â€œTo Seal the Testimonyâ€
As I begin to prepare for this lesson, I am in a bit of a quandary. Clearly the martyrdom of Hyrum and Joseph is one of the key events of this dispensation and very important for the Saints to understand and appreciate. The lesson manualâ€™s purposeâ€”To teach class members about the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and to strengthen their testimonies of his calling as a prophet of Godâ€”needs to be the guiding principle for preparation.
I teach a youth Gospel Doctrine class, and I find the lesson manual is generally inappropriate for this age group. It tends to lead to “teaching” rather than focusing on the students “learning”. So I have a few principles I follow in preparing:
- Never attempt to cover the entire lesson. Prayerfully pick the key ideas you think your students need at that point in time. In this caseâ€”as I have found since teaching them this summerâ€”they need the historical context, the real sense of why things happened.
- Focus on what the students need to learn not on the performance of the teacher. If possible every student should participate actively.
So I am considering focusing the lesson around verse 3 of D&C 135:
Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!
We will look at and read the scripture with the idea that each person will think about what they consider to be Josephâ€™s most important contribution and express their ideas as to why that is so.
As class members share these insights, as appropriate, I am going to fold into the discussion the basic historical context of why the martyrdom happened, which the lesson really doesnâ€™t consider:
- The simple gathering of the Saints to one place in such numbers giving both economic and political influence
- Plural marriage capping the sense that the Mormons were too strange to tolerate
- The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor
- Josephâ€™s presidential campaign
- Continued Missouri attempts to get at Joseph
- Apostates stirring up people with newspaper articles, particularly John C. Bennett
So that is the starting point for thinking. I think I might dig up an excerpt from the Nauvoo Expositor, so class members can see the kind of thing that was being written by William Law, and see if I can find one of John C. Bennettâ€™s articles that were appearing in various papers at the time.
I started the blog Youth Gospel Doctrine Class, which has some of the lessons from June to August since I have been working as the main substitute teacher. I was, in fact, finally called to teach the class this past Sunday.
So what do you think? Any ideas on what directions to go with adult classes? How many of you are teaching Gospel Doctrine right now?