Tag: Holy Ghost

To Acquire Spiritual Guidance :: Nov 2009 Teaching for our Times TFOT Lesson

Based on a talk given by Elder Richard G. Scott at the October, 2009 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Click on Mormonmom to see my other Teachings for our Times (TFOT) lessons.

Opening Hymn: Guide Us O Thou Great Jehovah

Elder Richard G. Scott’s talk on Acquiring Spiritual Guidance was inspiring, uplifting and filled with instructions that each of us can apply in our daily lives.  Earlier this year, the General Relief Society Presidency directed each of us to seek our own personal revelation as we strengthen our ward and stake Relief Societies, I felt this was timely information coming now from Elder Scott.

One of the key doctrines of our Church is that, once we are baptized and confirmed, we have the Holy Spirit as our guide for ANY concern we have in this life. That is a great comfort, but, like many of the blessings given to us from our Heavenly Father, it must be honed, practiced, and used regularly. Right now – I pray each of you is being taught by the Spirit. I’m just the eye candy who brings along pretty images, uplifting music, quotes from Spiritual Giants like Elder Scott that I was impressed to include after praying about each of you and hiw I can use my talents to invite the Spirit who will teach.

Joseph Smith said, “Follow the influence of that Spirit, and it will lead you into all truth, until by and by, it will BECOME in you a principle of revelation.”  In other words, second nature to you.  Elder Scott testifies that this is the true source of peace and happiness.

Learning how to be led by the Spirit takes a strengthening of faith in our Father and in Jesus Christ.  It is not a casual expectation, but a purposeful period of growth.

I spoke about the importance of inviting the Spirit to teach. Let me take a minute to talk about “The Spirit”. As far as I’ve been able to learn there are three ways to understand the term ‘The Spirit”:

1. The Light of Christ
Everyone is given the light of Christ as a Child of God.

2. The Holy Ghost
Many religions reference the Holy Ghost. Cite OT/NT

3. The Gift of the Holy Ghost
Reserved for those who receive the ordinance of baptism by those having authority to confer the gift. This gift isn’t enjoyed in its fullness until fire and the Holy Ghost baptize the recipient.

Back to Elder Scott’s talk. After noting that in times past if one sought guidance they would turn to mentors or advisors, the information overload that is a characteristic of our time, means turning to others for advice can be a very risky proposition. As a digital marketing executive, I often use the analogy ‘it’s like drinking from a firehose’ to describe this phenomenon. Think about it – so much information, but none of it is filtered or curated. Whom do we trust? What criteria do we use?

Rather than bemoaning the plight of the times we live in, we should welcome the excuse to turn our eyes upward for inspiration. Elder Scott seems to be saying that humans as trust agents will always be inadequate and that we will be better served by seeking to commune with the Lord directly through appealing to the Holy Ghost.

Think about this for a minute – our Father has created a condition where if we, of necessity, are dependent upon the Spirit to guide us through the vicissitudes of life, We are entitled to seek personal inspiration in all of life’s decisions – especially the important ones that affect the family.

I loved this thought! Personally, it has been a year of uphill trials. I do not know where I would be without specific guidance that I have received through the relationship I have personally developed with my Heavenly Father that allows me the blessing of personal answers and spiritual guidance. The impressions I receive from the Spirit are like my own Liahona, leading, guiding, helping me reset after yet another prideful, headstrong battle I’ve lost because I was a little too much “in the world”, ignoring the clear message I wrote down in my journal or margin of my scripture study notes. Again and again I return with humility and a real understanding of what “broken” feels like, each time a bit more contrite and determined to make the correct choice.

Discussion:

  • What can you do to enhance your capacity to be led to correct decisions in your life?
  • What are the principles upon which spiritual communication depends?
  • What are the potential barriers to such communication that you need to avoid?

Elder Scott admits that learning to consistently recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit, distinguish them from one’s own impulses and desires, and act courageously to fulfill them are accomplishments that we would be lucky to achieve in a lifetime. However, Elder Scott clearly believes that developing these skills is necessary here on Earth for our individual salvation.

And perhaps most importantly, in these times of Internet information overload, his guidance honed over the decades feels achievable through the examples he offers us.

For instance, Elder Scott notes the Prophet Joseph Smith’s instruction to John Taylor to begin each day with prayer – being grateful for another day our Father has granted us. Do you pray first thing every single day with an outpouring of gratitude?

President John Taylor wrote: “Joseph Smith, upwards of forty years ago, said to me: ‘Brother Taylor, you have received the Holy Ghost. Now follow the influence of that Spirit, and it will lead you into all truth, until by and by, it will become in you a principle of revelation.’ Then he told me never to arise in the morning without bowing before the Lord, and dedicating myself to him during that day.”

So I asked the question rhetorically, yet in these hectic latter days, it is too easy to overlook in the daily haste to satisfy the necessities of temporal life. For example, if I’m woken up by my 3 y.o. doing the potty dance, after I escort her to do her necessary business, she’s hungry, so I start breakfast. Then, like mothers (and fathers) around the world every morning, we are joined by 2 more sleepy, hungry children and somewhere in the blur of showering, breakfastimg, teeth brushing, clothes being put on, hair pulled into ribbons, lunches being prepared, and busses arriving – it is all to easy to forget that simple, precious morning prayer of thanksgiving.

What I’ve learned to do is have the scriptures in the kitchen, so that a verse or two can be read during the morning “Waltz of Chaos” (as I call it) to ensure we all have the right start to the day.

{TIME CHECK: ask for other ideas to help remember our gratitude prayer each morning}

Elder Scott teaches through a couple of powerful stories:

In the first, a humble Priesthood leader taught a lesson from his heart. The content of the lesson was less memorable than the impression the leader gave that promoted spiritual guidance:  humility, intense desire to communicate truths, pure love of the Savior, as well as those who are taught, sincerity, pure intent, love, and spiritual strength. The spirit was present and powerful as this man struggled to express himself within the church.

In the second example, Elder Scott attended a Sunday School class where the teacher was using the fruits of his education and study to share insights into the lesson, less from a desire to inspire his pupils and more from what Elder Scott interpreted as pride — of a desire to impress his fellow congregants with his knowledge.

By keeping his lesson simple and focusing on his testimony of his ministry, the priesthood leader in the first story impressed Elder Scott with his sincerity and emotional depth. By contrast, the intellectual approach of the Sunday School teacher left Elder Scott irritated and bored.

As we are blessed to have so many teachers in our Ward who are MDs, PhDs and Professors at the University of Michigan, I realized that too often I’m caught up in the intellectual pursuit of prideful teaching to demonstrate I can teach doctrine just like an MFA class, albeit with more spiritual preparation,

Talk about one of those humbling wake up calls I spoke about earlier!!! Letting the Spirit teach me as I listed to Elder Scott, again, was recognizing the difference here between the emotional and the intellectual – this contrast naturally exists in our brains (right-vs-left), between our ‘brains’ and our ‘souls’ between men and women. Heavenly Father made us this way to learn through both faith and reason together.

As a teacher, I am striving more than ever to embrace the humbleness of the Priesthood Leader’s approach in the first story. Because every time I get up here, I’m cognizant of the fact that many of you have forgotten more about this Gospel, Church Doctrine, lessons of our Presidents, General Conference talks and the like than I will EVER KNOW, even if I focused my studies on these topics for the rest of my life!

So I try to infuse my lessons with whatever material I can bring from my personal experience and talents for emotional storytelling through images + words to bring some shred of relevance to my ability to teach for our times.

And yet, the more important message here from Elder Scott is that either course can invite the Spirit.

-Pause and repeat-

Remember with both lessons, Elder Scott felt the promptings of the Spirit. He stopped paying attention to his immediate surroundings and started listening to and interacting with the voice of God. Whether interested or biding his time, Elder Scott felt the Spirit and chose to listen to it instead – to be taught by the Holy Ghost – instead of from the content of the lesson being provided to him in sketchy English or served up in an overly intellectualized lesson.

Consider this: the manner in which Elder Scott recorded his personal inspiration in both stories follows the pattern that Joseph Smith directed us to follow based on the revelations he received. Once written, the revelation was examined to see if it conformed to the mind and will of God and changes could be made. It speaks to the imperfection of human intermediaries and the humility needed to keep at revelation until we start to get it right.

And, much like Joseph Smith, Elder Scott teaches that:

A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus [TPJS, p. 151]

Paying attention to the first promptings is valuable not for the promptings, but because it indicates an openness to the process of revelation. Just as it is important for the teacher to be prepared spiritually to guide, the students to be open spiritually in order to receive guidance. 

He gives us ten things we should do as listeners:

1. Attend class prepared, with a readiness to learn
2. Be aware of impressions that may come
3. Write them down as soon as possible
4. Ponder what you have written
5. Study the meaning

-pause-

6. Pray to the Lord, and review what was taught, and what was learned
7. Wait for a feeling of peace and confirmation
8. Thank Heavenly Father for the guidance
9. Ask: “Is there more to learn?” You probably will have additional impressions, but it takes courage to ask.
10. Repeat the process from beginning to end as many times as is necessary. 

Elder Scott says, “Had I not responded to the first impressions and recorded them, I would not have received the last, most precious guidance.”

One very important warning. 

“Satan is extremely good at blocking spiritual communication.” We have all been sidetracked by the destroyer.  “The Lord will not force you to learn.  You must exercise your agency to authorize the Spirit to teach you.”

Elder Scott encourages us to practice, have patience, and be aware.  Inspiration comes to us in different ways.  By following the above ten steps, realize the unique way Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit communicate with you.

Elder Scott then launches into a critique of pornography, highlighting in particular the potentially corrosive effects of pornography on family relations. Perhaps more importantly, he discuss its effect on the soul. He notes that the adversary is at pains to induce “individuals, through temptation, to violate the laws upon which spiritual communication is founded.”

The notion is that Satan achieves his goal if “he is able to convince them that they are not able to receive such guidance from the Lord.” The presence or absence of revelation in the life of the individual is presented, in this talk, as the surest means of judging one’s current standing with the Lord

So. Whether you are interested or bored by this simple lesson prepared with as much humility as my intellectual pridefulness allows at this point in my mortal journey, your involvement in the process is considered sufficient sacrifice for God to honor it with those first intimations of revelation through the Spirit with whatever you need to learn.

{time check: tell Unicorn story with sketch after 4 hours of being taught the Plan of Salvation}

Elder Scott counsels us: The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.

For those ensnared in pornography or other damaging, compulsive behaviors: re-establish communication with God! We have to authorize the Spirit to take an active role to guide and teach us. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ won’t interfere in our lives without our consent – our free agency. We must pray and ‘knock’ to ask for help to overcome addictions – anything that can cause us to lose our way and stumble alone into darkness.

Remember the Jalapeno and grape analogy — be more aware of what/who you surround yourself with and how any negative emotions can block out the positive and good all around you.

Intellectual conversion to Christ is fragile, if left solely to ontological syllogisms and epistemological arguments.

Spiritual conversion to Jesus Christ is the emotional bedrock of belief that leads to continuous personal revelation by the Spirit. Adding intellectual enlightenment to sustaining spiritual belief and following the personal guidance offered by the Holy Spirit will help each of us learn what we need to during this mortal existence so we are prepared to be reunited with our Father and family as we journey beyond the veil.

Discussion

(Time permitting — we ran out of time due to the discussion questions raised earlier in the lesson. If we had the time, I would have divided the class into thirds, selected a spokesperson for each group and handed them a quote and question for them to discuss and present back to the Relief Society):

1. However, it is my judgment that there are many members of this Church who have been baptized for the remission of their sins, who have had hands laid upon their heads for the gift of the Holy Ghost, who have never received that gift, that is, the manifestations of it. Why? Because they have never put themselves in order to receive these manifestations. They have never humbled themselves. They have never taken the steps that would prepare them for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Therefore they go through life without that knowledge, and they have not the understanding. Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1958, p.21 – p.22

Question: “How do we draw a balance between spiritual self-reliance and relying on the Spirit?”

2. D&C Section 84: 45-46 says: For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spir, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.

Questions: What the difference is between being “guided by the Holy Ghost” (for those who have been told to “receive the Holy Ghost” by the laying on of hands) and being “guided by the Light of Christ”?

How can one discern whether an answer has come through the Light of Christ or the Holy Ghost?  What difference does it make?

3. “I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear. ” D&C 38:30

Questions: What does it mean to be self-reliant in spiritual things?

Why is it important to be spiritually self-reliant?

**********

I bear my testimony that our a Father in Heaven very much wants to help us endure to the end through this mortal trial. He gave us His only Begotten Son and through Him, the Atonement. All He asks is for us to humble ourselves, ask for help and follow the guidance of the Spirit – be faithful to the truth He shows us! The Plan of Salvation He has given us through the Prophet Joseph Smith helps us navigate the temporal reality but it also builds our soul for eternity. I pray that I never lose my sense of awe over the workings of My Heavenly Father in my life with my family on both sides of the veil and in the world at large.

I know this Church is true and it is divinely led by great men like our current Prophet Thomas S Monson and his Counselors as well as the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who teach us doctrinal truths for the modern world. I’m grateful for this inspiring talk Elder Richard Scott delivered at the October, 2009 Semi-Annual General Conference and leave this lesson with you in the glorious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

General Conference Notes — Saturday Sessions

My notes (in between tweets) from the 179th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Saturday Morning Session

President Henry B. Eyring conducted the Saturday morning session, with President Thomas S. Monson providing general commentary followed by talks from Elder Scott, Sister Matsumori, Elder Clayton, Brother Osguthorpe, Elder Bednar, and President Uchtdorf.  Here are the key points made by each speaker (with direct quotes noted as such):

President Thomas S. Monson:

  • 83% of members live within 200 miles of a temple
  • There are 130 operating temples
  • 16 have been announced or are under construction
  • 5 new temples announced

    • Brigham City, Utah
    • Concepción, Chile
    • Fortaleza, Brazil
    • Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
    • Sapporo, Japan

Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang “Choose the Right”

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Twelve:

  • Inspiration to know what to do | being guided by the spirit
  • Power, to be able to do it
  • Sometimes truth is revealed when you are not actively seeking it
  • Pornography is one of the most damning influences on earth, and is overpoweringly addictive
  • Commit to overcome it now
  • If you pray with all your heart, you can learn to be consistent with the guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Parable: a humble priesthood leader in Mexico teaching a lesson inspired Elder Scott, while a well-educated Sunday School teacher in the States, using obscure examples, did not edify or inspire because it came from a desire to impress (pride).

Sister Vicki F. Matsumori, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency:

  • Being touched by the Spirit is like being wrapped in a blanket.
  • Help others understand
  • The Spirit will not dwell in unholy temples
  • We should find ways to feel the Spirit every day and weekly at Church
  • “Be still and know that I am God”

Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy:

  • Generally burdens come from 3 sources
    1. Natural product of the conditions of the world
    2. Imposed on us by the misconduct of others
    3. Imposed on us by our own mistakes and shortcomings
  • Burdens provide opportunities to practice virtues — blessings in disguise
  • “People struggle everyday under burdens that tax their souls.”

The choir sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet”

Russell T. Osguthorpe, General President of the Sunday School:

  • “We are all teaching future leaders of the Church.”
  • A good teacher can help save lives
  • Teaching involves sharing the key doctrine, an invitation to action, and then the promised blessings
  • “Learning and teaching are not optional activities in the Kingdom of God.”
  • Teachers can inspire their students to change, to do better, to set sights higher

Elder David A. Bednar of the Twelve:

  • “More diligent and concerned at home”
  • Express love and show it. When was the last time you told your spouse, your child, your parents you love them?
  • Testimonies that express love might be appropriate, but the public statement shouldn’t be the only time they hear it
  • Feeling the constancy of love is a rich blessing
  • Bear testimony and live it. When was the last time you bore your testimony to your spouse, your children, or your parents
  • We need to bear it, we need to mean it, and most importantly, we need to live it
  • Be consistent. Results don’t come each time
  • The consistency of our intent and work is the great lesson
  • A single paint brush stroke is not critical, but all of the strokes together create a beautiful painting

The choir sang “My Heavenly Father Loves Me”

The choir sang “Oh, May My Soul Commune with Thee”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, on showing love as a disciple of Christ and the unconditional love of God for us:

  • Of all the things we are known for, are there things we should seek to be known for?
  • How do we become true disciples of Jesus Christ? Love God. If ye love me, keep my commandments.  Love should be the center of our life in:
    1. family
    2. callings
    3. livelihood
  • “Love should be our walk and our talk.”
  • Keep trying. Try to believe, learn of God, study the scriptures, follow the prophets, listen to the Father, do the things He asks of us
    • How can we hear the Father’s voice?
    • Why is love the great commandment?

The choir sang “Come, Come, Ye Saints”

Saturday Afternoon Session

President Eyring conducted the Saturday afternoon session, featuring talks by Elder Oaks, Elder Hales, Elder Zeballos, Elder Callister, Elder Watson, Elder Anderson, and President Packer. Direct quotations (based on my notes) are given in quotes; phrases without quotes are my summary of the remarks given.

The choir sang “Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise”.

The choir sang “Know This, That Every Soul Is Free”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Twelve, on God’s love and law:

  • God’s love and God’s commandments
  • The love of God does not supersede his commandments.  His commandments do not diminish the love of God
  • Despite mortal confusion over the relationship between love and law, love does not supercede or render inapplicable law or God’s commandments. Mercy cannot rob justice.
  • Counsels a balanced response — every parent knows you can love a child and be angry and disappointed
  • The love of God is so universal, even those who are rebellious benefit
  • Where do parents draw the line with children that are not following the commandments? Don’t go to extremes.
  • Real love does not support self-destructive behavior

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Twelve, against secularism and atheism:

  • We live in a time where secularism is deepening.  “Atheism … is spreading across the world.”
  • We declare We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in his son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost
  • Why is belief in God so important?“Without God, … our mortal experiences would have no purpose.”
  • Cultivate a diligent desire to know God lives. He does.

Elder Jorge F. Zeballos of the Seventy, on the Atonement:

  • The command to become perfect may seem impossible, but it encourages us to achieve the best of ourselves
  • “God will not require more than the best that we can give.”
  • Let us with enthusiasm do all that is within our reach
  • It is possible to achieve the impossible. We can receive eternal life. We can be happy now.

The choir sang “Come, Ye Children of the Lord”

Elder Tad R. Callister of the Seventy, on the Restoration:

  • Joseph was the Lord’s anointed servant. He restored knowledge of four fundamental truths not recognized by contemporary Christianity:
    1. God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are two separate, distinct beings
    2. The Father and Son have glorified bodies of flesh and bones
    3. God still speaks to man today; the heavens are not closed
      Does God love us as much today as before?
      Does God have the same power today as then?
      Do we need him as much today as then?
    4. The full and complete Church of Jesus Christ was not on the earth
  • Were there not angels before? Mary, Joseph, Peter, James, John, Cornelius, Paul, Stephen all saw angels
  • Some people get sidetracked and lose their faith over minor issues: “There will always be some intellectual crisis looming on the horizon.” At some point, one must trust in God.

Elder Kent D. Watson of the Seventy, on temperance:

  • Temperance = avoiding anger and pride.
  • Peace of mind and security and happiness does not come from buying things we can’t afford. It comes through self-control and faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Happiness comes from being diligent in keeping covenants
  • Like tempered glass or tempered steel, a tempered soul is one that has gained increased spiritual strength.

Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Twelve, on repentance:

  • Testifies of the Savior’s overpowering love for a repentant soul.  Spiritual arms of mercy, safety, love
  • We rejoice in repenting and the joy of forgiveness
  • Apart from the rare unforgiveable sin against the Holy Ghost, “there is no sin that cannot be forgiven.
  • “Will ye not now return unto me… that I may heal you?”
  • Repentance is more of a journey than an event
  • “You can’t feel what I have felt”  One who does understand. He does. He has felt your pain.
  • I promise you, relief will come
  • Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance

President Boyd K. Packer of the Twelve, on hearing the guidance of the Spirit:

  • “We are given our agency; we must use it wisely.”
  • We must use our agency wisely
  • Pure intelligence can be spoken into the mind  — the Spirit can protect you
  • Keep your mind clean and free from the clutter of the world
  • “One of the adversary’s sharpest tools is convincing us that we are no longer worthy to pray.” No matter who you are and what you may have done, you can always pray
  • Learn to pray. Pray often. Pray in your mind, in your heart. Pray on your knees.
  • Prayer is your personal key to heaven and the lock is on your side of the veil.
  • “Thy will be done”

The choir sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”.

TFOT: Gaining A Testimony of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost

Relief Society Teachings For Our Times from April 2008 General Conference

Gaining a Testimony of God the Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost.

by Elder Robert D. Hales, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I am fascinated by history, especially thinking about how naturally we humans draw on our past to make sense of the present. Lately I’ve been following the archeological dig around Stonehenge that is challenging every textbook assumption and in doing so, has reaffirmed my personal testimony about our Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ and, somewhat interestingly, our Heavenly Mother as well as the Holy Spirit. Has anyone here been to Stonehenge?

For more than 4,000 years, millions of people like all of us have visited and viewed the monument. For those of you who have never visited, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the US. There is a small visitor’s center, you walk through a tunnel (where the highway is on top of you) and there is a paved, roped-off ‘road’ wide enough for a car to travel in a single file. Immediately visible is Stonehenge because it looks like every one of the textbook images you’ve ever seen. No fences or park wardens like you might find here. Just all these famous oversized rocks scattered about like bowling pins on top of a grassy knoll.

About 10 years ago, a British archaeologist happened to be visiting at the right time of day when a man’s face carved into the side of one of the rocks was clearly revealed to him. Who is it? We will never know. Why had no one ever seen it before – because now that I’m showing it to you, it’s really quite obvious, right?

One fundamental doctrinal difference between Latter Day Saints and other religions is our belief in the Godhead as three distinct entities: God, our Heavenly Father; His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. In building my own personal testimony about the Godhead, I felt a bit like that archaeologist – like it was hiding in plain sight. In many ways it is difficult to describe to others how obvious this is to me, but Elder Hales offers a superb talk in the April 2008 General Conference. He explains a great deal on our view as Latter Day Saints of the Godhead, referencing many New Testament scriptures. Elder Hales talks to us about building a testimony of God, the father and his son Jesus Christ.

He states, “People all over the world, of every creed and persuasion, search and struggle to know:
o Who is God?
o What is His relationship to Jesus Christ?
o And what is our relationship with Them?”

Those are fairly monumental and fundamental questions. We’re going to talk more about them later, but start thinking about it now: Who is God? Anyone?

There is probably no question that is as common to man as that of who God is. Gaining a testimony about anything of a spiritual nature is hard work. You cannot acquire it over a weekend. And contrary to my daughters’ belief, it isn’t found on tv, online or in a video game format. It takes weeks and months of study and prayer. It takes patience and perseverance.

Let me confess something to my sisters – I don’t know if you have an Apostle who speaks to you more than another, but I have to admit that my ‘favorite’ is Elder Ballard. Does anyone else feel that way or is it just me? When you are listening to the talks at the General Conference – are there some that you find yourself more drawn to than others? For me it is always Elder Ballard.

Ok, so in cross-referencing this talk, I picked up on what Elder Ballard said at the October General Conference in 2004:

“…a testimony of the reality of Heavenly father’s love of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and of the effect of His Atonement on every son and daughter of God brings about the desire to repent and live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

It also brings a confirmation to our soul of the Restoration of the gospel in these latter days Real testimony of these precious truths comes as a witness by the Holy Ghost after sincere and dedicated effort, including teaching in the home, prayer, scripture study, service to others and diligent obedience to Heavenly Father’s commandments. To gain and forever hold on to a testimony of gospel truths is worth whatever price in spiritual preparation we may be required to pay.”

I could spend the balance of my lifetime reading all the material that exists about the nature of God and of Jesus Christ. But I don’t have to. We are blessed to already have an authoritative source in our prophet. There is no confusion in our church. The doctrines, at least the ones I’ve read so far, are clear and consistent.

Elder Hales then talks about God and Jesus being separate distinct beings.

In one of the first Gospel Principles classes I took, the question was asked, “who is responsible for the creation?” and before I could blink, one of the gentlemen responded, “Jesus Christ under the direction of God, the Father.” After more study, I found a gospel classic from the 1909 First Presidency called “The Origin of Man”, which stated the doctrinal position of the Church that has never wavered in the past century which, when you consider what else HAS wavered in this past century, it’s a testimony to the power of the Lord’s church:

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” In these plain and pointed words the inspired author of the book of Genesis made known to the world the truth concerning the origin of the human family.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is “the express image” of His Father’s person (Heb. 1:3). He walked the earth as a human being, as a perfect man, and said, in answer to a question put to Him: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). This alone ought to solve the problem to the satisfaction of every thoughtful, reverent mind. The conclusion is irresistible, that if the Son of God be the express image (that is, likeness) of His Father’s person, then His Father is in the form of a man; for that was the form of the Son of God, not only during His mortal life, but before His mortal birth, and after His Resurrection. It was in this form that the Father and the Son, as two personages, appeared to Joseph Smith, when, as a boy of 14 years, he received his first vision.

That man was made in the image of Christ is positively stated in the book of Moses: “And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so. …

“And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them” (Moses 2:26–27).


Elder Hales quotes the 1st Article of Faith. “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” This is important. It’s the first order of business in his talk. God, the Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ are separate, distinct entities.

He talks about Joseph Smith finding out through personal experience the nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ by seeing them. Joseph’s experience guided Elder Hales through his boyhood. Joseph sought to know from the scriptures, God’s will.

Elder Hales shares specific scripture references supporting that they are two beings. He talks about Jesus being the literal Son of God: God’s introduction of His Son at baptism, Mount of Transfiguration, Christ’s appearance to the Nephites and also to Joseph Smith were the same. “This is my Beloved Son, Hear Him.”  We are commanded to listen.

The truth about our Father in Heaven, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost and my personal relationship to each is something I am just now beginning to appreciate. Prayer is migrating from something I did when all other options had failed me to an essential part of my daily life.

I have read and pondered these words: “I know with surety that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live. The Atonement is real. God the Father and Jesus Christ are distinct, separate, immortal beings. They know us as individuals, and They hear and answer our sincere prayers.” I had never before thought of my prayers being heard by THEM. Generally I thought of just of HE.

Elder Hales reminds us that Jesus is the only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is our mediator with the Father. We open our prayers to our Eternal Heavenly Father and we close every prayer in Jesus Christ’s name. Have you ever thought about that? Why do you think we pray to Heavenly Father and close each prayer in the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ? (Pause – Discuss)

What really does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus Christ? Who is this ‘Jesus’? The Bible Dictionary offers this enlightenment: “We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ–when his words abide in us.” Elder Hales clarifies: Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is our Mediator with the Father. He is the Savior who laid down His life for us and pleads our cause with the Father. Therefore, we pray to Heavenly Father in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son, is not the same being as His Father, but He is like His Father. He too is a glorified being of power and authority.

As I shared earlier, He participated with His Father in the Creation of the World and was responsible under the direction of his Father, to create all things on the face of the earth.

Jesus Christ is not the same being as His Father, but is like him in purpose. The oneness is oneness of purpose and love for His children. In the Garden, Christ made it clear that he was not performing His own work but that of the Father. Christ was not talking to himself while praying in the garden, but was calling upon his Father for strength. On the Cross, He cried, “Father into thy hands I commend my Spirit.”

Elder Hayes shares moving verses from the great Intercessory Prayer found in the Book of John in the New Testament. Listen to His words as He reports the obedient completion of His earthly mission to His Father in Heaven:

“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. . . .

“For I have given unto them [the disciples] the words which thou gavest me . . . , and they have believed that thou didst send me. . . .

“As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. . . .

“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.”

Through the course of the Savior’s ministry, the disciples did indeed become one but not in their physical bodies. They became one in unity of purpose and love. This is the oneness of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, spoken of in the scriptures. They too are distinct beings, but They are united in purpose, in Their love for us, and in the work They are doing on our behalf.

The Savior also prayed:

“O Father, glorify thou me . . . with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. . . .

“ . . . That the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

“ . . . For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”

Oh, how Jesus wanted us to know the Father as He did. He prayed:

“O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these [the disciples] have known that thou hast sent me.

“And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

But what of our testimony? Testimony is a gift from God. We are encouraged to share it but not force it upon someone else because a personal testimony is granted by the Holy Ghost. It can aid others in gaining knowledge for themselves…”

If you are a mother blessed with children, think about how you can teach and encourage them to learn the gospel on their own. Bonds of friendship can be cultivated as you help friends or spouses or others who are just beginning to question the gospel or growing their own faith. Every time we state our testimony of Christ, we strengthen it. Every time we humbly state our beliefs, our convictions grow.

Christ lives as the only begotten of the Father. He will return to reign on this very earth. He has taken away the sins of the world for those who believe steadfast on His name. He brings the reality of the Resurrection. And as an Apostle, Elder Hales shares his testimony:
I testify that our Savior lives. He is the Only Begotten of the Father, and He will come again on this earth to reign. He is Jesus Christ, the Holy One of Israel, “full of grace, and mercy, and truth. . . . It is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.” He is the literal Son of God, who rose from the dead on the third day, bringing the reality of resurrection to all who will come to earth. I also testify that God our Eternal Father lives and loves each of us, for we are His children. So great is His love that He sent His Only Begotten Son into the world “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I testify of the truth of what is in the scriptures and what has been told to me and can be told to you by the Holy Spirit. It will be revealed according to your obedience and desires. The Savior taught us during His mortal ministry this great truth that applies to all of us: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.”

BREAK INTO 4 GROUPS FOR STRUCTURED CLASS DISCUSSION

Conclusion

When I kneel down to pray at night, there is no doubt in my mind to whom I am speaking. I am praying to a loving Heavenly Father who has all power to help me and wants to do so. I feel his encouragement and love through the gift of the Holy Spirit that has been bestowed upon me. I received it by the laying on of hands from those who are authorized to administer that ordinance.

There is no confusion in my mind as to who Jesus Christ is. He is God’s only Begotten Son in the flesh, meaning that he is Divine. His Father was God and his mother was Mary. He is my Savior, my Redeemer, my Lord, My God and my King. I love Him. I worship Him. I serve him and I obey him. He is my friend. He suffered for me in the Garden of Gethsemane so I can repent.

The gospel is not complicated. We do not need to get hung up on intellectual pursuits that lead us nowhere. To me, the basics of the gospel of Jesus Christ are a clear as the face carved into the hardest known stone on Earth more than 4 millennia ago – the gospel has always been there. Only now is it clear to me what it all means as I continue to build my personal testimony. How grateful I am to a loving Heavenly Father who sent his Son to redeem the world. It is a miracle. All I know is that when I repent and strive to be obedient that I am happy.

I leave this lesson with you to feast upon for the next month and say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.