“Throughout history, God has associated certain mighty works with the Sabbath. These mighty works include the Creation (see Genesis 2:1–3), the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt (see Deuteronomy 5:15), and the Savior’s Resurrection (see John 20:1–19; Acts 20:7). Invite members to review these passages and discuss how remembering each of these events can help us honor the Sabbath day. What are some of the mighty works that God has done for us? How can we remember these things on the Sabbath day? As applicable, invite members to discuss questions like these in their families.”
Every single week I teach Gospel Doctrine class and we’re lucky to get past two scripture references. My class and I fill the whole entire time with awesome discussion. By the end of the year, a good number of 4th Sunday teachers will be quite comfortable with these paragraph prompts.
Step 1 – Read each of the scripture passages and see what comes up for you. Take notes, record impressions and ideas OR at least write down a few keywords for each verse. If one of the verses doesn’t really inspire you at all – THAT’S OK! There’s a good chance you can skip it as long as you have 2 really good ones. Save your notes and re-write them so you can glance at them in class.
Secret tip: You can even use Step 1 as a class activity for each verse as it comes up. Give the class paper, pencils, and about 1-3 minutes for each verse as you cover it in class. Then have people voluntarily share what they wrote. Great warm-up and discussion prompt! Just don’t use it every Sunday. I’ll post different ways to shake up class discussions soon.
Step 2 – For each verse, choose and match up the questions which fit that verse best. The questions are included right in the short paragraph. Is it just one of the questions or all of them?
Step 3 – Convert the questions to sister speak if you can. Or perhaps better said, if you were talking to your good friend, how would you rephrase it in a natural conversation? You will have the most success if you treat your class discussion like a friend-to-friend conversation rather than a lecture.
Best teacher tip secret: After any verse we read together as a class, I usually ask something like, “What comes up for you when we read these verses? Or, “What stands out for you?” Or, “If you were to sum up these verses for a friend…how would you describe them? Or “What do these verses mean to you?” Or some variation of these types of discussion-inviting questions. This tends to lead to a more open-ended discussion, but it usually ends up being the best part of any class time. Just roll with it! People will come up with brilliant, inspired associated thoughts and topics. The more they talk, the more depth they experience and the more they retain after the class is over.
It is a proven study that when people verbalize what they learn or know, their retention rate is 73% higher.
Teacher Tip: If the open-ended approach ever feels like it is getting too far from the object of the lesson, or if your class insists on being quiet, fall back on your prepared questions (from step 3 above) and your thoughts. I use this little two-part plan more than any other method and as I noted before, we usually fill up the class time with minimal effort.
Now, back to the prepared questions for step 3. For example, in regards to the Genesis verses:
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2: 1-3)
The first question is “discuss how remembering each of these events can help us honor the Sabbath day.” This is not really how we talk and think, so if you ask that question the way it is phrased here, it might not get a lot of responses. For example, not a lot of people associate the Creation as a motivation to keep the Sabbath day holy. We need to channel how people naturally think to help them make that connection. If I were to ask that question in a natural way after reading the Genesis verses with the class, I might ask some variations like these:
“Why is the Creation an important event for us to remember on the Sabbath Day?” (i.e. gratitude for the creation, the earth, the beauty, etc., OR – the fact that even God rests from His labors on the Sabbath Day)
“What does it tell us about the Sabbath day if God himself is in the habit of keeping the Sabbath Day”?
“Why might even God want to stop and honor the Sabbath Day? And what does keeping the Sabbath Day do for us”?
“Why was it important to teach that God keeps the Sabbath Day? “Why did Moses think to mention it?”
“Does knowing that God keeps the Sabbath Day, rather than solely commanding us to observe it, perhaps illustrate how important it is”?
Another teaching tip: Talk to your group in the same way you talk to a friend, like you’re engaged in a conversation. Respond back to those who offer comments, showing them you understand and appreciate their points. Being personable is a powerful teaching tool which gets results.
Next teaching tip: Be ready with your own insights and answers to the questions you ask. This is where your own notes from Step 1 above – about each of the scripture references will come in very handy. Two reasons! 1) In case the class doesn’t have a lot of feedback to a certain question, or 2) your previous written notes will readily become a part of your natural and friendly responses to others’ comments in class.
Rinse & Repeat! Go through the same steps with each of the following questions from the paragraph for the same verse – IF you feel the next questions also fits the verse AND the topic didn’t get covered already from the last discussion you just finished.
I personally would choose the last question to prompt the next discussion for this verse: How can we remember these things on the Sabbath day? This question is closer to a natural conversation but here are some variations I might use:
Possible questions: What parts of the Creation do you feel the most gratitude for?
Possible class activity: Make a “Gratitude” list on the board of what people contribute to this question. (Stars, forests, flowers, birds, sunsets, ocean, etc.)
Possible questions (continued): How can we show gratitude for the Creation? (Lots of possible answers, but if no one else says it, make sure you include keeping the Sabbath Day holy is a form of respect and showing gratitude for the things the Lord has done.)
Next verse: And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. Deuteronomy 5:15
For this verse, I would probably only use question #2, because this event is more specific to the Jewish people.
Original question: What are some of the mighty works that God has done for us?
Possible questions: In what ways has God delivered us in our times or dispensation? How has the Lord delivered you in your personal lives? Have you ever thought of keeping the Sabbath day holy as a way of saying thank you? Keeping the Sabbath Day holy appears to be a sign of gratitude and remembrance, what would happen to our Sunday experience if we take the time to acknowledge God and give thanks? What are you thankful for? Why do you feel keeping the Sabbath day is important?
Another teacher tip: If you would like to have even more meaningful discussions with your group, hand out various verses with an associated question to individuals ahead of time. Usually best a week ahead of the class, sometime during the week before class or even right after Sacrament. I use this as an excuse to take people cookies and chat a while. Choose people who are not called on so much! Ask them to contemplate the verse and question and share their thoughts at the appropriate time. Well thought out comments will often jump-start really good discussions for the whole group. Most people like being asked to be involved, especially when they have some heads up.
Next verse: This happens to be a major verse segment and will easily take up your class time. We want to help each other become scriptorians, or perhaps better said, comfortable with the scriptures. What insights can we find and share with each other? I would absolutely ask the class to open their scriptures to these verses and pay attention to what phrases or words mean something to them today. This story describes how our Sabbath day went from being a custom on Saturday (the seventh day) to Sunday (the first day). This reads like a story too. You may want to split the reading up between 2-3 people. John 20:1-19
1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,
7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.
10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.
11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
19 ¶ Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
My own impressions: This is such a touching, beautiful story. It captures their emotions, their anxiety and confusion, their learning curves, their relief. I love it when all Jesus says is “Mary” and she gets it. I can just visualize the moment. It illustrates how personable the Savior is, that he took the time to comfort a grieving sister. And note, to whom did He appear first after the resurrection? A woman. To whom did the Savior publicly declare Himself as the Messiah first? A woman (at the well). Both these sisters do the same thing – they waste no time declaring Him to others and spreading the good news. It’s who we are.
Possible artwork: Easter morning, with Mary kneeling before Jesus in front of the tomb or something similar. Something like this:
Refresher! Step 1 – record your own thoughts and impressions from this scripture set. Re-write them so you can glance at them in class and use them when you need to or feel prompted to.
Step 2 & 3: Choose from the questions in the original paragraph and convert them to sister speak.
The 3 questions from the material are: “discuss how remembering each of these events can help us honor the Sabbath day. What are some of the mighty works that God has done for us? How can we remember these things on the Sabbath day?”
Possible discussion-promoting questions: What does revisiting this story do for you today, how do you feel about this event? What parts of the story particularly stood out for you today? What are the elements you feel are important in this story? How does recalling the resurrection event (which changed our Sabbath day from the seventh day to the first day) help us WANT to keep the Sabbath day holy? What are some ways to remember this event and help our family to remember this event and associate it with the Sabbath day? (Read it with them, have artwork around the home, etc.)
Does it look like you now have plenty of material for Sunday? Can you see how one paragraph is plenty?
There is one last verse which you can do next using the exact same steps. For me, this particular verse is redundant of the last scripture set. I also know that I’m out of class time at this point. So this would be my back-up verse to end on just in case my class is extra quiet or we still have plenty of time. Always have back-ups because having extra time does happen every once in a great while.
Possible Hymns: How Great Thou Art #86**
(**The words for hymn #86, are not in our online hymnal, but what a perfect hymn to open with! It beautifully matches the opening scripture verses we use. I’ve linked to another site with lyrics so you can review the hymn at home if you would like)
Want to be an even better teacher? 9 Tips For Memorable Teaching
Coming Soon: Sure-fire class activities to add variety, enliven your class and shake things up.