Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Who wants to drink it now?

I held up a glass of cool water from the drinking fountain.

"Here is a nice, cool glass of water," I told the class. I took a drink and sighed, refreshed.

"Give me a drink," one of the kids said (as if on cue, when in fact, he just has a tendency to say whatever pops into his head, even at 6:30 in the morning).

"Okay, I'll give you a drink." Then I drank from the glass again, swished the water in my mouth, and spit it into the cup. "Who wants to drink it now?" (Two hands went up, of course, but they got the point)

I explained that this was a bit like relying on others for our understanding of the scriptures. It's OK, and it will nourish you, but it's better to go to the source. In fact, just reading the scriptures isn't enough, because the real source is God, so the kids needed to seek their own testimonies of the truths taught in the scriptures.

And for 5 minutes this morning I had their attention.

This object lesson is part of a three or four part lesson I am in the midst of. First, I handed out a list of "truths," such as "Heavenly Father answers prayers," "Joseph Smith was a prophet," and "the Priesthood is God's power on earth." I asked the kids to check a truth that they felt they had learned by the Holy Ghost. Then, I asked them to briefly describe the experience (in writing).

One of the students couldn't think of anything. I told her that it was okay, and if she didn't feel like she had felt the Holy Ghost yet in her life, we would perform a "spiritual experiment" a la Alma 32. However, first I wanted to ask a few questions to see if I couldn't jog her memory.

"Have you ever prayed and felt like your prayer was answered, or felt different afterward?"
"I can't think of anything."
"Have you ever performed baptisms for the dead and felt different in the temple?" (btw, feeling "different" is not necessarily the Holy Ghost, but it could be, and if she answered in the affirmative, I could ask follow up questions to determine whether she felt is was the Holy Ghost)
"I got in trouble when I went."
"Fine. But did you feel different in the temple?"
"I don't know."
"Have you ever received a priesthood blessing in which you felt the Holy Ghost testify that it was from him?"
(...thinking...) "My patriarchal blessing."
"Good. And how did that feel?"
(Due to lack of time, I didn't explore more yet, but we'll get there. I did mention how special patriarchs are.)

I didn't know if all the kids would recognize an experience in which they felt the Holy Ghost. If not, that would have been okay. As mentioned above, we would have performed a "spiritual experiment" by praying and seeking a confirmation from the Holy Ghost. But everyone thought of at least one experience.

Today was stage two. We learned about the value of the scriptures to teach doctrine and improve ourselves (2 Tim. 3:14-17) and I asked the kids to find a scripture that related to their experience. I gave examples of scriptures involving prayer, the priesthood, baptisms for the dead, and others. Some of the kids used my suggestions and others looked up scriptures on their own.

Tomorrow we will enter stage three. We will learn about testimony, and I will ask each kid to write their testimony of the experience. What did the Holy Ghost teach them by testifying to them of the spiritual truth?

In the coming weeks, we will flesh out the details of the experiences and I will have each youth share their experience with the class including (1) a scripture, (2) an experience where the Holy Ghost taught them a truth contained in the scripture, and (3) a testimony of what the Holy Ghost taught them. Since the kids had a variety of experiences, this exercise will tie into a variety of lessons from the New Testament.

I confess that seminary is exhausting, mentally and physically. But today I got some payback. To have each of these groggy teens recognize and share their experiences (without complaint, mind you) has lifted my hopes for their ability to put down spiritual roots, and strengthens my own faith as well.


  1. Great lessons, ACE. I have to add that those roots need to be pretty deep by the time the kids leave primary....middle school for sure. Seeing what the youth are faced with, even rock solid youth, is a wake up call to me as a mother (and as a recent primary leader). Just reading a verse, saying words in prayer, and following mom & dad to church most likely won't be enough. Your students are lucky to have you!

  2. That's one reason seminary is a challenge. Many of these youth do not have deep roots. They may be first-generation youth in the church, or they are raised in single-parent or part-member homes where the parents struggle to get by, let alone take time to have scripture reading or FHE. I feel like some of these kids are like the little trees you see growing out of small cracks in the side of rocks. If they stay faithful, it's because they had to fight and struggle and work hard to gain their own testimony and learn the doctrines on their own.

  3. you do a great job with those kids. They're lucky to have you.