I delivered Valentine treats to the high school kids in my Sunday School class today, because to me, Sunday School has become so much more than an hour-long class at church.
With the new curriculum introduced last month, Sunday School is a lot less preachy and more of a learning laboratory than a classroom for lectures. Together, we’re all teaching, sharing, growing and stretching, and I have to say I love the youth in my class more and think of them all week long.
Learning the gospel has become a kinesthetic exercise rather than just auditory overload of hit-and-miss information, exemplified on the day I brought homemade green play dough to class.
“So for the last month, we have been working to mold our testimonies of the gospel,” I said. “I want each of you to dig down deep to find your inner sculptor and lover of symbolism. I want you to make something with this play dough that represents the current state of your testimony.”
One of the most practical girls in the class instantly rolled her dough into a ball and blurted out, “My testimony is like a seed.”
I didn’t let her off that easy.
“So is your seed planted in good soil or just sitting out on the side of the road in the weeds?” I asked.
She thought for a second and assured me that her seed was planted and that she was watering it.
Another girl held up a candle and the one next to her showed the authentic shape of the lamps carried by the 10 virgins in Jesus’ allegory. We talked about letting our lights shine and the fact that you can’t spiritually live on borrowed light.
Our guest student who recently returned from college and is awaiting her mission call turned her dough into the shape of a clam with a pearl inside and we spent the next few minutes talking about the treasure a testimony can become when little irritants like sand are transformed into something beautiful.
“You might remember times in the past when things about church were irritating to you,” I said “Like the way a teacher chewed gum when teaching or didn’t prepare for class, the way some people share travelogues in testimony meeting instead of offering feelings about the Savior. Lots of things that happen in church have the potential to be irritating, but the fact that you’re still coming to Sunday School shows me that you have taken the sand and turned it into a pearl of testimony.”
I called on another girl in class who overcame a horrific year of challenges mostly based on poor choices. She was rolling her dough into three little balls.
“So what have you got?” I asked.
“A snowman,” she laughed, then wittingly added, “I guess my testimony has been known to melt under pressure, but not anymore.”
I loved her honesty and loved even more that she hasn’t been judged too harshly or shunned by her classmates.
Another student showed the shape of an oak leaf and said her testimony has been gathering light to make her roots stronger. I added that we all have to keep looking to the “Son” to ensure our testimonies aren’t withering and falling to the ground to be trampled.
My group of 15- to 18-year-olds has emerged as a unique branch of our ward family tree that has, in recent weeks, become even stronger with tender offshoots of new growth and development and a higher capacity to feed the roots of a solid testimony — both theirs and mine.