Seminary Lesson 7: Matthew 3 – Organizations need to Repent

Lesson 7: Matthew 3

This lesson is one of the most fascinating lessons ever.  No, I’m serious; I’d put it up on the top list of things that logic students, psychology students, business majors and theologians all should study.   It’s about “repentance” and that organizations need to repent too.

You see, it doesn’t just focus on the personal need to repent, like most Christian texts would focus on.  Sure, it begins with “Bring fruits meet for repentance” and John the Baptist, but then it focuses on the Pharisees as a group; and their institution’s need to course correct.  Every organization makes mistakes and needs to course correct from time to time; and so the businessman has a lesson to be learned.  But with the corporate nature of the modern LDS church, I think this lesson takes a deeper dive.  The Pharisee behavior is so similar to what the LDS official position represents that the lesson can be immediately re-directed at the organization that wrote it.  Links to illustrate the hypocrisy will be provided.

John the Baptist preached and baptized in Judea. Jesus Christ traveled from Galilee to the Jordan River, where He was baptized by John. God the Father testified that Jesus is His Beloved Son.

Activity:

Ask the class to imagine how they would feel if one of the students in the class were to get up and begin taking personal items that belong to the other students. Then ask them to imagine that after taking each item, the offending student apologizes but continues to take items from other students.

Ask

  • What would you think about this student’s apologies?
  • How might this student’s actions be similar to trying to repent insincerely?

Compare and contrast:

The LDS church’s stance on race and the priesthood in Brigham’s day

LDS Essay on Race and the Priesthood; note that the church does not apologize

LDS leaders saying they refuse to apologize:

“I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them,” Oaks said in an interview Tuesday. “We sometimes look back on issues and say, ‘Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve,’ but we look forward and not backward.”

The church doesn’t “seek apologies,” he said, “and we don’t give them.” Dallin H. Oaks, Jan 30th, 2015 Trib talk interview

Ask the students how they’d feel if the thieving student from the previous example didn’t apologize, but just stopped taking things when caught.  (Distrust, “how would you know they stoppped taking items, are likely answers but this is their opinion, let them express it freely)

Point out that the church is attempting the same behavior with other minority groups

Links:

Invite a student to read Matthew 3:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to look for what happened that would help prepare the people for the Savior’s ministry.

Invite a student to read Matthew 3:7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for whom John spoke to.

Now the Official lesson encourages the teacher to show the students a Palestinian viper

Palestinian-viper-e1462256212816

This isn’t anti-Semitic because John the Baptist says it, and he was a Jew… right?

To be clear, this is the official lesson manual of the LDS church telling not-very-trained teachers to instruct kids that the leaders of another religion are vipers; and actually showing them a viper.

What was it that the Pharisees and Sadducees did that was so bad?

You may want to point out that the Pharisees and Sadducees felt threatened by John, as he drew many people away from their evil influence and false teachings

Elder Ballard recently gave a talk I spoke about where he encourages people to stay away from blogs and podcasts.  They excommunicated John Dehlin.  It appears that the Pharisees and Sadducees (who I’m sure love that they are lumped together, they always got along so well) were guilty of the crime of wanting to keep people from apostatizing from their belief system to follow a “lone voice in the wilderness”.

I don’t think it is respectful to compare the leaders of another religion to snakes, I am just pointing out the hypocrisy; in the hopes that emphasis on divisive rhetoric like this can be removed in future versions.  However photo-shopping Elder Ballard wearing snakes seems about par for the course for the CES systems level of respect.

Write the phrase Bring forth fruits meet for repentance on the board.

I hate this 1920’s style of having the teacher write it up on the board while students watch. I’d rather it said to do this prior to class, as every teacher does it anyway.  Maybe we could modernize it with “Text this to your students”

You may want to explain that the phrase “meet for” means “worthy of”

Remind the class of the scenario you asked them to imagine at the beginning of the lesson

Students may use different words but should identify the following truth: We demonstrate true repentance to the Lord as we change our desires and actions to follow His teachings

Now ask the students if the Race and the Priesthood essay, and Dallin H. Oaks words that the church never apologizes for what it has done means that the church is unrepentant.  Ask if it would be worthy of baptism.  Remind the kids of the how John disliked religious leaders and that John combined the thoughts about needing to repent and the corrupt religious leaders.  Ask them if John might have been calling the leaders to repentance even more than speaking to the people who were already there to be baptized.

But what would I know, I’m just one of those blogs that cries out like a voice from the wilderness about what the CES system teaches.

Exercise in Logic: Write out the logical arguments used in this lesson.  Point out that if A->B where Repentance implies worthy for an individual; and that an organization is a group of individuals; how organizations must consist of repenting individuals to be a worthy organization.  Review if that logic is sound.  Are there exceptions where organizations need to be non-repentant?

Exercise in Theology: Can you find any other organizations in scripture that are expressly called to repentance (examples might be kings, like Nebuchadnezzar or Christ calling Israel to repent as a group, or the Tower of Babel that was all cursed together).  Discuss whether an organization that refuses to apologize for wrong is apostate.  Use scriptures to point out how refusal to repent keeps men from god.

Exercise in Business: Highlight some of your organizations failings.  Discuss how one could “repent” of these mistakes publicly, righting those who were harmed, and altering the course so it doesn’t happen again.  It is typical to affix blame in these cases, but blame matters less than the change.  Talk about how correcting bad behaviors can be profitable for a business

Invite students to ponder any desires or actions they may need to change in order to truly repent. Encourage them to demonstrate true repentance by changing any desires and actions that are not in accordance with God’s teachings.

I invite the LDS leadership to ponder any desires or actions they may need to change in order to truly repent, including publicly admitting historical issues and apologizing for them (including Mountain Meadows, LGBT treatment, and shaming of those who leave the faith).  I encourage you to demonstrate true repentance by changing the desires that drive these actions that are not in accordance with God’s teaching, or basic human kindness.

 

Posted in Seminary Manuals | Leave a comment

If God were a Superhero…

Which superhero would He be most like?

Would he be like Batman?

batman-tas

I am Vengeance, I am the night, I am… BATMAN!

Working in mysterious ways, the perfect man, never killing even the guilty, protecting the innocent and always ensuring Justice?

Would he be like Spiderman? 

Spidey-hands

With Great Power comes great responsibility

Is god the under-dog from queens, awkwardly being given power and trying to save everyone and get his homework done on time?

Is God like Captain America?

No you move

I’m pretty sure there’s only one God Ma’am, and he doesn’t dress like that

Fighting the Nazi’s and standing up for Good ol’ American Values; like traditional marriage and love and never altering his position once he knows truth?

Would he be like Thor or Superman?

ThorJesus

Fortunately, I am mighty!

An other-worldy insanely powered individual who maintains His own code of ethics while enjoying combat to protect the innocent?  At first glance, this one is pretty tempting to go with this one, but I’m going to argue no to all of them

God isn’t like Batman, as He killed a huge amount of guilty people throughout the bible, from the 3,000 individuals who rejected the commandments Moses brought down from Sinai, to ordering the children of Israel to commit Genocide.  Beyond that; He also killed the innocent when he flooded the earth.  So, not Batman, or Spiderman.  Brigham Young seceded from the United States when he formed Deseret; so not very Captain America.  The very different commands issued from time to time as doctrine is very un-Steve Rogers as well.

And god rarely drops in to intervene when there is a fight.  He doesn’t use His powers to stop crime, defend the innocent from machine guns, bouncing bullets off his chest or slinging His hammer to protect villages.

No… god is most like Magneto

jesus-magneto

“You are a god among insects. Never let anyone tell you different.”

Here me out.  The LDS God wants people to believe his particular ideology.  Anyone who disagrees is labelled an enemy (A “Lamanite” in the Book of Mormon is anyone not with the Nephites, Brigham calls anyone not a saint a “gentile”, etc.) There is a focus on conversion of those who have not heard of their cause, but refusal to join or leaving the “brotherhood” results in ostracization or shunning.  He grants superpowers and special privileges to those who follow him (I mean, those who follow him have natural talents that are special that are enhanced, but more powers are revealed as they follow him, like a patriarchal blessing).  And he is willing to kill both innocent and guilty to achieve his ends.

In 3 Nephi 9, we hear how God / Jesus destroys entire cities; where innocent and guilty were mixed, without remorse; He enshrouds the remaining innocent (as the guilty are all dead) with darkness for three days.  He touts this destruction to get people to bow to His ideology; and he descends from the sky slowly in a very Magneto style.

God is not good.  God is not kind.  The God of the Book of Mormon is an ideologue who will use death, destruction and utter fear to enslave Homo Sapiens until they agree his chosen group are meant to rule the earth.

All Hail the Magneto-God

Posted in Current issues | Leave a comment

Elder Ballard and Pokemon, continued

I was cut off before I finished my last post on Elder Ballard’s Stake talk, and didn’t get to the Pokemon portion.

I posted the talk to Reddit”s pokemon.reddit.com and pokemongo.reddit.com

Pikachu BoM

Both places gave interesting responses.  From people who stated they met their spouses playing Pokemon, to people whose weddings involved Pokemon themes, to any number of discussions around father’s getting time with their kids on walks due to the game, rather than the kids playing in the basement, it”s clear that this so-called prophet of God is clueless, cinnamon-toast-crunch- style as to why this game is a hit.

i-may-be-blind-cinnamon-toast-crunch

And that is my families experience too.  We have enjoyed poke-walks together, caught rare Pokemon on family vacations, and thrilled together at a shared experience.

What’s more, Ballard’s claim that people are missing the world around them seems downright misleading.  The VR nature means one sees the world around them, just with a Charmander or Pikachu (or more likely 100 Pidgeys)  in front of it.

Pikachu Sydney

Further, anyone who has played knows how many more historical landmarks, places of interest, and key locations were always around them but they never noticed before Pokemon.  Everyone I know who plays has noticed this phenomenon.  His words aren’t just misguided or naive, their actively false.

Finally, I can hear someone reading this saying “But he is right, Pokemon is a distraction.”

Well Actually

“Pokemon is a distraction…right?”

The problem with that logic was pointed out by the Pokemon subreddits repeatedly: anything but God and Family can be called a distraction from God and family.

 

This is called a tautology.  God and Family could be called a distraction from “catching them all”.  Family could be called a distraction from god, and God a distraction from family.

But playing Pokemon as a family can make Pokemon not a distraction from family.

My father used to sing a song “Old Mr. Custer”.  The lyrics were weird and meaningless to my generation.  Then, one night on the Dr. Demento show, we heard the full song.  We recorded it and played it for my father the next day.  Suddenly we had the full context and this item that one might say was a distraction from family became a shared experience.  Bingo, we had a family moment.  My father felt flattered we’d put time into something from his generation; and he could fill us in to why he would sing this song (it was on the radio when he was a sheet-rocker)

Who knows but that some people will “find god” through Pokemon (there are YouTube videos of this.  Yes, I’m serious ).

 

**The real problem**

This illustrates a major flaw with the church… the geriatric nature of apostles illustrates how out-of-touch the church is.  The most common comment on the sub-reddit is that Elder Ballard is just a “get off my lawn old guy making pronouncements”.  And millenia are seeing through it.  They see it in policies towards LGBT.  They see it in how the curch is Utah–centric in both policy and spending decisions.  They see it in every talk given by leaders who are demonstrably out of touch.

Finally, the fact that Pokemon Go!’s popularity is waning by the time the talk is given illustrates how out modded and inadequate the church”s system of information distribution is.

John Dehlin had Ballard’s talk published the next day, but Ballard is reacting to a trend kicked off months earlier.  That lag has haunted the church in its reaction to civil rights, LGBT issues, women’s issues and more, but as the communication systems of the world accelerate, the church will continue to lag behind in even more apparent ways.

I mean, I bet reading this you thought “He’s still talking about that?  That was soon last week”.  Ballard is months behind.  That is exactly my point.  Out of touch, lagging, and trying to control what it doesn’t understand… his Pokemon comments represent the institution perfectly.

In addition; Ballard’s admission he knows nothing about the subject, but then goes on to badmouth it anyway really does some up the leaders’ words regarding church history, LGBT issues, etc. as well.  It’s a microcosm of the real reason why millennials aren’t as interested in the church.

Posted in GA Bullsh*t | 1 Comment

Elder Ballard, transparency, Pokemon and my kids

Elder Ballard spoke on 9/11/2016 to a multi-stake conference.  My family attended, warning, this post is going to get a bit more personal.

m-russell-ballard-large

The Audio is here: http://www.mormonstories.org/m-russell-ballard-regional-broadcast-9-11-2016/

My Transcript of key items and the time they are said is below

Now Elder Ballard is a grown man, and can speak where and when he wishes, but a quick fact check shows that this is mostly bullshit.

First of all he re-iterates that people who leave the church are misled by satan.  He echoes that one can prevent apostasy from scripture, prayer, temple attendance, regular sacrament attendance, etc. that I am hard evidence against.  I was reading scriptures like a madman, serving as an elder’s quorum instructor, engaged in family and personal prayer when my shelf came crashing down.

People don’t leave the church because of being offended, sinning and forgetting to read a book.  They leave because their trust is compromised.  My trust was compromised when I caught a temple president lying to the patrons in the temple; and then he blamed my brother for telling me the details I needed to know to bust him.  That was the start to my hard-core investigation that lead to this blog

trust

Secondly; he claimed:

The Church is dedicated to transparency and has published precious resources to provide even more context to the story of the restoration. Through the JSPP website, and the gospel topic essays and on LDS.org

Mr. Ballard, please open the financial books for transparency

Mr. Ballard, please open the vault for historians if you believe in transparency, specifically the McLellin papers and Oliver Cowdery’s diary and papers, but I’d love to see the “Mormon Erotica” stored in the vault as well

Mr. Ballard, you are giving a talk on September 11th.  Do you remember what happened on September 11th?  No no, not the planes.  That’s right, the massacre

doyourdutyMMM

That’s right, when LDS members followed their stake president’s orders to “Do their duty” and slaughter 120 men, women and children.  In 2007, the Ensign finally admitted that it wasn’t the Piute indians who committed the act, which is MORE transparent, but to say “Committed to Transparency” means you need to do even more.  You need to admit that the religion deceived members in official materials like the Seminary Manual I learned from.  You need to change the article and remove “Militia” and put the word “Stake Activity” in its place.  You need to be transparent; which means not misdirecting the reader to believe this was a Bundy-style land takeover that Brigham was unaware of; but rather that discussions were made with Brigham and his final order not to do it arrived too late; but he thought about having the people massacred at least.  You need to admit that the church prevented justice for those who committed the heinous act and that Gordon B. Hinkley lied about it in 1999.

Do you see the degree of Hypocrisy of giving a talk  on September 11th claiming full transparency and blaming those who leave the church for being lazy or deceived by Satan while you lie to the faithful?

Well, Mr. Ballard, my family had a talk about your lies afterwords, and my children were offended.  Not offended as in they will leave the church (who leaves because they were offended really) no, offended that you’d lie to them so brazenly.  Offended they didn’t know about the Mountain Meadows Massacre and that the church covered up so much about such a tragic incident.

Mr. Ballard, what I’m going to say next may sound harsh, but I’m just quoting scripture.

MIllstone

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

prophet who teacheth lies

“the tail is the prophet, the lying teacher” Isaiah 9:15

 

  • 1:55 – He states he is giving his own Epistle. That’s like saying this is canonized scripture, right?
  • 4:55 – Lord has blessed you
  • 6:33 – reminder that sanitation and entertainment is great for us… (no mention of how religion did not contribute to such things)
  • 6:44 – Shout out to Farms
  • 7:20 – Prospering in the land (yay for prosperity gospel)
  • 7:53 – Recommendations for spiritual health
  • 8:20 – Scriptural reference to apostates and those who would pervert the gospel of Christ
  • 9:00 – Reminder that life is black and white, good and evil
  • 9:40 – False prophets mentioned
  • 9:56 – “You have witnessed some of the very elect being deceived”
  • Random discussion of trees
  • 11:55 – “All appearances of being tall and erect in faith, die in faith”. Interesting discussion as he implies the trees shifted away from the water, when in his example the water was poisoned. “Dying trees may imply a rotten water source” could have been the title, and the same example used by exmormons
  • 12:55- old fallacy that reading scriptures, fasting, temple work and praying will protect from apostasy. “Real Intent, without hypocracy and full purpose of heart” no true scottsman fallacy invoked
  • 14:10 – Failing to Work with the poor mentioned as a cause of apostasy… might be that a church that fails its poor is in apostasy too, no?
  • 14:20 – Satan invoked as the reason people fall away; along with “sin and guilt cloud the mind”
  • 15:00 – “Individuals who don’t stay focused on the simple doctrines of the gospel will eventually listen to false teachers and self-declared prophets”
  • Evils listed:
  • Wealth and Entertainment,
  • viewing podcasts and internet sites that raise questions and doubt without being intellectually honest enough to present fully and adequately the lord’s perspective
  • 16:00 – “There is nothing wrong with asking questions about our history, doctrine or practices.”
  • Bishops, Stake presidents, parents, auxiliary leaders – don’t brush the question off, or doubt his dedication to the lord.
  • 17:00 – I’m concerned about people who ask sincere questions being treated as though they are faithless. This is not the Lord’s way
  • We need to do better in responding to every question
  • 17:40 – We may not be able to answer every question about our history, doctrine. We can answer those who are sincere
  • 18:02 – We may not always find satisfying answers to our questions. “Still a place in a religion for faith”.
  • The lord does not require his saints to have advanced degrees in history or doctrine.
  • 18:46 – Even among the first presidency and quorum of twelve apostles there are those who have very different backgrounds and training
  • When I have a question I cannot answer, I often turn to those who can help me.
  • 19:10 – The church has trained scholars who have devoted a lifetime and have come to know our history and the scriptures. These thoughtful men and women provide context
  • 19:44 – The Church is dedicated to transparency and has published precious resources to provide even more context to the story of the restoration. Through the JSPP website, and the gospel topic essays and on LDS.org
  • 20:34 – Casual of listening to and following the Lord’s servants due to proximity to church headquarters
  • Missionary Farewells are a problem
  • 21:50 -We hope also that elaborate open houses will not prevail. No public reception
  • 22:55 – Live beyond their means in an attempt to keep up with neighbors
  • 23:48 – Turn off the social media (to spend time with family)
  • 24:00 – Hold family council.
  • 24:17 – Pokemon Go. He doesn’t understand it, don’t ask him about it, but it causes people to look down at their phones rather than view the beautiful creations of God’s world
  • 25:05 – Tying it to lack of men getting married
  • 25:20 – History filled with persecution.
  • Missionary work emphasized
  • 28:25 – Unprecedented access to educational opportunities. – Caution about learning
Posted in GA Bullsh*t | 6 Comments

Seminary 2016 Lesson 6: Matthew 1–2

Lesson 6: Matthew 1–2

Right off the bat we are not covering that Mark is actually the oldest of the gospels and that Matthew is a derivative work

“Marcan priority has been accepted by most scholars since the late nineteenth century and forms the foundation for the widely accepted two-source theory,”

Nary a mention.  But we get into the actual text, so props to that:

Matthew gave the genealogy of Jesus Christ, and an angel declared Jesus’s divine parentage to Joseph. Wise men from the East traveled to find and worship the young Jesus. Joseph was told in a dream to take his family to Egypt to avoid Herod’s slaughter of children in Bethlehem.

Activity: Show a picture of your parents

On my mission, I was approached by someone who asked me why the genealogy of Jesus is so different in the two gospels. One has 42 individuals in the list and starts with Abraham (Mathew) and the other is in Luke and starts with Adam and has 77 individuals that are vastly different.  My answer echoed the answer given by Eusebius, that one was the genealogy of Joseph and the other was Mary.  The person pointed out that the different number of individuals would mean that one line was all oldest children, and the other  was all youngest children of very large families to make it work.  As there is no resolution on this, I leave each reader to come up with their own explanation.

Invite students as they study Matthew 1–2 to look for truths about the Savior’s parents and traits He inherited from them.

Well, we could talk about that in the genealogy father’s-in-law did daughters-in-law (Judah), David killing husbands to get their wives (Bathseba), Solomon and his thousand wives, Rehaobim and his corruption of a kingdom, and Ruth being a non-member but following Naomi  and “Spreading her skirts” for Boaz, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to go for things like hair color.  Which, by the way, Mary was super jewish, so no idea why Nephi saw her as “exceedingly fair and white“.  Nor are they going to point out that Joseph’s DNA has nothing to do with Jesus because, um; Joseph wasn’t the father, remember?

Explain that the word Christ is the Greek form of the Aramaic word Messiah, which means “the anointed.”

But don’t explain why Aramaic matters.  That’s fine.  It’s still a fact, and we love facts.

Point out that Matthew 1:16 also mentions that Mary was Joseph’s wife

Er… no.  I mean read the next line

According to Matthew 1:18, Joseph and Mary were espoused. This means they were betrothed, or engaged, and legally bound to each other but not yet living together as husband and wife.

Ask the students if anyone has someone in their family who are living together and are not married.  Point out what “Common law” marriage is.  Now while Betrothed isn’t the same as common law marriage one can point out how marriage has altered over the years and that it hasn’t had a standard definition of marriage throughout time.  That even Jesus’ parents had a different kind of marriage than we have today.

Stoning Mary

What did Joseph intend to do when he learned that Mary was pregnant? (Explain that “to put her away privily” means Joseph planned to cancel the engagement privately without forcing Mary to face public humiliation or the possible penalty of stoning).

Can we take a minute to discuss stoning?  Who said that anyone should be stoned… oh yeah, God.  God risked Mary getting stoned.  Think about that.  Let’s take away “God” from the equation and think about it if it were humans.  A governor pushes for a law in the state to kill women who have unwed pregnancies.  Then that same governor impregnates (via artificial insemination, if you like) a girl knowing her fiance is going to be upset.  Is this a moral act?  Why or why not?

What does this verse teach us about Joseph’s character?

Joseph is pretty amazing

What does this verse teach us about God’s character?

Would god have been as tolerant as Joseph?  Why did God set up capital punishment (even for Rape victims)?  Was Mary able to consent given that God and she had a large difference in power balance?

Just as Jesus is literally the Son of Mary, so he is the personal and literal offspring of God the Eternal Father.  – Bruce R. McConkie

Let’s be perfectly clear; this is an apostle stating without any qualms that God literally had sex with Mary.  See above where I proposed it could have been artificial insemination? This is an Apostle stating fully, and without any ambiguity that sex happened.  “Literal offspring”.  This was taught by Brigham Young (JoD 1:50-51, also “Answers”, vol. 5, p. 121) and Orson Pratt (“The Seer,” Oct. 1853, p. 158).

Students may use different words but should identify the following doctrine: Jesus Christ is the divine Son of Heavenly Father and Mary.

Yup.  They emphasize that this is the correct answer.  Which immediately discounts what is taught publicly by FAIRMormon:

Critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes proclaim that the LDS believe that God had sex with Mary, resulting in the conception of Jesus. This is simply not true. While some members of the Church may have speculated concerning the conception of Jesus, the Church has never had a teaching concerning this event

Deception in pure form.  They are actively teaching against the CES Manual of Seminary right now.

Jump to the Wisemen

Who brought gifts to the Savior after He was born?

Who were these wisemen?  Why did they know about Jesus?  These are great questions people spend entire lifetimes trying to study and answer and there isn’t an accepted one.

Nevertheless the lesson ends by giving a quiz about the wisemen like anyone actually knows the answers.

The wisemen were named Larry, Moe and Curly; the Apocrypha are wrong; and they brought Frankincense and Myrrh because Curly dropped half the gold and they swung by the only shop still open in town.

Disprove me using actual sources, or my claim is as legitimate as any other about them.

Posted in Seminary Manuals | Leave a comment

Seminary confusion – What is Doctrine?

Before the Plan of Salvation™ was introduced to the students, it would have been very good to clarify what counts as “doctrine” and what doesn’t.

However, the editing of the curriculum online gives us a unique view that even the CES program doesn’t know what doctrine is.

The key thing to note is that what is being edited is how to know if a prophet is speaking as a prophet and how to know true sources of doctrine.  With four edits on Friday and  Saturday (someone was working unpaid overtime) it’s pretty clear that there is some internal strife on what is and is not valid doctrine.

Seminary teachers, this is a great time to stand up and take note; what is doctrine?  Why doesn’t the CES program know?  Why is such a fundamental question like “Do prophets guide us in truth” so openly debated?  Why are you teaching kids these kinds of things if you don’t know; and the church office building doesn’t know.

Time to ask some tough questions of yourself and your curriculum writers.

 

Posted in Seminary Manuals | 3 Comments

2016 Lesson 5: Context and Overview of the New Testament

Lesson 5: Context and Overview of the New Testament

In this lesson, students will learn about the historical and cultural context of the New Testament, including factors that contributed to many Jews rejecting Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. Students will also learn about the structure of the New Testament.

I think we need to know the actual context.  First of all, the New Testament is not in order.  The Gospel of Mark is the first of the gospels, for example.  The epistle of James is the first book written.  Understanding that God did not guide the process of the New Testament being assembled is very important for understanding the text in context.

I find this video (Although it covers both Old and New Testaments) helps explain where we got the Bible from far better than any church-produced source.  Note, the man in the video is a preacher.  He visits only theologians who spent their lives dedicated to studying the history and context of the bible

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCXlFWBcxBo

Stoning: In Context

The lesson has the kids look at a picture of someone being stoned without context.  Then they read Acts 6 and find out it is Stephen being stoned.  That helps a bit, but  I think this shows a very surface level of understanding.  They should read in Leveticus where God commands the Hebrews to stone people to death over and over.  They should see how these Jews are just obeying the scriptures they were given.  A discussion that Saul/Paul was trying to be righteous by following the scriptures and his current authority was helping people to murder Christians, that’s a much deeper understanding of the context.

But beyond that, we should know about Romans and their relationship to Israel at this point and why the Jews expected a savior.  How Isaiah’s words set them up to believe a man would throw off the literal government, and how they expected a very physical structure.

My point is, that if you watch the rest of these lessons, you’ll see a very clear “make the students feel learned without actually letting them think” approach.  And that is exactly what Jesus railed against in the New Testament.  Ironic.

Jewish religious leaders during the Savior’s ministry

Invite a student to read 2 Nephi 10:3–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases the prophet Jacob used to describe the spiritual condition among some of the Jews during the Savior’s ministry.

Trying to learn about the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees and Sadducee from the Book of Mormon is like trying to learn about what Utah Government is like by reading the Ensign.  This is just bad.

For example, how many “Jesuses” were there?

  • Jesus ben Sirach. This Jesus was reputedly the author of the Book of Sirach , part of the Old Testament Apocrypha. Ben Sirach, writing in Greek about 180 BC, brought together Jewish ‘wisdom’ and Homeric-style heroes
  • Jesus ben Pandira. A wonder-worker during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (106-79 BC), one of the most ruthless of the Maccabean kings. Imprudently, this Jesus launched into a career of end-time prophecy and agitation which upset the king. He met his own premature end-time by being hung on a tree – and on the eve of a Passover. Scholars have speculated this Jesus founded the Essene sect.
  • Jesus ben Ananias. Beginning in 62AD, this Jesus had caused disquiet in Jerusalem with a non-stop doom-laden mantra of ‘Woe to the city’.
  • Jesus ben Saphat. In the insurrection of 68AD that wrought havoc in Galilee, this Jesus had led the rebels in Tiberias (“the leader of a seditious tumult of mariners and poor people” – Josephus, Life 12.66). When the city was about to fall to Vespasian’s legionaries he fled north to Tarichea on the Sea of Galilee.
  • Jesus ben Gamala. During 68/69 AD this Jesus was a leader of the ‘peace party’ in the civil war wrecking Judaea.
  • Jesus ben Thebuth. A priest who, in the final capitulation of the upper city in 69AD, saved his own skin by surrendering the treasures of the Temple, which included two holy candlesticks, goblets of pure gold, sacred curtains and robes of the high priests.
  • Jesus ben Stada was a Judean agitator who gave the Romans a headache in the early years of the second century. Crucified in the town of Lydda (twenty five miles from Jerusalem).

That no Seminary manual explains that the Jews were perhaps “Messiahed out” with so many anointed ones indicates they are not interested in actual context. Instead they turn to the Book of Mormon to understand the context of Jerusalem.

What could be the danger of adding man-made rules to God’s commandments?

Ask your teacher if Coffee is against the Word of Wisdom.  Point out that the scriptures only say “Hot Drinks”.  Ask if a man added rules to the scriptures and which man.  Ask to see the scripture he added.  Point out that you will bring a coffee tomorrow as you are now convinced that it is wrong to trust man-made rules added to scripture.

They took the plain and simple things of pure religion and added to them a host of their own interpretations; they embellished them with added rites and performances; and they took a happy, joyous way of worship and turned it into a restrictive, curtailing, depressive system of rituals and performances.  (Bruce R. McConkie)

Note, he’s not actually talking about mormonism, but he could be.  This is how most of the world views Mormons.

Point out that the Jews in Jesus’s day were in a state of apostasy.

…And they didn’t realize it. They followed their leaders, did their rites, had the same scriptures and were entirely wrong.  Yet this manual encourages kids to follow their leaders, do the rites and read the scriptures.

Wake up.  Throw off the chains that bind you.  Shake off the Dust of the Earth.

Wait, did I just use Nephi to explain the conditions of Seminary Manuals… Shame on me.

Posted in Seminary Manuals | 1 Comment

2016 Lesson 4: Studying the Scriptures

Lesson 4: Studying the Scriptures

Activity: Self-Assessment Survey

I actually kind of like this approach.  Helping the student take an assessment of their current interest level isn’t a bad idea.  Note, the manual clearly states that the results should not be reported.  Remember that Blue-eyes/Brown-eyes from last week, yeah, that could really impact student-teacher interactions if this trust is broken.

invite them to ponder during the lesson how they might improve their scripture study.

This is where we start to differ.  There is only one “right answer” at the end of the exercise.

The scriptures contain the words of Christ and are a reservoir of living water to which we have ready access and from which we can drink deeply and long. …

I would love to have studies that back this up.  I’ve seen a few studies about religion making people happier, but a “reservoir of living water”; what exactly does that do for the student.  This is a non-answer to the survey response.  Where does “The Scriptures are a reservoir of living water” fit on that survey scale?  It just seems deep, but really we could say it about well almost anything.

“Cosmos is a reservoir of living water, I can access on Netflix and drink deeply and long from”.

Poetic, but not really saying much other than the speaker likes the medium and message of the work.  But Bednar actually compares it to a life-threatening situation: thirst or dehydration.  I want you to go outside or to a mall and look around and see all kinds of people who live without this water.  Either, they are magic beings amazing powers you should be like, or this water isn’t actually essential

In fact, I bet any seminary student can ask the teacher “Have you ever had a period where you didn’t read the scriptures daily”.  Oh the teacher will say any amount of “it was a harder time” or “I felt worse”, but what you should see is that this isn’t really a thirst/dehydration situation.  They are making the need more extreme than it really is.

What defines “The Scriptures”

Does the Quoran/Koran count as scripture to Bednar?  How about the Tao te Ching?  What about Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse?  What about Brigham’s discourses where he says that killing mixed race couples is the Law of the Lord?

There’s a trick here, they are changing the “living water” all the time, aren’t they?  Sometimes they include everything the prophet says.  Sometimes The Ensign is included.  Sometimes the water is pretty rancid and they just declassify it as water.

What did they understand that we should also understand

This is a fascinating video taken from a talk by D. Todd Christopherson. the reason the video is fascinating is that it’s about William Tyndale, a rebel to the religious authority.  He wanted the bible to be in the hands of all the people, while the religious authority wanted to withhold the bible.  In this example I am more like William Tyndale than they are.  D. Todd Christopherson and Bednar are the religious authority who are locking away religious truth, while I’m out there blogging the church’s true history, the real reactions, what the scriptures and context really say.

Ask you students: Why do you think people made such great sacrifices to have access to the scriptures?

Because of withholding information that was seen as vital.  This happened with Galileo, this happened with people outside of the religious construct; over and over it is the restriction of information that is key.  Twisting this to be a pro-LDS correlated structure is disrespectful to William Tyndale.

Let’s look at an Example where the LDS authority was dead wrong: Hemuth Heubner

He resisted the Nazis and spoke up when his Stake President put “no Jews” on the church building.  He was excommunicated by the church and executed by the Nazis.

Ask your fellow students what similarity you see between Heubner and Tyndale.  Contrast them with D. Todd Christopherson and David Bednar.

Why do you think some people in our day are not reading the scriptures as they should?

Offer to read the Letter to the CES Director to the class.  When your teacher refuses to allow it, explain to your fellow students that your teacher is like the people in Tyndale’s story, controlling access to information.  Just like they didn’t want people reading the bible, church leaders today don’t want members reading questions and history that challenges the narrative.

“Consider the magnitude of our blessing to have the Holy Bible and some 900 additional pages of scripture,

Ask your teacher why the Journal of Discourses is not included by D. Todd Christopherson as scripture.

Ask what other talks Joseph gave that are not included as scripture.  Challenge your teacher to define scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that seem unimportant, like 4 versions of the same mission call, or sections that are all about church law and rules that are not followed any more.  Point out that Joseph implied the Song of Solomon in the bible was not inspired.

Ask how you can know true scripture from false scripture.  Let your teacher know that you have prayed and don’t feel that Joseph gave us 900 pages of additional scripture, and that you are confused why a prophet would lie about new scripture.

If you’re not thrown out yet, I am surprised.  If you are thrown out, you understand more about William Tyndale and his concerns than anyone who remained in the class.  You have a deeper appreciation of information and access to that information; and that’s all scriptures are.  Some of the information is valid (The Golden Rule, for example, I think is really quite good) and some of it isn’t.  But restricting access to information, whether deemed as scripture by a religion or not, is a problem.  It’s a problem that afflicts societies all around the world.

And that is what this lesson should have been all about.  Access to information is “living water”, or more like access to caffeine, it gives those with access advantage over those without it.  It wakes us up and makes us feel alive in ways we cannot otherwise reach.

Our need for the scriptures is greater today than in any previous time.

Our need for unfettered information is greater today than any previous time.  Don’t restrict yourself to reading scriptures when you can read anything.

Posted in Seminary Manuals | Leave a comment

Lesson 3: The Role of the Learner

Lesson 3: The Role of the Learner

This… this is an odd lesson.  It is the moral equivalent of a Science teacher saying to science students that they will only feel gravity if they ponder about gravity.  Like they would need to meditate on the Scientific Method for 5 minutes before class starts or else science wouldn’t work any more.  Or that they need to give oblations to the Gods of History to comprehend the Louisiana Purchase

A young woman is inspired and edified as she attends seminary. She feels the influence of the Holy Ghost there and is grateful for the things she learns. Another young woman is in the same seminary class. However, she is often bored and feels that she doesn’t get much out of the class.

Sooo… it’s the person’s fault if they are bored?

Question: What are some possible reasons why these two young women have such different experiences while attending the same seminary class?

Maybe one of them is a new convert and hasn’t heard the correlated manuals for 16 years?  Or maybe one of them isn’t an early riser?

No no no… it’s all about the Holy Spook and who He wants to be around

HolySpook

See you’ve offended the British Aristocrat in the sky so of course nothing interesting will happen in the class today.

Acceptable answers to the question include:

  • the first young woman may participate more actively in the lesson
  • the first young woman may have had more previous spiritual learning experiences on which her present learning can build
  • the second young woman may be distracted by other concerns

Ah, yes the interested woman is more spiritual or more active.  That’s gotta be it.

Explain that three individuals have essential roles in gospel learning in a setting like seminary: the Holy Ghost, the teacher, and the student

Let’s view this like someone who has never heard of Mormonism.  If I invited you to a room where an incantation to summon a spirit that always watches whatever we do and invite that spirit to put information into your head that you would otherwise miss; how would that make you feel?  What if I told you this spirit was actually an alien entity send out by a god who lives on Kolob (either the name of a planet or a system, it’s unclear). Beyond that, this same Alien divine presence must be in all the classrooms holding seminary at once.

This is just plain odd, and yet we do it without thinking.  Not only do we invite the spirit in the opening prayer, but according to this lesson, for any learning to take place the Holy Ghost is essential as a class participant.

John 14:26

I mean this is essential to Christianity and very much in line with John’s claims here.  The Holy Ghost is there to teach and remind people of what Jesus said.  It’s still a truly bizarre concept.

How can we know when the Holy Ghost is teaching us truth?

But this, this is where we break it down.  Let’s say that an inter-dimensional being really is telling us things. These truths should be measurable.  We should be able to set a control group of non-touched individuals and teach them the lesson; and then a test group where we verify the Holy Ghost is present (As per Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3).  We then see if the Holy Ghost group has better understanding, comprehension and retention than the control group.  We should probably have the control group engage in a number of offensive acts prior to the course such as having them all masturbate while listening to Hard Rock and viewing porn, all of which prophets tell us drive away the Holy Spook.

Once we’ve established a lift in success metrics we can source a study instead of scripture that the Holy Ghost is real and the extraordinary claim that inter-dimensional invisible persons are present in our classrooms helping us learn can be entertained.  Of course we should really get it peer-reviewed before claiming knowledge on the topic.  Not to brag about other churches but some have actually done this and come to the conclusion that external sources were responsible even for the miracles mentioned in the New Testament.

Yeah, that’s how one knows things instead of claiming knowledge.

Circular Knowledge

“A teacher can explain, demonstrate, persuade, and testify, and do so with great spiritual power and effectiveness. Ultimately, however, the content of a message and the witness of the Holy Ghost penetrate into the heart only if a receiver allows them to enter. Learning by faith opens the pathway into the heart” (“Seek Learning by Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 61)

Mr. Bednar says we can know if a person has the Holy Spirit because they will learn by faith.  But a person can only learn if they have the Holy Spirit.  Let’s apply this logic to any other topic.  How about Star Trek Physics?

“Null space is an anomaly that until now had only been Theoretical”

Now if you have the spirit, you’ll understand what “Null Space” is.  If you don’t understand “Null space” as a concept, clearly you didn’t have the spirit.

This section by Bednar is what is known as the “no True Scotsman Fallacy” but instead of applying it to distant Scottsmen we are, with divine guilt attached, attaching it to the students in front of the teachers.  In addition; with a very Blue-eyes/Brown-eyes set up encouraging the teacher to treat students who claim to “get it” differently from those struggling.  This isn’t just mildly bad, this is actively harmful to childrens’ ability to learn and feel loved in an environment.

We express our faith through action.

And here we find that this Fallacy combined with favoritism to those who claim to get it is weaponized into peer pressure.  If you don’t do what the teacher says, you’re clearly one of the “brown eyes” aren’t you? (Side note, I actually had a seminary teacher take a picture of Christ through the class and point out he had Blue Eyes to everyone in the class, no kidding).  If you don’t comply, the teacher has every reason in the world to dismiss you.

Ask tough questions… well that got Satan thrown out in the last lesson, didn’t it.

This is Manipulation, and anyone having a teaching degree should be ashamed of agreeing for anyone to go along with this, but then Seminary teachers don’t have to have teaching degrees, do they.  Think about that.

Note: This may be an appropriate time to read Doctrine and Covenants 88:122 and discuss the importance of order and respect in the class.

Ain’t it just?  They directly tie these principles to control

Matthew 4

They then give the example of Peter leaving the net to follow Christ without thought.  Blind obedience is immediately presented as the correct course of action.

This is cult-level indoctrination and every parent should be wary of this, even believing members.  A seminary teacher could easily use lessons like this to sexually manipulate class members because yes that has happened.  Mind control techniques which are beneficial to the organization are the same techniques used to manipulate kids to do other things.

Truth and thought should always be promoted over blind faith.  Period.

Posted in Seminary Manuals | 2 Comments

Lesson 2, 2016 – The Plan of Salvation

Lesson 2 The Plan of Salvation

I know what you’re thinking.  “The Plan of Salvation comes from The Book of Abraham”.  It’s a uniquely mormon doctrine.  Why is that Lesson 2?

“A brief overview of the ‘plan of happiness’ … , if given at the very beginning and revisited occasionally, will be of immense value to your students” – Boyd K. Packer

Well you should be thinking that.  If the Plan of Salvation was entirely obvious in the New Testament, then wouldn’t all Christianity have it?  The answer is, this is a retcon.  We are trying to rework continuity to make current constructs fit in previous episodes.  Like when they ask Worf what happened to Klingon’s foreheads in Deep Space 9 when they travel back in time we are trying to make Christianity fit into the Mormon box. It would be good to be upfront about this; and perhaps discuss the lost plain and precious truths or how the bible is not translated correctly AFTER reviewing what most of the world thinks of as the New Testament; but hey, let’s do it all up front because a dead apostle said it was a good idea.  No chance he was just speaking as a man or a product of his time, right?

Activity: Sing “I believe in Christ”.  Nothing gets early morning students moving and ready to learn like singing a slow-paced hymn.  Even if this is one of the most Christ-centered hymns and props for that, it seems an odd choice for early morning.  It motivates some people so partial credit for that.

How would you respond if someone asked you why Dead-Door-Baby is important to you?

Addressed in my last lesson, I’m not sure why Dead-Door-Baby should be important to the modern student; but given this is a repeat of the question in the last lesson; this focus on relevance to them seems to be more about internal conversion (such as creating the false-consensus bias in the students) than actually asking the question.

Example to illustrate this is about creating bias instead of actual learning: Imagine a student saying “Nothing, I see no measurable impact to my day-to-day life; nor do I know how to build a control of days when Dead-Door-Baby doesn’t impact my life; how did you control for non-Jesus impactful days?”  followed up by “If you have no control days, then you don’t know; you’re just guessing”.

It wouldn’t be received well, would it?

Jesus Christ is central to Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation

I would include the graphic, but they copyrighted the images heavily so I don’t dare touch the three columns with headers “Premortal, mortal and Postmortal life”.

Next, note that they have a student read from the Preach My Gospel guide.  We’re on day 2 of New Testament, and the New Testament hasn’t really even made an appearance yet.  We’re quoting apostles and reading quotes written by people based on quotes of apostles.

What limitations did we experience in our premortal life?

I want to point out how bad this section is.  Jesus is stated as the creator of Earth.  He helped to form everything on the earth.  And he did it all without a body.

Think about that.  We can create worlds without number without needing a body, just like Jesus.  The limitations in the Premortal life are completely incongruous with the rest of belief.

Couldn’t God create perfect bodies for His children? If not; He is not all-powerful.  If He wouldn’t, then He’s not a kind god; because He wanted his children to suffer before being perfect… but He could have prevented suffering by simply creating them perfect (and creating them with an understanding of suffering; He’s all powerful, remember?).

Lucifer, one of Heavenly Father’s spirit children, rebelled against Heavenly Father’s plan. He became known as Satan, a Hebrew term meaning “adversary.”

Lucifer is a fascinating guy.  I spend a lot of time on him in my ABC’s of Science and Mormonism (D is for Devil) as his role and definition has shifted throughout the years.  But let’s just focus on the claims here (Notice, also not in the New Testament).  Lucifer points out that God could just make us perfect, and skip suffering.  Maybe he even pointed out that the plan included Jesus making worlds without a body.  And for that; he is condemned.  And anyone who thought his argument sounded logical, with him.  Clearly intelligence isn’t the Glory of God, because thinking through the plan gets one thrown out, just like if a student points out this flaw, they are likely to be thrown out of Seminary class.

Dead-Door-Baby Could not consent

Last time I compared Jesus dying for us and the need for a savior to a mob nailing a baby to a door.  People may think my analogy incomplete because Jesus was a willing sacrifice, whereas a toddler being nailed was innocent, but couldn’t consent.

I really don’t think the LDS church understands consent, nor does anyone who gives that complaint.  Jesus is told that everyone on earth is going to suffer unendingly if He doesn’t comply.  Then he watches the next in line (the trusted Lieutenant, if you will) literally be damned to never have a body and be in outer darkness for eternity for daring to challenge the idea that we need to suffer.

If you hold a gun to someone’s head, and they comply; that is not consent.  Elohim didn’t just hold a gun to Jesus’ head, he shot the next in line and made that gun be an “eternal pain” gun. Jesus made all His decisions under “duress”, and God admits that much in scripture (The link above states that proving duress is difficult and it doesn’t work as a defense unless the plaintiff admits to guilt… which Elohim does).

I think my Dead-Door-Baby is flawed, but if we make the baby a toddler who is told He must do it, then we suddenly get back to being accurate.  I mean, Jesus; here is in infantile state, right?  He’s agreeing to being tortured and killed having never had a body; with no concept of pain.  Jesus is basically a spiritual toddler.

It’s all pretty dark when you take time to think about it.  God is a father who would opt to kill and torture an innocent child under threat of damning all the other children.  That’s hardly father-of-the-year material.

Hebrews 1:1–2

Finally, we reach the New Testament, and with all that prep work it’s just there to confirm that God speaks to prophets (notice past tense, that’s awkward) and that Jesus created worlds.

How does knowing that Jesus Christ created this earth, and millions of others like it, affect your feelings about Him?

I’d be upset that God had Dead-Door-Baby killed by a mob.  I mean, Dead-Door-Baby created everything so I could do things like eat pizza and listen to iPods (which Dead-Door-Baby did not make either of those things, just the raw ingredients, but ya know; some credit) and God didn’t do anything to alter the plan.

Also I’m confused why Dead-Door-Baby is so special.  Like, couldn’t we have distributed the pain out among multiple innocence?  Why only one half-deity who had to suffer?

Of course, these questions would not be tolerated in class. The teacher is only being like God by tossing out people who question the plan.

God ignores consent in Jesus’ Birth

Explain that before Jesus was born on the earth, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream when he learned that Mary was expecting a child

Remember, consent is a key element in free will.  Mary is told she’ll carry God’s baby having never had a child or even sex.  She has no idea what she’s getting into, and a whole Torah filled with people being consumed by earthquakes or murdered when they disobey god to consider.  She has a magical being appear to her and tell her she is to carry God’s baby.  She cannot consent in such a situation.

Imagine a CEO sends a VP to a janitor girl telling her she’s been selected to carry the CEO’s child.  Can the girl consent?  Our law says “no”.  Imagine it’s the CEO and the governor and the head of police and the girl’s priest.  It’s more like that.

Ask students to think of someone who has passed away. After a few moments, ask:

According to your understanding of the plan of salvation, where are those who have passed away?

Now I get that according to Mormon belief, everyone gets their body back.  I’m not sure how Jesus being resurrected impacted this, only they say it did.  If Jesus had died from old age, would we still have gotten our bodies?  If so, then I’d argue that this should be separated from the atonement entirely.  If not, why not?  Why was it necessary to nail Dead-Door-Baby to a door to get our bodies?  Shouldn’t we celebrate the Mob that had the guts and moxie to nail the baby to the door?  It’s not Jesus we should thank for the resurrection, but the mob (and ultimately Lucifer for suggesting the idea.  That’s awkward).

Style

I can’t help but point out that this isn’t New Testament study so much as Mormon Study using the New Testament.  We’re not covering the gospel priority, or even the link between Old and New Testament, or why Mark really is focused on Demonic Posession.  We’re cherry-picking verses to teach a Mormon concept of the Plan of Salvation.

What must we do to receive eternal life?

This lack of focus on what the book actually says perhaps matters most when we read this question and the following section.  What one has to do to gain eternal life has been debated since… well at least since the early Christian Schisms.  It is THE answer to what one religion offers vs. another, isn’t it… the method to achieve salvation? And we don’t find any discussion of why other faiths read the same bible and come up with very very different methods.  We don’t find any understanding directly from the New Testament.  The answer is given:

Explain that to believe in the Only Begotten Son means to exercise faith in Jesus Christ and live according to His gospel, which includes receiving temple ordinances.

You catch that, right there? “Live according to his gospel” is works; that’s a big protestant issue.  And they tack on Temple Ordinances without a single New Testament reference.

They don’t read the text and then deduce what the text tells us… no they give the answer “The Mormon Church’s ideals” before even really delving into the text.  This isn’t learning truth, this is indoctrination.  And it doesn’t serve missionaries in the field very well who come away from classes like this believing that they understand the New Testament, only to be schooled by those who have actually read the book and thought about it instead of being spoon fed on what the book contains.

Another thing that they simply don’t cover is “What if Jesus hadn’t done it?”.  Damnation for everyone, according to the Book of Mormon.  That means that a large portion of our success was completely out of our control.

What a weird plan.

Posted in Seminary Manuals | Leave a comment