Houston, We Have a Problem

Yesterday, in fulfillment of an assignment to teach the younger Young Men (a combined class of deacons and teachers), I incorporated 4 minutes and 5 seconds of precious material from The Empire Strikes Back into my lesson on “Self-Discipline”. Drawing from my own childhood/adolescence, I figured that nothing could drive home a point about the importance of developing self-discipline better than watching Luke’s Jedi Training on Dagobah and his Failure at the Cave.

I started out the lesson chit-chatting with the kids about our belief in Jesus Christ as our foundation. Everyone seemed to agree that we believe in Jesus Christ. Check. So how should people that believe in Jesus Christ behave on a day to day basis, how should we live our lives? They answered, good behavior, good works, etc. What does discipline mean? Predictably their collective answer more or less revealed a conception of discipline as imposed from the outside, more or less synonymous with punishment. This was the perfect opening to pave the way for a Christ-centered lesson on self-discipline, i.e. not imposed from the outside. Exhibit A: Luke Skywalker.

Trying to segue smoothly from this intro into the meat of the lesson, The Empire Strikes Back, I sort of said something like “This is just like when Yoda and Luke yadda yadda yadda.” The perfect transition — except that I noticed blank stares. No tinge of excitement at my discussion of The Empire Strikes Back together with the sight of my laptop set up with the projector pointing to the front of the class. Either these kids had major impairment of deductive logic faculties or . . . the unthinkable: they had not seen or even heard of The Empire Strikes Back. I was feeling a peculiar anxiety, a rising desperation — how could I even speak to these kids without a shared, lowest common denominator of mutual cultural understanding?

In a last ditch effort I glanced over to one of the four full-time missionaries in our ward who had accompanied me into the class because we had two young investigators along with us. “Elder X, remember how Luke yadda yadda yadda.” BLANK STARE FROM THE MISSIONARY!!! He confessed he had only seen it once “a long time ago” when he was “like 14″. I almost fell down. Not in my wildest imagination had I thought the kids wouldn’t know The Empire Strikes Back. I had thought a lot could go wrong with the lesson but that was not something I had foreseen.

I regained my composure and pressed forward. We took 10 minutes to watch a 4 minute clip of Luke’s Failure at the Cave as I paused it every so often to comment on what was happening and how it related to developing self-discipline and developing spiritual lives characteristic of followers of Jesus Christ (i.e. appropriately controlling our desires and emotions).

In the end it turned out great because it forced me to make a lot of points explicitly which, in what I had thought was the real world, would have come across implicitly as we all sat back and enjoyed reviewing this important episode from our cultural canon. I paused it when Luke put on his gun belt and we discussed his actions in light of Yoda’s admonitions. We discussed Yoda’s statement “Only what you take with you” in response to Luke’s question of what was in the cave. And, of course, we went into some detail when Vader’s mask explodes to reveal Luke’s face beneath.

The kids genuinely liked the lesson — hard to imagine they wouldn’t given that we watched such an important scene. The missionary was literally raving about the lesson afterward, saying he had never seen so much meaning in a movie scene before. Ah to be 19 again.

Comments

  1. > or . . . the unthinkable: they had not seen or even heard of The Empire Strikes Back.

    Oh, John. Words fail. Sometimes “I’m sorry” seems so inadequate.

  2. I am very afraid that their only knowledge of Star Wars might well be the cartoon episodes of The Clone Wars. It’s like building your house upon the sand.

  3. If you were teaching in a weekday activity, I’d have nothing but encouragement. I just can’t get past showing Star Wars IN CHURCH!
    There are lots of examples of people in the scriptures and in church history or even church magazines that support the same point which get ignored in favor of pop culture (past or present) and that saddens me.
    Sorry not to be depressed for the same reasons, but I do share your sorrow.

  4. I wouldn’t have thought anyone would actually object to showing Luke’s Failure at the Cave in a lesson on self-discipline. That is surprising. There’s hardly a better or more appropriate five minute clip illustrating several of the lesson’s points. Oh well.

  5. Mark Brown says:

    So how should people that believe in Jesus Christ behave on a day to day basis, how should we live our lives? They answered, good behavior, good works, etc. What does discipline mean?

    John, maybe you would have had better success is you had worn a kimono and explained kigatsuku.

  6. Mark Brown says:

    Also, as everybody already knows, Yoda was modeled after Spencer W. Kimball, so you’re good all around.

  7. Possibly. But I think in the end it turned out fine. The hope is that they may have really actually learned something about self-discipline given the object lesson from TESB. Of course, we read material from the lesson manual as well.

  8. IdahoG-ma says:

    Sigh, is there any hope? Or was Obi-wan our only hope?

  9. John, it is times like this that we come to a painful recollection of our own mortality and how temporary and brief our visit to this mortal plane is. I hope that you can find strength within yourself to confront this difficult time. I hope you went home and hugged your wife, knowing that in the blink of an eye our time on earth may come to and end.

    The children are our future, but how can we have a future if they don’t know the past? They will be doomed to repeat it by creating their own cultural icons, then, not 2 decades later, casting them into the fire and pissing on the grave by making atrocious prequels.

    Maybe there is no hope for the future. Now I truly know how Mormon must have felt, looking out upon the desolation of his society, crying out, “O ye fair ones!!…” Except I don’t think I can bench as much as Mormon could. But the feeling is the same.

  10. Wow, how can these children not know about the great cultural touchstone that is Star Wars, the original trilogy?!?!
    @JustMe. I see no problems with using this to teach about discipline. In my ward, granted it is a YSA ward of people mainly in their mid to late 20s, we use many cultural references in our lessons to great effect.
    There is a reason that Jesus used parables, and parables are used in our day to teach. They provide a relatable example to teach great effect.
    Yes, there are true examples from real life and history that could be used, but it depends on the audience. 15 years ago, when I was in the place of those young men, using that clip from TESB, would have taught me more than almost any other example.

  11. My wife suffers with me in this knowledge of our deepening cultural poverty with the loss of this knowledge. When we speak of a new Dark Ages it’s not just because people are so enthusiastic to abandon the scientific method and embrace New Earth Creationism, but it’s precisely because of this loss of cultural knowledge and transmission that we are doomed.

    My three daughters inherit a dying legacy. Although they literally wept when Vader struck down Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV, my wife and I have been strict and I can honestly say that my 3 year old has a very precise knowledge of Vader’s dialogue with Luke in the Cloud City and of Vader’s repentance in Episode VI.

  12. What did you learn in class today, son?

    Brother F. taught us about discipline like Luke in the cave!

    What? The Allegory of the cave?

    No, that Yoda guy.

    Oh–Star Wars.

    Yeah, he said they were like scripture, dad. So mom, don’t you think it would be an appropriate Sabbath Day activity to all watch Star Wars as a family? I think it would really help us out.

    Where’s that VCR when we need it? Kids! I have something to share with you.

    Oh dad, not your testimony again. We already heard it in testimony meeting.

    No no–this is something you’ll never forget. Kids, this is Star Wars.

  13. Hee hee. I’ve never seen Star Wars either. No interest. But at least I get the references.

  14. > VCR

    Hahahahahaha!! Oh, ESO, you’re so cute. As if kids would know what a VCR is.

  15. BTW, I had an investigator on my mission names Yoda-san. She was AWESOME! It was hard not to call her Yoda-sama.

  16. As a wise steward of my children, I make sure they have easy access to the original trilogy, but so far have no idea the prequels even exist.

  17. Well, let’s put it this way: at least in the 1990s, in a lot of missions zone leaders were known to either show snippets of Star Wars or Indiana Jones to bolster everyone’s enthusiasm and lift our spirits at zone conferences with the mission president looking on or to use examples from those movies in their spiritual thoughts on such occasions.

  18. re # 16, bingo — so true. We will guard against such defilement for as long as possible. Unfortunately, some of their schoolmates will undoubtedly be watching such filth on their i-pods at school and it will be unavoidable that my children also get glimpses of Jar-Jar and the rest of that cultural aberration.

  19. @Bfabbi – I don’t doubt that using contemporary examples can strengthen gospel understandings.
    But, if you go to church to learn the gospel and you get taught “Star Wars” where does that leave you? Keep the scriptures in church and save the cultural references for midweek activities. The gospel is meat enough without watering it down with empty Hollywood calories.
    There are also a lot of copyright and legal issues about showing material without permission that I think the church as a whole would rather steer clear of rather than embrace the precident of showing You-Tube clips in church as being universally acceptable.

  20. John F.: Star Wars would have been welcome. In my mission, we had a profane snippet of “Wall Street”, with Michael Douglas giving Charlie Sheen his “wake up call,” meant to be our wake-up call as delivered by a certain AP. It would be better if no one commented, but just keep talking about Star Wars.

  21. JustMe,

    But is you are taught the gospel using the gospel via Star Wars it is s win-win.

    I prefer to through in Ancient Greek stuff with my scriptures…I guess it is scripture mingled with the the philosophies of men. Star Wars is too much of a mess to be considered a philosophy…so it is much safer.

    “The gospel is meat enough without watering it down…”

    Have you seen a Church manual recently or seen any of the CES videos?

  22. You know, the world would be so boring if everyone was the same. My husband is very spirit of the law about this kind of thing but I am very letter of the law by instinct so we are a good match. I don’t think I could bring myself to show a movie clip in church, and I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to do it, but it isn’t “my” church and it isn’t my place to condemn the practice.
    My personal experience that colors my feelings on this subject was sitting in a RS lesson while the teacher told a story from some unknown source about some unknown person being able to pull themselves off a cliff and thinking it was because they didn’t drink alcohol at a party that night INSTEAD of sharing the story in the manual about the prophet in which he bears his testimony about the word of wisdom being the source of his strength to overcome a serious illness. I am saddened to know that in the fluffy and frilly world of that teacher, a faith promoting rumor was more worthy of being taught to the sisters in that ward than the testimony of a latter day prophet. Even more disheartening is that the class didn’t even seem to know the difference – my sister in law thought it was a fantastic lesson.
    I don’t know whether to wish I could get to hear more lessons in church or not. I play the piano for primary which can be kind of mind numbing at times.

  23. In a world of iPods and instant gratification, we’d be dillusional not to use the media provided to us to assist in the education of our youth. You want kids to hate church- read scriptures for 3 hours.

    If it enhances the lesson, and gets across a point to our youth that strengthens our understanding of the scriptures, I call it good.

    How many musicals has President Monson quoted in talks? I’m just waiting for the day when he bursts out in “If I was a rich man” from the pulpit.

  24. I think the problem here lies with the parents who failed to sufficiently teach and arm their children with the appropriate cultural references requisite in navigating a morally dangerous world.

    Sounds like a good fifth Sunday combined Priesthood/Relief Society lesson is much in order.

  25. I second Sunny’s proposal.

    JustMe,

    ” I don’t think I could bring myself to show a movie clip in church, ”

    I don’t do it. But that is mostly because I am too lazy to put that much preperation into my Sunday lessons.

  26. @JustMe
    I understand where you are coming from, I am also very letter of the law, and orthodox. However, I have learned the value of using cultural examples appropriately. I think this example is one of those times. I think that we gain much from using these cultural examples to teach Gospel truths, and that they must be in conjunction with the scripture and the words of the prophets. They use cultural examples all the time.
    I have learned the value of the word of the Lord that it is not meet that you should be commanded in all things, for he that is commanded in all things is a slothful, and not a wise servant. Also, that we must do many things of our own free will and choice.

  27. Somehow it seems like you are trying to convince me to use appropriate cultural examples and I don’t remember ever being against that.
    As soon as the General Sunday School Presidency announces that we have the green light to play movie clips in Sunday School – completely at our own discretion and without any review by our supervisors – I will start focusing my attention away from scripture study and on to archiving scenes from my favorite movies, regardless of how old they are and whether or not any of the students have even heard of them – and begin to plan ways to contort the gospel to match what the popular consciousness demands in theatrical entertainment. Good plan. Inspired, indeed.

  28. JustMe, I think you’ve made your point. Your original point that showing movies is unusual and perhaps inadvisable was a reasonable one that I don’t wholly disagree with. However, you seem to be getting a little carried away (to take one example: “plan ways to contort the gospel to match what the popular consciousness demands in theatrical entertainment”). This is becoming a tangent.

  29. Yes. I did get carried away – on purpose. Glad you got my point. Sorry about the tangent.

  30. JustMe, frankly the only point I got is that I’m glad I’m not your sunday school teacher. That’s a hard enough job to do without having students whose expectations are so fervently tied to unwritten rules.

    John F., I thought this was a really interesting post. I’ve always found that time in ESB to be a little troubling because of the short time Luke spent with Yoda, and yet it was such a life altering time for him. Perhaps it was that the few lessons he received were so powerful. I’m glad your students have a teacher who really wants to talk with them about growing up right. Kids need that. :)

  31. Alas, this lack of cultural awareness strikes us when we least expect. Last night, my wife and I, with her best friend, were waiting for the fireworks show in our community, and happened to turn on the TV. “Goonies” was showing on one of the networks. So of course we started to watch it.

    And then my wife dropped the bomb.

    She is 22 years old and has never seen it. The last 10 minutes we watched last night has been her only exposure to it. So, of course, I will be making an emergency trip tomorrow to secure a copy. Some things should just never happen!

    On the topic of using movies as teaching tools… A few years ago, when I went to Australia for a semester, I remember my very first Sacrament Meeting there. One of the talks was on faith. The sister giving the talk asked us all the think back to when Mr. Miyagi began teaching Daniel-san the ways of karate. He said, “Daniel-san, must talk. Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later *squish* get squished, just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes,” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,” *squish* just like grape. Understand?” She then said, “So it is with faith. If we try to walk in the middle of the road between living the gospel and living the ways of the world, we will end up squished like a grape.” I still think this is one of the greatest modern applications of faith I have heard in my life. So glad that we have learned the value of using modern parables, allegories, and metaphors! After all, not everyone in the world even knows what a mustard seed is, let alone why they should understand how it grows.

  32. Peter LLC says:

    completely at our own discretion and without any review by our supervisors

    Sounds like “personal revelation” or “being led by the Spirit” if you ask me. But then again, I’m the one who once showed the slam section of a skate video to the EQ in a lesson on perseverance (to rave reviews, I might add, though there were no women around and this was in the days before BCC gave a platform to simmering discontent. Maybe that makes a difference).

    At any rate, I think you’ll find that the General Sunday School Presidency welcomes the kind of initiative shown by john f. in finding creative ways to teach gospel principles in the classroom.

  33. It was a DVD, not a YouTube clip. I’m not that hip.

    I thought the point above about President Monson’s frequent practice of quoting uncorrelated sources and pop culture references from his younger days (old musicals) was a pretty good response. I anticipate that the reply would be that he’s the prophet so he can do whatever he wants.

    I’m not worried about JustMe’s disapproval. I think it is unfortunate that she has developed a mindset that this is not “her” church. This is your church, JustMe. It is yours as much as it is anyone else’s who belongs to this church. Do you pay tithing and attend your meetings? Then it is your church. Feel free to take ownership and begin leaving your personal mark on it. We will all be better off for your efforts. You own this house — it’s not a rental.

  34. Yeah, that whole “the next generation is always better/chosen” thing is officially out…

  35. This kind of thing is why I’m a bit of a nerd in trying to get my kids caught up on movies from my childhood. I want them to “get” the jokes and the cultural references–and to get a taste of the good ‘ol days. Which, sadly, are farther away than I like to believe . . .

  36. Speaking of questionable cultural references, I used in a Sunday School class John Hamer’s excellent illustrations and charts of Noah’s ark compared to other cultural icons. http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/12/30/comparative-charts/ Now it is true that those illustrations had not gone through the SLC correlation process. But I felt no guilt because I knew that if it was printed on bcc, it must therefore be appropriate for use in Church. And, I must say, the class seemed to enjoy them.

  37. Speaking of President Monson, he quoted “Fiddler On The Roof” during a CES fireside in 2005. In this talk, he also quoted Dickens and used six other non-Correlated, non-scriptural examples.

    I wonder how many in the audience had no clue who Tevye was.

  38. Left Field says:

    President Monson misquoted The Voice in general conference, so you should also feel free to misquote anything you like.

  39. I think there’s more to learn from Luke slicing open the entrails of a beast and huddling for warmth.

  40. Personal experiences are welcome and encouraged in our meetings–even the forewords from the manuals state this. Yet, simultaneously they stte that we should not use any outside materials–beyond church mags, I mean. These two directions seem largely contradictory to me, as one says “tell inspiring tales” and the other says not to, unless those tales have been reviewed by a church mag publisher.

    I am of the opinion that we should follow the admonition of Paul quite liberally in our lessons.

  41. I use Star Wars all the time while teaching YM. I am really surprised nobody got all the references.

  42. The problem with using that kind of thing for kids is that they come to expect it and the scriptures and words of the Prophets take a distant second to modern special effects. Maybe playing it in a joint MIA meeting would be better. Surely the YW should have a chance to learn that lesson, too! I believe our manuals specify that we should not use resources for our sunday lesson unless they are approved by the church. I don’t mean to be a stick-in-the-mud about it. I fight the urge to bring in outside materials all the time. We can teach our own children using any resources we want, but I do believe that the the direction in the manual was put there for a good reason and I am not smater or more spiritual than the ones who wrote it. Maybe John F. is.

  43. I referenced “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” once (direct quote and attribution) in a Sacrament Meeting talk – and the Stake Presidency Counselor present didn’t object or call for my release. Compared to that, Star Wars is the pure Gospel.

    Great lesson idea – and I certainly feel your pain and angst over the fate of the world. Life without comprehension of Star Wars is not conducive to the pursuit of happiness and joy and leads inevitably to mists of darkness.

  44. Mark Brown says:

    If we have reached the point where people think it is wrong to use anything but the scriptures or the Ensign in a Sunday class, we really do have a big problem.

    Here is what the Sunday school teacher’s manual says:

    During class, keep discussions focused on the scriptures. Be judicious in your use of commentaries and other nonscriptural sources of information. Class members should be taught to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures and the words of the latter-day prophets.

    Based on John’s description, I think his use of the DVD was judicious.

    And here is the current YM manual:

    3. Adapt the lessons to your circumstances. Use teaching methods that interest the young men you teach. Watch for events and experiences in the lives of the young men or in the lives of people with whom they are familiar that will help make your lessons relevant to them. Occasionally, you may need to adapt the stories and examples to fit your cultural circumstances.

    I think adapting to cultural circumstances is exactly what John was trying to do, and he was surprised when he learned that the young men in his class came from a different cultural background.

    People, we belong to a church where general authorities tell stories about football and milking cows and pickle making in general conference. Our seminary classes for our youth spend a lot of time on Scripture chase and unbearably stupid videos. Are we really so fragile that the prospect of seeing 5 minutes of a movie in class makes us feel that we are doing something that is spiritually dangerous?

  45. they come to expect it and the scriptures and words of the Prophets take a distant second to modern special effects

    [nr],

    I think that is a legitimate concern, and one that absolutely needs to be considered. I have no doubt that john f. takes great care in this regard, since I know his character somewhat, but the point remains–there can be a danger in advocating this sort of thing without recognizing that, without proper precautions, there are costs to all teaching strategies.

  46. Mark Brown,
    While I appreciate and agree with your statement

    If we have reached the point where people think it is wrong to use anything but the scriptures or the Ensign in a Sunday class, we really do have a big problem.

    This nevertheless flies right in the face of the explicit instructions in the new Gospel Principles manual:

    “If you have been called to teach a quorum or class using this book, do not substitute outside materials, however interesting they may be. Stay true to the scriptures and the words in the book. As appropriate, use personal experiences and articles from Church magazines to supplement the lessons.”

    While I am personally comfortable interpreting that statement quite liberally, I don’t fault others in the Church who would fault me for doing such.

  47. I get the caution- and the caution pendulum swings both ways- While I’d be fine with a Star Wars lesson, I would hate someone teaching a lesson using the McNaughton painting as visual support.

    Yet as Mark pointed out, we seem to have contradictory directive here- use only the _scriptures or church magazines_ in one manual, but others tell us personal anecdotes and _judiciously chosen_ outside sources are okay. So how do we walk this line? Seems to be yet another area where common sense and thoughtful consideration are the only real answer. And it’s a crap-shoot if what Sister A considers good is the same as what Sister B considers good.

  48. klangfarben says:

    so I jumped right into the fray of this conversation without reading a lot of the comments. I was immediately empathetic with john’s (the author) plight of facing the dearth of popular culture knowledge in the classroom. It reminded me of a college student who took me totally off-guard mid-lecture by saying: “You know most of your popular culture references are way over our heads, right?” Ouch. That stung. But ’twas true. Unfortunately we get older and the youth stay the same age. In light of the post however, it is cool to see that there can be some fruitful ideas that come when we are forced to re-examine and close read something that we think is so readily understood and easily accessed in current cultural memory. that is what makes teaching (gospel or otherwise) so exciting. Knowledge is constantly in flux—but not the same kind of flux that operates the “flux capacitor.”

  49. Scott B, “using this book” seems like a pretty narrow statement to me.

    There is a huge difference between a Gospel Essentials class, a Gospel Doctrine class, a Primary class, a Seminary class, a youth Sunday School class, etc.

    Hmm – maybe that’s why there is a difference in the instructions in the different manuals. Maybe the approach needs to be different for different groups of people.

    I “hate” few things in the Church, but I really hate it when something that is given for one thing gets co-opted and applied comprehensively to everything. It happens WAY too much, and it simply isn’t true to the overall message we get from the apostles and Prophets right now in our own day.

  50. Ray,
    I would (cautiously) argue that the different directions vis a vis the GP manual that I cited above stem less from different applications and more from different publication dates.

    Such a narrow, clear statement on outside materials was never included in earlier manuals; the GP manual is the newest thing we’ve got, however, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar language incorporated into updated versions of other manuals as well.

    I don’t necessarily hope for that, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it.

  51. a random John says:

    Queuno,

    In what version of TESB does Luke slice open a beast for warmth? Do we need remedial viewings of the film? That’s like saying that Noah brought the Ten Commendments down from the mountain.

  52. “We can teach our own children using any resources we want, but I do believe that the the direction in the manual was put there for a good reason and I am not smater or more spiritual than the ones who wrote it. Maybe John F. is.

    The teacher has the stewrdship and the right to revelation for that stewardship. Neither the manual nor anyone else has the right to deny the teacher’s right to receive revelation and inspiration to guide his or her efforts in teaching the class. In other words: Go soak your head.

  53. Noah Read says:

    I just recently watched Empire Strikes Back again for the 30 year anniversary and I gotta tell you that Yoda training gets more profound all the time. Great lesson! Once those youth get their act together and start learning the force as much as they watch twilight I foresee greater future missionaries. After all, luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.

    As far as appropriateness for church, I’ve found the occasional shake-up in lesson orthodoxy leads to some great insights as long as it’s not done constantly or to show-off. Why constrain the Spirit?

  54. Peter LLC says:

    Unfortunately we get older and the youth stay the same age.

    There is an upside to the aging process, however. Perhaps you can find the silver lining in the message from Dazed and Confused:

    “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”

  55. Patrick says:

    A bit of a tangent: I just spent the past couple of nights watching the SciFi Channel 2000 miniseries version of Frank Herberts’ Dune with my 28 year old daughter – and found myself having to explain it all to her, she never having read it (or even heard of it). I realized that I had failed miserably in my parental responsibility ;).

    Anyone here ever referenced Dune in a Church lesson or talk…?

  56. I am frequently known to quote at length from CS Lewis children’s novels in Sacrament Meeting talks. Do you approve of this JustME and [nr]? If not, do you approve of it when an Apostle does it in General Conference? If so, what is the difference?

  57. I think pres. Monson with his quotes from various authors and poets has really shown us that “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom” doesn’t refer only to scriptures (or church manuals). When JS received that revelation there were no DVDs. Now we have them, so we should also seek out of the best movies. And what could be better than a Star Wars movie?

  58. # 57, great comment, thank you.

  59. Peter LLC says:

    In other words: Go soak your head.

    No doubt sound advice, MCQ, but is this the kind of thing you would want your kids reading on the internet?

  60. re # 57, I’m just wondering whether JustMe and [nr] might be arguing that only President Monson or the Twelve Apostles are allowed to have such discretion in locating and incorporating uplifting, educational or devotional material from our wider base of cultural knowledge into their talks and teaching moments. I do not think this is the case and believe that the General Authorities do or at least should trust the membership of the Church to follow the admonition of Paul as a guiding principle in our lives, as we listen to the Holy Spirit. In fact, I remember seeing a number of General Conference addresses that highly encourage us all to develop our own abilities to listen to the still small voice and to rely more on our own guidance from the Holy Spirit in seeking out knowledge and understanding (and in teaching) instead of looking to be spoon-fed and instructed in everything.

    This will certainly be necessary if we truly are to become a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation. (Exodus 19:6)

  61. I fully agree with you. I think I am able to understand some of the points JustMe and [nr] made (faith promoting rumour vs. testimony of prophet, youth expecting that kind of stuff and words of the prophets taking second place).
    But this won’t happen if only we follow the Spirit.
    And if we do rely on the Holy Ghost we are to become a Kingdom of Priest, as you say.

    Being a GA or not shouldn’t make any difference here.

  62. Straight and undiluted says:

    First a quote from J. Rueben Clark, “The youth of the Church are hungry for things of the Spirit; they are eager to learn the gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted.”

    The youth in my ward think that I am a great teacher, but I’m not really. I just set a stage for spiritual experiences. The spirit is the teacher, I am a conduit. I am a mirror reflecting the light of the gospel. It is the light they are drawn to, not the mirror. I have found that teaching them the gospel undiluted has a greater effect than clips from popular movies or references to popular culture.

    MCQ, I beg to differ with you. A teacher can get off track and must be monitored by church leaders. My children had a teacher that taught her “personal revelation” rather than the gospel. Her views were sometimes silly, sometimes wrong, and occasionally spiritually destructive. Although she was corrected by church authorities, she continued to teach “personal revelation” that she had been told by leaders was false doctrine. She was released finally, but expouses these false doctrines when ever she can. Unfortunately, my children and other youth in the church have been taught doctrines by this sister that will not lead them to Christ. I advocate teaching the gospel “straight, undiluted”.

  63. It is the Spirit thas really teaches us. Holy Ghost is Testator. He needs something to bear testimony of. The way this something is given may vary. Jesus spoke in parabels. Sometimes parabels or stories help us understand something we really didn’t understand before. The young men didn’t understand discipline completely. After seeing clip from TESB they had better understanding. And the Spirit could bare a witness.

  64. OOPS! I mean bear (not bare) of course.

    And #62, I agree with you teachers may get off the track and need be monitored.
    But teaching false doctrine is different than teaching pure doctrine with creative ways.

  65. Straight and undiluted: do you also view President Monson’s frequent references to musicals in his General Conference talks (i.e. the pop culture of his day) as inappropriate or is it more of a “he’s the president of the Church so he can do anything he wants regardless of the counsel that supposedly applies to the rest of us” type of thing?

    In any event, showing a four minute clip from The Empire Strikes Back was simply an object lesson to reinforce the material we had been discussing from the lesson suggested by the manual. It sounds like it is not something you would do in your own lesson. That’s perfectly fine for each person to have his or her own different tastes in how best to teach our youth and members essential Gospel principles.

    This particular lesson was on “Self-Discipline” which is a Gospel principle to the extent that it dovetails with faith and repentance which are actual principles of the Gospel, but the manual is actually quite inadequate in this lesson at making the topic of “Self-Discipline” sufficiently Christ-focused. We improved on this in our lesson by spending the first half talking about our belief in Jesus Christ as our foundation and a scripture-based discussion about how followers of Jesus Christ would behave and treat others. In talking about our behavior as disciples of Jesus Christ, we transitioned to talk about developing self-discipline as part of our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. We did not talk about self-discipline in the abstract or in a way that would make any of the young men feel bad about themselves but rather as something positive that we can do to honor our Savior Jesus Christ. (By referring so directly to Helaman 5:12, we therefore strayed from the manual, which did not refer to that scripture or focus so much on Jesus Christ as the foundation of our faith.)

    The rest of the lesson about self-discipline came very naturally as we discussed how learning how to get control of our feelings, emotions and desires can help us to strengthen our testimonies of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and treat others the way Christ would have us do. Watching Luke fail at the cave was an excellent object lesson for a scenario in which someone ignores the counsel of his teachers and fails to develop the self-discipline required to control his desires and emotions. Following that, we read the equally fictional story contained in the manual about a kid that decides to control himself and overcome a habit of using profanity. Because we had discussed that Jesus Christ is our foundation at the beginnig of the lesson, we now had a reason for them to even care about developing Christlike behaviors (like avoiding profanity or unclean thoughts or anger). The Spirit was strong throughout the entire lesson, including the time we spent discussing the relevant meaning in that scene from the movie, so I am confident that the lesson was beneficial to the young men, perhaps even for the long term. I still remember some of the lessons I was taught during Priesthood as a deacon and teacher and that stuck with me as I was growing up. They were taught to me by leaders who were not so paranoid about uttering phrases not contained in the manual but rather put our best interest first on their list of priorities and met us on our level in discussing the Gospel. And yes, some of those discussions included references to Star Wars or U2 or Axis & Allies, etc. Honestly, I don’t think any of my youth leaders need to feel that anything they did in going this distance detracted in any way from giving us the Gospel straight and undiluted. To the contrary, by bringing us the Gospel in terms that were interesting to us while also focusing closely on the scriptures, my own youth leaders gave us the Gospel straight and undiluted. And more importantly, they humbled themselves to be our friends.

  66. One of my teenagers in class the other day was wearing a ACDC shirt, so I gave my 5 minute talk on why Back in Black is a particularly spiritual song for Mormons. Very well received.

  67. Very interesting contribution to the discussion.

    JustMe will join me in expressing gratitude that you did not spread the rumor, which is supposedly faith promoting, that so many Mormons used to spread when I was younger that ACDC stood for “after Christ the devil comes” or alternatively “anti-Christ, devil’s child” — it stands for “alternating current/direct current”. I agree completely with JustMe in working to reduce Mormons’ penchant for basing their faith on faith promoting rumors. A pop culture reference used to reinforce a Gospel principle or a useful principle that is related to a Gospel principle (like self-discipline), whether a quote from an old-fashioned musical or from an old sci-fi movie, is not a faith promoting rumor. It is just an example from the rich world of cultural material available to us.

  68. (By contrast, a “faith promoting rumor” is more like an actual, you know, lie.)

  69. britt k says:

    we promptly exposed our children to the dagobah training sequence…

    our own cultural reference lack? My husband says to 14 yo this sounds like Madonna..yuck….14yo says “who?”

    They do have a grasp of Michael jackson, or as 10 yo said “isn’t that the guy with all the faces?”

  70. Teaching the “prophecies” of Merlin the Magician regarding the apostate takeover of a fancied ancient British temple (as actually happened in a RS lesson in my ward last year) in place of the manual’s discussion of temple ordinances is teaching something false in place of something true.

    Supplementing the lesson with a short modern illustration that can be easily understood by your class can reinforce the stated gospel purpose of a lesson, if it’s well chosen and taught appropriately by a competent teacher.

    Teachers who can’t tell the difference should definitely stick to the manual. They should probably read it aloud to the class word for word. (Actually, they should probably take a teacher development course. Twice.) Real teachers should be spared the holier-than-thou criticism of people who would rather count the number of words spoken by the teacher that didn’t appear in the manual, than try to grasp the gospel point being taught.

    (I’m not calling JustMe and [nr] “holier than thou” — you could very well have been subjected to your ward’s equivalent of my Merlin the Magician lesson and be especially sensitive to the potential problem. But I’ll bet if you had been in john f.’s class that day, you would not have objected to how he handled it.)

  71. Antonio Parr says:

    No. 57: Amen.

    (Now if I can just find a way to incorporate the astonishingly moving documentary “Still Bill” (on the incredibly wise and talented singer-songwriter, Bill Withers) into my next Priesthood lesson . . . )

  72. I teach youth Sunday School to the 14-18 year olds. I teach the scriptures stories straight and then tie them to larger life experiences they are going through. That can involve GA quotes, other church material, cultural references, and even stuff I read on blogs (I know, even more shocking than Star Wars). I see know difference between quoting Thomas S. Monson’s extra double secret Apocrypha (and now I quote from the book of Shenandoah, Act 2, Scene 1…) or something more related to me (the 1980’s) or even something from their time.

    Though when I bring up my references it usually goes like this:
    Me: You remember how Andy felt guilt over what he did to that poor kid in the locker room just because of peer pressure…
    Class: empty stares
    Me: You have never seen The Breakfast Club?!?!?!? What are they not teaching in public schools today?

    Anyways, fwiw I have been quoting poetry in sacremant meeting for twenty years now and only one time has anybody recognized my favorite poets names (like Paul Hewson or Minnesota favorite son Robert Zimmerman).

  73. Stupid spell check

    “No” difference

    “Sacrament”

    My favorite youth moment. Driving a car full of teens to an activity and had the BNL’s Be My Yoko Ono playing on the radio. One girl turns to the other and says “What is a Yoko Ono?”

  74. CS Eric says:

    I hate to join in a battle of quotes, but it seems to me that Pres Uchtdorf could have been talking about the “rule” that we can never use any other source for our teaching in the Oct 2009 Conference:

    “But this may present a problem for some because there are so many ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of ‘good ideas.’ ”

    I also think there is a reason Elder Perry talked about seeing his mother prepare to teach lessons at Church:

    “Mother was a great teacher who was diligent and thorough in her preparation. I have distinct memories of the days preceding her lessons. The dining room table would be covered with reference materials and the notes she was preparing for her lesson. There was so much material prepared that I’m sure only a small portion of it was ever used during the class, but I’m just as sure that none of her preparation was ever wasted. How can I be sure about this? As I flipped through the pages of her notebooks, it was as if I were hearing my mother teach me one more time. Again, there was too much in her notebooks on any single topic to ever share in a single class session, but what she didn’t use in her class she used to teach her children.”

    It is hard to imagine Elder Perry’s mother covering the dining room table with a manual, a set of scriptures, and a couple of Church magazines. Why would he even mention this, if it weren’t the kind of thing teachers today should be doing?

    And TESB rules.

  75. During the last time I attempted to show a Star Wars clip in a church meeting, a member raised his hand and asked me if I had obtained a public performance license. I glared at him, told him to go soak his head, and pressed play.

  76. I’ve been away long enough that people are actually starting to venture what I would say so I guess it’s time to speak up again.
    I am fascinated by poetry and references from literature and other arts when general authorities include them in talks. I think it gives a glimpse into what their interests are outside of their callings and makes their message more personal. I think that this is in keeping with the instruction (yes, actual written, published rules and instructions given to teachers in the church – thanks to those who provided them here) teachers receive to share personal feelings about experiences that have reinforced a gospel principle.

    Something else that I think I owe the OP is a comment about using teaching tools. In a teacher development lesson taught by our bishop, I learned a very important concept about being in tune with your class. He had an assortment of objects on a table in front of him and asked a class member to come pick up a dolly and a hammer and to use them to flatten a piece of dented sheet metal. The volunteer sister picked up a baby doll, the hammer and the sheet metal and tried to follow the instructions. She didn’t get far before the bishop had to rescue his daughter’s toy from being smashed. He then pointed out that in his line of work, auto body repair, they call a shaped block of metal, which was also on the table, a dolly – and that is what you would use to pound the metal flat. He showed us through that object lesson that we need to be in tune with what our class understands so we don’t talk over their level of understanding.

    The point of that example was to suggest that if we are in tune with a contemporary classroom of teenagers, we will be speaking their language, not demanding that they relate to what was meaningful to us decades ago. I do get that the OP was lamenting the fact that teenagers no longer share what we once could assume everyone could appreciate (Star Wars). I can tell he put a lot of preparation into the lesson and that he had the interest of the class at heart. I’m sorry if I dampened his enthusiasm by expressing my reservations about his choice of supplemental material. I know that isn’t what his post was really supposed to be about.

    I enjoy teaching and I enjoy participating in a well prepared lesson. (I will refrain from commenting here on how frustrated I become when a teacher refuses to involve the class in a “lesson” because she is so intent on covering everything in the manual that she basically ignores the class.) I think it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that preparing the lesson has to be a research project and that the teacher must have all knowledge on the subject in order to present the lesson. I don’t think that is the case. I think that if the teacher has studied the manual and then pondered his or her testimony of the concepts taught in that lesson and is prepared to share that personal conviction with the class, the lesson will be a success. The spirit bears witness after personal testimony, just as it has for generations before anyone had ever heard of video clips.

  77. Can’t resist a quote from TESB that seems appropriate when discussing how to use cultural references in gospel teaching, which I am wont to do from time to time:

    Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
    Yoda: You will know… when you are calm, at peace, passive.

    Trust the force.

  78. Antonio Parr says:

    72.

    From the Book of Zimmerman:

    They say that patriotism is the last refuge
    To which a scoundrel clings
    Steal a little and they throw you in jail
    Steal a lot and they make you king

  79. From the great Irish Poet Hewson:

    And so we are told this is the golden age
    And gold is the reason for the wars we wage

  80. Russel G. says:

    Gary Kurtz, the producer of the Star Wars trilogy, is Mormon, and added the idea of the Force to the storyline, where Lucas wasn’t as interested in the spiritual aspects. Star Wars has more gospel applicability than BSG in my humble opinion.

    And TStevens, those lines from Hewson are familiar. I’m trying to locate my source, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

  81. I once told my 10-11yo Valiant girls that U2 recorded the psalm “40” as a song. One girl told me she thought it wasn’t right for scriptures to be made into a rock song.

    I’m not very surprised kids today wouldn’t know Star Wars. My youngest son knows all kinds of stuff about movies that kids his age don’t and it drives him insane. The only person at church he can talk to about Stanley Kubrick is his Sunday School teacher.

  82. Oh, and the other day I showed my Valiant girls a line drawing of the Ark of the Covenant and asked them if they knew was it was. One girl identified it correctly, and when I asked her how she knew, she said her brother watches Raiders of the Lost Ark a lot.

  83. My ss class kids may not know the OT very well, but they all know Veggie Tales. Thank goodness for that modern cultural reference.

  84. JustMe,

    Thank you for your well reasoned and articulate posts. Your feelings and thoughts about appropriate and proper lessons are consistent with many (perhaps most?) members of the Church. Your views are certainly underrepresented on this blog.

    In application, however, the “use only the scriptures, the manual, and church magazines” approach to lessons creates a number of very serious problems. First, as has been pointed out previously, it makes no room for the Spirit. If, as a teacher, who has been set apart as an instructor, able to receive specific spiritual guidance for his class, I am inspired by the Spirit to use a scene from Star Wars to make a point, why should I not do so? How can one really have concern for “the One” while still maintaining a rigid “only the manual” approach to teaching?

    Second, the lesson manuals are written for a very wide audience encompassing vastly different levels of gospel knowledge and educational attainment. For example, the same primary manual is used by both nine year olds and twelve year olds. Normal nine and twelve year olds have very different comprehension levels, interests, and needs. The same is true for adult classes. The same manuals are intended for use with those who have been life-long members and members for a year or two. The same manuals are used for illiterate people and PhD English professors. Again the comprehension levels, interests, and needs of different groups vary widely. Overreliance on the manuals prevents tailoring the message for the audience.

    Finally, the manuals are boring. They are repetitious. They make me want to sleep or stay home and watch football on Sunday.

  85. Wait, what? When was The Empire Strikes Back taken out of the Pearl of Great Price?

  86. Also, can we please stop encouraging people to use church magazines more often? If there’s something with the church logo on it that you want to use more, make it the bible. Church magazines suck. I could teach a better lesson using quotes from Rolling Stone than I could using the New Era or Ensign.

  87. Zack,

    I think it was removed about the same time as the Lectures on Faith.

  88. JMaxx,
    I’m sorry for being so wordy in post 76 that you missed my mentions of teaching by the spirit and my own frustrations with lessons that stay too close to just the manual.
    The concerns you outline are all very legitimate and I feel like they are acknowledged in the church as evidenced by the recent emphasis on teacher training. We know we need to do better.
    Ultimately, there needs to be a rule before there can be exceptions. And, as has already been pointed out, what one person thinks in and acceptable exception may not correspond with what someone else thinks.
    Hypothetically, is the benefit of one young man who grasps the higher vision of discipline through a Star Wars clip in church equal to the detriment of another who leaves with the idea that the protocol for gospel teaching is to read some scriptures and then look to worldly sources of electronic media for real life application rather than discovering how to relate to other living breathing people who have struggled to build character and testimony?
    I do believe that people can be influenced by the spirit to personalize a lesson for a class. I cannot shake the hunch that some people would rather slip in a few easy movie clips here and there (Not saying this is what the OP did – just that others trying to emulate him could end up making it a habit) rather than poring over recommended source material like President Perry’s mother exemplified. When we work for something, we appreciate it more. I think watching movies as a frequent practice could potentially feed the expectation for youth that classes should be entertaining rather than engaging and requiring some effort on their part in order to make it meaningful for them.
    Clearly there is middle ground and clearly there is good teaching by less conventional methods and horrid teaching when done “by the book.” (I sometimes wish I could sleep in self defense the way my husband does. We’ve recently begun to spy out which teacher is teaching before going into class and then going to a different class the weeks our least favorite teacher is doing the lesson. I do relate to your desire to watch football rather than endure a lousy lesson. There are some distinct advantages to living in a ward large enough to have two Gospel Doctrine classes.)
    Maybe at the root of the issue there is a case of “do as I say, not as I do” when it comes to Sunday teaching. The manuals say a lot of very useful things – but the way many lessons are taught do not reflect them.

  89. Re #17: This is what we used to watch in my zone conferences: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TROhlThs9qY

    Re #31: My wife is familiar with the Goonies, which may explain why she was not amused with my suggestion when she was 6 months pregnant that she do the “truffle shuffle.”

  90. JustMe,

    Sorry I missed the part in 76 where you mentioned the Spirit. I probably was writing my post.

    “is the benefit of one young man who grasps the higher vision of discipline through a Star Wars clip in church equal to the detriment of another who leaves with the idea that the protocol for gospel teaching is to read some scriptures and then look to worldly sources of electronic media for real life application rather than discovering how to relate to other living breathing people who have struggled to build character and testimony?”

    I am not sure its ever a “detriment” to watch Star Wars, but yes, even assuming it is, it is far, far better that one boy should learn a true principle from Star Wars than an entire class dwindle in boredom and disblief.

    I am curious what you think of my second point–how can chuch manuals, which, lets face it, were written so that the slowest member of the class can understand it, provide for the needs of the one?

  91. - how can chuch manuals, which, lets face it, were written so that the slowest member of the class can understand it, provide for the needs of the one?

    My best answer on this is perhaps more of a personal wish. I wish that Sunday lessons could be more of a discussion than a teacher trying to spoonfeed the class. I wish that I could contribute something that was important or interesting (on topic – of course) and be acknowledged and validated instead of having the cursory smile and nod and “lets get back to the lesson because I didn’t plan to go there” reaction that I find so typical. I wish that the class could be more of a co-operative effort on the part of the students and the teacher.
    But.
    I know that the idea of trying to keep on topic in that kind of situation takes a lot of skill and experience in a teacher. I know that in a setting where people are conditioned to sit and only “think inside the lines” that giving that kind of freedom could become disruptive or uncomfortable for both the teacher and the student. I know that there are people with deep questions who could intimidate the new member or just selfishly drag the class off into the deep end.
    So, when the manual says to prayerfully consider what the needs are in your class and that you shouldn’t feel like you must cover all of the material in a lesson, I like that. I would like to think that the teacher could pick something of particular interest to the class and then let them really work over that topic in detail and share personal insights or struggles and figure out how to make it matter in their own lives. I think that the manual allows for all of that and so do the scriptures. I just haven’t experienced it very often and that is disappointing. “The one” could be fed by having the chance to share instead of being constantly overlooked as not needing to be “taught” and therefore not being the focus of the instruction. Sometimes being able to give to others lifts us as much as when we are the recipients.

  92. I love John Fowles and wish he were in my ward. That is all.

  93. gst – I just shared your comment with my wife (who saw “The Goonies” today – woo hoo), and she said that if I EVER suggest she do the “truffle shuffle”, she would consider valid grounds for a divorce. Yikes. (I think she is somewhat kidding, though. Maybe.)

    JustMe – I don’t think anyone is suggesting your hypothetical situation in 88. If anything, it is the exact opposite. We should use appropriate references to emphasise the teachings of the scriptures. I haven’t seen anyone suggest that the scriptures be used to emphasise the teachings of pop culture.

    Regarding your wish for Sunday lessons to be more of a discussion, this is the goal of Gospel teaching. Every manual I have ever laid eyes on emphasises that the teacher should NOT try to cover all of the material in the lesson, and that there should be many questions asked of the class to elicit input.

    When I was in my Stake Sunday School Presidency, we would ask the members about their classes. Anytime someone said it was boring, I would ask why. The response was usually that the teacher was always talking, etc. I would always challenge those in the classes to take time to ask questions, then. Everyone has the opportunity to participate. I don’t buy this claim that we are “conditioned to
    sit and only ‘think inside the lines'” because that just isn’t part of the curriculum and it isn’t part of the messages we get from the GAs. But, for the sake of discussion, why do YOU think this conditioning exists? And how often do YOU ask questions in your classes?

  94. Cynthia L. says:

    JustMe, sorry to have to ask again, but can you relax a little and treat other people like real people and not those dummies that high school football guys smash into for practice? I’m not sure if your statement a while back, “Yes. I did get carried away – on purpose.” was meant to be reassuring, but it was the opposite. Why would you try to be unfair to others, too loud and over the top in a discussion “on purpose”? I don’t get it.

    I think you have a valid point, and you can see that others have showed up who agree with you, but being over the top discredits your point, not underscores it.

  95. I have to reject the idea that any one source of media (bible, BoM, movie clip, rock song etc.) can always be the right mode of communication that will reach every class on every subject. I also have to reject the inverse that any one form of media is always the wrong way.
    Empire Strikes Back as part of a sacrament meeting talk? Yeah, that would probably be wrong. SM is primarily a time of worship and sacramental ordinances after all, NOT a time of instruction.
    As part of Sunday School? Meh, get over yourself. SS is a time of discussion, instruction and learning. If Star Wars can be used to encourage this, great.

    the detriment of another who leaves with the idea that the protocol for gospel teaching is to read some scriptures and then look to worldly sources of electronic media for real life application rather than . . .

    Were you appalled when you sang “America the Beautiful” last Sunday? (assuming you’re from the US) If not, I’d like to know your definition of what worldly means. Or is it the electronic portion? How do you feel about people using iPhones to read the Book of Mormon in SS?

    JMaxx is right, you can’t encourage people to use more inspired teaching methods, and then try to second-guess and judge when they don’t do it the way you would.

  96. “Yes. I did get carried away – on purpose.” was meant to be reassuring, but it was the opposite. Why would you try to be unfair to others, too loud and over the top in a discussion “on purpose”? I don’t get it.”

    So sorry, Cynthia L.. I get that I am new here and you have seniority over me here and know the right way to communicate. When is your “style guide” going to be available for my edification?

    To my understanding, playing hollywood movies in church is not even legal and it isn’t encouraged or recommended by the church. So, if that isn’t a good enough reason not to do it, then I guess even going to extremes to make a point will not stop people from rationializing about it and justifying it.

    B. Russ – thanks for pointing out how judgmental I’ve been. I was really and sincerely trying not to be such a stereotypical Mormon but I guess if the shoe fits ….. we can wear it together.

  97. Thomas Parkin says:

    Alex,

    Good points about encouraging discussion. I feel, as a teacher, if I’ve made more than 25% of the points and/or done more than 33% of the talking, I’ve probably failed.

    Best lesson I ever taught was when I was a SS president. The GD teacher didn’t show, so I was left teaching a lesson about Modern- day Prophets. Not my favorite. Thought to myself … hm. Got an idea. Stood up and said that since we didn’t have a teacher, but were meant to be learning about modern prophets, we would spend the class saying anything we would like to say about any GA. I told an anecdote about Howard W Hunter, then just stood up in front quiet. After, literally, about two minutes of silence, a couple people offered some tentative observations. Then the flood gates just opened. It was a really amazing little forum, and I did nothing but stand there and call on people and then thank them. Everyone’s contribution was valued, without regard to the strangeness (and a couple quite odd stories were told!) or orthodoxy of what they said.

    Good stuff. ~

  98. john f.,

    My son just asked me (while he was helping me prepare dinner) if it would be okay if we watched Star Wars together sometime. I am proud.

    The next generation is in good hands, as long as they are my son’s.

    I know what we are doing for scripture study tonight…

  99. The girls I teach this year are the shyest, quietest girls–it makes teaching them a real challenge. I’ve discovered that the secret to getting them to loosen up and not be so self-conscious is to get them out of their chairs. I have to be pretty creative about it too. Sometimes I’ll write up scripts based on the scripture account for them to act out, but not all the girls enjoy that.

    Last Sunday I told the scripture account with fill-in-the-blanks, and gave them two options for what went in each blank. We pasted them on the wall and I had sticky darts that the girls threw at them to make their guesses.

  100. JustMe #96 (and anyone else),

    Our “Style Guide” is found here, and I highly recommend reading it.

    As an addendum, I would suggest generally a) never typing things that you wouldn’t say to a human being face to face, and b) always assume that everyone else in the thread is much smarter and more experienced in whatever issue is being discussed than you (not you personally, but “you” passively).

    The reason for a) is obvious: we’re all human beings, and it’s disrespectful to ignore that simply because we have the ability to use ctrl-copy and ctrl-paste from LDS.org.

    The reason for b) is more subtle, since such an assumption will almost never actually be true: If you always assume that everyone is smarter and more experienced than you, then you’ll never attempt to pass off a clever argument in place of a good one, and you’ll always assume the best in others.

    In short, don’t impute ill will, a lack of faith, a disregard for the words of the Prophets, or a hatred of white bread for the sacrament where such has not been presented.

  101. Scott,

    I’d like a good sweet brown bread or honey wheat, if we get a choice.

  102. JustMe (#96),

    Case in point:

    To my understanding, playing hollywood movies in church is not even legal and it isn’t encouraged or recommended by the church. So, if that isn’t a good enough reason not to do it, then I guess even going to extremes to make a point will not stop people from rationializing about it and justifying it.

    In that short paragraph, you call many people in this thread criminals, and then say effectively “You people are so stuck in your gross sins that even my bold language won’t cause you to repent.”

    That would be an example of how not to make friends and influence people.

  103. @Scott
    Thanks for the reminder on the proper style here. I am pretty new here and hope I haven’t been guilty of these offenses.

    Back to the post, the thread has really taken a turn since I last posted. I really hope that some of these comments are sarcasm.

  104. I think a large part of the problem here is when people mistake practice for principle. The practice here is showing a clip of TESB to underscore an important gospel teaching. The principle involved is presenting information in a way that is tailored to be uplifting, inspiring, and relatable for your class.

    We too often emulate practices that seem to go right instead of looking at the deeper principle that inspired the practice in the first place. I mean, how weird would it be if we all tried to emulate behaviors or practices of Jesus instead of the principles that guided those actions? Similarly, if we each tried to emulate John F.’s use of TESB in our classrooms this Sunday it would likely prove disastrous in many instances. But we all can and should emulate the principle of working hard to reach our classes where they are.

    I think the seemingly knee-jerk fear reactions of some on this thread stem from the idea that if it’s okay for one teacher to show a movie clip we are condoning instituting that practice in any or all situations. Not true. The principle is what should be understood and instituted. The practice should be seen only as an example of the principle in action.

  105. @Sunny
    I think you have hit the nail on the head.

  106. As am educator, there are two words that I learned while in my university classes that are like manna from heaven: Fair Use. As long as it is being used for an educational purpose, it is fair game.

  107. This thread is a lot more fun if you pretend that SS stands for Shutzstaffel and GD stands for g–damn. Take Thomas Parkin’s comment: “Best lesson I ever taught was when I was a SS president. The GD teacher didn’t show, so I was left teaching a lesson about Modern- day Prophets.”

  108. And as an educator, I continually lament the lack of an edit function here. Some day I will remember to proof-read before submitting a comment.

  109. gst,

    You just made life fun again. Thank you.

    But don’t you have something for TESB?

  110. Mark Brown says:

    TESB = Twilight, Eclipse Suck Bad

  111. Brother Hale says:

    I taught at the MTC and likened all gospel principles to the lessons of Star Wars. My favorite group of Elders carried me in a chair (on their shoulders) down the hall as we re-enacted Luke (me) in an X-wing, running the gauntlet and destroying the Death Star. I received some good letters back from those Elders on how some of those crazy teaching moments came back to them while in the mission field.

  112. Brother Hale,
    I’m afraid your memory is faulty. You weren’t Luke destroying the Death Star. You were merely C3PO scaring the Ewoks.

  113. Scott FTW.

  114. John,
    You’ll be glad to know that for his birthday, William received a Hoth Battle Lego playset.

  115. Ronan, I am definitely aware of your valiant efforts and successes in transmitting essential cultural knowledge to your children!

  116. Further to # 115, I commend you on a well-rounded effort to immerse your children in the best of their surrounding and inherited culture, from involvement in cricket and cadets to Star Wars to classics of literature and knowledge from your own studies of the Ancient Near east.

    I remember on our last visit to your place picking up Treasure Island off your boys’ desk and enjoying a quick read through the first few chapters. Brought me back to my own childhood. (Although now flipping through it I imagine that I have the accents much better in my head for those seafaring characters — not sure at this point how I imagined them speaking as a kid growing up in suburban Dallas when first reading it.)

    There’s some material in there that would work great for driving home Gospel principles for our young deacons and teachers in a Sunday School class to make the Gospel come alive for them. I guess that should be avoided though, both because I have very little faith that these kids will have read the book (do kids in this digital age have enough self-discipline to sit down and read books? My daughters, who are avid readers, do, much to my satisfaction, but they are the children of academic wannabees who in no wise deny our nerdiness) and because, apparently, if we can assume that most members are like the commenter JustMe on this thread and are busy negatively judging the teaching decisions/techniques of teachers in Zion (which I am guessing is a safe assumption) then it probably is better to just read from the scriptures in these lessons in order to avoid provoking a response similar to JustMe’s response in one of the kids’ parents.

    We hear the complaint that the greater portion of our youth go inactive early on and leave the Church. My sense has been that this is a great concern for both the parents of such wayward youth and Church leaders alike. Making Sunday School lessons fun and relevant to the kids seems like a step in the right direction of helping them stay interested in the Church and see how the Gospel principles, which can come across as extremely preachy and frankly unappealing (to an adolescent’s mind) in the manuals, surface all around us in real life and the broader culture, from literature, to music, to movies, to ads, and to almost any means of verbal or written communication and cultural transmission. This is the approach my BYU professors took when teaching German or Spanish literature, Biology or even Economics (or Law, which ended up being my professional degree). I had thought this was Brigham Young’s injunction to us as well — to seek out, accumulate and incorporate all truth, wherever we may find it. The Admonition of Paul, I would have thought, should have been our guiding principle in Gospel teaching, and we should have rightly expected the fruits of the Spirit as a result of such reliance.

    We could have portrayed the Gospel as being big and important, not only in our own personal spiritual lives but also as a vector of improvement and spiritual change in our communities, cultures and nations. We could have shown Gospel principles at work in all of human activity through all ages of time, from Gilgamesh down to Jason Bourne, cutting across genres from Mozart’s Magic Flute to U2’s Joshua Tree and defying all attempts at a limiting deductive systematization like Gödel’s theorums.

    I want the youth to feel the excitement I feel about the Restored Gospel when I consider it in all its expressive, expansive glory. I think this is still done at BYU (although perhaps comments like some on this thread are an indication that it is possibly under threat there as well) so assuming these kids stay in the Church long enough to have a shot at attending BYU, I can let them experience such exhilaration there and just hold down the fort in the meantime, sticking closely to the manual and avoiding reference to how expansive and all encompassing true Gospel principles are and how their expression uplifts people through all mediums of communication even if they are not aware that eternal truths are being transmitted.

    (As to that last sentence, not really — I would have to be insane to let the chiding of an anonymous commenter on a blog change my level of priority in really teaching the youth and our members, especially our new adult converts, of which there are many in my ward, how magnificent the eternal truths of the Restored Gospel really are and how all-encompassing. I want them to experience the same excitement I often feel when discovering them all around us. If the Spirit moves me to include a “pop culture” reference in a lesson to drive a point home, whether it is to one of the musicals that President Monson quotes so often in General Conference, a children’s book by CS Lewis or a scene from Star Wars, I am not going to let the fact that it is not in the manual get in the way of these kids’ or our members’ spiritual development.)

  117. Latter-day Guy says:

    I am shocked, SHOCKED!, I tell you. How could anyone imagine that it would ever be appropriate to bring in outside (and non-Correlation-Committee-vetted) to teach a class at church!? If we can’t obey such a simple rule, can we honestly expect to achieve exaltation!?

    The Church News printed a whole article about this just earlier this year (9 JAN 2010). Perhaps we ought to have a reminder:

    A woman sat at her dining room table, buried in dozens of books and magazines. She looked discouraged. Her daughter asked if she could help.

    The woman said she was preparing a Relief Society lesson. She told her daughter she didn’t know how she could possibly “boil down all the information” she had collected for the lesson. The process, the woman acknowledged, was both time consuming and frustrating.

    The daughter looked surprised.

    “Why,” she asked, “are you trying to boil down information? An inspired Church-writing* committee has already done that for you.”

    The committee’s work, the daughter continued, has been approved by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. It has been translated into dozens of languages and sent around the world. It corresponds with the lessons and information taught at the same time to other auxiliaries and quorums in the Church.

    Now the woman looked confused.

    “Everything you need––and more––is in your manual,” the daughter said. “Now, here––drink this kool-aid. I made it specially.”

    Following the advice of her daughter, the woman above turned off her computer, shut the dozens of books open on her dining room table and picked up her manual and scriptures. The frustration she had previously experienced disappeared. She knew the material was doctrinally accurate. She knew its source was valid. It was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. She had won the victory over herself. She loved Big Brother.

    [*Incidentally, that little hyphen is wrong wrong wrong. For example, a "brick-laying committe," is a committee that lays brick; ergo, a "Church-writing committee" would be a committee that "writes Church," whatever the hell that means. Failing to correct such a simple mistake doesn't really build my confidence in an argument attempting to convince me to use only "official" materials.]

    Anyway, as the OP demonstrates, using outside sources is just fine––indeed, it can be great!––as long as people act like they’ve got at least two brain cells to rub together. Whenever I teach a lesson in Church, I almost always use some kind of outside source; it’s a great way to hook the attention of the class members.

    As for #88:

    Hypothetically, is the benefit of one young man who grasps the higher vision of discipline through a Star Wars clip in church equal to the detriment of another who leaves with the idea that the protocol for gospel teaching is to read some scriptures and then look to worldly sources of electronic media for real life application rather than discovering how to relate to other living breathing people who have struggled to build character and testimony?

    Did you know there’s actually a term that describes just this type of sentence?

  118. Latter-day Guy says:

    In reality, the “protocol for gospel teaching” we model most often is the one where you don’t even look at your lesson until the night before (at the earliest); you spend most of your class time having class members read lengthy passages from the manual, the scriptures, the Ensign, etc.; you ask a couple questions that by now have become rhetorical (“Pray? Read the scriptures? Why that’s two for two––you guys are on a roll!”); you encourage a few class members either to ramble about their missions or point out the coded references in the text (and it really doesn’t matter which text it is) identifying Glenn Beck as “one mighty and strong”; then you cry a little and say “Amen.”

    I really don’t think a couple film clips are going to reduce the lesson quality too much. That’s on par with physiology students using local anesthetic in order to keep their cadaver’s pain to a minimum during dissection.

  119. That is actually the major benefit of the manuals and what I have long considered to be their primary utility in our correlated teaching curriculum in the Church: they make it possible for someone to stand up from the class and teach a basic lesson with no preparation. Unfortunately, this is all too frequently necessary in Church and so the manuals really prove useful in these situations.

    For a Sunday School teacher who prayerfully prepares a lesson in advance each week, the manual should serve as a general resource basically giving the teacher the chapters and scriptures on which to focus and perhaps some helpful suggestions for presentation in case the teacher is having a difficult time preparing his or her own approach to teach the given material. The bulk of the lesson should be focused squarely in the scriptures with the teacher not shying away from actually teaching based on his or her own best understanding and experience and the guidance of the Spirit in directing the class’s discussion.

    It is also a sign of deteriorating lesson potential that more and more members shy away from actually teaching and instead follow the manual slavishly, not straying from the canned points and stories contained there in order to really dig in and express something about those Gospel principles based on personal experience and learning. To the extent that our rhetoric about sticking to the manual influences people to lose confidence in their own ideas, understanding, experiences with and love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we need to rethink our approach on this issue and find ways to bolster our members’ confidence in their own experience of the Gospel.

  120. Jennifer says:

    My American Heritage professor at BYU showed clips from all kinds of movies from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” to “Glory”. It kept us interested and helped him make his point.

    I agree that parables help made difficult concepts understandable. Even if they are pop culture references. (And don’t any of those boys watch Spike TV? They show the SW movies at least once a month.)

  121. Honestly, I have no idea what they watch. Probably cartoons and video games. Who knows? I thought for sure they’d be familiar with TESB. I don’t view that as something that is confined to my generation — I honestly thought it transcended. It’s not the same as someone from my parent’s generation expecting me to have seen or be familiar with the plot arc of a random movie from the early 1960s. I viewed SW and TESB particularly to have achieved a greater degree of cultural and cross-cultural saturation.

  122. Latter-day Guy says:

    “[T]hey make it possible for someone to stand up from the class and teach a basic lesson with no preparation.”

    Yes, that is true. But I’m not sure that’s really a benefit. I think it takes a very good lesson indeed to be better than no lesson at all. If a teacher can’t make it to Church or is ill prepared, I would much prefer to do something like the LDS equivalent of Quaker-style Silent Worship than to subject either teacher or class to our (actively cultivated!) venerable tradition of half-assery.

  123. Well, the manuals also prove very valuable for our new members who need to have a guide as to how to teach a lesson and what to teach. Where they don’t seem particularly useful aside from generally providing a sense of which chapters are to be focused on is for seasoned members who are familiar with and confident with the scriptures, or at least confident with being able to study out a selection of scripture in preparation for leading a mutually beneficial class discussion about the Christ-centered Gospel principles that can be found in that selection.

  124. “I fight the urge to bring in outside materials all the time.”

    Perhaps one person’s urge is another’s prompting.

    “…I do believe that the the direction in the manual was put there for a good reason and I am not smarter or more spiritual than the ones who wrote it. Maybe John F. is.”

    I don’t think when people loosely interpret policy they are universally assuming anything about the intelligence or spirituality of anyone. However, I don’t think we must assume we are dumber and less spiritual than the policy writers who have the impossible task of capturing a principle in a sentence or two that must apply to 13 million saints in hundreds of countries. The policies appropriately focus us on the scriptures because all 13 million of us need them in every lesson, but surely a subset can occasionally bring in something that enhances the lesson without endangering souls.

  125. John Mansfield says:

    “I viewed SW and TESB particularly to have achieved a greater degree of cultural and cross-cultural saturation.”

    I, too, would have expected those movies to have the currency that King Kong, the Wizard of Oz, and Gone with the Wind did when I was a youth. If they don’t, maybe the alleged fragmentation of popular entertainment is at play.

    Meshing a video segment, including those produced by the Church, with a lesson is often tricky for me. They take us into their own mental space, which isn’t quite the same as that of the surrounding lesson. It’s worth doing for a variety of reasons, but often involves a jarring transition that I have trouble smoothing out.

    When a teacher wants to share something like this because it means a lot personally to the teacher, that can be particularly difficult because the class hasn’t spent months or years with that song/movie/conference talk on their mind, and so the main impression they are left with is “Brother Mansfield really likes whatever that was he showed us.” Heartfelt borders near to self-indulgent.

  126. Back to the problem identified in the OP, I’m proud to say that I’m doing my part. My wife and I had our nieces and nephew over to spend the night this last week (ages 11-14) and I introduced them to Monty Python and the Holy Grail (skipping past Galahad’s Temptation in the Castle Anthrax). If we all do a little, the rising generation might not be lost!

  127. Latter-day Guy says:

    123: Yeah, I’ll concede that. [Sigh.]

    124: “[A] subset can occasionally bring in something that enhances the lesson without endangering souls.”

    I am in 100% agreement with this, but I’d even go a step further. If I have to pick between interesting and engaging heresy and true but mind- (and backside-) numbing pablum, I’ll pick heresy every time. (And honestly, most lessons in church have at least a smattering of false- or non-doctrine. Class participation, which we are told should make up the bulk of our church lessons, is not exactly a recipe for theological purity. Any outside material a teacher might use probably won’t be any nuttier than some of the things class members are going to say.)

  128. When President Monson became the President of the Church, I made a quiz about the musicals he has quoted. You can find it here.

  129. “Any outside material a teacher might use probably won’t be any nuttier than some of the things class members are going to say.”

    Yeah, there is that. If a teenager can handle some of what she hears in Testimony Meeting . . .

    At the heart of it all is the need for inspired teachers who try hard to listen to the Spirit and reach their students’ hearts and minds. The OP illustrates a wonderful example of this. If the general approach isn’t worth pursuing, we shouldn’t waste a single breath praying about whom to call as teachers – and we certainly shouldn’t waste our best teachers in teaching positions. Any member who can pray, read and ask questions would do.

    Iow, what Sunny said in #104. Nit-picking specific examples, especially ones that worked within the context of a lesson that was prepared exactly as we are begged to prepare them, only serves to discourage such preparation – and discouraging preparation only serves to drive away bored students.

    Yes, I’d rather save the one and let the ninety-and-nine who won’t drift away anyway miss the point of the lesson I’m teaching – but, I’m afraid the actual result of less relevant lessons is that we end up needing to leave the one who stays to go after the ninety-and-nine who drift away. Much of that can be stopped, I believe, by calling our best teachers to teach – and letting them teach in ways that are relevant and stimulating to their students.

  130. I think we’ve strayed far from the topic, which is the sad lack of Star Wars in most children’s lives. Especially The Empire Strikes Back, possibly the best movie ever made. How can we fill this great hole in our society when most don’t even know what they are missing?

  131. How can we fill this great hole in our society when most don’t even know what they are missing?

    In reality it may be too late “For the sins of the prequals will be visited upon thy posterity until the third and fourth generation if Lucas repents not.” Georgelukiticas 23:17

  132. 127. “If I have to pick between interesting and engaging heresy and true but mind- (and backside-) numbing pablum, I’ll pick heresy every time.”

    9 out of 10 times I agree with you, not as a matter of principle, but rather of preference. (I reserve the 10% disagreement because sometimes stuff too wacky for even me shows up!) I suspect that a large majority of people prefer it the other way around, claiming principle when it is also probably preference.

  133. Antonio Parr says:

    I once used a clip from Chariots of Fire during a lesson on Sabbath obervance. (I asked permission from the Bishop before doing so.) It was extraordinarily moving/powerful.

    If there is anything lovely, virtuous or of good rapport . . .

  134. “how could I even speak to these kids without a shared, lowest common denominator of mutual cultural understanding?”

    There are more ways than I can count to speak about religion, doctrine, theology, ethics and so on, that do not require the slighted understanding of pop culture or tripe such as star wars.

    Pop culture is not transcendent, it never has been and never will be.

  135. I once used Bill Cosby’s sketch about Noah to teach the 11 year-old boys in Primary. They got it, but only because I played it for them.

  136. Did Douglas Hunter just refer to Star Wars as tripe??? Where is Steve Evans with his banninator????

  137. britt k says:

    cool quiz dtr

  138. Douglas Hunter,
    Don’t be daft. Pop Culture, like all culture, can be transcendent. Star Wars isn’t tripe, either.

  139. Pop culture can perhaps be a term that distracts people into a reflexively derisive posture but this does not need be the case — it just means popular culture and President Monson’s old musicals also fit into this category, I would think.

    In other words, not all “pop culture” is the same. Just because both Madonna and Star Trek and Arthur Lloyd Webber’s broadway musicals are covered by this same umbrella term does not mean they are substantively the same, either in terms of genre, intellect or spirituality.

  140. (I said Star Trek on purpose — I am not confusing Star Trek and Star Wars, now that would be heinous. But of course both are covered by the umbrella term “pop culture”, so there’s another example.)

  141. When my son turns 10, I intend to honor the sacred trust my dad placed in me when I was that age and instruct him in the glories of The Benny Hill Show.

  142. The force is strong in young Jesus.

  143. john f – would Arthur be Andrew’s lesser known brother? Perhaps he has always been two steps behind, much like Herschel was always two steps behind Moses.

  144. Oops, didn’t realize I had mistyped his name.

  145. Re #96

    Our stake/ward has purchased a license so that we may have movie nights for youth activities, etc.

    Our current gospel doctrine teacher is a retired English teacher; it isn’t Sunday unless Sister B has treated us to some Shakespeare. Needless to say, we have a great Gospel Doctrine class!

  146. “Pop Culture, like all culture, can be transcendent.”

    Beyond a doubt, history proves otherwise. Don’t confuse your passion for your Mickey Mouse ears and star wars action figures with transcendences.

  147. “Beyond a doubt, history proves otherwise.”

    Since I have doubts…

  148. It’s true. History has proven time and again that mass-culture phenomena, beloved of highbrow and lowbrow alike, can never overcome their popularity to become accepted parts of our cultural canon.

    Opera, for example. Or Shakespeare.

  149. Straight and undiluted says:

    john f, how did what I write strike a nerve in you? I made no comment about what you did, I noted my approach and what I had seen. Or is this blog entry merely an attempt to justify in your own eyes what you did?

  150. Peter LLC says:

    Or is this blog entry merely an attempt to justify in your own eyes what you did?

    Or is it C), none of the above?

  151. Douglas Hunter (134),
    “Pop culture is not transcendent, it never has been and never will be.”

    Damn straight. Stupid vapid people who think there’s something transcendent about a Coltrane solo, for example, or Charlie Parker. That jazz thing is just untranscendent tripe.

  152. The youth in my ward think that I am a great teacher, but I’m not really. I just set a stage for spiritual experiences. The spirit is the teacher, I am a conduit. I am a mirror reflecting the light of the gospel. It is the light they are drawn to, not the mirror. I have found that teaching them the gospel undiluted has a greater effect than clips from popular movies or references to popular culture.

    Lovely, lovely words and a praiseworthy outcome … if true. But S&D, this is a completely empty, unhelpful paragraph. Give us some concrete detail, please: Since it seems you aren’t literally setting a stage (unless that’s the room where your class meets), this must be a metaphor. What’s the reality? What do you do in concrete terms to invite the spirit into your classroom? to get your class members enthused about learning the gospel and willing to participate in whatever you do as “a conduit”? Because you have to do something — encourage/discourage particular actions and words, teach by some particular method (scripture reading? reading the manual verbatim? questioning class members? prepared presentations by class members? )

    john f. has given us a detailed, concrete example of a single instance of how he conveyed a gospel principle, an example of which you disapprove but which any approving reader could theoretical imitate. But none of us can emulate your oh-so-praiseworthy model because you haven’t given us a single specific example of how you achieve your astonishing success (beyond your sarcastic misrepresentation of john f.’s response to you in your 149, which rather goes to disprove your abilities to model Christlike behavior, here or before your classes). The mirror you claim to hold up to your class reflects nothing to us, so far.

  153. 148, & 151

    You are making a few mistakes in defining pop culture.

    148- When Shakespeare was writing, and during the initial development of opera there was no such thing as pop culture. You are projecting a very recent concept hundreds of years into the past. Pop culture arises out of the ability to have mass distribution of products over large geographic areas. Further pop culture also has certain specific temporal and economic characteristics and would not exist without large scale marketing. Shakespeare has made it into the literary canon of the west, that is why he is remembered today. But it would be a gross distortion to say that the works making up the canon are included because they are products of popular culture, or because the canon is of much importance to pop culture today. The canon is of importance to academic culture but that’s about it.

    151- Your definition of pop culture is so broad it has little meaning, and you are also doing some historical revision. Coltrane and Parker are more correctly described as Avant-garde and were very much despised by, or even largely unknown in the world of pop music at the time. As with the example of Shakespeare you either mis-understand or mis-represent why such music is available today. Personally I’ve listened to and enjoyed a good deal of Coltrane but dissonant hard bop was not a pop cultural product.

    The way to understand the long term impact of pop culture is not by looking at a tiny number of historical winners of the past and claiming their work as part of pop culture. Rather, what we need to do is look back a few decades and observe that the vast majority of pop cultural output from previous eras is completely unknown today. Pop culture is tied to the specific generation that experienced it as a vital part of their youth. As that generation ages its nostalgia for its youth perpetuates its popular culture. And as a generation dies off so does the knowledge / availability of the pop culture. Star Wars is a good example of a pop culture product that has started to loose its significance. As younger generations have their own pop event touchstones.

    Some bits of pop culture outlast their generation but usually only as a as minor image. Charlie Chaplin for example, was a very early pop culture figure. Its a name that many people still know, but few have seen his films, mostly he is recognized as a black and white photograph used in promotions for the movie industry. But does anyone want to argue that Chaplin is transcendent, or that his films are meaningful for pop culture today? That would be a uphill battle to be sure.

    It is the case that I have contempt for things like star wars, and I don’t apologize for that at all, but that’s not the only reason I say pop culture is never transcendent. Pop culture isn’t transcendent because of its ties to a specific generation and because the market conditions of pop culture are cyclical, operating on a very shot schedule. The introduction of new popular products such as music, films, novels, TV programs, video games and so on, is always timed by its producers in a way that they hope will give the product maximum advantage in the market place for a period of weeks to months. Pop culture is most correctly understood as an economic category, rather than a creative or artistic one.

  154. @ Douglas Hunter #153
    I understand your argument, and I accept it, but did you really need to use the word “contempt”? I understand disliking, and even hating Star Wars, but that term is very loaded. What do you mean by it? And, if you don’t mind me asking, what do you consider good entertainment, or culture? Do you have a problem with people referencing musicals, ala President Monson, or poetry, literature or philosophy? I am just looking to understand your argument a little better.

  155. 153 – While others may have defined “pop culture” too widely, you seem to be defining “pop culture” as anything you don’t like. Sure you go on for 5 ridiculous paragraphs talking about things like marketing, but the end result is “It doesn’t fit in my definition of quality, so it is pop.”
    There is no possible way you can tell what will be culturally relevant and what won’t in the future. Star Wars may be the very thing that defines the 20th century in the long run (it also may not, I don’t claim to have any more prescience than you). It may be our Mona Lisa, Statue of David, or Parthenon, you have no way of knowing, and just because you have contempt for it does not somehow make it less relevant.
    Shakespeare and Mozart were popular in their time, and they were culture. They might not fit into your definition of “pop culture” but thats just because you defined the term with the sole intention of supporting your argument.
    And while we’re at it, it wouldn’t be hard to fit MoTab into your definition of pop culture. They are mass marketed with a stylized website and links to Deseret Books where you can purchase their CDs and DVDs at for-profit prices. They have music videos, etc. Do you have contempt for their vapid use of publicity for commercialization?? Or would you like to further redefine pop culture to somehow exclude this ensemble of obvious money-grubbing hacks who are so popular within the Wasatch Front (and Maricopa County) cultures??

  156. Opera might not fit the pop culture label, but Shakespeare absolutely was pop culture in his time. It was not considered classic then – it was marketed to the masses and made popular by them, then adotped as classic later. The Brothers Grimm was pop culture – and it survived to be considered classic. There are many examples of stuff that started out as pop culture and changed to being accepted as “classic” only in hidsight. If you don’t realize that, there probably isn’t much I can say to change your mind.

    As B.Russ said, creating / applying a definition then retro-fitting everything into or outside of that specific definition – regardless of the standard definition that has been understood for millenia (even if the exact term has been somewhat fluid) . . . is like arguing that there were no dictators prior to the coinage of that exact term.

  157. Yeah, everything Douglas Hunter wrote is wrong, including “and” and “the.”

    We are just over thirty years out from Star Wars, but it’s shown a staying power quite unlike that of Charlie Chaplin. In 1952, when Sight and Sound held its first critics’ poll of great films, City Lights (then 20 years old) was second on the list. But in the following decade, his reputation faded dramatically; a Chaplin film has never again cracked the top ten in the poll, and today everybody (if they have an opinion) prefers Buster Keaton. The prevailing mood of Chaplin’s movies (whimsy and sentiment) aged just as badly as their medium (silent comedy).

    We are 33 years out from Star Wars, and it already seems to have a staying power quite unlike Chaplin’s. Three recent sequels sucked, but were massively popular not just with the generation that nostalgically remembered the original films, but with its kids as well. To this day, Star Wars cartoons are on TV every afternoon and there’s an entire half-aisle of Toys R Us for Star Wars toys and Lego. I know you view these as signs of the apocalypse, but they argue against your weird view that all popular art (being inherently “non-transcendent,” boooo!) never outlives the youth of its first fans.

    John F’s findings notwithstanding, the best parallels to Star Wars in 20th-century art are things like Beatles songs, the MGM version of The Wizard of Oz, and Tolkien’s fantasy novels. These works are all 45-70 years old, and show no signs of slowing. They’ve seeped into our consciousness so deeply that they may never come out–just like, you know, Shakespeare and Mozart and the Mona Lisa. Perhaps that irks you, if these all strike you as horribly non-transcendent examples of mass pablum. That’s okay. Your opinion is headed for the dustbin of history much faster than Chaplin.

    But all this is irrelevant to the question of whether or not Star Wars is appropriate in a Sunday School lesson. The Spirit doesn’t leave a room the minute that non-highbrow culture is mentioned, because it’s not an insufferable snob like you are. In fact, the more “popular” the object lesson is, the MORE likely it is to be lesson-appropriate, since it will speak to a broader range of those attending. I could use the “transcendent” high art of your choice (Paradise Lost? The Goldberg Variations? Italian Neorealism?) for an attention activity in my YM class each week, but I doubt the intended application would survive intact.

  158. Steve Evans says:

    Wow, coming to this late, but #62 is a straight and undiluted douchebag.

  159. Steve, wait until you read # 146 and # 153.

  160. #155 BRuss with the TKO!

  161. Thomas Parkin says:

    Douglas Hunter,

    Of course, transcendence has nothing to do with ‘staying power’ within a culture, either. Most transcendent material never even emerges. When it does, all but the strongest bits are fairly quickly whisked away in the general noise. (A process one might think of as the tendency to apostasy.) Whether or not Star Wars has ‘transcendent’ (I would use the word ‘eternal’, instead) attributes (and I think it definitely does, though they recently been badly handled), the fact that a thing shows no staying power is not a negative sign of it.

    Elvis is Eternal, too. ~

  162. I truly wish no offense, but I was so struck by the following comment that I was compelled to come back and leave a response. Take it for what it’s worth to you.

    “I’m not worried about JustMe’s disapproval. I think it is unfortunate that she has developed a mindset that this is not “her” church. This is your church, JustMe. It is yours as much as it is anyone else’s who belongs to this church. Do you pay tithing and attend your meetings? Then it is your church. Feel free to take ownership and begin leaving your personal mark on it. We will all be better off for your efforts. You own this house — it’s not a rental.”

    I find that to be far more disturbing than the video clip. Help me understand upon what such a mindset is based? I know of no declaration establishing individual members as shareholders or co-owners. I am unaware of even being granted the authority to “take ownership” or “leave our personal marks on it”. (Isn’t that what Christ condemned the Pharisees for doing?) Nowhere in scripture can I find the Lord speaking the words “our kingdom”, “our Church” or referring to us as His partners or equals. He seems to prefer the words “servants” and “disciples”. Am I missing something amidst all the references to His Church, His kingdom, His glory, His power and His purposes?

    Many responders seem to feel that those who disagree with you are somehow “denying your right to receive inspiration/revelation”. Nowhere do you state that you were prompted by the Lord to use the video, and if you chose not to involve the Lord in your decision then technically you denied yourself that right. Of course, if you actually believe that this Church is yours and you truly are free to take ownership and leave your personal mark on it, then asking the Lord to guide and bless your lesson preparation is about as necessary to you as asking my mortgage company to guide and bless what I serve for dinner is to me.

    The irony is that by choosing to do things the way you did, you created a parallel lesson that is just as profound to me (if not more so)as you feel the movie clip might have been to the boys:
    Much like the clip, when faced with an intimidating situation (teaching teenagers) you (Luke) chose to rely on your own wisdom and experience rather than trusting in the force (the Spirit). Once inside that room, you had to depend on “only what you took with you” and even though you had the force (Spirit) available to use, you still felt the need to take along a physical, glowing piece of man-made technology (weapon) with you. The problem is that when we choose to rely on our own understanding and skill rather than humbly submitting ourselves as conduits for the Spirit, we put ourselves in danger of falling victim to the dark and sinister passions that have ensnared so many before us. If that happens, the face in the helmet really could end up being our own.

    “Is the dark side stronger?”
    “No…no…no. Quicker, easier, more seductive”

  163. Thomas Parkin says:

    ” 162.

    “Is the dark side stronger?”
    “No…no…no. Quicker, easier, more seductive”

    Nothing is easier or more seductive – to a busy man – than to follow an outlined lesson from the manual.

    Because John didn’t say he received inspiration to do this, doesn’t mean he didn’t, reader. John is a faithful and good member of the church, and my expectation would be that he went about his preparation prayerfully – not the other way round.

    There is something that took me a bit to discover about this forum. There is very little talk about personal revelation – the reason isn’t because people don’t seek it or receive it. The reason is that there is a danger of trying to use it as a conversation ender, or a matter of unfair one-upsmanship. Well, God told me to, end of story. In fact, implied in the original post and throughout this discussion is the question of whether or not we could be inspired by the Spirit to use such a movie as part of a SS lesson.

    As for this being God’s church and us being disciples rather than partners, I think you’ve got your metaphysics mixed up. I think it shows a basic misunderstanding about how God works with us. There is certainly no room for us to be receiving revelation outside our own assigned sphere of influence as far as the running of the church goes. But God needs us a partners, not as enfeebled and disempowered functionaries. He sends us here with talents, which He augments with spiritual gifts. We often make mistakes, but that is the nature of the growing process.

    Since truth may come from unexpected places, a habit of openness and more careful listening might suit you better. ~

  164. There is very little talk about personal revelation . . . The reason is that there is a danger of trying to use it as a conversation ender, or a matter of unfair one-upsmanship. Well, God told me to, end of story.

    Very well said.

  165. 155 – “While others may have defined “pop culture” too widely, you seem to be defining “pop culture” as anything you don’t like. Sure you go on for 5 ridiculous paragraphs talking about things like marketing, but the end result is “It doesn’t fit in my definition of quality, so it is pop.”

    You could not have misunderstood what I wrote more throughly. I never mentioned taste or quality or even implied these categories. They have nothing at all to do with what I was getting at. Bravo.

  166. Douglas Hunter (165),

    When someone misreads your words, you can respond in a couple of ways. You could assume that he/she is stupid and mock him/her for misreading it, or you could assume that he/she is not stupid, and that you simply didn’t express your point quite as clearly as you thought you did.

    One of those paths is clearly superior, and likely to not create more hostility toward your ideas.

  167. Latter-day Guy says:

    There is something that took me a bit to discover about this forum. There is very little talk about personal revelation – the reason isn’t because people don’t seek it or receive it. The reason is that there is a danger of trying to use it as a conversation ender, or a matter of unfair one-upsmanship.

    Brother Parkin, thank you for putting that into words. The discomfort I have felt at times in various conversations (in person or online), but which I have not been able to explain adequately, stems I think from what you describe. There is something so, so wrong about using testimony/revelation as a rhetorical bludgeon. Thank you.

  168. Latter-day Guy says:

    “Opera might not fit the pop culture label…”

    Not in the US, but I think there are places where it does. Vienna comes to mind. In some parts of Europe, favorite opera singers are almost like rock stars.

    /threadjack

  169. Antonio Parr says:

    163. I have had a personal revelation that Brother Parkin’s comment about personal revelation is true.

    End of discussion.

  170. Latter-day Guy (167),

    There is something so, so wrong about using testimony/revelation as a rhetorical bludgeon.

    Yes, but it’s often what people in religious discussions are left with when an opposing debater insists on rational, logical proofs, evidence, or examples.

    I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve become frustrated during various debates at BCC and elsewhere when my entire argument and case rests solely on the shoulders of the simple reality that “I prayed about it, and I felt good about my choice.”

  171. 166-

    “When someone misreads your words, you can respond in a couple of ways. You could assume that he/she is stupid and mock him/her for misreading it, or you could assume that he/she is not stupid, and that you simply didn’t express your point quite as clearly as you thought you did.”

    Right, I spent the majority of my comment describing things such as conceptual history, distribution, generational appeal, and marketing because I am snob trying to put down things I don’t like. please.

    #161- “Of course, transcendence has nothing to do with ‘staying power’ within a culture, either. Most transcendent material never even emerges.”

    point taken.

  172. You could not have misunderstood what I wrote more throughly. I never mentioned taste or quality or even implied these categories. They have nothing at all to do with what I was getting at. Bravo.

    It is the case that I have contempt for things like star wars

    You can be sure I understood your argument very clearly. Perhaps I tried to play pop-psychologist and read between the lines of what you were trying to say to see why you were saying it. Forgive me if it weakened my statement and feel free to respond to my other arguments I proposed.

    If you would like me to respond to one of yours, lets try this:

    The introduction of new popular products such as music, films, novels, TV programs, video games and so on, is always timed by its producers in a way that they hope will give the product maximum advantage in the market place for a period of weeks to months. Pop culture is most correctly understood as an economic category, rather than a creative or artistic one.

    I don’t know of many artists, be they Blink 182 or U2, Quentin Tarantino or M Night Shyamalan, Stephanie Myers or H.G. Wells who would be considered marketing moguls. These artists generally don’t decide in which part of the cycle their work is released. I won’t argue that there is an economic influence from publicists, producers, and marketers which often can and does degrade the art it represents, but lets not assume that the origin of the material (the publisher) somehow implicates an obvious or necessary adulteration of the artisitic content. Contemporaries of Jesus assumed he couldn’t be a prophet since he was from Galilee. Are you so confident in your ability to judge art as being non-trancendental simply due to its modern-day marketing tactics??

  173. Latter-day Guy says:

    170,

    Oh, I’m not suggesting that revelation and testimony do not have a place in discussion, even online. However, the tone and tenor of the discussion have to be right. There is a difference between using testimony to edify or share an alternate view, and using ‘testimony’ to score points or shut someone up. If we aren’t lighting the path so much as initiating an auto de fé, our candles would have been better off remaining under their bushels.

  174. reader, I understand there are many in the Church with your mindset about not having a stake in the Church. I don’t think that view is mandated and it certainly does seem unproductive. As we are all working to allow the Atonement to take effect in our lives so that in the end we can become joint heirs with Christ (which is our ultimate goal) I do not think it is a stretch by any means to say that those of us who regularly attend church, faithfully hold callings, pay our tithing and suffer all of the social stigma that comes with conscientiously keeping our covenants do indeed have a stake in the Church and are to be valued as individuals with something to offer. This seems a more positive way to understand our Church membership and the work we do in the Church. It also allows us to say “Come to us and join us in this Church, we need you, your skills, your talents, your personality, your insights and experiences” instead of “You need the Church; it does not need you”, which your approach would seem to facilitate.

    Having said that, even though I personally think there are more productive ways of thinking about our Church membership than you have described in # 162, I would still insist that we need you and your views and insights in the Church so I am glad to get a sense that you belong to the Church and are contributing in the way that you best see fit.

    As for your turning the Star Wars clip against me, thanks for that object lesson — it further strenthens the point I was making about what a great teaching tool that clip is, and how much Gospel applicability there can be with it, if employed judiciously.

  175. Also, reader, in the Church you will also find many people making the argument that a good steward does indeed leave his or her mark because such a stewardship is analogous to ownership in terms of achieving results. Thus, you will find many arguing that the communal order in Zion that has been attempted in the past and that, many believe, will return again in the future is not communistic in nature precisely because of the stewardship principle under which all property and belongings which have been consecrated to the Church will be divided and redistributed according to need and circumstances by Mormon bishops. Setting aside that to the non-Mormon this concept looks exactly like a communist central planning arrangement, for those of us who believe in the inspiration and authority of Mormon bishops to do this, we believe that it will still be based on private property, i.e. that ownership principles will still come into play. The stewardship principle is what allows us to salvage the concept of private property in such a zionistic, communal arrangement.

    For now, the stewardship principle is alive and well but is confined, for lack of a better term, to our work in the Church. We have stewardship within our callings and, I believe, we certainly are expected to use our best faculties of thought, energy, emotion and insipiration to magnify those callings so that we can double the Lord’s investment, as did the good servants, rather than bury the capital for that investment in the ground, as the slothful and fearful servant did. Believe me, those servants who doubled their Lord’s capital did it by working out in their own minds the best way to go about investing it wisely to achieve that return. In doing so, they most certainly made their mark on their Lord’s business/trade, perhaps even an indelible mark that would perpetually affect their Lord’s business dealings in that area. Those things are not communicated explicitly in the parable but they are nevertheless contained implicitly in the parable when considered closely. It is also another reason why all of us, who are entrusted with stewardships in the Kingdom through our callings, should be very careful in the mark we are making and work to ensure that it is a positive and productive mark. Teaching the youth in a way that engages them, helps them feel the Spirit while learning essential Gospel/life lessons through a presentation that is interesting to them and, hopefully, helps stem the torrent of youth leaving the Church behind because they could not relate to it or to the severe way their teachers have presented the Gospel seems to leave such a positive and productive mark.

    Prayerfully preparing our lessons with our audience in mind will always result in a lesson that leaves our own personal mark on those we teach and, therefore, on the Church as a whole. How grateful we can be for this!

  176. Peter LLC says:

    In some parts of Europe, favorite opera singers are almost like rock stars.

    Can anyone say Anna Netrebko?

  177. Can anyone say Anna Netrebko?

    No . . . I don’t think I can . . . I never was good with tongue twisters.

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