Relief Society Lesson #1, “Living What We Believe”
Guest Post by Eve
Eve blogs at http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/
President Smith’s Creed
The beginning of the lesson describes George Albert Smith writing his own personal creed, which took the form of eleven resolutions to live his religion. You might begin or end this lesson by giving class members paper and pens and some time to privately sketch a personal creed or personal resolutions they want to live by. However, meaningful reflection takes time, so you may simply want to encourage class members to this at home as part of their private study and meditation. If you do give class members time to compose their own creeds or resolutions, you might also ask if anyone wants to share some of theirs—although of course you should be careful to respect privacy.
(1) What does it mean to live our religion? What is the difference between being members of the church with our names on the rolls and becoming the saints that President Smith describes? How can we become “doers of the word, and not hearers only,” as James puts it? (See James 1:22–25).
(2) A number of President Smith’s resolutions concern treating the poor, the sick and afflicted, and the “erring one” with compassion and mercy. The importance of treating the socially disadvantaged and oppressed with mercy and justice is a constant theme in all of our scriptures. (For some examples among many, see Proverbs 14:31, James 1:27, Mosiah 4:21–23, Alma 34:28, D&C 52:40). Why is the way we treat those who have less than we do such an important measure of our religious commitment—perhaps even the most important measure? How can we treat the needy and suffering with the compassion and generosity we would ask God to show us?
(3) Another of President Smith’s resolutions was to “avoid the publicity of high positions and discourage the flattery of thoughtless friends.” What are the dangers of public position and flattery? How can praise turn our heads and corrupt us with pride? How can we cultivate and maintain a genuine humility (not mere self-deprecation) whatever our social or church position? (See Helaman 3:35).
(4) Two others of President Smith’s resolutions concern forgiveness and reconciliation: “I would not knowingly wound the feelings of any, not even one who may have wronged me, but would seek to do him good and make him my friend” and “I would not be an enemy to any living soul.” How can we have the divine insight, strength, and kindness to return good for evil, as the Sermon on the Mount teaches us to do to become like God? (See Matthew 5:44–45). How can we cultivate the spirit of compassion and reconciliation to overcome resentment and bitterness? Why is the capacity to forgive such an important part of becoming a saint? What has helped you cultivate forgiveness?
(5) Another of President Smith’s resolutions deals with envy: “I would overcome the tendency to selfishness and jealousy and rejoice in the successes of all the children of my Heavenly Father.” Why is envy so corrosive to our happiness and so dangerous to our relationships with others? What have you found helpful in overcoming feelings of envy or jealousy of others’ successes? (See Alma 5:29).
(6) Two of President Smith’s resolutions concern the way we should teach the gospel: “I would seek out the erring one and try to win him back to a righteous and a happy life” and “I would not seek to force people to live up to my ideals but rather love them into doing the thing that is right.” How can we teach others the gospel with love and without force? How can we be kind, patient, humble, and respectful in the ways we teach our children and talk about our beliefs with our friends and associates?
(7) President Smith’s creed doesn’t concern those aspects of our devotional life that are public and relatively easy to measure, such as payment of tithing and church attendance, but those aspects that are private, finally known only to ourselves and to God, and difficult to measure. Why are these private aspects of our character and our lives—our charity, forgiveness, humility, and compassion—the true measure of our conversion? How do these virtues relate to and express our integrity as Saints in President Smith’s sense?
(8) Much of the lesson concerns the dangers of complacency and self-righteousness, of thinking that membership in the church is enough to save us. What are some practical, daily ways we can take the time to increase our understanding of the gospel and our faithfulness in living it?