My experience in my new ward over the past month has reinforced to me the need for another higher level of Sunday School classes. I know that there is nothing new in the ‘nacle but let’s hash this out again, for my sake.
I’m tired of Sunday School and Priesthood lessons right now. Actually, I have been bored of them for ages. This in part is my own fault, my own negative, defeatist attitude. But I’m convinced that there are actually positive reasons for creating a more in depth class for members at the ward level.
For starters, in the current system, there is no room for real Gospel “meat.” I have no issue with Gospel Essentials class or with Gospel Doctrine as a logical next step after it. But we don’t get into deeper issues at all in either class. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that unless there ends up being no place to teach, learn, and interact with fellow Saints about the mysteries of godliness that we are commanded to learn and understand. And this from my experience is the case in far too many wards. In fact, with the rare exception of a self-motivated individual that the ward receives well, this is not the case in any place in the Church. The system isn’t set up to accommodate this need.
In the current system, well meaning teachers teach roughly the same two dozen topics each year. I’m not suggesting that the teachers are at fault (only occasionally is this true); I’m a proponent of the Saints teaching the Saints. I just want to see better manuals and training in place to help them. There has been a movement in the Church to address this issue in the past few years but I feel that it comes short. The current manuals and teacher training don’t, in my opinion, go far enough to break the current culture in the Church of keeping the topics simple and repetitive. For those who like this system, they could continue to attend the current classes as they stand. For those whose spirituality is greatly aided by dynamic lessons on diverse subjects that prompt greater inspection into oft neglected corners of the scriptures and Gospel, a more advanced class is required.
Current classes and manuals also tend to avoid difficult topics or avoid giving them the time and space and insight needed to be properly addressed. Our treatments of the OT, NT and PoGP seem especially dreadful. For example, the Old Testament is longer than any two other sections of the Standard Works put together and yet we cover it in the same amount of time. The result is that a great many people I know dislike the OT and claim not to understand it. This is a travesty! Another example, today’s lesson in my ward was on Paul’s epistle to the Romans. The whole book in a single 40 minute class. I can’t even begin to state how fundamental and foundational this text is to the entire Christian world (and should be to us also) and yet there is no time to do anything other than give it a cursory gloss, sharing only the same tired old topics and verses, sometimes completely out of context. And the truth is we do it with all of our scriptures. It’s really sad.
Now I know and understand that much of the Church is too young, too new in the Gospel, too much without proper and experienced Priesthood leadership to handle such a class. Ignoring the fact that this logic may actually be flawed ( in the past even new members rose to meet the level of doctrine they were taught; if we give them some credit and grow them in the Gospel carefully I think that most converts would take to the knowledge well and actually be stronger for it), I still think that the implementation of such a class could work if the decision to hold it (or not) in such areas would be placed under the supervision and guidance of an area authority or the like. It may sound like a lot of work but I think that it would be well worth it and extremely beneficial for the welfare of the Saints overall.
Many people also tell me that they don’t need such a class because they don’t even know the basics well enough to move on to deeper topics. Be this as it may, not all of us feel this way and this is a feeling that should be understood and respected by others. In my personal experience, building on the basics of the Gospel by adding to them and seeing how they affect the meatier things of the Gospel has the effect of making them more real, vivid and meaningful while rehashing them at a much simpler level has the effect of making me bored, tune out, and feel the Spirit even less. I do not believe that God meant for us to remain simpletons in the Gospel and I do not feel that I have many places to grow outside of my personal studies under the current system.
I’m perfectly fine with those who enjoy the current classes and don’t see the need to attend such a class. People not comfortable in such a class are welcome to attend either GD or GP, much the way many experienced members choose to attend GP instead of GD now. In any case, this should not diminish in any way the fact that an actual need probably (certainly in my mind) exists for people who are primarily spiritually uplifted and motivated by this sort of atmosphere.
I’ve heard a great number of arguments against this sort of class from a number of people that I’ve mentioned this idea to (some of which I have addressed) and none of them are convincing to me. Most objections could be quashed by setting up the class so that a member of the bishopric always sits in on the class for mediations sake. This could solve such problems such as Gospel hobbies, contention, false doctrine, etc. (and it’s not like all of these possible problems don’t already exist in the classes we have) This guidance could ultimately enhance the class spiritually while still moderating it.
And such a class could be much more flexible. The lessons could be ordered topically rather than in chunks that often don’t have any real substance in common or which highlight one main theme that has been hashed upon year after year to the complete neglect of other equally important but far less taught themes. Perhaps the Bishop or Stake President could outline the topics for his flock for that personally inspired touch that is still guided by the presiding Priesthood. Church manuals would be avoided at all costs, personalized inspiration would reign supreme.
My post is clearly long enough and I want to know how y’all of the Bloggernacle receive such an idea (as unoriginal as it may be). Are all the objections for such a class unsolvable? Have I missed any huge, glaring problems? How many of you would be in favor of such a class if directed the right way?