Sunday, June 17, 2012
Everything I Learned About God, I Learned in Sunday School
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spend a fair amount of time learning about Jesus Christ and his gospel. We don't just go to church on Sundays.
We are encouraged to have personal and family scripture study and prayer on a daily basis (although I must admit that often times my "daily" is not so "daily"). We are encouraged to pick one night per week (usually Monday nights) to have what is called Family Home Evening, where we read a story about service, or how we are blessed by Jesus Christ's Atonement, or something like that.
The best place I have found for learning--and gaining a zest for learning--about both spiritual and temporal things is in LDS Temples, where we not only provide service to those who have passed on before us without having the blessings of Christ's gospel on the earth, but also have ample time to be taught about God's plan for us and to ponder on its deeper meanings.
But, surprisingly, even though I do a great deal of study on my own personal time, I have found that the hour of LDS Church meetings that we call "Sunday School" is the second best place for me to learn.
But first, a slight detour...
On Sundays Mormons attend a 3-hour block of meetings in one of their "chapels" (that's what we often refer to the building as, but we also refer to the large meeting hall where we hold "sacrament meeting" as the "chapel" as well).
1. The first hour of the 3-hour block is called "Sacrament Meeting". If you were to pick one hour of the three to attend each week, I would suggest this one, because it is where the Jesus Christ's sacrament (bread in remembrance of his body, and water in remembrance of the blood He spilt for us) is prepared and passed to the congregation. The reason this is so important is that as we partake of the sacrament and think upon everything that Christ did for us, we are entitled to the visitation of the Holy Spirit, which visitation indicates to us that we are being purified of both the sins and mistakes that we have committed and the desire to commit any further wrongs against our fellow men.
2. The third hour of each Sunday's set of meetings are split up in to essentially four different groups--the young men, the young women, the adult men, and the adult women. In these groups, lessons are usually taught and discussed about specific gospel principles or topics, such as prayer, service, or obedience.
3. But the second hour--Sunday School--is somehow for me different. It seems that what we talk about in Sunday School is more of a purely doctrinal nature. There are four sets of scripture in the LDS "Standard Works"--The Bible, the Pearl of Great Price, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Each year we study one of those works (except that the Bible, being so large is studied as the Old Testament one year and the New Testament the next, and the Pearl of Great Price being so small, that it is studied in the same year as the Doctrine and Covenants), so that every four years we have studied, as a Church, the entire Standard Works of the Church in our Sunday School class.
So then, how is Sunday School my second favorite place for learning about the gospel? Because, for whatever reason, Sunday School is the place where, on the average, I get the second most insights into gospel truth-not far behind the frequency of truth learning that I experience in the temple. I'm not sure why this is the case, but several years ago I began to notice that pattern--and that pattern persists in my life--such that I seriously look forward to what new insights I'm going to get the next time I go to Sunday School.
Elder Boyd K Packer, a member of the Quorum of 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught that "a study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior better than a study of behavior will improve behavior." I think that's why I like Sunday school so much--because in Sunday School classes, we can have deep insightful discussions about Christ's doctrine, and each week I receive a myriad of insights therefrom about how I can be a kinder and better person.
LDS Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of revelation as strokes of "pure intelligence" that flow into us from time to time and that are clear indicators that God both lives and loves us, because such ideas are things that (a) we had not before considered, and (b) make simple and perfect sense as though we have always known them. For whatever reason, I get most of those strokes of pure intelligence in either the temple or Sunday School.
Have any of you who are Mormons--or anyone in other religions--noticed similar patterns in your learning?