BOUNTIFUL –When James D. Mathews teaches his adult religion classes on the Old and New Testaments, he brings a lot more than just book learning.
He shares what he’s seen and heard in the Holy Land.
Mathews will offer a series of New Testament classes on Wednesdays from Jan. 9 through April 10 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Canyon Park wardhouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1190 E. Bountiful Hills Drive. The cost for the series is $21. He will describe the course as the Life of Christ.
Mathews is a retired Church Education System teacher, but he still teaches BYU Adult Education classes twice yearly.
In addition to teaching classes, Mathews has been to Israel 25 times, acting as a tour director. He’s able to draw from those experiences when teaching his Bible classes.
“You get a feel for the land,” Mathews said. “When you speak of the Mount of Olives, you know what you’re saying from experience.”
One of his favorite experiences on the tour is to take a boat ride across the sea of Galilee, turn the motor off halfway across and sing hymns. Experiences like that help him relate to the scriptures, he said.
Sometimes when Mathews shares those experiences. class participants will feel a sense of longing to see the sites Mathews has spoken of, he said.
For the past two years, Mathews and his wife have served a mission for the LDS Church in Australia, but he has returned to Bountiful and is again offering his classes.
Mathews generally offers two classes yearly, one in January and one in September. One year, 100 people signed up for one of the classes. The other had about 30.
Those who take the classes are not just members of the local ward. They come from throughout southern Davis County and beyond, Mathews said.
He said many of those who attend the class already know quite a bit about the subject matter.
“By time I teach and others contribute, I’m not so sure I’ve taught anything new,” he said.
The class is set up so participants feel comfortable sharing. “Often someone will share, and someone else will say, ‘I hadn’t thought of that before’,” he said.
While technically retired, Mathews believes its important to stay busy, and teaching classes and serving as a tour guide, “keeps us (he and his wife) pretty busy,” he said.
In addition to teaching, Mathews has served as a bishop, branch president and counselor on two mission presidencies.