Relief Society Lesson 4: Freedom to Choose

Posted on February 10, 2010. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , |

by Caroline

For all you Relief Society teachers out there, I have one important piece of advice. Do yourself a favor and buy some Chieko Okazaki books. (They can be bought used on Amazon for a couple of dollars, usually.) Invariably, whenever I need to come up with a lesson or a talk on any topic, Chieko Okazaki comes through with something profound, something insightful, something wonderful to say. Given the spartan manual we’re now using, her insights might prove doubly helpful to teachers.

Introduction

I like brainstorming questions to start out lessons. I think it gets people comfortable and immediately involved. So I might ask, what comes to mind when you hear the word agency? What associations do you have with it? You can list some of their ideas on the board. When you or someone else brings up some of these ideas (choice, respect, Christ, plan of salvation, action, etc.) throughout the lessons, you can refer to the list.

I might go into the root of the word. It’s from the Latin verb, ‘ago’ which means do, drive, discuss, or act. It’s a word that is clearly about acting, about doing. There’s nothing passive about it. We are the agents, the actors, the subjects of our lives. It’s up to us to use our agency wisely, to proactively make good decisions.

Agency is an Eternal Principle

This section talks about the War in Heaven, in which God rejects Satan’s anti-choice plan in favor of one that honors agency. You might want to read through some verses about the war in heaven and ask your class what insights they gain about agency from the story. If you need to be more specific, you can narrow it a bit. What do they learn about God our parent and agency? What do they learn about spirit children and agency?(This might seem a bit simplistic, and you may have to prime the pump by first talking about an insight you gain from the story, but I actually think there’s a lot to say here.)

These are some possible ideas that the class (or you) might want to bring up:

– that even God lost 1/3 of his children due to the bad choices – the agency – of those children. It strikes me that given the fact that God himself wasn’t able to succeed with a good number of his children, it’s rather a miracle that any of us succeed to any degree with ours.

– that we should be suspicious of people who tell us that they will make decisions for us. Chieko Okazaki in Being Enough has a great quote on that.  She writes, “It’s Satan who sought to take away our agency in the premortal existence…If you are getting messages from any quadrant that say, ‘We will make the decisions for you’ or ‘Just do what we say,’ I hope little warning bells go off to say, ‘Why am I getting this message?’ and ‘What will the results be if I let someone else make this decision for me?'” p. 168. She goes on to warn us as parents and as members or leaders of the ward that we need to be wary of giving those messages to our children and to other ward members.

This point brings up a really interesting question for me: What is the Christ-like way to interact with others, to honor others’ agency, when we are in positions of authority (as parents, bosses, or church leaders) over them? Chieko suggests making sure that people know they have a voice that is valued and that their concerns are listened to and understood. Another question along those lines is how we honor the agency of our friends, our peers, when we see them making problematic choices. Do we retreat, do we lecture, do we quietly support our friends?

Thinking about God as a parent who honors and defends our agency, I think it’s interesting to further relate that to us as parents or leaders. It occurs to me that God gives commandments, some specific, but some very general. He commands us to love our neighbors, not to bring dinner over to the person who just moved in next door. He often gives us leeway to try to figure out how best to fulfill his commandments, with those commandments serving as guide posts.  How do you seek to likewise balance between being specific, but not overly domineering? What principles have you used in determining where to provide specific guidelines?

Agency Is a Necessary Part of the Plan of Salvation/ Agency Requires that There Be a Choice.

As I read these last two sections, it seems to me that there’s quite a bit of overlap in them. So I’m just going to treat them as one section.

The manual mentions that “because we are able to choose, we are responsible for our own actions.” I think there is a lot of truth in this, but I think it can be nuanced a bit. Can we refine or qualify the first or the second part of that quote. Are we always able to choose? What can we choose? People often work within constraints, often choices are limited. Given that reality, what is usually within one’s power to choose?  (Perhaps people can mention that there are opportunities to choose kindness, no matter the desperate situation a person lives in. Perhaps there are times when attitude can be chosen.)

Agency is talked about as something that we fully have, but in reality, what I think we have is a range of options. What the gospel does for us, among other things, is to allow us a greater range of choices. With the opportunity to repent and change our lives and improve ourselves, over and over again,  we continually broaden our range of good choices. The effects of sin can hold us back, but the atonement reconciles us, brings us together, and opens good doors.

In your own lives, how has choosing righteously opened up more opportunities of choice for you? How has it broadened your sphere, your ability to act for good? (You may want to consider asking beforehand one or two women to briefly talk about choices they’ve made that have expanded their opportunities for greater choice.)

Also, regarding the second half of that quote, are we always responsible for our actions? Certainly in a general sense we are, but I think it’s good to take a step back and recognize those constraints that people are working within. For instance, most of us have a lot of sympathy for people who use their agency unwisely because they struggle with mental illness, etc. This of course, is once again where the atonement comes in.

This section also mentions that agency was given to us as a test to see whether or not we make the right choices. This idea of the test is an effective metaphor in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t capture the idea of eternal progression so well. So even if this life is a test to see whether or not we can be the people God would like us to be, I think it’s good to keep in mind that we have an eternity to work on ourselves, to constantly improve.

Conclusion

I would probably end the lesson on an uplifting note like eternal progression and a Jesus who undoubtedly understands the constraints we work within as we slowly work to refine ourselves and use our agency for good. Cheiko Okazaki mentions Jesus listening to us, loving us, being with us, so that “choice by choice, decision by decision, effort by effort, line upon line, we learn what do with our free agency in this wonderful world.” 118

Miscellaneous ideas to potentially weave in

I like to think about God’s profound respect for agency. Interestingly, Chieko Okazaki addresses the problem of evil/God’s apparent unresponsiveness and relates it to God’s respect for agency. She says, “Because we live in a world that operates according to law and because god’s respect for agency is one of the most important facts we know about him, next only to his love for us, then there are some prayers of ours he cannot grant without violating the agency of others in ways that are unacceptable to the laws that govern our wold. Because we cannot see all of the consequences of an action or a choice for ourselves, let alone for all of the people it might affect, there are doubtless some prayers he cannot grant.” 155

What do you think of relating God’s unresponsiveness to his respect for agency? Does it resonate? Does it satisfy? What do you like about it? What questions are left unanswered?

I am also interested in the way that agency interacts with both actions and beliefs. Here are a few terms from religious studies.  Orthopraxy means ‘right doing’. Orthodoxy means ‘right thinking.’ Some religions emphasize one over the other. Judaism and Islam tend to emphasize orthopraxy – they are not nearly as concerned with beliefs as they are with how you act, how you live your life. Christianity on the other hand, often emphasizes orthodoxy. Born Again Christians might be on the extreme end of the orthodoxy scale. Where do you see Mormons fitting in on the orthodoxy/orthopraxy scale? (I see it falling in the middle somewhere.) And to relate this to agency, can we choose our beliefs like we choose our actions? Does anyone have any anecdotes in which they deliberately chose to believe? Why? Was it effective?

**note** quotes taken from Okazaki’s book, Being Enough.

Please contribute your own ideas about agency below. Also, feel free to comment upon which ideas listed here strike you as particularly usable.

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Relief Society Lesson 2: Our Heavenly Family

Posted on January 12, 2010. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , , , |

by Aimee

For those of you planning lessons using the Gospel Principles manual for the first time, you may want to look at the great advice Amelia and EmilyCC put together here and here for tips on ways to help flesh out these lessons for meaningful discussion.

Surprisingly, I already had the chance to teach this lesson in my own Relief Society class last week as our Stake decided to combine lessons 1 and 2. As a guinea pig, I was able to learn a few things that worked well in this lesson and am happy to pass them on to you.

We Are Children of Our Heavenly Father

I was really pleased to see this thoughtful question the manual posed at the start of the lesson: What do scriptures and latter-day prophets teach us about our relationship to God? Possible ideas you may want to discuss in answer to the question:

  • Modern revelation teaches that our God is a literal parent. How is having a relationship with a Heavenly Parent different from having a relationship with other notions of God (Heavenly King, Judge, Lord, Creator, Almighty)? You may also want to read the Joseph F. Smith quote here that our “spirit[s] [were] begotten and born of heavenly parents and reared to maturity” in the preexistence. What are the kinds of things you imagine our heavenly parents would have wanted to impress upon us to prepare us for mortality?
  • In my class we also read D&C 93:29 “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” I posed the question of how knowing that God did not create us, but rather organized us helps us better understand our relationship to him and others. What does knowing that our intelligence is co-eternal with God’s teach us about ourselves and our own potential? What does it teach us about God’s understanding of us as individuals? What depth can it add to our understanding of others?

We Developed Personalities and Talents While We Lived in Heaven


I think the most important idea to impress here is the recognition that in Mormon theology, we don’t believe that we enter the world as a blank slate. We each have eternal histories. Rather than focusing on the word “talents” (which I think often makes people think of literal “talent show” talents and it becomes easy to get off topic) I would instead emphasize the notion of having unique personalities, dispositions and abilities that are in part formed by our pre-mortal experiences. An interesting question to pose your class may be to ask if there are particular qualities or personality traits that members of your class feel have been with them for longer than this life? Are some of those qualities things they need to develop? Are some of them things they need to overcome?

Our Heavenly Father Presented a Plan for Us to Become Like Him


So now we’ve gotten to the big question: What is the purpose of life? Although most members of your class will be very familiar with the idea of the Plan of Salvation, there is actually a lot here that deserves rigorous thinking and discussion.

If we take the section heading at face value, the purpose of life would seem to be for us to become more like God. Not just to grow closer to God or obey better, but to begin to become gods ourselves! You may want to read from the manual on page 10: “Our Heavenly Father knew we could not progress beyond a certain point unless we left Him for a time. He wanted us to develop the godlike qualities that He has. To do this, we needed to leave our premortal home . . .”


Ask your class why leaving God to come to earth was necessary. Possible ideas you may want to discuss in answer to the question:

  • This is our chance to find out who we really are. Like a teenager leaving home for the first time, there are things you can’t know about yourself until you are making choices for yourself: What do you really love? How do you really want to spend your time? What do you most value? Etc.
  • Read Alma 42:7 “And now ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow their own will.” Emphasize that the purpose of this life is being subject to our own wills, figuring out what our desires are since this is what we’re going to get in the end (Alma 41:5-7).
  • From the manual on page 11, forgetting our heavenly home was “necessary so we could exercise our agency to choose good or evil without being influenced by the memory of living with our Heavenly Father. Thus we could obey Him because of our faith in Him, not because of our knowledge or memory of Him.” How do “knowledge” and “memory” differ from faith?

As the concluding thought to your lesson, you may want to ask how can exercising our personal agency helps us to become more like our Heavenly Parents.

I found the following testimony from a sister in my ward here in Baltimore incredibly moving in making this point: This sister shared a story about a day she was taking the bus to a part of town with which she was unfamiliar. She suddenly realized that she had missed her stop and no longer knew how to get to her destination. Her first impulse was to pray for God to tell her where she should go. But just as she began her prayer, she was impressed not to ask God for directions but instead to trust in the brain God gave her. She was surprised at this turn of events but followed the prompting. After a bit of an adventure that included some wrong turns, she did make it to her destination. Upon arrival her first act was to pray to her Heavenly Father and thank Him for giving her a mind she could trust. She testified that the experience left her feeling closer to God and full of gratitude for His awareness of her particular gifts and abilities.

As the ultimate parent, God understands there are qualities and understanding we can only develop through our own experience. It is important for us to remember that often what we experience in life is the direct result of a world organized around personal agency and chance. When we signed on for the plan, we knew it was dangerous and it would hurt. Satan’s plan spared hurt, but forfeited divine progression. By remembering that the particular events and circumstances of our lives are less about God’s will and more about the will and randomness of this widely peopled earth, we can respond better to our experiences while learning more about our eternal selves and hopefully better develop the godlike qualities that our Heavenly Parents most desired would be the product of our time here.

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Relief Society Lesson #46 The Martyrdom: The Prophet Seals His Testimony With His Blood

Posted on November 13, 2009. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , , |

by guest lesson writer Aimee

In thinking about the death of Joseph Smith, the lesson seems to be trying to make three main points:

1) The circumstances surrounding Joseph Smith and the position of the saints in Nauvoo had come to a head and Joseph had a keen awareness of his mortality and the end of his earthly ministry  in the months leading up to his murder.
2) Joseph prepared for his own death by making a point of passing on important revelations as well as essential priesthood keys and powers he held to his appointed leaders, should they need to proceed without him.
3) The tradition of the church has been to understand the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum in classic martyrological terms, thus adding a Mormon dimension to the notion of “sealing one’s testimony with one’s blood.”

The lesson seems to leave room for questions about God’s hand in Joseph’s death, what doctrines and essential Mormon keys Joseph was emphasizing at the end of his life and how we think about the manner of Joseph’s death in relation to his earthly mission.

God Protected Joseph Smith Until His Earthly Mission Was Complete

The martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum has been a compelling and galvanizing moment in the history of the church almost before it even took place.  For years before his actual murder, Joseph and his closest associates were justified in fearing for their lives at the hand of any angry mob or an outraged individual.  This necessary paranoia allowed the saints and Joseph himself to think of their mission in the terms of religious martyrdom even before the actual murders took place.  Having been chased from one state to another by fearful and angry citizens most of his adult life, Joseph’s sense that his death would be a violent one is as commonsensical as it is prophetic.

These quotations from the lesson manual do a good job of illustrating how Joseph was keenly considering his dangerous position in relation to the hostile environment he was inhabiting (both from within and without the church):
In June 1844, the Prophet said: “I do not regard my own life. I am ready to be offered a sacrifice for this people; for what can our enemies do? Only kill the body, and their power is then at an end. Stand firm, my friends; never flinch. Do not seek to save your lives, for he that is afraid to die for the truth, will lose eternal life. Hold out to the end, and we shall be resurrected and become like Gods, and reign in celestial kingdoms, principalities, and eternal dominions.”7
Early on June 27, 1844, in Carthage Jail, Joseph Smith wrote in a hasty letter to Emma Smith: “I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends … ; and as for treason, I know that I have not committed any, and they cannot prove one appearance of anything of the kind, so you need not have any fears that any harm can happen to us on that score. May God bless you all. Amen.”8
It’s worth noting that the letter Joseph wrote to Emma on June 27th, the morning of his martyrdom, was not the last letter he wrote.  That afternoon he wrote another letter to a lawyer that he hoped would be a part of his defense team.  This seems to suggest that even though Joseph felt the danger of his position and the potential imminence of his death, he was not, as we often imagine, simply listening to hymns or writing what he thought were his final words in preparation for a death he had long foreseen.

The lesson manual suggests (as does Joseph himself) that God had a hand in preserving him “until his earthly mission was complete.”

Q. How do people feel about this concept?

Q. What are we to make of the many possible directions Joseph had foreseen his own life going (i.e. there were many times Joseph felt his death was imminent before June 1844.  Also D&C 130 when Joseph receives the revelation that “if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man.”)?

Q.  Why in trying to understand and write our own religious history do we fall back on fatalistic terminology to explain why things happen?  This seems especially counterintuitive in Mormon theological thinking when you consider the emphasis we place on free intelligences and individual agency.

Q.  How does this kind of thinking influence the way we narrate out own lives?
Before his death, Joseph Smith conferred upon the Twelve Apostles every priesthood key and power that the Lord had sealed upon him.

The last six months of Joseph Smith’s life were an especially intense whirl of activity.  In addition to being nominated for President of the United States, he was overseeing two major construction projects (the Temple and the Nauvoo house), organizing new quorums, dealing with increasing hostility from anti-Mormons surrounding Nauvoo, attending to his pregnant wife Emma, preaching sermons, dealing with legal matters, and receiving an influx of new immigrant converts on a weekly basis, to name a few.  In the midst of all this activity, Joseph was also the recipient of profound revelations that were at the heart of his final sermons and are at the core of some of Mormonism’s most thrilling and heterodox beliefs.

Joseph preached the King Follett Sermon in April 1844, the source of the cherished Mormon belief that the “God that sits enthroned is a man like one of yourselves.”  This doctrine of the human history of God, the belief that humans are “gods in embryo,” that the intelligence of all human beings is “eternal” and cannot be created, was a radical break from traditional Christianity and a serious source of schism among the already disaffected of the Mormon community. Yet it is the source of Latter-day Saint understanding of the nature of God and the potential of our own divine destiny.

Q. Why do you think this revelation came near the end of Joseph’s life? Can you imagine the Church without it?

At the same time the Prophet Joseph was taking pains to assure his people, particularly members of the Quorum of the Twelve, that the keys of the Kingdom of God were permanently on the earth.  The following quotes from the manual do a good job of illustrating how Joseph took pains to impart the keys and understanding he had been given to the twelve apostles so they could carry on the work:

Wilford Woodruff said about Joseph Smith’s meeting with the Apostles in March 1844: “I remember the last speech that [Joseph Smith] ever gave us before his death. … He stood upon his feet some three hours. The room was filled as with consuming fire, his face was as clear as amber, and he was clothed upon by the power of God. He laid before us our duty. He laid before us the fullness of this great work of God; and in his remarks to us he said: ‘I have had sealed upon my head every key, every power, every principle of life and salvation that God has ever given to any man who ever lived upon the face of the earth. And these principles and this Priesthood and power belong to this great and last dispensation which the God of Heaven has set His hand to establish in the earth. Now,’ said he, addressing the Twelve, ‘I have sealed upon your heads every key, every power, and every principle which the Lord has sealed upon my head.’

Brigham Young, the second President of the Church, taught: “Joseph conferred upon our heads all the keys and powers belonging to the Apostleship which he himself held before he was taken away, and no man or set of men can get between Joseph and the Twelve in this world or in the world to come. How often has Joseph said to the Twelve, ‘I have laid the foundation and you must build thereon, for upon your shoulders the kingdom rests.’ ”

Q.  Why do you think the apostles felt it was important to testify of these experiences?

Joseph seemed to understand that in order for the church to go forward, he had to ensure that the keys and principles and powers and priesthood were understood on their own terms.  At the end of his life, Joseph seemed to grasp that for a religious movement to survive its charismatic leader, it was essential to make sure that the keys and powers and message were clear and that his apostles had the knowledge and confidence to use them and move the work forward.

The Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum lived great and died great for their testimonies of the gospel.


As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 135:1–6, John Taylor, while serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote: “To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch. They were shot in Carthage jail, on the 27th of June, 1844, about five o’clock p.m., by an armed mob—painted black—of from 150 to 200 persons. Hyrum was shot first and fell calmly, exclaiming: I am a dead man! Joseph leaped from the window, and was shot dead in the attempt, exclaiming: O Lord my God! They were both shot after they were dead, in a brutal manner, and both received four balls.”

Q.  What influence do you think the manner of Joseph and Hyrum’s death has had on the church?

Joseph Smith fulfilled his earthly mission and sealed his testimony with his blood.

George Albert Smith, the eighth President of the Church, declared: “Joseph Smith performed his mission; and when the time came that he was face to face with death, he said, ‘I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer morning. I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men. If they take my life, I shall die an innocent man, and my blood shall cry from the ground for vengeance, and it shall yet be said of me, “He was murdered in cold blood.” ‘ [See D&C 135:4.] He was not afraid to stand before the pleasing bar of our Father in heaven and answer for the deeds done in the body. He was not afraid to meet the charge that had been made against him, that he was deceiving the people and dealing unjustly with them. He was not afraid of the result of his life’s mission, and of the final triumph of the work which he knew was of divine origin, and for which he gave his life.”19
Q.  Why is the notion of “sealing one’s testimony with one’s blood” so powerful?

Q.  Would a long hard life fighting for the rights of the saints to worship freely be as powerful in our religious teachings as this tragic violent death?

Q.  How does having a martyr galvanize a religious movement?
The extraordinary circumstances of the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith have profoundly impacted our narrative of sacred history.  It is my prayer that by thoughtfully studying our own religious history and theology, we may do justice to the memory of the real Joseph Smith and the teachings that were meant to bring us closer to our Heavenly Parents.

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Relief Society Lesson 38: The Wentworth Letter

Posted on July 15, 2009. Filed under: Mormon Life, Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , |

by Kelly Ann

THIS IS OF COURSE JUST ONE OF MANY WAYS THE LESSON COULD BE PRESENTED.  MY GOAL IS TO COVER ALL SECTIONS AND DISCUSS BASIC BELIEFS AND HISTORY AND GENERATE DISCUSSION IN TUNE WITH THE THEMES.

Start by asking the class how they would summarize the church beliefs to an inquirer.  Ask someone if they can recite the Articles of Faith (see Articles of Faith 1:1–13).

Discuss the following questions:  What are their purpose?  How have they helped individuals personally? Why are primary children are asked to memorize them?  Do they over-simplify the teachings of the church?  Is there anything anyone finds odd in the fundamental doctrines and principles? Do they all focus on Christ?

Ask if anyone has ever used them to answer an inquirer’s questions about the church

I had the following experience with them.

When I was in Elementary school, I was asked by my best friend, the daughter of a Baptist minister to summarize what I believed.  Having recently memorized the articles of faith, I started to spout a few out.  After which, she stopped me and asked me to tell her what I personally believed.  While I didn’t need to quote the articles of faith verbatim, I realized if I wanted to cover everything (it was a fairly intense discussion we both had prepared for), they served as my base.  Although the first four were all about I could really digest as a kid.

The Wentworth letter including the Articles of Faith is Joseph Smith’s response to a request from John Wentworth and George Barstow to discuss the beliefs of the church.

“In the Times and Seasons issue dated March 1, 1842, the Prophet published what has come to be known as the Wentworth Letter. Describing his reasons for producing this document, the Prophet explained: “At the request of Mr. John Wentworth, Editor and Proprietor of the Chicago Democrat, I have written the following sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-day Saints, of which I have the honor, under God, of being the founder. Mr. Wentworth says that he wishes to furnish Mr. [George] Barstow, a friend of his, who is writing the history of New Hampshire, with this document. As Mr. Barstow has taken the proper steps to obtain correct information, all that I shall ask at his hands, is, that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation.”2

George Barstow ultimately did not include the Prophet’s account in his history because he decided to cover events only through the year 1819 in his book.3 But the Wentworth Letter has immense value to Latter-day Saints. It is an original account by Joseph Smith testifying of his sacred call from God, his visions, and his ministry and teachings. It recounts the rise and growth of the Church and the persecutions of the Saints. It contains a prophetic declaration of the Church’s future success in the earth under the protective hand of the Great Jehovah. It also contains several important details not found elsewhere in the Prophet’s teachings, including a description of the gold plates and a sketch of the contents of the Book of Mormon. Significantly, it is the first time that Joseph Smith himself published an account of his First Vision.

Concluding with the 13 declarations of Church doctrine now called the Articles of Faith, it stands as a powerful witness of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. “

What can we learn from Joseph Smith’s words in the Wentworth Letter about how to respond to such questions? Discuss the core doctrines (besides the articles of faith).

Discuss what the Prophet said about his First Vision and Book of Mormon..

God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in answer to his prayer.

“Believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James—‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’ [James 1:5.] I retired to a secret place in a grove, and began to call upon the Lord; while fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages, who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon day. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His Church and kingdom: and I was expressly commanded ‘to go not after them,’ at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.

The Book of Mormon was written anciently upon gold plates and delivered to Joseph Smith by a divinely sent messenger.

“… This book … tells us that our Savior made His appearance upon this continent after His resurrection; that He planted the Gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists, the same order, the same priesthood, the same ordinances, gifts, powers, and blessings, as were enjoyed on the eastern continent; that the people were cut off in consequence of their transgressions; that the last of their prophets who existed among them was commanded to write an abridgment of their prophecies, history, etc., and to hide it up in the earth, and that it should come forth and be united with the Bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days. For a more particular account I would refer to the Book of Mormon, which can be purchased at Nauvoo, or from any of our Traveling Elders.

“As soon as the news of this discovery was made known, false reports, misrepresentation and slander flew, as on the wings of the wind, in every direction; the house was frequently beset by mobs and evil designing persons. Several times I was shot at, and very narrowly escaped, and every device was made use of to get the plates away from me; but the power and blessing of God attended me, and several began to believe my testimony.

How do you relate the story of the First Vision and coming forth of the Book of Mormon to others?  What are the significance of Joseph Smith’s tellings of his visions and work? How does one interpret the multiple accounts?  What have these stories meant in your life?  What are ways we can share these stories without being overbearing?  How do people usually react to tellings (including such off the wall portrayals as the South Park episode)?  What do you glean from the Wentworth’s letter accounts.

Joseph Smith also gives a brief history of the beginnings of the Church and then testifies of the Church’s destiny.

Although persecution may rage against the Church, nothing can stop the progress of truth.

“Persecution has not stopped the progress of truth, but has only added fuel to the flame, it has spread with increasing rapidity. Proud of the cause which they have espoused, and conscious of our innocence, and of the truth of their system, amidst calumny and reproach, have the Elders of this Church gone forth, and planted the Gospel in almost every state in the Union; it has penetrated our cities, it has spread over our villages, and has caused thousands of our intelligent, noble, and patriotic citizens to obey its divine mandates, and be governed by its sacred truths. It has also spread into England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, where, in the year 1840, a few of our missionaries were sent, and over five thousand joined the Standard of Truth; there are numbers now joining in every land.

Discuss the following:.  How do you think persecution affects the churches growth? Why do you think persecution is unable to stop the Church’s progress? What are some examples of people progressing despite opposition?  Why do you think this statement was tied into the description of the core beliefs of the church?  What do you think Joseph Smith wanted to accomplish with the Wentworth letter?  Why do you think he ended with the Articles of Faith?  Is it more important to understand the core history or the core beliefs or both?  How does the Wentworth letter help you share your beliefs with others?


Additional Aids:

Articles of Faith 1:1–13

Joseph Smith—History 1:1–75

http://feastuponthewordblog.org/2009/07/04/rsmp-lesson-28-the-wentworth-letter-joseph-smith-manual/

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Relief Society Lesson #34: The Power of Forgiving

Posted on May 14, 2009. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , , , |

by Jana and EmilyCC

This lesson focuses primarily on forgiving others to bring about unity.  It doesn’t go into how or provide any other reasons for forgiving beyond unity.  So, we’ve filled in with some additional sections; these sections are notes with **’s.  (more…)

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Relief Society Lesson #27

Posted on February 3, 2009. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , |

[The title of this lesson in the manual is “Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy”.  Our efforts here were to cast a more hopeful light on the subject.]

By Jana and G.

bridge-to-somewhere3

I have a joke to use as an attention-grabbing opener. It might seem sort of silly at first, but it’s certainly relevant to the lesson content and will get the sisters engaged…

I heard this joke this morning about a man in a theater taking up three seats…

A man was sprawled across three entire seats in a theater. When the usher came by and noticed this, he whispered to the man, “Sorry sir, but you’re only allowed one seat.”

The man groaned but didn’t budge. The usher became impatient.

“Sir,” the usher said, “if you don’t get up from there, I’m going to have to call the manager.”

Again, the man just groaned, which infuriated the usher who turned and marched briskly back up the aisle in search of his manager. In a few moments, both the usher and the manager returned and stood over the man. Together the two of them tried repeatedly to move him, but with no success. Finally, they summoned the police. The cop surveyed the situation briefly.

“All right, buddy. What’s your name?”

“Sam,” the man moaned.

“Where ya from, Sam?” the cop asked.

[insert dramatic pause]

“The balcony.”

Explain: This joke is certainly silly, but it has a deeper meaning. We can never really understand someone’s behavior unless we take the time to know where they’re coming from. We can assume that they are “taking 3 seats” because they don’t know the rules, but maybe it’s because they’ve just fallen from the balcony and they’re unable to do anything else but simply lay there. And it’s our job to listen to their story and to offer the aid that they need in their specific situation.

A lesson about apostasy is a tricky thing. We might be tempted to make many assumptions about apostasy and about those who have fallen into apostasy, but what Christ would have us do is the very hard work of loving and having compassion for those who are struggling with issues of belief. We need to take the time to know if they’ve just come from “the balcony.”

Introduction: Reasons Why People Leave The Church.

From the earliest days of the church, events and circumstances have arisen that cause individuals to lose faith. Some turn their energies to persecuting the church, some find their way back into activity, still others make their peace and move on. In most cases, leaving the church is a painful experience frequently involving feelings of isolation and alienation from a community that had previously been a source of fellowship and spiritual nourishment. Often this loss of faith causes rifts between friends and family.

The early saints faced challenges to their faith that today’s members may have a hard time relating to. Aside from recurring persecution from antagonists outside the church, many members lost all of their capitol in a failed financial venture that church leaders encouraged them to invest in. (1) In addition, the institution of polygamy was difficult to swallow. Joseph Smith’s early experiments in Nauvoo were secretive hidden affairs even less socially acceptable than polygamy under Brigham Young . (2)

The Church today is relatively safe and mainstream. It’s members are not subject to the persecution or social stigmas of yesteryear. However, there are still many issues and circumstances which can bring about a crisis of faith. For some, they are not able to reconcile their own view of a loving god with various church practices or beliefs. Others find themselves jarred when their study of the history and doctrine of the Church bring up uncomfortable issues that are not discussed in their Sunday School classes.

Richard Bushman, in a paper intended for the leadership of the church, discusses what it’s like for a member to lose confidence in what the Church teaches:

“Often church leaders, parents, and friends, do not understand the force of this alternate view. Not knowing how to respond, they react defensively. They are inclined to dismiss all the evidence as anti-Mormon or of the devil. Stop reading these things if they upset you so much, the inquirer is told. Or go back to the familiar formula: scriptures, prayer, church attendance.The troubled person may have been doing all of these things sincerely, perhaps even desperately. He or she feels the world is falling apart. Everything these inquirers put their trust in starts to crumble. They want guidance more than ever in their lives, but they don’t seem to get it.”

Bushman goes on to share the advice of a close friend:

…It is necessary that the church not only shows more support and openness to these ‘apostates’ but also teaches and advises all members, bishops, stake presidents etc., who usually don’t know how to deal with such a situation in terms of organizational and ecclesiastical questions and – out of insecurity – fail to treat the critical member with the necessary love and respect that even a normal stranger would receive. “

Discussion questions:
-what were some of the spiritual trials of faith the early saints faced? How are they different/similar from ones faced by saints today?

-what events and circumstances can cause a crisis of faith?

-Have you ever experienced a crisis of faith, and if so, what helped you get through it (CAUTION this is a very sensitive question, ask only as guided by the spirit.)

-Discuss ways of encouraging, showing love to, reaching out towards individuals who may feel alienated from the church.

(Bushman’s paper gives helpful information on this. As does John P. Delhin’s extensive essay “How to Stay…” Particularly the sections Reasons to Stay and Seeking to Understand.)

Supporting our Sisters and our Leaders

A significant theme in this lesson is that we should support and sustain our leaders. I’m sure that each of you can think of a time that you were in a Presidency or a leadership calling and you were criticized or not supported by ward members. I know I have, and I can remember feeling so discouraged and so overwhelmed with the tasks of my calling. As the lesson says, we need to cease criticizing each other, we need to support and sustain each other in our callings.

Assign a sister to read the following quote from the lesson (perhaps you can split it up between 2 or 3 people because it’s a bit long. Or, just read the first paragraph if time is short):

In 1840, a small, organized body of Church members continued to live in Kirtland, Ohio, although most of the Saints had gathered to Nauvoo, Illinois. In response to news that a Church member in Kirtland was trying to destroy the Saints’ confidence in the First Presidency and other authorities of the Church, the Prophet wrote to a Church leader in Kirtland: “In order to conduct the affairs of the Kingdom in righteousness, it is all important that the most perfect harmony, kind feeling, good understanding, and confidence should exist in the hearts of all the brethren; and that true charity, love one towards another, should characterize all their proceedings. If there are any uncharitable feelings, any lack of confidence, then pride, arrogance and envy will soon be manifested; confusion must inevitably prevail, and the authorities of the Church set at naught. …
“If the Saints in Kirtland deem me unworthy of their prayers when they assemble together, and neglect to bear me up at the throne of heavenly grace, it is a strong and convincing proof to me that they have not the Spirit of God. If the revelations we have received are true, who is to lead the people? If the keys of the Kingdom have been committed to my hands, who shall open out the mysteries thereof?
“As long as my brethren stand by me and encourage me, I can combat the prejudices of the world, and can bear the contumely [harsh treatment] and abuse with joy; but when my brethren stand aloof, when they begin to faint, and endeavor to retard my progress and enterprise, then I feel to mourn, but am no less determined to prosecute my task, being confident that although my earthly friends may fail, and even turn against me, yet my heavenly Father will bear me off triumphant.
“However, I hope that even in Kirtland there are some who do not make a man an offender for a word [see Isaiah 29:21], but are disposed to stand forth in defense of righteousness and truth, and attend to every duty enjoined upon them; and who will have wisdom to direct them against any movement or influence calculated to bring confusion and discord into the camp of Israel, and to discern between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
“It would be gratifying to my mind to see the Saints in Kirtland flourish, but think the time is not yet come; and I assure you it never will until a different order of things be established and a different spirit manifested. When confidence is restored, when pride shall fall, and every aspiring mind be clothed with humility as with a garment, and selfishness give place to benevolence and charity, and a united determination to live by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord is observable, then, and not till then, can peace, order and love prevail.
“It is in consequence of aspiring men that Kirtland has been forsaken. How frequently has your humble servant been envied in his office by such characters, who endeavored to raise themselves to power at his expense, and seeing it impossible to do so, resorted to foul slander and abuse, and other means to effect his overthrow. Such characters have ever been the first to cry out against the Presidency, and publish their faults and foibles to the four winds of heaven”

Let me repeat and emphasize one section of this quotation, that Joseph told the Saints in Kirtland that they should have: “the most perfect harmony, kind feeling, good understanding, and confidence should exist in the hearts of all the brethren; and that true charity, love one towards another, should characterize all their proceedings. If there are any uncharitable feelings, any lack of confidence, then pride, arrogance and envy will soon be manifested; confusion must inevitably prevail.”

Question: We know from this quotation that when we criticize our leaders it leads us astray. Can anyone share ideas on how we can better support and sustain our leaders (hint: think of how you would have appreciated support in your leadership callings)?

In addition to thinking about how we can better support our leaders, this lesson encourages us to think about how we treat those who have fallen into apostasy. In this vein I’d like to share a personal story that you may feel free to share in your lesson, or perhaps think of a similar story from your own life to tell in its stead:
About 10 years ago my husband came to me and expressed doubts about some fundamental church teachings, including some core doctrines like the divinity of Jesus Christ. I was very shocked, because up to that point he’d been the very example of a wholly devoted and believing Mormon. I cried and was so sad when he told me these things. I didn’t know how I could “fix” his testimony and was terribly confused. I started fasting on his behalf regularly, seeking insight for how to help him.
One night I came home rather late from a YW Presidency Meeting. I knew my husband was already asleep so I spent some time on my knees praying downstairs before I went up to join him in our bedroom. My prayer still didn’t offer any solutions to my dilemma about how to help him regain his testimony, but I felt loved and comforted.
As I entered our bedroom and saw my husband lying there sleeping—curled in a fetal position–he looked so sweet and young and childlike. I felt an overwhelming feeling in that moment. It was as if the Father showed me how he saw my husband, as his beloved child. The strong impression came to my mind that it was not my role to change my husband—that he was given his free will to choose his own spiritual path—but my role was to love him, to show him unconditional love like that of his Heavenly Father.
As I let that idea sit with me I realized that those feelings were indeed inspired. Were I to criticize or condemn my husband, it would only build barriers between us. Were I to love him, listen to him and support him, we could continue building a relationship together. It was the turning point in our marriage and I am so grateful for the revelation I had to “see” my husband as someone who was worthy of and needed unconditional love.

I am sure that many of you have people in your family or close friends who have experienced challenges to their testimony. How have you been able to reach out and support them as the lesson counsels us to do, with “perfect harmony, kind feeling, good understanding, and confidence” in them? How have you done this in your callings when you’ve reached out to those who are less-active?

Suggestion: If you feel comfortable doing so, please consider asking a sister who has an interfaith marriage, a non-believing spouse, or who has not-LDS family members to prepare a 3-5 min story about how she’s able to build bridges of understanding with those close to her who aren’t Mormon).

Conclusion; The Balancing act.

The lesson ends with several quotes that encourage members to put their faith in the leaders of the church as a way to avoid apostatsy.

William G. Nelson reported: “I have heard the Prophet speak in public on many occasions. In one meeting I heard him say: ‘I will give you a key that will never rust,—if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.’ The history of the Church has proven this to be true.” (17)

On the other hand, Brigham Young expressed concern that members would blindly follow church leaders:

“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” (3)

Occassionally members may feel tension between these two concepts; following the church leaders vs following personal revelation. This tension requires the individual to work out a balance between them, one that works best for their own life’s path.

Likewise, in dealing with a loved one who has lost faith in and/or left the church there is a balancing act that must be done; working out the best ways to be true to your own beliefs while respecting the experiences of the other.

Discussion: Ask the sisters about balancing these seemingly conflicting aspects of their lives.

End with Testimony.

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Relief Society Lesson 17: the Great Plan of Salvation

Posted on September 10, 2008. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , |

by EmilyCC

My comments and questions are in italics, and the manual stuff is in regular font.  There’s lots of juicy stuff in this lesson for some good discussion, but it was hard to make this a smoothly flowing lesson.  It feels like jumps are made from topic to topic.  Please add your insights and presentation ideas for this lesson in the comment field.

From the Life of Joseph Smith

The Prophet later said: “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors. … Look at Hebrews 6:1 for contradictions—‘Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection.’ If a man leaves the principles of the doctrine of Christ, how can he be saved in the principles? This is a contradiction. I don’t believe it. I will render it as it should be—‘Therefore not leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection.’ ”

Although this may not relate directly to the Plan of Salvation, I think it might be a good place to start discussion.

How is your scripture study of the Bible affected by the understanding that the Bible isn’t necessarily always translated correctly?

(more…)

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Relief Society Lesson 8: The Everlasting Priesthood

Posted on April 17, 2008. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , |

by Caroline

Just like most of these lessons, there’s too much to cover. I’m highlighting what I think will serve for the best discussion and be the most inspiring. The second part of the lesson is particularly centered on women’s relationships to the concept of priesthood.

First section:  The priesthood is everlasting and has been held by prophets in every dispensation.

“There has been a chain of authority and power from Adam down to the present time “ is JS’s first line in this section.

Can we use that first line to help develop a common definition of the term priesthood?

I think it’s important to start out trying to define the word, which is used in many complicated ways in our LDS rhetoric. Encourage the class to throw out terms, ideas, words, phrases that they associate with “priesthood” and put those ideas into three columns/categories on the board. (see my 3 definitions below)  Ex: if they throw out “officiate ordinances, I’d put that in column 2. If they throw out power of heaven, I’d put that in column 3. When they are all done, they you can summarize and formulate these three different ways the term “priesthood” is used.

Lead the class to come up with 3 definitions.
1.) It means priesthood holders ( i.e. men). “We’d like to thank the priesthood for passing the sacrament.” “We’d like the priesthood to set up the chairs.”
2.) It means the authority of God to officiate in ordinances and to govern the Church.
3.) It means the power of God in a very broad sense. A universal principle that transcends organization or person. (“Rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.” D&C 121:36) (more…)

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Relief Society Lesson 2: God, the Eternal Father

Posted on January 18, 2008. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , |

Did you guess that X2 couldn’t do a post on a RS lesson on Heavenly Father without mentioning Heavenly Mother?

I’ve confined the Heavenly Mother part to one section of the lesson since not all of us want to go there. And, I have 2 versions: “Making a few ladies squirm” and “Going to the bishop’s office.”

Really, these are just titles for fun because I don’t know that this should be brought up in every ward. I, personally, would make it a matter of prayer before using either because it is such a hard topic and one that requires the guidance of the Spirit if someone dares to tackle it. Okay, off my soapbox…

My comments are in italics, my questions are in bold, and President Smith’s (whoa! Why does that sound weird to me?) ideas from the manual are in regular font. And, I’d love suggestions on the Godhead part of the lesson; I’ll admit, I was stumped.

From the Life of Joseph Smith

Among Joseph Smith’s progenitors were many who sought to know the true God in their day. Joseph’s own parents were deeply spiritual, and although they did not find the full truth about God in the churches around them, they honored the Bible as God’s word and made prayer a part of daily life. The Prophet’s brother William recalled: “My father’s religious habits were strictly pious and moral. … I was called upon to listen to prayers both night and morning. … My parents, father and mother, poured out their souls to God, the donor of all blessings, to keep and guard their children and keep them from sin and from all evil works. Such was the strict piety of my parents.” William also said: “We always had family prayers since I can remember. I well remember father used to carry his spectacles in his vest pocket, … and when us boys saw him feel for his specs, we knew that was a signal to get ready for prayer, and if we did not notice it mother would say, ‘William,’ or whoever was the negligent one, ‘get ready for prayer.’ After the prayer we had a song we would sing; I remember part of it yet: ‘Another day has passed and gone, We lay our garments by.’ ”
–What do you think the purpose of these actions are?–How do you think children (and adults) benefit from them?

Joseph’s faithful prayer for mercy and wisdom was answered with the First Vision. That vision gave the young Prophet far greater knowledge about God than any of the churches of his day possessed, knowledge that had been lost to the world for centuries. In the First Vision, Joseph learned for himself that the Father and the Son are individual beings, that Their power is greater than the power of evil, and that man is indeed fashioned in God’s image—truths that are essential in understanding our actual relationship to our Father in Heaven.

Write the following parts of this quote on the board:
1) The Father and Son are individual beings
2) Their power is greater than the power of evil
3) Man is indeed fashioned in God’s image

–how do each of these facts affect our understanding of our relationship with God?

Teachings of Joseph SmithGod is the loving Father of all mankind and the source of all that is good.
“While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes ‘His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’ [Matthew 5:45.]”
–what do you think of this quote? Or, how does it make you feel?
–what do you think of the Matthew 5:45 scripture?

–This seems to be an explanation as to why God allows suffering. Do you find it satisfactory? Why or why not?

“The purposes of our God are great, His love unfathomable, His wisdom infinite, and His power unlimited; therefore, the Saints have cause to rejoice and be glad, knowing that ‘this God is our God forever and ever, and He will be our Guide until death.’ [Psalm 48:14.]”

I think we have a hymn that illustrates the concept of God as our loving Heavenly Father very well. Please join me in singing all the verses of
“O My Father,” pg 292.

This is the Heavenly Mother part. Please feel free to skip to the “When we comprehend the character of God…” section if this is offensive to you.

Making a few ladies squirm:
I had a hard time leaving Heavenly Mother out of this lesson because I feel like in order to truly understand Heavenly Father, we can’t forget Her.

I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, but to further illustrate our doctrine of Heavenly Father, I thought it would be nice to all sing “O My Father.”

Going to the bishop’s office:
I can’t leave out Heavenly Mother from a lesson on God, the Eternal Father, so I wanted to give a brief history of Joseph Smith’s teachings about Heavenly Mother. (I’ll leave it to the teacher to take what they want from the following excerpt from Linda P. Wilcox’s “The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven,” from Women and Authority: Re-emering Mormon Feminism, ed. by Maxine Hanks)

The origins of the Heavenly Mother concept in Mormonism are shadowy. The best known exposition is Eliza R. Snow’s poem, “O My Father,” or “Invocation, of the Eternal Father and Mother”—the title it was known by earlier. When the poem was first published in the Times and Seasons it carried the notation, “City of Joseph, Oct. 1845,” but the actual date of composition is not known. It does not appear in Eliza’s notebook/diary for the years 1842-1844.

President Wilford Woodruff gave Snow credit for originating the idea: “That hymn is a revelation, thought it was given unto us by a woman.” President Joseph F. Smith claimed that God revealed the principle (“that we have a mother as well as a father in heaven”) to Joseph Smith; that Smith revealed it to Snow, his polygamous wife, and that Snow was inspired, being a poet, to put it into verse.

Other incidents tend to confirm this latter view. Susa Young Gates told of Joseph Smith’s consoling Zina Diantha Huntington on the death of her mother in 1839 by telling her that not only would she know her mother again on the other side, but “more than that, you will meet and become acquainted with your eternal Mother, the wife of your Father in Heaven.” Susa went on to say that about this same time Eliza Snow “learned the same glorious truth from the same inspired lips” and was then moved to put this into verse. Since Huntington and Snow were close friends as well, it was a likely possibility that they spoke of this idea. David McKay recorded that during a buggy ride on which he accompanied Eliza Snow, he asked her if the Lord had revealed the Mother in Heaven doctrine to her. She replied, “I got my inspiration from the Prophets teachings[;] all that I was required to do was to use my Poetical gift and give that Eternal principal in Poetry.
–from: Wilcox, Linda P. “The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven.” Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism. 1992. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books.

End of Heavenly Mother piece

When we comprehend the character of God, we comprehend ourselves and know how to approach Him.

“If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink and sleep, and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, the beast comprehends the same things. It eats, drinks, sleeps, and knows nothing more about God; yet it knows as much as we, unless we are able to comprehend by the inspiration of Almighty God. If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. I want to go back to the beginning, and so lift your minds into more lofty spheres and a more exalted understanding than what the human mind generally aspires to. –This is a pretty strong statement, especially towards those who don’t believe in God.
–Why do you think President Smith feels so strongly about this?

“If any man does not know God, and inquires what kind of a being He is,—if he will search diligently his own heart—if the declaration of Jesus and the apostles be true, he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle.
–This statement is a big one, reminding us that eternal life is the key to all Mormon doctrine.
–Do we sometimes take the idea of eternal life for granted?
–What does the concept of eternal life add to our daily lives?

“… Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, He begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to come to us.”
–how does this statement make you feel?
–what does it say about our relationship with God?

In the Godhead there are three separate and distinct personages.
Remember, I was struggling here!

Articles of Faith 1:1: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”
–why is our view of the Godhead an important aspect of the Gospel?

“That which is without body or parts is nothing. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones.”
–what do you think other churches and/or religions think of this statement?

The Godhead is in perfect unity, and God the Father presides.

“Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth. These personages … are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator.”
–I’ve been with other members of the Church and Young Women who get confused by this statement and others like it.
–How would you help clarify this statement, so people understand that the Godhead is made up 3 distinct personages?

“[It is] the province of the Father to preside as the Chief or President, Jesus as the Mediator, and the Holy Ghost as the Testator or Witness. The Son [has] a tabernacle and so [does] the Father, but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit without tabernacle.”
–an important quote, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it…any suggestions?

“The scripture says, ‘I and my Father are one’ [John 10:30], and again that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one, and these three agree in the same thing [see 1 John 5:7–8]. So did the Savior pray to the Father, ‘I pray not for the world, but for those whom ye gave me out of the world, that we might be one,’ or to say, be of one mind in the unity of the faith [see John 17:9, 11]. But everyone being a different or separate person, so are God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost separate persons, but they all agree in one or the selfsame thing.”
–another good quote…

Close with testimony.

 

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Lesson 24: Sharing the Gospel

Posted on December 15, 2007. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , |


Due to a combination of lack of time and my own feelings regarding missionary work, this lesson is getting posted pretty late. My apologies…

My comments are in italics, my questions are in bold, and President Kimball’s ideas from the manual are in regular font.

At our October stake conference, our stake president issued a challenge that we, as a stake, should convert enough people to create a new unit. So, in our ward, we’ve been discussing, praying, and fasting about how to do this.

I do believe that adding a new unit would be a great thing in our stake, especially when we loose another family to Mesa/Gilbert/Chandler because housing isn’t as cheap, the schools aren’t as good, and the people aren’t as young (I, of course, would argue that none of these are correct assessments of good ol’ Phoenix).

And, I think, “Wouldn’t it be great to go to Church with my non-member friends? If they got baptized, we could whisper in the back every Sunday at Church!”

Still, it’s hard for me to do missionary work for all the usual reasons and one more…how do I convert someone to the Church when I have so many of my own issues?

I think it’s like asking someone to join my family. We’re a crazy bunch, and I love them. But, whenever someone gets married into the family, I want to pull them aside and say, “Do you really know what you’re in for?” That’s how I feel when I see a potential convert.

What is hard for you about missionary work?

Sharing the gospel brings peace and joy into our own lives, enlarges our own hearts and souls in behalf of others, increases our own faith, strengthens our own relationship with the Lord, and increases our own understanding of gospel truths.4

The Lord has promised great blessings to us in proportion to how well we share the gospel. We will receive help from the other side of the veil as the spiritual miracles occur.

Have any of you experienced this?

The Lord has told us that our sins will be forgiven more readily as we bring souls unto Christ and remain steadfast in bearing testimony to the world, and surely every one of us is looking for additional help in being forgiven of our sins. (See D&C 84:61.)

Why do you think doing missionary work might help us be forgiven of our sins?

We must remember that God is our ally in this. He is our help. He will open the way, for he gave the commandment.6

What a thrilling thing it is, my dear brothers and sisters who are fellow members of the kingdom of God, to be entrusted by the Lord to serve as messengers of His word to our brothers and sisters who are not members of the Church. Let us assume for a moment that the roles were reversed—that you were not a member of the Church but that your present nonmember neighbor was a Latter-day Saint. Would you want him or her to share the gospel with you? Would you then rejoice in the new truths you had learned? Would your love and respect increase for your neighbor who had shared these truths with you? Of course, the answer to all of these questions would be: Yes!7

Since Stake Conference, I have been thinking and praying about how to meet this challenge. We have neighbors across the street, who are great people. I doubt they have any interest in the Church, but when we were asked to invite non-members to the Mesa Temple lights, I figured that was something I could do.

After letting the pamphlet with the map and times sit on my kitchen counter for a week, I took the kids and went over.

The husband jokingly said, “So, you waited a year before you started to bring over the pamphlets.”

The wife said she’d get back to me about a time that would work. She still hasn’t.

I’m still a little embarrassed.

We often talk about our best missionary experiences. I wonder if it’s helpful to hear about the ones where we fall flat on our faces. Before I did this, I thought rejection would feel bad, my neighbors would never talk to me again, my ward would think I let them down. Nothing like that happened, and ultimately, I’m happy that I got out of my comfort zone and tried.

Have you had a less-than-Ensign-worthy missionary experience?

I feel the Lord has placed, in a very natural way within our circles of friends and acquaintances, many persons who are ready to enter into his Church. We ask that you prayerfully identify those persons and then ask the Lord’s assistance in helping you introduce them to the gospel.11

How have you identified people who might be interested in the Gospel?

Righteous members, living the gospel by example, as well as by precept, are the Church’s best advertisement.14

Sometimes, I think, “Well, I’m doing missionary work by being a good example,” but really, all I’m doing is going about my day-to-day business.

Are there things we can actively do to be good examples? Missionary work includes loving and persistent fellowshipping of new converts and less-active members.

To the converts in our class, what did people do to fellowship you that you really appreciated?

Where there things that people said/did that you didn’t appreciate when you first became a member?

I am asking for missionaries who have been carefully indoctrinated and trained through the family and the organizations of the Church, and who come to the mission with a great desire. I am asking … that we train prospective missionaries much better, much earlier, much longer, so that each anticipates his mission with great joy.26

What can we do as parents and teachers to encourage children to go on missions? Should we encourage all children to go on missions?

We could use hundreds of couples, older people like some of you folks, whose families are reared, who have retired in their business, who are able to go … to teach the gospel. We could use hundreds of couples. You just go and talk to your bishop—that is all you need to do. Tell him, “We are ready to go, if you can use us.” I think you will probably get a call.34

Have any of you served missions since you have retired? Can you share your experiences?

 

There are lots of missionary opportunities for older members. Click this link to find some interesting places and types of missions.

Here are two pieces on LDS.org that I thought had good examples and ideas:
Christopher K. Bigelow’s “Making Member-Missionary Work Work

Elder Clayton M. Christensen and Christine Quinn Christensen’s “Seven Lessons on Sharing the Gospel”

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