Saturday, February 17, 2018

February Week 2 - Learning continued

books are gateway to knowledge
Opening: The Joy of Learning
Write on board "TIL"
- what does that mean?
- talk about some fascinating things from /r/TIL

Learning isn't all boring.  Granted, there are things you have to learn, but in many other cases, learning is a joy; learning gives you knowledge, power, insight, the ability to make wise decisions.

That One Class
We've all had that one class where we say, "how is this going to help me?"  For some, it is English; for others it is Math.  For me, it was Physical Science 101 at BYU.  Probably my worst grade at BYU, one of only 2 C's I got.  Sometimes, you just have to take it and do your best to get something out of it.

The Joy of Learning
For me, joy in learning comes from reading really interesting books
- Scriptures
- Meditations
- Inner Citadel
- Culture and Carnage
- Rough Stone Rolling

Ask students for examples of times when they've had to take "that one class".  How did they cope?  What did they do to make the best of it?

Ask students examples of times when they've experienced the joy of learning.  Why was it joyful?  What make it enjoyable?  How did it make them a better person?

fiber optic cables (how data moves)
The Process of Learning
Have students read "Seek Learning by Faith" (September 2007 Ensign) by Bednar.
- Students share 3 things they learn from the article

The Cycle of Learning by Faith
Assurance (hope) leads to action, which leads to evidence

As you look back on your life, what things have you now learned, but at the time you began to learn them, you had doubts?  For example, anyone who has learned to play an instrument - how did you feel the first time you played compared to how you feel now?

Assurance: you believe, you trust in the future - that there will be a way

Action: based on assurance and evidence, you act

Evidence: after you have acted, the outcome may or may not be what was expected.  But you are wiser and much closer to achieving what you have faith in.

Lectures on Faith
You can access the Lectures on Faith at

Read verses 10-11 in the 1st Lecture

10 If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action, in them; that without it, both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.

11 Were this class to go back and reflect upon the history of their lives, from the period of their first recollection, and ask themselves, what principle excited them to action, or what gave them energy and activity, in all their lawful avocations, callings and pursuits, what would be the answer? Would it not be that it was the assurance which we had of the existence of things which we had not seen, as yet?—Was it not the hope which you had, in consequence of your belief in the existence of unseen things, which stimulated you to action and exertion, in order to obtain them? Are you not dependent on your faith, or belief, for the acquisition of all knowledge, wisdom and intelligence? Would you exert yourselves to obtain wisdom and intelligence, unless you did believe that you could obtain them? Would you have ever sown if you had not believed that you would reap? Would you have ever planted if you had not believed that you would gather? Would you have ever asked unless you had believed that you would receive? Would you have ever sought unless you had believed that you would have found? Or would you have ever knocked unless you had believed that it would have been opened unto you? In a word, is there any thing that you would have done, either physical or mental, if you had not previously believed? Are not all your exertions, of every kind, dependent on your faith? Or may we not ask, what have you, or what do you possess, which you have not obtained by reason of your faith? Your food, your raiment, your lodgings, are they not all by reason of your faith? Reflect, and ask yourselves, if these things are not so. Turn your thoughts on your own minds, and see if faith is not the moving cause of all action in yourselves; and if the moving cause in you, is it not in all other intelligent beings?

To Act and not be Acted Upon
Read 2 Nephi 2:13-14

Learning by faith and from experience are two of the central features of the Father’s plan of happiness. The Savior preserved moral agency through the Atonement and made it possible for us to act and to learn by faith. Lucifer’s rebellion against the plan sought to destroy the agency of man, and his intent was that we as learners would only be acted upon.  In a sense, Lucifer wanted to do all the thinking for us.

Thoughts on Lucifers plan?

We are to be DOERS of the word, not simply HEARERS of the word

In everything you learn, you should ask yourself, "what will I do with this experience, lesson, knowledge?"

Story of Joseph Smith; verses 10 and 18
Joseph wasn't satisfied with just knowing, he wanted to DO; to ACT

Truly, one of the great challenges of mortality is to seek learning by faith. The Prophet Joseph Smith best summarizes the learning process and outcomes I am attempting to describe. In response to a request by the Twelve Apostles for instruction, Joseph taught, “The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.”

And on another occasion, the Prophet Joseph explained that “reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God.

The desire to learn
Bring in big stack of books; scriptures, etc.
Now, you have the information of the world at your finger tips; and what do we do? Play games?  or become agents?

Saturday, February 03, 2018

February Week 1 - Learning

A personal story about how I chose my career
In the Fall semester of 1994, I was talking to some friends in the Deseret Towers commons area and during the course of the conversation, I learned one of our friends was on a computer "emailing" her father.  I had to have someone explain it to me - what email was.  But once I knew what it was, I was fascinated with the idea.

In 1994, email was something rich kids had access to.  It was never anything I (an ordinary student) could use; let alone would my parents know what it was or how to use it.

I went on my mission in 1995, returned in 1997 and found the world had changed.  The Internet was all the rage and everyone had email!

I continued down my education track - I was going to be a high school math teacher and coach.  Then, when I started my semester-long teaching course, on my first day in a 9th grade high school class, I had this really fore-boding feeling and I felt trapped.  I immediately dropped the class and decided Business Management was the way to go.  I enrolled in the courses I needed to get into the Marriott School of Management and by the skin of my teeth I got into the school.

One of the first courses I had to take was Information Systems 201.  One of my assignments was to watch a documentary called "Triumph of the Nerds" (on YouTube).  It motivated me more than anything else to go into "computers" as a career.  And the rest is history - I graduated with a degree in Information Systems in 2000, landed a job in 2001 and have been in the IT world ever since.

Problem Solving and Learning
Lots of different examples here as part of an object lesson
- chess puzzle
- cross-word puzzle
- sudoku
- Samorost
- escape room
- tallest tower with spaghetti noodles, and marshmallows

Have students try to solve some puzzles, individually as well as in small groups.

The problem of life
Assume you are now on your own.  What do you do?
- will you serve a mission?
- who will you marry?
- what will my career be?

Elder and Sister Oaks have said, "Our quest for truth should be as broad as our life’s activities and as deep as our circumstances permit. A learned Latter-day Saint should seek to understand the important religious, physical, social, and political problems of the day. The more knowledge we have of heavenly laws and earthly things, the greater influence we can exert for good on those around us and the safer we will be from scurrilous and evil influences that may confuse and destroy us." (Learning and Latter-day Saints)

Adult life, in my opinion, is like leading a symphony.  You can't just lead the clarinets or just the brass section or any one group.  You must manage the entire orchestra.  If one area falters, it can and may impact other areas of your life.  You have to learn to manage all aspects of your life.

What do you need to learn in order to manage your whole life?
- list out aspects / responses from students
(financial management, raising kids, being loving and kind to others, being a good leader at work, school, family, church, how to cook and manage the household and yard)
- draw a spider web map to show imbalance and balance

Students share
what is your career going to be?
how is learning important in your life?
what do you plan to study in college?
if you don't know, how are you going to find out?

The job description (link)
POSITION: Mother, Mom, Mama

JOB DESCRIPTION: Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work, in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required -- including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties are also required; frequently, on very short notice.

RESPONSIBILITIES: The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5. Must be willing to bite your tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat -- in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices. Must always hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include, floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT AND PROMOTION: Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: None required, unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION: Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18, because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it, and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS: No health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered -- however, this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life, if you play your cards right.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

January Week 5 - Becoming a Disciple of Christ

The Yoke of Christ
- read Matthew 11:28-30
- what is a yoke?
- designed to carry burdens
- weight distributed between two animals
- more work done; efficiency
- can be custom fitted
- "you don't have to face life's burdens alone"

who would you rather be yoked with?  a big strong, battle-tested person or someone who lacks experience and who may flee at the thought of difficulties?

read and discuss the following:

D&C 76:107 - trod the wine press along, faced fierceness of God
Alma 7:11-12 - faced and overcame pain, afflictions and temptations of every kind

All that Jesus asks is that we learn of him; take upon us His name; keep his commandments.

This is ultimately the process we must pursue to become "perfected in him" (Moroni 10:32) and become his disciple.

Becoming a Disciple of Christ = Expanding our Capacity
- what is the definition of capacity?
(1) 'the maximum amount that something can contain'
(2) 'the ability or power to do, experience, or understand something'
(3) 'a specified role or position'

When Christ laid down his law - his commandments - for us to follow and then asked us to follow him, he did so with a love and charity that seeks to truly make us better than what we currently are.

C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

every week we learn; but are we translating that into action?
the true path of discipleship is in the doing.

Neal Maxwell said, "One mistake we can make during this mortal experience is to value knowledge apart from the other qualities to be developed in submissive discipleship. Knowledge—discovery, its preservation, its perpetuation—is very important. Yet, being knowledgeable while leaving undeveloped the virtues of love, mercy, meekness, and patience is not enough for full discipleship. Mere intellectual assent to a truth deprives us of the relevant, personal experiences that come from applying what we profess to believe. There were probably orientation briefings in the premortal world about how this mortal life would unfold for us, but the real experience is another thing!

Thus, while knowledge is clearly very important, standing alone it cannot save us. I worry sometimes that we get so busy discussing the doctrines in various Church classes that talking about them almost becomes a substitute for applying them. One cannot improve upon the sobering words of King Benjamin, who said, “Now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:10). Such is still the test. Deeds, not words—and becoming, not describing—are dominant in true discipleship." (Becoming a Disciple Ensign June 1996)

Discipleship is a daily battle
... requiring us to pick up the cross daily, and carrying it all day, at all times in all places.  It is no easy task.

At all sides, we have temptations and the tugs and pulls of friends and family and school and fame and ease and rest and pleasure.

Often we see people praise Jesus on Sunday, but will not worship him with their actions.  These too, we must forgive and have no ill-will toward.

Discipleship requires daily introspection.  Have I done any good in the world today?  Have I helped others?  Have I raised the hands that hang low?  Have I encouraged others?  Have I been temperate?  Have I been courageous?  Have I been just in my dealings with others?  Have I been wise in my actions?

Discipleship requires mindfulness; awareness; openness to correction; humility, understanding, charity, work, pain.

Discipleship requires the development of all the virtues, ensuring we are not swayed to either side (see Virtue Continuum).  I like this perspective because it fits so well with the "straight and narrow" path.  As Maxwell states, "The ravines on both sides of that narrow path are deep and dangerous. Moreover, until put off, the shifting, heavy, unsettling burden of the natural man tilts us and sways us. It is dangerous."

Suggestions and Conclusions
- do you know the commandments of Christ?
- when you know them, do you follow them?
- do you have a list of virtues to follow?
Integrity, Discernment, Love, Respect, Humility, Diligence, Temperance, Courage
- do you set aside time each day to review your progress?
- do you welcome feedback from others?

use a journal to track your progress.  my daily journal consists of writing about something for which i'm grateful, describing how my day would be great; an affirmation to help me focus on a virtue.  and then at the end of the day, i review my attitude and recognize what things I did well and where I could have done better.  I don't "criticize" myself, rather I provide counsel and advice for improvement.

Gospel Topics and Essays

Saturday, January 27, 2018

January Week 4 - Commandments of Christ

Write question on board: "what is it you value in life?
Answers might be:
- family
- $$$
- food
- atonement
- car
- education
- friends
- nature
- art
- sports
- scriptures
- books
- star wars battlefront (xbox)
- love
- happiness
- animals

Give students 10 minutes or so to look up the commandments of Christ.  Limit search to the New Testament.  Guide them to look in NT, or 3 Nephi 11/12, Exodus 20:1-17, etc.

Fill in on board, the commandments, starting with the two great commandments, the 10 and all others.  Note that through personal study, I found about 45 commandments.

Next, have a discussion about what do these commandments tell us what we should value in life?

They tell us we should value our relationship with God (fate, universe) and our neighbors.  Note, that neighbors are everyone.

Then revisit list the students made.  Ask what of those things on there, fall into the categories of things that last forever.  The things that last forever tend to align with the two great commandments, the rest of them will be indifferent and will be consumed by time and fire.

Discuss the notion that "now" is "eternity"

The one-takeaway I want them to learn is that they should love others - serve others - be kind to others - forgive others.  That is the sole purpose of the commandments of Christ.

The Two Great Commandments
Matthew 22:36-40
1. Love God with all your heart, soul and mind
2. Love they neighbor as thyself

All other commandments fall under these two great commandments.

The Ten Commandments
Exodus 20:1-17
1. Do not worship or put anything ahead of God
2. Do not make or worship idols
3. Do not take the name of God in vain
4. Keep the Sabbath day holy
5. Honor your father and mother
6. Do not commit murder
7. Do not commit adultery
8. Do not steal
9. Do not tell lies against anyone
10. Do not covet others' possessions

Other Commandments of Christ
1. Forgive others (Matt 6:12, Mark 11:25-26)
2. Be born again (John 3:7)
3. Abide in Christ and let him abide in you (John 15:4)
4. Let people see your good works (Matt 5:16)
5. End disputes quickly (Matt 5:25)
6. Repent, stop sinning (Matt 5:29-30)
7. Do not swear oaths at all (Matt 5:34-37)
8. Turn the other cheek (Matt 5:38-39)
9. Give what others ask of you, give more than is required (Matt 5:40-42)
10. Love your enemies (Matt 5:43-45)
11. Give to the poor to please God, not others (Matt 6:1)
12. Pray privately, simply - not to impress others (Matt 6:5-7)
13. Fast secretly, not for show (Matt 6:16)
14. Do all that you do to impress God (Matt 6:19-21)
15. Do not worry about material things (Matt 6:25-26)
16. Do not worry about the future (Matt 6:34)
17. Make God your highest priority (Matt 6:33)
18. Do not judge other people (Matt 7:1-2)
19. Do not give/share holy/sacred things to the dogs/swine (Matt 7:-6)
20. Ask God (Matt 7:7)
21. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless (Matt 25:34-36)
22. Follow the narrow path (Matt 7:13-14)
23. Beware of false prophets (Matt 7:15)
24. Love little children (Matt 18:10)
25. Resolve disputes in an orderly way (Matt 18:15-17)
26. Do not oppose other believers in Christ who are not in your group (Mark 9:38-40)
27. Have faith in God for everything (Mark 11:22-24)
28. Be like the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35)
29. Love others as I have loved you (John 15:12)
30. Partake of the sacrament (Luke 22: 19-20)
31. Care for each others' needs (John 13:14)
32. Be merciful (Luke 6:36)
33. Keep my commandments (John 14:15)

Gospel Topics and Essays
Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ Chose as Savior

January Week 3 - The Holy Ghost Helps You Learn

Definition and Mission of the Holy Ghost
Have class search scriptures (Topical Guide, Gospel Topics, Bible Dictionary) for a definition and mission of the Holy Ghost.

Some key scriptures:
John 14:15-27
John 16:5-15
- v. 7 "it is expedient for you that I [Jesus Christ] go away"  (prescribed)
Romans 8:1-17
- especially v. 13-17
Galatians 5:16-26
- fruits / feelings of vice & virtue

"counselor" - John 16:8
guides us, tells us to do the things of God; helps us pray - Romans 8

The Holy Ghost won't tell us to do anything contrary to the commandments or will of God.  We know when we are feeling the Holy Ghost by the good fruits (see Galatians).

Case Studies
Spend some time discussing various examples.
- Nephi & Laban
- President Monson and other promptings to visit people
- Mission experience to establish area in Belize (Kekchi speaking people)

Elder Scott
"Once I had an experience that caused me immense anxiety. It had nothing to do with disobedience or transgression but with a vitally important human relationship. For some time I poured my heart out in urgent prayer. Yet try as I might, I could find no solution, no settling of the powerful stirring within me. I pled for help from that Eternal Father I have come to know and trust completely. I could see no path that would provide the calm that is my blessing generally to enjoy. Sleep overcame me. When I awoke, I was totally at peace. Again I knelt in solemn prayer and asked, “Lord, how is it done?” In my heart, I knew the answer was His love and His concern for me. Such is the power of sincere prayer to a compassionate Father."

From the same talk:
"This guidance about prayer given to Oliver Cowdery can also aid you: “Behold, … you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

“… You must study it out in your mind; then … ask me if it be right, and if it is right … your bosom shall burn … ; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”8

Then the answer comes as a feeling with an accompanying conviction. The Savior defines two separate ways: “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost.”9

Answers to the mind and heart are messages from the Holy Ghost to our spirits. For me, response to the mind is very specific, like dictated words, while response to the heart is generalized, like a feeling to pray more.10

Then the Lord clarifies, “But if [what you propose] be not right you … shall have a stupor of thought.”11 That, for me, is an unsettling, discomforting feeling.

Oliver Cowdery was taught another way in which positive answers come: “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?”12 The feeling of peace is the most common confirming witness that I personally experience. When I have been very concerned about an important matter, struggling to resolve it without success, I continued those efforts in faith. Later, an all-pervading peace has come, settling my concerns, as He has promised.

Some misunderstandings about prayer can be clarified by realizing that the scriptures define principles for effective prayer, but they do not assure when a response will be given. Actually, He will reply in one of three ways. First, you can feel the peace, comfort, and assurance that confirm that your decision is right. Or second, you can sense that unsettled feeling, the stupor of thought, indicating that your choice is wrong. Or third—and this is the difficult one—you can feel no response.

What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. As you are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, one of two things will certainly occur at the appropriate time: either the stupor of thought will come, indicating an improper choice, or the peace or the burning in the bosom will be felt, confirming that your choice was correct. When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision."

Gospel Topics and Essays
Holy Ghost
Revelation at work: Race and the Priesthood

Other Links
Liquid Luck

Saturday, January 13, 2018

January Week 2 - The Hand of God in All Things

Reminder from last week ...
We talked about the God we worship and how the Universe is a machine for the making of Gods.  We didn't get a chance to watch a couple of videos that show God's handiwork as well as possibly what Moses saw.  The first video is about 6 minutes and the second one about 4 minutes.

A Personal Story About Journals
A while back, on a Tuesday morning, one of my kids was feeling a little blue and didn't want to go back to school. I sat down with them and talked about how life has it's ups and downs. We know the downs won't last long and they help us appreciate the ups and the good times. I had them to tell me their worries and then we talked a bit about how to deal with those worries (we developed a plan). They felt better. Then we decided to spend some time each night writing in our Stoic journals.

Our main focus is determining a few things.
1) What is it that I'm worried about?
2) Is it in my control or out of my control?
3) If it is in my control, I develop a plan to address it
4) If it is out of my control, then the one thing I still have control over is my attitude
5) I need to develop a plan to have a good attitude about the thing out of my control

Tell kids about our journals and how they are useful.

The Two Great Commandments
What are the two great commandments? (love God, love neighbor). Matthew 22:35-40

Relate how the love of God is extremely similar to the Stoic concept of the Discipline of Desire or loving your fate. We should love whatever God sends our way. We should observe blessings and trails and do our best to learn from them.

When we are grateful, we are observing the blessings God sends us.

When we truly love God and trust his will for us, we love the trails and challenges he sends us.

Trust in the will of God 1 John 5:14

Share how the hardest part for me to comprehend is how people can be so mean to other people … concentration camps. But remember how Viktor Frankl reacted.  It was out of his control, he loved the fate sent his way and he changed the attitude he had - even in that awful, horrible situation.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.  When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.

I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.

Challenges and trials can be seen as God "prescribing" something for us.  Much like a doctor might unmask an illness in us and she prescribes something for us to get better.  Sometimes, that "prescription" is not something enjoyable, but if we take it, we will be better and stronger.

"What does not kill you, makes you stronger."

Remembering is being mindful
Have them read the talk and then share what they learned from "O Remember, Remember"

Did God send you a message this week?
Did you see God's hand in your life this week?
How will be find ways to recognize and remember God's kindness?

Activity - have class write on chalkboard what they are thankful for.
Or give them time to write some thoughts down in a journal.

Related Gospel Topic Essays

Stoic Links
Discipline of Desire (Epictetus)
Discipline of Desire (Path of Prokopton)
Amor Fati (Full Scream)

Saturday, January 06, 2018

January Week 1 - The God You Worship

What in the world does oil exploration, production and refining have to do with why you need to learn about God?

Succinctly put, we humans are like raw oil, being created from raw materials, and thrown through a series of events and 'machines' which enhance and refine us until we be come the 'perfect end product' similar to the God we worship.

Today, we are going to talk about where we are going in this process.

Who God is and How do we come to know Him?
Joseph Smith said. “There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. The great majority of mankind do not comprehend anything, either that which is past, or that which is to come, as it respects their relationship to God. They do not know, neither do they understand the nature of that relationship; and consequently they know but little above the brute beast, or more than to eat, drink and sleep. This is all man knows about God or His existence, unless it is given by the inspiration of the Almighty.

“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.

“… The scriptures inform us that ‘This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ [John 17:3.]

“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.

“My first object is to find out the character of the only wise and true God, and what kind of a being He is. …

“God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make Himself visible,—I say, if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another. …

“… 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." (“Chapter 2: God the Eternal Father,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), 36–44)

An account of two men who came to know God
Read two accounts of how Moses and Korihor came to know there is a God
○ (Moses 1:1-11)
○ (Alma 30:37-52)
○ How do you know God exists?
○ Do you have any experiences to share?

Give class 10 minutes to come up with a list of attributes of God
○ List these on the board (tick marks for multiples)
○ They can use the Gospel Library or the Topical Guide or Bible Dictionary

Related Gospel Topic Essays
Becoming Like God
Mother in Heaven

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

December Week 2: The Second Coming / End Days

We Should Avoid 'End of Days' Hysteria
How many times and years has the "End of the World" been predicted?
About 50 times, going back to the year 500 AD
Second Coming Predictions (note the Thomas M√ľntzer item and cite Dan Carlin's jaw-dropping podcast about the Munster Rebellion called "Prophets of Doom" / listen here for free ... you'll need 4 hours to finish it!)

Statistically speaking, you have a better chance of seeing Christ after you die than you do seeing him come to earth again

When people pray for the 2nd Coming, what are they really saying?  Are they not simply saying "we've given up; it's so bad down here and we've screwed up so much, we need Jesus to come again and make things right."

It is a very "helpless" desire to pray for the Second Coming.  Rather, we should pray that we are prepared for our own death.  We should view this life, not in the context of the Second Coming, but rather in the context of meeting Christ (when we die).

Parable of the Ten Virgins
The Parable of the 10 Virgins is about the ability to be constant all the time.

Life is not about living the last 10 seconds or 10 minutes or 10 hours or 10 days in perfection; but rather it is about being ready (virtuous) all the time.

To put this idea in another way: which is better; to not live a virtuous life and then go through death-bed repentance or to strive to be better and live more virtuously all the time?

Is this not analogous to brushing your teeth?  Someone who thinks they can brush their teeth really, really good on Saturday night and think the dentist won't notice versus someone who constantly brushes their teeth well every day, three times a day.

The five foolish would have been ready had the bridegroom come on time.

The five wise were ready had the bridegroom come on time or had come late or had never come!

How did they know to prepare?

This was not their first wedding nor was it lost on them that the bridegroom might be late.

Is not the arrival of the bridegroom synonymous with death and meeting our maker?

And what is it that God wants of us?  Death-bed repentance?  Just-in-time virtue?  Or does he want us to by fundamentally different (better) than we were before we improved?

Is this life really just a onetime event in which case we have to "hold out" just long enough or does God want us to progress steadily and onward to perfection (perfection of virtues)?

Can We Become Perfect in One Lifetime?
We're about to go really deep here, perhaps into uncharted territory.

Thought experiment: you are immortal; you don't need to eat, your wounds heal, you never grow old.  What do you do?

Groundhog Day - a microcosm of what this life is about
Some might "eat, drink and be merry"  But to what end?  It won't make you content
Pursuit of money?
Pursuit of fame?
Pursuit of pleasure?
After all these failed pursuits, would you not try to escape this purgatory?

Phil, after chasing all of this, decides to shift his focus from himself to others; he pursues a life of virtue in making other people happy and he is no longer damned.

Alternatively, the same idea and concept, can be learned from the much more action-packed movie Edge of Tomorrow.

We are already immortal - today is eternity
Draw timeline on board and the dot that represents this life.    We tend to think eternity and immortality is after some designated dot on this timeline.  We might think life kinda sucks and if I can just slog through this, and 'pass the test' then I can be immortal and everything just goes my way; I become a God and get all the powers in the universe.  But on a line that is infinite, what does eternity really mean?  If you are here or here, you are still on the same line, in which case you are already immortal.  We are immortal beings who are going through multiple iterations to be a better person.  Death is just another event; another experience.

Given the above thought experiments, it is evident that no matter how many iterations or days or weeks or months or lives we've lived, the ultimate pursuit is constantcy in virtue.

And since we don't know when we will die, eternity is now.  The only time that really belongs to us is now.  The past and the future do not belong to us; we have no control over them.

And assuming we had an infinite amount of days to "get it right" why not use now to start on it?

Eternity is now.

This is where the thought "carpe diem" (Dead Poets Society) comes into play.  We must live life - live each day - as if it were our last.

"To perform each of life's actions as if it were the last" means to live the present instant with such intensity and such love that, in a sense, an entire lifetime is contained and completed within it.  Most people are not alive, because they do not live in the present, but are always outside themselves, alienated, and dragged backwards and forwards by the past and by the present.  They do not know that the present is the only point at which they are truly themselves and free." (The Inner Citadel Pierre Hadot p. 135)

A Machine for the Making of Gods
To summarize, we are not in this world simply to hold on a bit.  We are here to progress.  The only thing you should focus on is "how do I improve each passing moment?  How do I become better in this moment from the previous moment?" "This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39)

Interestingly enough, a gentleman by the name of Henri Bergson called the universe and this world a "machine for making Gods."

He says, "Men do not sufficiently realize that their future is in their own hands.  Theirs is the task of determining, first of all, whether they want to go on living or not.  Theirs is the responsibility then for deciding if they want to merely live, or intend to make just the extra effort required for fulfilling even on their refractory planet, the essential function of the universe, which is a machine for the making of Gods." (source)

To flip your paradigm from a life in pursuit of pleasure, ease, fame, excitement, adventure and things going your way, to a paradigm that the world and this life you live in it, is a machine that takes raw material and turns it into something more valuable - this paradigm shift will cause you to fundamentally view your life differently.  And to have that realization and to execute that change within you, takes a lifetime and more of present moments.  Decide now; take action now.

Friday, December 01, 2017

December Week 1: Leadership

Read D&C 121:34-46

34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.

39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

Dissect each verse one by one; write on chalk board

These are the principles that govern proper leadership.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

November Week 4: Making Your Own Decisions

Maybe bring chess board and challenge someone to play chess, talk about how I used to play chess with my dad and brother and how much I love chess.

Chess game - in November 2016, Magnus Carlsen played Sergey Karjakin for the world championship.  They played 12 games to a tie, then they played blitz games to determine the champion.  Carlsen won two blitz games and retained the crown.  Each game lasted between 3 to 4 hours and there were no take-backs.  Once a bad move has been made, there is no going back.

Chess is a game with an almost infinite amount of variations.  There are more possible chess variations than starts in the galaxy or even atoms in the universe.  See more info at Shannon Number (10 ^ 120 possible games); and that is a low estimate.

Compared to chess, we have far fewer decisions to make in life.  But just as in chess, there is only one direction: forward.  There are no "take-backs" in life.

D&C 58:27-29
As we read a couple of weeks ago, we do not have to be told what to do all the time.  We need to be "anxiously engaged in a good cause".  If we are told what to do and how to do it, all the time, then we could be considered a slothful (lazy) servant.

What decisions do you have to make?
- Daily decisions
- Weekly decisions
- Monthly decisions
- Yearly decisions

Is it a big deal to get a daily decision wrong?  What about a yearly decision?  A life decision?

Talk about an airplane, degrees and course corrections.

Example of Jeffry Holland's story of going on a trip and coming to a fork in the road. They didn't know.  They prayed and felt they should take a right.  They went about 500 yards and found it was a dead end.  The road to the left actually was the correct road.  Later on, his son asked why they felt that the "right" road was the incorrect choice.  Sometimes we have to just make a decision … and maybe in those cases, the risk truly is low or not as high as we think.  In the Holland example, what if, instead of a 500 yard mistake, it lead them out in the middle of nowhere and they ran out of gas?

The students have a blank canvas - they can head into any direction they want now … and really they will only impact their own life.  Compared to my life (~40 years old), I can't simply go change my career or lifestyle without impacting others.

What can you do now to help you make the best decision?

1) Be informed; gather information, understand consequences, determine if that is a path you want to go down.  Prayer is a good way to gather information.

2) Determine the risk.  Sometimes if the risk is low, then not much thought is required.  But if there is a lot of risk, then a lot of prep work needs to be done.

3) Constraints and A/B testing - a variant of Good, Better, Best.  Sometimes you want the best, but other times the best is not needed.  Sometimes there are constraints on our options.  Once you've determined if you need Good, Better or Best, how do you go about finding the best?
○ Buying a car
§ Do you want the best? (if no, then no need for A/B testing)
§ If yes, then how much are you willing to spend?
§ What is your constraint?

4) Sometimes, you truly have to "walk by faith" and "see what happens" regardless the risk.  In those cases, we simply do our best.

Lastly, some food for thought: Goals vs Systems

Personal example: career path.  Picking one certain assignment vs moving in a general direction with keeping options open (CSCoE vs Manager which could lead to interface assignment)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

November Week 1: Spiritual Self-reliance and Finding Answers to Gospel Questions


Read and discuss the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)

Read and discuss Moroni 10:3-5
- read, study
- remember the mercy of God
- ask God if something is not true
- ask with a sincere heart and real intent
- have faith in Christ

Read and discuss D&C 58:26-28
- God doesn't have to command you in all things
- If he does, then you're a slothful servant!
- be anxiously engaged in a good cause; do a lot on your own; be good
- we are our own agents; if you do good, you won't lose your reward

What is a testimony to you?  What does it mean to "have a testimony?"

The Planner Assignment

Story of moving into my Planning assignment at work.  In March 2015, I new nothing of financial planning at work.  I didn't know what terms such as first incurred or recovery or affiliate meant.  I sat in a week-long workshop with my new team and it was like I was in a foreign country - I had no clue what they were talking about.  When it came time to provide support for my customers, I simply had to trust my mentors when they told me what to do and what to say.  I was told it would take about six months before I really understood everything.  Up to that point, I just had to give it my best shot, ask lots of questions and learn as best I could.

Eventually, the six months passed and despite some mistakes, both major and minor, I was still in the assignment.  And sure enough, I pretty much understood everything.  It wasn't a perfect understanding, but I no longer needed to rely on my mentors for constant help.

Then all during the year 2017, I have been the mentor to others and have grasped the nuances of the assignment.  I know what things are important and what things aren't.  I know what needs to be changed and what should be kept.  In a sense, I'm a thought leader and considered a basic expert.

How does this story apply to the topic of gaining a testimony and spiritual self-reliance?

Be Sure You're on Solid Footing

Each one of us has to be able to answer for herself or himself, as to what they believe.  And you will need to defend that position or belief.  If you're not willing to defend your beliefs, then they really aren't your beliefs.

Personally speaking, the reason I love Helaman 5:12, is because it talks about a rock and building your foundation on a rock - on something that won't move out from beneath you.  One of the great tragedies of life is seeing someone committed to something, only to discover that what they had committed to really was not what they believed in.

I love the moral courage of Batman in Batman Begins.  Ras al Gul frees Bruce Wayne from prison and Bruce climbs to this sanctuary high in the mountains.  The League of Shadows trains Bruce and Bruce is committed to them.  As a final act of loyalty, they ask Bruce to behead a thief and murderer.  Bruce says he is not an executioner.  And at that moment, he has to decide on whether to keep to his own moral code or go along with the League of Shadows.  Obviously he decides to do what is right in his mind and escapes the League of Shadows.

Finding Answers to Your Gospel Questions

1 Nephi 15:2-11
- Laman & Lemuel had questions but did not put the work in to find answers

JSH 1:10-18
- JS had questions and went to God to ask

What questions did prophets and people in the scriptures have?
- Let them look and find other examples of how people got answers

What questions do people ask today?
- Write them on the board

What sources do we have to help us answer these questions?
- (links to
- parents, leaders
- general conference talks
- church publications

- google … is google a valid source?  What is google other than other people who have gone down the same path of questions and have shared their answers?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

October Week 4: Learning Attributes of Christ by Studying the Scriptures

What is an "attribute"?
- a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of someone or something.

When someone asks, "what are the attributes of Christ?" how would you respond?  (in the classical, philosophical sense, "attributes" could simply mean "virtues" ... such as wisdom, courage, justice temperance.

- faith
- virtue
- knowledge
- temperence
- patience
- brotherly kindness
- charity
- humility
- diligence

This list above comes from D&C 4:6

What other attributes, or virtues of Christ can you think of?

Where can we find scriptures, that demonstrate these qualities of Christ?

Spend time as a class looking up definitions of each of the above virtues and write them on the board.  Then give the class time to work together to find examples of Christ either teaching about one of these virtues or an example of him living it.  If they can't find one, then they can try to find an example in any part of the scriptures.  They can use any book in the New Testament (leverage search engines, topical guide, guide to scriptures, etc.).  They can also use Missionary Prep student manual (this link).

Demonstrate one or two ways to go about finding an example by using search engines, topical guide, study helps, etc.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

October Week 2: Parables

Describe a family home evening or other lesson, a sacrament meeting talk, or a conference talk you remember and explain why it was memorable.

What stories do you remember from a recent general conference talk?  What did you learn from the story? Why do they think the speaker chose to use a story to teach?

Stories and parables help us understand important concepts and principals.  Since the stories are unique or familiar, we can easily remember them.

I've told you before of the time my seminary teacher brought in a casket and put it in the front of the seminary room.  He asked us to imagine Christ was in the casket and that we were attending his funeral.  He helped us appreciate the sacrament more by making it more visible and in a sense the "shock-value" of seeing a casket in our seminary class helped us all to appreciate the sacrament a bit more.

The savior often taught his disciples with parables.  To understand parables and symbols in the scriptures, the we need to be able to recognize symbols, identify parts of the symbols, and interpret them. One way to recognize a symbol is to look for words such as like, likened, like unto, as, or as it were. Make a list of the parts of the symbol. Then to interpret the symbols, think about it and even refer to others how they have interpreted the parable. Do this whenever you find a parable or symbol in your personal gospel study.

What are the parables the Savior taught?  List them out and choose one or two to dissect.

About 25 Parables of the Savior (from Harmony of the Gospels)
- The Candle
- The Tares
- The Mustard Seed
- The Leaven
- The Treasure in a Field
- The Pearl of Great Price
- The Net
- The Householder
- The Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18:23-35)
- The Good Shepard (John 10:1-21)
- The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
- The Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)
- The Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
- The Wedding Feast (Luke 14:7-11)
- The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7)
- The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8)
- The Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt 20:1-16)
- The Pounds (Luke 19:11-27)
- The Two Sons (Matt 21:28-32)
- The Wicked Husbandmen
- The Wedding of a King's Son
- The Ten Virgins
- The Talents
- The Sheep and Goats

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August Week 2: Marriage

Pactical advice about marriage

This is one of those lessons to think about, put it in the back of your mind and return to it often.

Talk to your parents and get their opinions about marriage

- You want to get married
- You want to stay married

If you don't agree with those assumptions, then you can tune out / not listen.

Why marriages end in divorce
1. Financial problems
2. Communication issues
3. Family problems (children, in-laws, siblings)
4. Intimacy
5. Friend problems - faithfulness, committed to marriage
6. Addiction
7. Abuse
8. Personality
9. Expectations
10. Time

Hallmarks of a successful marriage
- Remember the central importance of your marriage
- Pray for its success
- Listen, empathy
- Avoid “ceaseless pinpricking.”
- Keep your courtship alive
- Be quick to say, “I’m sorry.”
- Learn to live within your means.
- Be a true partner in home and family responsibilities

Crucial conversations before you get married (while there is still time to back out)
1. Kids
  a. Do you want them?
  b. How they should be raised / disciplined
2. Money & careers
  a. Who will earn the money?
  b. What is your standard of living?
3. Religion
  a. Morals, values
  b. What if one of you changes?
4. How will you handle fights?  You will have fights :-)
5. Deal breakers and bucket lists
  a. Hobbies, habits
  b. Dreams, life goals

Review the the five suggestions from Hanging Out, Hooking Up, and Celestial Marriage

1. for all Cinderellas and Prince Charmings to throw away their glass slippers

2. don’t wait for others to carry your glass slipper about the campus looking for a match

3. to exercise faith and to have courage in dating and marriage

4. to keep physical intimacy at an appropriate level so as to enjoy the presence of the Spirit and to be worthy to seal your commitment to each other in the temple

5. to not only pray for yourself in a dating relationship but also to pray for the young man or woman in whom you are interested

Other links
Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments (also see Personal Purity)
Nurturing Marriage - the Carrs

Saturday, August 05, 2017

August Week 1: Personal Journal

- 1 Nephi 1:1-3 (Nephi starts his own journal)
- Alma 37:8-9 (journals help us remember)
- Moses 6:5, 45-46 (books of remembrances)

Why should you keep a journal?
- source of improvement
- better memory

What kinds of things can you write about in a journal?
- daily experiences
- major events
- feelings
- observations
- memorable stories
- important events
- goals
- specialized journals (scripture journal)
- picture journal
- videos
- letters from family and friends

Personal sharing
- my first journals (snowball fight w/ Christine)
- high school, BYU and mission journals, letters
(trip to San Diego, 1st day in Guatemala)
- Book of Mormon Inspection
- Instagram / Facebook
- FamilySearch (memory of Grandma Holladay)
- my Stoic journal on EverNote

Ask what they will do going forward.
How many keep journals now?
How can they improve journaling?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

July Week 5: Remember Christ

From last week: when you have a mint or something minty, what are you supposed to remember?

How to Always Remember Christ

Activity on trying to memorize something
- Simon
- Memory matching game

When we are baptized and take the sacrament, we promise to "always remember" Christ.  It's easier said than done.

Read Helaman 12:1-5
- in summary, we get lazy and forget

How do you go about trying to remember something?
- for a test
- a person's name
- what you need to buy at the store
- any list

Why do we forget?

What is it like dealing with a person who forgets things?

What must it be like for God when we forget him and his son?

How can we improve at always remembering Christ?

Here are 8 strategies for improving your ability to remember:
1. Become interested in what you're learning
     i. How can we become more interested in Christ? (write answers)
2. Find a way to leverage your visual memory
i. One trick for quickly memorizing new peoples' names is to associate their name with something visual.  For example, you meet someone at a party named Mike and he has large ears.  Mike -> microphone -> he cleans his ears with the microphone … weird but it works.
ii. Maybe you can find a way to remember Christ in various parts of your day.  Create a visual
3. Chunking; to memorize 467890, it's easier to remember 467 & 890, rather than six numbers.
i. How could this apply to remembering Christ?
4. Associate what you're trying to remember with something you already know
i. You can use mnemonics to remember something about Christ that will help you
5. Write out things, over and over again
i. Journaling, or sharing experiences (i.e. telling stories) will reinforce lessons
6. Summarize as you learn and as you try to remember
i. Leverage writing to simply summarize what you're trying to remember.  Have you had a powerful spiritual experience and you want to remember it to help you remember Christ?  Then summarize it and write it down.
7. Memorize in the afternoon

8. Get enough sleep

If there is enough time, divide the class into three groups and have them scan through one of the talks below for tips on remembering Christ and then have them share.

Always Remember Him by Gerrit Gong
That They do Always Remember Him by Claudio Costa
To Always Remember Him by Todd Christofferson

Friday, July 21, 2017

July Week 4: Making the Sacrament Meaningful

Opening Activity
What were you thinking about 15 minutes ago?

As discussed a couple of weeks ago, the purpose of ordinances is to see God and live - to enter His presence and remain there.  Furthermore, ordinances are symbolic and tied to duties.  When we participate in those symbolic rituals, we ought to think of what they stand for as well as what our duties are in connection to that ordinance.

The Sacrament Ordinance
Read Matthew 26:26-28

- What do you think of this re-enactment of the Last Supper?
- How does it differ from your experience in Sacrament Meeting?

The Last Supper was intimate and personal.  It seems to have been more like a quiet dinner party than a formal, solemn ordinance.

What do you think the disciples were thinking when Jesus began to wash their feet and feed them?

I think it would have been a bit awkward to have Jesus or anyone wash my feet.  But to have him break bread and share his wine with me, not so much.

A Service to Others, Who Desire to Serve Others (or Reciprocity)
Jesus served his disciples, by washing their feet and feeding them.  It was a an intimate act of service.  He would later bleed from every pore of his body, be beaten and whipped by soldiers, be forced to carry this cross he would be crucified on and he would later suffer and die.  He carried out the greatest act of service for his friends and for us.

In return, he asked that we love one another as he has loved us.

Two weeks ago, I was admitted to the hospital for an important heart procedure.  After the procedure was completed, my dear wife was there to greet me and then remained with me in the hospital while I recovered.  She helped me with a lot of things I could not do on my own.  This was just a minor example of how she did something uniquely special to me.  For this act of love, along with many other acts of love and kindness from her, I have this strong urge to return the favors and to serve her.

This desire to serve in return is backed by science.  In the world of persuasion science, this is called reciprocity.

An example (source):
Three groups of waiters were given different instructions.

The first group studied had waiters giving mints along with the check, making no mention of the mints themselves. This increased tips by around 3% against the control group.

The second group had waiters bring out two mints by hand, and they mentioned them to the table ("Would anyone like some mints before they leave?"). Tips increased by 14% against the control group.

The last group had waiters bring out the check first along with a few mints. A short time afterward, the waiter came back with another set of mints, and let customers know that they had brought out more mints, in case they wanted another.

This last test was where waiters saw a 21% increase in tips versus the control group.

At first glance, the last two groups seem very similar: two mints per-person were brought out, and the waiter mentioned them.

So, what was different?

The difference was personalization - making the service intimate or unique.

How does this apply to the Atonement and the Sacrament?  Since Jesus is not here to actually serve us, we are left to our own devices to make the Sacrament meaningful for us.  Often, to make the Sacrament personal, meditation and contemplation are required.  We cannot thoughtlessly approach the Sacrament and expect to get anything out of it.  Rather, we need to make an effort to be there in the same room as Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper; we need to visit the Garden of Gethsemane; we need to see Christ hang on the cross and bleed for us.

As we make it personal, we begin to have a desire to love Jesus and in turn, have greater love for others.

Ideas to Help Make the Sacrament More Personal
- examine thyself! (1 Corinthians 11:28)
how did you do in serving others in the prior week?
how have you improved at living a more virtuous life?
what will you do differently this next week?
consider keeping a journal to mark your progress each week

- think of Jesus' sacrifice during the Sacrament
listen to the hymn, read the words again
meditate and try to place yourself at the feet of Jesus
recite scripture (i.e. Mosiah 14)

- study the meaning of a broken heart and contrite spirit
read this blog post

Closing Activity
We started off the class with "what were you thinking about 15 minutes ago?" and we see your answers here on the board.  What will you think about next week when you partake of the Sacrament?

Saturday, July 01, 2017

July Week 1: Ordinances

What is the purpose of ordinances?

Quickly review the events in the Garden of Eden.  God created Adam and Eve, who were perfect in body and innocent in mind.  They were place in the garden, commanded to have children and commanded not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Satan came, and tempted them to eat the fruit; they ate and were cast out of the garden and more importantly, they left God's presence.  Ever since then, humans have been trying to get back to God to live with him.

Read Moses 1:1-24
Pay particular attention to verses, 5, 10-11

D&C 84:19-22
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.

20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.

The whole point of ordinances is to help us prepare to meet God and live in his presence.  Ordinances are symbolic and teach and remind us of our duties to God and others.  Each ordinance is tied to a duty - always a duty to God or a duty to others.  As we fulfill these duties, we prepare ourselves to meet and live with God again.

What are the ordinances?

Saving Ordinances
- Baptism
- Confirmation
- Melchizedek Priesthood ordination
- Temple endowment (washing/anointing, receiving tokens and signs)
- Marriage sealing

Other Ordinances
- Sacrament (memorial ordinance)
- Washing feet (for apostles; see this link)
- Naming and blessing of children
- Oil consecration
- Blessing sick


What is a symbol?

Think of song The Star Spangled Banner and how our flag should remind us of the sacrifices our fore-fathers made and when we see the stars, stripes, red, while and blue, we ought to think about them and be grateful for what we enjoy.

My ring is a symbol of my love and commitment to Jill.

Just this week, an author I enjoy reading, produced a little coin called a memento mori which is supposed to remind the person who carries it around, that they will die soon and they ought to treat each day as a gift.

Symbols represent something or an idea.  And when we see the symbol, we ought to remember whatever it is we are supposed to remember or we ought to do whatever it is we ought to do.

How we learn from ordinances

Divide class in half.  One half will focus on baptism and the other half on sacrament.

They will search and then share:
1. What does the ordinance symbolize
2. What does the ordinance teach
     - what should we remember
     - how should we act and live / fulfill our duties

They should be prepared to share a quote from the scriptures or from a talk.  They can use the chalkboard or anything else to help demonstrate the symbol and what it is we are supposed to remember or do when we see that symbol.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

June Week 4: Scripture Study

When I was a kid, around maybe age 10 or 11, on a Christmas Eve, my family watched a movie called Empire of the Sun, which was about a boy (played by Christian Bale - Batman) living in China and how he was separated from his parents in a panic while they were trying to flee the country ahead of the Imperial Japanese army.  This boy grew up in a prisoner camp without parents.  One of his fascinations was airplanes and in particular, the "Cadillac of the Sky" P-51 Mustang.  Toward the end of the movie, he is ecstatic about seeing a group of P-51's bomb the Japanese airfield next to the prisoner camp.  I still keep goosebumps watching that scene.  Ever since then, I've loved WWII airplanes.

Then a few years ago, the church produced a really neat video about a WWII P-51 pilot who was LDS and from Blackfoot, Idaho.  In that video he talked about how pilots will experience vertigo and how they have to rely on either a better pilot or their instrumentation to gauge where the sky and ground are; otherwise they would end up crashing in clouds or fog.  Life and scripture study are similar.  We need to have a proper sense of direction or we will find ourselves being misguided.

Scripture study is like our compass and flying gauges in life.  They tell us what to do and how to steer.  Therefore, it's important to equip yourself with the best process and tools in this important endeavor.

2 Nephi 2:32 - "feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do."

How do you rate your scripture reading / study today?

What can you do to improve your scripture study?

Why do you want to improve your scripture study?

What are you trying to get out of the scriptures?

Ideas and Tips for Improving Scripture Study

Learn to read mindfully - so many times, we treat reading like a check box; read 30 minutes, done.  Try to find a time to be awake when you read.  Approach reading with real intent.

Be diligent - set aside time to regularly study; make a habit out of it.  Turn it into a project.  And when one project is done, start a new one.

Find a quiet place where you won't be distracted.

Rephrase what you read - pretend you had to explain what you are reading, to another person or if you were asked to explain a passage to a class.  Would you be able to?  Could you "explain it to me like I was five?"

Use a dictionary / define words - if you don't know a word, don't assume a definition; look it up.

Use scripture study tools:
- Topical Guide
- Bible Dictionary
- Maps
- Scripture commentary
- For the Bible, use an NIV version

Ask yourself questions before studying - when you have a desire to search, you are more likely to learn

Make it personal - answers to your questions will make scripture study personal.  Also, substituting your name in the place of people in the scriptures helps make it more real.

Reality check - read with critical reasoning.  Lots of stuff from the OT and BoM and D&C should be viewed with a reality check (Nephi and Laban, section 132, etc).  Use the bulletin board or news headline test (if God told me to cut off some dude's head and I did, would that be OK?)  Therefore, use and apply the good, discard the crazy.

Use a journal / take note - very useful, especially when you are preparing a talk or trying to answer a question.  Journals and notes help you remember more easily and if you organize it well, they are very useful when you are in a hurry or need to prepare a talk or lesson.  Journals and notes help you "cover ground once" rather than trying to re-learn and re-hash the same content over and over again.

Look for lists.  Look for patterns.  Look for commands and the blessings from obeying those commands.

Use the audio version of the scriptures.

Read what others have studied; share what you have studied (blogs, social media, books, etc).  Use on-line resources.


Give students time to look at their scripture study habits and form a plan to improve.

Show students ways I've studied.

Walk students through an example of how they could study (pick a topic, or question and go down the rabbit hole)