Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Lesson - How can I recognize the difference between truth and error? - What I did.

Kay.  So.  I was out of town on Sunday the 14th, and the Sunday before, we had General Conference, so I'm sorry I don't have more lessons to show you for this month.  But I'll post what I have.  And what I'm doing.  (Have I started this Sunday's lesson plan?  Nope.)

1.  Introductory Story

I thought the following story was perfect for this topic.  It actually happened to me!

I was in ninth grade and in seminary.  After the opening prayer and devotional, our teacher stood up and said, "Wellll, I have a huge church-related announcement.  The church has asked that we, as seminary teachers, announce this and address any questions you have.  The announcement is this:  the dating age has been changed from 16 to 18."

There was a violent reaction to this announcement.

Everyone (okay, maybe just the girls - I don't think the 9th grade boys cared that much) started yelling and flailing arms around, yelling things like, "WHAAAAAAT???"  and "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!"

One girl named Jen - I'll never forget - cried in despair, "I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR ALL THESE YEARS, AND NOW I HAVE TO WAIT FOR TWO MORE????"

Our teacher spent the rest of the class period calming us down and talking to us about the blessings of obedience.

And then, the last 5 minutes of class, he said, "Um, psych.  The dating age has NOT been changed from 16 to 18."

So, yet again, another violent reaction.  "WHAAAAAT?"  "WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO US???"

"I wanted to teach you something you'd never forget - if the church changes any of their policies or guidelines, it will be from the pulpit at General Conference, or it will be announced from the pulpit by the Bishop in your ward.  Seminary teachers don't have the authority to tell you about changes in policies or guidelines.  This is how people apostatize.  They get their information from the wrong source."

And you know, it did stick with me.  Twenty-one years later, I still remember that lesson.

He was such a great teacher. 

So I shared this story to introduce the topic, and my students really liked it. :)

2.  Making Connections - Questions about the Apostasy and Restoration

This lesson suggests that you ask the students if they have any questions about the apostasy and the restoration.  I knew that, if I asked that, I'd probably just hear crickets chirping.  So I prepared something, just in case.

And actually, when I asked that question, one of my boys raised his hand and asked something to the effect of, "If the gospel was taken from the earth, what about the priests who interpreted the Bible into English?  Or what about Martin Luther?  Or those other reformers?  Were they called of God?  Or were they just doing what they felt was right?"

Before I even opened my mouth, a girl in class piped up and said, "They didn't have the priesthood, but I think they were still called of God.  I think that God definitely guided them to do what they did.  But they didn't have priesthood authority, so the true church was not on the earth for all of those years."

I have such smart students.

Thinking that I would get few to zero questions, I looked up questions about the apostasy and restoration in the New Era.  And I found the answers in Preach My Gospel and also in the New Era.  I prepared these slips of paper for them to work on in pairs, and I gave them each five minutes to read and prepare to share the question and their answer:

Directions: Read the following question about the restoration. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of Preach My Gospel. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

My friend says he would be interested in joining our Church if he just didn’t have to believe the Joseph Smith story. How do I answer him?”

One important way that God shows His love for us is by calling prophets, who are given the priesthood—the power and authority given to man to act in God’s name for the salvation of His children. Prophets learn the gospel of Jesus Christ by revelation. They in turn teach the gospel to others and testify of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer. The teachings of prophets are found in sacred books called scriptures.

Whenever people choose to disregard, disobey, or distort any gospel principle or ordinance, whenever they reject the Lord’s prophets, or whenever they fail to endure in faith, they distance themselves from God and begin to live in spiritual darkness. Eventually this leads to a condition called apostasy. When widespread apostasy occurs, God withdraws His priesthood authority to teach and administer the ordinances of the gospel.

Biblical history has recorded many instances of God speaking to prophets, and it also tells of many instances of apostasy. To end each period of general apostasy, God has shown His love for His children
by calling another prophet and giving him priesthood authority to restore and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ anew. In essence, the prophet acts as a steward to oversee the household of God here on earth. Such periods of time headed by prophetic responsibility are called dispensations.

After the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted the Apostles and Church members and killed many of them. With the death of the Apostles, priesthood keys and the presiding priesthood authority were taken from the earth.

When the circumstances were right, Heavenly Father once again reached out to His children in love. He called a young man named Joseph Smith as a prophet. Through him the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth.

Directions: Read the following question about the restoration. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of Preach My Gospel. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

What do we mean when we say this is the only true church?”

In this vision God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith. The Savior told Joseph not to join any of the churches, for they “were all wrong” and “all their creeds were an abomination.” He stated, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Even though many good people believed in Christ and tried to understand and teach His gospel, they did not have the fulness of truth or the priesthood authority to baptize and perform other saving ordinances. They had inherited a state of apostasy as each generation was influenced by what the previous one passed on, including changes in the doctrines and in ordinances such as baptism. As God had done with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other prophets, He called Joseph Smith to be a prophet through whom the fulness of the gospel was restored
to the earth.

Directions: Read the following question about the apostasy. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of Preach My Gospel. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

What is the Apostasy?”

After the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted the Apostles and Church members and killed many of them. With the death of the Apostles, priesthood keys and the presiding priesthood authority were taken from the earth. The Apostles had kept the doctrines of the gospel pure and maintained the order and standard of worthiness for Church members. Without the Apostles, over time the doctrines were corrupted, and unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and priesthood ordinances, such as baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Without revelation and priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. False ideas were taught as truth. Much of the knowledge of the true character and nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost. The doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost became distorted or forgotten. The priesthood authority given to Christ’s Apostles was no longer present on the earth. This apostasy eventually led to the emergence of many churches.

Directions: Read the following question about the apostasy. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of “What Happened to Christ's Church?” The New Era, February 2005. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

What happened to the apostles?”

Following the Savior’s death, the Apostles spread the gospel, and the Church grew quickly throughout the Roman Empire. But almost immediately after the Ascension of the Savior, the Apostles began to be persecuted. James, the brother of John and one of the original Twelve Apostles, was killed by Herod (see Acts 12:1–2). Peter and Paul were also killed during New Testament times.
We don’t have records of the deaths of all the Apostles, but we do know that all but John the Beloved died and, after a time, ceased to be replaced. The keys and authority of the holy priesthood were lost with the deaths of the Church leaders. Without this authority, no new revelation, doctrine, or scripture could come.

Directions: Read the following question about the apostasy. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of “What Happened to Christ's Church?” The New Era, February 2005. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

What Happened to the Church?”

The Apostles were killed during a time when the entire Church was being persecuted. Nero, a Roman emperor, was the first to make laws to exterminate Christians, in about A.D. 65. Under his reign, thousands were cruelly killed. A second round of persecutions began in about A.D. 93 under Emperor Domitian. Succeeding emperors continued torturing and killing Christians. As a result of these persecutions, thousands of Christians were martyred. Many others apostatized.
In about A.D. 324 Constantine became the emperor of the Roman Empire. He made Christianity a legal religion, stopping centuries of persecution. His actions linked the church to the government, and corrupt church leaders began seeking power and the honors of the world.
Teachers within the church began to adopt false religious concepts from Greek philosophy and pagan religions. Gospel ordinances were corrupted, and false ceremonies were introduced. Even though the church still taught some truth, the true Church of Christ and the priesthood were no longer on the earth. And as Christianity spread to various parts of the world—including to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas—new churches were formed and grew. None of these churches, however, was the true Church, since the Lord had already taken priesthood authority and priesthood keys from the earth.

Directions: Read the following question about the apostasy. Find an answer to the question by reading the following portion of “What Happened to Christ's Church?” The New Era, February 2005. Be prepared to tell the class your question and your answer.

What Happened to the Scriptures?”

The eighth article of faith says, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” [A of F 1:8] We know from the Book of Mormon that the scriptures that came from the Jewish people had many plain and precious parts taken from them (see 1 Ne. 13:23–29).
During the time of the Apostasy, precious doctrines were lost from the Bible through carelessness, uninspired translation, or deliberate efforts to erase the truth. A restoration of that lost doctrine and truth was necessary. The Book of Mormon and other scripture revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith brought back many of those plain and precious parts of the gospel.

3.  Cup Object Lesson

I was actually just looking for images about the apostasy and restoration for an activity that I ended up not doing when I ran across this object lesson, and I looooooved it.   

In essence, you talk about how Christ set up his gospel while he was on this earth.  Each principle he set up is represented with a plastic cup.  You build a pyramid while you name the precepts of the gospel.  The prophet and twelve apostles are the bottom level, and then on top of it are various other precepts, like faith, a lay clergy, baptism by immersion, etc.  

Then, you talk about how the apostles were killed, taking the bottom layer out cup by cup, until the whole pyramid falls down, explaining that, without the prophet and apostles, who have the priesthood keys, you don't have the church that Christ set up - the true church.

I also loved that, in this object lesson, you can talk about how, after the Great Apostasy, different churches formed with some of the correct precepts, but none of them were the true church, because they didn't have the prophet and apostles.  

The students really loved this object lesson, and so did my own children, whom I did this for in Family Home Evening the next day. :)  Seriously, go over to Chocolate on My Cranium and look for instructions, how to label the cups, etc.  It turned out so well.

4.  Beware of the Evil Behind the Smiling Eyes

The lesson suggests to have one of your students read this story by Neil L. Anderson before class and summarize it, but I couldn't get any of my students to answer their phones in the couple of days before class!  So I just printed it out and had them read it aloud, one student reading each paragraph:

I’d like to tell you of an experience of a faithful Latter-day Saint who is a good friend of mine. I’ll refer to him only as “my friend” for reasons you will understand.

Working as a special agent for the FBI, my friend investigated organized crime groups transporting illegal drugs into the United States.

On one occasion, he and another agent approached an apartment where they believed a known drug dealer was distributing cocaine. My friend describes what happened:

“We knocked on the door of the drug dealer. The suspect opened the door, and upon seeing us, tried to block our view. But it was too late; we could see the cocaine on his table.

“A man and a woman who were at the table immediately began removing the cocaine. We had to prevent them from destroying the evidence, so I quickly pushed the drug suspect who was blocking the door to the side. As I pushed him, my eyes met his. Strangely, he did not appear angry or afraid. He was smiling at me.
“His eyes and disarming smile gave me the impression that he was harmless, so I quickly left him and started to move toward the table. The suspect was now behind me. At that instant, I had the distinct, powerful impression come into my mind: ‘Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.’

“I immediately turned back toward the suspect. His hand was in his large front pocket. Instinctively I grabbed his hand and pulled it from his pocket. Only then did I see, clutched in his hand, the semiautomatic pistol ready to fire. A flurry of activity followed, and I disarmed the man.” 2
Later, in another case, the drug dealer was convicted of murder and boasted that he would have also killed my friend had he not turned around at that very moment.

I have often thought of the communication that came into his mind: “Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.” This is what I want to talk to you about tonight.

- Neil L. Anderson, “Beware of the Evil Behind the Smiling Eyes,” General Conference, April 2005
And then I did what the lesson suggested - I asked the students what this story had to do with Satan.  They, being so very perceptive and smart, pointed out exactly what I hoped they would - that Satan is subtle in his traps.  He makes things seem grey instead of black and white.  He makes good seem things bad and bad things seem good.

*Kay, so we ran out of time at this point, which is weird, because the kids were focused and un-hyper (unlike Easter Sunday.  Dang.  They were crazy that day).  So I just closed by saying that Satan is tricky and has caused a lot of people to apostatize, and that how he has done that is by getting people to get their information from the wrong sources.  I testified that, if we follow the prophet and apostles, we will never, ever be led astray.  But, if you have more time, I prepared the following final thing:

5.  These Things I Know

 The lesson suggests doing this activity with a talk by Boyd K. Packer.  So I prepared it for the kids so that I didn't have to verbally give them directions and have them ask me to repeat the directions fifteen times.  (I taught in junior high school.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that writing directions down makes a teacher's life a looooot easier.) So here is what I had prepared:

Directions: Silently read this excerpt of Boyd K. Packer's talk from April 2013 general conference, “These Things I Know”. Look for key words or phrases that help you recognize the difference between truth and error. When you find these key words, circle them. When you are completely done reading the excerpt, go up to the chalkboard and write the key words down. If someone else already wrote a key word or phrase you had circled, don't re-write it.

Agency is defined in the scriptures as “moral agency,” which means that we can choose between good and evil. The adversary seeks to tempt us to misuse our moral agency.

The scriptures teach us “that every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.”5

Alma taught that “the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”6 In order to understand this, we must separate the sin from the sinner.

For example, when they brought before the Savior a woman taken in adultery, obviously guilty, He dismissed the case with five words: “Go, and sin no more.”7 That is the spirit of His ministry.

Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, when exaggerated, it transforms itself into a vice. We need to be careful of the “tolerance trap” so that we are not swallowed up in it. The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequence that is the result of the violation of God’s law of chastity.

All are born with the Light of Christ, a guiding influence which permits each person to recognize right from wrong. What we do with that light and how we respond to those promptings to live righteously is part of the test of mortality.

“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.”8
Each of us must stay in condition to respond to inspiration and the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The Lord has a way of pouring pure intelligence into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, and to warn us. Each son or daughter of God can know the things they need to know instantly. Learn to receive and act on inspiration and revelation.

Of all that I have read and taught and learned, the one most precious and sacred truth that I have to offer is my special witness of Jesus Christ. He lives. I know He lives. I am His witness. And of Him I can testify. He is our Savior, our Redeemer. Of this I am certain. Of this I bear witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

So, after the kids wrote their key words on the board, I was going to go through each word, one by one, and ask the student who wrote it why they chose to circle that word, and what that word teaches us about recognizing the difference between truth and error.  And then I was going to close with my testimony.

Good luck in your lessons this week, guys!  I honestly don't even know what lesson I'm teaching this weekend...I'm a big-time slacker.


Nicole Masco said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I could not think of an object lesson, and the cups will work perfect!

Kathy Bowen said...

Today was my first day in my new calling as "Youth Sunday School Teacher." The lesson went well and I cam home all excited for the next lesson.

I came upon this blog and must say that I am so excited to use some of what you have posted. I know my students will enjoy the lesson, remember it, and actively participate. This is what I've looked for. Thank you so very much!!

Chelsea said...

Thank you so much for always posting your lessons. I use it as a resource constantly! My husband and I team teach an extremely challenging group and sometimes the only thing taught is not to hurt each other (physically and verbally) but as I prepare I learn so much. Again thank you! This calling is so daunting but having your blog as a resource actually helps me be excited to give each week a go :)

ashli said...

I love love love your lessons and how real you make them. Seriously, you have made teaching real and fun for me.

Thanks so much! You and your sweet family are in my prayers as you show cancer who is boss and with that upbeat happy attitude!!

Becky (Denton) Berry said...

I LOVE the object lesson you posted. I served a mission 13 years ago and we did the same thing when teaching the 3rd discussion (before Preach My Gospel). I have to say that I completely forgot all about it until I saw your post and I'm so happy that you shared in order to jog my memory! The only thing we did differently was write the names of the original Apostles on one side of the cup and on the other side we glued pictures of the current Apostles. I can't wait to teach my lesson now. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I used a couple of your ideas today. The cups were a hit. I made a set like instructed, but I wanted to tie the idea into personal apostasy, so I brought along smaller nut cups to make a pyramid of the things we need in our lives to protect us from personal apostasy. I thought maybe we'd make a single pyramid as a class, but there was interest in each getting to make their own, so I gave them each 10 small cups (one boy wanted 15) and markers. We casually chatted and shared our ideas of what we wanted on our cups. Everyone shared their individual pyramids and then we combined them into one big one. I followed with the circling words activity and that was one great lesson. Thanks for the inspiration.

Stormy said...

This is a fabulous lesson. Thank you so much for posting your wonderful ideas. I have visited your blog regularly to help with my Sunday School lessons. You are greatly appreciated!

Daleya Wekluk said...

I agree with all previous comments about how much of a blessing your blog is! I come here all the time for good ideas, sometimes entire lessons if I'm not feeling the spark of the Spirit with mine. I am so thankful for you and the time you take to put these down for all of us. Thank you!

Chelsea Stevens said...

Thank you for all your ideas!
I tried the Introductory story with my class because I thought it was hilarious. They're reaction was totally unexpected... they were excited that the dating age had changed to 18! I was like what is wrong with you guys!! Haha.

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