I’ve been wanting for some time to compare the different class outlines in the Come, Follow Me program. This month, the theme (“Marriage and Family”) lends itself particularly to comparison across the classes. So, here goes. I’m not looking for anything in particular; my aim is mostly to be descriptive and to highlight a few things that might be of interest. How we teach about gender and sexuality are some of the most fraught discussions that we have in the Church. I am a work in progress when it comes to my own views on the subject, so I will bravely refrain from putting them forward here. This exercise is my effort to gather more data.
To begin, I’ll look at the patterns for teaching (the main outline sections) that each of the classes follow consistently, week after week, regardless of the topic. Next, I’ll zoom in on the month of August and the subtopics that have been selected for presentation in Sunday School, Young Women, and Aaronic Priesthood, respectively. Finally, I will focus in further on the outlines from the young women and Aaronic priesthood for teaching a lesson on chastity.
This chart shows the main outline points that each of the classes follows every week.
|Prepare yourself spiritually||Prepare yourself spiritually||Prepare yourself spiritually|
|Let the young men lead|
|Make connections||Share experiences||Begin the learning process|
|Introduce the doctrine|
|Learn together||Learn together||Learn together|
|Invite to act||Live what we are learning||Invite to act|
Aaronic priesthood classes receive emphasis on learning to lead and teach. They are also to give time at the beginning of each meeting to allow quorum members to “share their experiences fulfilling their duty to God.” The young women, on the other hand, take time during the end of each class to discuss how the lesson can be implemented in the Personal Progress program (which accounts, I think, for the different rubric they use at the end (“Live what we are learning,” rather than “Invite to act”). The function of introducing doctrine, spelled out for young women, is subsumed under “begin the learning process” for Aaronic priesthood. Both groups are encouraged to reflect on what was taught the previous week, whereas in Sunday School (“making connections”), the focus is on what they are learning in other venues, like “personal study, seminary, other church classes, or experiences with their friends.”
“Marriage and Family” (August) Topics
Sunday School topics are unique and avoid themes dealing with chastity and gender roles. The Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women topics are mostly identical but presented in a slightly different order and with one Aaronic Priesthood lesson every month being expressly related to a Duty to God emphasis. Since instructors are free to teach topics in any order, or not at all, I am not sure how to account for differences in the order topics are listed.
Occasionally there are topic differences, usually arising from a focus on priesthood responsibilities for the Aaronic Priesthood (AP) that apply differently or not at all in Young Women (YW). For example, in December (“Building the Kingdom of God in the Latter-days” the AP have a lesson on “How can I be a missionary now? (Duty to God)” while the YW have “What does it mean to ‘stand as witnesses of God?’” So, both have a missionary focus, but each lesson relates to the specific program content for AP/YW). Also that month, the AP have a lesson on “How can I become a better home teacher?” while the YW have “How does Heavenly Father want me to use my spiritual gifts?” All of the other topics are the same, and are in the same order.
“Why is Chastity Important?”
|Genesis 39:7–21 (Joseph fled from sexual sin)||Genesis 39:7–21 (Joseph fled from sexual sin)|
|1 Nephi 10:21 (We must be pure to dwell with God)||1 Nephi 10:21 (We must be pure to dwell with God)|
|Alma 39:1–13 (Sexual sin is an abomination)||Alma 39:1–13 (Sexual sin is an abomination)|
|Moroni 9:9 (Chastity is dear and precious)||Moroni 9:9 (Chastity is dear and precious)|
|D&C 46:33; 121:45–46 (The importance of virtue)||D&C 46:33 (Practice virtue and holiness before the Lord)|
|David A. Bednar, “We Believe in Being Chaste,” Ensign orLiahona, May 2013||David A. Bednar, “We Believe in Being Chaste,” Ensign orLiahona, May 2013|
|Jeffrey R. Holland, “Personal Purity”||Jeffrey R. Holland, “Personal Purity”|
|Jeffrey R. Holland, “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 2007, 42–45||Jeffrey R. Holland, “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 2007, 42–45|
|“Dress and Appearance,” “Sexual Purity,” For the Strength of Youth (2011), 6–8, 35–37||“Dress and Appearance,” “Sexual Purity,” For the Strength of Youth (2011), 6–8, 35–37|
|“Chastity,” True to the Faith (2004), 29–33||“Chastity,” True to the Faith (2004), 29–33|
|Videos: “I Choose to Be Pure,” “Chastity: What Are the Limits?” “True Confidence”||Videos: “I Choose to Be Pure,” “True Confidence,”“Chastity: What Are the Limits?”|
The recommended readings and viewings are largely the same. I’m puzzled why the reference to D&C 121:45–46 is not included in the AP list, since it occurs in a discussion about the righteous exercise of the priesthood, and everything else is the same. Its omission seems arbitrary, but not accidental, since the summary is also different. Note that Moroni 9:9, which has been the subject of controversy lately, is also included. The summary given of that verse “chastity is dear and precious” presumably indicates the intended emphasis—rather than that chastity and virtue can be taken by force, which is the concept to which many readers of the verse (including me) take strong exception.
As per their usual pattern, the AP are encouraged to have a young man help teach part of the lesson, but the ideas for teaching are largely the same across both groups. One exception in this lesson is the inclusion of this suggestion for YW but not AP:
Invite the young women to watch “I Choose to Be Pure” or “True Confidence,” looking for possible answers to the question “Why is chastity important?” Ask them to share their thoughts and contrast the views expressed in the video with what the world wants young women to believe. What can the young women do to support each other in their efforts to obey the law of chastity?
The use of analogies in teaching chastity is a topic that is raised in both lesson plans, both of which include this suggestion:
Show the video “Chastity: What Are the Limits?” After the video, ask the young women [or young men] to explain what the analogies (such as the waterfall, airplane, or alligator) teach them about the law of chastity. What else do they learn from this video? Invite them to think of and share other analogies that teach the importance of chastity.
The analogies included in the video illustrate the perils of violating standards from For the Strength of Youth that might lead to violations of the law of chastity. However, the invitation to consider other analogies in class opens the door to less apt metaphors, still current in some quarters, that have also been under scrutiny of late because they tend to objectify people rather than focus on principles that emphasize the worth of souls. Much depends here on the sensitivity and care of our leaders of youth.
Significantly, the discussion suggestions for teaching modesty are identical (which is not, however, the same as saying that the emphasis or the standards as taught are the same). Again, much depends on our leaders.
And finally, both lesson plans include this topic:
Ask the young women [young men] how they would help a friend who is struggling with same-gender attraction. Invite them to look for ideas in Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s article “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction.” Encourage them to write a letter that could help their friend. What else do they learn from Elder Holland’s article?
And, once again, much depends on our leaders for how this sensitive topic is addressed and what kinds of suggestions are endorsed or contested along the way.
For the most part, there is parity between the plans, and some of the few differences seem random (when dividing into groups for discussion, the AP material recommends “three groups” while the YW doesn’t specify). Other differences seem more purposive, but the reasons are not obvious, to me at least. Have you conducted a comparison of any of the youth lessons? What have you noticed?
NOTE: This post is another in a series based on the monthly themes from “Come, Follow Me,” the new youth curriculum for the Church. Here are the previous posts for January, February, March, April, May, June and July.