What a fantastic lesson we had in Seminary today! I'm not sure what happened to make things go so well, but wow, this was really a great lesson (from my point of view, anyway).
Class started off very silly -- like Monday silly -- and we even got started a little late with our opening song. We started so late that I only had them sing one verse of Praise to the Man.
We moved to the tables, and I started writing on the easel. My thought was to try to get their attention with the stuff I was writing on the easel. Normally I have everything already written out, and today I was thinking I would be able to draw their attention by writing. Not so much. They noticed, but they most talked amongst themselves. Here's what I wrote (it's from the manual):
It's my life.
I can do what I want.
I'm not hurting anyone else.
It's none of your business.
I had planned to ask the kids to share with the class why these statements were false, but right before class started I decided to have them write their ideas down first and then share. I thought it might force them to think about the topic a little more. Turns out it worked!
I asked the kids to share why the statements were false, and then I chose one girl out to share first. She is the quietest in the group, but she has a very good understanding of the Gospel. She shared her thoughts, and the kids were off. I had thought this discussion would last 3-4 minutes. 20 minutes later.... They had all VOLUNTEERED their ideas and bashed these incorrect ideas. They brought out thoughts that were doctrinally based, personal experiences, and even logical arguments. Every single kid shared ideas, even those that don't normally comment. This was seriously an amazing discussion.
One of the kids left their answers on the table today, and so I'm going to type them here. I don't even know which kid these belonged to myself, but this will help you get an idea of the caliber of answer we were getting:
- It was given to us by God. Our life is a GIFT and we should be grateful for it an use it for the benefit of man.
- There are consequences for you and others so if you do what you want no matter what you can get into trouble.
- There are consequences for your actions.
- It is our business. The one time I let a problem pass by without doing anything of good friend of mine was treated terribly and I felt it was worse on my conscience than had I gotten myself involved.
One of the others made up his own analogy about being on a stage and practicing your lines but not saying them. I couldn't follow the whole thing completely, but I think when the kids share something like that and it makes sense to them, you roll with it. We also read D&C 121:37-38 and Alma 39:11 to talk about the effects of these wrong attitudes. When we try to cover our sins, we are left to ourselves and can even lose our priesthood. And Alma taught his son that his "private" mistakes affected the work. People wouldn't believe the missionaries when they came because of Corianton's actions with the harlot.
I felt like this was really a great discussion. One or two were not quite as engaged as the others, but everyone was into it and sharing.
At the end we talked briefly about Achan and how his actions affected the entire camp. We read the commandment in Joshua 6 that he broke. One girl mentioned that it wasn't fair that he got destroyed, and maybe even his whole family, too. I let them struggle a little while on that, and then I told her what I do when I read things like that that don't make sense. I go back to the fact that I know who God is. I know that He is perfectly just. I know He is perfectly merciful. I know He is never cruel just for the sake of being cruel. I know this both from my dealings with Him and from reading about Him in the scriptures, and so when I read these things, I have to accept that the whole story just isn't there in the scriptures sometimes. There just isn't enough information here for us to fully understand why this event happened, but we do know that God is never unfair and never does anything to hurt us eternally. His goal is our "immortality and eternal life."
One of the kids has a family member that is running very seriously amok. I can tell that it's hurt him pretty deeply. I made sure to point out that Christ can heal us not only from our sins, but he also heals us from the hurts that are caused when others make choices that affect us negatively.
I had been going to point out that we should consider how our actions affect others, too -- that we can be the person who makes choices that hurt others -- but I left it out just because the other discussion had been so great.
I just love to see these kids sharing their awesomeness with each other. I think that these types of lessons are going to mean so much more for these kids in the development of their character than any "cool" information I can try to dazzle them with. The less I talk, the better our lessons are.
I'm finding that the key is find a way to let the kids share what they already know with each other and then build on that with a few extra nuggets. They will learn from each other (and that will stick better than if they hear it from me), and I can also give a little bonus material or explanation or correction to those who need it.
I walked around the room more and tried to engage the kids with my eyes a little more. It's hard for me to look people in the eye for some reason, but I'm working on it. It was great!
I will write about yesterday's lesson a little later. I learned some things about teaching technique that were helpful yesterday.