Ask Mormon Girl: The lessons are so basic in Church that they’re driving me crazy. Help?

I am having great difficulty buying into the gospel principle manual being used in our Relief Society / Priesthood lessons. I just feel that I can get so much more out of a lesson by reading it myself, as the instructors have been asked to stick to the manual, or go do an in-depth study of a different topic on my own.  I understand we have thousands of new members that need to learn the basics, but isn’t that what the gospel principal Sunday school class is for? Anyone else having difficulties with this?

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think the church is really losing its 18-30 age group (both married and unmarried) due to church being dreadfully boring!! I know myself, and several others (in different wards with different teachers) just dread going to church due to the poor classes.  No new material is being presented, and instead we’re learning things that have been pounded into us since Primary. Help?

AK


From the chatter I’m hearing in the world of Mormonism, AK:  you are not alone.  Say the words “Gospel Principles manual” to an away-from-the-wardhouse gathering of any but the most orthodox LDS, and you’re sure to get a few groans.

Now, I have some fond memories of the old days when our Relief Society-authored Relief Society manuals covered a delicious range of subjects including—I kid you not—lessons in appreciating the visual arts (sigh).  But I’m not sure the problem you’re presently experiencing stems entirely from the Gospel Principles manual.

For there comes a time in the life of every long-term Mormon (or member of any faith) when even under the best conditions the ratio of new stuff learned at church plummets dramatically.  It sounds like you’re crossing that threshold.

Years ago, I worked for BYU’s saucy off-campus newspaper The Student Review, and we printed a model Sacrament-Meeting-Remote-Control device. Instructions:  simply cut the Remote out of the newspaper, bring it to church, and for entertainment, aim it at the podium.  There were buttons for “fastforward,” “rewind,” “mute,” and even “smite.”  Genius.  Even my not-at-all-unorthodox mother, who might be described as a professional Mormon, kept the remote in her triple combination and giggled every time she hit the “smite” button.

Without resorting to the “smite” button, how might you keep your sanity?  A few thoughts:

1.     Reconceive of your role in the Relief Society room.  Maybe your prime objective during that 45 minutes is not to learn new stuff, but to support a new teacher, perfect your alto during the musical numbers, or channel good vibes into the room.  Maybe it’s like my Bikram yoga teacher tells us when we’re all dying to get out of the 90-minute 105-degree-heated class:  just stay in the room, and you will receive the benefits.

2.     Reconceive of what it means to learn at this point in your spiritual development.  Maybe your next big phase of spiritual growth is less about doctrinal “what” questions and more about these challenging and deepening “how” to do faith questions:  especially this, how do I keep learning and growing when Sunday meetings bore me?

3.     Congratulations!  You’ve just won yourself a six-month course in sitting meditation!  That’s right:  you might be able to transform your entire Gospel Principles RS experience if you use the time for deep breathing and silent meditation.  Couldn’t you use a meditative 45 minutes in a relatively chill place?  Heck, I’ve been to Quaker meetings where 90% of the hour was spent in total silence and still the meeting utterly rocked.

4.     Supplement, supplement, supplement.  Some bloggernacle blogs have occasionally run features with enriched Gospel Principles related material.  But at this point you may also have to go off the grid and make this the year of independent study.  Is there anything you’ve always wanted to understand better about Church teachings or history?  Take charge, AK.  This is your year.  Find that extra book.  I even give you permission to crack it open during RS next time you feel like crawling up the walls.

Readers, how about you?  How are you getting through your Gospel Principles Sundays?  Can you give AK a few tips?

Send your queries to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow askmormongirl on Twitter.

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5 Comments

Filed under gospel principles, relief society

5 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: The lessons are so basic in Church that they’re driving me crazy. Help?

  1. I’ve been in Young Women’s for so long that I didn’t even know they were using the gospel principles manual in Relief Society. My husband has been an investigator for years so I’ve spent lots of time in Gospel Essentials class. Are the people in Gospel Essentials getting the same lesson twice then if they go to Relief Society and Priesthood and they’re using the same manual. Good grief!

  2. Joe

    John Dehlin posted a fascinating podcast between Andrew Ainsworth and Daymon Smith Ph.D. that discusses the “boring LDS curriculum” issue.

    You can find this podcast at http://mormonstories.org/?p=980 .

  3. Kathy

    Me too. I’ve only attended RS twice this summer and I could not believe the lessons. One was on covenants and was exactly like the lessons I’ve taught to the 7yr old primary class before bapism and the other about how our church compares to the church in Christs time. I have taught that lesson to teens in Sunday School.
    I don’t go anymore…it is a complete waste of time and I just get angry that the church leadership thinks were this dumb.

  4. author

    I’m currently a R.S. teacher and find the manual painful, if I were to stick to the manual alone. (Not to mention we’d only end up having a 7 minute lesson, if that). I see the lessons as a good starting point only. Granted, it takes a lot more preparation to find additional materials to augment with, and develop good discussion questions (the ones are pretty much the same ones I used to use when I taught the 7 year olds), but I find I have a lot more discussion than those other Sundays.

    Those Sundays when I’m not teaching, yeah, open-eyed sitting meditation. This is a technique I use a lot to either to avoid boredom or to avoid getting pulled into a heated debate and saying things that I know won’t go over too well with the others in the room.

    @ Lovelyn – for those in Gospel Essentials – same manual, different cyles (hopefully).

  5. Emily

    I have definitely been there, even recently bored by a lesson that was fairly easy to understand and grasp, but I want to share some tips that make learning so much better.

    The Spirit!

    For those, like me, who yearn for complex lessons that edify both the mind and soul, I’ve found the following really helpful.
    1. Always pray for the Spirit to teach you during the lesson. You’ll begin to find your mind enlightened and stretched simply because the Spirit helps you learn to your own needs. That’s why it’s so important for both teachers and other members to be prepared spiritually so that the Spirit can be present to teach.
    2. Bring a notebook. When something does inspire you, write it down, and write out what you felt about it underneath. I find this not only encourages more personal revelation but opens up far more than is usually being taught.
    3. Be open to new direction from the Spirit and see what’s interesting about what’s being taught. You’ll begin to find yourself more open to the lessons and it will become much more enjoyable. When we’re not willing to learn new things, the Spirit cannot teach us. It’s like a student with their fingers in their ears.

    These are all things that I’ve personally tried and found to help me learn at my level. Also it’s not that the Church considers us dumb, it’s that so many members are not willing to even live the basic commandments that we must continue to be taught why those principles and doctrines are important to live. Be glad you’ve learned how to live and incorporate them fully into your life! Also I’ve come to find that even the most basic of commandments can be lived at different levels. For example praying could be a simple prayer for help or learning to have an open and sincere conversation with Heavenly Father. I hope this helps! Good luck!

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