In another ward and another state, I had the privilege of teaching seminary for almost four years. We had a small class of five students who met in my basement. Theses particular students and I all lived in a corner of the county that made it impossible to travel from the meeting house to their high school by the time the first class was in session. Consequently, we had our own little class separate from the others who met at the meeting house.
Because the students had different interests and learning styles, I tried to employ a variety of teaching strategies. We made temples out of building blocks, we enacted battle scenes on the stairs to my basement, we drew pictures of emigration routes, and we played Bible trivia games.
Sometimes, however, we did fall back on the old standard of watching film clips. Most often we used the LDS approved materials, but I was confident that I could bring other materials in support of the standard works. I could judge what was appropriate for viewing.
The year that we were studying the Old Testament, we looked at some clips from animated Bible stories and some clips from old Hollywood adaptations from the Bible. Watching Charlton Heston part the Red Sea had more dramatic effect than just reading about it. By scouring holds on Netflix, I also found a made-for-television adaptation of the story of David. I didn’t have a chance to select my clip before our lesson on David’s fall, so I just used the DVD’s menu to find the section on David, Bathsheba, Uriah and Nathan.
As the scene unfolded, it became apparent to me that this made-for-television film was something that aired after people sent their kids to bed. The director was vividly illustrating the degree of temptation Bathsheba bathing held for David. Horrified, I grabbed the remote in an attempt to stop the video and skip the love scene between David and Bathsheba so that we could watch Nathan chastise David.
Well, I am not very skilled at using the remote in even my most calm state. So in my panic, I had accidentally hit pause instead of stop. This meant that when I pressed the forward button, we got a frame-by-frame viewing of Bathsheba in a relative state of undress with the camera focusing on her naked breasts.
I wanted to die.
The future flashed before my eyes. I envisioned these sweet teens diverging from the path of righteousness over the next few years and falling into lives of sin and recklessness because of the corruption they experienced while attending early morning seminary. I finally just jumped in front of the TV to block the screen.
Once the TV was safely off, I turned around to face my students. They were wide-eyed, uncharacteristically alert, and perfectly still. They weren’t even breathing. I couldn’t tell if they were on the verge of laughing or crying. But I think they were teetering a bit towards laughter.
Before they could exhale and say anything, I exclaimed, “OK. That never happened. I am deeply sorry that I didn’t view this previously. I made an incorrect assumption that this was a television show produced for family viewing. And I hereby promise to use only church-approved materials from this point forward.”
This happened years ago, so I have been watching these kids grow up. I am happy to report that they have gone on to serve missions and marry in the temple. I don’t think that I caused permanent damage. I hope that they forgot the whole thing. But if they remember anything, maybe I live in their memory as a cautionary tale for how not to teach the story of King David’s fall.
Have you ever committed a teaching faux pas at church? How did you recover?