Going Off Book

It’s getting easier to get up for Seminary now that the days are getting longer again. It’s such a relief to send the kids out in actual sunlight instead of in the dark like we did during December and the start of January. They still arrive in the dark, but sunrise is just 30 minutes away, and so the sky is lighter and it doesn’t seem so awful.

If only the daylight helped their tardies :)

This week I finished 2 Kings to 2 Chronicles. Since we are following the reading chart (for the most part), I have been annoyed again at the manual. The reading chart says we should read chapters 15 and 20 in 2 Chronicles. They are great chapters, full of underlinable (yeah, I made that word up) material. Guess which chapter is covered in the manual. Neither. There are four lessons from 1 Chronicles, which isn’t even assigned reading since it’s mostly repetition. There are two lessons from 2 Chronicles, and they looked like fine lessons, but they have nothing to do with the assigned reading. So again, tell your kids to read but don’t hold them accountable. This is not effective, IMO.

And the reading chart does not have any reading from 2 Kings 23-24, which are the chapters where we read about Zedekiah, during whose reign Lehi and family left Jerusalem. My students have already asked where Lehi left and how that fit in with the chronology, and I was glad that I had included these chapters in our assigned reading.

I suppose that the reason those chapters in 2 Kings aren’t included is that there’s not really an obvious spiritual message to take from them. There’s also some dispute among certain scholars about the chronology and how it fits exactly and whether Jehoiakim is really Zedekiah. None of that is particularly bothersome or persuasive to me, and I decided to go ahead and teach the scriptures as written since we have no revelation, just speculation, saying otherwise.

2 Kings 24-25

For our class, covering 2 Kings 24-25 turned out to be a really good lesson, and I would for sure teach it again. The kids came having read the chapters, so they already had an understanding about what was going to happen. I had explained beforehand that Lehi left during the reign of King Zedekiah. For our lesson, I used the following scriptures to have the kids build up a very rough timeline of events:

2 Kings 24:10-16 – Land is besieged, Zedekiah becomes the new king
2 Chronicles 36:11-16 – describes conditions in the land during Zedekiah’s reign and how he was wicked
1 Nephi 1:4, 18 – Lehi has a vision during the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, and presumably leaves Jerusalem
2 Kings 24:20 – Zedekiah rebels
1 Nephi 17:4 – Lehi and company are 8 years in the wilderness
2 Kings 1-3 – Jerusalem is besieged again (we guessed Nephi was probably building a ship about this time)
2 Kings 25:21 – Jerusalem is destroyed and Judah carried off
2 Nephi 1:4 – Lehi has a vision in the promised land that Jerusalem is destroyed

At this point I told the kids I was going to ask them an AP Seminary question (AP or Honors Seminary is an ongoing joke). Could they know the Book of Mormon was true by using these two chapters?

This was an interesting discussion. Immediately some kids said no, while others weren’t sure. I let them go at it for a few minutes, and the discussion became not a talk with me, but amongst themselves, interestingly. It was definitely a question that made them think. I asked for a show of hands how many thought you could not prove the BoM by the chapters and how many did. Most raised their hands for “no” but several weren’t sure and didn’t raise hands at all.

So I said, well, our consensus seems to be that you can not know the Book of Mormon is true using these chapters. How, then, can you know it’s true? But I didn’t let the kids just tell me. I told them in order to answer the question they had to find a scripture to back up their assertion.

Now *this* is where it got really interesting.

While every kid in the class thought of a scripture easily (Moroni 10:4-5 and James 1:5 were the favorites), only two found one immediately. Most located their scripture in a moment or two with some help from the topical guide, but a few really had a difficult time. I gave them several minutes, but I made it clear I would wait until everyone had a scripture. Finally I had to help one. He was struggling to find “that scripture everyone quotes in John” which turned out to be James 1:5. I really hope they learned something about themselves during this exercise. I didn’t point it out here, but I will later in the week, that *this* is what scripture mastery is. You can’t get by with just knowing what “the scriptures say” or to know the gospel, you have to know where to find passages, too.

After everyone had a scripture I let the kids who had different scriptures read them out. We ended up reading scriptures from Moroni 10, James 1, and D&C 8. I pressed one of the kids for a little bit more, including who did he know that had used this passage (Joseph Smith) and how did he know it worked (he said I know God answers prayers because I’ve asked him — I knew he had, or I wouldn’t have pressed). And so I pointed out that now we have 3 witnesses: the student, James, and Joseph Smith. Ah — they understood. That’s the purpose of these scriptures: additional witnesses to our own word. God’s word is always established by at least 2-3 witnesses.

I wrote on the board “How can you know?” and pointed out to the kids that each of the passages they chose used the same 3-letter word: ask. I told them they had to ask the right person: God. Then we talked about what it meant to have real intent and a sincere heart: you have to be willing to act on the knowledge you receive. It turned out to be a really powerful lesson.

In reading the above it kind of sounds like this lesson was a little controversial in tone. It wasn’t, I promise. I’m just a terrible writer :)

2 Chronicles 15, 20

This is the text of the assigned reading, so this is what I taught. You may be a more strictly ‘it has to come from the manual” person than I am, and that’s okay. In our class, since we’re all reading the same material I feel that it’s most important to cover what they read. I feel it would be insulting to them to require certain material to be read before class and then for me not to cover it. I realize not everyone does it this way, and I’m just sharing the way I do it. There are many good ways to teach Seminary.

I started out this section by having the kids look again at our Bible Dictionary chronology entry to see where these kings (Asa and Jehosophat) fit in. This was a “flashback” lesson.

I thought these chapters were very good — really chock full of great little nuggets of scripture wisdom. On lessons like this, I like to have the kids play “What I Underlined”. I consider this a game, but it’s more of an activity. I have a list of verses for us to go over, and the kids toss Samson to each other to determine who gets the next verse. Here are the verses I wrote on the easel:

2 Chronicles 15:
v 2
vv 3-4
v 7
v 8
vv 12-15

2 Chronicles 20:
vv 3-4
v 9
v 12
v 15
v 17
v v20-22

Each student reads their verse or passage aloud and then tells the group what he or she underlined. I love this exercise because it gets the kids practicing marking their scriptures and learning how to look for the parts of a verse that are important to them or particularly uplifting. It also gets them looking in the footnotes more (one of these refers to aliens – ha!).

Finished this lesson by having the students think back to a passage that they liked and come up with a headline for a newspaper that they would write for it. This was cute, but it was a little silly for a lesson closer. I won’t use it at the end of a lesson again, I think.

Tomorrow we are covering Ezra, and so I am having the kids do two groups of readings. One group has some verses in Daniel and Isaiah, while the other has passages in Ezra. Tomorrow they will get a partner from the other group and coordinate to determine the timeline of events regarding the prophecies about Cyrus and the re-building of the temple at Jerusalem.