Jenny's blog

Is it really Monday?

My aunt went into the hospital on Friday, so I was with her until about 9 PM Friday night. On Saturday I spent most of the day making ear rings and other jewelry to sell at the craft fair for our Indian tribe this weekend. Sunday I goofed off in the morning and then went to Church, suddenly realizing I had a ton of stuff to do, including finishing up my weekly lesson prep, that I started on Thursday. Generally I’ll have one lesson that just doesn’t come together super fast. This week’s difficult lesson was Monday’s, and so I had to spend some time last night trying to prepare the lesson. I worked on it (inefficiently) for probably an hour and a half, and decided it would have to be good.

This morning I woke up and prayed that the lesson would go well. I didn’t feel great about the lesson I prepared, but I was out of time. I was feeling ill, too, and so by the time I staggered downstairs I decided I would not be setting up the tables. We just had our lesson today on the couches. The kids love to sit on the couches with the blankets wrapped around them. It’s been unseasonably cold this weekend. My yard looks like it snows because the frost is so thick. Up north of here some places got snow — some several feet of it. It’s been a weird year. Last time we had a weird winter, we got 5 feet of snow in 3 storms. I hope that doesn’t happen again.

Anyway, I set up the two extra chairs, put up the easel and set up the computer for singing. I had forgotten to have the kids list the songs they wanted to sing on Friday, so we took a few minutes to list those songs. I was surprised at the songs they came up with. This class has a reputation for wanting to sing just the shortest songs, but even the boys were picking out some good ones. I think we have conquered the singing hatred. Thank you, Church Music Player.

I further stalled the lesson a bit by doing magic squares on the easel. One (two, really) of my kids came in late, and so I had the others teach the little things I had just taught them to remember magic squares. I knew the material I had was very short, if the coverage of Genesis 34 didn’t last long.

I took a deep breath and plunged in.

As you know, the reading for Seminary curriculum does not include Genesis 34 — the rape of Dinah and massacre of the Canaanites. One of my kids had asked why that was left out of the reading chart (her mom had emailed me earlier about it) “Did YOU do that or did the Church?” :) The student was pretty grumpy about why something Like That would be included in the scriptures, a holy text. So, I thought about it, and decided that I would let the students answer the question “why are there wonky things in the scriptures?” I told the kids about the girl’s question from last week, and told them we’d summarize Genesis 34. We read a few verses — Dinah is raped, Jacob is patient, the boys tell the city dwellers they have to be circumcised, city dwellers agree not because they believe in God but because they want Jacob’s flocks, Simeon and Levi kill off the sickly city dwellers, and as a result, Jacob and Company move to Bethel. I did point out a few things, like Jacob was patient (and not involved in the killing), that the Canaanites and Perrizzites were not true converts (they wanted Jacobs flocks) and that they had to move away from Canaan — the land Moses (who is the author of the text) tried to re-enter after they left Egypt. Surely the same massacre story came down the Canaanite families, too, and they would have hated Jacob’s descendants as a result, possibly influencing the anger when level they came back from Egypt.

Can I just say — if the Bible just had more crazy circumcision stories, it’d be easier to keep these kids attention. LOL.

So after we finished reviewing Genesis 34, I directed them to the question on the easel: “Why are there wonky things in the scriptures?” The kids did a FANTASTIC job answering this. Seriously awesome. They pointed out that these are real people. I said, “These are stories about real people, and real people are weird.” That got a laugh, but it was the sort of chortle laugh that means, yeah, so true. So they got it. These are true stories — they really happened. We can learn from the mistakes of others. We talked about how seeing that people can screw up and be redeemed shows us that we can screw up and be redeemed. There can be errors in translation, like in Genesis 19 and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. There may also be different traditions in older societies. I did point out that in this story, it has not ever been normal human tradition to kill men whose dingdongs are sore, but that there are other times when we don’t understand the traditions or idioms of other societies and they may seem strange to us. I also pointed out that these are patterns in history. This idea of being in a land that God promised to you and making the locals angry, which resulted in an expulsion, occurred in our recent history in Missouri. People just don’t learn. :)

The kid who asked the question initially was taking notes. I think it was hitting home to everyone, but especially her.

It was a great discussion. By the time this ended, it was time to let go, but one of the kids piped up that he had been asked why Mormons had practiced polygamy. I took 2-3 minutes to show them Jacob 2:30, where it explains that God commands people to marry polygamously in order to raise up seed, children who are born in the covenant. I pointed out that many of us are descendants of polygamous unions (I am). Pointed out that unless God commands you to (as stated in the scripture), you only have one spouse. Also pointed out that those polygamous unions allowed for a missionary force to be built up that has allowed Mormonism to grown at an astonishing rate.

Said the prayer and send them out into the crazy cold. The main driver didn’t come to Seminary today, and the kids had to call someone’s dad to take them to school, I think. They didn’t come back in to use the phone and they’re gone now, so I assume they made it okay. :)

Anyway, we didn’t cover even one line of the assigned reading material, but I think this was a really good lesson. Tomorrow we can spend a few minutes summarizing Joseph and his coat of many colors. They all know the story.

I love to be able to take a student’s question and help them feel better about something that is weird. I think that they all learn from it, but especially the person whose question is answered. I guess I’ve been teaching for about six weeks, and I’ve been able to focus in on a student question or questions now 4 times. I don’t know if we’d be able to do this as effectively if everyone weren’t reading the same material. We’re able to come from a common background.

I suppose that I have now taught more lessons than I have taught cumulatively in my entire church experience, excluding those few years in Primary. By the end of next quarter I will have taught more lessons in 4 months than I have in the past 35 years. Crazy. There’s just not enough time to prepare lessons with the same level of awesome that my YW lessons have, but the Lord does answer our prayers and helps us say the things that will help our students. Today I felt unprepared, but I gave a lesson on material that was very good because I had prayed for help beforehand. It’s the same as being RS president — the Lord will get his work accomplished, even using me. He can draw a straight line with the most crooked of sticks.

I feel like I have a million and one non-Seminary things to do today. Just printed off some more posters for the preparedness fair. I will have to check my list to see what else I have to do.

Posted by Jenny Smith

I'm Jenny Smith. I blog about life on the 300+ acres of rolling farmland in Northern Virginia where I live. I like tomatoes, all things Star Trek, watercolor, and reading. I spend most days in the garden fighting deer and groundhogs while trying to find my life's meaning. I'm trying to be like Jesus -- emphasis on the trying.