Perhaps your experience is different than mine, but Sunday School is often the least engaging and inspiring hour of my church experience. That’s no disrespect to my current Sunday School teacher, who is fantastic, wonderful, and well-prepared, mind you. It’s more that due to the interactive and participatory nature of the class, we often end up with increasingly off-topic comments that tend toward speculative doctrine and political rhetoric. It doesn’t help that my daughter loves to crawl around the room, making me chase after her and mutter hushed apologies to my fellow classmates. The other two hours tend to go better for me. I’ve rarely, if ever, felt thankful for Sunday School.
So why is it that we are to feel thankful? What’s the big deal about Sunday School? Why can’t we replace it with a more inspiring and edifying hour, or barring that, remove it entirely?
Join in the jubilee; mingle in song.
Join in the joy of the Sabbath School throng.
Great be the glory of those who do right,
Who overcome evil, in good take delight.
There’s safety and strength in numbers, and we see our numbers reflected in force in Sunday School. We all have a chance to voice our concerns, our beliefs, and our testimonies in these classes. (We do that in our third hour classes, too, and while congregational participation isn’t encouraged in our sacrament meetings, we each have a chance to share our beliefs as we are called to speak.) We can extend the notion of Sabbath School to any of the three hours of our weekly meetings.
And if you’re the type that prefers not to share your testimony or comments in class, whether that’s due to shyness or introversion (both understandable!), bear in mind that as difficult and unpleasant as it may feel to open up in these settings, it’s actually an integral part of our experience and duty as members of the Lord’s church. The prophet Moroni taught that we “meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.” Our church is not intended to be an individual affair. We work to bring each other along the path to eternal life. We watch out for each other, through home and visiting teaching, through our church callings, and yes, through sharing our thoughts and feelings in church meetings. We encourage each other through our struggles, and we realize that no matter how stalwart and valiant our fellow saints appear to us, they are human as well, and they struggle with their own issues the same as we do. We, each of us, “strive with the noble in deeds that exalt, and battle with energy each childish fault.”
We’re all in this together, and the democracy of the Sunday School helps us to remember that. Our third hour instruction separates us by gender, age, calling, and so on, but in Sunday School, everyone is invited. We all participate in the same class and on the same level, regardless of our experience in the gospel. So yes, we give thanks, no matter what we may feel about the class. We give thanks that each of us has a chance to share, to learn, and to edify each other. And we give thanks that we can all remember that we are proceeding on the same path toward our Savior, no matter how far we are on that path.