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.

Application

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)

Friday, May 26, 2017

May Week 4: Memorial Day

What is Memorial Day?

Why do we celebrate it?

Some of my favorite stories to remind us why we should pause and think on Memorial Day.

Apology to the Dead

Memorial Day 1945 was a somber time for most Americans, and 70 years later it still carries with it a special poignancy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been dead just over a month, and while the war in Europe had concluded, it was too early to begin celebrating victory over the Axis powers. The fighting in the Pacific, where the battle for Okinawa had begun in April and would last through most of June, was still taking a heavy toll.

President Harry Truman, who was working on a speech for the final session of the United Nations conference in San Francisco, marked the day by sending a wreath to Hyde Park for the grave of President Roosevelt and another to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

At Normandy, following a brief military ceremony, work continued on the cemetery above the beaches where Allied troops had landed on D-Day. The paths between the blocks of graves were still uncompleted, and much of the labor on the new cemetery was now being done by German prisoners of war.

Lucian Truscott Jr.
At the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery at Nettuno, Italy, Memorial Day was also an elegiac occasion. Lt. Gen. Lucian Truscott Jr., who had led the U. S. Sixth Corps through some of the heaviest fighting in Italy and now commanded the Fifth Army, gave a speech that is particularly relevant for today when the trauma of our long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to haunt so many vets.

No recording or transcript of Truscott's Memorial Day speech exists, even among his papers at the George C. Marshall Research Library in Virginia.

In Stars and Stripes, the military's newspaper, we have only excerpts of Truscott's remarks. "All over the world our soldiers sleep beneath the crosses," Stars and Stripes reported Truscott observing. "It is a challenge to us -- all allied nations-- to ensure that they do not and have not died in vain."
Missing from the Stars and Stripes story is what Truscott did in delivering his speech. For that account we are indebted to Bill Mauldin, best known for his World War II cartoons featuring the unshaven infantrymen, Willie and Joe. Mauldin was in the audience when Truscott spoke at Nettuno, and he never forgot the day.

"There were about twenty thousand American graves. Families hadn't started digging up the bodies and bringing them home," Mauldin recalled years later in his 1971 memoir, "The Brass Ring."
"Before the stand were spectator benches, with a number of camp chairs down front for VIPs, including several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"When Truscott spoke he turned away from the visitors and addressed himself to the corpses he had commanded here. It was the most moving gesture I ever saw. It came from a hard-boiled old man who was incapable of planned dramatics," Mauldin wrote.

"The general's remarks were brief and extemporaneous. He apologized to the dead men for their presence here. He said everybody tells leaders it is not their fault that men get killed in war, but that every leader knows in his heart this is not altogether true.

"He said he hoped anybody here through any mistake of his would forgive him, but he realized that was asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances. . . . he would not speak about the glorious dead because he didn't see much glory in getting killed if you were in your late teens or early twenties. He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out. He said he thought that was the least he could do."
Truscott's words echoed the reaction to the bitter fighting in Italy of others who had experienced it close up. "I had been feeling pretty much like a clay pigeon in a shooting gallery," Ernie Pyle, America's most widely read World War II correspondent, wrote after landing with American troops at Anzio.

But making Truscott different from Pyle and Mauldin, as well as everyone in attendance at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, was his belief that as a commander he bore a special responsibility for the dead lying before him in their fresh graves. He was unsure if apologizing to them was enough, but he could, he knew, guarantee that he would not romanticize their passing.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/23/opinions/mills-memorial-day-apology-to-the-dead

Memorial Day: A Time for Heroes

I leaned against an oak at the side of the road, wishing I were invisible, keeping my distance from my parents on their lawn chairs and my younger siblings scampering about.

I hoped none of my friends saw me there. God forbid they caught me waving one of the small American flags Mom bought at Ben Franklin for a dime. At 16, I was too old and definitely too cool for our small town's Memorial Day parade.

I ought to be at the lake, I brooded. But, no, the all-day festivities were mandatory in my family.
A high school band marched by, the girl in sequins missing her baton as it tumbled from the sky. Firemen blasted sirens in their polished red trucks. The uniforms on the troop of World War II veterans looked too snug on more than one member.

"Here comes Mema," my father shouted.

Five black convertibles lumbered down the boulevard. The mayor was in the first, handing out programs. I didn't need to look at one. I knew my uncle Bud's name was printed on it, as it had been every year since he was killed in Italy. Our family's war hero.

And I knew that perched on the backseat of one of the cars, waving and smiling, was Mema, my grandmother. She had a corsage on her lapel and a sign in gold embossed letters on the car door: "Gold Star Mother."

I hid behind the tree so I wouldn't have to meet her gaze. It wasn't because I didn't love her or appreciate her. She'd taught me how to sew, to call a strike in baseball. She made great cinnamon rolls, which we always ate after the parade.

What embarrassed me was all the attention she got for a son who had died 20 years earlier. With four other children and a dozen grandchildren, why linger over this one long-ago loss?

I peeked out from behind the oak just in time to see Mema wave and blow my family a kiss as the motorcade moved on. The purple ribbon on her hat fluttered in the breeze.

The rest of our Memorial Day ritual was equally scripted. No use trying to get out of it. I followed my family back to Mema's house, where there was the usual baseball game in the backyard and the same old reminiscing about Uncle Bud in the kitchen.

Helping myself to a cinnamon roll, I retreated to the living room and plopped down on an armchair.
There I found myself staring at the Army photo of Bud on the bookcase. The uncle I'd never known. I must have looked at him a thousand times—so proud in his crested cap and knotted tie. His uniform was decorated with military emblems that I could never decode.

Funny, he was starting to look younger to me as I got older. Who were you, Uncle Bud? I nearly asked aloud.

I picked up the photo and turned it over. Yellowing tape held a prayer card that read: "Lloyd 'Bud' Heitzman, 1925-1944. A Great Hero." Nineteen years old when he died, not much older than I was. But a great hero? How could you be a hero at 19?

The floorboards creaked behind me. I turned to see Mema coming in from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.

I almost hid the photo because I didn't want to listen to the same stories I'd heard year after year: "Your uncle Bud had this little rat-terrier named Jiggs. Good old Jiggs. How he loved that mutt! He wouldn't go anywhere without Jiggs. He used to put him in the rumble seat of his Chevy coupe and drive all over town.

"Remember how hard Bud worked after we lost the farm? At haying season he worked all day, sunrise to sunset, baling for other farmers. Then he brought me all his wages. He'd say, 'Mama, someday I'm going to buy you a brand-new farm. I promise.' There wasn't a better boy in the world!"
Sometimes I wondered about that boy dying alone in a muddy ditch in a foreign country he'd only read about. I thought of the scared kid who jumped out of a foxhole in front of an advancing enemy, only to be downed by a sniper. I couldn't reconcile the image of the boy and his dog with that of the stalwart soldier.

Mema stood beside me for a while, looking at the photo. From outside came the sharp snap of an American flag flapping in the breeze and the voices of my cousins cheering my brother at bat.
"Mema," I asked, "what's a hero?" Without a word she turned and walked down the hall to the back bedroom. I followed.

She opened a bureau drawer and took out a small metal box, then sank down onto the bed.
"These are Bud's things," she said. "They sent them to us after he died." She opened the lid and handed me a telegram dated October 13, 1944. "The Secretary of State regrets to inform you that your son, Lloyd Heitzman, was killed in Italy."

Your son! I imagined Mema reading that sentence for the first time. I didn't know what I would have done if I'd gotten a telegram like that.

"Here's Bud's wallet," she continued. Even after all those years, it was caked with dried mud. Inside was Bud's driver's license with the date of his sixteenth birthday. I compared it with the driver's license I had just received.

A photo of Bud holding a little spotted dog fell out of the wallet. Jiggs. Bud looked so pleased with his mutt.

There were other photos in the wallet: a laughing Bud standing arm in arm with two buddies, photos of my mom and aunt and uncle, another of Mema waving. This was the home Uncle Bud took with him, I thought.

I could see him in a foxhole, taking out these snapshots to remind himself of how much he was loved and missed.

"Who's this?" I asked, pointing to a shot of a pretty dark-haired girl.

"Marie. Bud dated her in high school. He wanted to marry her when he came home." A girlfriend? Marriage? How heartbreaking to have a life, plans and hopes for the future, so brutally snuffed out.
Sitting on the bed, Mema and I sifted through the treasures in the box: a gold watch that had never been wound again. A sympathy letter from President Roosevelt, and one from Bud's commander. A medal shaped like a heart, trimmed with a purple ribbon. And at the very bottom, the deed to Mema's house.

"Why's this here?" I asked.

"Because Bud bought this house for me." She explained how after his death, the U.S. government gave her 10 thousand dollars, and with it she built the house she was still living in.

"He kept his promise all right," Mema said in a quiet voice I'd never heard before.

For a long while the two of us sat there on the bed. Then we put the wallet, the medal, the letters, the watch, the photos and the deed back into the metal box. I finally understood why it was so important for Mema—and me—to remember Uncle Bud on this day.

If he'd lived longer he might have built that house for Mema or married his high-school girlfriend. There might have been children and grandchildren to remember him by.

As it was, there was only that box, the name in the program and the reminiscing around the kitchen table.

"I guess he was a hero because he gave everything for what he believed," I said carefully.

"Yes, child," Mema replied, wiping a tear with the back of her hand. "Don't ever forget that."
I haven't. Even today with Mema gone, my husband and I take our lawn chairs to the tree-shaded boulevard on Memorial Day and give our three daughters small American flags that I buy for a quarter at Ben Franklin.

I want them to remember that life isn't just about getting what you want. Sometimes it involves giving up the things you love for what you love even more. That many men and women did the same for their country—that's what I think when I see the parade pass by now.

And if I close my eyes and imagine, I can still see Mema in her regal purple hat, honoring her son, a true American hero.

https://www.guideposts.org/inspirational-stories/memorial-day-a-time-for-heroes

The Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863)

Lincoln at Gettysburg the day he gave the speech
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettysburg_Address

Six videos to watch Memorial Day weekend (30 minute run-time)

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Gaining a Testimony

When I teach this lesson to my class, I write the world's population number at the top of the board.  I have them find the number of members in each of the major world religions.  Next, we break down the Christian religions and then we 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.

Next, I write on the board the word TESTIMONY.

I 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.

99.92% of the world doesn't not believe in Mormonism!  Truly astronomical odds!

As of today, May 7, 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
7.5B WORLD POPULATION

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

Next we read three passages of scripture.

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.

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 judgement day really is all about the Two Great Commandments and nothing else truly matters.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Counting Costs, Heart-settling and Plowing

The Good Samaritan
Good morning!  Here it is - today is Sunday April 30, 2017.  We are on the cusp of summer; the school year is beginning to wrap up and soon we will all be going different ways - some off to college, some off to missions, others about to get married, some off to visit grandchildren new and old.

During this time of the year when so much changes so quickly, I'm reminded of one of my favorite stories - that of the shared experience between Jean Valjean and Bishop Bienvenu in the masterpiece Les Miserables.  You may already be familiar with this story.  Jean Valjean was a convict of 19 years for stealing bread.  After many years of hard labor, he was released and he could find no place to live, no food to eat - no welcoming arms, except for one.  That one was Bishop Bienvenu.  Bienvenu means "welcome" ... Bishop Welcome, welcomed Jean Valjean to his home!

After giving Jean Valjean food and a place to rest, the bishop was repaid with theft.  The gendarms caught Jean Valjean, returned him to the good bishop.  The bishop turned the other cheek.  Instead of turning on him, the bishop gave him more silver - two silver candle sticks to be exact.  From the book, it reads;

"Jean Valjean was like a man on the point of fainting. 

"The Bishop drew near to him, and said in a low voice:-- 

'Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.'

"Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:-- 

'Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.'

Bishop Bienvenu was a true, committed disciple of Christ.

Shifting gears now, I want to spend some time in the New Testament; in particular Luke, chapter 14.  It is full of profound lessons.

To start off, Christ admonishes his disciples that when they make a feast, it's best to invite people who cannot possibly repay the kindness.  To which one of his disciples says in verse 15, "blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God" which I interpret that to be a bit of a joke or quip - similar to saying that a person is blessed when they get a free meal and don't have to repay!  Only in this case, the free gift is living in the kingdom God.

This causes Jesus to teach a few more parables.  In the first one, a man made a great supper, symbolizing God's gift of eternal life.  This man had invited many people to eat with him.  When the feast was ready, the man's servant tells the invitees the food is ready, but invariably, they decline the invitation - offering an excuse as to why they cannot join the meal - tending to a piece of recently purchased land, tending to livestock or even caring for a spouse.  All these excuses enraged the master and in his anger, he tells his servant to find those who would accept his meal - the poor, the maimed, the blind and then people on the street.  He vows that none of the original invitees will taste his meal.

Next, Jesus tells two more parables about counting the cost of discipleship.  He makes it absolutely clear the cost of discipleship is EVERYTHING.  He says that even a man will count the cost of building a tower or home and even a king would weigh the cost of going to war.  If a man and a king weigh the costs on such tiny matters, ((when compared to eternal salvation) should not the disciples who claim to follow Jesus also consider the steep cost of following Christ?

We too, need to count the cost of discipleship.  Are we truly willing to commit to Christ?  Are we willing to give our all - similar to Bishop Bienvenu?

And let's suppose someone weighs the cost of discipleship and views the challenge as acceptable - that the price to be paid (which is EVERYTHING) is worth entering the kingdom of God - this person then needs to settle this matter in their heart (see Luke 21:14).  This settling of the heart, is synonymous with commitment to God and his kingdom.

This settling is not easy and sometimes can take years.  I've observed that many people - normal people, Christians, followers, leaders - will settle or focus on the wrong thing.  My Sunday School class will recognize this next quote from Joseph Smith regarding on what we ought to settle our hearts.  He said, “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."  I then draw a stick figure on the chalkboard - a body, a head, two arms, two hands, two legs and two feet.  I ask them to show me the appendages.  They point to the hands, feet, arms and legs.  I then ask about the head and heart, if these are appendages - the answer is no, those are VITAL to the survival of the person.  And so to apply this concept to settling the gospel in our hearts, we ought to focus on the Gospel of Christ - namely the two great commandments.  And we ought to not focus on appendages such as controversial church history, claims to authority or church programs - all of which are subject to change.  What is vital and never subject to change, is our love of God and neighbor - if we don't fulfill our duties to God and neighbor, nothing else matters.

My favorite scripture from the Book of Mormon is Helaman 5:12.  It says, "it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."

To repeat, the foundation and rock upon what we ought to build our testimony and commitment is Jesus Christ and his core doctrine of loving God and loving neighbor.

Once you have settled in your heart; that you will love God and neighbor, you must do as Luke 9:57-62 instructs.  Some of the disciples of Christ say they would follow him wherever he goes.  To which Jesus responds, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head."  Other disciples are willing to follow Jesus, but request of Jesus to let them go and bury their father or to say goodbye to their family.  Jesus laments that "no man, having put his hand to the plough, and looks back, is fit for the kingdom."  These disciples who "look back" are unfit for the kingdom of God - they are not focused on the task at hand - which is to plow the hardened soil of the souls of men, in an effort to prepare them to accept and live the word of God.  Jesus re-affirms his steep price of discipleship that once a man has settled in his heart to follow Jesus, and then put his hand on the plow, that they are not to look back.  Notice in this case, the disciples' hands are probably still on the plow and they are moving along with the oxen, but looking back often.  This indicates a lack of real commitment - their heart has not been fully given over to Jesus, and so he declares they are unfit for the kingdom of God!

Imagine if Bishop Bienvenu waffled or doubted the two great commandments, what state or condition Jean Valjean might have ended up in.

Instead, we are to count the costs of discipleship, settle the matter in our hearts and then put our hand to the plow and till the earth and not look back.  Be decided and committed in your love of God and service to our neighbors.

With our hand firmly on the plow, and only looking forward, how are we to live a committed life, by loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves?

I have found a very useful thought exercise that has helped me to stay focused on loving God and neighbor.  This exercise begins with gratitude.  It is a prayer of thankfulness to God for creating me and allowing me to live in this wonderful world.  This is the first circle of compassion.

Having a heart full of gratitude and feeling assured of God's love of me, I circumscribe a second circle of compassion to those closest to me - my wife Jill and my children Emma, Ben, Erick and Camille.  These are my nearest and dearest and most important neighbors to me.  Much of my effort and time should be devoted to teaching and loving and serving them.

The next circle extends to my parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents and all my relatives.  These have helped form me into who I am today.  I am grateful for them and do what I can to serve and help them.

The next circle extends out to my co-workers and next-door neighbors.  These are people who I see most often besides my immediate family.  These are the neighbors God has put in my path to love and serve.

The next circle extends out to other friends, neighbors and acquaintances who I see less often.  I do my best to think of their needs and how best to serve them.  Often these interactions are brief and usually involve talking, listening and offering words of encouragement or offering some way to serve.

The next circle extends to people who I do not know, but encounter in my daily course of events - the person who scans my groceries, the boy who bags my groceries, the people I see on the greenbelts when I go on walks.  I try to acknowledge them, say 'hello' to them and try to act socially and kindly to them, and if possible, help them if they are in need.

The next circle extends to people I may never see or encounter, but nonetheless, I see them as children of God.  I accept that there is divinity within them and I strive to have compassion and love for them regardless of their ideology, political leanings or life choices.  Each human being deserves respect and love.

There is no better sermon than the primary song, "Jesus said love everyone."  The simple, one-verse song says all that we need to know.

Jesus said love everyone
Treat them kindly too
When your heart is filled with love
Others will love you

Let's revisit the fruits of Bishop Bienvenu's love toward Jean Valjean.  Jean Valjean turns his life around, becomes mayor, cares for Fantine, rescues Cosette, saves the life of an innocent man who is accused of being the escaped convict Jean Valjean, saves the life of a sailor, saves another man's life while he is mayor, and lastly saves the life of Marius, who would become the husband of Cosette.  Jean Valjean, having put his hand to the plow, did not look back.

To conclude, I want to share what I call the perfect trifecta of scriptures.  Brother Rick Carruth shared these three scriptures a few years ago in a talk he gave and I think these scriptures perfectly sum up what commitment to Christ means.

First: Jesus taught, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love they neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-44)

Second: concerning the two greatest commandments, he taught, "Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself."  (Matthew 22:37-39)

Third and lastly he taught, "This is my commandment, That ye love one another; as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12-13)

To summarize, we are to love our enemies like we love our neighbors.  We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  We are to love ourselves and our neighbors as Jesus loved his disciples and us.

It is my prayer, that we all commit our hearts to God and neighbor.  That we have greater compassion and love towards all of God's children.  That we give each other the benefit of the doubt.  That we try to show mercy and understanding, that we mourn with those that mourn, that we turn the other cheek, that we walk the extra mile.  This is my sincerest prayer and I offer it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

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)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

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 witness 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."

Saturday, March 04, 2017

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
https://www.lds.org/ensign/1990/07/the-atonement-of-jesus-christ-part-1?lang=eng&query=atonement

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: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/10/the-atonement-our-greatest-hope?lang=eng&query=atonement 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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

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 https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-doctrine-of-christ?lang=eng
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

  1. "FORGIVE EVERYBODY OF ALL THEIR OFFENSES AGAINST YOU." (Forgive, and be forgiven.)
  2. "YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN."
  3. "ABIDE IN ME, AND LET ME ABIDE IN YOU."
  4. "LET PEOPLE SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS." (Do not hide your light under a basket.)
  5. "END DISPUTES QUICKLY."
  6. "WHATEVER CAUSES YOU TO SIN, GET RID OF IT."
  7. "DO NOT SWEAR OATHS AT ALL."
  8. "DO NOT RETURN OFFENSE FOR OFFENSE." (Turn the other cheek.)
  9. "GIVE WHAT PEOPLE ASK OF YOU, AND GIVE MORE THAN IS REQUIRED." (Go the extra mile.)
  10. "LOVE YOUR ENEMIES AND THOSE WHO WORK AGAINST YOU."
  11. "GIVE TO THE POOR TO PLEASE GOD, NOT TO GAIN APPROVAL FROM OTHER PEOPLE."
  12. "PRAY PRIVATELY AND SIMPLY, NOT TO IMPRESS OTHER PEOPLE."
  13. "MAKE YOUR PRAYERS BE LIKE THE LORD'S PRAYER."
  14. "WHEN YOU FAST, DO IT SECRETLY, NOT FOR SHOW."
  15. "STORE UP YOUR TREASURES IN HEAVEN, NOT ON EARTH."
  16. "DO NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR MATERIAL NEEDS."
  17. "DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE FUTURE."
  18. "MAKE GOD YOUR HIGHEST PRIORITY, AND HE WILL TAKE CARE OF ALL YOUR NEEDS."
  19. "DO NOT JUDGE OTHER PEOPLE." (Judge not, lest ye be judged.)
  20. "DO NOT GIVE HOLY THINGS TO DOGS OR CAST YOUR PEARLS BEFORE SWINE."
  21. "ASK GOD FOR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO HAVE." (Seek, and ye shall find.)
  22. "FEED THE HUNGRY, CLOTHE THE NAKED, SHELTER THE HOMELESS, COMFORT THOSE IN DISTRESS."
  23. "FOLLOW THE NARROW PATH TO LIFE." (Enter by the narrow gate.)
  24. "BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS."
  25. "EXERCISE POWER OVER UNCLEAN SPIRITS."
  26. "LOVE LITTLE CHILDREN, DO NOT DESPISE THEM."
  27. "DO NOT TAKE THE TITLES 'MASTER' OR 'FATHER' FOR YOURSELF."
  28. "RESOLVE DISPUTES IN AN ORDERLY WAY, LIKE THIS . . . "
  29. "DO NOT OPPOSE OTHER BELIEVERS IN CHRIST WHO ARE NOT IN YOUR GROUP."
  30. "HAVE TOTAL FAITH IN GOD FOR EVERYTHING."
  31. "BE LIKE THE GOOD SAMARITAN." (Go, and do likewise.)
  32. "LOVE OTHER PEOPLE AS I HAVE LOVED YOU"
  33. "EAT BREAD AND DRINK WINE IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME."
  34. "WASH ONE ANOTHER'S FEET."
  35. "BE MERCIFUL."
  36. "GO AND TEACH ALL NATIONS, BAPTIZING THEM."
  37. "KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS."
  38. "BE PREPARED FOR YOUR MASTER TO RETURN."

http://www.loveallpeople.org/pearl-thecommandmentsofjesus.html

this lesson is very similar to Commandments of Christ lesson.

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

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 lecturesonfaith.com

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.

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 04, 2017

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, 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.



Saturday, January 28, 2017

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.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January Week 4 - Commandments of Christ


Introduction
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)


Sunday, January 15, 2017

January Week 3 - The Holy Ghost Helps You Learn

Definition & 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." https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/04/using-the-supernal-gift-of-prayer?lang=eng

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."

Other Links
Liquid Luck

Sunday, January 08, 2017

January Week 2 - The Hand of God in All Things

A Personal Story About Journals
Start by telling experience I had with Erick this week. On Tuesday morning, he was feeling a little blue and didn't want to go back to school. I sat down with him 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 got him to tell me his worries and then we talked a bit about how to deal with those worries (we developed a plan). He 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
Gratitude
Adversity

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