The best perk from teaching early morning seminary: witnessing the light turn on in the eyes of the students when the Spirit testifies to the truth of a particular doctrine or principle. A-ma-zing!
Tuesday gifted me with one of those magnificent moments. The fact that the lesson we learned came about kind of "accidentally on purpose" made the experience even more poignant for me.
So here's what happened:
I try really hard to begin seminary right at 6:00 a.m. Sometimes (most of the time lately) that means I find myself singing a solo during the opening hymn. Most of the students walk in before the song ends. One of them gives the opening prayer and we get on with the lesson. Tuesday, the lesson focused on Ezekiel 37. The manual gave three principles to focus on: 1) "Jesus Christ has the power to resurrect us and when we are resurrected, our bodies will be made whole again." 2) The Bible and the Book of Mormon come together as witnesses that Jesus Christ is our Savior." and 3) Making and keeping temple covenants will enable us to become sanctified by the Lord."
The third principle really stood out to me. I had a touching story to share about eternal families. I have a strong testimony of the blessings of making and keeping temple covenants. As I further prepared the materials, one of the object lessons suggested called for bringing two sticks to represent the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph. I didn't have any sticks, but I had a thought to grab a couple of chopsticks. I threw them in my bag along with the lesson plan and I was set to go.
Before class began, I wrote the lesson objectives on the board. While doing so, I felt impressed to shift my focus from principle #3 to #2. Many of these young men and women are preparing to serve full time missions and I assumed that was the reason for that prompting. We progressed through the lesson and I called two students, Karl and Leslie, up to the front of the class. I handed each of them a chopstick and asked them to tell me how they could bless the life of another person with that stick.
A student across the room declared, "Karl! you're a wizard!" The class laughed and bantered back and forth for a minute. I felt impressed to stand aside and let them work on the problem.
Karl grinned and pointed the chopstick at the class. A few ideas were tossed around, like using the stick to start a fire and keep someone warm. Finally, Karl said, "Well, I could try to feed somebody."
Leslie held up her stick. "No you couldn't! Well, you could, but it would be hard. You have to have two!" I instructed Karl to hand his chopstick to Leslie.
That's when I saw the light go on in Leslie's eyes. She looked at the chopsticks more carefully, lightly running her fingers over the Chinese script stamped in red along the edge. "Where did you get these. They are really cool." She looked up at me. "But you have to use the chopsticks together...just like the Bible and the Book of Mormon work better together."
Karl and Leslie sat down and I handed out strips of paper with phrases from Ezekiel 37: 15-17 - their new scripture mastery for the day. Once the class place the papers in the correct order, we read it together:
I bore my testimony that I know the Bible and the Book of Mormon are God's words to us through His prophets. I challenged the students to feast on the words of Christ every single day. Class ended far too quickly. I wish we could have studied this principle more deeply. But perhaps I was the one that needed it more right now. The more I study, the more in awe I am of and by the spiritual power I feel as I study the scriptures - both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I have this growing desire to study Hebrew and the Jewish culture so that I can better understand the words and analogies. It is true that understanding content and context gives greater insight into what the words are trying to convey. And then there's the witness of the Holy Spirit - the opening of my eyes and the enlightening of my mind that come to me as I prepare myself to receive such knowledge.
Since my study of the Old Testament this year, I see things in the Book of Mormon from a different perspective. I have a better understanding of where Lehi and Nephi came from and the challenges they faced as they and their families fled from Jerusalem and were lead by the Lord to the New World.
The Old Testament contains the preparatory gospel. The Book of Mormon teaches the fullness of the everlasting gospel (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine). Doctrine and Covenants 20:9 tells us that the Book of Mormon contains "the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also." The Old Testament gives us wonderful lessons from the Lord's ancient prophets and the Book of Mormon clarifies the relevant passages of the Bible where "plain and precious truths" have been removed or misinterpreted during translation.
These "sticks" brought together help us feast on the teachings of the gospel - like using chopsticks. In a devotional address at BYU in July of 1986, Bruce L. Brown shared thoughts on how the Bible prophesies of the scattering of Israel and its eventual gathering. The Book of Mormon teaches us about the Savior appearing to some of those people scattered as Babylon defeated Israel and Judah - such as the descendants of the prophet Lehi and Mulek who escaped captivity in Babylon.
Zechariah 10: 6,8:
I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them. ...I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them.After Leslie returned to her seat, she kept whispering to the girls on either side of her. She held the chopsticks in her hand and expressed her testimony through one simple word. "Brilliant!"
I agree. The light of the gospel is brilliant. The witness of the Holy Spirit to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ is brilliant. That brilliance shines in the eyes of my seminary students. Witnessing that brilliance is the best perk ever.
Life is magnificent...a-ma-zing...and brilliant.