Relief Society Lesson 23: Individual Responsibility

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The lesson opens with the following quote:

“We expect our members everywhere to learn correct principles and govern themselves.” (Joseph Smith)govern2

This quote alone could serve as a discussion base for an entire lesson.  It begs big and interesting questions.  Here are a few.

  • For some it seems that we are not allowed to govern ourselves, but rather that the church and its leaders govern for us.  Do you think this is true? In your life, do you feel that you govern yourself?  Whether, yes or no, how does this make you feel?  (Empowered?  Happy? Controlled?  Frustrated?)
  • What are correct principles?   And how do we learn them?  (from the church manuals and teaching?  The scriptures?  General Conference?  Our Bishops?  Our own prayer and revelation?  Temple attendance?)  Contradictory themes abound among these tools; how do we decide which tools to use and how are sure that we are learning correct principles?  What do we do when others learn in different ways?

Teachers Note 1

CrucibleI would recommend several chapters in the Givins’ latest book, “The Crucible of Doubt”, as background reading (and as great source of quotes).

  • Chapter 4: The Use and Abuse of Scriptures, which discuss the various contradictions we see in scripture and in church teaching – and what to do about it.
  • Chapter 6: The Ring of Pharaoh, discussing the fallibility of church leaders and God’s anointed – and how to navigate this truth while stay believing.
  • Chapter 8, Find Your Water Place, exploring how individuals can find their own place of spiritual fulfillment and insight.
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October 2014 Visiting Teaching Message: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Bread of Life

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Rosh Hashan'naSometimes in the church, we become so familiar with symbols that we forget what the symbol really is. Bread is one of those symbols that we hear about every week as the sacrament is being blessed and passed. And as I was contemplating this message, my mind swirled with thoughts of bread— literal bread. I thought of those who are gluten-intolerant, and Celiac, and cultures where bread is uncommon… and I wondered… what is the real substance behind bread?

I confess that the message this month did not feel clear to me about the use of the symbol of bread. Clearly Christ is the bread—as recorded by John (John 6:35), “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

And yet… there are days like today, where I still feel alone, weepy, and just, well—spiritually unfilled. My spirit is hungry and thirsty. I know Christ is “the bread of life,” yet through my prayers and study today, I still feel…. Empty. I sense and fear that I am not alone in this feeling. That although we might know what is supposed to fill us, sometimes we still feel unfed. We seek for more.

 

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Relief Society Lesson 22: Prayer, a Commandment and a Blessing

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Cry unto Him over the crops of your field, that ye may prosper in themWe Need Prayer

Prayer is something that we need, not that the Lord needs. –Joseph Fielding Smith

Why do we need prayer?

As you watch this video about church member Daisy Ogando, pay attention to her testimony of prayer. How has prayer helped her? Consider both the tangible and intangible. Think about how prayer has helped you.

Video: Prayer

Our prayers are uttered more for our sakes, to build us up and give us strength and courage, and to increase our faith in him. Prayer is something that humbles the soul. It broadens our comprehension; it quickens the mind. It draws us nearer to our Father in heaven. We need his help; there is no question about that. We need the guidance of his Holy Spirit. We need to know what principles have been given to us by which we may come back into his presence. We need to have our minds quickened by the inspiration that comes from him; and for these reasons we pray to him, that he may help us to live so that we will know his truth and be able to walk in its light, that we may, through our faithfulness and our obedience, come back again into his presence. –Joseph Fielding Smith

How does prayer help us? How does prayer change us?

Gratitude

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Relief Society Lesson 21: Proclaiming the Gospel to the World

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manuel coverWhat does it mean to “proclaim the gospel to the world?” Since I am only one person, I don’t know how to proclaim something to the whole world. But sharing the gospel with people I know sounds like something I can do. I would start this lesson with that simple adjustment in focus, bringing the scope down to the personal.

Here are four main points you may wish to discuss (condensed from five in the manual).

1. Gratitude for truths we’ve learned in the gospel, and opportunities to share what’s most meaningful to us

Lessons about sharing the gospel sometimes focus so much on ways to get people excited about talking about the Church, that they bypass the “why.” Invite the class to first think about the good things, the joy, that spiritual truths have brought to their lives.

• Ask the class: What gospel principles mean a lot to you right now, as in today, or in the past week?
• Invite them to silently answer this question: Is there anyone you might like to share that with, as a way of connecting with someone? Perhaps a sister, a friend, a parent, or your journal?
• Ask the class: What gospel principles have meant the most to you in the past year? Have you had conversations about that with people you know?

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Relief Society Lesson 20: Love and Concern For All of Our Father’s Children

Relief Society Lesson  20: Love and Concern For All of Our Father’s Children

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Lesson 20: Love and Concern For All Our Father’s Children

rosegardenstatue  “I believe it is our solemn duty to love one another, to believe in each other, to have faith in each other, that it is our duty to overlook the faults and the failings of each other, and not to magnify them in our own eyes nor before the eyes of the world.  There should be no faultfinding, no back-biting, no evil speaking, one against another, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  We should be true to each other and to every principle of our religion and not be envious one of another.  We should not be jealous one of another, nor angry with each other, and there should not arise in our hearts a feeling that we will not forgive one another our trespasses.  There should be no feeling in the hearts of the children of God of unforgiveness against any man, no matter who he may be.” (Joseph Fielding Smith – lesson manual)

When I read this lesson, this quote alone spoke to me as being the message I would share with my sisters in Relief Society.  I have chosen to break it down into the many bits of counsel that Joseph Fielding Smith offered, supplemented by other quotes from sisters in leadership callings.  A good companion talk for this lesson is Sister Oscarson’s April 2014 address “Sisterhood: Oh how we need each other.”

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Visiting Teaching Message September 2014: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Comforter

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From the formal message:

Jesus Christ promised, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).

baby (2)

“It’ll be like you don’t even have a dog,” promised my husband before I agreed to let him get a puppy. To be true, he did try to do what he could. But since I worked from home, dog care evolved into much of my daily routine. I didn’t mind for the most part. Because I was lonely, I liked the company of the  dog. I soon grew to rely up on him— I firmly believe that there really is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to teach you about the love of Christ.

Being unintentionally childless, he was my baby. I found sitters for him when I would be gone for more than 3 hours, just as all of the doggy manuals taught. I was picky about his food, and was even fussier about other dogs we had playdates with. As soon as he was “trained” and a little before, he slept by my feet, in the bed shared by my husband and me….and as he grew to adult-dog size, he sometimes crowded me (or hubby) out of bed.

I took him visitDCP02520 (2)ing teaching with me. I ordered him ice cream cones or a  side of bacon at drive-thrus, and instructed the fast-food workers to hand the item directly to him the back seat, where he gently and gratefully received the nosh. A photo of him (being held by the person I wrote about) was among selected images that were published in an academic journal article. He waited at home by the door, or sometimes went with me to four different rounds of  IVF. And when I still came home childless, he licked me, and his fur absorbed my tears. He sat at alert when I was ill, and snuggled me when I was lonely. He comforted me. Greatly. To no end.

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