Bible Study

I have a friend, a sister in my ward, who is involved in a Christian Bible study group in her neighborhood. This is her first experience in such a group. They are focusing on Colossians; last I talked to her, they were still in chapter 2.

Needless to say, it has been an eye-opening experience for her. First, she has been deeply impressed by these women. One woman said that they had been sending money to an orphanage in central America somewhere, I think, and as a surprise to their children they had decided to take a vacation there for a week, so that they could all help and actually hold the children they’ve been supporting financially. That kind of story was commonplace among her classmates. The good that they do among the homeless and various groups of disadvantaged people was truly moving to her.

To the point of this post, she was also tremendously impressed by their knowledge of the Bible. The fact that they were devoting an entire class to one of Paul’s letters, which wouldn’t even absorb a single GD lesson in our system, was her first clue. She quickly realized that her own knowledge of the scriptures was seriously deficient. She has stuck with it, and at times it has been like trying to drink from a fire hose. But she is thoroughly enjoying the experience, even as she also has experienced a significant feeling of inadequacy.

As my friend has learned for herself, any Mormon who thinks that attending weekly GD classes for many years is the equivalent of such a Bible study is seriously fooling himself, I think.

Comments

  1. HighTower says:

    I’ve attended some of these Bible classes over the years in various states. Some are very rigorous, but many are not. The rigorous ones can be very entertaining and enlightening if the teacher and the attendees are not too dogmatic.

    The purpose of church instruction, whether it is seminary, GD or BYU religion classes, is not to turn people into scholars but to strengthen their commitment to the church.

    In the church’s defense, these Bible classes are self-selecting. Most large evangelical denominations don’t expect all of their adherents to attend these classes. In fact, only a small percentage of evangelicals actively participate in rigorous Bible study. Most of them receive instruction that is similar to GD in terms of intellectual rigor or even worse, such as the fluff that Joel and Victoria Osteen preach.

  2. Kevin, I’d have to agree with HighTower, having attended a number of such myself. Some of them are impressive, most are not up to the standards of GD.

  3. I love some of the music at Christian Bible Study groups and realized how much I missed some of them (having been a Baptist before joining the LDS Church). “His Eye is on the Sparrow” for one.

  4. My co-author’s wife attends this kind of Bible study, and he has found it absolutely remarkable: the dedication of those involved, their devotion to the scriptures, the willingness to probe. He has also felt that, at least compared to this particular Bible study group, GD classes are very weak.
    The problem with Bible study classes in Utah (sponsored by non-LDS religions) is that they often go into anti-Mormonism. I’m assuming this would not be the case elsewhere.

  5. I used to attend a Torah study group at the local synagogue. They’d been going for almost six years, and had gotten from Genesis to mid-Deuteronomy. I found it rewarding, as well as useful for me to be able to offer non-Jewish perspectives, whether as a Mormon, a Christian non-Jew, or academic-in-training. I attended for about a year, and it was interesting to hear all the different perspectives, as well as some things that sounded quite familiar.

    One attendee remarked on how fortunate they were as Jews to be able to attend any snyagogue in the world, and know what Torah portion (i.e. GD lesson) they’d be reading and discussing that week ;)

  6. Interesante…

  7. Latter-day Guy says:

    Oh, I don’t know, Margaret. In my experience, anywhere there is a population of LDS who distinguish themselves (for instance, my midwest high school was very small––less than 400––but the LDS students generally did very well academically and in extra-curricular activities) anti-Mormon studies will form at least some part of the study in other (protestant) churches in the neighborhood. The kids from other faiths were very nice and we all got along well, but any conversations that turned toward religion revealed that they had all had some instruction in how to “deal with” Mormons.

  8. Yes, these classes can be good or bad. But, I can see they have two edges: they only have one book to deal with and they can use a simpler Bible version than the King James in their studies.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve never actually attended such a class myself, so I’m interested in the experiences of those you who have. But from what my friend has shared it sounds pretty impressive to me.

  10. I participated for a year in a Bible study class formed by fellow law clerks for a federal court of appeals. Participants included devout Catholics, mainline Protestants and evangelical Protestants, one LDS (me), and a couple of agnostics or nonbelievers who were sympathetic to Christianity.

    It was a wonderful experience, and fascinating to learn how different traditions of Christianity understood certain passages of Paul. But more important, to me, was how similar our interpretations were of Christianity and of Paul’s writings, and how committed my fellow believers (and nonbelievers) were toward doing good in day to day life.

  11. Aaron Brown says:

    My companion and I met weekly for Bible study with a Lutheran minister and a bunch of other folks for a short time on my mission. Yeah, we were probably the ignoramuses of the group. We liked to tell ourselves it was just the language barrier, but in retrospect, I don’t think that quite captured it.

    AB

  12. I have only attended one “bible study” in my life, also while on my mission. There was no discussion of any bible passages, just a sentimental short story or poem or something from Guideposts Magazine. Not impressive. I am sure a “bible study” could be anything from the type of impressive and serious scripture study described above to the sort of fluff I experienced. Just like our sunday school classes or private scripture study groups some LDS people have in their homes.

  13. Kev,

    Can’t say much for local Bible studies, but I figure this is as good a place as any to say that my own Bible study is far improved of late since I started employing your edited notes!

  14. “The problem with Bible study classes in Utah (sponsored by non-LDS religions) is that they often go into anti-Mormonism.”

    Margaret, I would imagine this is not the majority.

    According to Utah pastor Greg Johnson, no one is more pissed off than the local Evangelical pastors when some out-of-town countercult outfit blazes into town and “kicks over the beehive” as they term it.

    Most pastors in Utah, according to him, are much more interested in being conciliatory and learning to live and work with Mormons productively.

    And above all, they want their congregations to be welcoming havens when a Mormon is questioning and doubtful. You don’t do that by throwing a copy of “The Godmakers” at them the first time they express frustration with their calling overload.

  15. Kinda O says:

    I guess that because we have so much other scripture that is more accessible and already explained, we don’t often put in the required work to understand books like Colossians and Haggai. Having modern revelation can contribute to taking lots of the Bible for granted.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Scott B., I’m glad you find them useful!

  17. Natalie B. says:

    “I guess that because we have so much other scripture that is more accessible and already explained…”

    I think Kinda O is getting at a key issue when it comes to how Mormons engage with their scriptures. Since our study is often guided by manuals that have us focus on some material at the expense of other material and give us explanations of what the scriptures mean (at least according to the GA being cited) we are discouraged from doing the work of grappling with the actual texts, which Joseph Smith clearly made central to his own gospel study.

    In terms of time spent studying the scriptures, our church spends as much as any I know. But since the lessons tend to be repetitive and never progress in their level, we might not be learning things as deeply and broadly as others if we only study in the ways laid out by Sunday School and Seminary.

  18. I’m lucky that institute classes at my far-from-BYU universities (both grad and undergrad) offered a way to study the Bible (and other scripture) in much more detail than is possible in Sunday School. One chapter in one hour in intimate setting where majority having read beforehand = great experience, at least for me.

  19. Mike Parker says:

    It’s odd to me that Romans is considered (and rightly so) the key explanation of salvation under Christ compared to salvation under the Law, and yet I would suspect that the vast majority of Latter-day Saints have never read Romans and couldn’t tell you what Paul’s argument in it is.

    Much of this has to do, I suspect, with our dependence on the KJV. As Philip Barlow noted, it’s one thing to understand the KJV’s Jacobean rendering of the Sermon on the Mount; it’s quite another to follow Paul’s complicated train of thought. Has anyone ever seriously tried to make sense of 2 Corinthians using only the KJV?

  20. Mike, it seems doubtful that “the vast majority of LDS have never read Romans”, although I agree that most probably could not tell you what Paul’s argument is. Don’t you think the vast majority of LDS have read through the enitire New Testament? I don’t think we spend ALL our personal and family scripture study on the Book of Mormon, and every seminary or intstitute student would be required to read the New Testament for their class.

  21. I’ve been listening to podcasts from iTunes U on Bible studies from various seminaries (one Presbyterian, one Reformed, and a Catholic priest’s podcast). These are very interesting in my personal study, and I’ve found them to be a great augment to my education — a step outside of what I’m used to. I really encourage anyone with an interest in Bible studies to give it a try. There are tons of great resources available in podcast form.

    I think correlated Bible study through GD is sufficient for many, and we’re nothing if not highly encouraged to study intently on our own. I understand the complaints about GD being boring or repetitive, but I think deep study is really our own responsibility. I don’t expect university-level discussion in my GD class, even if it is a class full of doctoral students (I live in a university-centered ward).

  22. Mike Parker says:

    E: Outside of the Seminary program, when and where are Latter-day Saints encouraged to read the entire New Testament? I strongly suspect that most personal and family scripture study doesn’t go outside the Gospels.

    There is fairly widespread acquaintance with a few isolated passages in Romans (I’m thinking of 1:16; 3:23; and 8:16–17), but how many Saints have grasped Paul’s argument in, say, chapter 7?

    And there lies my point: We’re good at scripture mastery, we’re poor at understanding the broader contextual message of long passages within the scripture. This is partly the result of setting aside 40 minutes once every four years to collectively study the entire book of Romans.

  23. Each Latter-day Saint should do systematic scripture study. We all don’t need to learn Greek and Hebrew, but some of us should. Gospel Doctrine class is a good general introduction to the scriptures, but ultimately we all should try to find ways to dig deeper. If Bible Study Group works for some, then so be it. I prefer to engage my study in college courses, scholarly books and journals, and LDS Conference talks.

    I do not think we should presume that one shoe size fits all.

  24. The church doesn’t prohibit us from meeting together outside of church to do a bible study…

  25. I don’t take GD classes to be my scripture study but more of a place to share our ideas, experiences, and testimonies that we’ve gained on our own.
    .
    I believe that much like the responsibility for raising our kids is ours, in our homes — not the responsibility of Primary, YW/YM — the responsibility for our knowledge and understanding of the scriptures is ours, in our homes.

  26. Poorboy says:

    We have some examples of close scripture study. How about Jim Falkner’s Romans 1: Notes and Reflections and his book on scripture study Scripture Study: Tools and Suggestions? The second one is a bit out-dated now that so much is available on-line, but it is still a good book on how to study the scriptures.

  27. Here are the pages to read each day to read:
    1 1/2 – BoM
    2 1/2 – BoM & NT
    3 1/2 – BoM, NT, D&C, & PGP
    7 – All standard works
    10, and 11 once each week – Every page in the quad that has printing, including that 2-page chronology of Church history 1805-1998, right after the triple’s index, that I found when counting pages for these calculations (sticks with the new pix only).

  28. 27.
    Shown number of pages to read are to read the material indicated in one year.

  29. As was implied earlier, it seems to me that a Bible Study is more comparable to an institute class or BYU ancient scripture course, which in my experience are much more rigorous than a GD class.

  30. I think Kevin does have a point that most LDS seem to have the impression that attending weekly GD classes will give them a command of the scriptures. I know I recognized that over the years I had never read completely through the Old Testament, mainly because it is never really emphasized at church. Knowing my fellow ward members and peers, I also knew I wasn’t alone in this, so I asked around if there was any interest in a focused study group. No one did as everyone had the impression their random study in GD and their seminary days were sufficient.
    I can’t really fault them as I always thought I had a decent command of the bible as well. It wasn’t until I read some of the great post here on BCC (and then proceeded to get lost in the following discussions) that I realized how deficient I was. Like your friend I think it takes exposure to serious students (in a caring atmosphere) to show us what could be and how to get there. But whether any other religious background would have more serious students generally, I couldn’t say.

  31. What is sad to me is that we discourage “Bible” study groups in our church. I’ve tried with several bishops over the years to allow me to do a scripture study seminar (once a month), and most have said no (including a bishop who is an Institute instructor).
    I find it confusing that we have General Authorities that encourage the saints to learn and know the doctrine and the gospel, yet when push comes to shove, we are all too scared that speculation might arise in some discussions. Well, as long as it is labeled opinion, what is wrong with it? How did Joseph Smith’s School of the Prophets advance, if they never got beyond the bare basics of the gospel in any discussions?

    Thank God for the Internet, which allows us to discuss things on a deeper and more scholarly level; even while our wards stay blissfully ignorant with GD class.

  32. TStevens,

    I had never read completely through the Old Testament, mainly because it is never really emphasized at church

    I’m the Sunday School president in my ward, and this December, in preparation for studying the Old Testament next year, we’re going to do a symposium, with breakout sessions and a keynote speaker. The sessions will focus on various aspects of the Old Testament (such as why we have the version that we have, symbolism in the OT, understanding Isaiah, and a few others).

  33. I wish more like this was done, but it is up to individual SS presidents. Your ward should appreciate.

  34. jeff Spector says:

    If we in the church spent our whole lives only studying the Bible with a major emphasis on the NT, we could get pretty good at it as well. but we have 4 books of scripture.

    Not to mention the fact that we have personal study and family study that we can also do. It is nice to take a chapter or a page or even a passage and break it down to its essential parts. And it is also nice to have other people to bounce ideas off of. With a 40 minute a week GD lesson, you can’t really do that if you expect to cover most of the lesson as outlined in the manual. I usually spend 4 to 5 hours preparing for that lesson each week, so I feel like I get much more out of it than the folks in the class. But yet, I also try to find a few points that I think have the most value. But nothing beats in depth study. I was always envious of those BYU guys who get to study the scriptures for a living.

  35. Kevin,

    I have some exp. with small evangelical bible studies. They are similar to small institute classes when the class is doing the NT. Except they focus on different scriptures then the LDS institute teacher. The participants are like what a typical Institute class will have. A couple of people who have really studied the NT, a couple with no clue, and most somewhere in between.

  36. TStevens,

    Everyone who I’ve talked to loves the idea. I’m considering asking Brother Bushman to participate. But he lives in California now, not in NYC. Still, there are good resources here in NYC. The event will be on Hanukkah, but I think I can get at least one Rabbi to participate, right? :)

  37. If we want the kind of in-depth study, there’s no reason why we can’t give it to ourselves in our personal scripture study. Expecting it to happen in a GD class doesn’t seem realistic to me, and it doesn’t appear that these women are trying to incorporate that kind of study into their regular Sabbath meetings either.

    If someone wants to get that kind of group together in our church, I think they would be met with a surprisingly positive response, ESPECIALLY the younger the audience. You’d be surprised what the youth would be willing to do to get what they need out of Church, as opposed to what they’re being spoon-fed.

  38. StillConfused says:

    I am not much of a bible studier but that seems like a great way to socialize with neighbors on a common front.

  39. #37:”…would be met with a surprisingly positive response.”
    No, it will be rejected. It’s outside of Correlation, and lacks the supervision of the Priesthood.

  40. Jana, would you provide links for the podcasts you mention?

  41. For an online study of the Bible – may I suggest trying out Matt Chandler of the Village Church podcast. He’s been going through Luke for the past year or so. He’s a conservative Evangelical but I find myself disagreeing with his assessment very rarely.

    Its both humbling and enlightening to let other Christians teach you about Jesus.

  42. Bob,
    Respectfully, you are full of crap. There are several long-standing study groups of which the church is aware and against which the church has taken no action. Peddle your wares elsewhere.

  43. #42: “Nonetheless, there have been repeated official church pronouncements against private study groups. Serenity Valley may be acting out a paranoia in terms of whether there will be consequences for this particular study group, but using that phrase is treading on forbidden ground.”

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes on October 17th 2005 at 11:46 am

  44. Nameless says:

    Several years ago we lived in a ward in which the early morning seminary teacher was a stay at home mom. Every morning after seminary a group of about 3 women would gather at her home and she would teach her seminary lesson over again to them. I don’t think it was frowned upon but maybe because it would fall under the correlation umbrella of which Bob spoke.

  45. I agree with Bob that some priesthood leaders are uneasy with nonofficially sponsored study groups, for similar reasons to their uneasiness with “alternate voices” and symposia (and probably the bloggernacle). I do not recall, however, that there are any official policies currently in place discouraging such groups.

  46. JEW1967 Says says:

    Well in suppport for Bob the CHI does expressly prohibit any study groups outside the church official block time and any group of saints to meet together to share thoughts and insights with their studies. Personal study is encouraged but group study is discouraged and prohibited.

    I was nearly excommunicated for suggesting and initiating a study group with our Elder’s quorum to be held at our homes in the evening to allow freedom of discussion.

    Again regarding personal study, I was nearly exed when as a Elder’s Quorum President I had admoinised the Elders that personal study and acquisition of gospel knowledge was so important that if all they relied upon was what they heard in church classes it would not be enough to save you. Boy did that ever ruffle some feathers. Tried supporting that with D&C 131: 6. sometimes the truth just makes the hardhearted angry.

  47. There is a difference between saying that all study groups are out of bounds and saying that study groups should be approached with caution. You seem to fail to see the nuance, Bob.

  48. Mike Parker says:

    Re. #46: JEW1967, could you cite a page from the 2006 CHI? I looked through my copy, but couldn’t find anything other than a warning on p. 181 against symposia that “disparage, ridicule, make light of, or are otherwise inappropriate in their treatment of sacred matters.”

  49. JEW1967,
    You are starting to rival DKL with the number of your posited excommunications. Except, he had the will to follow through!

  50. Our Stake President has prohibited scripture study groups within wards because “scripture study is an intimate activity that should take place in families.” He is also discouraging book groups.
    We do have an awesome BYU continuing ed class that meets once a week. One year was spent on Genesis. Last year was the Psalms and Proverbs. This year the plan is to do Samuel. The teacher is excellent, the discussions both strengthen our testimonies and challenge our thinking. I consistently feel the Spirit when participating in the class.

  51. JEW1967 Says says:

    Mike #48 It was some years ago, might have been the 1998 CHI. I don’t have the CHI. But the Bishop who “counseled” me in the error of my ways show it to me briefly.

  52. JEW1967, a few observations:

    1. Naming yourself after the Six-Day War: fun.

    2. Good attitude there about getting counseling from your bishop. It obviously did the trick.

    3. Lots of people have bible studies without getting threatened with excommunication. The Miller-Eccles group is the most obvious example, but there are many others. Sunstone’s symposia, for example. So clearly, there were other factors at play here that put your membership into question. Let’s not foist all the blame on the heavy-handed facist religion to which we belong, shall we?

  53. JEW1967 Says says:

    Steve #52

    1. Cool!! It’s really just my initials and birthdate.

    2. Yes, I thorughly submitted to his admonishment to “shut-up and do what you are told.”

    3. You do realize those groups are controlled groups that do not allow unedited freedom of discussion?

  54. lolz. Buddy, you need to seek out Steve EM.

  55. “3. You do realize those groups are controlled groups that do not allow unedited freedom of discussion?”

    What? Like blogs?

  56. #47: “Nonetheless, there have been repeated official church pronouncements against private study groups.”
    “particular study group, but using that phrase is treading on forbidden ground”.
    Yes..I miss the “nuance” of it all. Please show me where the Church okays outside study groups. I can show you many it closed down.

  57. Bob,
    The Miller Eccles group has a decades long history, as does the Sunstone Symposium. Both feature a host of non-excommunicated members. There are several others. There doesn’t appear to be any prohibition of the practice at this time; there is a note of caution because such groups have on occasion led to the formation of splinter groups and so forth (eg. polygamous groups). Your implication is that these are completely out of bounds and it is simply wrong. Your insistence on that (including quoting to me what you quoted just a couple of comments ago (BTW, I love JNS to bits but he is far from the last word on these things)) indicates your contempt for this discussion and your inability to get it through your thick head that you are just wrong.

  58. Please show me where the Church okays outside study groups.

    While we’re at it, would you please show me where the Church okays the consumption of cantaloupes and the wearing of helmets while bicycle riding? I certainly don’t want to do anything the Church hasn’t explicitly okay’d.

  59. Ardis, I believe that’s in D&C 154:22-24, but it is admittedly a little ambiguous:

    22. And I do smile upon the melons, the water, the honeydew; for they are pleasing unto me in the heat of the day;
    23. But of the cantaloupe thou shalt only partake thereof whilst fleeing upon thine chariots, for it hath a grainy outside texture; and lo, none can tell whether it is ripe; therefore it is probably too hard, or worse yet a little mealy;
    24. And I do instruct my servants Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault, that they shall protect the melons of their bodies (which is to say, the head, and not the bosoms thereof), and shall prepare themselves by the wearing of head-pieces, which shall be of great comfort and protection to all;

  60. The CHI does not mention melons per se, but it seem reasonable that melons would fall under the category of body alteration/augmentation we should, as faithful Mormons, avoid.

  61. Bravo, Steve (you little heathen, you)!

  62. Don’t blame me if you haven’t studied the scriptures.

  63. #57: I have no contempt for members holding Bible Study Groups outside of Sunday School. I have only stated I don’t think the Church wishes it to be done. If I am wrong, I am sure you can point me to the Church’s position. LSD.org gives many “tips” on Bible study to members. But says nothing about forming outside Bible Study Groups.
    “The Miller-Eccles group is the most obvious example” (John C.) You know that is not what I am talking about.

  64. Indeed, LSD.org is a valuable source. I particularly enjoy reading Elder Leary’s talks there.

  65. #58: The Church okays the consumption of cantaloupes only if they are in season.

  66. Bob, nobody here knows what you are talking about. Seriously, you’re freaking me out.

  67. Many of us are in book groups, with multi-facteted focus. Discussion depends on the book. My uncle had a book group in Idaho which included non-Mormons. They attempted to read a book of the New Testament, but simply could not get everyone to read and discuss it together–even these good friends. People were coming from different paradigms, and recognized that when it came to scripture, they would not find as much common ground as they would with other books, and perhaps would even find contention. So the idea of studying the Bible together was tabled.
    As for study groups–I would be a little nervous about participating in a single-themed (polygamy, priesthood ban, Adam-God, etc.) group trying to understand the “mysteries of God.” Especially one led by a charismatic person with a particular idea on just how those mysteries might be answered. (Charisma always makes me nervous.) I would have no problem at all participating in a Bible study group, and would love to study the Talmud with Jews. And I love participating in Sunstone, MHA, and AML (Association for Mormon Letters).

  68. I’ve seen an attempted scripture study group shut down and I’ve heard of several others.

    While it is fun to make light of the situation, and there are easy to point out counter-examples, that doesn’t change the fact that such things are frowned upon and frequently get shut down fast.

  69. arJ, it IS fun to make light of the situation. Killjoy.

  70. Steve,

    I flat out said that it is fun to make light of the situation. Speaking on light, I love the light taste of crenshaw, don’t you?

  71. arJ,
    This is something that will generally depend on the stance of local leadership. The reason for this is because, at present, there isn’t anything about it in the handbook, so local leadership makes it up as they go along. If Bob was arguing that his local leadership frowned on it only, I wouldn’t have a problem with what he is saying. Instead, he offers blanket statements that don’t describe reality.

    Bob,
    Please explain the difference between the Miller-Eccles study group and the private study groups you are certain the Brethren are condemning. I’d be interested in what you perceive as the difference.

  72. Well, I for one personally love Bible-groups that are based exclusively on the Adam-God theory.

  73. Crenshaw is a superior melon, I admit. But better than a nice ripe Charentais, served with some prosciutto?

  74. ScottB–you are, of course, the charismatic person I was gently alluding to.

  75. Santa Claus. Melon, I mean.

  76. This is to announce that I am forming a Bible study group that will focus exclusively on the Adam-Ted Baxter-God theory. It will meet on the amateur radio bands. I will announce specific times and frequencies at a later date. This group has been expressly approved by 50 E. North Temple.

  77. Mark D. says:

    The reason for the frowning, apparently, is that in some areas these groups have lead to group apostasy – as in leaving the church en masse to form or join some break off or another.

  78. There will be none of that in my group, I warrant.

  79. Thomas Parkin says:

    Melon was a prophet,
    first one that we know!
    In the land of melons,
    He made melons grow!

    Follow the melon, follow the melon,
    follow the melon, don’t go astray!
    Follow the melon, follow the melon,
    Follow the melon, He knows the Way!

    (brought to you by my six year old son, Alex) ~

  80. Thomas Parkin says:

    Except he sings it “muffins” not “melons”.

    I personally prefer muffins to melons. But that is just my personal truth. I don’t believe that it should hold any real sway over the hearts of ignorant others. ~

  81. “Charisma always makes me nervous”

    I agree. I shun charisma in all of its pernicious forms. That’s why I hang out with you people.

  82. Mike Parker says:

    Re. #53: JEW1967, I personally attended the Miller-Eccles study group for several years when I lived in Orange County, California, and can personally confirm that it is not ad “controlled group that does not allow unedited freedom of discussion.” That statement would be ludicrous to anyone who has been to an M/E meeting.

  83. It seems like a simple statement or question. Does the Church want it’s members meeting, as members, in small groups outside Church supervision, studying the Bible? I understand it does not.
    Why not just answer the question? No need for the humor or personnal attacks.
    #71: The Miller-Eccles study group is big openly known, has acceptance, power, and money.

  84. I apologize for the humor. I didn’t realize there was no need.

  85. Steve Evans says:

    Bob, if you want it simple, here it is: you are wrong. Now stop it.

  86. I shall alter our FHE with the Jones family tonight. I had planned to read a verse or two from Matthew; in the name of discipleship, we shall study only 2 Maccabees.

  87. Please someone alert me when there is a need for humor.

  88. My ward has weekly scripture study at someone’s home as one of the enrichment groups. There are not Priesthood holders involved (gasp!).
    It is very sanctioned. Just my 2%

  89. #85: Thanks Steve, I now have my answer.

  90. I co-sponsored a Bible study group within the Fellowship of Christian Students when I was a teacher in Alabama. The other sponsor was Baptist. My Stake President was also a teacher at the school. He called me as a member of the Stake Mission Presidency.

    On topic, the study group itself had examples of every attitude – including a wonderful young man who wanted to be a youth minister and said once, “We don’t need to understand the Bible. Salvation comes from HEARING the word of God.”

  91. I can understand why Bob accepted that answer from Steve and not me. Steve does exceed me in priesthood.

  92. Mike Parker says:

    If Miller-Eccles has so much money, how come they asked me to donate ten bucks every time I went to a meeting?

    Maybe I should ask for a refund.

  93. #91: Don’t feel bad John C. After all, I didn’t use the quotes I had of your’s the seemed to support me.

  94. #92: Sorry, but they didn’t need your money.

  95. I realize this discussion is winding down, but I’ve been away from my computer. I have to add that I’m surprised that some local leadership is shutting down study discussion groups. For me it has been such a testimony building experience. I have participated in a scripture study group in my Houston suburb that has existed for over 20 years. It’s a women’s group that has met on a weekday morning during the school year, we’ve gone through each of the standard works very slowly, using institute manuals and other books as reference materials. There is no single teacher in the group, but each week we decide how far we may go in our discussion the next week and divide up and assign chapters to research and present. Sometime the whole morning is spent discussing one chapter. We have scheduled visiting time at the beginning and sometimes sharing problems and giving support encroaches into study time, but my closest relationships have come from the sisters in the group because we have shared many sacred moments together, as well as shared support through life’s challenges. Since the RS small-group emphasis, it has been under the RS enrichment umbrella, but before that, it just was formed of individuals who had time and interest. The group has had wives of bishops and our Stake President’s wife, so leadership has been aware of it all along and I don’t think there has ever been any concern.

    When I first moved to Nigeria several years ago, I really missed my scripture study group and I joined an ecumenical women’s Bible study, which I’ve also really enjoyed. I miss the deeper understanding that latter-day scripture gives to bible study, but I’ve gotten many insights from our in-depth study of books of the Bible. I volunteered to teach one of the large group lessons when our teacher was away before too many people knew me and I know that it was enjoyed and appreciated. But then the main study leader (a Southern Baptist) learned that I was Mormon (I didn’t openly announce my religion to all present, but some knew from the start and I would tell others when they asked where I went to church) and I think there’s been some wariness on her part. When I learned they were looking for a substitute teacher this past spring, I volunteered and she said that if they were going to have a teacher that wasn’t a participating member of their expat evangelical congregation, that I would need to visit with their clergy basically to see if my teachings would be in line with theirs. I told her if she wanted me to teach I would be happy to do that, but I don’t think it will happen, as we both kind of dropped it. I’m always careful about what I share to make sure I don’t proselyte, but when I taught the large group we were studying James teachings on pride and I quoted quite of bit of Benson’s talk (just giving his name and not saying he was “a prophet”) and I had many requests to email them the quotes — they thought it was great. But again, there are great relationships formed by sharing discussion of sacred things and I think it’s needed in and outside the church, both for greater understanding of the scriptures and greater support in our communities.

  96. #59 Steve
    Lemond and Hinault – you are dating yourself, but you are dating yourself to the 80’s and they were AWESOME.

    Lemond totally let Hinault win that last tour – he so could have dusted him on that mountain stage for the win, but he was a good team player.

  97. Morgan Lee says:

    Before I comment, let me mention that 1) I am not a member; 2) I am married to a member; 3) it is a real possibility/likelihood that I will join the Church; 4) I am about to express a sincere concern, so please be nice to me (I’m looking at you, Steve Evans).

    “Our Stake President has prohibited scripture study groups within wards because “scripture study is an intimate activity that should take place in families.” He is also discouraging book groups.”

    At the risk of sounding like an adolescent, I have to say this totally blows my freaking mind, more than any piece of Mormon doctrine or Mormon history I’ve learned (and I’ve learned quite a bit).

    Now, I witnessed the complete smackdown/anihilation of Bob and his assertion that study groups are prohibited by the church. But if his comments are so absurd and wrong, then I don’t understand why no one expressed shock at Jones’ comment in #50. What am I missing? I saw John C.’s disclaimer that this issue depends on the stance of local leadership, and I imagine that’s true. But if such groups really are being prohibited in some areas, I wouldn’t expect this to be the kind of crowd that would shrug that off.

    So, I have a couple of questions (for anyone who is still looking at this thread). And please know that I really am asking these out of sincerity, and not to make a point.

    1. How common is it for local leadership to prohibit small, private study groups among ward members? I’m not looking for explicit approval of such groups (or melon-eating). Most of the time, is there just no policy on the matter either way?

    2. Why would such a policy exist anywhere anyway? To an outsider, it smacks of paranoia. Is it? Or is it a justified concern based on past innocent study groups gone awry?

  98. Steve Evans says:

    Morgan, don’t worry – I am rarely mean to the earnest and nice people. You seem both.

  99. Morgan: Your question deserves an answer and I hope others will weigh in. Here’s what I think the answers are:

    1. I think it’s probably relatively uncommon for local leadership to prohibit local study groups.

    2. Where such a policy exists, I think the concern is generally the same as the reservation expressed by Margaret Young in earlier this thread: “As for study groups–I would be a little nervous about participating in a single-themed (polygamy, priesthood ban, Adam-God, etc.) group trying to understand the ‘mysteries of God.’ Especially one led by a charismatic person with a particular idea on just how those mysteries might be answered.” The concern is that the study group is a front for or springboard to apostate movements–folks who want the reinstatement of polygamy, etc.

  100. The issue like other similar issues almost always depends on the individuals involved in the study group and their relationship with the local leadership. Despite what the handbook may or not say.

  101. Mike Parker says:

    Re. #’s 97 & 99: There is also the occasion where a local priesthood leader takes a heavy hand in his administrative style, prohibiting this or that activity and generally throwing his weight around. (The type of leader Kevin Barney referred to as a “B.S.D.”)

    Such leaders do not make up the majority, but, unfortunately, they are also far from uncommon.

  102. Kevin Barney says:

    Morgan, first, here is some prior discussion of this subject:

    http://mormoninquiry.typepad.com/mormon_inquiry/2005/10/study_groups.html

    Second, here is a concrete example of the kind of thing local leaders sometimes worry about with “study groups”:

    http://www.rickross.com/reference/tlc/tlc2.html

    I’ve participated in a local study group here in Chicago, which has been on hiatus but is going to start up again. We’ve had no problems, and we’ve even had a stake president participate with us for a time.

    Personally, I think if one wants to have a study group, whatever you call it, you should just do it. Some people are incapacitated from making decisions like this without running every little thing by the bishop. Most study groups I’ve experienced are like book groups, only with a focus on the church, and are harmless and usually edifying. If someone doesn’t have confidence that this will be the case with his or her particular study group, then he or she shouldn’t start one.

  103. Morgan,

    My response would be similar to #99. I have never seen local leadership try and limit study groups or book clubs. ever. We have lots of local book clubs here in TX that tackle church topics with books written on the topic. Our local leadrship could care less. They are typically dealing with much more serious issues like divorce and poverty to be concerned about things like this.

    I would imagine that local leadership would get concerned if there was a charasmatic study leader that was teaching lots of classes about polygamy and inviting single women to attend. Now this does occur from time to time.

  104. #97: Another part of the puzzle: When Bob asserts that the church as a whole has a certain policy, and we know there is no such policy, it’s easy to dismantle. We all have a stake in the church as a whole, so we’re motivated to dismantle it, too.

    When someone asserts that his local unit has a certain policy, or that such-and-such event occurred within his own ward, the question of truth or error is more complex. There’s always the possibility that some renegade bishop behaves irrationally, and we hope his superiors soon correct him. We might also think that the commenter hasn’t told us the full story — sometimes we call “baloney” when a claim is so outrageous on its face that bias is obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to me that Jones was distorting the story to suit his point. The personality of the commenter and his history of prior reasonableness (or otherwise) also shapes the response.

    So sometimes there is more of an incentive than other times to respond to one comment while overlooking another that is, on the surface, very similar.

  105. Morgan Lee says:

    Thanks, Steve.

    And thank you for your answer, gst. I can certainly understand Margaret (and church leadership) being concerned about a study group that focused on one topic, especially topics as controversial (and for some, personal and emotional) as the ones she mentioned. I would not have guessed that the concern would be over the potential charisma of the discussion leader, though (I’m not saying it shouldn’t be; I’m just saying I didn’t think of it). In non-religious settings, the biggest problem with controversial discussion topics is that the person leading the discussion is not skilled enough to keep things on track. The result is often that emotions run high, while reason runs low, and people walk away upset rather than enlightened. But the idea that the problem could be the opposite, that the person leading the discussion may be too skilled, too charismatic, too influential, is intriguing, and makes me wonder how often a charismatic, but otherwise typical ward member successfully leads others out of the church.

    But back to the main topic, what about study groups that are simple Bible/scripture study groups? I mean groups that examine the scriptures in significantly more depth than Gospel Doctrine class, but that don’t make it their mission to explain/understand (or justify/reinstate) things like polygamy and the priesthood ban… I mean groups that might be described as Gospel Doctrine for English majors. Is the concern over apostasy the same as if it were, say, a polygamy study group? And if so, why?

    Thank you again for responding.

  106. Morgan Lee says:

    #100 to 105, Thanks for your responses. They all make sense.

    Mike: “There is also the occasion where a local priesthood leader takes a heavy hand in his administrative style”

    Honestly, this is how I usually explain to myself some of the crazy things people claim about their wards or stakes on the Bloggernacle. But when I imagine myself potentially being in a ward or stake with such a leader, I start to fume prematurely, and my heart rate goes up.

    Kevin: “I think if one wants to have a study group, whatever you call it, you should just do it. Some people are incapacitated from making decisions like this without running every little thing by the bishop.”

    This helps a lot. I can imagine that many people may actually invite disapproval by asking permission for things they don’t really need permission for.

    “Most study groups I’ve experienced are like book groups, only with a focus on the church, and are harmless and usually edifying.”

    This is the kind of group I had in mind.

    bbell: “I would imagine that local leadership would get concerned if there was a charasmatic study leader that was teaching lots of classes about polygamy and inviting single women to attend. Now this does occur from time to time.”

    That’s actually kind of funny. Bad, if he is actually able to lure women into polygamous unions, but funny, in a sick way, that he would make such obvious attempts.

    Ardis: “We might also think that the commenter hasn’t told us the full story”

    Yeah, I know. I keep that in mind when reading pretty much anything.

  107. Morgan,
    There has been recent interest for such in our ward, and because of past experiences with less-than-awesome-for-all discussion groups, I felt there was some hesitancy in starting more discussion groups from those interested. Our solution? We worked with CES and got an Institute class, taught by a ward member–one of those was interested in discussing the gospel, and not some stuffy-shirted CES employee–and it was fantastic.

    The moral of the story for me is that a) there are more solutions than Yes/No and b) often times the solution depends simply on calling something different–“Institute class” is much more palatable to certain nervous leaders than “discussion group.”

  108. Morgan Lee says:

    Thank you, Scott. That’s good to know. And you make an excellent point about language. A word’s connotations are everything.

  109. Steve Evans says:

    See, Morgan? Even the most hardened, bitter and sardonic among us can provide helpful answers from time to time!

  110. Unfortunately with even general topics what can (sometimes) happen is you get a participant who believes they have the perfect knowledge and are not so much interested in personal growth but rather have a desire to make everyone else also believe they have that perfect knowledge too. They spend their time undermining others opinions to support this goal.
    Not as common, but some individuals who still have a developing testimony, a misplaced testimony (i.e. based on Primary church history), or a testimony in a pet personal doctrine who may be presented with a paradigm shift they can’t handle – like putting your car into reverse while driving 60.
    The unfortunate thing is a lot (I mean imagine your most liberal estimate and then probably double it) of members seem to think every time they are presented with something they don’t like they need to go talk with the poor Bishop (read here complain). Just like any parent each one has his own way of leading and that may be heavy handed. Even if he is not, he still has to deal with it as well as all the real problems that come his way.
    As for book groups (which I have run) I have heard of people not approving of someone’s taste in books and decide to go to the Bishop, because obviously that person is on the high road to apostasy because they enjoyed all the bed post chewing in Twilight.

  111. Morgan, there’s a little saying that will make your life as a Mormon much, much easier:

    “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.”

    Laminate it.

  112. Morgan Lee says:

    Kevin, thanks for those links. The first story (linked within your link) seems largely explained by Mike’s comment in #101. The second story you linked to was fascinating, and it makes a certain anxiety about groups meeting outside of church a bit more understandable. I am glad to learn that the church did not respond with an across-the-board prohibition, though.

    TStevens: “you get a participant who believes they have the perfect knowledge and are not so much interested in personal growth but rather have a desire to make everyone else also believe they have that perfect knowledge too”

    Yes, I can believe this. It happens almost anytime you get any group of people together to discuss anything… work, school, anywhere. There’s always someone who doesn’t think there’s anything he can learn from others, so he participates for the purpose of sharing his great gift of knowledge with everyone else. This is a problem that might be avoided with a skilled study leader.

    “I have heard of people not approving of someone’s taste in books and decide to go to the Bishop, because obviously that person is on the high road to apostasy because they enjoyed all the bed post chewing in Twilight.”

    Funny. I am pretty selective about what I read, but less so about what I watch on TV or in movies. I have a taste for raunchy comedies that I should probably just keep to myself!

    Seth, ha, that saying occurred to me after reading Kevin’s #102. Thanks for giving me the go ahead to adopt that approach.

  113. In my area (Indianapolis), we’ve had struggles in trying to have study classes. The former Institute director (a very good friend of mine) was very cautious about outside groups, and openly discouraged them.

    I think the Church is still cautious, because of the study groups from a decade ago that were teaching things about the temple.

    And they are extremely cautious here. Our new Institute director has a different view on such things, and perhaps his attitudes will slowly change things here.

    I do think there are ways to have study groups that still fall within priesthood guidelines.

    Then again, not many years ago, the Brethren were discouraging members from having LDS websites, etc. In fact, they asked everyone to shut those extraneous websites down and allow the Church to run everything. Only in the past year has this begun to be turned around, as they’ve realized that the Church cannot put out enough pro-LDS information to handle all of the negative press out there.

    Perhaps when we finally realize we’re losing members because they are not getting a well-rounded scriptural education in Sunday School, we’ll be allowed to expand out to new study groups.

    Until then, there’s always BCC and other blogs.

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