With the alignment of Seminary to the Come Follow Me schedule, this year’s high school seniors will graduate with D&C twice, but no Old Testament.
It’s no surprise that I think Latter-day Saints generally miss out on the virtues of the Old Testament; we don’t study or teach it well. Even Seminary students who got Old Testament under the old non-alignment, didn’t really “get” the Old Testament, right?
It’s admittedly hard to “get”— length, inaccessibility, foreignness, the way it challenges assumptions, simple discomfort. Consider these real book titles.
This Strange and Sacred Scripture: Wrestling with the Old Testament and Its Oddities
Getting the Old Testament: What it meant to Them, What it Means for Us
Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problems of the Old Testament
How to Read the (Jewish) Bible
- Sacred Word, Broken Word: Biblical Authority and the Dark Side of Scripture
These all hint at the high bar of understanding the Old Testament.
On the other hand, consider the payoff. The Old Testament is the foundational scripture. It’s what we share with Judaism, and, along with the New Testament, the rest of Christianity and even Islam. For the New Testament authors and peoples, their scriptures were The Old Testament. It provides the historical and cultural background not just of the New Testament, but the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price, and is the key to understanding LDS temple ritual.
Those aren’t minor things.
The better you understand the Old Testament, the more you will understand the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the temple.
And the better you can teach, preach, understand, and just connect with your religious neighbors.
So, for those seniors who have missed it, as well as Seminary teachers who want to do something similar with their own classes, and anyone else interested, the San Antonio BYU Alumni Association is sponsoring this
fireside (we’ve been asked to call it a) devotional.
The slides and audio will be recorded, uploaded to YouTube, and then I’ll post it here along with my handouts and references.
My approach will be introductory and practical; these are essentially young single adults preparing to leave home and perhaps go on missions; it’s more important they get some general ideas and pointers on how to study themselves than a detailed lecture on one particular aspect. I want everyone to “get” the Old Testament, but especially I want to shape youthful assumptions and expectations in ways which render faith more durable and resilient. Expectations are everything.
“What’s potentially damaging or challenging to faith depends entirely, I think, on one’s expectations…. Any kind of experience can be shattering to faith if the expectation is such that one is not prepared for the experience…. the problem is the incongruity between the expectation and the reality.”
-LDS historian Davis Bitton
I’m quite sure there will be something new for everyone. My last event in San Antonio went quite well, so I’m looking forward to this one.