Missing the Forest

Missing the Forest July 15, 2007

In my home ward, my Dad is the SP, and my Mom has taught Institute, Seminary, and Continuing Ed. for adults for many years. The GD class tends to be made up of those actually interested in original setting and scholarly interpretations, as well as the usual kinds of discussion and application. Consequently, the class tends to be happy when all three of us end up in GD, twice yearly or so.

I happened to be home once last year during a lesson on some chapters from Isaiah. The teacher did a decent job, but the comments all tended in one direction. By typical GD standards, it was probably quite good. But afterwards, as I walked out, one man I know well asked me, “Why didn’t you say anything about Isaiah?”

“We didn’t talk about Isaiah.” I replied. “We selected some phrases that evoked familiar LDS principles, discussed those, and then decided that’s what Isaiah was really talking about in the first place. I don’t have anything special or above and beyond to contribute to that kind of discussion.”

That largely satisfied him, since he’s done some amateur research in scholarly sources and used to teach the class himself.

As we move into Paul, I think most GD classes will replay this. Can one really understand Paul’s teachings and the larger thrust of his letters without drawing on tools beyond the KJV and GD manual? As long as LDS don’t understand the larger and main ideas, our communal “study” of Paul will be limited to discussion of LDS topics launched off key phrases and familiar terminology scattered throughout his letters. We end up so focused on one particular tree that we fail to notice the very large forest, and often, consequently, don’t even identify the tree correctly.

I should point out that this is not criticism, so much as it is a lament. To the extent that LDS only read that which is familiar and comfortable (the Book of Mormon and the Gospels?), much that is good, instructive, comforting, edifying, and inspired is lost. And the Church and its members are lesser because of that.

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