Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unique Book of Mormon Storyline/Timeline

My Book of Mormon seminary year is almost over and I'll be taking down my boards in the classroom in about 4-5 weeks.  I thought I'd take my camera to class today and take a picture of this before I take it down.  My CES Director passed along this storyline/timeline to us.  The idea came from a seminary teacher, but I don't know who she is.   I drew out this timeline with a Sharpie marker with my own icons and in a way that made sense to me, laminated it, and stapled it to my rolling bulletin board for reference throughout the year.  THIS HAS BEEN SO HELPFUL!  We refer to it frequently.  It helps us to remember what we've studied, and also what to look forward to in upcoming chapters.

It starts on the left and moves to the right.  We begin in Jerusalem ("J" with the castle wall) in 600 B.C., and the "zig-zag" is Lehi's journey in the wilderness for 8 years. The "r.i.p." is for Ishmael who dies before they get on Nephi's boat and sail to the Promised Land. The next "r.i.p" is for Lehi who dies before "Nephi & Co." settle in the land of Nephi ("N" with the castle wall) after a separation from Laman and Lemuel. That places us roughly around 2 Nephi 5.

The "Z" at the top of the timeline stands for Zarahemla. There are 3 kings who reside in Zarahemla (Mosiah I, Benjamin, and Mosiah II), and 3 kings who end up in the land of Nephi (Zeniff, Noah, and Limhi). The kings are represented by the crowns.) Zeniff's people travelled to the land of Nephi and ended up being in bondage to the Lamanites until Limhi's people were brought back to Zarahemla, thus the "squiggly lines". This takes us to the end of the Book of Mosiah.

 The "r.i.p" after the kings is for the death of King Mosiah II.  He was the last king before they switched to a system of judges, which explains the "no kings" and "gavel" icons.  During that period, we have the 4 sons of Mosiah doing missionary work with the Lamanites in the land of Nephi for 14 years, and concurrently we have Alma (the younger) and Amulek on a mission to re-activate saints in the Land of Zarahemla.  This leads us up to Alma 42.

The flag with the "T" represents Captain Moroni's Title of Liberty.  The "2000" shield represents Helaman's Stripling Warriors, and the stick figure standing on a wall being shot at with stones and arrows represents Samuel the Lamanite.  That takes us through to the end of the Book of Helaman.  The resurrected Christ visits the Nephites (3 Nephi), 200 years of peace (4 Nephi), Mormon and Moroni fight for their lives (Mormon), and the end of the record leaves us at 421 A.D. (Moroni).  I didn't include the Book of Ether, which is placed between Mormon and Moroni, because those events happened centuries before and not on this timeline.

I am a visual learner and it helps for me to see something like this drawn out for reference.  I photocopied all of these icons, reduced them in size, and cut them up.  I gave each student in my class a miniature version of this storyline/timeline in a plastic bag.  Periodically I hide my bulletin board and I have them take their timeline pieces out and put them in order from 600 B.C. through 421 A.D.  It's good review and I KNOW IT HELPS THEM!!!  Again, this timeline wasn't my idea, but I sure love it.  I'm happy to share my version with you if it helps you to better understand the events in Book of Mormon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Disintegration of Zion

Most of the youth in my class attend Murrieta Valley High School.  One is home-schooled and one attends a private school in the neighboring city of Temecula.  For most of them, Murrieta Valley High is their little world.  In preparation for discussion for 4 Nephi, I decided to ask them about the different "groups/cliques" at the school.  As they named the groups, I wrote them on the board and asked for some detail on them.  Some were distinguished by ethnicity and I wanted to be clear that there was no offense meant nor taken in us identifying them by their race.  They assured me that this is just what they're called and known as, and they even call themselves by these names.
Some are separated by interests/clubs:
 - Drama kids
 - Athletes, "jocks", also separated by sport (track, football, basketball, tennis, etc.)
 - Choir kids
 - ASB
 - Band kids
 - Mormons
 - Skaters
 - Hacky Sackers
 - (Surfers are never in school, which I thought was funny...)
 - Geeks (those who enjoy computers)
 - Freshmen
 - Classroom sitters
 - and many more........

Some are separated by their appearance/culture:
 - Mexicans
 - Asians
 - African Americans
 - (no White groups, I noticed...)
 - Emo's

Then you have a few groups which I will not mention by name, but let's just call them "standards offenders" (moral and Word of Wisdom). The groups listed above are just some of the ones mentioned today.  My class told me that each group has a small section of the school designated as their "area/territory/home-base".  It's a "safe" location each group can count on finding their clique. I wanted to know how these groups interacted with one another.  How do they get along or don't get along?  I asked if any of the groups "bully" other groups.  They pointed out a few, but generally, the groups leave each other alone.  I asked if any of the groups are found to be "victims of bullying".  Again, they named a few.  (A little contradiction, there.)

I wanted to know what they thought could be done to unify these groups.  One student who is involved with ASB mentioned that this is the goal of ASB; they work to dissolve the social (and sometimes physical) barriers to unify the school.  I asked them to imagine what it would be like to have a school without social barriers.  I also wanted to know from them what could be done to change the current environment at their school.  They said that first of all, it would be "weird".  They are comfortable with the way things are.  They like that they can go to a location at the school and find people with similar interests. (I agree on that.)  But there are hundreds of students they don't know and probably never will while they attend this school because of this.  Each group has an opinion of "who is better than who"; class distinction.   They agreed that in order for the barriers to come down, everyone would need to WANT to cooperate.  It would require effort from EVERYONE, and EVERYONE would need to see the NEED FOR IT. 

In 4th Nephi, Mormon condenses roughly 287 years of history into one book which spans 4 pages.  That averages out to about 72 years per page.  And the 287 years is just over 1/3 of the length of time that the Book of Mormon covers.  He's making clear what he wants us to see, which is the disintegration of a Zion society based on the Gospel of Christ, to a society of hate and deceit under the power of Satan.  From verses 1-18, Mormon describes what a Zion society is; there was approx. 200 of peace.  The rest of the book of 4 Nephi, shown in the remaining 31 verses, is a series of steps taken by the people which led them away from the Church, the Spirit, and from Christ and His gospel; a disintegration of Zion.  Everyone once considered themselves as "children of Christ."  Over time, they developed into a group of "-ites"; Lamanites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, and Nephites.   Somewhere along the line, someone chose to put "self" before "others". Class distinction. Pride. Rebellion from God.

I challenged my class to have the attitude of living a "higher law" at school.   I wanted them to simply be aware of the cliques at school and to be someone who could move outside their own comfort zone; open their eyes to the possibility of getting to know others regardless of which "group" they belonged to.  We are"children of Christ."  We represent Him and even if we can't create a Zion on our own, we can have the attitude of a Zion people and open ourselves to welcoming all as Christ would. 

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:  "Family members bear the family name; by it they are known and called and identified; it sets them apart from all those of a different lineage and ancestry...and so it is that the children of Christ, those who are born again, those who are spiritually begotten by their new Father, take upon themselves the name of Christ. By it they are known...it identifies them and sets them apart from all others. They are now family members, Christians in the real and true sense of the word. They do carry his name and are obligated to bear it in decency and dignity. No taint of shame or disgrace, no sliver of dishonor must ever be permitted to attach itself to that name...the saints of God must remember who they are and act accordingly. "The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ" (1978), p 363.

Being "children of Christ" is a separation of ourselves from the world of some sort. But it's an ALL-INCLUSIVE group! All are welcome.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Game Show Friday

This is one of the game shows I used to watch as a kid.  I found a great idea online from another seminary teacher using the concept of this game to teach 3 Nephi 28.  I usually have to take these online ideas and morph them to accomodate my class size and personalities.  What we re-named "Seminary Student Squares" turned out to be a great way to learn this chapter.  I have to admit, we're all pretty wiped out by the time Fridays roll around.  This game was a welcome change from the norm.....

I set up one of our long seminary tables at the front of the room.  In front of that, I set up 3 classroom chairs, and in front of that, I set up 3 little children's chairs. (I teach in the Primary room, so the little chairs are readily available.)  I had 3 students sit on the table, 3 in the regular chairs, and 3 on the Primary chairs so they formed a slant downward facing the rest of the class.  Those were our "celebrities" who would form our Tic-Tac-Toe grid.  The other students were separated into two groups; "X's" and "O's".  They worked in these two groups to be our "contestants".

I started class by having them all read 3 Nephi 28:2-9.  When they were finished, we started Round 1.  I had 9 "celebrities" move into the Tic-Tac-Toe grid, I handed them the list of 10 questions AND answers from the scripture block, and we started the game.  I gave them the questions so they would be prepared for what I would ask, and I gave them the answers so they could think of an alternate answer just in case they wanted to fool the "contestants".  The "X's" began by choosing a "celebrity" in the grid.  I'd ask that person a question.  He/she would answer the question with a true answer, or an answer they made up.   The "contestant" would either AGREE or DISAGREE with their answer (based on their knowledge of the scripture block they just read), and we'd give the "celebrity" either an "X" or an "O" to hold based on whether their answer was right or not.  This ended up being tons of fun, and in between questions, we were able to discuss details of the chapter. 

We continued the game playing a total of 3 rounds, covering the entire chapter.   We actually brought out quite a bit of lesson material about the twelve Nephite disciples/apostles, the three Nephites, and translated beings.  This account is quite fascinating.   We discussed the blessings which were given to these men, and what was so special about the desire the three Nephites had that they would be promised eternal life.  We discussed the difference between tranfiguration and translation, and I discounted every strange and weird rumor/speculation they had heard about the three Nephites.   Hahaha. 

I know how hard it is to get up early each day to come to seminary.  It's a sacrifice for everyone.  But one which brings blessings.  With that in mind, I don't believe in wasting their time by just playing games at seminary.  I promised my class that I would always have something significant to teach them, even on a game day.  Today was no exception.  I left seminary with a great feeling that they had learned the material in a fun and unique way.   I believe the youth need to relax and PLAY together as a part of growing close to one another.  Personalities come out, shyness disappears, laughter wakes us up, competitiveness turns to fun, and memories are shared of a fun time with good people. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Milk or Meat?"

I brought a glass of milk and some beef jerky on a plate to class today and put them side by side.   We discussed what we would be able to ingest if we had or didn't have teeth.  The milk goes down easier and it is easier to digest (if you're not lactose intollerant).  No teeth necessary. The jerky has more flavor, is more filling, and sustains you longer, but it would be a struggle to ingest without teeth.

3 Nephi 26 is so fascinating to read.  I love hearing Mormon's little inserts in his writings here and there in the Book of Mormon.  He is abridging some amazing things in this account of the Savior's visit to America and wants to share ALL of it with us.  He's commanded not to because we (the readers of the Book of Mormon) are not ready for those sacred things yet.  We don't have the teeth to read them yet.  Mormon is only able to give us a teeny tiny part.  In verses 6-8, he says: "And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people; But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people. And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken."

In verses 9-12, the reason these treasures of knowledge are being held back from us are explained: "And when they shall have received this (the Book of Mormon), which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. Therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I, Mormon, make an end of my sayings, and proceed to write the things which have been commanded me."  Our faith isn't sufficient yet to receive those "greater things".  We discussed in class what it would take for us to grow the teeth necessary to receive those "greater things" we're withheld from reading. 

Someone in class said that we probably wouldn't understand those "greater things" if they were included; we'd set them aside as unimportant.  Most of us wouldn't be able to distinguish sacred from unsacred.  Another said that we should have to earn the study-time with what we have before we are given more.  THAT'S FAITH!!!  Study + DOING = teeth.  I have a brilliant class. 
As a whole, our faith isn't sufficient.....................yet.  Currently, we're not DOING what's commanded of us as revealed in the Book of Mormon.  "Faith without works is dead."  The DOING shows our faith.   If we aren't willing to do the simple things (milk), then why should we be given the bigger things (jerky)? It's part of our earthly test.  We, as a class, didn't think that it would be fair for those who WERE DOING what was commanded, to be withheld from the knowledge of those "greater things".  I don't believe we are.  We receive, through revelation, as we're ready.  Those who do put in the time and effort into studying the Book of Mormon will receive as they live what they read.  I believe God reveals those sacred things to us as we exert our faith and grow those teeth necessary to chomp on the jerky!  "Line upon line, precept upon precept."

The lesson originally called for me to bring a steak to class and set it next to the milk.  Hahaha.  I'm a devoted seminary teacher, but.................umm, no. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Broken Heart.....

 I was contemplating what a "broken heart" was, and I thought of Harley.

 Isn't he beautiful?  We adopted Harley a few years ago.  Our family absolutely LOVES this dog!  When he came to our home, he was an escape artist.  He could dig or chew his way out of our yard fairly easily.  We have other dachshunds but we've never had to secure the perimeter of our property from escape like we've had to for Harley.  After some major fortifications, we re-introduced him to the boundaries of our home/yard, and made him certain of our expectations of him.   He came to trust us and, over time, has become willing to observe and respect our boundaries.  He finally came to a point where he stopped trying to escape.  I saw his "rebellion" as insecurity and distrust.  Now that he is sure of how much we love him and care for his safety, Harley has become submissive, tame, loving, trusting, and willing to be led.  He lets us care for him and love him.  Because of the change I observed in Harley, he is what I thought of when I considered what a "broken heart" might be.

We, as God's children, are like Harley.  The more we come to know God (scripture study & prayer), the easier it is for us to understand our relationship to Him and become submissive to His will.  He has a tremendous love for each of us and only has our best interests at heart.  His commandments are our boundaries, which are for our safety and are to teach us discipline as we progess to become like Him.  Today in seminary, we discussed the sacrament.  In 3 Nephi 18, the Savior institutes the sacrament with the Nephites.  Because he has fulfilled the Law of Moses, they no longer are required to offer animal sacrifices but are required to offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit when they partake of the sacrament.   I showed my class this movie clip from the Old Testament seminary year.....


When we understand what a broken heart and a contrite spirit is, then we can focus on presenting that offering to him each week in sacrament meeting.  It means letting go of our will in exchange for His, being submissive to Him and allowing Him to lead us by our faith in Him.  It means being continually repentant, softened, humbled.   Being truly repentant means godly sorrow for our sins to the point where we no longer want to take them up again.  As we partake of the emblems of the sacrament, we recommit ourselves to keep the Lord's commandments, remember Him always, and take upon us His name.  He promises to give us His Spirit to stay with us.  With the Savior's sacrifice on our minds in sacrament meeting, we are brought into a state of humility and understand of our dependence on Him for our salvation. Gratitude.

There is so much more to the sacrament to be said.  So much I'm leaving out.  Trust me, I had a STACK of notes that I took with me to class on how to teach the sacrament to my class.  I decided to linger on the topic of the broken heart and contrite spirit and take a chance (or follow the Spirit) that this was what they needed to hear.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Preparation Precedes POWER!

"The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life." Sister Julie B. Beck, General Conference Apr. 2010

I obviously have General Conference on the brain.   Every lesson I prepare can be supported by a General Conference talk within the last year.   Yesterday it was Elder Christofferson; today it's Sister Beck.  Our lesson today was on how 3 Nephi 17 shows us a pattern on how to receive revelation from God. 

My hope is always that my class will take what they learned in seminary and practice those skills, like in a laboratory, at home or in the real world.  Better yet, hopefully they were taught this stuff at home, it was reinforced in seminary, and THEN they can go out and use it!

In 3 Nephi 17, the resurrected Christ is about to leave the Nephites to show himself to his "other sheep", the lost tribes of Israel.  He has just delivered an information packed, highly spiritual sermon to them.  It was a lot to absorb in one sitting, I'm sure.  He says to them in verse 2, "I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time." (Isn't this exactly like us after listening to 5 sessions of General Conference?)  The Savior gives them a pattern on how to absorb, assimilate, remember, process, and comprehend all that he has said.  They will need the help of the Holy Ghost as they follow these steps...

In verse 3 he says, "Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again." 

It's interesting that he sends them home.  We talked about why he would send them home to start the revelation process.   They were sent back as families to possibly discuss together what they heard.  Family prayer could have been how they chose to exert their faith in receiving revelation.  Maybe that's where the parents were able to further instruct their children within their family stewardship.  We're comforable in our homes.  It was a place of privacy for them. 

In a past post of mine titled, "Keep It Simple", we reviewed the pattern of how one receives his/her own personal revelation and testimony from hearing someone else's.  This pattern that we find in 3 Nephi 17 relates to that.  When truth is being taught, and in this case by the Savior himself, the Holy Ghost is able to teach the recipient through the exertion of their faith.   The pondering, praying, and preparation to receive is one long gesture of faith.  In looking ahead in the Book of Mormon, these Nephites DO REMEMBER all that he teaches.  It stays with them long enough to last through a few generations of a zion people.    This is a pattern for us to receive the "power" through revelation that they received! 

If you've listened to Sister Beck's talk, you'll know that she was addressing the sisters.  But her message is valuable to anyone within the sound of her voice.    Receiving personal revelation from God is a skill that takes practice.   Revelation is personalized, individualized and specific. We're building a closer relationship with God.  He empowers us to "see" spiritually when we can't "see" physically.  I see our youth having to block out annoying, loud distractions in the world and fine tune their ability to hear the voice of God through the Spirit.  It will take practice and much "laboratory experience".  I pray they are doing their "lab homework"..............after all, practice makes perfect (ripe, whole, complete; see yesterday's lesson.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Living A Celestial Law In A Telestial World

As I prepared today's lesson on the Savior's Sermon at the Temple to the Nephites, I kept thinking about Elder Christofferson's talk from the October 2009 General Conference titled "Moral Discipline".  It is a most excellent talk.  The standards of the world we live in have lowered significantly in the last few decades, but the Lord's standards have not......and will not.  This simply means that it gets tougher for us to uphold His standards as time progresses.  But if we ARE able to uphold his standards NOW, and continue to do so, as the world decays, our perfection develops through our endurance.   We're being asked to live a celestial law in a telestial world.  Not easy.

In 3 Nephi 12-14, the Savior delivers a sermon to the baptized members of his newly organized church in the New World.  The picture above is the Savior delivering this same same sermon to his disciples in the Old World.  Same sermon; different group of people.  His message wasn't accepted in the Old World as well as it was accepted in the New World.  He teaches them how to overcome the flesh, how to consecrate themselves, and how to draw near to Him in order to perfect themselves.  He gives them a higher law, with moral discipline that, if lived with exactness, would help us develop into "Christ-like" beings.  We become as He is. 

To perfect ourselves = to become ripe, whole, complete

The process of becoming perfect happens through the Savior.  I used to stress about the checklist of commandments and requirements in the gospel.  I've learned not to do that since I understand this better.  I hope I was able to express this to my class the way I intended.  Once we learn what the Lord's commandments are, we are required to live them.  We receive help from Him through the covenants we make with Him. We are required to do our personal best.  As long as we are doing our best, the Lord is able and willing (through the Atonement) to make up the difference for what we are lacking through his righteousness.  We become perfect through Him.  Our "ripening", perfection, occurs as we DO what we have covenanted to DO.
If this is what we are to become.............

Then maybe this is us in the pre-mortal existence? (heeheehee)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Strait & Narrow

I never remember to bring my camera to class, and if I had, this would be a much more interesting post. Today we studied 3 Nephi 11:20-27.  In preparation for it, I blocked off a section of my classroom beginning with the door where my class enters.  I created a very simple obstacle course with these guidelines/requirements posted in at least 6 different places in the room.

1. Sign in
2. Walk on the long wooden board
3. Weave through the cones, following the arrows
4. Sit on the bench
5. Write your name on the chalkboard
6. Put a ball from the basket into the bag
7. Walk in

Again, it was very simple, and I put arrows and signs everywhere along the way.  These were my requirements to enter into my classroom.  My class exhibited the exact reaction I needed for my lesson.  

  • A few were very careful to heed the signs and followed the instructions exactly as described.
  • A few didn't see any signs and were sent back to the door to read the instructions and re-enter.
  • A few followed some guidelines and missed other guidelines.  They were sent back until all requirements were met.
  • A few were lazy and went the wrong way, or skipped past some steps.  They, too, were sent back until all requirements were met. 
When they didn't see the purpose behind the activity (or gave me the "it's-6:00 a.m.-and-I'm-too-tired" look), I simply asked them, "Would you like to join the rest of us in class?"  If they answered yes, I asked them to follow the simple steps outlined and they would be allowed to enter with the rest of us.  Everyone eventually complied. 

Now that Christ is with the Nephites in the New World, he begins to establish his Church.  He calls 12 men, including Nephi the prophet, and gives them the authority to baptize.  "On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water. And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one." (3 Nephi 11:22-27 ) 

Jesus Christ has specific guidelines which must be followed for entrance into His church.  The baptism must be done under the proper priesthood authority by a worthy priesthood holder, the person being baptized must repent and have the desire to be baptized, both parties must stand in the water, the baptism must be performed in the name of Jesus Christ, exact wording is given for the ordinance, and the baptism must be a full immersion of the individual receiving the ordinance.  The same way I required my class to meet my requirements in order to enter into my classroom today, the Lord requires us to follow specific guidelines and requirements to enter into His kingdom.  Although my requirements were not difficult, they each had to be followed.  The ordinance of baptism is necessary for our salvation and a requirement to enter into the celestial kingdom.  What we do on earth once we have been baptized affects our future beyond this life. 
We had a very good discussion today.    In 3 Nephi, we are watching and observing carefully as the Savior reveals, piece by piece, how to obtain salvation.  There is a "part 2" to this lesson as we continue on with 3 Nephi.  More furniture moving for me.  We will watch the Nephites naturally form a zion after the resurrected Savior's visit. I plan on showing them how we can model their behavior. 'Looking foward to it!