Gospel Doctrine Class: Creating a Nourishing Environment
by Judy Finch, Sunday School Teacher
My favorite and most challenging calling is teaching Gospel Doctrine. Our class is a fascinating mix: single, married, straight and gay, fully to marginally active, people of several races in their twenties through their nineties. We thrive on lively discussions of different opinions, unique ideas and perspectives forcefully expressed. We frequently address dilemmas and problems in our lives and identify similarities between our struggles with those of our forefathers. And, despite our diversity and lack of consensus, we unite in love of the gospel.
When I taught Old Testament Lesson 3, the Family Proclamation, the class reviewed the tenets and then discussed concerns for those who fit outside the narrow female-male marriage model. As beloved children of their Heavenly Father, where is the place for single people or same-sex attracted members? Without reaching consensus, we explored differing opinions and potential solutions, respecting divergent viewpoints and appreciating our mutual love for the gospel.
Later, in a more homogenous and traditional class in another state I had occasion to repeat Lesson 3 as a student. The teacher literally read the material from the manual, and the class members eagerly added their enthusiastic comments in agreement with each point. There was a spirit of commitment to shared beliefs, unity and love of the gospel.
These two Sunday School experiences illustrate Richard Poll’s Dialogue paper where he explained: “The Iron Rod Saint does not look for questions but for answers, and in the gospel he finds or is confident that he can find the answer to every important question. The Liahona Saint, on the other hand, is preoccupied with questions and skeptical of answers; he finds in the gospel answers to enough important questions so that he can function purposefully without answers to the rest.”
We are taught we attended lessons in the pre-existence. Was there eager acceptance of presented material, unanimity? Were there divergent views, dilemmas and lively discussions? Maybe a unique combination of these approaches helps us to acquire the patience, tolerance and inclusion that our Savior exemplified. Diversity is part of the beauty of Heavenly Father’s plan. Trust that in his own way and in his own time, his will is being accomplished.