AA History Study Group Guide – Comprehensive, Updated

A.A. History Study Groups: How to Begin, Organize, and Conduct

An Updated Group of Answers Given to Inquirers Through the Years

Dick B.
Copyright 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved

1.
Begin with Our Most Recent Guide

Many concerns have arisen in the last three decades of A.A. over difficulties caused in meetings or by A.A. servants as to individual and group preferences. Often statements are made or letters are issued over what one can and can’t allegedly do in an A.A. group. Over what is or is not “Conference-approved.” Whether certain literature like the Bible, devotionals, and non-AA published history books and articles are allegedly discussed, read, or studied in contravention of “Conference-approved” opinions and “Traditions” contentions.

This article does not handle these controversial subjects because it suggests specific, permissible, often sought or used, group studies and individual studies that members can apply. They can apply them whether the subjects pertain to the Bible, to God, to Jesus Christ, to religion, to church, to worship, and to religious and denominational preferences. They can apply the simple suggestions that parallel what A.A. literature itself says, what A.A. history itself contains, and what the original AAs did with complete, unfettered freedom of action. And therefore can be utilized today.

This option is covered in a 2012 book by Dick B. and Ken B. titled: Stick with the Winners How to Conduct More Effective 12-Step Recovery Meetings Using Conference-approved Literature: A Dick B. Guide for Christian Leaders and Workers in the Recovery Arena, 2012. See http://www.dickb.com for information on how to get this new book

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And Now for Several Groups of Previous Suggestions about A.A. History Study Groups
1. Start a study group
2. Big Book/ Steps/ History/ Bible/ Anne Smith/ Quiet Time/ Oxford Group/ Shoemaker/ Pioneer books
3. 50% discount on purchase of 7 or more books
4. Recent titles revised for the above.
5. Free guides, easily available. By phone/email
6. Start 2012 with the same zeal you have given the fine Big Book Seminars.
7. All inquiries welcome and answered
8. Study James, Sermon, Corinthians in the Bible the way the Pioneers did.
9. Starting in 2005, all books purchased from this site will be inscribed by Dick B.

AND HERE’S HOW TO GET GOING

First, you can phone, email, or write Dick B. if you feel you need personal help
Dick B., PO Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837
Ph: 808 874 4876
Email: dickb@dickb.com
Second, you can review the suggestions below on how to proceed, what materials you might want to buy, the discounts available, and suggestions as to how to conduct classes.

A LETTER SENT TO ONE INQUIRER

A letter written by Dick B. to an inquiring AA, a Christian, who wanted to start a group. This information is probably superseded by later instructions, but it could be useful for you.
“To: ……………………
We discussed several subjects, and I hope you can move on them and also help us in our ministry to disseminate information on early A.A., its relevance to the Bible, and how the early program actually worked and produced cures. We discussed several types of programs. And also the books I’d suggest you might acquire for yourself and a Christian friend, then, for leading a group within or outside A.A. A group which wants to learn, apply, and pass on the early program for cures. I’ll list the programs below, the gross sales price for the books, the discounted sales price, and the cost of shipping and handling. I’ll also make some specific suggestions as to how you can proceed at this time.
1. For a sizeable alcoholism/addiction healing program –
a) For its library, the full 29 volume reference set: Discounted.
Tremendous bargain!

The entire, 29-volume Dick B. A.A. History Reference Set
Only $249.00
(Shipping included!)*
Buy for a lifetime!
b) For each of its students – to acquaint them with the Biblical roots of A.A. – and to be given them on entrance or on graduation – The Good Book and The Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible – $23.95 each; and if purchased in bulk, less a fifty percent discount.
2. For a suggested pilot group which would have a reference set plus three books for teaching purposes – 1 per student. The three books are The Good Book and The Big Book (for the Bible roots); Why Early AA Succeeded (for a specific Bible study guide); and When Early A.A. Members Were Cured. And Why (for a guide as to studying what they did and the precise portions from James, Sermon, Corinthians that were so important).
a) For group reference, the full 29 volume reference set – $249.00 (shipping free in US)
b) For each member of the group, the three books mentioned above at $23.95 each gross, with suggested purchasing 10 of each, discounted 50% .
3. For suggested distribution within your circle of Christian and A.A. friends and to any and all individuals who have or know of an alcoholism problem and wish to see the Christian/Biblical potential for recovery and cure within the existing support programs based on the Biblical roots of early A.A. – a volume purchase of The Good Book and The Big Book at 50% discount.
4. For smaller groups of perhaps 7, start with The Good Book and Why Early A.A. Succeeded – 50% off plus 10% s & h based on total retail price.
I will be glad to make suggestions as to how to teach and then lead the program exactly as the A.A. pioneers did when they achieved a claimed 75% Akron and a documented 93% Cleveland success rate with those medically incurable alcoholics who really tried. The essence of the program was quite simple: 1. Abstinence. 2. Reliance on the Creator. 3. Establishing a changed life with a focus on obedience to God. 4. Spiritual growth through Bible study, cultivating the habit of prayer, observing Quiet Time, and reading Christian literature. 5. Fellowship and witness to those still suffering – passing on the good news from the Good Book. You can phone or write or email any time. But the important thing is to read my three suggested background books first, always with your King James at your side. Then to follow the guide to the Bible itself: 1. About God and His Son. 2. About the Bible. 3. The general basic ideas such as those found in Hebrews 11:6; John, Chapter Three; Romans 10:9. 4. The three books Dr. Bob considered essential were – Book of James, Matthew 5 to 7 (Lord’s Prayer and entire sermon), and 1 Corinthians 13. 5. Then go on to the other suggested portions on God’s promises, obedience, release, and victory. Contact me for suggestions or when you’re ready for a romp in the meadowlands of Maui. The more you give, the more you will receive.
God Bless, Dick B.”

SUGGESTIONS FOR CONDUCTING A MEETING

A.A. History Study Meetings
Capsule No. 1
© 2004
You may want to call yours “The James Club” or “The Big Book/Bible Roots Group”
Dick B.
P.O. Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837
Email: dickb@dickb.com
URL: http://www.dickb.com/index.shtml
Studying the History, Bible Roots, Big Book, and Twelve Steps
How you and your A.A. and 12-Step friends can meet freely to study, learn, compare, and discuss our basic roots and text
Abstract
This is for individuals who believe in, want to investigate, or wish to learn and understand the basic Bible verses and Biblical ideas studied by A.A. pioneers. And compare and contrast them with the teachings of A.A.’s mentors and with the basic ideas and principles that were incorporated into A.A.’s Big Book and Twelve Steps. Many AAs and 12-Step groups have written me asking where and how they can begin “Big Book/Bible Study” meetings and groups. Here we tell you where such seekers—if they want to follow the footsteps of our founders—should focus and read as a group in the Bible and the Big Book. We suggest reviewing the sources that propelled the basics into the A.A. Fellowship. We give you specific places read, which we believe which will help every member, leader, facilitator, group, speaker, or student. We show what the founders read and did and what you can do to understand better the of “spiritual” recovery program in the Big Book and Twelve Steps. If you are asking about recovery and cure, use this guide. Discover right now where you should start, what you what you should read, and how you and your friends or group will benefit by learning the specific resources adopted and used in pioneer A.A.
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Parts of the Good Book A.A. old-timers considered “absolutely essential”
“Dr. Bob, noting that there were no Twelve Steps at the time and that ‘our stories didn’t amount to anything to speak of,’ later said they were convinced that the answer to their problems was in the Good Book. ‘To some of us older ones, the parts that we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount, the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James,’ he said.” See DR.BOB and the Good Oldtimers. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980, p. 96.
“Members of Alcoholics Anonymous begin the day with a prayer for strength and a short period of Bible reading. They find the basic messages they need in the Sermon on the Mount, in Corinthians and the Book of James” (quoted in an Akron, Ohio, A.A. pamphlet of the 1940’s—published by the Friday Forum Luncheon Club of the Akron A.A. Groups; and see Dick B. Cured. HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2003, p. 4)
Why this guide is needed
In the last twenty-two years, A.A. members—and a great many recovery groups—have shown a long overdue and certainly promising interest in early A.A.’s beginnings. The trend can easily be recognized in the growing number of books, articles, websites, forums, conferences, and groups which have made 12-Step history a sole or major priority.
But the new historical zeitgeist has yet to reach and motivate recovery professionals, 12-Step groups or individuals, or their meetings, toward a flourishing application of the spiritual program that marked early A.A. cures.
The following are among the reasons for the obvious, gaping, information hole and lack of information: (1) Unfamiliarity with, or lack of access to, informative, accurate, comprehensive historical materials. (2) Preoccupation with this or that dynamic that promotes a particular medical, psychological, religious, therapeutic, treatment or rehab program approach. (3) Prejudice against mention of religious matters above a whisper. (4) Inordinate concern over who, what ideas, and what literature should be excluded from recovery talk and meetings. (5) A present and recognizable tendency to place universalism, “treatment,” stereotyped practices, and profitable book sales above those things which originally produced such remarkable cures among seemingly helpless and hopeless, “medically incurable” alcoholics and addicts. (6) A zeal for medical, psychological, and government grants that pushes to the side the primary purpose of A.A. to reach out to, and help newcomers. (7) Absence of informed, effective teachers and facilitators. (8) A tendency to argue about, and suppress, any writing or talk that conflicts with present-day views. Phrased differently, claiming that history, God, and religion endanger the “simple” detritus being hurled into the scene today—replacing tried and true early A.A. components such as the Bible, Christian literature, the teachings of Rev. Sam Shoemaker, and Oxford Group literature and principles (9) Outright rejection of the historically significant observations journal of Anne Ripley Smith, Dr. Bob’s wife, accompanied by omission of pioneer emphasis on Quiet Time with its Bible study, prayers, seeking of guidance, use of devotionals, and religious literature that enhanced an understanding of the “spiritual.”
I have received thousands of communications by letter, phone, fax, and email from people wanting to know where and how to begin and continue their education about our history, the Bible, and the relationship of each to the program as it exists today. The writers almost as often ask about the success rates (75% to 93%) in early A.A. and the success rate in today’s A.A. (1% to 5%). Most inquirers lack an effective guide—usually none at all. Many lack a solid cadre for group study. Most can find no willing leadership. Almost all forget that early A.A. and just about every continuing A.A. group today sprang from very humble beginnings—involving as few as two or three members in search of relief from the curse of alcoholism. People who were not experts, who were not afraid to learn from medicine and religion, who sought God’s help, and abstained from liquor and temptation while relief was on the way.
On the other hand, those of us in direct touch with religious, medical, and scholarly inquisitors, as well as thousands of still-suffering alcoholics and addicts, know that there is a loud thundering today for facts. Facts about early A.A., its roots, and its astonishing pioneer success rate. Facts about whether reliance on God actually produced the successes. Facts explaining what the pioneers meant when they said they were cured. Facts explaining how and whether individual religious convictions can be squared with an ever-growing secular trend and secularist intrusions into the recovery groups as well.
This capsule will briefly present tools, sources of tools, experiences, hindrances, and specific ideas about how to organize a study meeting or group, how to conduct its meetings, how to use resources that will form the basis for education and instruction, and how a leader, facilitator, chairperson, or individual can move out at once.
Begin with the Bible itself
I can offer no better place to begin than with the Good Book itself. Dr. Bob’s wife wrote in the journal she shared with early AAs:
Of course the Bible ought to be the main Source Book of all. No day ought to pass without reading it (See Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939, 3rd ed. HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1998, p. 82).
Dr. Bob said that old timers believed the answer to their problems was in the Bible, which he and they called the Good Book. He also stated emphatically that A.A. took its basic ideas from their study and effort in the Bible.
From the outset keep your objectives simple.
Begin where the pioneers began. Begin where both Dr. Bob and Anne began. Make sure your studies will be grounded on the Bible. Obtain a copy of the King James Version of the Bible. Bring it to the meeting, and keep it in front of you and in front of every person studying with you. This means, of course, that every student should own and bring, or be provided by your group with, the Bible. Don’t leave home without it!
Stick with the King James Version, whatever your preference, because King James is what the pioneers used. You will relate better to their thinking and practice if you use it.
Previously we have quoted Dr. Bob’s statements that three parts of the Bible were considered “absolutely essential” in the early program—the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 to 7), and 1 Corinthians 13. Anne Smith read from the Bible to Dr. Bob and Bill every day in the summer of 1935.
Bill Wilson pointed out that Anne frequently read from the Book of James, which Bill said was “our favorite.” So your first study should be in the Book of James
James
As Bill Wilson himself said: Anne Smith read to Dr. Bob and Bill every day in the summer of 1935 when Bill was living with the Smiths in Akron. She frequently read from the Book of James, which Bill said was “our favorite.”
Snippets from James can still easily be spotted in the Big Book. For example: (1) “Father of lights” (James 1:17). (2) “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (James 2:8). (3) “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). (4) And the “confess your faults” language in James 5:16.
Therefore, we strongly suggest that you start your meetings in the Book of James. It is simple, easy to understand, and a clear mirror of what the pioneers saw in the Bible.
First, pursue all chapters and every verse in the Book of James. Spend more than one meeting on this book if you wish. Follow our suggestions; and you can later apply those suggestions to your studies of the Sermon on the Mount and 1 Corinthians 13
As we wrote, Anne Smith read to Dr. Bob and Bill every day in the summer of 1935. She frequently read from the Book of James, which Bill said was “our favorite.” DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers reports the following thoughts and remarks of Bill:
“For the next three months, I lived with these two wonderful people,” Bill said. “I shall always believe they gave me more than I ever brought them.” Each morning, there was a devotion, he recalled. After a long silence, in which they awaited inspiration and guidance, Anne would read from the Bible. “James was our favorite,” he said, “Reading from her chair in the corner, she would softly conclude, ‘Faith without works is dead’,” This was a favorite quotation of Anne’s, much as the Book of James was a favorite with early A.A.’s—so much so that “The James Club” was favored by some as a name for the Fellowship.” (See DR. BOB, supra, p.71).
Second, study all the verses in the Book of James
I’ve usually suggested to men I sponsor that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Don’t try to read the entire Bible before beginning. Don’t even focus on the Gospels, Acts, or the church epistles. Just one chunk of reading at a time.
Open every meeting with prayer and ask all present to pray specifically that God guide and bless the reading and illuminate your understanding of it.
Take your Bibles. Open them to the Book of James. Don’t start until everyone has found the correct page. Appoint one person to read the Book of James out loud while others silently read along in their Bibles as the speaker reads it aloud.
Eyes on the page! Don’t try to read all the chapters of James at one session unless the flow is smooth and within your time limits. No questions. No teaching. No discussion. Just a reading of the Book of James. Your leader should read aloud, all or as much as you like, of the Book of James. Others silently read along with the speaker.
Before proceeding further, you and your leader might want to read the same material more than once. Don’t hesitate to do just that.
[Note: When you have completed all segments of your study of James, including the instructions in the following paragraphs, you are then ready and able to do the same thing with the Sermon on the Mount, and then with 1 Corinthians 13]. We continue with your instructions as to James.
Third, study the part of my title When Early AAs Were Cured and Why that reviews and explains the verses in James you have just read. Compare each relevant segment in my title with the part or parts you have just read in James. [After this suggestion was made, I wrote and published The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials http://www.dickb.com/JamesClub.shtml%5D
I have reviewed the Book of James, verse by verse, thoroughly in several of my titles. But I believe the best and most recent analysis is in my title When Early AAs Were Cured and Why (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, 2003). Your greatest benefit will come if each student has a copy of that resource.
Appoint one person to read the explanatory resource out loud just as was done with the Bible itself. To begin, turn to pages 51-52 of my title When Early AAs Were Cured and Why. At the first James session, your leader should read my commentary aloud, beginning at page 51. He or she should continue reading until he or she has read as much of the relevant commentary as deals with what the leader covered in the reading from James. Other students should silently follow the reading in their own copy of the resource. No questions. No teaching. No discussion. Not yet!
The reason for keeping audience silence during any reading by the leader is that questions and discussion often divert attention from the speaker, from the content being read, and from the audience’s concentration on the intended focus. Also, answers and explanations may often come in the very next sentence or chapter that is to be read. Moreover, opinions, criticisms, and questions by a student will seldom bless either the seeker or the speaker or the others in the meeting.
Remember that your meetings have a plan to be followed. Stick to it. There is no record that Bill Wilson cross examined Anne Smith before, during, or after she read from her Bible or from her journal. To the contrary, Bill said to T. Henry and Clarace Williams:
I learned a great deal from you people, from the Smiths themselves, and from Henrietta [Seiberling]. I hadn’t looked in the Bible up to this time, at all. You see, I had the experience [conversion experience at Towns Hospital] first and then this rushing around to help drunks and nothing happened (See Dick B. The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 64).
Bill and Bob just listened to Anne’s reading and comments, and learned. Discussions certainly were held between Bill and Bob for hours over many days, but not when a reading by Anne was in progress.
In your meetings, first comes the opening prayer, then the reading from James, then the reading from When Early AAs Were Cured and Why, then the use of any suggested collateral literature, and finally audience participation.
Fourth, consider reading collateral literature
Devotionals: As you complete study of each Bible segment and my commentary on it, you might gain greater understanding or mental challenge by checking out the devotionals pioneers daily used to enhance their spiritual growth on that particular subject.
For example, you could go through The Runner’s Bible, look for its comments on the James verses you have read. Then silently read those Runner’s comments while the leader reads them aloud.
You may even wish to do the same thing with at least four other devotionals that were pioneer favorites: (1) The Upper Room by Nora Smith Holm. (2) My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. (3) Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary W. Tileston. (4) Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones.
All five devotionals were owned, used, recommended, and circulated by Dr. Bob. Several are mentioned in later A.A. “Conference Approved” publications.
Commentaries: There are several important biblical commentaries (as distinguished from personal interpretations and opinions such as those by New Thought writers) on two of the three “essential” Bible segments that Dr. Bob read and recommended. These pertain to the Sermon on the Mount and 1 Corinthians 13. But we haven’t found any for the Book of James. There is, however, a further relevant collateral area you can pursue.
Shoemaker’s titles: If you wish to see how many basic ideas from James influenced our founders and their mentors, you will find many specific references to James in the books written by Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Jr. See Dick B., New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. http://www.dickb.com/newlight.shtml; and By the Power of God http://www.dickb.com/powerofGod.shtml.
Other Literature: To sum up the collateral reading possibilities, you could use, and profit from reading, DR. BOB and the Good Old-timers; Sam Shoemaker’s Realizing Religion; and my titles New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. and The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Fifth, open the meeting to relevant audience participation. Let individual students participate by presenting any desired discussion, comments, or questions about the James verses, or about the portions of my commentary they have just read, or about suggested collateral literature.
Audience participation does often have its place. It may help build mutual interest, friendships, and the feeling of belonging. It may, at the proper time, permit someone to let off steam. It may raise similar questions others have in mind. But it will probably be a rare moment if significant points are raised or answered. The leader should keep the participation short. Those who do present questions or comments should share with humility, patience, and tolerance. All should keep criticism, verbal reproofs, and lofty pronouncements to a minimum.
Three more suggestions: (1) Pray before you speak—whether you are the leader or a member of the audience. (2) Keep difficult and extended questions for presentation or discussion until after the meeting concludes. (3) You may even find it helpful to seek another source or religious authority for possible explanations.
As Bill Wilson wrote in his Big Book:
There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one’s priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p, 87)
AAs are seldom experts in either religion or medicine, and those present know it. Early AAs had good literature and good teachers to help and instruct them. They had Biblical books by the hundreds. They also had excellent teachers like Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Anne Smith, Henrietta Seiberling, and T. Henry Williams.
Today most groups would probably refuse admission to the likes of these proctors.
And that is a sorry fact, though probably quite true. Suggest to people in your study meetings that they might want and need to invite outsiders to help in understanding the verses in James. But you had better place your shield in front of you, and expect an onslaught. The days when the likes of Father Ed Dowling and Rev. Sam Shoemaker were invited or even permitted to speak to AAs in meetings or conferences are, sad to say, all but at an end. It’s hard enough to conduct a history conference without naïve objections and hindrances.
It’s much harder to stimulate learning about the Bible and its relevance to the Big Book if you attempt to do so inside A.A. meetings. Such an objective involves different and substantial challenges. There are wolves in the woods who don’t like God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, religion, or church. They frequently turn a deaf ear to those subjects. Few members of this howling pack know anything about our history. Yet such bleeding deacons, though frequently outspoken, bold, and insulting, do not control or speak for A.A., its groups, or its meetings. But they try. In that vein, there are ongoing efforts today to remove the Lord’s Prayer from meetings; to ban all kinds of literature—even such as Fox’s The Sermon on the Mount; to silence members who share about them; and to promote their views in A.A. conferences. Many times I’ve even heard obstructive remarks from those who oppose Big Book study conferences. And they are wrong!
The James materials can be taught and learned. You are not in your meeting to lead, opine, or share, but rather to learn. Feel free to ask what you wish, state what you wish, and discuss what you wish. But when controversy arises, it is probably futile to promote your viewpoint in the meeting. In this respect, I’m reminded of the idea: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Keep your controversial statements to yourself and present the point later to someone you think has the answers.
This discussion portion of a meeting follows the completion of reading from the Bible as well as the completion of reading from When Early AAs Were Cured and Why. Then it’s open season.
Participants may have questions. They may have observations. They may have stories they want to share. And they may even be loaded with opinions. Hopefully they have already begun to see the relevance of James to Big Book or Twelve Step material. In fact, they can and should discover, from what has been read, the actual number of quotes and ideas from James that have still been printed and retained in the latest editions of A.A.’s Big Book. Participants should be encouraged to make observations about those facts. Such comments would be useful and would help underline what has been covered in the readings, Let all students raise questions, make observations, and give commentaries.
This portion of the meeting should be moderated by the leader, should proceed much as any A.A. discussion meeting proceeds. Audience comments should not be regarded as teaching or doctrine. Opinions can certainly be expressed. But definitive answers should be found through prayer, further reading of the Bible, further collateral literature, or from a knowledgeable priest, minister, or rabbi.
The more the questions the more the questioners may themselves see they need to do, and profit from, their personal reading, independent of the meetings.
Close your meeting with the Lord’s Prayer—just as the pioneers closed theirs.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount meeting or meetings should proceed in the same manner as the meeting or meetings on the Book of James. The same five approaches should be involved: (1) Pursuing the entire Sermon. (2) Reading every verse in it from Matthew 5 to 7. (3) Reading from When Early AAs Were Cured and Why. (4) Reading suggested collateral literature. (5) Opening the meeting for discussion.
Bill W. and Dr. Bob each said many times that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contained the underlying philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous.
From what I have read in Alcoholics Anonymous literature, I suggest that Bill and Bob may have been referring to the entire Sermon, but more probably had in mind specifically the philosophy of the “Golden Rule” in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” They may have thought of these other possibilities: (1) Matthew 6:10—“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (2) Matthew 7:21—“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (3) Matthew 5:43-44: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Taken together, the aforementioned verses emphasize ideas that have become pillars in A.A.—doing for others what you would like to have done for you; turning to God to see what He would have you do; loving your neighbor and even your enemies, and recognizing that God wants us to do His will as expressed primarily in His Word.
In your reading, you will soon discover a host of verses and ideas from the Sermon that became part of the fabric of A.A. For example, reconciling with your enemy; making restitution to those you have hurt; the Lord’s Prayer; “first things first” as expressed in Matthew 6:25-33; “easy does it” as expressed in Matthew 6:24; inventorying and removing your own faults before you endeavor to have another’s removed, as expressed in Matthew 7:1-5..
Begin the Sermon on the Mount meeting or meetings with prayer.
First, pursue all chapters and every verse in Matthew Chapters 5 through 7 inclusive. Follow our suggestions.
There is scarcely a verse in the Sermon that did not influence early A.A. actions, steps, and language. Thus, while James was the “favorite,” Jesus’ Sermon presented the greatest and broadest group of challenges. It spelled out most of the key aspects of a Christian way of life.
Second, study every verse in Matthew: 5, 6, and 7. The verses in those three chapters contain every word of the Sermon itself.
Following the same guide that was used as to James: Silently read, and have your leader read aloud every Chapter and every verse from the beginning of Matthew 5 to the end of Matthew 7.
Third, study the part of my title When Early AAs Were Cured and Why that reviews and explains the verses in Matthew 5 to 7 you have just read. Compare each relevant segment of my title with the part or parts you have just read in the Sermon.
Fourth, consider reading collateral literature
Again the possibilities are similar to those discussed in conjunction with James.
Devotionals: You may choose to look into the five devotionals early AAs used and gain more understanding from the discussion of the verses you have read.
Commentaries: Unlike the situation with James, there are a host of writings on the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, it is often discussed in many of the books early AAs read for spiritual growth. But the following were studied extensively by Dr. Bob and some of the pioneers: (1) Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Oswald Chambers. (2) My Utmost for His Highest by Glenn Clark. (3) The Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox. (4) The Christ of the Mount by E. Stanley Jones.
Other Relevant Titles: There certainly are other books that early AAs read and which contained references to, or studies of, various parts of the Sermon. You may want to locate them through two of my titles: (1) Dr. Bob and His Library. (2) The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth, 7th ed.
Fifth, open the meeting to relevant audience participation. Let individual students participate by presenting any desired discussion, comments, or questions about the Sermon verses, the portions of my commentary they have just read, or collateral literature they have considered.
Close the Sermon meetings with the Lord’s Prayer just as the pioneers did.
The Thirteenth Chapter of 1 Corinthians
This widely read chapter in Corinthians has provided fodder for many a sermon on “love.” There is scarcely an A.A. root source that doesn’t make reference to this chapter of 1 Corinthians. Its best known commentator was Professor Henry Drummond of Edinburgh University in Scotland. The professor delivered his address on Love in many places, including Africa; but its fame in America seemed to spring from his presentation in 1887 at a Northfield Conference. Drummond authored a number of popular books such as Natural Law in the Spiritual World, The Ideal Life, and the Ascent of Man. And when Dr. Bob’s daughter Sue Smith Windows first opened her attic to the view of others, I discovered there that Dr. Bob had owned and read all the Drummond books. They were voluminous.
But the little book that caught my eye was a copy of Drummond’s The Greatest Thing in the World (London and Glasgow: Collins Clear-Type Press, n.d.). Drummond fashioned the title from the last line of 1 Corinthians 13. Verse thirteen reads: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” And various editions and reprints of this address have since sold in the hundreds of thousands. On page 26, Drummond wrote: “The Spectrum of love has nine ingredients:–Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Humility, Courtesy, Unselfishness, Good Temper, Guilelessness, and Sincerity.” A moment’s glance at the language of the verses themselves and then a glance at Drummond’s characterization of them will call to your mind the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Dorothy Snyder Murphy, the wife of pioneer Clarence Snyder at the time, often worked with drunks. On one occasion, she tells of this experience with Dr. Bob and Corinthians:
Once when I was working on a woman in Cleveland, I called and asked him [Dr. Bob], “What do I do for somebody who is going into D.T.’s?” He told me to give her the medication, and he said, “When she comes out of it and she decides she wants to be a different woman, get her Drummond’s “The Greatest Thing in the World.” Tell her to read it through every day for 30 days, and she’ll be a different woman” (DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, p. 310).
Now for your studies.
Open the Corinthians meeting with prayer.
First, pursue all chapters and every verse in 1 Corinthians 13. Follow our suggestions.
Fifth, open the meeting to relevant audience participation. Let individual students participate by presenting any desired discussion, comments, or questions about the Corinthians verses, or about the portions of my commentary they have just read, or about the collateral literature.
Use the same four procedures for study of Matthew 5 to 7 and 1 Corinthians 13.
Suggested reading to enrich your meetings and individual studies
As you complete study of each Bible segment, you might gain greater understanding or mental challenge by checking out the devotionals pioneers used. For example, you could go through The Runner’s Bible, look for its comments on the subjects you have read, and silently read those portions as the leader reads them aloud. You can do the same with four other devotional favorites: (1) The Upper Room. (2) My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. (3) Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary W. Tileston.(4) Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones. And all four were owned, used, recommended, and circulated by Dr. Bob
There are several important commentaries on two of the three “essential” Bible segments Dr. Bob read and recommended. We haven’t found any for the Book of James.
There were several that explained Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: (1) Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Oswald Chambers. (2) I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes by Glenn Clark. (3) The Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox. (4) The Christ of the Mount by E. Stanley Jones.
The all-out favorite discussion of 1 Corinthians 13 can be found in The Greatest Thing in the World by Henry Drummond. Glenn Clark also covered this “love” chapter in The Soul’s Sincere Desire.
It is no secret today that the greatest impact on Bill Wilson’s Big Book and Twelve Steps came from the Oxford Group and from the teachings of its principal American lieutenant Rev. Sam Shoemaker. Word after word and page after page from Bill’s writings came directly from the Oxford Group and Shoemaker, and Bill said so.
Our job here is to see how much the Oxford Group and Sam Shoemaker spoke about the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13. I believe you will be best informed on these points if you read my two titles: The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous and New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.
End

GUIDE FOR MEETING PROCEDURES

A Suggested Guide for Recovery Groups and Meetings Patterned on Early AA
Dick B., Copyright, 2005
P. O. Box 837
Kihei, HI 96753-0837
(808 874 4876)
email: dickb@dickb.com
URL: http://www.dickb.com/index.shtml
Introductory Comment
For the past three of four years, and particularly in 2004, scarcely a day goes by that someone does not phone, fax, email, or mail me a request on how to start a Big Book/Bible Study Group in AA, How to hold an old-time, early AA meeting, What to do with a recovery group started by a church, a para church, or a group of AAs who want to focus on the early AA Christian Fellowship, reliance on the Creator, Bible Study, and the old fashioned prayer meetings as they were frequently called.
Each communicant has a different agenda, a different point of origin, and a unique recovery group or church community background.
Hence, I have found it helpful to have each person supply me directly with the following:
1. Their name, mail address, phone number, email, and website, if any.
2. A brief statement of their alcoholism or addiction story.
3. The length of their continuous sobriety or freedom from addiction.
4. Their religion, church or group, and religious beliefs.
5. Whether they believe in the Creator, have accepted Christ, and are willing to lead.
6. Their familiarity with the Big Book, taking the Twelve Steps, and a fellowship
7. The name, address, religion, and faith beliefs of their pastor or priest, if any.
8. The number of people they plan to reach at the beginning.
9. The immediate financial resources they have for acquiring start-up literature.
10. Whether they have read my books, and, if any, the books they’ve read.
When the foregoing have been answered by phone, email, or other communication, I welcome personal calls by phone to discuss moving forward and initial guidance.
Specific Suggestions
Suggested Format for Recovery Group Meetings [and be sure to have the format approved and recorded in writing as an informed group conscience]
Open the Meeting as Follows:
This is the regular meeting of the (i.e.) God’s Way Recovery Group
My name is xxx, and I am your secretary
We will open the meeting with a moment of silence to do with as you wish
Followed by a prayer; and the secretary or chosen person prays (i.e.)
Heavenly Father. We ask in the name of Jesus Christ for your blessing on this meeting of those who are here to overcome their life-controlling problems such as alcoholism, addictions, and other dependencies. We ask that your wisdom and guidance show us your will for our lives, your way to victory, and how we may glorify you in all that we do here.
This group patterns its work after that of the first Alcoholics Anonymous Group, which was formed in Akron, Ohio; stressed the Bible; was known as AA Number One, was a Christian Fellowship, and relied on the Creator to overcome the problems of the members. To the same end, we’ll review several verses from the Bible that guided them in their work:
God’s love: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16)
God’s will: Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4)
God’s word of faith: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Rom 10:9)
His Word is truth: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17)
Faith in God: But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him: (Heb 11:6)
Obeying God: Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promises (Heb 10:35-3 6)
God’s Two Great Commandments: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matt 22:37-40)
Forget not all his benefits: A Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:3-5)
The Gospel: And he [Jesus] said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shalt they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; thy shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover: (Mark 16:15-18)
Early AAs believed that the solution to all their problems was in the Good Book (the Bible.)
The Book of James was their favorite. In fact, A.A. co-founder Dr. Bob declared that James, the Sermon on the mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 were all considered absolutely essential. The Society considered it vital that they seek, find, know, and establish a relationship and fellowship with God. Also vital that they study the Book of Acts to see what Christians could and should do by reason of the teachings and accomplishments of Jesus Christ before he ascended to heaven to be at the right hand of his Father, Yahweh, the Creator.
Tonight’s session will be divided into three parts.
First, I will select someone to read (i.e.) the first two (or more) chapters of James.
Second, I will select someone to read the guide prepared for us by A.A. historian Dick B. concerning these two chapters and the A.A. program.
Third, I’ll open the meeting briefly for comments and discussion on these items.
We will then have a period where each of us in the group may pray to God and to seek His guidance in respect of our own lives.
Then, we ask that newcomers raise their hands so that we can get to know you. Please talk to someone after the meeting, give them your name and phone number, and get theirs so that you may call them for prayers, help, and support. During the period you are working at recovery God’s way, keep company with believers–whether in shopping, recreation, sports, church, meetings, schools, meals, and so on. See Acts chapters 1 to 6 for what they did in the First Century that sustained their believing and carried the message.
For those who have not yet been born again of God’s spirit, please either see your pastor and do so with that person if you wish, or see me after the meeting; and we will have a brief ceremony where individually you can confess with your mouth Jesus as your Lord and confirm in your heart that God raised him from the dead. This was called a surrender in early AA.
Literature is available for purchase or order at the table in the rear. Be sure to read your Bibles and pray each day. Our next meeting will be on _____________.
We will close the meeting by joining hands in a circle and saying the Lord’s Prayer, which will be led by __________. Thank you all for coming. Please join us again.
Suggestions for Members of the Group
Suggestions for the individual to follow daily:
Abstain. Under no circumstances, indulge in your temptation problem–alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, lust, over-eating, etc.
Be sure to seek medical help for withdrawal, sweats, shaking, etc.
Thank God for all the blessings. Name them–blessings that you already have.
Ask God in the name of Jesus Christ to heal you and strengthen you to resist your temptation, to forgive you for your mistakes, to guide you and instruct you to safe habits, friends, places, and activities.
Determine that you will change your life by following God’s commandments as they are set out in the Bible.
Renew your mind in your reading, thinking, speaking–filling it with simple ideas such as those in Philippians 4:8, 1 John 4:8, and Ephesians 1:19.
Call other believers for prayers, company, joint reading, meals, recreation, and such activities.
Begin immediately finding someone you can help even if it is by phoning them, giving them rides, joining them for an activity, reading the Bible with them, or simply keeping fellowship with that person.
Don’t give up! Don’t give in. Read James 4:7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you
Suggested reading for individuals or the group:
Read slowly, bit by bit, the Gospels, Acts, and go on with Romans, etc.
Read Dick B.’s Why Early AAs Succeeded (a Bible study guide) Use it, beginning at Chapter 4, for individual Bible study or Group Bible study.
Read Psalms such as 23, 31, 56, 91; Proverbs 3:5-6.
Filling your hours:
A job, volunteer work, exercise, sports, wholesome recreation, school, reading.
Heed the old AA adage: Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.
A Sponsor: Ask someone who has a sound Christian life to be your contact and sponsor. Keep in touch. Share your problems as long as your sponsor-contact provides you with prayers, Bible segments to read, and positive solutions–not just sympathetic listening, or inquisitive talk, or some secular experience or solution.
Other Meetings Your Group Can Hold
First, consult the Creator for guidance as to content and leader.
1 meeting a week resembling the above original AA meeting
1 meeting a week on early AA History
1 meeting a week simply reading the Bible–using the Bible study primer
1 meeting a week teaching the Big Book chapter by chapter
1 meeting a week studying a step and its origins (using my Twelve Steps for You)
1 meeting a week on Steps 10, 11, 12, particularly explaining what is involved in a real Quiet Time:
(1) Born again of God’s spirit.
(2) Reading from the Word.
(3) Prayer to God with thanksgiving, praise, seeking guidance, seeking healing, seeking forgiveness, asking help for others.
(4) Asking for revelation from God for any message He wishes to give.
(5) Using devotionals like Upper Room, The Runner’s Bible, My Utmost for His Highest.
Read the Big Book instructions on Steps 10 and 11
As to Step 12,
(1) Note that the original spiritual experience was acceptance of Christ (Romans 10:9), being born again of the Spirit (John 3:1-8), and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-8).
(2) Note that the message that was to be passed on was: God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
(3) Note that the primary principles to be practiced are (a) those specified in 1 Corinthians 13, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), and the two Great Commandments: love God and love your neighbor (Mark 12:28-31); (b) Serving (Mark 10:42-45); and (c) witnessing (Matthew 28:18-20).
Dr. Bob cited all the foregoing verses. He emphasized that the steps could be simmered down to their essence to love and service. He concluded his personal Story by assuring AAs that “Your Heavenly Father will never let you down.” Twenty-five years later, Rev. Sam Shoemaker was addressing A.A. conventions and declaring that a spiritual awakening involves four things:
(1) Conversion.
(2) Prayer.
(3) Fellowship, and
(4) Witnessing.
Suggested Resources Your Group Should Acquire
1. As many copies of the Big Book (4th ed.) as there are members, and
at least one Dover Publications reprint of the 1st Edition with Introduction by Dick B., and Poe’s Concordance to the Big Book.
2. As many Bibles (preferably King James Version) as there are members. Plus Young’s Concordance to the Bible.
3. A reference set of the Dick B. Titles (29) at discounted price.
4. As many of the following Dick B. titles for each as there are members (available at a 50% discount plus s & h)
The Good Book and The Big Book: A.A.’s Roots in the Bible.
The Good Book-Big Book Guidebook
The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials
Why Early A.A. Succeeded (Bible study primer)
When Early AAs Were Cured. And Why.
Good Morning: Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A.
Twelve Steps for You
The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 4th ed., 2012

Studying James, the Sermon, Corinthians in a group Jan 2005

A.A. History Study Meetings
and
The James Club
Dick B.
Copyright 2004 Anonymous. All rights reserved
P.O. Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837
Email: dickb@dickb.com;
URL: http://www.dickb.com/index.shtml
Studying the History, Bible Roots, Big Book, and Twelve Steps
How you and your A.A. and 12-Step friends can meet freely to study, learn, compare, and discuss our basic roots and text
Why this guide is needed
In the last 22 years, A.A. members and a great many recovery groups have shown a long overdue and certainly promising interest in early A.A.’s beginnings. This refers to the pioneer days when AAs achieved a documented record of 75% to 93% rate of cure among previously medically incurable alcoholics who really tried. The revived enthusiasm for virtually unknown historical facts can easily be recognized in the growing number of books, articles, websites, forums, conferences, and groups which are making 12-Step history a priority.
But the new historical zeitgeist has yet to reach and motivate recovery professionals, 12-Step groups or individuals, or their meetings to a degree where there is a significant or widespread application of the tested spiritual program that marked early A.A.’s astonishing cures.
The following are among the reasons for the obvious hole and lack of information: (1) Unfamiliarity with, or lack of access to, informative, accurate, comprehensive historical materials. (2) Preoccupation with this or that dynamic that promotes a particular medical, psychological, religious, therapeutic, treatment or rehab program approach. (3) Prejudice against mention of religious matters above a whisper. (4) Inordinate concern over who, what ideas, and what literature should be excluded from recovery talk and meetings. (5) A present and recognizable tendency to place universalism, treatment, stereotyped practices, and profitable book sales above those things which originally produced such remarkable cures among seemingly helpless and hopeless, medically incurable alcoholics and addicts. (6) A zeal for medical, psychological, and government grants that pushes to the side the primary purpose of A.A. to reach out to, and help newcomers. (7) Absence of informed, effective teachers and facilitators. (8) A tendency to argue about, and suppress any writing or talk that conflicts with present-day views. Phrased differently, claiming that history, God, and religion endanger the simple detritus being hurled into the scene today under the banner, “If it works, don’t fix it.” The problem is that it’s not working very well. The success rate in today’s A.A. is somewhere between 1 and 5 percent, according to A.A.’s own figures. Yet the growing antagonism diverts AAs from the tried and true early A.A. components such as the Bible, Christian literature, the teachings of Rev. Sam Shoemaker, and Oxford Group literature. (9) Outright rejection of the historically significant journal kept from 1933 to 1939 by Anne Ripley Smith, Dr. Bob’s wife, and used to teach AAs and their families at the Smith home every morning. (10) Omission of pioneer emphasis on Quiet Time with its Bible study, prayers, seeking of guidance, use of devotionals, and religious literature that enhanced an understanding of the spiritual.
I have received thousands of communications by letter, phone, fax, and email from people wanting to know where and how to begin and continue their education about our history, the Bible, and the relationship of each to the program as it exists today. The writers almost as often ask about the success rates (75% to 93%) in early A.A. and the success rate in today’s A.A. (1% to 5%). Most inquirers lack an effective guide to an historical approach and usually see none at all. Many lack a solid cadre for group study. Most can find no willing leadership. Almost all forget that early A.A. and just about every continuing A.A. group today sprang from very humble beginnings involving as few as two or three members in search of relief from the curse of alcoholism. These early birds were not experts. They were not hesitant about borrowing and learning from medicine and religion, nor in seeking God’s help, nor in abstaining from liquor and temptation while relief was on the way.
On the other hand, those of us in direct touch with religious, medical, and scholarly inquisitors, as well as thousands of still-suffering alcoholics and addicts, know that there is a loud thundering today for facts. Facts about the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible played in the origins, history, founding, Original Akron Christian Fellowship of AA. Facts about early A.A., its roots, and its astonishing pioneer success rate. Facts explaining what the pioneers meant when they said they were cured. Facts explaining how and whether individual religious convictions can be squared with an ever-growing secular trend and with secularist intrusions into the recovery groups as well.
This first James Club capsule will briefly present tools, sources of tools, experiences, hindrances, and specific ideas about how to organize a study meeting or group, how to select its topics, where to find resources to be used, how to conduct its meetings, how to use resources that will form the basis for education and instruction, and how a leader, facilitator, chairperson, or individual can move out and forward today. Now_.
Some Basics for a Meeting
Any two people gathered together for purposes of sobriety may constitute themselves an AA meeting. When you organize, do so by taking and recording in writing an informed group conscience for each and every item in each and every meeting.

Select a meeting place, a time, a title, and dates of meeting (i.e. Every Wednesday).
Select a Secretary for the meeting – nominate, second, vote.
Secretary presents a format for group approval.
Suggested format:
Secretary announces himself or herself as an alcoholic and secretary.
Secretary identifies the meeting: (i.e. The Wednesday Nite Bible Study Big Book meeting)
Open the meeting with a prayer
Read the pre-amble if you wish.
Call for newcomers if you wish; welcome them; have them identify themselves
Announce the format as suggested below and proceed
Pass the basket for rent, coffee, expenses
Close the meeting with the Lord’s Prayer
Do not empower others by trying to get your meeting listed with Central Office if they impose any conditions on name or content.
The James Club Capsule Number One
Parts of the Good Book A.A. old-timers considered absolutely essential
Remarks by and about Dr. Robert H. Smith, Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous:
Dr. Bob, noting that there were no Twelve Steps at the time and that “our stories didn’t amount to anything to speak of,” later said they were convinced that the answer to their problems was in the Good Book “To some of us older ones, the parts that we found absolutely essential were the Sermon on the Mount, the 13th chapter of First Corinthians, and the Book of James,” he said. See DR.BOB and the Good Oldtimers. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980, p. 96.
Members of Alcoholics Anonymous begin the day with a prayer for strength and a short period of Bible reading. They find the basic messages they need in the Sermon on the Mount, in Corinthians and the Book of James (quoted in an Akron, Ohio, A.A. pamphlet of the 1940’s. published by the Friday Forum Luncheon Club of the Akron A.A. Groups. See Dick B. Cured-Proven Help for Alcoholics and Addicts. HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2003, p. 4).
Begin with the Bible itself
I can offer no better place to begin in your study group meetings than with the Good Book itself. Dr. Bob’s wife wrote in the journal she shared with early AAs:
Of course the Bible ought to be the main Source Book of all. No day ought to pass without reading it (See Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939, 3rd ed. HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1998, p. 82).
Dr. Bob said that old timers believed the answers to their problems were in the Bible, which he and they called the Good Book (DR. BOB, supra, p. 96). He also stated emphatically that A.A. got its basic ideas as a result of our study of the Good Book (DR. BOB, supra, p. 97).
From the outset, keep your meetings and objectives simple.
Begin where the pioneers began. Begin where both Dr. Bob and Anne began. Make sure your studies are thoroughly grounded in what the Bible says not what someone thinks or declares that it says. You get truth by hearing truth. Obtain a copy of the King James Version of the Bible. Bring it to the meeting, and keep it in front of you and in front of every person studying with you. This means, of course, that every student should own and bring, or be provided by your group with, the Bible. Don’t leave home without it.
Stick with the King James Version, whatever your preference, because King James is what the pioneers used. You will relate better to their thinking and practice if you use it.
Previously we have quoted Dr. Bob’s statements that three parts of the Bible were considered absolutely essential in the early program the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 to 7), and 1 Corinthians 13. We know today for sure that Anne Smith read to Dr. Bob and Bill every day in the summer of 1935. Later, she read to newcomers and their families in the early morning when they came to the Smith home for what they jokingly called spiritual pablum. We know today that Bill Wilson pointed out that Anne frequently read from the Book of James, which Bill said was our favorite. So there is much in our early history study that suggests your first study should be in the Book of James.
James
It was Bill Wilson himself who indicated how important James was to the pioneers. Bill later seemed to underline the point by taking a phrase faith without works is dead from James and several times inserting it verbatim in A.A.’s basic text. Also, Bill and his partner Hank Parkhurst formed a corporation to sell A.A. books; and they called it the Works Publishing Company. Even today, most AAs end their meetings with the expression Keep coming back. It works. As Bill Wilson said: Anne Smith read to Dr. Bob and Bill every day in the summer of 1935 and frequently read from the Book of James, which Bill said was our favorite as well as Anne’s favorite verse. The A.A. historian Mitch K. and Bill’s long-time secretary Nell Wing both mentioned the poetic idea of works that the frequency of mention of works in A.A. writing could be attributed to the influence of the Book of James.
Snippets from James can still easily be spotted in the latest edition of the Big Book. For example: (1) Father of lights [James 1:17]. (2) Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself [James 2:8]. (3) Faith without works is dead [James 2:20], and (4) A.A.’s Fifth Step sharing and confession language [from James 5:16: confess your faults one to another; Pass it On. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984, pp. 128, 138n2].
Pass it On, supra, p. 147 summed up as follows:
The Book of James was considered so important, in fact, that some early members even suggested The James Club as a name for the fellowship
We therefore strongly suggest that you start your Bible/Big Book study series in the Book of James. It is simple, easy to understand, and a clear mirror of what the pioneers saw in the Bible.
Read all chapters and every verse in the Book of James. Follow our suggestions; and you can later apply the suggestions in your studies of the Sermon on the Mount and 1 Corinthians 13
Adding to what has already been written about A.A. and James, DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers reports the following thoughts and remarks of Bill:
For the next three months, I lived with these two wonderful people, Bill said. AI shall always believe they gave me more than I ever brought them. Each morning, there was a devotion, he recalled. After a long silence, in which they awaited inspiration and guidance, Anne would read from the Bible. James was our favorite, he said, Reading from her chair in the corner, she would softly conclude, “Faith without works is dead,” This was a favorite quotation of Anne’s, much as the Book of James was a favorite with early A.A.’s so much so that The James Club was favored by some as a name for the Fellowship. (See DR. BOB, supra, p.71).
Study the Book of James
I’ve usually suggested to people I sponsor that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Don’t try to read the entire Bible before beginning your own studies and study meetings. Don’t even focus on the Gospels, Acts, or the church epistles. Swallow just one chunk of reading at a time.
Open every meeting with prayer and ask all present to pray specifically that God guide and bless the reading and illuminate your understanding of it.
Take your Bibles. Open them to the Book of James. Don’t start until everyone has found the correct page. Appoint one person who will read the Book of James out loud while others read along in their Bibles with the speaker.
Eyes on the page. Don’t try to read all the chapters of James at one session unless the flow is smooth and within your time limits. No questions. No teaching. No discussion. Just a reading of the Book of James. Your leader should read aloud, all or as much as you like, of James. Others silently read along with the speaker.
Before proceeding further, you and your leader might want to read the same James material more than once. Don’t hesitate to do just that.
When you have completed all segments of your study of James, go to the instructions in the following paragraphs. These will furnish a guide to your doing the same thing with the Sermon on the Mount, and then with 1 Corinthians 13.
Study the title, When Early AAs Were Cured and Why
Study in my title When Early AAs Were Cured the part that reviews and explains the verses in James that you have just read. Compare each segment of that title with the segment or segments of James you have read
I have reviewed the Book of James, verse by verse, thoroughly in several of my titles. But I believe the best and most recent analysis is in my title When Early AAs Were Cured and Why. Your greatest benefit will come if each student has a copy of that resource.
Just as you did when studying James itself, appoint one person to read the explanatory material out loud just as was done with the Bible itself. To begin, turn to my title When Early AAs Were Cured, pages 51-52. At the first James session, your leader should read my commentary aloud, beginning at page 52. He or she should continue reading until he or she has read as much of the relevant commentary as deals with what the leader covered in the reading from James. The others should concurrently and silently read from their own copies of When Early AAs Were Cured and Why. No questions. No teaching. No discussion. Not yet_
The reason for audience silence is that questions and discussion often divert attention from the speaker, the content being read, and from the audience’s concentration. Also, answers and explanations may often be found in the very next sentence or chapter that is being read. Also, opinions, criticisms, and questions by a student in learning will unlearned seldom bless either the seeker or the speaker or the others in the meeting. There is a plan to be followed. Stick to it. There is no record that Bill Wilson took on Anne Smith before, during, or after she read from her Bible or from her journal. Bill and Bob just listened and learned. Discussions may have gone on between them for hours and days, but not when the reading by Anne was in progress.
Open the meeting to relevant audience participation
Let students participate individually by presenting any desired discussion, comments, or questions about the James verses or about the portions of my commentary they have just read
Audience participation does often have its place. It may help in building mutual interest, friendships, and the feeling of belonging, It may, at the proper time, permit someone to let off steam. It may cover similar questions others have in mind. But it will probably be a rare moment if significant points are raised or answered. The leader should keep the participation short. All should share with humility, patience, and tolerance. All should keep criticism, verbal reproofs, and lofty pronouncements to a minimum.
Two more caveats: (1) Pray before you speak whether you are the leader or a member of the audience. (2) Keep difficult questions for presentation or discussion until after the meeting. Perhaps you may wish to go to another source or religious authority for possible answers.
As Bill Wilson wrote in his Big Book: Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they have to offer. AAs are seldom if ever experts, and those present know it. Early AAs had good literature and teachers to help them books by the hundred and people like Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Anne Smith, Henrietta Seiberling, and T. Henry Williams. Today most groups would probably refuse admission to the likes of these proctors.
Too bad, but probably quite true. Suggest to people in your study meetings that they might want and need outside help in understanding the verses in James. But you had better place your shield in front of you, and expect an onslaught. The days when the likes of Father Ed Dowling and Rev. Sam Shoemaker were invited to speak to AAs in A.A. conferences are, sad to say, probably at an end. It’s hard enough to conduct a history conference without objections and hindrances.
But learning inside A.A. about the Bible and the Big Book are a different and substantial challenge. There are wolves in the woods who don’t like God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, religion, or church. Few know anything about our history. And the bleeding deacons, though frequently outspoken and insulting do not control A.A., its groups, or its meetings. I’ve even heard many times the remarks by those who oppose Big Book study conferences. And they are wrong.
The materials can be taught and learned. You are not in your meeting to lead, but rather to learn. Feel free to ask what you wish, state what you wish, and discuss what you wish. And if controversy arises, keep further comments to yourself and present the questions later to someone you think has the answers.
The discussion portion of the meeting follows the completion of reading from the Bible as well as the completion of reading from my commentary. Then it’s open season.
Participants may have questions. They may have observations. They may have stories they want to share. And perish the thought they may even be loaded with opinions. Yet they may already have begun to see the relevance of James to Big Book or Twelve Step material. In fact, you can and should discover the actual number of quotes and ideas from James that are still printed in A.A.’s Big Book. Observations about those facts should be useful and encouraged. Let all students raise questions, make observations, and give commentaries.
This portion of the meeting should be moderated by the leader, should proceed much as any A.A. discussion meeting proceeds. Comments should not be regarded as teaching or doctrine. Opinions can be expressed. But definitive answers should be found through prayer, through further reading of the Bible, or from an appropriate Bible teacher, priest, minister, or rabbi. The more the questions the more the questioners may see that they need to do their own reading, independent of the meetings or comments.
Close your meeting with the Lord’s Prayer just as the pioneers closed theirs.
Suggested Collateral Reading
As you complete study of each Bible segment, you might gain greater understanding or mental challenge by checking out the devotionals pioneers used. For example, you could go through The Runner’s Bible, look for its comments on the subjects you have read, and silently read those portions as the leader reads them aloud. You can do the same with four other devotional favorites: (1) The Upper Room. (2) My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. (3) Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary W. Tileston. (4) Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones. And all four were owned, used, recommended, and circulated by Dr. Bob.
There are several important commentaries on two of the three essential Bible segments that Dr. Bob read and recommended. We haven’t found any for the Book of James. But if you wish to see how much James influenced our founders and their mentors, you will find many references in the books written by Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Jr. I believe you would profit by reading DR. BOB and the Good Old-timers; Sam Shoemaker’s Realizing Religion; and my titles New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. and The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
The meeting will proceed in the same manner as the meeting or meetings on the Book of James. The same four points should be involved: (1) Reading everything in Matthew, chapters 5 to 7. (2) Reading the portion of my commentary in When Early AAs Were Cured and Why which covers the Sermon. (3) Open the meeting to discussion. (4) Consider reading suggested literature, either in the meeting or as homework.
Study the Sermon itself
Following the same guide that was used as to James: Silently read, and have your leader read aloud every Chapter and every verse from the beginning of Matthew 5 to Matthew 7.
Study When Early AAs Were Cured and Why
Open the meeting to audience participation
Suggested Collateral Literature
Use the same four procedures for study of Matthew 5 to 7 and 1 Corinthians 13
Suggested reading to enrich your meetings and individual studies
As you complete study of each Bible segment, you might gain greater understanding or mental challenge by checking out the devotionals pioneers used. For example, you could go through The Runner’s Bible, look for its comments on the subjects you have read, and silently read those portions as the leader reads them aloud. You can do the same with four other devotional favorites: (1) The Upper Room. (2) My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. (3) Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary W. Tileston.(4) Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones. And all four were owned, used, recommended, and circulated by Dr. Bob
There are several important commentaries on two of the three essential Bible segments Dr. Bob read and recommended. We haven’t found any for the Book of James.
There were several that explained Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: (1) Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Oswald Chambers. (2) I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes by Glenn Clark. (3) The Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox. (4) The Christ of the Mount by E. Stanley Jones.
The all-out favorite discussion of 1 Corinthians 13 can be found in The Greatest Thing in the World by Henry Drummond. Glenn Clark also covered this love chapter in The Soul’s Sincere Desire.
It is no secret today that the greatest impact on Bill Wilson’s Big Book and Twelve Steps came from the Oxford Group and from the teachings of its principal American lieutenant Rev. Sam Shoemaker. Word after word and page after page from Bill’s writings came directly from the Oxford Group and Shoemaker, and Bill said so.
Our job here is to see how much the Oxford Group and Sam Shoemaker spoke about the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13. I believe you will be best informed on these points if you read my two titles: The Oxford Group and Alcoholics Anonymous and New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.
dickb@dickb.com; http://www.dickb.com; http://www.ChristianRecoveryCoalition.com; 808 874 4876
Gloria Deo

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About mauihistorian

Uses pen name Dick B.: Writer, Historian, Retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active and recovered A.A. member with over 25 years of continuous sobriety. Published 42 titles and over 650 articles on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Christian Recovery Movement. www.dickb.com
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