Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » An Extraordinary Gospel Doctrine Moment

An Extraordinary Gospel Doctrine Moment

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 26, 2011

You know how it’s impossible to teach anything in a Gospel Doctrine class that hasn’t been said a gazillion times before? Unless, that is, it’s so speculative and far-fetched that even the tin-foil-hat crazies haven’t thought of it yet? Something new and true and somehow meaningful?

Never happens.

It did today, the only time in my teaching life that has ever happened, so I want to document it. It came about so simply, too.

We were going through Lesson 23, “Love One Another As I Have Loved You,” talking about the activities and teachings in the upper room – the afternoon and evening of the Last Supper. Although it wasn’t one of the points specifically delineated in the manual, I brought up Jesus’s telling Peter that Peter would deny Jesus three times that very night.

I broke out of the scriptural account for a minute to give a brief meta-scriptural lesson, noting that originally the Gospel of John had been written as a single long narrative (I drew a long vertical line on the board as I spoke). At some point the gospel had been divided into chapters (I crossed my vertical line at regular intervals with short horizontal lines), with the chapters being divided into verses (I quickly divided one of my “chapters” with several even shorter horizontal lines).

That makes it easy to find a particular line in the gospel, I noted; I can ask you all to turn to John 13:36 and in only a few seconds you will all have found the same place in your scriptures. But these divisions sometimes distort the scriptures, too: we read one verse as if it were isolated from the verses around it, or read a chapter as if it were disconnected from what comes after.

I wrote the word pericope on the board and explained that that meant a complete, coherent passage from the scriptures, one that ignored chapter and verse divisions if necessary in order to encompass a complete thought. (I sketched a bracket that framed the last part of one “chapter” and the first part of the following “chapter” on my diagram.)

Then I asked a brother to read the last three verses of John 13 and the first three verses of John 14 without pausing, as if he saw no chapter division.

Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.

Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.

Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Absolute silence for a moment, then I asked, “Does that change your understanding of Peter’s denial?”

Then the extraordinary moment happened. When I asked that question, everybody raised their eyes from their Bibles as if one string were controlling all heads. Those who were sitting close enough for me to see their expressions were smiling with – joy? delight? something extraordinary. I felt a rush of spirit from the class members, and there was a brief, almost excited discussion about the sudden realization that Jesus loved Peter so much that he forgave him in advance for his coming denial and wanted to reassure Peter of that love before Peter realized what he had done and condemned himself.

Maybe you had to have been there. I didn’t expect and can’t quite convey the reaction of the class members – all of them – to this small and simple tweaking of the way we habitually see scripture, but it was real, and it was something I’ve never experienced before as a teacher.

(Jim Faulconer, who posts notes on upcoming Gospel Doctrine scripture readings at Feast Upon the Word and Times and Seasons, is the one who suggested that these verses be read as a unit. If you didn’t know before, it is a constant stream of insights like this that justify Russell Arben Fox’s praise of Jim Faulconer in his recent The Scriptorian at BCC.)



  1. Nicely done Ardis. I didn’t mention it in class today like you did, but I did inform everyone that these chapters are all the same long discourse. However, next week when we meet to continue into 16 and 17, I’ll bring up this view of 13 and 14.

    Comment by Dan — June 26, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

  2. Thank you for documenting this Ardis. Moments like that can make up for a lot.

    Comment by Mark Brown — June 26, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

  3. Ardis —

    Very impressive — and touching.

    I just reread the passages. I felt like I got a bit of what you experienced.

    Very, very cool.

    Comment by Steve — June 26, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

  4. Thank you. Ever since I got called to the library I’ve missed gospel doctrine.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — June 26, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

  5. Very nice. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Julie M. Smith — June 26, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

  6. Ardis,
    This was wonderful. Thank you for sharing it.

    Comment by CS Eric — June 26, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

  7. Electric stuff.

    Comment by oudenos — June 26, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

  8. Ardis. You are amazing.

    Comment by SilverRain — June 26, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

  9. Nice!

    Comment by Howard — June 26, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

  10. Great insight. Thanks.

    Comment by Steve C. — June 26, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

  11. And that is why I don’t read chapters during my daily scripture study. I read pages.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — June 26, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

  12. awesome!

    Comment by Cameron — June 26, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

  13. Thanks for this.

    Comment by Steve — June 26, 2011 @ 9:16 pm

  14. Ardis, I’m so glad that you shared this. I have toyed with similar thoughts before, but never really delved into a serious study of this idea. Now, I will be more aware of the scriptures when I read them.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — June 26, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

  15. Thanks. This is great. It fuels the idea that I heard once in SS that Jesus was telling him to deny him three times (perhaps to save his life) vs. predicting/seeing a future sin.
    Interesting how it puts a different spin on it.

    Comment by jks — June 26, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

  16. Wow. Very nice, Ardis. And a great example of the Savior’s love for Peter and for all of us.

    Comment by Paul — June 27, 2011 @ 6:09 am

  17. The principle of reading scriptures without regard to verse is a sound one. However, here is another way to view the event:

    Comment by Mike — June 27, 2011 @ 10:10 am

  18. Ardis, this is awesome. It is so important that we not just give the same old rote teachings from the manual, but help the members see what the scriptures are actually telling us.

    The new group of scholars we have now, including Jim Faulconer, definitely is a blessing. And that many of them blog and give out their insights for free to the reader is definitely a boon for understanding the gospel.

    Comment by Rameumptom — June 27, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  19. Love, love, love this. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by David Y. — June 27, 2011 @ 11:06 am

  20. Ardis, thanks for sharing that teaching moment with us. I too felt a little bit of what you were pointing out to the class as I read those passages. There is a reason why “I stand all amazed” is my favorite hymn…truly, He loves us collectively and as individuals. Thanks for that reminder.

    Comment by Cliff — June 27, 2011 @ 11:09 am

  21. Well done.

    Comment by Naismith — June 27, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

  22. Wonderful post, beautiful lesson. It makes me feel like we should all look to the verse at the start of the next chapter in our lives when everything seems dark.

    Comment by Kurt — June 29, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

  23. […] only twice a week, but every once in a while something pushes me to post more often. This week, Ardis Parshall at Keepapitchinin relates a remarkable experience she had teaching the Gospel of John…. I encourage you to read it. It was the subject of our family scripture study yesterday morning […]

    Pingback by A Latter-day Voice: A post worth reading — October 1, 2011 @ 9:00 am

  24. […] E. Parshall’s “An Extraordinary Gospel Doctrine Moment” at Keepapitchinin. You know how it’s impossible to teach anything in a Gospel Doctrine […]

    Pingback by Zelophehad’s Daughters | Nacle Notebook 2011: 15 Posts I Loved — October 18, 2012 @ 8:44 am

  25. Ardis, I had missed this post earlier, but Ziff’s link caught my eye. I just wanted to add my kudoz. Very cool.

    Comment by Randy B. — October 19, 2012 @ 9:50 am

  26. Thanks, Randy. Ziff’s post was a surprise and a pleasure.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 19, 2012 @ 10:14 am

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