Relief Society Lesson 16: The Power of the Book of Mormon
The Power of the Book of Mormon
Preparations before class:
For each sister in the class, prepare a copy of the Book of Mormon (a library copy for anyone who doesn’t have their own paper copy), a small note-card, a pencil, and a copy of the outline/handout. On the chalkboard write the heading, “The Power of the Book of Mormon” next line down “Lectio Divina – Sacred Reading” with numbers 1-4 listed below.
If you as the instructor feel comfortable giving a short narrative of what makes the Book of Mormon important to you, and when/how you came to that conviction, it might be nice to start this lesson with a your personal reflections on the book. Or invite a class member to do this beforehand. Or skip this step.
(example: “I was never able to attend seminary as a high school student, so the first time I really learned for myself what was in the Book of Mormon was in college. I was alone in a new city, working hard at my classes, and studying the Book of Mormon brought me feelings of peace and helped ward away homesickness. Still to this day, when I want to feel “home” – I’ll pull out my favorite passages to read over and over again.”)
Invitation to Meditation and Reflection
Begin the lesson by asking all the women to turn to a scripture passage in the Book of Mormon that is precious to her. Take the first few minutes to think in silence, and invite them to write on the card, or in their journals, why this particular passage is precious to them. (Not to turn in, it stays totally private.)
(We can set a tone of engaged thoughtfulness when we invite personal reflection. It’s not always necessary to launch into the lecture full-steam-ahead. In this case, it gets the class members thinking about their most precious and dear passages and gives them an opportunity to reflect on the lived experiences which made that passage important.)
Like Father, Like Daughter
President Hinckley and his daughter, Virginia Pearce have some advice for us, let’s hear their words side by side: (invite two different class members to read these quotes from the handout aloud)
“I have always thought that we will do our best work when we get people interested in the Book of Mormon to the point where they will read it. It is then that the Spirit can bear witness of its divinity.” — Teachings of the Presidents of the Church GBH p. 225
“I have always believed that if people are really going to learn something, they need more than an explanation; they need an experience. Alma taught that principle as he encouraged experimenting upon the word.” Virginia H. Pearce, First Counselor, Young Women General Presidency “Ward and Branch Families: Part of Heavenly Father’s Plan for Us,” October 1993 General Conference
What experiment is Sister Pearce talking about? Alma 32:27, “but behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”
So here’s the experiment for today. We’re going to do each other a favor – in the words of President Hinckley, “Each time we encourage others to read the Book of Mormon, we do them a favor.” GBH pg. 227
We’re going to actually READ the Book of Mormon and see if we can find some power. We’re going to awake and arouse our faculties by trying out a modified version of an ancient traditional Christian practice called Lectio Divina – or “sacred reading.” It’s not the exact same procedure the Guigo II the Carthusian monk used in the 12th century, but it’s very similar.
(anybody well-acquainted with my new favorite podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, will know instantly where I got this idea…..)
With each passage selected, we’re going to engage the text in 4 layers of meaning.
- Narrative (look at the passage in context, understand the place in the narrative – the Literal “what happened?”)
- Allegory (what metaphors are hidden in the text? What symbols can we find in the words that are used?)
- Reflection (How does this passage speak to you in your life today?)
- Invitation and Inspiration (What action are we going to take? How are we inspired to act, repent, commit, etc., as a result of how we interpret this passage?)
(going over the same passage of scripture 4 different times with a different lens is a great way to engage at least 4 different women’s ideas and comments. Try not to let one voice dominate all 4 categories, but solicit participation from other women for each category change. When facilitating discussion, you can say things like “For this next category, let’s hear from someone who hasn’t had a chance to comment yet.”)
How to teach Lectio Divina to the class
- Pre-select a few passages you want to cover. (For this example I’ll use 2 Nephi 26:33 – “…he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”)
- Invite a class member to read the passage aloud.
- Write “Narrative” next to your heading number 1 on the board and ask another class member to briefly summarize the historical or narrative context of the verse. (“After reading his scriptures and copying down the words of Isaiah onto the plates, Nephi takes a few chapters of his own to write his own reflections and ideas before jumping back in to start quoting Isaiah again in the next chapter. This passage is Nephi’s own words, sandwiched between chapters quoting Isaiah.”)
(*Please note: in my experience in church lessons, we often get way too stuck and bogged down when discussing historical context and narrative, at the expense of neglecting the more potent and powerful self-reflective iterations of the text. Don’t let this Narrative part take too long.)
- Write “Allegory” as the second heading on the board and invite another class member (or 2-3) to respond. “What words stand out to you? What symbols or metaphors can you see?”
“The action words of what the Lord does: he invites, denies none, and remembers. The action words of what we can do are ‘come and partake’”
“Partake of his goodness reminds me of partaking of the sacrament. His Sacrament is symbolic of His goodness, which he wants everyone to experience.”
“using the language of opposites (black and white, bond and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile) and then saying that all are ‘alike’ until God tells me that the dividing labels we use to separate ourselves from each other is not the way God sees us. God doesn’t put us in categories, we do that to each other. We’re all invited to partake of his goodness.”
- Write “Reflection” as the third heading on the board and invite someone else from the class to respond, “How does this passage speak to you in your life today?”
“It reminds me that every person I ever meet has the same loving invitation from the Savior to come and partake. That no one will ever be turned away.
“It reminds me that when we see suffering placed upon people because of those categories, (the color of their skin, their gender, their religion) that we will have to work a little harder to make sure that they get a chance at being “alike” to God and “alike” to everyone else. It helps me stay focused on equality for my friends and neighbors who are at a disadvantage.”
- Write “Invitation & Inspiration” as the 4th heading on the chalkboard. Ask class members to respond, “What are you inspired to do from this passage?”
“I’m inspired to do more inviting of my friends and neighbors to come and partake of the goodness of Christ.”
“I’m inspired to act with more love to others, as an ambassador or representative of Christ. When they see me love them without restrictions, it will be my way of passing along Christ’s love for them.”
“I’m inspired to speak up more often when I see people being treated unequally based on their skin color, or gender, or religion.”
- Since not everyone in the class has had a chance to participate in the discussion, give the class members another 2 minutes of meditative silence to write down their own allegories, reflections and inspirations on their card or in the journal.
Close out the first exercise in Lectio Divina with this quote by GBH:
“There is nothing we could do of greater importance than to have fortified in our individual lives an unshakable conviction that Jesus is the Christ… And, my brothers and sisters, that is the purpose of the coming forth of this remarkable and wonderful book.” GBH pg. 226
Share this quote by Sister Wixom:
“When our intent is to hold tight to the word of God, our reading of the scriptures can be just one verse at a time. It’s never too late to begin. You can start now.” Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary General President “Stay On the Path,” October 2010 General Conference
Repeat the process of Lectio Divina with another 1-2 scripture passages, as you have time and inclination. If the class members seem to enjoy this type of scripture study, analysis and reflection, share with them this passage of the biography of Parly P. Pratt, as he describes his enjoyment in reading, “I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.”
First share this quote by President Hinckley:
“Brothers and sisters, without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts and added measure of the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.” GBH pg. 233
Then, ask someone from the class to voluntarily share their “precious” scripture from the beginning of class and what makes it special to them.
After they do so, respond generously to their willingness to share and point out if their passage was most important to them for the Narrative, Allegorical, Self-Reflective or Inspirational qualities.
Let that sister’s words and testimony be the conclusion of the meeting, or end with your own words of testimony if you feel inclined.