Relief Society Lesson 6: The Fall of Adam and Eve

Posted on March 10, 2010. Filed under: Mormon Life, Relief Society Lessons | Tags: |

by mraynes

One of the things I truly love about Mormonism is our doctrine surrounding the fall of Adam and Eve. I would start my lesson by highlighting  our knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and how it allows us to see the beauty and love in a story that is vilified by so many others. (note: my thoughts and questions will appear in italics.)

Adam and Eve were the first to come to Earth

I  like the suggestion in the manual to use questions to start a discussion that will lead class members to the text of the scriptures. To get the class comfortable and involved, I would ask questions like:

  • Who were our first parents?

God prepared this earth as a home for His children. Adam and Eve were chosen to be the first people to live on the earth (see Moses 1:34; 4:26). Their part in our Father’s plan was to bring mortality into the world. They were to be the first parents. (See D&C 107:54–56.)

  • What do we know about them?

Adam and Eve were among our Father’s noblest children. In the spirit world Adam was called Michael the archangel (see D&C 27:11; Jude 1:9). He was chosen by our Heavenly Father to lead the righteous in the battle against Satan (see Revelation 12:7–9). Adam and Eve were foreordained to become our first parents. The Lord promised Adam great blessings: “I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever” (D&C 107:55).

Eve was “the mother of all living” (Moses 4:26). God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage because “it was not good that the man should be alone” (Moses 3:18; see also 1 Corinthians 11:11). She shared Adam’s responsibility and will also share his eternal blessings.

You might want to stress this last point. There is certainly a disparity between what we know about Adam and what we know about Eve but we have to assume that our first mother did many noble and great things, including opening up mortality for all of us, and will be blessed for those things in her own right.

  • What scriptural evidence helps us know that Adam and Eve were valiant spirits? (Abraham 3:22-23)
  • What can we learn from the examples of Eve and Adam?

The Garden of Eden

  • Under what conditions did Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden?

When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were not yet mortal. In this state, “they would have had no children” (2 Nephi 2:23). There was no death. They had physical life because their spirits were housed in physical bodies made from the dust of the earth (see Moses 6:59; Abraham 5:7). They had spiritual life because they were in the presence of God. They had not yet made a choice between good and evil.

  • What were the commandments God gave Adam and Eve?

God commanded them to have children. He said, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over … every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Moses 2:28). God told them they could freely eat of every tree in the garden except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of that tree God said, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Moses 3:17).

You might want to have a conversation with your class about why God would give two seemingly contradictory commandments. Direct the class to 2nd Nephi 2:22-24. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, “For reasons that have not been revealed, this transition, or “fall,” could not happen without a transgression—an exercise of moral agency amounting to a willful breaking of a law. This would be a planned offense, a formality to serve an eternal purpose.” I love that in Moses 4:6, we are told that Satan played right into God’s hand by beguiling Eve. This backs up what Lehi tells us, that all thing were done in the “wisdom of him who knoweth all things.”

I would also spend some time talking about Eve, especially if you are preparing this lesson for Relief Society. Many Christian religions have reviled Eve for her choice but through modern day revelation, we know that Eve made a righteous and noble choice. Have somebody read this quote from Dallin H. Oak’s talk, “The Great Plan of Happiness“:

“Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall. Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it. Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!”

I also love this quote by Sheri Dew:

“Eve set the pattern. In addition to bearing children, she mothered all of mankind when she made the most courageous decision any woman has ever made and with Adam opened the way for us to progress. She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness. Like the Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us.”

If time permits, you could share this beautiful poem by Mormon poet, Elizabeth Cranford.

Adam and Eve’s Separation from God

  • What physical and spiritual changes occurred in Adam and Eve as a result of their transgression?

Because Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the Lord sent them out of the Garden of Eden into the world. Their physical condition changed as a result of their eating the forbidden fruit. As God had promised, they became mortal. They and their children would experience sickness, pain, and physical death.

Because of their transgression, Adam and Eve also suffered spiritual death. This meant they and their children could not walk and talk face to face with God. Adam and Eve and their children were separated from God both physically and spiritually.

I don’t think you need to spend a lot of time in this section, briefly make the point that with mortality comes with all the ills of the human condition: pain, death and separation from God.

Great Blessings Resulted from Transgression

Some people believe Adam and Eve committed a serious sin when they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, latter-day scriptures help us understand that their Fall was a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to all of us. Because of the Fall, we are blessed with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life. None of these privileges would have been ours had Adam and Eve remained in the garden.

After the Fall, Eve said, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed [children], and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11).

  • How does the Fall provide opportunities for us to become like our Heavenly Father?
  • Why do you think it is important to know about the Fall and how it influences us?

I would end this lesson by testifying of the beauty of the Plan of Salvation. That by entering mortality, not only do we have the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Parents, we also have the ability to be like Them. The Fall provided each of us with the opportunity to have a physical body, to know good from evil and exercise our agency. But most importantly, our Heavenly Parents and our First Parents gave us the opportunity to experience joy. (2nd Nephi 2:25).

(Additional Resource: As a teacher, I like to have as much context as possible for the subject I am teaching. Yale University provides a wonderful service in that they make several courses available for viewing online. One of those courses is an introduction to the Old Testament taught by Dr. Christine Hayes. In sessions 3 and 4, Dr. Hayes covers in detail the story of Adam and Eve and provides context, insight and superior translations of scripture. I would highly recommend looking at them if you have time. You can view a recording of those classes or read a transcript here.)

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Relief Society Lesson 3: Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior

Posted on February 2, 2010. Filed under: Jesus, Pre-Existence, Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , |

By Kelly Ann (“Chapter 3: Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior,” Gospel Principles, (2009),13–16)

[I have written this lesson as I might present it.  I hope the various parts and links are helpful primers for other readers and teachers’ lessons.  Only the italicized text is taken from the manual]

“I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.”

I have always enjoyed the Book of Mormon passages like the above from 2 Nephi 33:6 that testify of Jesus Christ.  Having belted the words to Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam all through primary, I was surprised as a child the first time I was told that I was not a Christian by my best friend who was the daughter of a minister.  I remember quoting the first Article of Faith to her to prove that I was.  “We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in his son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”  I later found various scriptures to prove my point.  I always believed in Jesus Christ and found that in sharing that tenet with other Christian friends, who at times mocked my Mormonism, we found common ground (although I generally did not quote scripture ;-p].  I learned to love Jesus although my understanding of him changed over time.  I began to see the complex theological differences that some people use to differentiate Mormons from classic Christians.  However, I knew that I believed Christ was my Savior and always preferred the lessons like these that focused on understanding what that meant, rather than on other aspects or tangents of the gospel.  As I was preparing for my mission, I devoured two addresses

The Living Christ by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Jesus the Christ: Our Master and More by Elder Russell M. Nelson

that I will incorporate into this lesson/ discussion.

In the spirit of the Book of Mormon’s 2 Ne. 25:26 which reads “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, [and] we prophesy of Christ,” Elder Nelson testifies and teaches of “Jesus the Christ, Our Master and more.” He focuses on ten distinguishing attributes/ titles of Jesus Christ including Creator, Jehovah, Advocate with with the Father, Immanuel, Son of God, Anointed One, Savior and Redeemer, Judge, Exemplar, and Millenial Messiah with the caveat that “He (Christ) has numerous names, titles, and responsibilities, all of eternal significance.”

Therefore, I find it intriguing that the Gospel Principles manual introduces the Jesus Christ, usually known as our Savior, also as our Leader, focusing on the pre-existence and our need to choose to follow Jesus Christ to return to live with our Heavenly Father.

When the plan for our salvation was presented to us in the premortal spirit world, we were so happy that we shouted for joy (see Job 38:7).  We understood that we … would sin and some of us would lose our way … [and that] we needed a Savior to pay for our sins and teach us how to return to our Heavenly Father. Our Father said, “Whom shall I send?” (Abraham 3:27). …  Jesus was willing to come to the earth, give His life for us, and take upon Himself our sins. He, like our Heavenly Father, wanted us to choose whether we would obey Heavenly Father’s commandments …to prove ourselves worthy of exaltation. Jesus said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:2).  Satan, who was called Lucifer, also came, saying, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1). …Under his plan, we would not be allowed to choose. He would take away the freedom of choice that our Father had given us. Satan wanted to have all the honor for our salvation. Under his proposal, our purpose in coming to earth would have been frustrated (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay [2003], 207).  After hearing both sons speak, Heavenly Father said, “I will send the first” (Abraham 3:27).   When Jesus lived on earth, He taught: “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. … And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:38, 40).

• Points for discussion: What does it mean to you that Jesus Christ was chosen to be our Savior?  How does he lead us back to eternal life?  How does having a Leader who emulates the will of the Father help us? How do we choose to follow Christ? How does knowledge of the pre-existence help us understand the role of Jesus Christ?

Because our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior, Satan became angry and rebelled. There was war in heaven. Satan and his followers fought against Jesus Christ and His followers. The Savior’s followers “overcame [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11).  In this great rebellion, Satan and all the spirits who followed him were sent away from the presence of God and cast down from heaven. A third part of the hosts of heaven were punished for following Satan (see D&C 29:36). They were denied the right to receive mortal bodies.  Because we are here on earth and have mortal bodies, we know that we chose to follow Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. Satan and his followers are also on the earth, but as spirits. They have not forgotten who we are, and they are around us daily, tempting us and enticing us to do things that are not pleasing to our Heavenly Father. In our premortal life, we chose to follow Jesus Christ and accept God’s plan. We must continue to follow Jesus Christ here on earth. Only by following Him can we return to our heavenly home.

• Points for discussion: Why do you think so many spirits chose to follow Satan?  Does it motivate you to continue to follow Christ by knowing you already chose to follow him?  How does it feel to know that Satan has an army to dissuade us from following Christ?  How is the concept of the War in Heaven unique to Mormon Theology?

I am going to share a story from Gospel Principles Lesson 3 at Times and Seasons by Julie Smith [another great resource for lesson prep].

“”Story from Carlfred Broderick, a former stake president and professor of marriage and family therapy. There was an LDS family he knew who needed help with a wayward teen but they lived on the opposite side of the city, so he sent them to another therapist (who happened to be Jewish) who was a friend who he trusted:

“After only a couple of weeks, I got a call from my friend. ‘Carl, I need some help with this couple you referred to me.’ ‘What’s the problem? They probably just need to loosen up the parental iron fist a little.’ ‘That’s right. If they don’t, this kid is about to run away from home or attempt suicide or do something else drastic. But, Carl, every time I suggest any movement in the direction of loosening up, they patiently explain to me that I just don’t understand their religious obligation, as Mormon parents, to keep this kid in line. Frankly, I don’t know how to deal with this. I don’t want to attack their religious beliefs, but the situation is explosive.’ I thought a moment and then said, ‘Here’s what you do. First, tell them that during the time you have been working with them, you have developed a real curiosity about the Mormon religion. This will serve to get their attention. Then say that there is one issue that keeps coming up when you ask about it that has you mystified. You keep hearing about some ‘war in heaven,’ but you can never quite figure out what it is about.’ ‘That’s it? I just ask them to explain the ‘war in heaven’?’ ‘That’s it.’ ‘Carl, what’s the war in heaven?’ ‘It doesn’t matter; just do what I said and let me know how it goes.’ A few days later he called. ‘Carl, I can’t believe it. I did what you said, and it was like magic.’ ‘So tell me about the session.’ ‘Well, as you suggested, I told them that since I started working with them I had gotten sort of interested in the Mormon religion. You wouldn’t believe the response. Even the rebellious teenage kid promised to give me a copy of some book on the Church with the family picture in the front. Then I said there was just one thing that kind of confused me about their beliefs. . . . What was this war in heaven? Well, the mom didn’t as much as take a minute to collect her thoughts. In seconds she had launched into some story about a council in heaven and two plans and she gets about three minutes into it and she stops cold in her tracks and gives me a funny look and says, ‘All right, Doctor, you’ve made your point.’ From that moment on they were like putty in my hands. It was like magic.’ . . . Of course, there was no magic. This good LDS woman simply had the unnerving experience of explaining Satan’s plan to an ‘investigator’ and, in the midst of her explanation, recognizing it as substantially her own version of responsible Mormon parenting as she had outlined it to him the week before. She understood the gospel principle fully; she just had been blinded to its applicability to her everyday challenges as a parent.’” “”

• Points for discussion: Have you ever had a similar experience in which you needed to be unblended? How can you remember the big picture when life gets complicated?

In the Living Christ, The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared “As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth. He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.

• Points for discussion: How does the Christ’s example motivate you?  What can we learn from our attributes/ titles that Christ has [if time, discuss]?  Why do we need to first remember that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Leader?

I love being able to follow Jesus Christ.  Although I have declared my belief in him since I was little, I do not pretend to understand everything he did or to be a perfect follower/ believer.  As I said at the beginning and as witnessed through out, I can not be the same knowing that he is my Savior.  And so,

“I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.”

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Other Links of Interest that could be incorporated:

Conference Talks
Our Perfect Example by Elder Henry B. Eyring
None Were With Him by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Bloggernacle Articles

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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 1: Our Heavenly Father

Posted on January 5, 2010. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , , |

by EmilyCC

We’ve noticed that people have been a little nervous about starting this new manual, so I’ve put in more material here than is necessary.  Pick and choose what you find most helpful.

I think this it’s helpful to remember that these lessons aren’t designed to be a lecture but a discussion.  And, with a topic like God, this is particularly important because it would be pretty awful to hear one teacher pontificate on the nature of God for the full class period.  We all have different ways we experience God that are meaningful to each of us.  So, this lesson shouldn’t be one that lacks for people want to share their experiences.  (And, can I get a WOOT for the manual writers who have sections that use the word “God?”  I love a little gender-neutral language in my Church materials!) (more…)

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Relief Society Lessons: Preparing for the New Lesson Manuals

Posted on January 2, 2010. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , , , |

by EmilyCC

So…those new lessons in the Gospel Principles lesson manual.

Short and sweet, right?  🙂

We’ve had a few emails and comments from troubled Relief Society teachers who are worried about the new format.  Rest assured, Kelly Ann will be leading our bloggers as we continue to do lesson outlines (starting Tuesday, January 5th) and count on our faithful readers to chime in with their excellent suggestions.

This new lesson format appears to espouse what we at the Exponent have said since we began our lesson outlines…class should be a discussion, not a lecture.  While the lessons are much shorter than our old prophet manuals, there are some helpful discussion questions, which I think, are meant to encourage the students to teach the class as they share personal experiences and ideas about gospel topics at a fairly basic level. (more…)

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Relief Society Lesson 47: “Praise to the Man”: Latter-day Prophets Bear Witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith

Posted on December 9, 2009. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , |

by Kelly Ann  (Lesson from Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007),541–57)

Start by reading the following passage from the life of Joseph Smith.

Following the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, the members of the Quorum of the Twelve who had been on missionary journeys in the United States returned as quickly as possible to Nauvoo. The members of the Twelve called a meeting of the Saints for August 8, 1844, at which Brigham Young, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke. As he did so, an extraordinary event occurred that was witnessed by many Saints. President Young was miraculously made to appear and sound like Joseph Smith. “If Joseph had risen from the dead and again spoken in their hearing,” George Q. Cannon recalled, “the effect could not have been more startling than it was to many present at that meeting. It was the voice of Joseph himself; and not only was it the voice of Joseph which was heard; but it seemed in the eyes of the people as though it was the very person of Joseph which stood before them. A more wonderful and miraculous event than was wrought that day in the presence of that congregation we never heard of. The Lord gave His people a testimony that left no room for doubt as to who was the man He had chosen to lead them.”1 At the conclusion of this meeting, the Saints voted to have the Twelve preside over them. A little over three years later, in December 1847, the First Presidency was again organized, with Brigham Young sustained as the President of the Church.

How do you think the Saints felt at the passing of Joseph Smith?  Why do you think it was important for them to receive a witness that Brigham Young was to lead the church?  Many Saints reported the experience but do you think everyone really had the same powerful witness?  They obviously sustained the quorum at the end of the meeting but why did it take three years to sustain Brigham Young as the Prophet if “there was no room for doubt”?  How can we know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, that the various Presidents of the Church have all been called of God, and that the current President is a living Prophet?  Is it ok to question their mission and behavior? While some may doubt, do you think that all the Prophets receive strong witnesses of Joseph Smith’s mission in addition to their testimony of Christ?

Since the time of Brigham Young, each of the prophets who has presided over the Church has testified of the remarkable mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith was chosen in the Council in Heaven to be the great prophet and seer of the latter days. His mission was so important that it was foretold by ancient prophets, including the Old Testament prophet Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. Joseph of Egypt was himself a seer, and he prophesied at length about Joseph Smith:

“A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins. … And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation” (2 Nephi 3:6, 15; see also 2 Nephi 3:6–22).2

Joseph of Egypt and other ancient prophets prophesied of Joseph Smith and his mission.. As shown in this chapter, latter-day prophets have continued to emphasize the importance of Joseph Smith. Why do you think Joseph Smith has received such attention, both before his earthly ministry and after?  Do you think we can over-emphasize Joseph Smith?

Through Joseph Smith, the choice seer of the latter days, the doctrines and saving ordinances of the gospel were revealed, and the true Church of Jesus Christ was once again established on the earth. The testimonies of ancient and modern prophets join together to proclaim that Joseph Smith was the instrument through whom God restored the fulness of the gospel for the blessing of “the whole human family, from eternity to eternity.”4

What can we learn from the testimonies of the Latter-day Prophets?

1) Joseph Smith was foreordained to his prophetic calling.

President Joseph Fielding Smith: “Joseph Smith was chosen to stand at the head of the work of the Lord in the last days, and his work was assigned to him through the fore-knowledge of our Eternal Father in the eternities before he was born. He came in the spirit of Elias to prepare the way for the coming of our Lord. No prophet since the days of Adam, save, of course, our Redeemer, has been given a greater mission.”6

How does our understanding of Joseph Smith’s earthly mission change when we “view it in the light of eternity”?  How does recognizing God’s hand in his mission change our perception of his calling?  Does it make us more willing to except his imperfections?

2) Joseph Smith’s First Vision is a fundamental part of our individual testimonies.

President David O. McKay: “The appearing of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith is the foundation of this Church. Therein lies the secret of its strength and vitality. This is true, and I bear witness to it. That one revelation answers all the queries of science regarding God and His divine personality. Don’t you see what that means? What God is, is answered. His relation to His children is clear. His interest in humanity through authority delegated to man is apparent. The future of the work is assured. These and other glorious truths are clarified by that glorious First Vision.”11

President Ezra Taft Benson: “The First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith is bedrock theology to the Church. The adversary knows this and has attacked Joseph Smith’s credibility from the day he announced the visitation of the Father and the Son. … You should always bear testimony to the truth of the First Vision. Joseph Smith did see the Father and the Son. They conversed with him as he said they did. It is the most glorious event since the resurrection of our Lord. Any leader who, without reservation, cannot declare his testimony that God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith can never be a true leader, a true shepherd. If we do not accept this truth, … if we have not received a witness about this great revelation, we cannot inspire faith in those whom we lead.”12

What makes the First Vision “the greatest event that has ever occurred in the world since the resurrection of the Son of God”? How is the First Vision “the foundation of this Church” and “the secret of its strength and vitality”? What has helped you gain a testimony of the First Vision?  Do the exact details of the First Vision matter?  Is it ok to doubt aspects of the churches history?What message is really the fundamental part of our testimonies?

3) The Prophet Joseph Smith was taught by God and angels.

President Harold B. Lee: “Joseph Smith, the young man not schooled in the theologies of the day, not schooled in the high schools of learning of his day, … [was] one who could be submissive to the teachings and whisperings of the Spirit. Joseph Smith could not have established this Church. He could not have brought forth the work of the Lord, the Book of Mormon. They may scoff at the Prophet Joseph Smith as a man. They may question how this Church began, but here the thing stands as a monument—the Book of Mormon itself. Joseph, the man, could not have done this, but Joseph, actuated by the power of Almighty God, could and did perform the miraculous service of bringing forth the kingdom out of obscurity in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”17

President Howard W. Hunter: “We praise [Joseph Smith] for his capacity to commune not only with Jehovah but also with other personages of heaven. So many visited, gave keys, and tutored that ‘choice seer’ raised up in the latter days. … We praise Joseph Smith, too, for his diligence and capacity to translate and to receive hundreds of pages of revealed scripture. He was the revealing conduit. Through him, it has been estimated, more marvelous pages of scripture passed than through any other human in history.”19

President Joseph F. Smith declared, “God is responsible for the work accomplished by Joseph Smith—not Joseph Smith”). Why do you think this is an important point to make about Joseph Smith’s mission?  How can we be taught by God and Angels?  How can we be taught by the Spirit?  How can we remember that it is God’s hand that directs all things?

Of Joseph Smith, President John Taylor said, “I have never met a man so intelligent as he was”. However, President Taylor and other Presidents of the Church have pointed out that Joseph Smith did not have many opportunities for schooling. Why was the Prophet Joseph able to grow so much in his intelligence? Does this mean that he was perfect or that he always did the will of God? As we seek spiritual knowledge, how can we follow Joseph Smith’s example?

4) The Prophet Joseph Smith was called of God to open the final dispensation and restore the fulness of the gospel.

President Joseph F. Smith: “Whatever else the Prophet Joseph Smith may have done or may have been, we must not forget the fact that he was the man out of the millions of human beings that inhabited this earth at the time—the only man, that was called of God, by the voice of God Himself, to open up the dispensation of the Gospel to the world for the last time; and this is the great thing to bear in mind, that he was called of God to introduce the Gospel to the world, to restore the holy priesthood to the children of men, to organize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the world, and to restore all the ordinances of the Gospel, for the salvation not only of the living, but also of the dead, and he was called to this mission by God Himself. …

“… There have been other prophets, and great prophets, too, who have had angels minister to them, and others who have seen the finger of God, and who have been favored more or less; but where is the circumstance, and who is the man unto whom the Father and the Savior have appeared together in person, and declared themselves unto him? Where is that man? Nowhere that history records, except the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that while he was a youth. He was only a youth, comparatively in fact, when he was martyred, being only 38 years of age.

“… The Prophet Joseph Smith … communed with the Father and the Son and spoke with angels, and they visited him, and conferred blessings and gifts and keys of power upon him that were never before bestowed upon any human being other than the Son of God Himself. No man yet that ever lived upon the earth had all the keys of the Gospel and of the dispensations bestowed upon him as were bestowed upon the Prophet Joseph Smith in the temple at Kirtland when he was visited there by the Son of God, by Moses, and by Elias and Elijah, and when the heavens were opened unto him and he received the keys of power and authority by which he could lay the foundation of the work of God, broad and deep, to cover the earth with the knowledge of God, and with His power and glory.”22

6) The work of Joseph Smith blesses those who have lived on the earth, those who are now living, and those who will yet be born.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, speaking in Carthage, Illinois, on June 26, 1994, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s martyrdom: “The glorious work, begun by him who was killed at Carthage, has grown in a miraculous and wonderful way. … This marvelous work, which has sprung from the prophetic calling of the boy of Palmyra, has ‘come forth out of the wilderness of darkness,’ and is shining ‘forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners,’ as the Prophet prayed it would (D&C 109:73). …

“We pause in reverence here this evening. We reflect on the miracle of the life begun in the green hills of Vermont and ended here in the jail of Carthage. That life was not long. But the fruits of that life have been something almost beyond comprehension.

“This great cause of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been more precious than life itself to thousands upon thousands who have died in its service. Witnesses have gone into the world by the hundreds of thousands to bear testimony of Joseph Smith’s calling as a Prophet of God. The holy priesthood restored through him has fallen as a mantle upon uncounted numbers of men of integrity and virtue who have been clothed with this divine power. The Book of Mormon is going across the earth as another testament of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“To quote a truism uttered long ago and in different circumstances, ‘the blood of the martyrs has become the seed of the Church.’ The testimonies which were sealed here in these very precincts, on this ground where we meet tonight, that hot and sultry day 150 years ago, now nurture the faith of people around the world.”25

Joseph Smith restored many truths and ordinances.  How would our lifes be different if we hadn’t received them through the power of God?  How can show our gratitude to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for the truths that have been restored?  How can we better appreciate Joseph Smith as a prophet as well as the other leaders of the church?  Does recognizing their inspiration preclude us from recognizing their faults? How can we nurture our faith in them while at times doubting?   How can we bear testimony of their mission?  If we doubt or perhaps don’t believe or are troubled by things they do, how can we strengthen our testimonies of their mission?

Related Scriptures: 2 Nephi 3:6–1927:6–263 Nephi 21:9–11D&C 1:175:9–1021:1–6

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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#43: “He Was a Prophet of God”

Posted on October 6, 2009. Filed under: Belief, Relief Society Lessons, religion, spirituality, testimony | Tags: , , , |

by Alisa

Contemporaries of Joseph Smith Testify of His Prophetic Mission.

As an overview, this lesson is divided into four main sections that I’ve summarized below:

  1. Like his contemporaries, we too can have a testimony of Joseph Smith
  2. Joseph Smith was an example of developing a Christ-like character
  3. Joseph taught the Plan of Salvation with Clarity and Power
  4. We can treasure the words and live the principles Joseph Smith taught

My main objective is taken from the subtitle of the lesson, which is about Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission. The theme that I see woven throughout the different sections is the way that Joseph Smith was called to his mission, and the way he lived in accordance with that mission. As a lesson objective, you may want to encourage sisters to identify their key spiritual missions. Throughout the lesson, point out ways they can live to strengthen the missions to which they have been called.

Section 1:  Like his contemporaries, we too can have a testimony of Joseph Smith

This section talks about the personal mission of Joseph Smith. As an opening activity, you might start off talking about missions. There are of course full-time missions, but have the class think beyond that into the kind of missions that may coincide with our day-to-day lives. Ask the class to think about and discuss people in their lives who seem to have been called to a special mission. This might include people who have a gift of healing the sick, resolving difficult situations, or the ability to teach principles in clear and effective ways. 

This makes me think about a cousin of mine who has Down’s Syndrome, but seems charged with a mission of reminding us that there is energy and force around us that we cannot see with our physical eyes. Encourage the class to think especially about women whom they have observed, and the missions that they see in their lives. How did these people live their missions? How did they deal with setbacks and discouragement?  Do any of the sisters in the class feel that they have been given a special mission, even if for a period of time, in their lives? Tell sisters that this lesson is meant to help them think about their own missions in life, and to draw strength for those missions from the example of Joseph Smith.

As with many of the people we have known and observed in our lifetime, Joseph Smith was a man who was called to fulfill a divine mission:

Eliza R. Snow, the general president of the Relief Society from 1866 to 1887: “In the cause of truth and righteousness—in all that would benefit his fellow man, his integrity was as firm as the pillars of Heaven. He knew that God had called him to the work, and all the powers of earth and hell combined, failed either to deter or divert him from his purpose. With the help of God and his brethren, he laid the foundation of the greatest work ever established by man—a work extending not only to all the living, and to all the generations to come, but also to the dead.

“He boldly and bravely confronted the false traditions, superstitions, religions, bigotry and ignorance of the world—proved himself true to every heaven-revealed principle—true to his brethren and true to God, then sealed his testimony with his blood.”

Encourage sisters to think about their gifts and their missions. What might they follow from Joseph Smith’s life to help them live with conviction? Some answers may be along the lines that because he knew his true purpose, he was not afraid of the judgments and prejudices of the world. There was no need to be defensive, in fact knowing his divine mission allowed him to carry himself with grace and kindness before others.

Section 2: Joseph Smith was an example of developing a Christ-like character

Ask sisters to think about the qualities in Joseph Smith they admire as you read the following quote.

Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of the Church: “He was brimming over with the noblest and purest of human nature, which often gave vent in innocent amusements—in playing ball, in wrestling with his brothers and scuffling with them, and enjoying himself; he was not like a man with a stake run down his back, and with his face cast in a brazen mold that he could not smile, that he had no joy in his heart. Oh, he was full of joy; he was full of gladness; he was full of love, and of every other noble attribute that makes men great and good, and at the same time simple and innocent, so that he could descend to the lowest condition; and he had power, by the grace of God, to comprehend the purposes of the Almighty too. That was the character of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”

What I love about this quote is that it shows that there can be happiness, joy, and fun while living one’s mission. Even though Joseph Smith was called to such an important work, he took the opportunity to relax, play, and show his love toward his family and others. Doing these things didn’t detract from his mission, but gave him the strength he would need when times were rough. As sisters, we can often be very hard on ourselves, but in reality when we take care of ourselves, when we allow ourselves some time to recharge our stores, when we permit ourselves to feel and experience real joy that comes from recognizing we are human and can only do our best, we can be more profitable servants in a sustainable way.

Ask the sisters in your class what qualities they seek to share with Joseph Smith? How can they work to attain these characteristics?

Section 3: Joseph taught the Plan of Salvation with Clarity and Power

This might be a good section to ask sisters how they think Joseph Smith received his ability to speak with clarity and power. While this may have been a gift of the spirit, and we all have our different gifts, what can we do to receive more clarity and power in our convictions of Christ’s gospel and the missions we’ve been called to?

Section 4: We can treasure the words and live the principles Joseph Smith taught

Wilford Woodruff, reporting an April 6, 1837, sermon: “President Joseph Smith Jr. arose and addressed the congregation for the term of three hours, clothed with the power, spirit, and image of God. He unbosomed his mind and feelings in the house of his friends. He presented many things of vast importance to the minds of the elders of Israel. Oh, that they might be written upon our hearts as with an iron pen to remain forever that we might practice them in our lives [see Job 19:23–24]. That fountain of light, principle, and virtue that came forth out of the heart and mouth of the Prophet Joseph, whose soul like Enoch’s swelled wide as eternity—I say, such evidences presented in such a forcible manner ought to drive into oblivion every particle of unbelief and dubiety from the mind of the hearers, for such language, sentiment, principle, and spirit cannot flow from darkness. Joseph Smith Jr. is a prophet of God raised up for the deliverance of Israel as true as my heart now burns within me.”

I think one of the most impressive images from President Woodruff’s quote is the one taken from Job’s testimony of the Redeemer and the resurrection. Job wishes that he could have that testimony written on his heart with an iron pen. As a good closing discussion, you can ask sisters to share their own take-away from the lesson. Ask sisters what are some of the principles of the Restoration that they would like to write upon their hearts? After a few responses have been shared, remind them that there may be no right or wrong answers, but it could be something the Spirit calls upon them to attract more into their lives. It could even be something that could cue them into their divine mission, at least for the present.

Close with your own experience and testimony of the lesson material.

Additional Thoughts as You Prepare

A note to some of you who are struggling with the material/quotes in this lesson: It might be because of the overlap in Sunday School and Relief Society this year of Joseph Smith stories, but this lesson seemed remarkably similar to a few others I’ve recently participated in. When I first read through all of the quotes in the manual, I became a little overwhelmed by the full forcefulness of Joseph Smith’s countenance as described by his contemporaries, especially when compared to some of the lower-key leaders of the Church in my lifetime.

If you struggled with some of the quotes and messages as I did, you may be helped by this essay at Beliefnet, by Exponent’s emeritus blogger Linda. As you teach this lesson to some women who may feel like they don’t have or could never have the same gifts and power of Joseph Smith, which could be used to fuel a sense of hopelessness about their own spiritual abilities and missions, these quote from her essay might help to provide balance and serve as a reminder of the ends to which Joseph Smith lived:

[…T]he president and prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, said in April 1995:

This church does not belong to its President. Its head is the Lord Jesus Christ, whose name each of us has taken upon ourselves. We are all in this great endeavor together. We are here to assist our Father in His work and His glory, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as mine in my sphere. No calling in this church is small or of little consequence. To each of us in our respective responsibilities the Lord has said: “Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you: succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (Doctrine & Covenants 81:5)

[And from] Joseph Smith [in] the History of the Church:

The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.

Thank you, Brother Joseph.

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Relief Society Lesson 41: Becoming Saviors on Mount Zion

Posted on September 1, 2009. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: |

We’re thrilled to add ZD’s Vada to our list of Relief Society Lesson writers.  Looking for more online resources to teach your lessons?  Check out Kaimi’s excellent and comprehesive list.

by ZD’s Vada

It has been many years since I taught Relief Society.  Over the past few years I’ve rarely even managed to attend Relief Society (due a little to callings, but mostly to 3 small children).  Thus, I think I’m more nervous about this lesson than I’ve ever been about a Relief Society lesson.  (This might also be due to the fact that if in-person lessons are not very good, people will just forget them, whereas here the lesson will be stored and out there for all to see for the indefinite future.)  That said, I am extremely grateful for the chance to prepare this lesson, since I often don’t make the time to really study the lessons these days.  Hopefully the rest of you will get out of it at least a fraction of what I did.

Lesson 41: Becoming Saviors on Mount Zion

I would start this lesson by talking about some of the historical and cultural framework that were around when the Saints first started practicing baptisms for the dead in Nauvoo.

I’m not sure when Joseph Smith first introduced the idea of baptisms for the dead (the lesson doesn’t say), but the first baptisms by proxy were performed in 1840.  This was an extremely radical practice at the time (as it is in our time, as well).  “The practice was forbidden by the Catholic Church in the 4th century as an aberrant practice of heretical groups, and is not practiced in modern mainstream Christianity, whether Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant.” (from Wikipedia article at

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Relief Society Lesson 40: How Glorious Are Faithful, Just, and True Friends

Posted on August 11, 2009. Filed under: Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , |

“Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism.’ … It unites the human family with its happy influence.” –Joseph Smith

When I’m preparing a lesson, I like to begin with the end in mind: when the women leave class today, what will they have to take with them?

This is a great topic for discussion among adult women.  By the end of 40 minutes, I would hope to help generate . . . memories of acts of friendship that have been sustaining, a discussion of the spiritual and practical nature of friendship, and a renewed desire to reach toward others and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” (more…)

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