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Kirby: Confessions of a failed Mormon Sunday school teacher

Published May 16, 2014 6:50 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I taught the Young Women's lesson in my LDS ward last Sunday. If it makes you feel any better, it wasn't my idea. I'll bet the bishop didn't know about it either.

The assignment was made several weeks before Mother's Day. In order to get all the ward's mothers in the same room for a special celebration, substitute teachers were assigned to various classes.

In some cases standards were shockingly compromised. A friend and I were asked to co-teach the young women, ages 12-16. I immediately said no. OK, it was more like "not only no but hell no. I'm not doing that."

Trapper convinced me that nothing bad would happen. He would be there to keep me out of trouble. And it would be just this one time. Think of the mothers and their special class.

I relented.

After sacrament meeting Sunday morning, the mother of one of the young women asked Trapper and me if we were ready to teach her daughter's class? He said we were prepared even though we weren't.

Her: "Wonderful. What's the lesson about?"

Me: "That it's not really premarital sex if you don't plan on getting married."

Judging from the woman's face, a brain embolism was averted only because Trapper laughed. I'll have to warn him next time.

The class was a dozen young women and two substitute teachers on a circle of folding chairs. As the general type goes the girls seemed pleasant enough. No tattoos, piercings, sneers or shaved heads.

These were daughters of friends and neighbors, fellow churchgoers. But they were still teenagers. We should have stuck with my lesson. Maybe they would have at least paid attention.

The lesson began and instantly became one-sided. I knew it would be. Having raised three daughters, I already know it's impossible for any group of teenage girls larger than one to not talk at the same time.

Note: Teenage boys aren't off the hook here. Replace "talk at the same time" with "not vandalize something" and the problem remains.

Trapper gave it his best shot. I tried to back him up but lost interest in less than a minute. I find it easier to stay out of trouble if I don't pay attention too closely.

Question: "OK, quiet down. What are some important qualities for good mothers?"

Answer (collectively): "OhmygoshIwaslikeandthenhewasbutlikeandshetotallysaiditwasdumbandIwentEww![micro-pause for oxygen] butshesaiditwaslikenotandthenhesaidnowayandwewent…"

Trapper and I regrouped. In half an hour all we managed to accomplish is get the girls to agree there was such a creature as a mother. We weighed our options for bringing the lesson to a successful close.

Me: "Maybe if I strangle one the rest will shut up for a minute."

Him: "Ten seconds tops."

It takes a special talent to teach teenagers anything and a saint to teach them church. It's one I don't have. Faced with such an impossible task, I'll resort to entertaining myself.

I once taught a Sunday school lesson based entirely on why Noah was unable to get a pair of jackalopes into the Ark. After church, an annoyed parent called.

"I've seen pictures of jackalopes but there never was an animal called the 'Dork-o-nator! You'll never teach kids in this ward again."

I wish that were true.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.