Teenagers’ lives are full of awkward moments when they wish they had something interesting to say: in line, in class, meeting someone for the first time. Social media has helped — teens post interesting pictures with witty captions and clever hashtags, and within minutes, 68 people confirm, “Yes, you are interesting!”
(Never mind that some of those “likes” are from their mother’s old college roommates — it’s the number of positive responses that matter most.)
I believe the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum in Sunday School is another modern invention that is helping teens become more interesting while actually talking face to face. The majority of the “Come, Follow Me” lesson content comes from scriptures and general conference talks. While both are inspiring, it’s often the stories told by our church leaders that spur interesting conversations in and out of Sunday School.
For instance, one Sunday we shared Elder Shayne M. Bowen’s general conference narrative on the history of public spaces near the Idaho Falls Temple. The land where a park and airport now stand actually used to be a sanitary landfill.
Soon after that story was subsequently shared in Sunday School, our family passed that temple on our eight-hour drive to Grandma’s house. My oldest daughter piped up and shared Elder Bowen’s story of symbolic reclamation. She sparked conversation that caused all the other passengers to turn down music; set down books, crayons and electronic devices; and interact intelligently for a few minutes while we were driving.
I doubt I’ll ever pass the Idaho Falls Temple again without appreciating what can be reclaimed on this earth and in our own lives.
My large Sunday School class of 15- to 18-year-olds is made up of all kinds of personalities — shy, charismatic, opinionated, quirky, solemn and more. Some are very confident in their gospel knowledge, while others are hesitant to voluntarily share. Our strengths as well as our weaknesses are evident during the Sunday School hour, and we are committed to working on both.
When students take turns sharing an inspiring story from general conference and testifying of a correlating gospel principle, an interesting and ironic moment of unification occurs. Time and time again, I’ve witnessed a student set aside his or her distinct uniqueness while teaching eternal truths and simultaneously increase the quotient of his or her interesting individuality. Suddenly, the meek are heard, the obnoxious are tolerable and the domineering are more charitable when we all take turns sharing modern-day, faith-promoting stories.
The oldest student in our class often stands on his proverbial soapbox. He has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism and wants nothing more in life than to serve a full-time mission as soon as is earthly possible. He looks the part, wearing his dark suit and pressed white shirt every Sunday. When he bears testimony of his desire to be a missionary, it reminds us we all have the same goal together.
When he tells us to settle down or to stop being “ridiculous,” it reminds us we all want to make the most of our Sunday School hour and invite the Spirit to help us learn. His spiritual nature and fervent class participation have been humbling and memorable and make him more interesting and less different to all of us.
Social interactions in Sunday School can forge friendships as well as spiritual brotherhoods and sisterhoods within a ward family. Sharing stories from general conference provides many interesting conversations that unite us — not only with one another but also with the worldwide leaders we sustain.
Our class is so looking forward to general conference this Sunday, and not just because of the break in routine. We know new lesson material is coming that could be posted immediately if needed and will ultimately ensure that Sunday School will be fresh, rich and interesting for six more months to come.