The Scriptures contain all truths necessary for our salvation. And while what they contain is all true, they do not claim to be the only source of truth. For example, they say very little about such things as evolution, the Schrödinger Equations for quantum mechanics, or Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, or even how to bake a tempting devil’s food cake. We are therefore left to sort out many truths on our own. Nowhere is this challenge more apparent than in the scripture’s silence on the status of robots. Of course much of Ezekiel can be read profitably as a prophecy on the rise of robots in the last days. However, their status in the eternal scheme of things is murky at best. Therefore we are left to other sources of truth to explore the nature of robot consciousness, robot ethics and the use of robots in home and visiting teaching. And as far as I can tell these topics will not be soon covered in our auxiliary lessons (this despite my repeated calls to Church Correlation that we spend a year using Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Roger Heinlein in Sunday School). Nevertheless, in anticipation of our church education becoming more interested in these important matters, I’ve prepared a set of lessons on robots for use in our Sunday Schools. Here is an example:
Lesson 7: Edward Scissorhands
Purpose: Help the class members sense their thrownness into a place not of their choosing and how focusing on differences can generate unhealthy suspicions which harm individuals and communities.
1. View Tim Burton’s movie Edward Scissorhands staring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder.
2. Review Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (Lesson 6).
3. Scripture Study Exodus 2:22, 1 Nephi 4:6-18.
Suggested Lesson Development
Give to each member of the class two pairs of scissors, one for each hand, and make them try to engage in various activities such as eating cereal, picking up marbles from the floor, and reading a book (note: some care should be given in classes of children and young adults).
Discussion and Application
1. Avon Lady Peg finds a young man in a castle above an idyllic suburban neighborhood. He has long scissors, blades, and shears where his hands ought to be. She finds that he has cut himself and unable to care for himself properly so she takes him home.
A. How does this exemplify King Benjamin’s exhortation to not let the beggar put up their petition in vain?
B. Is it always wise to invite strangers into your home, especially if they appear to be equipped with dangerous weapons?
C. How might Peg’s questions usefully be applied in our own neighborhoods? (Remind the class that they were: “Are you alone? Do you live up here all by yourself? What happened to your face? Hum, you know, I won’t hurt you. But at the very least let me give you a good astringent and this will help to prevent infection. What’s your name?”
2. Edward’s gifts become apparent as he fashions the hedges of the neighborhood into various statue-like forms, clips and grooms their pets and then finally cuts the women of the neighborhood’s hair into various artistically and stylistically pleasing hairdos.
A. In which ways do our own talents manifest themselves in service to others?
B. Do we all have combinations of attributes that can be used for both harm and good?
C. All the neighborhood seems blessed by Edward’s talents, how can our own neighborhoods be improved by using our talents for blessing and helping others?
3. Edward, obviously in love with the Peg’s daughter Kim, knowingly helps one of her friends try and rob this friends own father. He says later he knew who was being robbed yet participated willingly in this attempt.
A. What parallels to you find between Edward and Adam, Kim and Eve in this action? Why did Edward participate in this crime so willingly?
B. Kim’s father gives Edward a test of ethics in which he has Edward imagine he has found a suitcase of money. He asks which is the right course of action:
1. Keep the Money
2. Use money to help family and friends
3. Give the money to the poor
4. Turn money over to the police
Kim’s father obviously thinks four is the right answer, while Edward answers that two is correct. Discuss. What does Edward’s answer suggest about his nature? Are there other courses of action with the suitcase that the father has not considered? Does the situation matter in ethics? Help the class think deeply about these questions. Nephi’s killing Laban may be relevant here.
4. The neighbors ultimately turn against Edward. His actions are interpreted in light of their growing suspicions about his intentions and they are unable to see him in any other light than that informed by their own perception that he is dangerous.
A. How can our own suspicions poison our relationship with others?
B. How can we see past other’s differences and how can we interpret their motives in ways that give them the benefit of the doubt?
5. For a short time Edward lashes out against the neighbors’ growing violence by marring one of the hedges, slashing a tire, and carving a religious women’s hedge into the shape of a terrifying demon. Unlike, Frankenstein’s monster (see lesson 6), however, he does not let revenge take him over completely and he quickly returns to his old self.
A. Why didn’t Edward persist in his revenge? How does love change us? How can it change our neighborhoods?
B. What do you think Edward’s kindness reflects about his creator–the mysterious ‘Inventor’ played by Vincent Price?
6. In a touching scene, the Inventor shows Edward that he has made for him a pair of human hands. The Inventor then dies, leaving the human hands unattached.
A. How do we handle deep disappointment and disillusionment? In what ways is being left with our infirmities a chance to grow and serve others?
B. Does the fact that Edward is reveled to be a robot change the way we think about him? How can we accept that we might find some facts about others disturbing and yet not let that influence the good that they do and the way we treat them? Did Edward have any choice about the way he was thrown into existence?
Others may be very different from ourselves and yet we can find healing and unity in accepting them into our lives and into our communities.