I’m Going All in on the Old Testament This Year

downloadYou know by now, I’m Mormon, right? As a Mormon, we have these really intense Sunday services, three hours worth, the second hour of which is Sunday School. The Mormon church has an extended scriptural cannon that goes beyond the Bible and for the purposes of Sunday School, we spend a year on each one. Getting through all of them in four years – the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and Church History – primarily the Doctrine and Covenants. This year is the Old Testament. These lessons then repeat every four years.  As a lifelong member, I have now sat through these lessons multiple times, and did I say they repeat?

The church organizes Sunday School in a very particular and perfectly valid way. We are a church of hierarchy, revelations and prophets. Much of this, then, is driven from the top down and much of it began in the 1960’s correlation headed up by then apostle, Harold B. Lee. The result of this is that Mormon Sunday School, is a very directed walk through the scriptures as organized and informed within modern Mormon interpretations and prophetic revelation frameworks.. We are informed by the scripture, but more often the scripture is used to firm-up these more modern frameworks and understandings.

I’m fine with this approach, but this year, in my personal journey through the Sunday School curriculum, I’m going to pull from other sources. Most importantly, I’m going to try to drink as deeply as I possibly can from the scriptures themselves and give less heed to the manual prompts. This will likely mean I will get different kinds of lessons than the ones intended from church correlation. Which I think is the whole point of personal scripture study.

There are a couple of potential consequences to this approach. I’ll be a little more disconnected from the flow of the in-class discussion. I don’t want to disrupt this flow. I’ll try to participate still, but I’ll have to find moments of overlap, some Sundays, perhaps I won’t find them. And it’s a large class, even when I have a comment to share, there’s not always an opportunity. But at a minimum I’ll try to listen this year, I promise.

But because I will likely trudge down slightly (or significantly) different paths through the Old Testament than the class, I’m going to use this blog to express whatever insights I find.

This is not a New Year’s resolution. I may completely flame out. We’ll see. I’ll do it, time, energy and interest permitting. I’m hoping for weekly, but we’ll see.

A couple of thoughts about the Bible and the Old Testament specifically:

First of all, one of my reference books which has been highly recommended from multiple of people I know, written by a BYU professor and Mormon scholar, David Bokovoy, is “Authoring the Old Testament”.  He wrote a nice introductory article recently, entitled 5 Things to Know Before Studying the Old Testament.  His basic suggestion is to avoid treating the Old Testament as a single book. It’s not, obviously. It’s a vast, complicated library of perspectives and genres over a thousand year history. As such, it’s full of contradictions and tensions and is easy to misinterpret. His basic recommendation is to recognize this, have fun with it, recognize its antiquity, feel free to re-apply its lessons to our own circumstances, but don’t get carried away. It really wasn’t written for our day and don’t try to force it too much.

I think this should be exciting. I hope it is. Again, I may flame out. We’ll see.