Teaching in the Synablog

Last week our Gospel Doctrine teacher explained a little bit about what it was like to teach in the synagogue during the time of Christ. He also showed a video depicting Jesus teaching in just such an environment.

Apparently in these synagogues there were presiding leaders, but individuals were free to voluntarily come up front and teach on the topic of their choice. They were then open to questions, comments and discussion about the topic that they taught. This sounds familiar.

Is this not nearly the same teaching culture that we have on the bloggernacle? Or should I say synablog? With the exception of not being face-to-face it seems that this is exactly what we do here. This made me feel a little better about what we do here and how we do it.

What would you think if the bishop of your ward decided to try and have a synagogue type activity once a month? I would be quite excited about it and I would look forward to preparing and participating in such a thing. Kind of a talk/testimony/discussion combination all voluntarily done on the topic of your choice in front of a live audience. Would this be a good idea to try in a real live ward? Or would it be more wise to leave this type of discussion to the blogs?

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21 Responses to “Teaching in the Synablog”


  1. 1 RoAnn February 27, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    What an intriguing idea! I don’t mean to be too negative, but I guess I can see a couple of reasons why live synagogue type activities might cause problems and hard feelings amongst ward members.

    The topics chosen might elicit too much controversy. People with hobby-horses might get additional publicity for their “unusual” ideas, or else be offended if they were restrained from participating. (And who would exercise control over who spoke and what they said? The Bishop?)

    Ward members with charisma might build up followings, and have large audiences (this already happens with speakers who circulate and speak at firesides in many different places), thus offending those who could not attract large numbers. This would then generate concern among charitable ward members, who might feel obligated to attend all presentations, even if they didn’t really want to, and were already overloaded with meetings.

    If you blog (or comment on blogs), however, you can say more or less whatever you want about whatever you want (subject to individual blog policies), whenever you want. Only those interested will continue reading what you write, and/or engage you in dialog (or diatribe!) If someone gets offended, they can cry foul, argue their case, or just leave the site. There is no obligation to support whatever anyone writes, and you can control the time you spend reading blogs (unless you are addicted! LOL!).

    Thus, my first impression is that blogs are the place for this kind of discussion. But I may well be wrong, and I look forward to reading the comments on this thread to see how something like this might work in a ward.

  2. 2 Eric Nielson February 27, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Wow RoAnn. Those are very good observations. I do think there is something to the blogs that makes this type of interaction better than if it were in real life.

  3. 3 Matt W. February 27, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Apparently in these synagogues there were presiding leaders, but individuals were free to voluntarily come up front and teach on the topic of their choice. They were then open to questions, comments and discussion about the topic that they taught. This sounds familiar.

    Um, fast and Testimony meeting?

  4. 4 RoAnn February 27, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Matt said, Um, fast and Testimony meeting?

    I know that some people wander rather far away from bearing pure testimony; but I certainly hope most F&T meetings aren’t composed of people “teach[ing] on the topic of their choice” and then being “open to questions, comments and discussion about the topic they taught.” :)

  5. 5 Eric Nielson February 27, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Matt:

    I think there are major differences. Most testimonies are not really ‘prepared’ and are not open to questions and comments. Sure, I think there are similarities.

    So Matt, what do you think people would do if people like you and me and RoAnn and others were to come to F&T meeting with a prepared 5 minute presentation on a gospel topic. Instead of a somewhat improvised testimony? Would that be an inappropriate thing to do?

  6. 6 Michelle February 27, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Would that be an inappropriate thing to do?

    Y.E.S. ! Yes! YESSSSSS! (I hope that was a joke, but just in case….) F&T meetings have a way to go still before they are what they are supposed to be. There are already too many long “talks” given where we are supposed to be simply and powerfully bearing testimony of basic gospel truths. Not lecturing. Not calling to repentance. Not given travelogues. Not giving talks.

    But I don’t have strong feelings on this topic….. : ) (Our meetings are actually really good in general, but I’m still pretty sensitive about this because there is a such a different in a meeting when it’s really about pure testiomony.)

  7. 7 Eric Nielson February 28, 2007 at 7:34 am

    Strong feelings Michelle? Strange, that didn’t come through in your comment.

    I was deliberately exaggerating to make my point. I don’t believe that what went on in the ancient synagogues were all that similar to a current testimony meeting.

  8. 8 Matt W. February 28, 2007 at 8:18 am

    What is pure Testimony? Is it not teaching?

  9. 9 Eric Nielson February 28, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Interesting question Matt. Should we be using testimony meeting as an opportunity to teach something? I am not suggesting taking over the whole meeting. I kinda see Michelle’s point, but what would be so wrong about planning a 5 minute or less ‘talk’ for your testimony? Especially if it is on a gospel topic, based on the scriptures and teaching from church leaders? It would be very different, but wrong? I can see that some might take advantage of that. But it seems it might be able to be appropriately done.

  10. 10 Matt W. February 28, 2007 at 11:29 am

    I have often gotten up in F&T, not with a prepared lesson mind you, but with some thought in my head, and then talked about the atonement and what I have recently felt or thought about it, or some such. I guess I just think pure testimony is more than saying “I know the church is true, In the name of…” especially if we are promised that pure testimony is our strongest tool for inviting the spirit.

  11. 11 Matt W. February 28, 2007 at 11:30 am

    oops, clicked to soon. to continue, Pure Testimony, it seems to me, is saying what the spirit prompts you to say, whether it be a travelogue, a call to repentance, or a lesson. The challenge is discerning what is the spirit prompting you and what is acid reflux…

  12. 12 ed42 February 28, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    FIVE MINUTES!!!

    If you can’t make your point in less time, then perhaps it isn’t worth doing during F&T

  13. 13 Michelle March 1, 2007 at 12:17 am

    I guess I just think pure testimony is more than saying “I know the church is true, In the name of…” especially if we are promised that pure testimony is our strongest tool for inviting the spirit.

    I hope it’s clear that I don’t disagree. When I say that we ought not come with a talk prepared per se, I’m not saying what we say should be canned. In a sense we are “teaching” when we bear testimony, but I think it would be too easy to come with a “lecture” rather than a “testimony.” F&T meeting, the way I understand it, is an opportunity to really speak from the heart and to bear a pure, strong testimony of the truths that matter most.

    And, for that matter, we should have more such pure testimony in our talks and lessons, too.

    Our testimony meetings need to be more centered on the Savior, the doctrines of the gospel, the blessings of the Restoration, and the teachings of the scriptures. We need to replace stories, travelogues, and lectures with pure testimonies. Those who are entrusted to speak and teach in our meetings need to do so with doctrinal power that will be both heard and felt, lifting the spirits and edifying our people.

    This has sort of influence my thoughts on this. We also had a bishop who taught us about what pure testimony is and I’ve been a lot more sensitive about it since then.

    The other thing that I have noticed is very rarely are people going to stay riveted in F&T to something that goes on very long (5 minutes really is too long in general). The most powerful testimonies I have heard tend to be short and powerful. The background talking to get to the core (punchline?) should be less the focus.

    Don’t know if I’m expressing myself well….

    M. Russell Ballard, “Pure Testimony,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 40

  14. 14 Eric Nielson March 1, 2007 at 7:38 am

    ED42: Your exactly right, it would not need to take much time at all.

    Michelle: What is it about improvising that makes it more pure and from the heart? In a way is not our whole lives a preparation? I would not expect someone to read their testimony. And yes 5 minutes is to long. I just through out a time that was sorta short. I’ll have to look up Ballards talk.

  15. 15 Matt W. March 1, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Eric, if your main concern is a pre-written testimony, there are of course times this is appropriate. General Conference, for example…

  16. 16 Michelle March 1, 2007 at 11:24 am

    Eric,
    It’s hard to explain what I’m thinking. When I share testimony, I usually have at least some idea of what I might say. I’m not saying any preparation is a bad thing.

    Maybe try this on: Have you ever heard of being encouraged to come without a specific talk even prepared (not without preparation…there is a difference there)?…to let the Spirit guide? When you talk about coming with something prepared, my gut reaction is fear of a lecture, a canned speech…not flowing with the Spirit (not that a lot of testimonies do, either). We also might force getting up to share when the Spirit in the end may not move us to get up and share. There is something different about really speaking from the heart, IMO. but that’s not something that is often not done well. I think bearing testimony (in F&T meeting, in particular) is a gift and I think it’s less about preparation and more about heart and the Spirit.

    Don’t know if this is making any sense….

  17. 17 Eric Nielson March 1, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    I guess what I am saying is that I think I would like a F&T style meeting with more substance to it. Sure, the emotions can be touching, but I would enjoy more of a teaching feel to it.

    I don’t bear my testimony very often, maybe about every 6 months or so. But I miss teaching adults, and I do not get asked to speak all that much. Would it be out of line to intentionally get up and teach something quickly. Maybe quote a scripture or two. Plan it out a little bit. Who is to say that the spirit isn’t directing this as much as anything else?

    I guess I would like F&T meeting more with less emotion and more substance. Not in an extreem way. And this could still be done without being written out. Perhaps an outline in your head.

  18. 18 Michelle March 1, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Like I said, Eric, I do this, so I’m not sure we are in that much disagreement. I don’t like emotion for emotion’s sake either…but coming with an outline won’t necessarily prevent that, either. :) Who knows if some who speak “with emotion” haven’t tried to plan out what they would say a bit, ya know? :)

    If you are wanting to bear your testimony, you go ahead and do it whatever way you feel is appropriate. I have a feeling that if I were at your meeting and you did so, I would find it uplifting and appropriate.

  19. 19 Matt W. March 1, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    The only time I have written/read my church talk word for word is also the only time that I can recall that I cried so hard during my talk that I could not speak…

    It was for my mission fairwell. My talk was to my parents, asking for permission to go…

  20. 20 Eric Nielson March 1, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks Michell. I think I like many members sort of wait for some ‘event’ to bear a testimony. I was thinking if I looked at testimonies a little differently maybe I would express them more often.

    Matt:

    Your farwell sounds touching. Still got a copy of it? Might make a great post someday.

  21. 21 Michelle March 1, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I think I like many members sort of wait for some ‘event’ to bear a testimony. I was thinking if I looked at testimonies a little differently maybe I would express them more often.

    This helps me understand more of what you are driving at, and I think we can and should think about testimony as more than something big and huge and tied to a big something in our lives. Testimony permeates our lives, and I think testimony meetings can reflect that.


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