We begin with the positive claim that the doctrine and covenants:
“contain divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on the earth in the last days”
This is a positive claim that must be proven by the author. Hence I will be evaluating future lessons for evidence that they were given to establish the kingdom of God in the last days. All points cane be tested.
- They are divine revelations
- They establish the kingdom of God
- They are for the last days
Books of the world
The lesson manual asks the teacher to ask this question directly of the students:
What books do you think the entire world would benefit from reading? Why? (Consider displaying a few books that you would suggest.)
Please take a minute to consider this for yourself. It’s a great question that really states “What knowledge matters most” to the person answering it.
The manual answers this question by a quote with Joseph Smith:
“The Doctrine and Covenants is] the foundation of the Church in these last days, and a benefit to the world, showing that the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom of our Savior are again entrusted to man” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 194).
Another positive claim that needs to be backed up. Certainly if alien life (Kolob-ians) had communicated with man and given him super powers to know the future and heal the sick, that would be something that should be read by just about everyone. It’s a very key claim to make.
Another quote is given that the Doctrine and Covenants is
it is worth more to us than the riches of the earth
And certainly, I think Richard Dawkins and Niel Digrasse Tyson would give up everything they own for a chance to have such an interaction with alien life.
And I would bet that if actual aliens claimed to believe in Jesus Christ, that even Richard Dawkins would give up counter claims. This is big stuff, and the manual is right to bring it out. These claims are truly extraordinary and thus, require extraordinary evidence.
The lesson is peppared with emotions instead of evidence however. Statement after statement is having students talk about how the book has already helped them, or how everyone on earth would benefit from such a book or from stronger testimony. These are sales pitches.
Imagine that a major magazine published an article that a scientist made contact with alien life, and granted to him super powers. At first, it might seem to be the most important thing you could read, especially when it mentioned that the alien wants to give super powers to all humans if they will listen.
But then the magazine doesn’t give any specifics. No dates, times or details about the communication. Just testimony after testimony and lots of statements about how this will change mankind. Now imagine that you close the magazine and find out that this was dated 100 years ago. What might lead you to be skeptical of the claims in the magazine? What changes in the world might you expect if the magazine’s sources were accurate?
Then the lesson states:
You may want to explain that in the Doctrine and Covenants, terms such as “the Lord” or “God” generally refer to Jesus Christ.
This is interesting. In the King James version, Jehovah was replaced with “The Lord” to respect the name of God. Not knowing this resulted in shock on my mission when running into people of other faiths, and I can only see this as ill-preparing the youth for understanding how “The Lord” is viewed by most of the world. It is only the mormon faiths that view “Jehovah” as Jesus’s pre-existence name, and it is interesting that Joseph and the being he was talking to used the King James term “The Lord”, that doesn’t exist in any other language, as the name of Jesus when communicating back and forth.
Next the manual asks the teacher to show pictures.
What is interesting is that they show the actual real life portrait of Emma smith, but an LDS artist’s rendition of Joseph Smith instead of the portrait painted of Joseph at the same time
Then the lesson gives an activity:
Display a piece of paper with the word You written on it. Point out that just like individuals from Church history, we also go through situations in which we need divine guidance.
At first I was all like “okay they are going to talk about how the individual can know these things”, but then no, it was more of the “imagine how awesome this would be for you”. Again, no evidence, but lots of appeal to emotion.
These claims are not small, and they deserve to be critically and skeptically approached. Even just a note “We will be reviewing evidence that Joseph Smith truly did have contact with God in later lessons” would be sufficient. But in honesty the lesson never doubts or allows room to question IF Joseph did these things. It makes every attempt to stop children from having thoughts about how to tell which “revelations are of man, which are of God and which are of the devil” (Something that Joseph Smith actually said) and instead assumes all of them are of God.
Finally the lesson states to
Invite students to summarize what they have learned
I’m not sure the students have learned anything. Things have been claimed and stated at them, but there was no actual chance to learn anything.
Invite students to turn to the “Testimony of the Twelve Apostles to the Truth of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants,” which is in the introduction. Ask a student to read the first two paragraphs aloud
Without a mention that many of these apostles recanted their witnesses later, or that some had “fallen away” previous to this point. Not even a qualification.
Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals how they hope the Doctrine and Covenants will benefit their lives and what they will do to help this happen
Over and over, “This will help you, tell me how it will help you; write down how you think this will help you”. This is not objective thought and reasoning together, this is closer on the scale of cultish tools. It is stating and restating over and over emotionally-focused self-convincing statements that push others to accept the conclusion before actual learning has occurred.
Commentary and Background Information
First is a statement by a prophet. Just an appeal to authority.
The second discusses the history of the Doctrine and Covenants castigating the opponents as a “mob” without further background. It leaves out changes made to the revelations which were the reasons that many of the leadership (including David Whitmer) left the church. But they do discuss the lectures on Faith that were removed by name. It seems that they KNOW the details, they just don’t share all of them; something defined as lying in lesson 31 of the Sunday school manual on honesty.
Finally after making numberous specific claims, they only reference the Joseph Smith Papers main website as a source. This is just poor scholarship. They made the claims, they should list sources for each claim that link directly to a source about that claim.
SUMMARY: Emotion focused rhetoric ending with a lie and bad scholarship when making extraordinary claims. Very poor lesson in deed. See me after class. 0 points.