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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Teaching Institute: Science v Bible

In a post about a current "Dialogue Flood Article," Julie M. Smith explained how "to lay the groundwork for a non-traditional reading of the Bible in a way that a traditionalist can accept ... as I did it this week as I taught the first session in a year-long Institute class on Genesis." I commented:

Julie, you no doubt already know this, but Guide to the Scriptures at LDS.org says:

"During Noah's time the earth was completely covered with water. This was the baptism of the earth." (s.v. Flood at Noah's Time.)

Is it really your job as Institute instructor to teach that the student manual is wrong?

"The earth was immersed. It was a period of baptism." (Religion 301: Old Testament Student Manual, Genesis—2 Samuel [2003], p.55.)

Julie responded:

R. Gary asks, "Is it really your job as Institute instructor to teach that the student manual is wrong?"

It is part of my job as an Institute instructor to help my students understand the difference between scripture and commentary on scripture. We don't believe that the scriptures are without error; it boggles the mind that I would teach my students that commentary on the scriptures is without error.

But more to the point, I don't "teach" a limited flood. I review the evidence supporting the idea of a local flood (pros and cons) and the evidence supporting a universal flood (pros and cons) and tell my students that faithful LDS can believe either. (And I really do believe this. If you go back to the post I did for my SS lesson notes, you'll see that I defend in theory those who believe in a universal flood.) I also tell them that focusing on the issue too much (on either side) is a distraction from what the scriptures are really about–namely, moral lessons and personal application thereof.

Speaking from the perspective of a father and grandfather, I think Institute teachers should focus on the manual. It has been carefully prepared and approved for teaching Institute. In this case, the manual teaches a worldwide flood and uses the words of John Taylor to explain from a scriptural point of view how it happened:

I would like to know by what known law the immersion of the globe could be accomplished. It is explained here in a few words: "The windows of heaven were opened" that is, the waters that exist throughout the space surrounding the earth from whence come these clouds from which the rain descends. That was one cause. Another cause was "the fountains of the great deep were broken up"—that is something beyond the oceans, something outside of the seas, some reservoirs of which we have no knowledge, were made to contribute to this event, and the waters were let loose by the hand and by the power of God; for God said He would bring a flood upon the earth and He brought it, but He had to let loose the fountains of the great deep, and pour out the waters from there, and when the flood commenced to subside, we are told "that the fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained, and the waters returned from off the earth." Where did they go to? From whence they came. Now, I will show you something else on the back of that. Some people talk very philosophically about tidal waves coming along. But the question is—How could you get a tidal wave out of the Pacific ocean, say, to cover the Sierra Nevadas? But the Bible does not tell us it was a tidal wave. It simply tells that "all the high hills that were under the whole heaven were covered. Fifteen cubits upwards did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered." That is, the earth was immersed. It was a period of baptism. (Religion 301: Old Testament Student Manual, Genesis—2 Samuel [2003], p.55.)

All of us may believe whatever we want. But we are not authorized to teach it in a Church setting unless it is grounded in the scriptures.

"It is the business of those who are to teach His children to teach the principles of the gospel [not] notions or guesses at truth [not] philosophies or sciences of the world [but] the principles of the gospel as found in the four standard works." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p.59.)

If the standard works (click here), modern prophets (click here), and the Institute manual all teach a worldwide flood, why would an Institute teacher lay the groundwork for a non-traditional reading of the Bible as preparation for a discussion of current sciencific evidence for a non-worldwide flood?

14 Comments:

Blogger BrianJ said...

"Speaking from the perspective of a father and grandfather, I think Institute teachers should focus on the manual."

I hope that my children have teachers who focus on the scriptures.

9/09/2007 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Church manuals are prepared according to basic procedures that were described by Elder M. Russell Ballard in general conference.

------------------- quote -----------------------
"For the past several years, I have served as Executive Director of the Church Curriculum Department. When I became fully aware of the immense effort required to prepare a single course of study, I was overwhelmed. I now have much greater appreciation for the approved teaching materials of the Church.

"Let me give you an example. The present Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Supplement, which was prepared to help teachers teach the New Testament, was written by a committee of faithful and knowledgeable Church-service writers, who were called and set apart for that service by one of the General Authorities. Their work commenced in the spring of 1980, following General Authority approval of the outline. Writing committee members spent thousands of hours researching, writing, and attending biweekly committee meetings, where the entire committee critiqued each lesson carefully and suggested improvements. The work of the writing committee then was reviewed by General Authority Managing Directors of the Priesthood and Curriculum departments, the General Presidency and the General Board of the Sunday School, Church Editing, and Church Correlation Review. This manual received careful scrutiny at many levels before it was approved for use in Sunday School this year. All teaching materials for the Church follow this same basic procedure in their preparation.

"Teachers would be well advised to study carefully the scriptures and their manuals before reaching out for supplemental materials. Far too many teachers seem to stray from the approved curriculum materials without fully reviewing them. If teachers feel a need to use some good supplemental resources beyond the scriptures and manuals in presenting a lesson, they should first consider the use of the Church magazines.

"Teachers can stay on safe ground when they use the standard works, the approved manuals, and the writings of the General Authorities." ("Teaching—No Greater Call," Ensign, May 1983, p.68; emphasis added.)
------------------ end quote ---------------------

The manuals ensure that the scriptures are taught correctly. Institute teachers are not authorized to use Dialogue articles that contradict both the scriptures and the manual.

9/09/2007 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger BrianJ said...

"Teachers would be well advised to study carefully the scriptures and their manuals before reaching out for supplemental materials."

Are you suggesting that Julie M Smith didn't do that?

"If teachers feel a need to use some good supplemental resources beyond the scriptures and manuals in presenting a lesson, they should first consider the use of the Church magazines."

Again, are you sure that Ms Smith didn't?

"The manuals ensure that the scriptures are taught correctly."

Your words, not Elder Ballard's, I noticed. You seem to impute a sort of inerrancy to the manuals that neither Elder Ballard nor the manuals themselves claim.

"Institute teachers are not authorized to use Dialogue articles [pause] that contradict both the scriptures and the manual."

Taken together, this is a no-brainer. But what if we just read to the "pause"? Are teachers authorized to use Dialogue articles? My manual simply says that I should be "judicious in your use of...nonscriptural sources." I consider that to include the manuals, as they are not scripture (in the canonized sense). In fact, every lesson plan in my manual tells me to select what I think is appropriate, including coming up with activities of my own design.

(I do not have my seminary instructor's manual handy, so I can't quote from it. My comments above reflect the instructions in my Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, but my recollection is that the wording is essentially the same.)

9/09/2007 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Where and when has the Church authorized teachers to use material that contradicts both the scriptures and the manuals?

9/09/2007 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger BrianJ said...

Gary, the major point that you want to ignore---brush aside---is that Ms Smith does not believe that she is using material that contradicts the scriptures. Rather, she presents various interpretations and lets her students work out their own beliefs. The way you talk about her makes her sound like a wanton apostate---it's an inaccurate, uncharitable, and unmerited defamation of her character.

Does she disagree with the manual? I think so---that seems clear. Is that "permitted" by the Church? No manual I have ever read---and I read every single one I am given---has ever told me that I had to abide by its teachings.

9/09/2007 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Whether or not Julie believes she is using material that contradicts the scriptures, the article she is discussing openly contradicts the Church's Guide to the Scriptures and the manual for Religion 301 (2003 edition). Institute teachers are supposed to build faith, not present "various interpretations" and let their students "work out their own beliefs."

The words "wanton apostate" are yours, not mine.

I believe it is in fact true, as Julie said, that "faithful LDS can believe either … a limited flood [or] a universal flood." All of us may believe whatever we want.

But why does an Institute teacher lay the groundwork for a non-traditional reading of the Bible as preparation for a discussion of a local flood when the scriptures (click here) and the manual both teach a worldwide flood?

9/10/2007 01:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think Institute teachers should focus on the manual."

I think we should focus on the scriptures :)

Again, what will you do on the day when the manuals turn against your pet doctrines?

9/10/2007 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Ben S.

Re manual reversals: Attempts to reconcile scripture with science in Church manuals goes back at least to 1928 when B. H. Roberts submitted The Truth, The Way, The Life. for use as a Melchizedek priesthood manual. His book was the focus of internal discussions for more than two years until, in 1931, the First Presidency ruled in favor of the apostles who recommended the book not be published by the Church. In the ensuing eighty years, little has changed in terms of Church published manuals. The traditional view is still dominant among the Twelve. What makes you think some huge reversal is suddenly on the horizon?

Re pet doctrines: For two years in the sixties, I served as a full time missionary among the Lutheran Protestants in Germany. I like what the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther (14831546) said more than four hundred years ago:

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." (Weimar Ausgabe Briefwechsel 3, 81f; italics added.)

9/10/2007 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why didn't they oust Nibley when he was teaching the "limited flood" idea at BYU?

Jack

9/14/2007 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Probably for the same reason they didn't oust him when he prayed at commencement, "We have met here today clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood."

9/14/2007 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger NoCoolName_Tom said...

And that reason is...? Commencement robes can be argued to descend from religious garb of an apostate era---a false priesthood indeed. So, to me, the rebuttal is, "because they knew he might be right," which I'm certain you don't feel.

I've had more than a few BYU religion teachers explain that, while their personal beliefs are in a worldwide flood, they saw the issue of a limited flood as a non-issue and an area where LDS could comfortably dwell on both sides of the debate. The scriptures can be interpreted either way.

9/14/2007 07:13:00 PM  
Blogger NoCoolName_Tom said...

And, yes, I know that, historically speaking, one interpretation is right and one is wrong. But until we get more info from the Lord on it, both interpretations can be validly demonstrated from the text.

9/14/2007 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Actually, the scriptural text itself, as interpreted by President Howard W. Hunter, supports the view which also happens to be the current interpretation of the Church as found in Guide to the Scriptures:

"During Noah's time the earth was completely covered with water. This was the baptism of the earth." (s.v. Flood at Noah's Time.)

9/14/2007 08:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi. I am trying to post from China, but I cannot read the google instructions, which are in Chinese

11/05/2007 12:28:00 AM  

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