Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 1-7

First, it’s that time of year wherein I start thinking about January, which means D&C/Church History… but mostly D&C. I always get excited when we hit D&C, because it means we’re almost to the Old Testament again. In the meantime, I have to figure out how to handle D&C here. This is the book I have read and taught the least, and I have virtually no notes to build from. Yes, I’m a historian of American religious history, but D&C focuses almost entirely on the 1830-1845 period… but my specialization is elsewhere. As for today, I want to focus almost entirely on 3Ne 6:12 today.

12 And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches. 13 Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God. 14 And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up;

How do we ensure that educational differences don’t become a stumbling block to the church or its individual members?

I have spent most of my life living in wards with stark educational splits. I grew up in a town where many active members had advanced degrees, but some hadn’t finished high school. A ward I attended for several years was similarly split, but this time I was much more aware of the differences. I heard stories of embarrassing gaffes, faux-pas, or insensitive comments leading to inactivity. I witnessed several uncomfortably educational situations. One man included in his Sunday testimony that he knew he didn’t need a PhD to get into heaven. My first response was a puzzled internal laugh, but then I realized, what does he see? He is a long-time African-American member with minimal education who has only lived in this ward, which is largely populated by a veritable Land’s End catalogue of (generally) young, white, multi-generational RMs getting MBAs, MDs, JDs , PhDs, and the occasional JD/PhD. He had internalized what “being a good Mormon” looked like from that ward, and he didn’t fit. How could he measure up? His testimony was important to him, and to me. Others, however, have simply slipped away quietly. On the other hand, I know of a family in a small town. Because of her advanced education, the wife has not been very welcome in the Church there, and years of this have not failed to have an effect on the family.

I suspect there are several things at play:

  1. Different needs Different people can need very different things out of their local Church experience. Every ward will have a different balance, but is everyone being spiritually fed? The focus is presumably on the majority, so are the outliers being ministered to, the different needs recognized?  I have struggled with this on numerous occasions. Teaching a temple prep class where the students can’t read beyond an elementary-school level. Teaching a youth class that includes several races, languages, ages (12-18!), first-time visitors but also the Stake President’s kids.
  2. Insensitivity or lack of awareness We each need to be aware that others may have different needs than us, and may not share our backgrounds. Making that too obvious in a public way, even if innocent, can result in embarrassment and drive a wedge.

For me, the absolute biggest issue is this. How can I relate to people who are very different than me? I think more than gender, race, ethnicity, or nationality, education can be the biggest divider. And like the Book of Mormon passage above, education often falls along class lines. I have a strong belief in the power of community. As an introvert, though, I try to minimize my social discomfort at Church and feel some tension between that and the calling to communal ward sociality. Jesus has some words to that effect.

 46 What reward do you get if you love only those who love you? Why, even tax-collectors do that! 47 And if you are friendly only to your friends, are you doing anything out of the ordinary? Even the Goyim do that!- Matthew 5:46-7, Complete Jewish Bible

So look around you. Be aware. Smile, say hello, apologize when you need to. Try to get outside your own comfort zone a little. Remember that people are different. Try to put yourself in their shoes.

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8 thoughts on “Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 1-7

  1. If a podcast is easier for you to do, I think that’d be great. I I usually use your posts to supplement any ideas or thoughts I’ve had on the topic (I’m not a Gospel Doctrine teacher, just someone that enjoys this crap). Keep up the good work my brother! You usually have one or two thoughts I haven’t considered before. I pershiate-cha!


  2. I don’t see your posts until Sunday morning. It might be a timezone issue. (Are you still back East?) Or it could be the lag between when you post and when Feedly picks it up.

    I’m also not teaching Gospel Doctrine right now, but I’d need a week to digest the material if I were. Right now you’re a week behind my ward.

    I’m very grateful for your posts though! (In whatever form they take.) Thank you.


  3. Having utilized this blog both in preparing lessons, as well as in-church, I find myself accessing it on Sunday quite frequently. FWIW, often times I won’t see a new entry for the week’s topic until the morning before our respective bloc, hence fewer hits during the week. I enjoy having more time to process the material before the day of, but take what we get.

    I’m not personally a podcast fan, as I prefer having something silent to refer to, as well as being able to see text and refer back at a glance. Not sure I’m providing many answers, just my individual situation.

    Whichever way you go, I always love coming here and look forward to continue learning from your experience.


  4. I’d rather have something written than a podcast… even if the written material is a bit less-than-polished. But I also get that you are doing this for free (and I have been free-loading for a while), so I don’t feel like I should make too many demands.

    I’d imagine that there are more spikes on Sunday because more members besides just the gospel doctrine teachers (who should ideally be preparing earlier than the day of their lesson) that want to look at the material you put together.

    I started following this blog a year and a half ago when I had just had a baby and took a couple months off of attending church. I liked reading something related to the gospel doctrine lessons even though I wasn’t in class. Then I got called to be a gospel doctrine teachers a few months later and used your material to one degree or another almost every week. Now I’m out of that calling, but I still check in.

    Lately I’ve also been seeing your post appear on Sunday mornings. Also, when I was a teacher, it was helpful when you posts were a week ahead of my ward’s teaching schedule. I’ll agree with one of the other commenter’s observations — your insights aren’t light and fluffy (which is great!) but that does mean it takes a little time to digest. And people who are looking for material like yours are not gospel doctrine teachers who are winging it come Sunday morning.

    But mostly, thank you for all your efforts! I’ve learned a lot.


  5. I appreciate your comments on the gaps in education being a stumbling block to unity among church members. It saddens me when those who are highly educated are discriminated against because we should all support and strive for this. It further saddens me when some do not or cannot pursue education.
    I have also seen divisions over dress styles in other wards in the past. One example – a lady I was fellowshipping while she was being taught by the missionaries asked why I didn’t wear the same jumper skirts as “everyone else” and why she disliked this style. I explained it was a style trend for young mothers as they could change blouses for variety and these afforded more comfort if one gained a little weight versus buying more dresses, but that I made different choices. Then I explained carefully that other than dressing modestly, there was no dress code. (She joined the church.)


  6. I really enjoyed the brief podcast along with the more detailed written portion while studying the OT. Perhaps you could switch to a detailed podcast with just the basic points written? Either way, I’m sure all of us will take what we can get! Thank you for sharing your knowledge!


  7. Add my vote for something written. I also appreciate your thoughts as I do my personal study, whenever they are posted.


  8. For me written posts are best. That way I can read in Church. Wearing headphones looks a little extreme.

    I would read during the week if posted during the week. I tend to read your posts soon after publication, then usually again later.


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