Sunday School lesson 2048–Uncorrelated

The Scriptures contain all truths necessary for our salvation. And while what they contain is all true, they do not claim to be the only source of truth. For example, they say very little about such things as evolution, the Schrödinger Equations for quantum mechanics, or Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, or even how to bake a tempting devil’s food cake. We are therefore left to sort out many truths on our own. Nowhere is this challenge more apparent than in the scripture’s silence on the status of robots. Of course much of Ezekiel can be read profitably as a prophecy on the rise of robots in the last days. However, their status in the eternal scheme of things is murky at best. Therefore we are left to other sources of truth to explore the nature of robot consciousness, robot ethics and the use of robots in home and visiting teaching. And as far as I can tell these topics will not be soon covered in our auxiliary lessons (this despite my repeated calls to Church Correlation that we spend a year using Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Roger Heinlein in Sunday School). Nevertheless, in anticipation of our church education becoming more interested in these important matters, I’ve prepared a set of lessons on robots for use in our Sunday Schools. Here is an example:

Lesson 7: Edward Scissorhands

Purpose: Help the class members sense their thrownness into a place not of their choosing and how focusing on differences can generate unhealthy suspicions which harm individuals and communities.

Preparation:

1. View Tim Burton’s movie Edward Scissorhands staring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder.

2. Review Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (Lesson 6).

3. Scripture Study Exodus 2:22, 1 Nephi 4:6-18.

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity
Give to each member of the class two pairs of scissors, one for each hand, and make them try to engage in various activities such as eating cereal, picking up marbles from the floor, and reading a book (note: some care should be given in classes of children and young adults).

Discussion and Application

1. Avon Lady Peg finds a young man in a castle above an idyllic suburban neighborhood. He has long scissors, blades, and shears where his hands ought to be. She finds that he has cut himself and unable to care for himself properly so she takes him home.

A. How does this exemplify King Benjamin’s exhortation to not let the beggar put up their petition in vain?

B. Is it always wise to invite strangers into your home, especially if they appear to be equipped with dangerous weapons?

C. How might Peg’s questions usefully be applied in our own neighborhoods? (Remind the class that they were: “Are you alone? Do you live up here all by yourself? What happened to your face? Hum, you know, I won’t hurt you. But at the very least let me give you a good astringent and this will help to prevent infection. What’s your name?”

2. Edward’s gifts become apparent as he fashions the hedges of the neighborhood into various statue-like forms, clips and grooms their pets and then finally cuts the women of the neighborhood’s hair into various artistically and stylistically pleasing hairdos.

A. In which ways do our own talents manifest themselves in service to others?

B. Do we all have combinations of attributes that can be used for both harm and good?

C. All the neighborhood seems blessed by Edward’s talents, how can our own neighborhoods be improved by using our talents for blessing and helping others?

3. Edward, obviously in love with the Peg’s daughter Kim, knowingly helps one of her friends try and rob this friends own father. He says later he knew who was being robbed yet participated willingly in this attempt.

A. What parallels to you find between Edward and Adam, Kim and Eve in this action? Why did Edward participate in this crime so willingly?

B. Kim’s father gives Edward a test of ethics in which he has Edward imagine he has found a suitcase of money. He asks which is the right course of action:

1. Keep the Money
2. Use money to help family and friends
3. Give the money to the poor
4. Turn money over to the police

Kim’s father obviously thinks four is the right answer, while Edward answers that two is correct. Discuss. What does Edward’s answer suggest about his nature? Are there other courses of action with the suitcase that the father has not considered? Does the situation matter in ethics? Help the class think deeply about these questions. Nephi’s killing Laban may be relevant here.

4. The neighbors ultimately turn against Edward. His actions are interpreted in light of their growing suspicions about his intentions and they are unable to see him in any other light than that informed by their own perception that he is dangerous.

A. How can our own suspicions poison our relationship with others?

B. How can we see past other’s differences and how can we interpret their motives in ways that give them the benefit of the doubt?

5. For a short time Edward lashes out against the neighbors’ growing violence by marring one of the hedges, slashing a tire, and carving a religious women’s hedge into the shape of a terrifying demon. Unlike, Frankenstein’s monster (see lesson 6), however, he does not let revenge take him over completely and he quickly returns to his old self.

A. Why didn’t Edward persist in his revenge? How does love change us? How can it change our neighborhoods?

B. What do you think Edward’s kindness reflects about his creator–the mysterious ‘Inventor’ played by Vincent Price?

6. In a touching scene, the Inventor shows Edward that he has made for him a pair of human hands. The Inventor then dies, leaving the human hands unattached.

A. How do we handle deep disappointment and disillusionment? In what ways is being left with our infirmities a chance to grow and serve others?

B. Does the fact that Edward is reveled to be a robot change the way we think about him? How can we accept that we might find some facts about others disturbing and yet not let that influence the good that they do and the way we treat them? Did Edward have any choice about the way he was thrown into existence?

Conclusion

Others may be very different from ourselves and yet we can find healing and unity in accepting them into our lives and into our communities.

Comments

  1. Simply awesome. It’s actually more stimulating discussion fodder than is found in most of the manuals. Is lesson 8 The Matrix (oh please oh please)? Lesson 8: The Matrix–how our false notions of truth and reality are detrimental to our spiritual growth.

  2. That’s the coolest thing ever. I had to read aloud to my husband who loves the movie!

  3. That’s a lesson I would sit through. May I suggest Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour for lesson 12?

  4. Does Edward Scissorhands really count as a bot? Frankenstein’s monster? they’re pre-bots.

    I’m just sayin’, I might raise my hand in your uncorrelated lesson.

  5. sister blah 2 says:

    Love it. May I request, in your next post, that you address the status of lamps in the eternal scheme of things?

  6. MikeInWeHo says:

    I’ve used the movie Edward Scissorhands in the context of my work (I’m a clinical social worker). It’s an incredible story, layered with meaning and a perfect catalyst for great discussions. If anybody would like to use the sheet of discussion questions I have, let me know and I’d be happy to email it to you: MikeInWeho at hotmail dot com.

  7. Jonathan Green says:

    Robert. A. Heinlein.

    And I can just see it now: “Why do we only get the milk of Rocketship Galileo and Starman Jones in Gospel Doctrine? Why don’t we teach the meat of Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love?” (Answer: because late Heinlein is way too smutty for devotional use.)

  8. Steven, it’s eerie how much this sounds like an actual lesson. You pegged the tone just right. Hilarious! I hope this is the first in a series.

  9. In the spirit of the casualness with which our now-correlated manuals treat the pervasive and scandalous sex romps of the early OT, my suggestion is a reading of Nabokov’s Lolita.

    –Lolita’s mother, Charlotte, gives Humbert an ultimatum — he may not continue to live with them if he does not marry her. Humbert agrees since the marriage will enable him to be close to Lolita, the true object of his desire. What blessings come from living the law of chastity, and what rewards can we expect? Compare Charlotte’s shrewd use of sexuality in order to manipulate a man into providing a more stable familial life with Tamar’s seduction of Judah. What other lessons can we glean from following the examples of strong, ambitious women in the scriptures?

    –Humbert plans to drug Lolita (now his stepdaughter) so that he can enact his fantasies on her while she sleeps. Compare this story with the story of Lot’s daughters. What can these stories teach us about the values of patience and hard work, and the importance of the family?

  10. Mark IV says:

    This statement by Daniel Peterson showed up on the FAIR boards a year or so ago. I can’t find the original citation now, but fortunately I had copied it. This story belongs in any conversation about uncorrelated lessons.

    “Having, some time back, served on the Gospel Doctrine writing committee of the Church for nearly ten years, I would never, ever, take a Gospel Doctrine manual to be an official and binding declaration of Church doctrine. We tried to get things right, we prayed about our work, and what we did was reviewed in Salt Lake before publication, but it scarcely constituted scripture.

    A story:

    Once, the scriptural selection about which I was assigned to write a lesson included, among other things, Acts 20:7-12, in which the apostle Paul drones on for so long in the course of a sermon that a young man (ironically named Eutychus or “Fortunate”) dozes off and falls from the rafters. Paul has to restore him to life. As a joke, I inserted a passage in my lesson manuscript that read somewhat along the following lines:

    QUOTE
    Have a class member read Acts 20:7-12. Have you ever killed anyone with a sacrament meeting speech? How did it make you feel? What steps can you take in the future to ensure that it does not happen again?

    Members of the committee laughed, and the committee chairman sent my lesson on up, incorporating their suggested revisions but also still including my little joke, to Salt Lake City. Where it passed Correlation. (I can only assume that each member of the committee chuckled and then passed it on, expecting that somebody else would remove it.) When I received the galleys of the lesson back for final approval just before it went to press, the joke was still there. I faced one of the greatest moral crises of my life, but finally called Church headquarters and suggested that they probably didn’t really want the lesson to go out to Church members entirely as it stood. So the joke was removed.

    The point being that Gospel Doctrine manuals are not to be confused with authoritative divine revelations.”

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Awesome lesson plan, Steven P. I might have actually paid attention in that class (I spent GD this past Sunday reading through the latest Sunstone).

    Mark IV, that is indeed a true story.

  12. Eric Russell says:

    I’d add a section about Edward as a type and shadow of the Messiah. He was not born by way of a traditional conception. He was kind and broken-hearted, and sought to do good to all those around him. He is initially pseudo-worshiped for his special talents, but eventually his own people reject him and seek to physically hurt him – all save for a few close followers who truly love him. Even though he is no longer with us physically, he still watches from above, in a beautiful garden, where he showers us with (spiritual) flurries.

  13. Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

  14. Hmm, ever read Heinlein’s Job: a Comedy of Justice? That could provoke some interesting discussion, particularly if paired with Revelation…

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