Beyond the Dots

Note: During my travels this past week, I had opportunity to go to a fine museum, but not to write a post for today. So…I pulled up a previous post that fit my mood.

Here are some thoughts that have crossed my mind regarding my Gospel Doctrine class the past few months:

• The Gathering of Israel? Again? Didn’t we just talk about this a couple weeks ago?

• Tithing? Seriously? When is the last time anyone said anything new about tithing?

• Let me guess…the Plan of Salvation. Again. When is the last time I learned something new about the Plan?

I’m sure not a single one of you have ever had similar thoughts. It’s just me. I am weak. Although, it is true that I have probably sat through – or taught – 700,000 lessons on the Word of Wisdom. (Most of which got hijacked by people preaching their own personal views instead of doctrine.)

I know, I know – repetition is important. President Hinckley said, “Repetition is a law to learning.” (Link)  So, I’m not going to go off the farm and break the law. I’ll still teach the basic doctrines of the church, even though there might not be anything necessarily “new” being taught.

But maybe, just maybe, there is more to what is being taught than just the doctrine or principle that is in front of us that day…

To demonstrate what I am talking about, I will employ Ferris Bueller’s friend Cameron, and the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte.” by Georges Serrat. (We got more culture here at MMM than a case of Greek yogurt.)

But I’m going to do it backwards.  In the film, Cameron is mesmerized by this painting, and I will attach the clip at the end of the post.

Here is what Cameron saw – backwards.

Notice that when you started looking at the painting, it was merely a mass of tiny, individually dots of color. Each tiny dab of paint is not much to look at, and not that interesting – but when you gradually pull back, you begin to see forms, then a scene, and eventually something better, something beautiful.

I am getting older, and have a better handle on some of the points of the doctrine of the gospel, I feel that my method of learning has begun to evolve.  I find myself being less focused on the individual doctrine or principle being taught, and more focused on how that concept fits into the bigger picture of the Gospel.

And it is beautiful.

Everything is interconnected.  You cannot talk about the Word of Wisdom without seeing how it is a part of the Plan of Salvation, you cannot talk about the Plan of Salvation without acknowledging the Atonement. You cannot talk about the Atonement without understanding faith.  It all ties together to create one incredible, beautiful painting that we call the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, staring at the same dot time after time can get boring, and can become of little benefit. But if we look to see how that little dot fits into the bigger picture, we can watch it become an essential part of the whole.

And it isn’t just about teaching and learning in the classroom – it is about life.

Elder David Bednar said this:

In my office is a beautiful painting of a wheat field. The painting is a vast collection of individual brushstrokes—none of which in isolation is very interesting or impressive. In fact, if you stand close to the canvas, all you can see is a mass of seemingly unrelated and unattractive streaks of yellow and gold and brown paint. However, as you gradually move away from the canvas, all of the individual brushstrokes combine together and produce a magnificent landscape of a wheat field. Many ordinary, individual brushstrokes work together to create a captivating and beautiful painting.

Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).  (Link here)

Repetition is a “law of learning,” but while the teaching may be focused on a speck of color, our learning can be in the seeking out of the big, glorious picture.  So next time you are at Church, and the speaker or the teacher says “Today we will be discussing ‘Repentence.'” No groaning, please.

(Yes, I promised you the clip from Ferris Bueller.  Please disregard the adolescent kissing, as our youth shouldn’t be participating in that activity. But I highly recommend visiting an art gallery.)

About the author


  1. “But maybe, just maybe, there is more to what is being taught than just the doctrine or principle that is in front of us that day.” I agree. Also, sometimes I have to remind myself to listen with my ‘spiritual ears’ so that maybe, just maybe, I can learn more about the topic or about someone who makes a comment. Thanks for this post.

  2. Regarding the doctrines of the Gospel being intertwined in one great whole- when the missionaries would come visit, they would give us lists of topics and have us pick any 3 and then would give a lesson. We’d always try to make them as disparate as possible to challenge them, but they were always easily able to present them in one coherent lesson. 🙂

  3. With new members joining the church it is imperative that we continually teach basic doctrine and a lot of us old members need the constant reminders. I don’t mind what seems at times to be the receptive nature of our Sunday School and RS lessons, I always learn something and sometimes even contribute to others learning.

  4. Wasn’t it president Kimball who said, after being asked what he does when sacrament meeting is boring, that if we find it boring it’s because we are not in tune with the spirit, if we are we always find everything in the gospel interesting, we can always be tought something new. I so like that, we can not blame the boring on someone else, it’s always our own fault. But the Lord can not teach us if our heart is not open to him.

  5. Thanks for this post, I love that quote from Elder Bednar. My sweet EC bought me (a reproduction of) the painting he references for our 5th anniversary 🙂

  6. Well, you might think it is the “same old, same old”, but I sat through a lesson on the word of wisdom wherein the teacher spent most of the time talking about the evils of sugar. Yea, sugar isn’t very good for you, but it isn’t on the “no list” in the word of wisdom. So I don’t necessarily think we have to say anything “new”, we just need to make sure people aren’t INVENTING something new.

  7. I had almost this exact epiphany last week during our tithing lession! I literally thought this post almost word for word.

    Thanks for posting it and vindicating my inner rumenations. 🙂

  8. I’m finally able to attend adult Sunday School for the first time in about 5 years. I’m liking it, of course, it feels new to me, since I’ve been pounding kids over the head with the scriptures for so long.

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective. Last summer I was thinking quite a bit about repetition and came across this quote from Elder Neal A. Maxwell which states: “Repetition in teaching can contain inspiration and need not be apologized for” (Old Testament Symposium at BYU 19 Aug 1983). I love it, and have learned not to apologize when I’m teaching something that “everyone’s already heard before.”

    1. My husband saw this post while I was writing my comment and wanted me to add a story he remembered. I couldn’t find it quickly last night, but my daughter did after I went to bed. It comes from Julie B. Beck and was shared during the 2008 Worldwide Leadership Training:

      Every week [for FHE], Dad would say, “Now we’ll sing our opening hymn, ‘Love at Home.’ ” And when I was about 14 or 15, in that age when you question everything, I asked my father, “Why do we have to sing this hymn every week? There are a lot of good hymns in the hymnbook we could sing.” And he looked at me very sternly, and he said, “When you have learned lesson 1, I will teach you lesson 2.” And I don’t know what lesson 2 was; we didn’t ever get there, but I have to say that after the passage of many years, I look at my family, and we do love one another. We did, somehow, over the years, learn to love each other because that was lesson 1 my parents wanted to teach. They didn’t try to cover everything. They knew if they started with that, it would work.

  10. Thank you for reminding me that it’s not just important to look at the big picture, but to understand the points that make up the big picture and how important each point (principle) is. Perfect lesson. Oh, and “Happy Sabbath” to you..

  11. I have found the same analogy with crochet. Each stitch can seem unimportant and even boring as you work through a big afghan. It is the repetition of that stitch, over and over, that makes a pattern. It is the application of that pattern, over and over that makes an afghan. If, as you go along, you notice that pattern isn’t developing correctly, you must look back for the point where you made a mistake in the stitching. To have the pattern continue correctly, making a thing of beauty and usefulness, you must go back (pulling out stitches as you go) and re-due the item in the correct fashion.. It is the repetition that makes the stitching easy, The muscle memory, the ingraining of what must be done until it is memorized. By the time I finish a blanket or garment, I know that pattern by heart.

    I love how the Lord uses what we do and what we love to reach our hearts with gospel principles, I love how He KNOWS how to reach us to teach us what we need.

    1. “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.” 2 N 33:6
      Crochet is its own language. (And addiction, but I can stop anytime)

    2. That is the exact scripture I was thinking about! The Lord led me to that scripture when my then future-husband would tell me things he said the Lord had told him. (He was a non-member, biker-type at the time.) I doubted that the Lord would use “that” kind of language in communicating revelations. I was wrong! Any any man that listened that well to the Lord was someone I wanted to be with! It was a long road – we were married eight years before he joined the church, but we have been sealed almost that long now. He’s a keeper!

      I wish I could say I could stop crocheting any time…Lol! But I use it for missionary work, service projects, so I rationalize it’s okay 🙂

  12. Amen and well said.
    Also, many of us still struggle with some of the dots and do need to be reminded and reinforced. Other are new to the whole thing (Hugs to Converts!) or have been away (Hugs to Returning Wanderers !) and need to learn or re-learn.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)