Sunday, May 20, 2018

May Week 3 - Discerning Truth from Error and the Pure Doctrine of Christ

Truth vs Error ... Pure Water vs Fake Water
Prepare 5-6 cups of water (1 with chlorine in it, 1 with salt, 1 with sugar, 1 from the tap, 1 from a purified water bottle)

Bring the class in the kitchen, explain the situation and then ask for a volunteer to see if they can find the pure water.

Talk about what the person did to test the water before they tried it.

How is this like trying to discern truth from error and the pure doctrine of Christ?

N. Eldon Tanner once said, "Freedom is based on truth, and no man is completely free as long as any part of his belief is based on error, for the chains of error bind his mind. This is why it is so important for us to learn all the truth we can from all the sources we can." (source)

The Woman at the Well - Living Water
Next, take the class down the hallway to the Woman at the Well painting.

Ask them if they know what this picture is.

Tell the story (John 4); the purpose of this is to state that Christ could give her living water - water that never ends; that keeps on providing forever.

13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

What is this synonymous with?

If you were given a pill that gave you the capacity to discern truth from error forever, would you take it?  I think the answer is yes!  This is essentially what Christ told the woman - that endless truth could be found by listening to his teachings.  And what were his two greatest teachings?

1. Love God
2. Love neighbor

Some Absolute Truths vs Nots (Plus some Indifferents)
If you agree with the statement, thumps up; if not, thumbs down.  If it doesn't matter, make a flat hand.

Having self-discipline is good.
Being courageous is good.
Black kittens are good.
Having lots of money is good.
Volcanoes are bad.
Lying is good.
Helping others is bad.
Love is good.
Money is good.
Integrity is good.
Being famous is good.
Humility is good.
Perfect health is good.

What matters in this life is accepting what God sends our way - be it disease, poverty, a flood, wealth, health, certain people (i.e. choosing to accept our fate and be in harmony with it) AND

Helping others with a focus on developing virtue within us and instilling it within others.

That is 'living water' - water that will bring you contentment and peace.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

May Week 2 - Mothers Day

 My grandmother, on my Mom's side was the only grandma I knew.  Her name was Velda.  It may be an odd sounding name at first, but I love her name!  I can still hear her voice, "Hello Don!" as I walked through her back door and up the 5 or 6 steps and into the kitchen.  The carpet was a 70's yellow and the pattern looked like slices of bread.  Grandma's house was so cool and chic.  She was a chic woman.  Her smile was the best!  And she laughed so much and so often!

I was lucky to have my grandma live just two blocks away.  There were very, very few Sundays when we did not go over to her house.  Her cooking was simply the best.  She used real butter.  She taught me how to eat and love grits, pickled beets and rhubarb.  She tried to teach me how to drink buttermilk, but I could never develop a taste for it.  Her roast beef was delectable!

She worked so hard.  In my teenage years, I would help them mow the lawn and care for the bushes and rose garden.  While my grandpa and I did the lawn, she washed the sheets and hung them outside to dry.  I don't know of anyone today who hangs their sheets to dry.  But in Oregon, you could and the smell of air-dried sheets is unforgettable.

She loved to talk and was always interested in hearing how things were going at school and play.  She never pretended to listen - she was always interested and listened so lovingly.

It was such a sad day for me, when I received the call from my sister and mom and my grandma died.  It was over Labor Day weekend in 2004.  What a lovely woman!

My mother inherited all the wonderful qualities of my grandmother.  Mom was a fantastic cook, worker, talker and listener.  My absolute fondest memories of my Mom are when she and I would talk for hours.  We'd talk politics, religion, world events, scriptures and things around the town.  She was a seminary teacher and so she knew how to get discussion going.  I learned so much and got so much deep insight from my Mom.

She sacrificed a lot for me.  It was she who had to get up at 2:00am to pick me up at school after arriving home from a very long and late bus drive for basketball.  And it was bitter cold at 2am in the winters in Oregon.  Being the last child, and with the school so close to home, I would drive home for lunch often.  She always had a sandwich and some chips and some Oreo's ready for me!  My cousin would sometimes ask if we had Cheetos and if we did, he would want to come along too.  So when we turned the corner at the top of the street, Mom would see if there were one or two heads in my truck and then quickly make sandwiches!

She was primary president when I was an 11-year "Blazer".  I remember this one primary event she organized for Halloween.  It was this type of carnival, with lots of games and treats in the gym.  The carnival was in the afternoon on a Saturday.  She bought bottles of Orange Crush for all the primary kids - it was such a treat!  She had a few extra leftover and I remember getting to drink another bottle that night, while we sat by the fire and watched an NBA game on TBS.

We still talk quite often these days.  I usually call her and my dad on a Thursday afternoon while driving home from work.  She is always so happy to hear from me; I'm sure its the same way with the rest of siblings too!  She is a wonderful Mom!

Saturday, May 05, 2018

May Week 1 - Gaining a Testimony

The Context of Religion

Write the world's population number at the top of the board.  Next have them find the number of members in each of the major world religions.  Next, break down the Christian religions and then break down the Mormon religions by the numbers (list off a few off-shoots both from the 1800's as well as the 1900's).

The moneyball stat is that Mormonism represents about 0.2% of the world's current population and about 0.7% of the world's Christian population.

Write on the board the word TESTIMONY.

Let the numbers sink in a bit to let them see the odds of finding the one true religion on earth as well as what it means in terms of converting the world to Mormonism.

99.78% of the world doesn't not believe in Mormonism!  Truly astronomical odds!

As of  May 2017, the number are roughly as follows:
2.2B Christianity
1.6B Islam
1.1B Agnostic, Atheist, Secular
1.0B Hindu
1.0B Chinese Folk
0.5B Buddhism

1.2B Catholic
0.8B Protestant
0.3B Eastern Orthodox
0.05B Restorationism (0.016B Mormonism)

When we say "Testimony" what do we really mean?  Also, what do we do with people who have "come to know" their religion is the one true religion?  (see this video)  In a sense, when we say testimony, we may mean broad, widely acceptable principles and we may mean something unique about our own religion.

Maybe show a venn diagram of some 'common' commandments and beliefs along with unique commandments and beliefs to certain religions.

Gaining a Testimony

Matthew 4 - Christ fasts in the wilderness for 40 days and nights and is tempted of the devil.

Matthew 14:22-33 - Peter testifies of Jesus, sees Christ walk on water, Peter himself walks on water, doubts and Jesus saves him (O ye of little faith) and Peter reaffirms his testimony of Christ.

Matthew 26:33-35, 69-75 - Peter says he'll never deny Christ, Jesus says Peter will deny him three times before the morning.  Peter denies him three times and weeps bitterly.

Despite seeing and knowing and feeling the savior, Peter struggled mightily to gain a testimony of the Gospel.  And with all that in mind, after the savior was resurrected, Peter went back to fishing.  And along comes Jesus and the well known interchange of Jesus asking Peter if he (Peter) loves fish more than Jesus.  To which Peter responds he loves the Lord, then Christ says 'feed my sheep' ... this repeats three times.  Finally, Peter turns away from fishing and bares his testimony by showing it.

This is a good video that helps drive home the moment Peter finally grasps what Jesus has been trying to teach him all along: Elder Holland: Peter, Do You Love Me? The First and Great Commandment

And one other point - if Peter struggled so much to gain a testimony, how much harder is it for us!  Nevertheless, the challenge is worth it.

It's all about the Two Great Commandments

In summary, we gain a testimony in serving and loving others.

A testimony is not found at the pulpit on Sunday, rather it is found in serving, lifting the hands that hang low, weeping with those who weep, going the extra mile, and turning the other cheek.

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but life and judgement day and gaining a testimony and religion and all that is simply about the Two Great Commandments and nothing else truly matters.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

April Week 4 - Recognizing Truth

The Importance of Compasses and Reliable Instruments

Play a couple of guessing games with a "standard" and then the right "standard":
1. How much does it weigh?
2. How long is it?

Is it important to have reliable instruments when building a house? cooking?  flying?

Then what about living your life and people telling you how to live it?

You are ultimately responsible for how you live your life

While you may receive guidance from your parents, your teachers, your friends, the prophets and any number of people and voices in the world today, at the end of it all, it is up to you to decide.

My goal today, is drive this single point home: You (each of us) wholly own our thoughts and actions.  As such, each of us has to take that responsibility seriously.  At the end of the day (or this life) we can't say, "my parents made me do it" or "I was just trying to follow my leaders."

Nuremburg Trials
After WWII, the Allies put many of the Nazi leaders and industrialists on trial for their war crimes.  Many tried to use the defense, "I was only following orders."  But in many cases, that defense was not successful, because the crimes they committed were so egregious - essentially the Allies were saying "you should have known better as a human being."  The Wikipedia page on "Superior orders" does a good job explaining this.

Mark Hofmann, the Prophet and Forgeries
Everyone can be deceived; which is why it is so important for each of us to really check our assumptions and underlying philosophy.  We simply cannot outsource our personal philosophy or religion.

As primary kids, we sang the song "Follow The Prophet"; the chorus goes:
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; don’t go astray.
Follow the prophet, follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet; he knows the way.

Each of the verses talks about how people regretted not following the prophet.  Unfortunately, "the knife cuts both ways."  There have been times when people did follow the prophet and regretted it.

It is wise to remember we all, including prophets, are fallible and subject to deception.  Again, this underscores the fact that we need to be responsible for our own beliefs and philosophy - we can't just delegate this responsibility to others.

Case in point is a man by the name of Mark Hofmann and how he deceived many of the leaders of the LDS church.  It all started, if you recall, when Joseph Smith and Martin Harris attempted to get a professor to vouch for the reformed Egyptian characters.  The professor's name was Charles Anthon.  Martin Harris took a paper with some of the Egyptian characters on it and asked Anthon if they were legitimate.  Supposedly Anthon said they were, and he signed a document stating as such.  But upon further inquiry, Harris told him all about how Joseph found and translated the Gold Plates, at which point, Anthon asked back for the paper and ripped it up.  What became of the paper that had the Egyptian characters is up for debate.  No one really knows if it still exists today or not; it is called the Anthon Transcript.  Under this cover, Mark Hofmann created a forgery and claimed it was the real transcript.  He took it to Church leaders, who evaluated it, were deceived by the excellent forgery, and then proceeded to purchase the forgery for $20,000.  Thus began Mark Hoffman's career in forging Church History artifacts.

He continued to create forgeries and the Church continued to collaborate with him and purchase them.  Hofmann was secretly trying to make the leaders look bad.  He created what was called the Salamander Letter, which basically tried to make it sound like the angel Moroni did not visit Joseph Smith, but instead a spirit in the form of a white salamander, appeared to Joseph at the time of him obtaining the gold plates.  The Church bought this letter, which caused many members to stop believing in Joseph as a prophet.  Many top Church leaders, including President Oaks, defended the forgery.  What is even more fascinating is that two avid critics of the Church (Jerald and Sandra Tanner) readily criticized the forged letter, saying it was fake, despite the Church saying it was real.  At this point in the story, you may begin to feel a bit of vertigo yourself.  Who can you trust?  Who is right?  Who is telling the truth?  And you'd be right and justified in asking those questions.

Eventually Hofmann was caught in his lies and, sadly, killed people who were catching on to his lies.  To this day, he sits in a Utah prison.

Who can you trust?  What measuring stick or instrument can you rely on?  What is constant and unchangeable and undeviating?  That is the real question we must all try to find.

What is the 'measuring stick' for life?

Again, each of you will need to decide what your moral compass is.  You may find that what you think is right, is actually not.  You may find that after going down a path - a way of life - you conclude it was not right for you.  Many claim to know what the correct philosophy is, but it is interesting that on some points they agree and on some points they disagree.

For me, personally, I think it all boils down to the two great commandments:
1. Love God with your whole heart
2. Love others

If we do well in those two commandments, we can comfortably stand before God at judgement day, and honestly say we've lived those two commandments, then that is the best we can do.

Focus on finding contentment and happiness in things you can control.  Accept the things that are not in your control.  After repeated practice, you will begin to find that virtues such as self-discipline, courage, justice and wisdom are indeed in your control and are also the attributes, which if you develop, will bring you contentment in your life.  Other things that may worry you, such as pursuing money or lucrative career, seeking a life of ease and pleasure, indulging in excess, selfishness, dishonesty, fear, anxiety or general worry - these things are not important and are generally out of your control - so why set your heart on them?

Heart Failure

Why would our hearts fail us?  Read this post to find out.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

April Week 3 - Apostasy & Restoration

How can I liken the events of the apostasy and restoration to my life?

What does the word Apostasy mean?

It is almost always used in a religious context

It means, "the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief"

But isn't it really just a fancy way of saying someone got new information or their convictions changed and they decided to do something different?

As a missionary, I asked many Catholics and Evangelicals to apostatize from their religious beliefs and convictions

What does the word Dogma mean?

"a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true"

Then read a Dr. Seuss book to the class: The Sneetches and The Zax

What were the convictions or beliefs of the Sneetches and Zax?
Did some change their mind?  Some Sneetches did, but the Zax did not.
Did any of it matter? (not really, in fact the whole thing is laughable and sad.  The one dude made a ton of money off of the ridiculousness of the Sneetches wanting to be "right", while the Zax - that is just sad.)

What is the relationship between Apostasy and Dr. Seuss?
What beliefs and dogmas did the Sneetches and Zax have?
Did the Sneetches apostatize?  Did the Zax?

At some point, you have to ask yourself if your beliefs and dogmas (or what you're being told to believe), really matters or not.  Then you have to decide: what really matters in this life?

Let's look at a few examples:

What are core beliefs of Islam?
- Belief in Allah as the one and only God
- Belief in angels
- Belief in holy books
- Belief in the prophets (Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus)
- Belief in Judgement Day
- Belief in Predestination

What are core beliefs of Judaism?
- God exists; is one and unique; and is incorporeal (no body); is eternal
- Pray to God and no other
- Belief in the Prophets
- The Written Torah (first five books of Bible) - there is or will not be any other Torah
- God knows the thoughts and deeds of men
- God will reward the good and punish the wicked
- The Messiah will come
- The dead will be resurrected

What are the core beliefs of Christianity?
- Belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of Go and the Holy Spirit
- The death, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension of Christ
- The holiness of the Church and the communion of saints
- Christ's second coming, the Day of Judgement and salvation of the faithful

Even within Christianity; there is a fundamental dispute about the nature of God, along with other topics.

So you have to ask yourself a few questions:
1. Does belief in a dogma matter?
a. Some people think it is all spaghetti (see CotFSM)
b. Some become agnostic or atheist
c. For others, it is important to belief in a dogma
2. If so, then you are faced with a decision about which one?
3. Are they all correct?  Are they all incorrect?  Is there just one that is endorsed by God?  Or are there two, three?

What does Apostasy mean in the Mormon context?
After Christianity was established, Mormons believe the power, beliefs and traditions of the Apostles were lost.  Catholics believe it was never lost - power went to Peter and down through the Popes.

All through the time of the Apostles and down through the many hundreds and thousands of years, it was just the Catholic church with a few deviations.

Watch this 26 minute video, which I think, does a pretty good job explaining how we got here: … focus on the explanation.  Towards the end, he reveals his opinion and you can decide to agree or disagree.

Then a guy by the name of Martin Luther came along and protested against the Catholic church - thus started the Reformation as well as Protestant Religions.

As a side note, check out this mind-blowing podcast about Martin Luther and the Muster Rebellion ( /

The bigger new churches / denominations are:
Lutheran (i.e. Martin Luther)

Among this time with all the "new" churches established, a new wave spiritualism / revivalism began in upstate New York.  There was so much preaching and debating among the churches there, it was referred to as the Burned Over District (see the Wikipedia entry on this:

It was during this time that Joseph Smith had his own reckoning with religion and would soon introduce the Mormon version of the Restoration of the gospel via the translation of the Book of Mormon, the visitation from John the Baptist for the Aaronic Priesthood and Peter, James and John for the Melchizedek Priesthood.  And then temples, Masonic rituals and polygamy were introduced followed by multiple iterations of Mormon beliefs from the 1850s to the present day based on "continuing revelation."

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March Week 4 - Fasting

Isaiah 58 is one of the best passages on Fasting
Isaiah 58 (NIV Isaiah 58)
my commentary on Isaiah 58

What fasting does for us
Fasting is about breaking bondage.  Bondage from sin, bondage from oppression and injustice, bondage from hunger, bondage from homelessness, bondage from nakedness (see verses 6-7).

How does this apply to you?  Fasting can help with:
- trials
- school
- sports
- addictions
- self-discipline
- health

All of these are examples of a type of bondage we may suffer.

Besides the benefits of breaking bondages, we also receive blessings and benefits from fasting.  Light (knowledge) will enter your life, you will be physically healed, you will have greater righteousness (justice with others and wisdom for yourself), greater power and concern from God (better responses and response times from God) (see verses 8-9).

What blessing will you receive from fasting?
- greater knowledge (smarter)
- health and healing
- greater love for others
- wisdom
- power from God

What others have said of fasting
“When a person starts a fast, biochemical adjustments begin in the bloodstream to compensate for the lack of food. A carbohydrate substance known as glycogen is released from storage areas in the liver and the muscles. The body uses glycogen as food to keep cells supplied with energy. After 24 hours this food source is used up, and another source of energy is needed.

“Dr. Siegfried Heyden of Duke University’s Department of Community and Family Medicine says when this happens, the body starts looking for other energy sources. ‘The first thing happening after a 24-hour fast is the breakdown of fat cells. And these fat cells, when they break down, produce ketone bodies, as they are called. And these ketone bodies seem to have an effect on our psyche in that they make us no longer hungry.’” (source)

The human body spends a lot of energy digesting food.  When it does not have to spend time digesting food, it can dedicate energy to body repairs.  The body will search for dead cells, damaged tissues and other areas including fatty deposits and tumors and basically eat these 'bad' cells.

The mind becomes more self-aware and elevated.  For those who suffer depression or anxiety, fasting may help.  Time that would have been spent on preparing food, can now be spent in meditation or rest.  The Greek philosopher Plato said he fasted for greater physical and mental efficiency.

Mental power and focus increase during fasting.  Think of what happens to you after a large meal or Thanksgiving dinner.  You literally become dumb and sleepy, because your body is using all that energy to digesting all that extra food.  The opposite is true; your mind becomes more focused and sharper because all your energy is available since the body does not have to digest food.

Summary of benefits of fasting (source)
  • improved mental clarity; no more brain fog  
  • rapid, safe weight loss
  • balanced nervous system
  • increased energy
  • need less sleep
  • revitalized organs
  • improved skin
  • improved movement, agility
  • fuller, freer and deeper breathing
  • rejuvenated digestive system
  • restored acute sensitivity (taste) to food
  • increased confidence in our ability to have self-control
  • restored normal metabolic and cell oxygenation
  • detoxification of  things that cause disease (fat cells, plaques, mucus, tumors, stored up worries and emotions)

Friday, March 16, 2018

March Week 3 - Special Witnesses

What is an Apostle?
from the Bible Dictionary - "one sent forth"

D&C 27:12 - "especial witnesses of my name"
D&C 107:23 - "special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world"

President Hinckley said, "They must do all that they can to give comfort to those who mourn, to give strength to those who are weak, to give encouragement to those who falter, to befriend the friendless, to nurture the destitute, to bless the sick, to bear witness, not out of belief but out of a certain knowledge of the Son of God, their Friend and Master, whose servants they are" (Special Witnesses for Christ, April 1984)

Examples of Modern Day Apostles' Testimonies of Christ
give students 5-7 minutes to find examples of modern-day apostles' testimony of Christ.

Joseph Smith D&C 76:22-24
Bruce R. McConkie April 1984
David B. Haight October 1989
The Living Christ

Other Information about being Witnesses of Christ
In June 2015, Elder Oaks and church historian Richard Turley held a fireside for members in a Boise, Idaho area stake.  The topic of receiving a personal visit from Jesus Christ came up in the fireside.

"[Turley] Another claim we sometimes hear is that current apostles have no right to run the affairs of the church, since they do not meet the New Testament standard of apostles because they do not testify of having seen Christ."

"[Oaks] The first answer to this claim is that modern apostles are called to be witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world (D&C 107:23). This is not to witness of a personal manifestation. To witness of the name is to witness of the plan, the work, or mission, such as the atonement, and the authority or priesthood of the lord Jesus Christ, which an apostle who holds the keys is uniquely responsible to do.

"Of course apostles are also witnesses of Christ, just like all members of the church, who have the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is because the mission of the Holy Ghost is to witness of the Father and the Son.

"In addition, while some early apostles and other members of the church have had the sublime spiritual experience of seeing the Savior, and some have made a public record of this, in the circumstances of today we are counseled not to speak of our most sacred spiritual experiences. Otherwise, with modern technology that can broadcast something all over the world, a remark made in a sacred and private setting can be sent abroad in violation of our Savior's commandment not to cast our pearls before swine." (source link)

Saturday, March 03, 2018

March Week 1 - The Atonement of Christ

we are trying to get back ...
3rd AoF: We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel

Why do we need the Atonement?
  • Genesis 3 (God made Adam and Eve - innocent; ate the fruit and separated themselves from God; this created the rupture between humanity and God; the at-one-ment seeks to bring humanity and God together again)
  • Exodus 33:12-23 (We cannot see the face of God and live)
  • D&C 84:20-22 (Ordinances prepare us to see the face of God and live)
  • D&C 19:16-17 (if it weren't for the atonement, we would suffer as Christ did, for our sins)
  • 1 Nephi 10:20-21 (no unclean thing can dwell with God)
  • 3 Nephi 27:19 (no unclean thing can enter his kingdom)
How can sin be overcome?
  • Mosiah 3:7-11 (Christ atones (covers) our sins)
  • Genesis 3:21 ('innocent' animals sacrificed, for coats of skin; covered nakedness)
  • Leviticus 1:4-5 ('innocent' animal sacrifice to atone / cover our sins)
  • Isaiah 53 / Mosiah 14 (Christ is the perfect, innocent human sacrifice; 'with his stripes, we are healed')
  • Alma 34:15 (Mercy overpowers Justice)
What is the Law of Justice? (the Gap; the Divide)
What is the Law of Mercy? (the Bridge; the Connector)
What other scripture references can you find on the Atonement, that are not up here?

Other scriptures that teach of the Atonement
There are other scriptures that are symbolic of the Atonement
Abraham and Isaac - a similitude of God's sacrifice for us
Bible Dictionary
  • Atonement
  • Blood
  • Calvary
  • Crucifixion
  • Gethsemane
  • Golgotha
  • Redemption
  • Scapegoat

Next week we will discuss parables of the Atonement
Share story of the purchase of our first car; had the old Taurus, just started working, needed a reliable car to get to work. Bought the Galant, had a high interest rate (weeping when I got home); after a year of paying car payment, Jeff heard of interest rate, stepped in, paid it off and I paid him, saving lots of money.

After finding, discussing scriptures, read part of President Faust's talk: Focus on the story of the back-woods school / teacher

Assignment for next week "How can I use comparisons to teach others about the Atonement?"

Find 'parables' about the Atonement; from GC talks, from this lesson, books, etc

Gospel Essays
The Atonement
Peace and Violence among 19th-century Latter-day Saints (blood atonement)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

February Week 4 - Doctrine of Christ

Ask students what the Doctrine of Christ is.
Some might give answers that are 'close', but keep prodding them to get the correct answer

Hint: the answer in the scriptures is near the parable of the good Samaritan
- Love God
- Love neighbor
- Write these on the board

Read passage from
Joseph Smith confirmed the Savior’s central role in our doctrine in one definitive sentence:
“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."
  • What is an appendage? Draw a stick figure body on the board; what can you lose and still live? That is an appendage
  • That means, if we love God and our neighbor, that is all that truly matters; everything else is an appendage
Give the students 10 minutes to look up the commandments of Christ.

Each student then shares the reference, reads it; answers how it is related to the two great commandments; and how they are applying that commandment in their life

Give them hints of where to look: 3 Ne, Matt, Mark, Luke, John, Mosiah 13, Exodus 22?

I. The Universal Moral Law

A. The Law Of Love
"First, love God your Creator more than anything else. Then, love all other people the same as you love yourself."

B. The Ten Commandments
1. "Do not put anything ahead of God your Creator."
2. "Do not make or worship idols."
3. "Do not take the name of God in vain."
4. "Take one day of complete rest each week, in honor of God."
5. "Honor your father and your 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 other people's possessions."

C. The Golden Rule "Treat Others As You Would Like To Be Treated."

II. The Other Commandments Of Jesus
  4. "LET PEOPLE SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS." (Do not hide your light under a basket.)
  8. "DO NOT RETURN OFFENSE FOR OFFENSE." (Turn the other cheek.)
  19. "DO NOT JUDGE OTHER PEOPLE." (Judge not, lest ye be judged.)
  21. "ASK GOD FOR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO HAVE." (Seek, and ye shall find.)
  23. "FOLLOW THE NARROW PATH TO LIFE." (Enter by the narrow gate.)
  31. "BE LIKE THE GOOD SAMARITAN." (Go, and do likewise.)
  35. "BE MERCIFUL."
This lesson is very similar to the Commandments of Christ lesson.

Consider ending the lesson by watching Jean Valjean video(s) (see this post)

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.