The tree of life activity
Seminary Mom shares her seminary lesson plans for teaching Alma Chapters 27-30. She writes, "Today we reviewed four chapters in Alma - chapters 27 through 30. To start off, we read the chapter heading for Alma 27. Then the students divided into teams of two. They shared with one another something meaningful they had found in that chapter or a reason why they thought Mormon went to the bother of including these verses.
We continued this with chapters 28, 29, and 30, with each set of students swapping turns sharing their thoughts privately with each other. At the end of the four chapters, each kid then picked one thing their partner had shared with them and shared that with the class. What I noticed was that the students seemed to be thinking in great depth and quite laterally. For instance, one student shared that his partner had noticed that Korihor was so wicked that the devil himself appeared to Korihor in the form of an angel. Many of the other comments were equally as thought-provoking.
I let the kids know that what they were sharing was superb and that they might encounter future experiences which would unsettle them or their friends. It is in sharing these kinds of gospel thoughts that strengthens all of us and provides an arsenal of spiritual strength for future "battles," be they real or emotional.
When all the kids finished sharing, I then shared what had struck me as important. In Alma chapter 30 we read of an Anti-Christ which came into the land of Zarahemla. This was only a few years after a time of great mourning amongst the Nephites. They were mourning because of an innumerable amount of their loved ones had been killed during a horrific battle.
The Nephites, we read in this chapter, had mourned greatly. They had fasted and prayed. They were strict in keeping the commandments of the Lord and careful in following the ordinances given them through the law of Moses. This continued for two years or so.
But towards the end of that time, an Anti-Christ named Korihor comes to Zarahemla to preach. He preaches against the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ. He preaches that the people were binding themselves to a foolish faith. He calls them frenzied and deranged. He claims with great authority the glorious "truth" that there is no sin and that everyone would prosper according to their own strength, not that of some imaginary God (sounds familiar to some in our day?).
One would think that Korihor's teachings would be ignored or at least recognized as dangerous. The people of Ammon, being more wise than most of the Nephites, rid him from their land. But he continued to preach in other places and found success.
I asked the class: Why do you think Korihor was successful in spreading these spiritual "rumors?" Then I showed them a small portion of the John Bytheway DVD "Standards Night Live" (an excellent DVD, by the way). In the DVD, Brother Bytheway quotes Elder Bruce R. McConkie as saying that at times he noticed congregations often seemed to cover their "cup" when the living waters of gospel truths were poured out.
What did he mean? He meant that members (as Isaiah often said) sometimes choose to have deaf ears to gospel truths. In other words, (my words now) the members are picking and choosing which gospel teachings they want to live. They are fashioning a new "gospel", after what THEY want to hear.
I presented to the class today that perhaps this is what was happening at the time of Korihor's entrance to the city of Zarahemla. Why was it he was so successful? Was it that certain members of the church were chafing under the strict observances of the laws and ordinances of the gospel?
As usual, it is important to bring the lesson home to a modern-day experience or setting. We talked about a modern-day example - movies.
In the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet, bold pronouncements are given as to our movie-watching standards. The "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet is quite clear we are not to watch/read violent, vulgar, immoral or pornographic movies, books, etc. As additional food for thought, we read a quote from General Conference where a General Authority stated that if adults think they can watch movies that their children are not allowed to see, they are deceived (a General Authority's words, not mine - I'll find the direct quote and re-post it as an addendum to this blog). And really, is this that shocking? Do standards really change simply because of age?
I listed the definitions from the dictionary of the following words mentioned in "For the Strength of Youth":
VULGAR: generally used or accepted, relating to the common people, lacking in class.
IMMORAL: conflicting with principles
VIOLENT: intense force
At this point, we talked how they could take these gospel teachings into their own lives or they could choose not to, but by choosing not to, hmmmm, where would that leave them?
In finishing up the lesson, we discussed the question: How do we remain strong in today's world and in being exposed to today's Korihors? What we came to was that we hold to the rod; we see the fruit from the tree of life as something precious, something which we value. We do that by reading God's word and holding true to it. The students then created their own "Tree of Life", as Lehi mentioned early on in the Book of Mormon record (Nephi helps interpret the dream in 1 Nephi 11).
The kids searched through Alma 27-30 and wrote on their "fruit" their favorite most strengthening verses from those four chapters. We then stapled the "delicious fruit" to their individual trees. All in all, a good day!
She continued on by writing, "Today we started off with each student sharing one of their priceless scripture "fruits" they'd found in yesterday's tree of life activity. When the CES supervisor came to observe me a few months back, one suggestion he had was to encourage the kids to share more about their feelings regarding the gospel, the scriptures, etc.
This can be a challenge for teens, certainly. So I've been seeking ways to encourage this. Thus, today each student held their tree of life. They selected one of the branches' "fruits" and read the reference they'd written on it. They then read the actual verse and shared why they had selected that verse to include on their personal "tree of life." In other words, why that scripture mattered to them. They then closed with their testimony.
The spirit was so strong! We commented on the power of the spirit and how you can recognize when it is present. We also talked about how spirituality has a "short shelf life" (coined by Elder Maxwell). Thus, when we are feeling discouraged, we can go to the living waters of the scriptures and replenish our souls."