Teaching Isaiah

I’m not going to lie. This Isaiah stuff is HARD to teach!

I will occasionally hit a lesson that takes me longer to prepare — in the 1-2 hour range. Usually that’s because I make a handout or have to try to find some supplemental media. But wow. This Isaiah stuff takes so much cross-referencing for me even to *start* understanding it that I’m spending at least 3-4 hours per lesson. Most of the other teachers are cutting out scads of Isaiah stuff. I’m the only one I know that is covering the whole three weeks. I still have 6 lessons to plan (8 to teach) out of a total of 14. My friend loaned me Isaiah Made Easier by David J Ridges. I hope that it helps.

As usual, the manual hasn’t been much help. It is SO FRUSTRATING to me that the kids are assigned chapters to read that have exactly 0 lesson material. Why on God’s green earth would you assign difficult reading material that you have no intention of teaching? I just can’t understand it. And the corollary — why would you teach material that the kids aren’t expected to read? I use the manual so little that when I really *do* need it, it frustrates me to no end that I can’t get ideas or help. The student manual is sometimes helpful, but in the Isaiah stuff, I really need some explanatory text or attention getters or commentary or questions or ideas or movies or songs or help to focus the lesson or something–ANYTHING…. It seems to me there should be more help on the Isaiah chapters in the manual than other, easier material, but it looks to me like there’s less.

Anyway, in the hope that it helps others, here’s what I’m doing for Isaiah:

Isaiah 1-2

For this day I introduced the kids to our Isaiah’s Insanity Challenge. Basically this is the famed seminary March Madness adjusted to get us through the three weeks of Isaiah. Kids will earn up tickets to use during a class auction at the end of Isaiah chapters. We are calling it our “Israel is Redeemed” party.

We had a lot of business this morning because of graduation planning and other things. This was also my first day back after a 3-day “sabbatical”. I had gone to visit three other Seminary classrooms to see how the other teachers do it. It was so helpful. I wish I had done it during the first week of school when our Seminary hadn’t met yet. I wrote a super long blog post about these visits TWICE last week, and both times it was lost. I figure it’s a sign that I must have written something I shouldn’t. I hope to write some on it later, but do get some subs and visit other classes. It’s so helpful.

So after the business was completed, I showed the kids this article:

I mentioned that Isaiah is the prophet most often quoted in the New Testament. About 1/3 of Isaiah is quoted or paraphrased in the Book of Mormon. There are about 100 references in the D&C to Isaiah in quotes, paraphrases, or explanations.

I spent a good amount of time talking about how we can read and understand Isaiah. I especially pointed out the verses at the beginnings of chapters 1 and 2 that show who and when Isaiah is speaking or seeing in vision.

For your information, there’s a video at http://si.lds.org/ that is an interview with Dallin H Oaks talking about how to understand Isaiah. I didn’t end up using it. If we hadn’t had so much business, I would have used the Millennial Future presentation on Isaiah 2 from the DVDs, too.

My intent was to give the students some tools they could use in their study of Isaiah during the next few weeks.

Isaiah 4-5

Because this is Isaiah’s Insanity, we are spending more time at the beginning of class with “Today I read… ” and “Missionary Moments”. This helps the kids share what they’re doing to share the gospel, but it has the added bonus of making our Isaiah lessons shorter (easier on me!).

Today I did the presentation on Pride from the DVD. This was my first time to use one of the presentations. We were a little rushed, so I couldn’t really get a good feel for how this worked for me. I may try it one more time, but I can’t say I loved it this first time.

After this, I had the kids get themselves packed up for school and I took them outside for a short object lesson. I have some rose bushes that have had the black spot pretty bad the past few years. This year I am going all rose-ninja on them and spraying them with a fungicide starting last week just as they began to bud out. I took the kids out and showed them the fungicide and explained what black spot is. Black spot causes the roses to get sick and loose all their leaves so they can’t grow. It stays on the plant and in the ground and can’t be cleared up from season to season without intervention. This year I’m fighting it by removing any infected leaves. The fungicide must be sprayed on the entire plant until it’s dripping. All sides of the leaf must be completely covered. I asked the kids what they thought this could be like in their lives. Repentance, atonement, baptism, etc. I explained that Isaiah used symbols like this in his teaching. Why? They did a great job coming up with reasons why Isaiah would use this teaching method with the people.

Next I took the kids up the hill to our apple trees. With some small pruners, I pruned off a few branches while explaining to the kids that I had a plan for these trees. I knew that in order for the apple trees to reach their full potential, they must be pruned. It’s probably unpleasant for the plant. But I’m the Master Gardner, and I can see the future somewhat and can tell which branches will compete with each other or are sick. We talked about the symbolism of this, too. I told them the famed CS Lewis / George Macdonald story about God building a palace where He can reside, not the cottage you had in mind.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

We had our closing prayer outside while holding hands — their idea. I can’t imagine what all the cars thought driving by! :-)

My hope was to get the kids comfortable with the idea of using imagery to teach lessons and why it’s effective.

Isaiah 11

After Magic Squares, Missionary Moments and Today I learned, we read the following scriptures and used the supplemental material noted below:

v 1 – cf D&C 113:1-6

vv 2-5 – Characteristics of Jesus Christ ( I had the kids write “Characteristics of Jesus Christ” in the margins of their scriptures and underline the characteristics they saw as we read. I was going to write them on the board in a simpler format if I needed to stretch, but didn’t need to.)

v 10 – I had a student read out the following quote from page 149 of the Institute Manual:

President Joseph Fielding Smith described the ensign and its significance:

“Over 125 years ago, in the little town of Fayette, Seneca County, New York, the Lord set up an ensign to the nations. It was in fulfilment of the prediction made by the Prophet Isaiah, which I have read. That ensign was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was established for the last time, never again to be destroyed or given to other people. It was the greatest event the world has seen since the day that the Redeemer was lifted upon the cross and worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. It meant more to mankind than anything else that has occurred since that day. . . .

“Following the raising of this ensign, the Lord sent forth his elders clothed with the priesthood and with power and authority, among the nations of the earth, bearing witness unto all peoples of the restoration of his Church, and calling upon the children of men to repent and receive the gospel; for now it was being preached in all the world as a witness before the end should come, that is, the end of the reign of wickedness and the establishment of the millennial reign of peace. The elders went forth as they were commanded, and are still preaching the gospel and gathering out from the nations the seed of Israel unto whom the promise was made.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:254–55; see also Isaiah 5:26.)

vv 13-14 – I had a student read the following quote from page 150 of the institute manual

Elder LeGrand Richards explained how this prophecy must be fulfilled:

“We are from Ephraim. The Lord expects us, since we are the custodians of his gospel as restored in these latter days, according to my understanding, to extend the hand of friendship to Judah, because after all we are all descendants of the prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and we come under the promises that through their descendants should all the nations of the earth be blessed.

“I do not know how the enmity and the envy between Ephraim and Judah can disappear except that we of the house of Ephraim, who have the custody of the gospel, should lead out in trying to bring to this branch of the house of Israel the blessings of the restored gospel. . . .

“And it seems to me that the only way that the tribe of Judah can be sanctified to dwell in his presence forever and ever will be when we bring to them the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior promised them it would be brought in the latter days.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1956, pp. 23–24.)

This lesson helped the kids understand the Savior’s personality a bit better and to understand exactly what was meant by some of the ideas in the chapter.

Isaiah 14

Yesterday afternoon there had been a serious automobile accident in our front field involving high school students that the Seminary students knew. I spent some time telling them what happened. The girl in the car with her seat belt on was uninjured. The driver was not wearing her seatbelt, driving barefoot, and speeding. She was thrown out the rear window and badly hurt. I spent a little time imploring the kids to drive safely and wear their seat belts. Okay, it’s not exactly Seminary related, but important. I pitched it as a missionary experience because I had seen the uninjured girl praying after the accident, so I told her I knew God would look out for her and that everything would be fine. The injured girl, by the way, is doing extremely well. 70 stitches, bruises, and scrapes, but no broken bones. She was very lucky.

On the easel I had written this quote from the Art of War by Sun Tzu :

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

After reading the verses talking about Satan and his fall, I explained to the kids that today we would “know our enemy” so that we can defeat him as advised by Sun Tzu. I created this compare/contrast worksheet on Satan and Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 58

General Conference is early this year, so I decided to move up the fasting lesson so that we could cover it before fast Sunday (which was in two days).

I had the kids look at the last section of yesteday’s handout (Satan vs Jesus). We talked about how fasting was one way to defeat Satan, and I explained that we would be focusing in on that today. We read a few verses about fasting from chapter 58. Then I had the kids silently read the section on fasting from their desk copy of True to the Faith. After that I read a couple of questions from the Quiz on page 175 in the manual. The kids wrote their answers on styrofoam plates with water-based markers and wiped answers off with a paper towel. I had the kids flash their answers all at the same time. They did great. I bore my testimony of fasting — it’s so important.

On the easel I had some quote about how fasting increases self discipline. I can’t remember what it was, but this is one from Elder Wirthlin in April 2001: “Fasting in the proper spirit and in the Lord’s way will energize us spiritually, strengthen our self-discipline, fill our homes with peace, lighten our hearts with joy, fortify us against temptation, prepare us for times of adversity, and open the windows of heaven.”