Gospel Principles 1: Our Heavenly Father
We’ve noticed that people have been a little nervous about starting this new manual, so I’ve put in more material here than is necessary. Pick and choose what you find most helpful.
I think this it’s helpful to remember that these lessons aren’t designed to be a lecture but a discussion. And, with a topic like God, this is particularly important because it would be pretty awful to hear one teacher pontificate on the nature of God for the full class period. We all have different ways we experience God that are meaningful to each of us. So, this lesson shouldn’t be one that lacks for people want to share their experiences. (And, can I get a WOOT for the manual writers who have sections that use the word “God?” I love a little gender-neutral language in my Church materials!)
One more thing, in the past, I have put my words in italics and the manual’s in regular font. This time, because I mostly used the questions and headers from the manual and added quite a bit of my own commentary, I have put the manual stuff in italics and my words in regular font.
There Is a God
• What are some things that testify to you that there is a God?
Usually, I don’t open with a question, but this one that the manual suggests is intriguing and the answers one gets can really set the tone for the rest of the lesson, which is why I would recommend calling 3-4 class members a few days before the lesson and ask them to have an answer—a story, a piece of art, a poem, a scripture, a hymn, whatever they’d like.
This section goes on to use scriptures as examples of who God is and what God does. I wouldn’t use all of them, but I think one or two would be helpful for generating more discussion. I’m particularly fond of this one:
God is the Supreme and Absolute Being in whom we believe and whom we worship. He is “the Great Parent of the universe,” and He “looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 39).This quote encapsulates a piece of doctrine that is fairly unique to the LDS Church, namely, that what many churches see as a metaphor, i.e. God as a father, we believe to be literal.
Does knowing God is our “Great Parent” help you in your life or strengthen your testimony of the Church? Why?
I think this would be a lovely place to put in “O My Father.” Though it’d fit in just about anywhere in this lesson. If you have oodles of time, I would have the class sing all the verses. While it would be nice to have someone perform the song, I think the class would get more out of it if they were singing the words. If you don’t have time, save it for a closing hymn or ask your class to read it over this week.
What does this song teach us about God? (O My Father can then serve as a nice transition to the next section)
The Nature of God
• What are some of God’s attributes?
Again, the scriptures listed in the manual provide some nice answers. Pick your favorite.
After going over your chosen scriptures, I would ask:
How have you experienced these attributes (being in God’s image, God’s love, mercy, work, etc.) of God in your life?
Have you seen godly attributes in others? How do these people help you better understand the attributes of God?
If there’s silence, tell an experience of your own or perhaps use this famous joke:
It had been raining for days and days, and a terrible flood had come over the land. The waters rose so high that one man was forced to climb onto the roof of his house.
As the waters rose higher and higher, a man in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord, the Lord will save me.” So the man in the rowboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.
The waters rose higher and higher, and suddenly a speedboat appeared. “Climb in!” shouted a man in the boat. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me.” So the man in the speedboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.
The waters continued to rise. A helicopter appeared and over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord, the Lord will save me.” So the helicopter went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.
The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually they rose so high that the man on the roof was washed away, and alas, the poor man drowned.
Upon arriving in heaven, the man marched straight over to God. “Heavenly Father,” he said, “I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?” God gave him a puzzled look, and replied “I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you expect than that?”
I love how this joke is a little cheeky while also showing our own capacity to let God shine through us. As we learn to serve others (and thereby God), we can develop those divine attributes we just discussed.
Coming to Know God
• How can we come to know God?
Again, great scriptures to ponder and pray about to decide which would be best for your class.
The lesson has a list of four concrete ways we can know God. I might have someone read each scripture and then ask the class if they have an experience of how they have come to know God through one of these ways
What else have you found to help you draw nearer to Go?
As we work on knowing God, we are more able to feeling God’s Love.
I love Matthew 10:29-31. This simple scripture that reminds us of God’s love for everything on this world. God knows and loves the sparrows, and God knows and loves each of us.
We will never know everything about God but when we serve God, we can know God. When we work on developing and strengthening our faith, we can know God. And by doing these things, we can know, most importantly of the love that God has for each of us.
Close with testimony.
Want more helpful links?
- Julie offers her lesson outline here, which made me just want to cut and paste the link here for the entire post and call it a day.
- ESO asks for advice for her lesson here.
- The Exponent’s list of online resources can be found here.
Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.