Day one proved a big disappointment.
We studied Matt 13:33: Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
The instructor, Bro. S—, explained that Joseph Smith said that the leaven was the Three Witnesses; David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdry, and Martin Harris. That the fact a woman is mentioned meant that he could be referencing a future Relief Society president, and that, although elsewhere in scripture leaven is symbolic of evil, because so many reviled against the witness of these men, the testimony of the three witnesses established the kingdom of heaven. He further asserted that the gospel has, indeed, been taken to all the regions of the earth, and, I'm assuming from Tuesday's lesson, most of the earth will be heathen rather than Mormon at the second coming. In his words, "More Catholics and Muslims." He further supported these claims with the written testimony of one of the three describing the shared vision of the plates of gold, brass, the sword of Laban, the Liahona, and the Urim and Thummim. Somehow Bro. S— also worked in that Brigham Young had experienced a vision of the cavern purportedly within the hill Cumorah filled with plates of written record.
So basically, the first parable I studied in CES was expounded as proving that the LDS Church is true, Joseph Smith did what he said he did, and that, wow, we have living prophets. It was extremely convoluted.
My problem is that Jesus Christ's parables should stand by themselves. I want to study Christ, not Joseph Smith. I know too much about Joseph Smith.
I contrasted the KJV with the original Greek. The leaven isn't what's split in three; the flour is. The meal spoken of, is measured in σατα which is equal to about 20 pounds. This may be more accurately translated from three σατα to 60 pounds of flour. Three measures of σατα being the best way to write the idea of 60 pounds; not that there are three portions of anything. Next, women made bread. It was part of their daily tasks. Of course Jesus said a woman was the one to leaven the flour. Third, I've found an interesting concept floating throughout Greek literature in the few hundred years surrounding the New Testament—breath. The Holy Ghost is sacred breath, or breath of life. Nowhere is it referred to as deity. Evil spirits, on the other hand are bad gods. No one understood what leaven was, exactly. They just knew it breathed life into bread. That's why leaven is often a reference to evil everywhere else in scripture. I'd go into how geologists can find no reason to believe that the hill Cumorah is not solid gravel all the way through, and that if Book of Mormon scholars are correct, then the Nephites were located in the Mayan ruins of Central America. So if there are wagon loads of untranslated plates inside the hill Cumorah, it's because Moroni, only surviving Nephite, spent the last years of his life smuggling them, one or two at a time (these things are heavy metals) a little over 2000 miles one way.
All in all, I learned some new Greek. I'm going back on Tuesday, but I'm completely uncertain where this is supposed to be taking me.