Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

This is one of Thor’s favorite holidays; he enjoys the idea of starting anew each year and always manages to make a list of ways to improve his character. I usually have the opposite thought for the exact same reasons…mainly because I fail miserably each year at that list of improvements!

For whatever reason this time of year also grabs my attention in matters of “policy”. Over the years I have been a Primary President, Young Women’s President and currently serve in the Relief Society Presidency over the education part of the auxiliary. In each of these callings I have had an extremely difficult time in regard to using only the approved sources for the curriculum taught. Primary specifically, but teachers in all three organization tend to go to the internet, the bookstore, or other sources for ideas and ways to improve upon the material that has been provided and find rewards for being a good student.

There is confusion on some part. I have had to inform some that just because the idea book comes from the "church bookstore" or has a “church title” it does not necessarily belong on the approved list. How does one know what is approved and what is not? Easy! If it is not in the LDS Catalog it is not approved. Another option is to look for the “corporation logo” –usually on the back lower portion of the back cover; the typical font used for “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", in a block formation. It’s on the hymn book if there are any questions. If the product, book, whatever, does not carry this “logo” it is not approved by the First Presidency and therefore cannot be used in any way during an official lesson time or during the Sunday block.

In Relief Society I run into a different situation. Often times the teacher will use an approved source to add to the lesson material. Let’s say we are in the current (2005) manual –David O.McKay; and the lesson is on Word of Wisdom. According to the handbook, we should not go to material outside of David O. McKay…we’re studying his ideas this year, not Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. Their ideas and revelations are wonderful, but we are studying David O. McKay and what he thought and taught. There is too much information and often too many principles within ONE lesson, we really don’t need to go further and make more work for ourselves.

Many times the argument with this policy has been, “I am just trying to add excitement to an otherwise boring presentation.” Or “There is nothing in this book I am purchasing that goes against Doctrine.” How about: “The girls never get any recognition, I am not creative, why does it matter?” The answers to all of the above are many, but here are a few responses.

#1. We in effect tell the Lord we do not need His inspiration for our individual circumstance.

#2. The (outside source) author’s ideas will suffice and are better than anything we could think up.

#3. If we use the (outside source) author’s ideas we decide we do not need to grow, learn, or stretch.

#4. The church has not provided enough material within the manual for us to plan a lesson with.

#5. We are willing to pay someone for material/ideas the church has provided freely.

#6. The rules do not apply to us.

When we rethink the reasons we go to the store or outside sources for information, rewards or ideas, we often can reason that, in reality we could do this ourselves if we took the time. And that is why we were called to the position in the first place. The Lord has confidence in our ability to carry out our duty. All we need is the faith that He will respond to our pleas for inspiration.

There is no need for edible rewards at church; and often any reward at all. So many times teachers feel they must bribe students (of all ages) to pay attention to the end. If we prepare and teach with the Spirit -that is all that is necessary. Children especially should not be trained to expect a sticker, candy or other form of reward for reverence or good behavior. Reverence is it’s own reward. Teach children how to feel and respond to the Spirit. When they are focused on the treat after the lesson, they often miss the principle being taught. I once had a chorister who convinced the children learning a new song was a huge reward for learning and working on songs for the program. She did not need any more incentive than the idea of learning more. The children loved the enthusiasm and energy that came from someone who taught by the Spirit.

In essence the best teacher is one who relies on the Spirit and materials given them, and then prays what would be the best principle for that individual class that particular Sunday (or other day). We can use our own creativity, and ask the Lord to help us with ideas. Believe it or not they come whether we think our selves creative or not. What a better way to improve our character than by asking the Lord?

add to sk*rt


C Jones said...

I agree that preparing lessons the way you suggest here is really the ideal, and does bring the most personal growth and satisfaction. Although when I don't attain that ideal it's not usually for the reasons you mention. It more like a) not enough time to ponder and receive inspiration b) a negative attitude because of some distress in my life that doesn't allow for the spirit or c) I've done what I can, but the spirit just doesn't show up.
Actually, I don't know if no treats in Primary is an official rule or not, but if so I guess I would have to admit that I don't think it applies to me:) I never give treats as a reward or bribe, but as a way to bond and to express love, or as part of the lesson. We had a great time frosting sugar cookies in the shape of the Kirtland temple and then sprinkling them with crushed hard candy to represent smashed china!

s'mee said...

Dear C,

Thanks for your comments, and yes I have heard those reasons as well. I am not perfect and have given in as well...I am just trying to encourage us all to be more compliant to the policy.

As far as edible treats go, there *is* an official statement in that regard. There are a few lessons where food is actually called for in a lesson, hard tack - (gag) to illustrate what the pioneers ate, etc. Other than that they say no food. *Some* of the reasons that have been given for this is, food allergies, too many calories, fairness between siblings and classes, the whole "no contests/charts" rule, and the "reverence is it's own reward"... among others.

While I was a President I often was challenged with this policy. My reply was to quote the handbook and then tell the teacher that it was up to them to either follow the handbook or find a way to make it (the exception) apply and comply. Sometimes, such as in your example, I think making "temples" with "china" is a great lesson. It had a purpose and the children will most likely remember that lesson for years.

I apologize if I have sounded abrupt or rude, that was not my intent. Perhaps the snarky tone of my post is due to my snarky cold.