Hello, Sis/Bro Blank ! Thanks for coming in and meeting with me. I’d like to make you aware of the contents of this blog, dedicated to the 2014 Old Testament Gospel Doctrine curriculum of the LDS Church. Yes, it’s brand-new, and a little behind, but will get caught up and ahead very shortly. Each lesson will be posted a few weeks before most wards get to it. You’ll have plenty of time to read, digest, and prep for class.
No, I’m not calling you to be the Gospel Doctrine teacher. Sis/Bro Blank, I’m calling you as a Gospel Doctrine Student, a much more difficult calling. You’ll need to read the required passages repeatedly and probably some other things too, try to understand what the scriptures meant when they were written and how that translates into significance for us today. The hard part will be, you don’t get to frame the discussion, choose who to call on or avoid for comments, or anything else like that.
Your job is to be the backup who’s read the lesson carefully, the one who rescues the class with a good question, who has the unique perspectives, familiar with recent Church doctrinal statements and scholarship, and can share opinions from the pew that might not be appropriate coming from the pulpit. You should exemplify BYU’s advice to teachers, that
…where answers have not been clearly revealed, forthright acknowledgment of that fact should attend…. [You should have] an open, appropriately tentative, tolerant approach to “gray” areas of the gospel. At the same time [you should have] certitude and unwavering commitment to those things that have been clearly revealed and do represent the position of the Church.
I’ll give up the scenario at this point, but I think if we, who only attend Gospel Doctrine, took on some responsibility for the the class (and improved our personal study), we could help increase its quality for everyone. People might even come in out of the hall. This blog is a public outreach of mine of towards that end, to encourage, model, edify, and inform. While I spent several years training for academia, I always felt pulled in very pastoral directions; that is, instead of producing more of scholarship for other academics, I felt compelled to teach and translate scholarship for laypeople. Like the scribes of Nehemiah 8:8, I hope to “translate and explain the meaning [of the Old Testament], so [the people] understand what is read.” See the About page for more.
My weekly posts, then, will not be focused on teachers. Rather, at least once a week, I’ll be posting an eclectic mix of ancient Near Eastern/Israelite context or background, useful translation differences and clarifications, good thought questions to ask, resources to turn to, the best of the LDS resources online, and the occasional podcast, screencast, or other media post. In lieu of Lesson 1, here is my first screencast, on The Rediscovery of the World of the Old Testament.
I feel a bit inadequate about what I can offer in these early lessons. Yes, I’m writing a book on creation and Genesis 1, but whereas I can bring culture, geography, history, Hebrew and such to bear on the Old Testament, Abraham and Moses are modern revelation, a very different kind of thing. So expect to see some ramping up in the next few weeks. In the meantime, check out my Other Writings page, where I’ve linked to some of my best and most useful posts from the past.