OT SS Lesson #1
With Jeff’s interesting introduction to the OT course of study, I’m sure many of you have peeked at the first OT lesson for the new year. Correlation really likes to start the year off with the Plan of Salvation, and OT year really lends itself to this if you start with the book of Moses. I hardly ever use the LAME attention-grabber suggestions in the manual, and the Plan of Salvation rather bores me after so many times through. But I was actually intrigued by the suggestion in this lesson:
Select two class members and hand them a bag that contains a few everyday items. Tell the participants that they are going to play a game, but do not give instructions or explain the object of the game. Ask the participants to open the bag and begin playing. They will expect the contents of the bag to explain the game. However, the contents do not provide this information, and the participants will wonder what they are supposed to do.
Our family enjoys searching thrift stores for old and obsolete games. If you’ve never heard of it, so much the better! Sometimes the games come with missing parts, and very often the instructions are missing. We have a lot of fun constructing a game out of what is in the box. Sometimes it’s obvious how to play, and sometimes we have to be creative, making up intricate rules as we go. We always end up with a family version — and if anyone who actually knew how to play the game should sit down with us, they might become frustrated that we weren’t playing by the “right” rules.
I guess that’s why this object lesson made such an impression on me. It occurred to me that this is a big reason why the Mormons and the evangelicals (indeed, any two religious sects) have such a problem with each other. We have the scriptures–the game in the box–although some of the pieces are missing, and there are no instructions. Each religious tradition has developed their own rules of how to play the game, what the purpose is, what the final goal shall be. For Mormons, we are here on earth to prove ourselves, to see if we will live the commandments, to perfect ourselves and come into the presence of God. So this is what we emphasize as we read the scriptures and expound our faith. This emphasis can sometimes look as if we are too focused on the “works” aspect of the gospel. The evangelicals have developed a set of instructions which is similar, but their emphasis is to discover a belief and faith in Jesus Christ, to develop a relationship with him and come to the Father through trust in the Atonement. They are playing the game just a bit differently.
There are some religious traditions which would assert that these things don’t really matter–that the skills we learn as we play the game are what is important: if we are getting better at being fair, honest, helping our fellow players, and moving our game piece to the final goal, we are accomplishing the purpose of life. Other religions, such as ours, put a lot of emphasis on if we are playing the game “right.” Baptism doesn’t count if you don’t have the right authority, all of the proper ordinances must be taken care of, certain commandments must be lived, or we won’t develop the kind of personality that can come into God’s presence.
So do you think the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the true instructions? Do you think there IS one true set of instructions on how to play this game of life? What is the purpose of this game we are playing? Are you finding satisfactory answers in Lesson 1, and in the corresponding scripture block Moses 1, or do you think there is more to it?
In my opinion, many of the items in the bag simply do not belong. They are not really part of the game. Unfortunately, Judeo-Christian religions have been carrying this baggage for thousands of years and might consider it time to remove a few items from the bag.
I find it hard to believe that the LDS Church is the only group with the true instructions to the “game”. There are roughly 6 million active LDS. There are over 6 billion people. Taken at face value, this would mean that 99.9% of people “lose” the game. Some may talk about temple work and the next life, but a) isn’t the while point of mortality “playing the game”, and b) if 99.9% of people are going to finally play by “our rules” in the next life, does it really matter if you play by “our rules” in this life?
I am one who believes the object of the game is the same, but the way to achieve the objective is individual. The items in the bag are also required to be collected. AofF 4 plus the Temple.
I’ve looked at Moses 1:39 as Heavenly Father’s mission statement, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
I’ve looked at our mission statement as John 17:3, ” know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
How we accomplish it is our own “plan,” if you will.
I think it’s wrong to describe “win” and “lose” as a binary condition in this metaphor. Sure, I believe the LDS Church has the most complete set of instructions, telling us what things in the bag we need and what we don’t (, as well as how to use them right, etc.), but I don’t think that means that everybody else’s instructions are “wrong,” just less complete. When we share our church with the world, we don’t say that everybody is doing it wrong, we show them our set of instructions and say “Don’t these pieces make a lot more sense now?” In the end, I don’t think we’ll be judged based on how perfect we played the game, but how well we played the game based on the instructions we are given, for all of our life situations are unique. We’ll only be responsible for what we know.
I think in fact MikeS is quite correct in describing the win/lose scenario. How often within priesthood/relief society and sunday school are the teachers saying that this is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased.”
Others will go to Joseph Smith History and quote, “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”
It seems that within the church, we aren’t interested in playing the game with anyone else, but taking over the game and saying that our way is the only way to play. I no longer share this narrow view, but realize that sometimes there are many ways to play a game, but what is most important is the spirit in which the game is played.
I think we could throw out all of the Old Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the majority of the New Testament. What would I keep? The parables and the teachings of Christ. Sticking to Matthew and John and answering to the spirit of the law would probably help us to stay closer to the real intent of the game, than trying to tell everyone our interpretation is the only way to play this game called life.
I believe that the LDS lifestyle teachings are good tools that can cause a person to mature into a being of light that is capable of being in the presence of the ultimate light – God. BUT, it depends on how the practitioner relates to the teachings. If a person is grumbling and feeling imposed upon, believing that they are arbitrary rules set up to keep you busy and submissive to church authorities, then living these rules may not have the same effect as for the person who is “living the commandment in order to gain a testimony of it.” Personally, I think all of the lifestyle teachings have good reasons behind them. I think they reflect realities of natural law.
As for the ordinances with the proper authority, and the “one true church” concept, I can’t buy it. To me, it just doesn’t seem like something that an all-knowing all-loving God who sees into our hearts and comprehends infinite complexity would set up. The effects of “one right way” thinking are almost always negative.
I find it interesting and refreshing to be part of discussions where LDS people are struggling to reconcile the “one true church” concept with the popular modern (and I believe more mature) values of “tolerance” and “diversity”. I’ve heard people point out that it was the other Christian “creeds” that were an abomination, not the churches as a whole. Or, that maybe it was just the churches in Joseph’s town that were corrupt. I’ve heard discussions of a D&C scripture that says there are only two churches, that of the Devil and that of the Lord, and all those who follow Jesus Christ are part of the “true church”. (I still don’t like the exclusion of the non-Christians, but it’s a step in the right direction, in my opinion.)
Last time I went to church the teacher in Relief Society encapsulated for me what I think is unhelpful about Mormon “one right way” culture. She named a teaching and then said, “OK, so how can we get people to do this?” I would prefer the emphasis to be, “How can we live this teaching in a deeper way in our own lives?”
I have read several posts in this forum and I must say I am impressed with the insight, tolerance and diversity of posters to this place. Good for you all. I come from a varied background myself, Agnostic Step -Father, Atheist Mother, Mormon Father and StepMother. I personally feel that this church has all the teachings I need to attain my salvation. I fell that some of these teachings do not fully concern me as they do not fall into part of my trial in this life. When I have accomplished overcoming my current trials with what God has in store for me then I will move on and I am sure other doctrines will open up to me in knowledge and application. I believe we have the only true church with all the authority required to provide the ordinances necessary to enter into God’s Kingdom. I feel that He will extend opportunities to obtain those ordinances to all who have earned it. To earn it you must live according to what God has revealed to you to be truth. You are not accountable for what has not been testified to you and many times life experience and upbringing precludes us from even asking God sincerely if anything else applies to us. My “game plan” is to try and live up to what I know to be true. My wife has often expressed a desire to not learn anything else and thereby reduce her accountable on the day of Judgement. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know that some of the things I do are wrong as well.
That’s an interesting object lesson. I was born into a strong Mormon family, but I am not by nature a rule-keeper. (I was that pesky child who always asked, “but why?”) Though I am still a relatively active member of the Church I struggle with the details, and I really have a problem with the many cultural norms that so many LDS Church members interpret as divine law. Though there may be a general concensus among Church members of what is the object of the game, I think there are many different Mormon versions of the proper way to play.
I like what Chu said in 4. I also think this object lesson is an excellent teaching tool and is a great opportunity to get people to open their minds to other beliefs and doctrines. It seems like the worst thing Heavenly Father could do would be to give us all different game pieces and instructions (read: different religions/sects) and just leave us to try and determine who is right and wrong for ourselves. I think it’s more fair for Him to step in after a while and say “Okay, here here are the absolutely necessary pieces and this is how they are used.” Otherwise He’s just playing games with us (pun intended).
I agree there are lots of extra pieces that are in the bag but aren’t necessary. But we can still have them–perhaps they mean different things to people and are personally important, if not doctrinally vital for salvation. But as my BYU World Religions professor used to ask after teaching us about a different belief system: “Does this set of beliefs have any truth?” Of course, each one does. Which means that God has inspired many religions, all with the purpose of giving His children some of the pieces to the game according to their ability to understand. Maybe the LDS faith has been given a few extra pieces and some additional instructions–maybe even enough to say we know how the whole game works–but our own belief in revelation forces us to admit that we don’t have every single game piece either! I’m sure we Mormons will be just as surprised to learn the true rules to the game as everyone else when that time arrives (“Ohhh…is THAT the reason for that piece? Who knew?”).
Fwiw, I think there are FAR fewer members who interpret the “one true church” statement as meaning that all others are “bad” or “evil” than the straw man argument would lead one to believe – and most of them probably live in areas where almost everyone with whom they associate is Mormon. Iow, I believe the VAST majority of members outside the Mormon bubble understand the statement and overall theology to be much more inclusive than exclusive – and agree with CatherineWO’s summary, with one small change:
They might use the phrase, but when you pin down their actual beliefs in a careful and constructive discussion, nearly everyone ends up saying, “Of course, those who believe differently than we do can receive everything that is available to us.” The only exceptions I see as truly large exceptions are with things related to actiions, like homosexual activity. That specific example is unfortunate, imo, in how widely it is applied, but, from an eternal perspective, I think most Mormons are far more orthoprax than orthodox.
Finally, I agree completely with this statement from Bryce: