My husband and I teach Sunday School in our new ward. Our class of 13-year-old kids are bright, interesting and they have a lot to offer our discussions. We often let the kids take the lead- even letting them teach the lesson every other Sunday- and while that might be a little unconventional, it works well for this group. We use the manual as our guidelines, but are also open to following questions where they may lead.
We teach from The Presidents of the Church, and today the lesson was on Brigham Young- a Disciple Indeed. We quickly covered what a disciple is, how we can be followers of Christ, and how Brigham Young came to join the church. The kids each took turns reading different quips from his life- including a lot about Pres. Young’s loyalty to and relationship with Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo times- when we came to this excerpt from his personal diary:
On a certain occasion several of the Twelve, the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, an others of the Authorities of the Church, held a council in the upper room of the Temple. [They met because a few men, including some of the General Authorities, were opposed to the Prophet Joseph Smith and wanted to depose him and appoint David Whitmer as President of the Church]
The book goes on to say how Brigham told them, literally, that they could “sink themselves to hell”, and many were enraged at his opposition. OK. Kind of heavy stuff, but we can talk about it, right? We talked for a little bit about the faith BY displayed, and then one of my students asked, “But why would any of those men have wanted Joseph to be removed? They all knew he was a Prophet, they followed him, so what was going on?”
(Here is where I suddenly wished I was Kevin Barney)
Well… I told them that things were hard in Ohio, Missouri and Nauvoo, that there were money problems, and tough times and some families had a hard time with plural marriage and there was a lot going on that had called some people to question Joseph’s direction.
“Plural Marriage? Is that polygamy?”
“Yes, it is.” I went on to tell them that not everyone was asked to have a plural marriage, but for those who were, it could be a challenge to their faith.
“Asked? Who would ask them?”
“Well, Joseph did.”
Seven dumbfounded faces were staring at me, their mouths agape. Oh. No. What have I done? I thought this was pretty common knowledge- these kids all come from multi-generational LDS families- what this some secret I wasn’t supposed to talk about? I mean, I didn’t go there on my own, but they asked, and as their teacher, I should be honest. A teenager can smell hypocrisy, hedging and dishonesty.
We spent the rest of the hour discussing polygamy, and how, yes, Emma was not the only wife of Jospeh Smith, and we turned to the Official Declaration from President Woodruff to see when and how this was ultimately (sic) resolved. (I figured I would let that one lie.)
We covered the break-off of the Fundamentalists, the Community of Christ, Emma staying behind after the Martyrdom and about how many wives Brigham Young eventually took. Once the shock wore off, the kids rolled with it, and seemed totally fine.
Like all discussions lately, we ended with Big Love, and the potential depiction of the Temple. Evidently their parents have been talking about it- and they heard. And are interested. I pointed them to the Church Newsroom response, and told them running around like beheaded chickens was never a good idea.
Sometimes being an adult convert is a double-edged sword. Being blissfully ignorant of some things, I occasionally walze over another’s well-tended tulip garden. I am unaware of how I could have handled the questions differently. I am also aware that this little lesson I taught today could make for some interesting dinner conversation tonight.
I’ve taken my phone off the hook…