Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Alma 36, 37 & 38 (review) - The Numbers Game

A few days ago, I gave an overview of Alma's teachings as a father to his three missionary sons, Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton. These parental chapters ran from Alma 36-42 and were to be taught/completed by tomorrow (at least for my location).

As seminary teachers, it is important to follow the spirit in our lesson preparations. The Bishop drove that point home when asking me to serve in this capacity. It is something I've thought much about.

Perhaps that is why I felt strongly moved today to resummarize the teachings found in Alma 36-38. It was backing up a bit, but I felt I needed to do it.

To start off today's class, we played The Numbers Game. The students each received a paper with a series of numbers, 1 through 80, scattered on it in what looked to be chaotic order, smattered all over the page. They were to see how quickly they could connect the numbers in order from 1 to 80.

It was rather challenging. I let them work the sheet until most of them arrived at about the number 25 or so. Then I asked if anyone had noticed a pattern. No-one had. They looked surprised to learn there could actually be "rhyme and reason" to what they were trying to do!

I explained that although it looked like the numbers were randomly placed, that it was deceiving. Instead, the numbers actually occurred in sets of fours. In other words, they could find the first number mixed in somewhere in the upper left part of the page, then the next number could be found somewhere in the upper right, then the lower left quadrant to (finally) lower right quadrant. This continued in sets of four until arriving at the final number (80) in the lower right quadrant.

Although it was still a challenge to negotiate through such a large morass of numbers on one small sheet, knowing the way made solving the problem much smoother. (See where this is going?)

One kid caught the lesson right away. "Kind of like the chaos of life," Josh called out.

He was exactly right.

The point? "Where would we be without righteous parents to give us instructions and to guide us? They've walked this path before," I said.

Just as doing this Number Game would be easier the second time around, it's also easier for parents to find the patterns of life, having already passed through so many experiences by virtue of their age.

And for those who may not have parents who seek the Lord's patterns, the students still have the best Parent of all - Heavenly Father who sees all and knows all, and who has kindly given us the pattern-book to life: the scriptures.

This became the perfect lead into our final review of today's block of scripture: Alma 36-38 - a parent's counsel to his sons of how to negotiate through the morass of life.

At this point I referenced our scripture mastery for the day, which was Helaman 5:12. This fatherly scripture had also set the theme for the week.

"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."

I shared a personal example of how sometimes the "numbers" of life seem confusing. Some years ago, we met a dear family whose life had taken an unexpected turn. While traveling alone on a long stretch of highway, the husband's car developed a flat tire. Eventually a carload of individuals came upon him and offered to help. But instead of helping, they robbed and beat him so viciously that he suffered irreversible brain injury (irreversible, at least in this lifetime). The robbers left him on the side of the highway to die and carelessly fled with his valuables.

He most likely should have died. Instead, the Lord preserved his life, but his family's lifestyle now had become different...permanently. His wife, who had been a stay-at-home mom, now needed to become the bread-earner for the rest of their earthly lives.

Where was a pattern or a guide to help this family, to help them understand this chaotic and apparently random act of violence?

I shared with the seminary students that this was very much like a terrible shaft from Satan, as mentioned in Hel. 5:12, hitting this sweet family. The war is all too real and Lucifer laughs all too loudly when he hurts us.

But I shared with the class today that my dear friend (years later) testified the Lord had compensated her family by greatly prospering her new company/work so that the family could be provided for. And they have grown.

As a class, we discussed that the parental counsel in today's scripture block was essentially the same wise counsel the Lord has always given through his prophets: to remain steadfast on gospel sod, even when Satan's whirlwinds and shafts attack us. Those who do so will be aided by the Lord and will eventually be given all that He hath. The chaotic "Number Games" thrown at us by Satan are not confusing to those who use the guide-book given from the Lord (the scriptures).

Just as Alma shared with his sons, I testified to the class that "inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments ye shall prosper in the land;...".

It is for these kind of individuals the Lord reserves the right to bless. It is for these faithful that the Lord will immediately come when we are in trouble. That when the devil sends forth his mighty shafts, the Lord will strengthen us and make us able to meet the challenge. That when all is said and done, we will stand tall before the Lord, having met the storms of Satan and have not yielded. The Lord reserves His greatest of blessings for those who live after this manner. The "Numbers Game" need not be quite so confusing after all!

And to drive that point home, we finished with a Scripture Scholar Moment. This is when I pass out a summary sheet and they see how quickly they can find the answers in the scriptures to those things we've been discussing. They did quite well.

[To view the questions on today's Scripture Scholar Moment, simply click on the picture. This will enlarge it so that you can read the summary questions and a sample of one of the student's responses.]

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Until tomorrow,

just another early-morning-seminary-teacher mom! :0)

So that I didn't have to write out all those numbers, I found a sample Numbers Game already printed in 100 Training Games, by Gary Kroehnert, on page 80.