After reading this brief account related by Camille Fronk Olson, consider sharing your thoughts.
Do you feel this young lady had a point?
How do you feel about her decision?
What would you have said to her?
I had been teaching released-time seminary for about five years when a student I had taught when she was a sophomore came back to visit me when she was a senior in high school. After a few pleasantries, she informed me that she was no longer attending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; she told me she now attended a Protestant church in the area. I felt as though she wanted me to react with alarm when she made this announcement, so I remained calm and simply said, “Oh, that is interesting, what led you to that decision?” Her answer shook me from my calm demeanor because it was not at all what I expected. She said, “When I attended my LDS ward, we talked about being honest, the importance of reading scriptures and getting married in the Temple, and the importance of a living prophet, but I never heard much about Jesus Christ. In this new church I attend, Jesus is the heart and soul of all their sermons.”
My first reaction was denial. In my thoughts I was arguing that she wasn’t listening when she had attended the LDS Church because certainly the Savior is at the heart of all that we believe and understand. In an attempt to validate these assumptions, I asked all of the students in my five classes the next day what they thought of this girl’s observations about her ward. To my amazement, the great majority in every class agreed with her, concluding that we didn’t speak, teach, or mention much about the Savior other than in our hymns and at the end of prayers and talks.
I made a silent vow that day that I would never teach a lesson or give a talk without making a connection between the topic or scripture block and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. My motivation in the beginning was to prove to my students that we did indeed teach of Christ and rejoice in Christ. That reason, however, changed rather quickly. In seeking to find connections to the Savior and His Atonement to present in class, I discovered a deeper, more meaningful scripture study experience. Instead of looking first for ways that the passage applied to me, I sought to understand what it taught about the Redeemer. Students responded to our class discussions differently after I consistently made connections to the Atonement. There was a feeling of reverence in the room. After class, students often reported that the scriptures we had explored that day were the very ones that they needed in their personal challenges. Perhaps most dramatic, I noticed a change that was occurring in me. My reverence for the Redeemer increased beyond anything I had previously known. I also found a new sense of confidence that motivated me to action. I wanted to do and say whatever the Lord wanted me to do and say and felt an added energy to actually do it. Too often before this experience, I had “looked beyond the mark,” or the target upon which to focus. Looking beyond the Savior, I stumbled trying to explain tangents and ancillary principles, getting caught up in faddish topics scintillating stories instead of remembering the foundation of faith in Christ and repentance through the Atonement.
Joseph Smith Lecture Given at Brigham Young University–Hawaii
November 10, 2009
Camille Fronk Olson
Associate Professor of Ancient Scripture , Brigham Young University