Author’s note: This is the fourth post in a series about my experiences with and reflections on teaching seminary on a volunteer basis this past year. Its observations and opinions do not necessarily represent the teachings or policies of the Seminaries & Institutes program or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It is natural for modern readers of ancient religious literature to read their own lives into the text. This is fine. That’s why we read the texts we read instead of ancient account statements. However, as tempting as it is to think of ancient “wards” and “stakes” when we read about ancient assemblies, we ought to realize the essential differences between our culture and theirs, separated by dozens of centuries of intellectual change and economic change. To do otherwise is to miss out on essential interpretive insights at best. At worst, we do violence to the text.
One of my favorite activities came at the first of the year, as, while introducing the Old Testament as a whole to my students, I wanted to teach them just how far removed the people of the OT were from us. I believed this would help them understand our differences in culture and worldview. For instance, notions like “all people are created equal” and “women deserve the same rights as men” would not be thought of for thousands of years. As closely aligned as religion and politics are today, they were even more inextricably connected then. Though also an ancient concept, it had not yet occurred to many that their deities presided over all humanity and not just their given tribe or land. Even money was yet to be invented for many OT peoples. [Read more...]