Friday, August 30, 2013

Testimony tips

Man, do I love the Book of Mormon.

I have for some time. It is a key element of my testimony of the restored gospel and my understanding of my relationship to my Father in Heaven and to my Redeemer.

As I contemplate teaching seminary this year, I’ve been preparing lessons in advance of our actual start of classes next week. (My goal is to have four weeks of lessons “in the can” – if I can get two and a half more lessons done this weekend, I’ll meet that goal; then I can figure out how to continue to prepare lessons in advance while reviewing lessons just prior to giving them. I feel like I’m on a bit of a tightrope at this point.)

As I’ve reviewed the vision of the Tree of Life, I realize that in a few chapters, we get the basics three times. On my mission, I heard Elder Theodore M. Burton teach us that we should pay attention when the Lord repeats himself in the scriptures, and here I find in the first 15 chapters of the Book of Mormon, three recitations of the Tree of Life vision. (Oh, and repetitions of the vision of the Savior’s role as Redeemer, too!)

It occurs to me that there are plenty of repeat messages in 1 Nephi. Not only do we learn of those visions and of the Savior’s role in God’s plan (and our eternal happiness), but we also have repeated models of how to gain a testimony, or at least of how Nephi gained his. We’re reminded more than once of the value of approaching gospel learning with an open mind and an open heart – a desire to believe. We’re reminded of the Lord’s willingness to answer our prayers (and His disappointment when we believe He won’t answer us). And we’re reminded of the consistency of His message to prophets. Some details might shift slightly (like Nephi’s noticing the filthiness of water that Lehi didn’t pick up), but major story arcs (like the importance of the fruit of the tree) do not change.

As I think about my role as a seminary teacher, I understand that I’m there to open the scriptures to my students and to invite them to feel the spirit as they discover what the scriptures teach about the Savior. I need to get out of the way and allow the scriptures and the spirit to do the teaching and converting. I need to invite, encourage, entice.

The stakes are high for seminary teachers. Lots of studies show that seminary teachers have the opportunity to have significant influence on our youth, and it’s no surprise. Seminary teachers get 50 minutes a day, five days a week, with regular attenders. It would be easy to use that time as a platform to promote my views, or even to set myself up as some great guy. But the last thing I need is to generate a group of Paul-ites. Hopefully what I can do is to offer my students a place where they can safely explore spiritual questions and seek spiritual answers. Hopefully I can help them to feel safe enough to trust what the spirit whispers to their minds and hearts.

In our recent seminary fireside, I mentioned to the students and their parents that as seminary teachers we can offer activities. We can entertain them. We can review scripture mastery verses and play games. But they need to actually read the book. They need to seek the testimony. And if they’re willing to do that, the rewards can be great.

I don’t think I’ll spend my whole year blogging about seminary. But I might share a little from time to time. In the meantime, I extend the same invitation to you: if you read the book, if you open your heart and your mind, if you ask, the Lord can provide you the same great blessings He promises my seminary students.


  1. As seminary teachers, we need to remember that we are signposts pointing toward the light, we are not the light.

    I've spent my summer filling in for Primary teachers going on vacation or taking the day off. Now I begin my 150-160 days of teaching. I offered a deal to one person who wanted mt to teach their class, "I'll do your calling for one week if you do mine for one week."

  2. Paul, you must be really busy with seminary teaching. I miss you voice on the LDS blogs and here.

  3. I just found your blog tonight, and I've enjoyed reading it. I hope you're able to post again soon.

  4. In the name of Allah,the Most Compassionate the Most Merciful.

    Say, "O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you - that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah." But if they turn away, then say, "Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him]."
    O People of the Scripture, why do you argue about Abraham while the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed until after him? Then will you not reason?
    Here you are - those who have argued about that of which you have [some] knowledge, but why do you argue about that of which you have no knowledge? And Allah knows, while you know not.
    Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah]. And he was not of the polytheists.
    Indeed, the most worthy of Abraham among the people are those who followed him [in submission to Allah] and this prophet, and those who believe [in his message]. And Allah is the ally of the believers.
    A faction of the people of the Scripture wish they could mislead you. But they do not mislead except themselves, and they perceive [it] not.
    O People of the Scripture, why do you disbelieve in the verses of Allah while you witness [to their truth]?

    Holy Quran 3:64-70

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  6. Great post! Now, your personalized Priesthood Line of Authority is beautifully laminated featuring the classic portrait of Jesus Christ by the renowned artist Greg Olsen.