I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

How can we make more effective use in gospel teaching of the instructional materials and equipment housed in the meetinghouse library?

Irwin Goodman, Member, Church Teacher Development Committee: Today’s teaching in the Church should not be the old-fashioned lecture, where the teacher—relying heavily on the manual—tells the student what the student ought to know.

Today’s teachers are better trained to help the student learn the gospel in a variety of ways. In order to help the teachers, the Church has done three important things: improved the lesson manuals, started an important teacher development program, and made the meetinghouse library a true resource center for every teacher in the Church.

Now you can find in most of the libraries of the Church almost every kind of teaching aid used anywhere. There are reference books, filmstrips, pictures, maps, past issues of Church publications, and important Church books.

In addition, each meetinghouse should have the equipment available to allow teachers to make the best use of the instructional materials provided. This includes projectors, record players, and tape recorders.

The best earthly assistant any teacher has as he prepares his lesson is the meetinghouse librarian. Not only can the librarian quickly and efficiently provide you with reference material already identified, but she can help you when you don’t know exactly what material you want.

Too few teachers of classes for both youth and adults have made the most of the meetinghouse libraries available to them. By not fully utilizing the library, teachers are prevented from doing the best job possible, and students are denied some of the most interesting and helpful ways to learn the gospel.

What is the teacher development program?

Rex A. Skidmore, Chairman, Teacher Development Committee: Although there have been teacher training programs in the different auxiliaries in the past, teacher development is the current training program for all priesthood and auxiliary teachers in the Church.

In October 1968 the First Presidency called a committee to suggest ways to improve the quality of teaching throughout the Church; the committee was to create and implement a program to assist teachers to improve. The First Presidency wanted the program to be priesthood-sponsored, to help present teachers do better, and assist prospective teachers with the training necessary to be more effective.

The priesthood-sponsored teacher development program was announced at general conference in October 1970, and implementation began January 1, 1971. It is to be carried out in all stakes, wards, districts, and branches throughout the world. Flexibility and options are built into the program so that Church units with limited membership, geographical problems, or other challenges can adapt accordingly.

The teacher development program consists of an 11-week basic course and monthly inservice lessons. The course is supported by personal help from a teacher development director or inservice leader who is skilled with teacher development procedures.

By now most of the active teachers in the Church have completed the basic course. More than one million manuals have been distributed in 16 languages, and success stories have come in from all over the world attesting to the effectiveness of this teacher improvement program. The charge from the First Presidency to improve teaching has become a reality.

The basic 11-week course is offered on a ward or branch level and is open to both present and prospective teachers. It is a practical kind of course, limited ordinarily to eight participants at a time, and offers a rich opportunity for improving teaching skills. It provides learning by experience.

The inservice lessons are taught monthly in each auxiliary, giving opportunity for all teachers to receive specific advice on how to make lessons come to life and assist the members in living gospel principles.

Priesthood and auxiliary teachers can benefit by the teacher development program. It is an integrated system for improving teaching, a system to help all teachers build spirituality and change lives for good.

A speaker in Church last Sunday quoted from a book called The Archko Volume about the life of Christ. I had not heard any of the kinds of things he said before. Is the book authentic?

Dr. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Professor of History and Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University: Most people won’t buy stock or used cars without investigation, but several scriptural imitations are too often believed without their claims being checked. One is The Archko Volume, containing supposed reports on Jesus’ trial from the officials who judged him. The book obviously thrives because it is too easy to confuse what we would like to find with what is authentic.

One classic work on New Testament apocrypha indexes the blunt opinion that The Archko Volume is “ridiculous and disgusting,” a clumsy fraud. Edgar Goodspeed has called the Archko documents “modern apocrypha” because they were only recently invented.

The Archko documents were invented in the nineteenth century and published by a minister who pretended to discover original manuscripts in Rome and Constantinople. Born in 1824, William Dennes Mahan was a Cumberland Presbyterian minister by 1860, serving at least two decades in upper central Missouri, mainly at Boonville.

He published the Correct Transcript of Pilate’s Court in 1879. The methods he used in this work undermine the credibility of The Archko Volume, published in 1884. Mr. Goodspeed found that the Correct Transcript of Pilate’s Court was taken from a Boston pamphlet printed in 1842, which falsely claimed to be a translation of an old Latin manuscript at Vienna. Mr. Mahan gave as his source “records in the Vatican at Rome.”

His success at copying the work of others led to overconfidence. He so openly plagiarized that he was removed from office. A tale of how part of The Archko Volume came to be is an example of his methods.

In the 1884 edition, 87 pages were prefaced with the statement that he found the “parchment, written … and signed Ben Eli.” He should have signed it “Ben Hur,” since most of it was lifted from Lew Wallace’s novel published in 1880. Anyone comparing Ben-Hur with Mr. Mahan’s 1884 edition will find the pages are word-for-word extracts from the novel.

When his writings came under attack, mostly from other ministers, Mr. Mahan privately requested that they discontinue their complaints about his work because he was getting $20 per day and “you are bound to admit that the items in the book can’t do any harm, even if it were false.”

Even this private request became public, and Mr. Mahan was brought to trial before the New Lebanon Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. As a result, his license to preach was taken away for one year because the “cause of Christianity” was at stake.

One cynic suggested that history without lies is extremely dull. The Archko Volume proves that “invented” history can also be tedious. Parading as fact, it is really fiction, and unhistorical fiction at that. Yet the book continues to be sold and occasionally quoted in church.

The ultimate weapon against such falsely advertised products is not legal action, but public information. Thus, one who has sincerely believed in The Archko Volume should be courteously but firmly informed of the truth.

There are many authentic documents from Jesus’ period, including the Dead Sea Scrolls and the works of the Jewish historian, Josephus. But The Archko Volume is genuine counterfeit.

How can we apply in our lives the ideal, “What would Jesus have me do?”

Stewart A. Durrant, Director, Melchizedek Priesthood Special Curriculum: President Joseph Fielding Smith reminded all priesthood holders that the significance of the priesthood is “to do what Jesus would do if he were personally present.” He said, “We are the Lord’s agents; we represent him; he has given us authority which empowers us to do all that is necessary to save and exalt ourselves as well as his other children in the world. … We are directed to preach his gospel, to perform the ordinances of salvation, to bless mankind, to heal the sick and perhaps perform miracles, to do what he would do if he were personally present.” (Conference Report, April 1971, p. 47.)

President Marion G. Romney tells the story of how he determined the guidelines for conducting his life. While young, he decided he should proceed as Jesus did in his ministry; that is, always do the will of the Father, become thoroughly familiar with what his Father had declared his will to be (as recorded in the scriptures), and commune constantly with his Father through prayer. (The Savior, the Priesthood and You, Deseret Press, 1973, p. 18.)

Each person must work out his own formula for conducting his life according to what Jesus would have him do—but he must have a formula, especially if he is prone to “procrastinate the day of his repentance.” It seems that we must organize, write down, post for daily reference, commit ourselves, etc., or the days slip by and we have not made the necessary changes in our conduct.

To apply the ideal in our lives, we might consider the following:

1. Search the scriptures. Feast upon the words of Christ. Ponder them and their teachings. Plan daily scripture reading, outline the plan, write it down. Commit yourself in writing or to someone who is close to you and who is making the same commitment; frequent progress checking with someone else is stimulating.

“… Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do … behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3, 5.)

2. Pray for direction in all undertakings and associations. Then ask for the courage to follow through as the Spirit directs.

At one time my employment made it necessary for me to attend a function where it was customary to have a social hour before dinner. I was the only member of the Church present and did not want to offend the host by refusing to join the cocktail drinking. I offered up a silent prayer for guidance. The feeling came to me that I must not only refrain from partaking of the cocktails, but I should not so much as hold a glass of soft drink in my hand, and that I should mingle among the people in friendliness.

Sir George Hubert Wilkins, the noted Australian explorer, was the guest speaker, and I was excited by the stories he told. During the course of the evening I had the opportunity of visiting with him casually for a few moments.

One year later I was again at a social gathering where Sir Hubert was also a guest. Following dinner, I felt a tap on my shoulder and, looking around, saw Sir Hubert smiling at me. He said, “I have been watching you tonight as I observed you a year ago, and I notice you do not have a cocktail glass in your hand—neither did you at that time. You must be a Mormon. I would like very much to talk with you.” There followed a most delightful conversation—he told me about his exploring adventures in the Antarctica, in tropical Australia, and in the submarine Nautilus through the arctic regions. And I told him about the Church. This golden memory might not have been mine had I not followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

3. Create within yourself holiness that welcomes the Holy Ghost. Expose yourself to influences for righteousness: Church meetings, activities, publications, and leadership directives; the beauties of the world; the arts as developed for our enjoyment and participation; and “standing in holy places.” Clear your mind of carnal thoughts by wisely selecting your reading material, your conversations, work, companions, leisure-time activities, and so forth.

President Brigham Young made the statement:

“The thousands and tens of thousands of incidents that make up the sum of human lives, whether for good or evil, depend on a momentary watchfulness and care.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 267.)

4. Refer often to the thirteenth Article of Faith: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. …” Remind yourself that it means practicing these virtues in all places and under all circumstances, from Sunday morning to Sunday morning.

5. Each night check yourself, as your eyes rest on a card on your night table. On this little card is printed, “Did I do what Jesus would have me do?”