“Learning Experience 6: Understanding Context and Content,” New-Teacher Training Resource: A Teacher-Improvement Companion to the Gospel Teaching and Learning Handbook (2016)
“Learning Experience 6,” New-Teacher Training Resource
This learning experience covers the following concepts:
Understanding the meaning of context and content
Understanding the importance of context and content
Discovering content and context in the scriptures
In the next few learning experiences, we will take a closer look at the individual components of the learning pattern one at a time. The learning pattern provides a framework of fundamentals that helps to instill the gospel in our minds and hearts. In this learning experience, we will learn about understanding context and content.
The purpose of this learning experience is to provide a brief introduction to aspects of the learning pattern. As you serve as a seminary or institute teacher, you will have many more opportunities to learn about and practice these skills.
In the parable of the gems, the young woman dreams about looking for gems in the sand. Her search symbolizes a learner searching for eternal truths in the scriptures. The sand represents the context and content of the scriptures—the people, places, events, story lines, teachings, and so on—in which the truths of the gospel can be found.
As we search for eternal truths in the scriptures, we should begin by trying to understand the background and basic details of the passages we are reading. Seeking to understand the context and content of the scriptures will allow us to more readily discover important gospel truths.
Review the following chart to further understand context and content:
What is context?
Context consists of circumstances that surround or give background to a particular scripture passage, event, or story. Context includes historical, cultural, and geographic setting; questions that prompted scriptural events; and so on.
What is content?
Content includes the story line, people, events, sermons, and inspired explanations that make up the scripture text. Discovering content includes learning the meaning of difficult words and phrases as well as the interpretation of parables, symbols, and so on.
Why is context important?
Context clarifies and deepens understanding of the stories, teachings, doctrine, and principles in the scripture text.
Why is content important?
Content gives life and relevance to the doctrine and principles that are found in the scripture block.
To understand the context and content of the scriptures, first seek to become familiar with the basic details of the passage and then explore those details for greater understanding. You can do this by learning to ask questions about the people, places, events, and so on in the scripture passage you are reading and then seeking for answers to those questions using helpful and trusted resources.
Questions like the following can help you better understand the context and content of the scripture passage you are studying:
What is the background of the passage?
What is the historical, cultural, and geographical setting?
Who is the writer?
Who are the people in the passage? What are they doing or saying, and why?
What is taking place? What is the story line?
What is the meaning of unfamiliar words, phrases, or expressions?
What is the significance of customs and practices described?
The following are some of the best and most trusted resources you can use to help you find answers to your questions:
Related scripture passages
The words of living prophets and apostles (especially those found in general conference addresses)
The seminary and institute scripture course curriculum (including teacher and student manuals)
As you come to understand the context and content of the scriptures, you will be able to more fully step into the world of the people, places, events, and teachings you are reading about and see things as the writer saw them. This will help open the door to discovering important gospel truths.
Context clarifies and deepens our understanding of the stories, teachings, doctrine, and principles in the scripture text.
Content gives life and relevance to the doctrine and principles in the scriptures.
Understanding the context and content of the scriptures will help to unlock many important gospel truths.
To come to understand the context and content of the scriptures, we must ask questions and search reliable resources for answers to those questions.
“Become acquainted with the lessons the scriptures teach. Learn the background and setting of the Master’s parables and the prophets’ admonitions. Study them as though they were speaking to you, for such is the truth” (Thomas S. Monson, “Be Your Best Self,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 68).
To conclude this learning experience, write down some things you will do based on the principles you have learned today.