Relief Society Lesson 7: Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Christ

Joseph and Hyrum 2I still remember on my mission, one particular day when one particular investigator told my companion and me that he admired many things about our church, and had many LDS friends whose families and lives he respected, but that there was one thing he could not get over: we worshipped Joseph Smith. We tried to explain the distinction, that we worship God and Jesus Christ, but are grateful for Joseph Smith because he helped us know Them more. We also brought in ancient prophets who helped us do the same.

And then my companion said a prayer. She began it, “Dear Heavenly Father,” and closed it, “In the name of Joseph Smith. Amen.” I was mortified, and thought this guy would never believe the story we just told, or that 99.99999999999% of Mormon prayers end, “In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” My companion told me later that she was nervous. I told her that it was fine. And it was, mostly, but the issue that the man raised is an important one, because it is a real concern for many people.

I thought of it again when I first read the 7th chapter in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual: “Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Christ.” And I thought of some questions. Let us keep them in mind as we consider this lesson.

  • Why do we sometimes focus so much on Joseph Smith?
  • What can we learn from his life, that can help us in our own?
  • What can we learn from Hyrum’s life? (He is included in this lesson too.)
  • What can we learn from their relationship.
  • What can we learn from their willingness to be martyrs for Christ’s sake?
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Visiting Teaching: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Light of the World

From http://judithweingarten.blogspot.com.au/2007/02/cybele-and-silk-road.html

From http://judithweingarten.blogspot.com.au/2007/02/cybele-and-silk-road.html

This is an interesting visiting teaching topic. The message itself is typical, yet friendlier because inclusive brackets have been added to the text to make it more easily applicable to women, and the history section choices are examples of actions which reflect the “Light of Christ.”

But—in reading, I couldn’t help but wonder what is the “Light of Christ”? Is it the Holy Ghost? Is it symbolism of the Son/Sun giving light? I have heard the phrase so often, and it is defined in my mind… yet… I suddenly wondered if there were more that I did not know. So I looked it up in the most reliable resource I know. The Relief Society magazine. And this is what a 1965 lesson on the “Light of Christ” taught me:

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Relief Society Chapter 5: Faith and Repentance

This is a very broad lesson (seven sections!), and will be too much, I think, for any class to go over in meaningful detail. Having been freshly inspired by TopHat’s great Young Women lesson plan on repentance (oh, how I would have loved her lesson when I was in Young Women!),  I chose to focus on repentance for this lesson. repentanceThe reason is because I think that repentance is generally taught in a manner that brings fear, sorrow and judgement: it is a downer of a lesson. Though the focus on faith and the seven (!) sections in this lesson detracts from an overt focus on repentance, I still opted to try and present repentance in a way that is peaceful and loving.

Repentance is a topic that is personal. In this, it is difficult to teach without offering an ugly feeling of being judged and degrading our self worth. Indeed, some of my darkest hours are a result of self-hate for feeling unworthy and unable to repent, once even for something as minute as temporarily removing the garment to go to a ballet class!  Thus, and because branches and wards can be small and gossipy, it is important for this lesson to be taught in a manner that expresses the love of the Atonement. The Atonement is love, which means repentance is love. And this, is good news. The link to the text is here.

 

I would be anxious to ensure the class starts on a positive note, so would write the word “repentance” on the board, and underneath, add the word “positive.” Have the women in the class list the positive characteristics of repentance. Some of the positive characteristics might be: clean, baptism, refresh, start over, uplifted, freed. In having a list that is only positive, the focus opens to a sense of the positive side of repentance, rather than the guilt and shame of imperfection. Through the lesson, be in tune when positive terms come up describing the feelings of repentance and continue to add them to the board.

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February 2014 Visiting Teaching Message: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Good Shepherd

This is a sweet message, and it is an easy one to adapt individually without too much issue. I say this because I think at the heart of this—it is addressing isolation. The isolation of the “lost sheep” wandering away from the fold—or even, as the James Faust quote includes—the “brokenhearted parents” who might feel isolated because their child might not have made choices that reflect the desire of their parents- especially in regard to the church.

 

Now. Because I am short on time this month as a result of… many things, I chose to just focus on that simplicity: addressing isolation. There are times in all of our lives that was have felt isolation- the teen who aches to be included in social activities, the single adult who longs to be married, the mother of young children who finds herself at a loss for conversation outside of her family, the unmarried or divorced mid-single who is tired of being labelled a “problem” because they “can’t get married,” and the widow who makes cash withdrawals from bank tellers just for the conversation…. Isolation is a common illness, one that we have all suffered from at one time or another.

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Relief Society Lesson 4: Strengthening and Preserving the Family

human family

By Amy Cartwright

Amy is a blogger for Young Mormon Feminists

My childhood was spent watching far too much television. While I would never admit this to my schoolmates, one of my favorite shows was none other than Barney and Friends. That’s right, I’m going to quote a purple dinosaur in this lesson. In one episode, the children are talking about different kinds of families—one child had a “traditional” family with a mom, dad, brothers and sisters, pets and the like, another had parents who were divorced, and one was raised by her grandmother. As the children sang about different kinds of families, they taught:

“A family is people and family is love,
that’s a family.
They come in all different sizes and different kinds,
but mine’s just right for me.”

The eternal nature of the family is one of the most beautiful doctrines in all of Mormonism. This understanding that we are sealed, not only to our spouses and children in nuclear families, but in one great big human family, should move us to compassion, love, and service of all of God’s children, regardless of their faith or non-faith, nationality, race, orientation, etc.

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Relief Society Lesson 3: The Plan of Salvation

In our ward we have spent the last month in Sunday School discussing the Plan of Salvation.  For this reason, I think simply going through it from start to finish might not be the most compelling approach.  However, if your ward has many investigators, new converts, or others who are not familiar with the doctrine, it might be better to do that instead.

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In reading through the lesson manual I will admit that no quotes or anecdotes leapt out at me.  This seems to me to be a fairly basic and clear-cut dissection of the Plan of Salvation.  For this reason I think it would be very easy to simply read off a few lines and then jump into a broader discussion about personal experiences or testimonies.

The hardest part of a good lesson plan in my book is coming up with open-ended questions that might spur discussion, so that is what I’m trying to supply here.

 

  

Finding meaning in the Plan of Salvation

What is your favorite part of the Plan of Salvation?

What part of the Plan of Salvation do you wish we had more answers about?

What big questions do you feel the Plan of Salvation answers?

 

Using the Plan of Salvation to share and understand the Gospel

Have you ever had the opportunity to use the Plan of Salvation to share the Gospel with someone?

If you had to explain the pre-earth life/Spirit World/Agency to a friend, how would you do it?

Joseph Fielding Smith refers to earth life as “the great gift of mortality.” In what sense have you felt this to be a gift to you? Have you ever consciously felt grateful to be subject to what he calls “the vicissitudes of mortality?” When/why?

 

Dealing with doubt and uncertainty

Has knowing the Plan of Happiness ever actually made you happy? When/why?

When in your life have you struggled to understand/believe/trust the Plan of Salvation?

How can we distinguish between popular belief within the LDS community and actual doctrine about the Plan of Salvation?

 

Finally I wanted to include two quotes that I found meaningful as I thought about this lesson, which I think could be applied if you decided to discuss these specific principles.

 

On Agency:

(Bear in mind that this is from The Screwtape Letters, so the perspective is from a senior tempter to a junior tempter; it is intentionally diabolical).

“One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.  He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself – creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons . . . [He] wants a world full of beings united to him but still distinct.

“Merely to override a human will . . . would be for Him useless.  He cannot ravish.  He can only woo.  For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve.” [C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (Harper Collins, 2001) 38-39]

 

On the Atonement:

 

It’s our faith that he experienced everything – absolutely everything.  Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief.  We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family.  But we don’t experience pain in generalities.  We experience it individually.  That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer – how it was for your mother, how it still is for you.  He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election.  He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid.

Let me go further.  There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize.  On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy.  He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy.  He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause.  He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. He knows all that He’s been there.  He’s been lower than all that.  He’s not waiting for us to be perfect.  Perfect people don’t need a Savior.  He came to save his people in their imperfections.  He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes.  He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked.  He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.

(Chieko Okazaki, Lighten Up, Preface, p 174.)

 

My own feeling is that we have a strong tendency to try to cover the whole Plan in one lesson.  It isn’t possible to do such an enormous topic justice with an overview, and as a result the topic can see cliché and tedious.  I think just picking a few aspects of the plan to really go in depth might yield more meaningful participation.  I personally find discussing the moments in life when we confront doubt or fear to be some of the most powerful lessons we have.
While the suggestions I offer here do not pull very much from the manual, I think the tidy organization of this lesson lends itself to easily pulling quotes about specific principles that will not seem out-of-context or need any extra explanation.

 

 

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