Question: Why do we continue to use such a participatory style of teaching in the 21st century?

Table of Contents

Question: Why do we continue to use such a participatory style of teaching in the 21st century?

Participatory teaching mechanisms are far superior to simple reading

Temple teaching mechanisms through participation are far superior to simple reading regardless of whether one is literate or not. In addition, layered meanings through enactment and participation enable multiple levels of understanding that is much harder to achieve from simple written texts. The temple is more symbolic than literal by design: even to the extent that early 19th century Illinois was "literate," that might not have meant much by present day standards. Many of those on the frontier who were literate had no schooling beyond early teen years; the majority definitely weren't what we would call "bookish."

What were they instead? The culture of folklore, memorization and recitation, oral transmission of tradition and mores was very much in place. Reading and writing was not necessarily their primary mode of learning and navigating through society and the world. How many books did most households even have? Typically a family Bible, and not much else. A lot of Bible exposure was memorization and recitation, not poring over the pages. As an Illinois frontier resident in 1840, one would not have spent most evenings curled up by candlelight with a book. Much more likely, one would be gathered around a fireside with family and friends, talking and sharing stories. Or, one would just go to bed after working hard all day and because one couldn't afford to keep lamps and candles lit for long.

So why continue to use the participatory teaching style today if one of the reasons for it may have been to compensate for literacy and lack of "bookishness" of early 19th century pioneers? The fact is that even today we learn more and deeper truths through participatory symbolism and the layered meanings we find in the temple dramas. We are a people of stories. We gain more from stories than theological arguments. Indeed, our theology is framed in terms of stories, and the participatory teaching play is another form of teaching theology through story.

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