I love the scriptures as much as anyone, except for maybe Hans. I read the Old Testament in 40 days and 40 nights when I was in Seminary. The girls were so impressed I had three requests for the Sadie Hawkins dance that year. The look in my Seminary teacher’s eyes when I crossed off Malachi from my reading chart will always stay with me. In my many wonderful memories of Seminary, it is second only to the look in his eyes when he suspended me from Seminary two months later.
Because I love the scriptures so much, you might think that I love Gospel Doctrine and Sunday School. You would be wrong. Our Gospel Doctrine curriculum is the most correlated and boring of all of the manuals. Nobody bothers reading the scriptures in preparation for the lesson; you’re lucky if the teacher has read the chapters. Half of the lessons cover ridiculous amounts of material, like all 150 Psalms in one 50 minute class, and we waste half of that 50 minutes first waiting for everyone to show up, then singing all seven verses of A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief and then listen to the old High Priest in the back praying for literally forever. The other half of the lessons covers just a handful of verses so that we can prooftext the Old Testament to say whatever we want it to say to prove that Mormonism is the Most Important Church of All Times.
I’ve heard the rumors about mystical lands far away where they only do two hours of Church instead of three. I’ve even heard the rumors that there are apostles behind the scenes pushing for two hours here in the US. However, these rumors are unlikely to come to fruition.
Do I think the up and coming new adult curriculum will help Sunday School? No. And not just no, but Hell No. With the current Gospel Doctrine lessons we at least pretend that we are studying the scriptures. If the youth curriculum is anything to go by, the new lessons will feature boring standard Mormon Doctrines and talking points, with prooftexted passages to bolster the lesson. With the current system we at least occasionally read the verses that surround our favorite passages. This is a recipe for even less thinking and even more of an echo chamber.
So what can we do? We have no control over the curriculum. We cannot just decide to use another lesson manual. I’ve tried preparing for the lessons and contributing whenever I can. That is just a recipe for disappointment. The cool parts you read are never included. You wait patiently to make a point, and you have the option of interrupting the discussion to shoehorn it in or just sit disappointed while you keep it to yourself. When you share too many comments you are in danger of being yelled at by people in the ward. I always tell the Sunday School President that I’m ready to substitute when a teacher is unavailable but I never seem to be asked. I was very excited when one of my friends was called as a Sunday School teacher. She gave a couple of good lessons until the bishop asked her to stick to the manual and the lessons took a sudden drop in quality.
Foyer Sunday School
My ward does not have a foyer Sunday School class. These are not official classes, of course. They are usually the natural result of parents with noisy pre-18 month children and slackers who would rather not be in the classes. My own father goes home during Sunday School each week. Well I’m ready to be a slacker. I’ve given Gospel Doctrine everything I have and I’m ready to try something different. We can all bang our heads against the wall trying to make Gospel Doctrine different or we can sidestep it entirely.
How To Start Foyer Sunday School
Step number one: Sit out in the foyer during Sunday School.
That’s it. Well, that could be all you do. There are some other things to get it to be a little more lively. Convince your significant other to sit out there with you. Invite a couple of friends to foyer Sunday School. There is no need to prepare a lesson. Anything is better than what is going on in Gospel Doctrine. Discussions can be focused or silent. The content is not the point. Creating a safe space for the bored masses of the Gospel Doctrine is the only goal.
A Little More Subversive
If you are called to be a Sunday School teacher, inform the person calling you that you are fully prepared to teach the class but that it will take place in the foyer and that the curriculum will be whatever you feel inspired to do that week. If you are told that that is unacceptable then politely decline the calling.
Offer donuts to anyone who will attend Foyer Sunday School (not purchased on the Sabbath of course).
If anyone asks you why you no longer attend Gospel Doctrine, make sure you tell them. Tell them why you are unfulfilled. Ask them what they get out of Gospel Doctrine. And as any good ward missionary knows, end your discussion by inviting them to foyer Sunday School.
If you are ever handed a Gospel Doctrine student manual: throw it on the ground.
Start a foyer Sunday School in your ward. Tell your friends. Tell people who aren’t your friends. Invite everyone. Share a link to this page. I’ll see you in the foyer.