This post first appeared, in somewhat modified form, as a comment on an old T&S thread back in 2004.
“Bob” was a gentleman in his 80’s who attended my Los Angeles ward. He was an endearing old curmudgeon, famous for coming to church dressed in these frilly, over-the-top outfits that looked like bad promwear from the 1970s. Bob was even more famous for his strident, dogmatic comments during church classes which were so out of left-field that they were actually a source of comic-relief for the class, rather than a source of offensiveness. Bob seemed to enjoy the attention that his obnoxiousness brought upon him, so it was a win-win situation for everyone involved. A number of years back, Bob really wanted a teaching calling, and the Bishop decided to oblige him. He was made an Elders Quorum instructor.
Bob’s lessons were absolutely, mind-numbingly dreadful. Despite constant reminders that he should teach from the manual, he would rarely do so, even though in his mind, he WAS doing so. If he ever did try to read a paragraph from the manual, between his bad glasses, his propensity to lose his place, and his refusal to let anyone else read, it was an unmitigated disaster. Furthermore, he spent hours and hours every week preparing elaborate outlines that he would put on a giant-sized notepad and which he would draw on with a marker throughout the lesson. The lessons (and the notepad) were incoherently organized (despite his sincere attempts to organize them) and they always managed to be about the same thing. No matter what the lesson topic was, Bob spouted out the same gospel clichés and strident Mormon Doctrine quotations. The lesson could have been about anything from “charity” to “fasting” to “food storage,” but every single time, within 5 minutes we were hearing about how “the Glory of God is intelligence,” “Man can be saved no faster than he gains knowledge,” and other assorted nuggets of non-sequiturness.
It didn’t take long for everyone in the class to treat Bob’s lessons as invitations to snooze or engage in personal scripture study. Occasionally there were moments of humor, but for the most part everyone tuned out as soon as the lessons began, and since Bob was oblivious to what his audience was doing, no one felt they were being rude. This probably went on every third Sunday for a year. The only real awkwardness came when a visiting member or investigator was in attendance. In those situations, someone had to pull the visitor aside and apologize for Bob, explaining that his lessons were more for his own benefit and sense of accomplishment than for the students in the class. Needless to say, lots of opportunities for substantive, edifying and spiritually enriching class experiences were wasted.
Alas, all good things must eventually come to an end. One Sunday, Bob entered Elders Quorum in an unusually agitated state. He began his lesson, and informed the class that despite his best efforts, and countless hours of reading and thinking, he simply could not make heads or tails of the material. He had thus come to a firm conclusion, which he shared with us:
Jesus was confused. Jesus simply didn’t know what he was talking about.
The scriptural passage which troubled Bob was Matthew 4:19:
And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Bob insisted. “I AM NOT A FISH! I’m a human being!”
The class tried to convince Bob that he had missed the point of the scripture, but in vain. Bob would have none of it. So the class discussion continued, with Bob explaining to us the biological differences between humans and fish, and the rest of us trying to assure him that we understood those differences, as did Jesus, presumably.
But Bob was just getting started. He then offered an analysis of Matthew 5:14-16:
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
“I AM NOT A LIGHTBULB!” Bob screamed.
Again, numerous class members tried to offer helpful clarifications of the passage. A heated conversation ensued. Some members of the Quorum were visibly upset. (Not me. I was in the back row, practically falling out of my chair).
Suddenly, the bell rang. The class had ended before it could degenerate any further. The Elders Quorum President decided shortly thereafter to release Bob as an instructor. Unfortunately for me, this release was not well-received by Bob, so I got to hear about his various conspiracy theories involving the Bishop for many months afterwards. Nevertheless, his release was definitely the right call.
I must say I do look back on Bob’s lessons with fondness, particularly his last one. But I think there’s little argument that Bob had absolutely no potential to progress as a teacher. Class members’ potential to be spiritually edified by his lessons was also virtually nil. The Bottom Line: Some people simply don’t have the talent, nor even the potential talent, to become effective teachers.
What are your favorite teaching trainwrecks?