hang on and push through and emerge more spiritually beautiful.

6.  Pickles and Cucumbers

This lesson talks a lot about Elder Bednar's talk from the spring general conference in 2007, which compares the process of making cucumbers into pickles to spiritual conversion.  First, I had us all read the beginning part of his talk together, each student reading one paragraph:

Cucumbers and Pickles

A pickle is a cucumber that has been transformed according to a specific recipe and series of steps. The first steps in the process of changing a cucumber into a pickle are preparing and cleaning. I remember many hours spent on the back porch of my home removing stems from and scrubbing dirt off of the cucumbers we had picked. My mom was very particular about the preparing and cleaning of the cucumbers. She had high standards of cleanliness and always inspected my work to make sure this important task was properly completed.

The next steps in this process of change are immersing and saturating the cucumbers in salt brine for an extended period of time. To prepare the brine, my mom always used a recipe she learned from her mother—a recipe with special ingredients and precise procedures. Cucumbers can only become pickles if they are totally and completely immersed in the brine for the prescribed time period. The curing process gradually alters the composition of the cucumber and produces the transparent appearance and distinctive taste of a pickle. An occasional sprinkle of or dip in the brine cannot produce the necessary transformation. Rather, steady, sustained, and complete immersion is required for the desired change to occur.

The final step in the process requires the sealing of the cured pickles in jars that have been sterilized and purified. The pickles are packed in canning jars, covered with boiling hot brine, and processed in a boiling-water-bath canner. All impurities must be removed from both the pickles and the bottles so the finished product can be protected and preserved. As this procedure is properly followed, the pickles can be stored and enjoyed for a long period of time.

To summarize, a cucumber becomes a pickle as it is prepared and cleaned, immersed in and saturated with salt brine, and sealed in a sterilized container. This procedure requires time and cannot be hurried, and none of the essential steps can be ignored or avoided.

I had cut up portions of the latter part of his talk to give to each kid.

Just as a cucumber must be prepared...before it can be changed into a pickle, so you and I can be prepared with “the words of faith and of good doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6).

Just as the cucumber must be...cleaned before it can be changed into a pickle, so you and I can be...initially cleansed through the ordinances and covenants administered by the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood.
“And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
“Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins” (D&C 84:26-27).

And after we come out of the waters of baptism, our souls need to be continually immersed in...the truth and the light of the Savior's gospel. Sporadic and shallow dipping in the doctrine of Christ and partial participation in His restored Church cannot produce the spiritual transformation that enables us to walk in a newness of life. Rather, fidelity to covenants, constancy of commitment, and offering our whole soul unto God are required if we are to receive the blessings of eternity.

Just as a cucumber is transformed into a pickle as it is...saturated with salt brine, so you and I are born again as we are absorbed by and in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we honor and “observe the covenants” (DYC42:13) into which we have entered, as we “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3), as we “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart” (Moroni 7:48), and as we “serve {God] with all [of our] heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2).

Significantly, salt is the key ingredient in the recipe. Salt frequently is used in the scriptures as a symbol both of a covenant and of a covenant people. And just as salt is essential in transforming a cucumber into a pickle, so covenants are central to our spiritual rebirth.

Spiritual rebirth...typically does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process – not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience.

We progressively become purified and sanctified as you and I are washed in the blood of the Lamb, are born again, and receive the ordinances and honor the covenants that are administered by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The Holy Spirit of Promise is the ratifying power of the Holy Ghost. When sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, an ordinance, vow, or covenant is binding on earth and in heaven. (See D&C 132:7.) Receiving this “stamp of approval” from the Holy Ghost is the result of faithfulness, integrity, and steadfastness in honoring gospel covenants “in [the]process of time” (Moses 7:21). However, this sealing can be forfeited through unrighteousness and transgression.

I made a chart. On the top left, it says "making pickles."  And on the top right, it says "becoming converted."

After I cut apart the quotes from the latter part of Elder Bednar's talk, I stuck them onto the back of some pieces of cardstock.

I had the kids read the quote on the back of the paper, then write on the front of the paper, in their own words, what Elder Bednar says about each of the elements of becoming converted. Then I had them tape their piece of paper across from the correct procedure.

2.  Stories (a.k.a. Parables)

1.  Your Favorite Parable

Give the students this handout:

Your Favorite Parable

Directions: Think of your favorite parable. Find it in the scriptures. Prepare to retell the parable to the class and why it's meaningful to you. Here are some parables if you can't think of any:
  1. Matt 25: 1-3 – ten virgins
  2. Matt 25: 14-30 – talents
  3. Matt 25: 31-46 – sheep and goats
  4. Luke 8: 4-15 – sower
  5. Luke 15: 1-7 – lost sheep
  6. Luke 15: 8-10 – piece of silver
  7. Luke 15: 11-32 – prodigal son
  8. Luke 10: 29-35 – good Samaritan
  9. Matt 24: 32-42 – fig tree
  10. Matt 13: 24-30 – wheat and tares
  11. Luke 18: 1-7 – woman and unjust judge
  12. Matt 21: 28-32 – two sons
  13. Matt 21: 33-39 – wicked husbandmen
  14. Matt 13:3-8 – sower

2.  My Favorite Parable

My favorite parable just happens to be the parable that Elder Holland talked about this last spring in general conference - the laborers in the vineyard.  I'm planning to just retell it to the kids.  The text of Elder Holland's talk is here, and the parable is found in Matt. 20: 1-15.

3.  Why parables?

The lesson again wants the students to know why the Savior used parables.  I'm going to share 2 things that address this.

a.  The first is the first paragraph under "parables" in the Bible Dictionary.  We're going to look it up and just read that first paragraph.

b.  The second thing I'm going to share is quote #2.

Quote #2:
From Teaching, No Greater Call:

Everyone likes good stories. Stories enrich lessons and capture the interest of learners as few other teaching methods can. Stories can be used to answer questions, introduce or reinforce principles, or summarize lessons. They can be especially effective to clarify and teach gospel principles by giving examples of righteous living, reaching all listeners on their own level of understanding.

When stories are used well, they engage learners' values and emotions. They can help learners apply gospel principles as they share in great scriptural events, moments of decision, hardships and struggles, and the blessings of living the gospel of Jesus Christ. They make principles easier to understand and remember. They show in vivid and inspiring ways how gospel principles can be applied in our lives. For example, to teach about faith, you might share Alma's explanation that if we have faith we “hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21). But you would make your teaching more complete if you also told a story in which someone exercises great faith, such as the story of David going forth to battle Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17:20-50, particularly verses 26, 32-37, 45-47).

4.  Make your own parable

The lesson suggests having the students make up their own parables.  According to the lesson, it's easy.  There are only two steps.  1)  Pick a gospel principle.  2)  Pick a setting for the parable that's familiar.  3)  Fill in the details of a story.

I made this handout to help the kids do this, and also a place to jot down their parables:

Making Your Own Parable

Directions: Now you get to try to make your own gospel-related parable! It's not too hard. Here are the steps – 1) Pick a gospel principle that really speaks to you. Something you love, or something you've been thinking about lately. Faith, the atonement, trials, etc. 2) Think of a setting or a situation for a parable that is familiar to people. Fitting things into lockers. Trying to find clean jeans in the morning. Selecting what to eat for lunch. Whatever. And try to make a correlation between the two. It's surprisingly easy! Jot down your parable below:

5.  My parable

I made up a parable, not meaning to, and put it on my blog.  I might actually share this with the students before they get started on theirs, just as a model of how easy it is. 

I went to yoga (which, like I have told you, makes me feel like a goddess.  Seriously.  It's an extremely spiritual experience), and we did a series where our teacher told a story.

She had us start with the lizard pose, which is sometimes called the Broken Warrior.

We had done lots of warm-ups before this, just so you know.  You don't want to go into this without warming up, because dang.  Even with the warm-ups, this pose is the reason my hamstrings are so sore today.  So she said something like this:  "The warrior has been in battle, and he is broken."

Then she had us leave our right forearm on the mat and reach our left arm into the sky.

And then she said, "The warrior reaches to heaven for help.  He needs help to heal."

Then we brought the arm that had been reaching up to the bottom of our backs, almost as if we were preparing for a binding pose.

But we still kept our right forearm on the mat. And she said, "The warrior brings the help into his core and strengthens himself."

Then she had us raise ourselves to our palms, with our legs in the same position.

And then she said, "Now, the warrior is a Super Warrior.  He has overcome.  He has healed.  He has become better.  He is stronger and more able to beat his foe."

To me, it was a wonderful metaphor for life.  I was especially thinking of myself and the things I've gone through in the past year with my depression.  And I was thinking of someone very close and very dear to me who has been suffering cruelly with a similar mental disorder.

For a long, long time, I felt broken.  I actually said that in my prayers to Heavenly Father.  I would kneel at the side of my bed and weep, repeating over and over, "I'm broken.  I'm broken.  I need help.  Please help me."  I was reaching up to Him to heal me.  With his guidance and inspiration, I got the help that I needed.  And I brought that help inside of me.  I don't know if I am yet to the Super Warrior pose, but I am raising myself up slowly from my forearms to my palms.  I'm getting close.  I feel better now than I have in months.  I'm less and less angry and irritated.  I'm more mellow and calm.

I feel like ME again.

Yesterday, I shared this with my dear, dear friend who has been struggling.  She also loves yoga.  And after I showed her the poses and told her the story, we both cried together.

To my dear friend:  You feel broken.  But you are getting the help you need.  It doesn't feel like you will ever, ever be Super Warrior, but because you reached out for help and are bringing that help inside of you, it will very, very slowly get better.  I love you tons and pray for you always.

6.  How parables apply to you

I'm going to give each student a parable on a slip of paper - each kid gets a different parable.  And these are completely different from the parables they worked from earlier (the "your favorite parable" exercise).

Read the parable of the mustard seed in Matt 13: 31-32. Be prepared to share the parable with the class and tell us how it applies to you.

Read the parable of the leaven in Matt 13:31. Be prepared to share the parable with the class and how it applies to you.

Read the parable of the treasure in the field in Matt 13:44. Be prepared to share the parable with the class and how it applies to you.

Read the parable of the pearl of great price in matt 13: 45-46. Be prepared to share the parable with the class and how it applies to you.

Read the parable of the net cast into the sea in Matt 13:47. Be prepared to share the parable with the class and how it applies to you.

Read the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18:9-14. Be prepared to share the parable with the class and how it applies to you.

Read the parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16: 1-8. Be prepared to share the parable with the class and how it applies to you.

Read the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16: 19-31. Be prepared to share the parable with the class and how it applies to you.


Mindy H. said...

Hi! Do you mind if I pass your blog address along to a few folks here in my cute little cowtown? I have been pretty voacal about your awesomeness and now some friends in the stakes round these parts are very, very, VERY interested in seeing your lesson posts. I feel pretty comfortable vouching for them not being ax murdereds... just really nervous about teaching come January. If you want their names to run background checks or anything let me know.;-)

Christina said...

Thank you for taking your valuable time to post ideas! They help me when I'm organizing mine!

Alison Packer said...

This has helped me so much to create my lesson for SS this week! Thank you so much!!

Amanda said...

Thank you! This has been an off week for my preparation, my mind filled with so much of life ...and this is giving me hope that my poor youth won't be subjected to my scattered use of blindly following the manual. You're the best!

Todd Mikesell said...

I am so grateful to you for the hard work and organization you put into these lessons. You help me not just in your ideas, you help me feel comfortable exploring my own ideas as I develop my own Sunday School lessons.

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