Almost finished with Isaiah

After the lesson on Isaiah 29, suddenly the Isaiah lessons started going much more smoothly. I’m not sure why that lesson was so particularly hard, but it was. That’s the chapter with the scripture mastery in it. I think that I added that one to the reading list. Talk about difficult.

But I guess I caught my stride, and the Isaiah lessons haven’t been the terrible slog I thought they’d be at first. The kids told me they’re liking Isaiah and that it’s not as bad as they have heard. I suppose that’s success. :)

Isaiah 26

My lesson Objective: Students will learn of some of the events surrounding the Second Coming. They will learn that the righteous need not fear these events.

First I talked about our lessons last week, where we talked about Satan’s tactics and fasting and the character of Jesus Christ. I told the students that we’ve been learning from Isaiah about lots of things that can help us prepare for the Second Coming. We read 1 John 2:28. I told them we don’t have to be fearful — we can be confident at his coming.

I had written on the easel:
v 1 – What will happen
v 2 – Who
v 5 – Why
vv 6, 11 – How will earth/men feel
vv 13-15 – But the righteous… (see footnote)
vv 16-18 – Isaiah is still sad (What does this tell us about Isaiah’s personality)
vv 19-22 – “visited” (more prophecies)
v 23 – Jesus comes in glory, cf 23a

We worked through these in our usual way — I called on people to read, and we discussed the scripture.

Then we read D&C 68:5-6 and D&C 38:30 aloud.

I taught the kids that Isaiah is sometimes misunderstood. Yes, he talks frankly about scary things, but his overall message is one of hope. We’ve learned from Isaiah something about the devil, how to overcome him, what to expect at the second coming, and more. Indeed, we are prepared and need not fear. I reminded them that many of them receive their blessings through Ephraim. We wrapped up with 2 Timothy 1:6-8, and I bore my testimony.

This was a particularly good lesson. I think it went a long way to helping the kids appreciate Isaiah (the idea that Isaiah saw the future, and told us about it, so we need not fear and can prepare).

Isaiah 29

This chapter was really a struggle. It’s along story, but I really had a hard time with the first 8 verses and the JST and the BoM and the commentary not agreeing with the way I read the text. Ultimately I decided it wasn’t necessary to cover that bit at all in depth and risk spilling my own opinions. So I used the chart in the manual for the Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Book of Mormon. Several of the kids mentioned before we really got going that they didn’t know this was in the Bible, so it turned out to be the right emphasis.

Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Book of Mormon
Isaiah 29:4
Isaiah 29:10
Isaiah 29:11
Isaiah 29:11–12

Fulfillment of Isaiah’s Prophecy
Joseph Smith—History 1:29–34,42, 51–52
Joseph Smith—History 1:10,18–19
Ether 4:4–6
Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65

Above are the scriptures and answers in order. When I did this, I had the kids read the Isaiah chapters aloud and we wrote what each prophesy meant. Then we read the JS-H and BoM scriptures as a group (which I had written out of order), matching them with the prophecy. We drew lines between them to match up the prophecy with its fulfillment.

I was prepared to do the Member/Nonmember activity and had the questions from the manual page 170 written on 3×5 cards, but we didn’t have time. I even had a scripture mastery game, but like I say, no time. Our Isaiah lessons have been really short because I am giving them time to share missionary moments, “Last night in my reading…” and to do magic squares for tickets each day. The Isaiah’s Insanity has been more fun than they thought, and I love to hear them sharing what they learned in their reading or the experiences they’re having with missionary work.

Isaiah 40

This lesson was a struggle, but not in a “what does this mean” or “how do I teach it” way. I had a fantastic idea. Since this is about God being great, I wanted to teach a “Who is this God-person anway?” style lesson a la Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I debated about whether to show the movie with the quote about Oolon Coluphid’s sacrilegious trilogy or just read the text from the book. I had this great lesson plan where I’d have listed all three book titles: “Where God Went Wrong”, “More of God’s Greatest Mistakes,” and “Who is this God person anyway?” and then have the kids write opposing viewpoints. Basically God’s very good creations (Genesis 1:31), God don’t make no junk, and What I know about God. I would have asked the kids if Adams knew god (he was a staunch atheist). Then I’d ask them if Isaiah knew God. How do they know? Back it up using Isaiah 40. And we might read Alma 30:6-18. Did Korihor know God? How about Elder Ballard? and I’d read the quote from him on page 172 of the manual.

Anyway, I was really wrestling with this. Seriously, this lesson was genius. It came to me in seconds. I asked Jared about it, and he said it sounded fine to him. No problems. But I felt weird about it. So finally I scrapped the Hitchhiker’s lesson and came up with something else.

I asked the kids what did they like from the text. There’s lots to like in Isaiah 40. They talked about and read aloud the scriptures they liked. One of them pointed out that the last verse sounded like D&C 89, the Word of Wisdom. I pushed that for a minute or two since they came up with it on their own.

I had them read out Isaiah 40:8,11,13,28-31 and we discussed the qualities of the Savior described therein. I taught them, using the Lectures on Faith as a basis , that Christ and God are consistent, unchanging, merciful, long-suffering, full of goodness, no respecter of persons, and full of knowledge, power, justice, judgment, mercy, and truth. I explained that it was essential to understand these characteristics so that we can have faith in Jesus. If Jesus played favorites, or was a respecter of persons, we couldn’t trust him. If he wasn’t full of knowledge, we couldn’t have faith that he will save us. If he’s not unchanging, we can’t believe what he says.

I am a terrible writer, but seriously, this went really well. I guess I’m like the Nephites: mightier in speaking.

Then I read the quote from Elder Ballard about Jesus Christ on page 172:

“On this occasion I had sought the Lord, . . . and that
night I received a wonderful manifestation and
impression which has never left me. I was carried to
this place [the Salt Lake Temple]—into this room. . . . I
was told there was another privilege that was to be
mine; and I was led into a room where I was informed
I was to meet someone. As I entered the room I saw,
seated on a raised platform, the most glorious being I
have ever conceived of, and was taken forward to be
introduced to Him. As I approached He smiled, called
my name, and stretched out His hands toward me. If I
live to be a million years old I shall never forget that
smile. He put His arms around me and kissed me, as
He took me into His bosom, and He blessed me until
my whole being was thrilled. As He finished I fell at
His feet, and there saw the marks of the nails; and as I
kissed them, with deep joy swelling through my whole
being, I felt that I was in heaven indeed. The feeling
that came to my heart then was: Oh! if I could live
worthy, though it would require four-score years, so
that in the end when I have finished I could go into
His presence and receive the feeling that I then had in
His presence, I would give everything that I am and
ever hope to be!” (in Melvin J. Ballard . . . Crusader for
Righteousness [1966], 66).

You know, you’d think I’d be able to remember this better seeing as it was only last week. I tied this in somehow, and it was really powerful. I had a clear idea of how to weave it all together at the time to help the students appreciate God’s greatness and glory.

It went so well I was glad that I didn’t use the Douglas Adams idea. Another lesson learned: if it’s feeling weird, just don’t do it. Heavenly Father wants us to get it right and will help us. I don’t know what in particular would have been wrong with that lesson — perhaps because it was so lighthearted, we’d have missed the great spiritual experience we did have. Whatever it was, I was glad I followed my feelings on this.

Isaiah 43

My title of this lesson was “Jesus is my Shepherd and he knows my name”. I subbed in Primary last week and they are learning a song called Jesus is my Shepherd. The lyrics are just beautiful. I would have played this for our class during this lesson, but unfortunately, the church music player doesn’t have this music in anything but sheet music form.

To start off the lesson, I asked the kids if names were important. What did Shakespeare say about names? (“A rose by another name…”) What about Anne of Green Gables? (something about a rose wouldn’t smell as sweet if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage) How does it feel when someone calls us a cruel name? Our names represent us.

I had the kids read verse one. Jesus Christ knows our names. We contrasted verse 1 with verses 25-26. He knows our names, and he begs us to remember his. I had them read D&C 20:77 and Isaiah 48:9-10. I told them that we are called after the name of Christ because of our baptism. That name gives us a bonus — he will defer his anger and not cut us off. He will refine us.

I then asked the kids if they had ever heard the story about “What have you done with my name?” Some had. I told them we’d watch a movie about names, and I asked them to listen for the role that commandments play in protecting our names.

I put up What Have You Done with My Name by Elder Mervyn B Arnold in the November 2011 general conference up on the tv through the laptop. I had planned to show them the movie, but it was really choppy for some reason. Instead, I played the audio and scrolled the talk on the screen for them. This proved to be very effective — much more so than I would have guessed. Somehow, hearing and seeing helped them pay attention better.

They liked the bit about the cow. I asked the kids about the emphasis of the talk — that we will answer to the Savior about what we did with his name that we took on at baptism, the kids were eager to respond and comment. I bore my testimony, and this again, turned out to be a really, really good lesson.

I’m always astonished that these lessons work out so well. This lesson took about 20 minutes to prepare. I have, literally, 65 words written on my lesson outline. I do have a clear idea of what I’m going to teach when I’m doing it (thanks to being set apart, I believe), but it helps so much that 90% these kids come having read the material each day. They come with at least some exposure to the text, and are able to comment. It helps that Isaiah’s words are so powerful, too. And the Holy Ghost is there. I can’t help but be amazed that it all works out so well.

Isaiah 46-47

I knew this would be a really short lesson because it was report card day. This time (for the first time), I wrote a little note on each report card for the kids . I asked two of the boys to makeup a day of reading so that I could argue that 100% of our kids read 75% of the text this quarter and hopefully I can use that to help the other Seminary class get to meet in a house or something — anything -within our unit boundaries. Both did it that same night. They are such good boys. And so I thanked them. I tried to say something short and personally complimentary about each kid. They are all such jewels. Anyway, they did their self-assessments, and then we did missionary moments, today I learned, and magic squares. By the time it was all over we had about 15 minutes left.

I asked them if they remembered from our earlier handout what the meaning of idolatry was. We read all of chapter 46 aloud and I explained what some of the weird words and things meant a la Isaiah Made Easier. I asked why idolatry would be so offensive to the Lord. I pointed out that Isaiah 47:10 has the operative phrase: “thou hast trusted in thy wickedness”. All this was to show that idolatry is ineffective.

I had a talk ready from the Ensign to read in case I needed a stretch, but we didn’t have time.

Musings

A friend of mine who used to teach Seminary asked me how much time I spend on the lessons. She about died when I told her I average 30-45 minutes each. I have heard a few people say 2-3 hours is average. I spend a lot more time on how to present lessons that figuring out what to prepare. I think that’s really what takes other teachers so much more time, but of course, I’m speculating. I really think mapping out the year has made a huge difference in every way. I’m keeping the kids together instead of making them go with the reading chart in order, which helps with our collective learning. I don’t read multiple lessons or multiple commentaries trying to figure out what to teach because the text is already broken up. Sure, I wish that I had broken some things up a little differently, but overall it’s been hugely successful. I will so do this again next year. It took about 30 hours of work to get that first schedule done, but I’m so glad I did it. It’s saved me tons of time since then. I hope that next year it will be easier to group because the New Testament is so much shorter.