Relief Society Lesson 10: Prayer and Personal Revelation

by Jana

Because I am a book lover, I would begin with an object lesson about books that will tie into the JS quotation from the lesson.

I would set out a variety of my most favorite books on the table, including some of my very oldest books from the early 19th century. I would begin with a casual discussion about books, describing some of the books on the table, asking if anyone else has read them, asking what some of the sisters most prized books are, etc. I would then move to a discussion about the importance of books in our lives–the significance of literacy, the centrality of the scriptures, etc. Leading the discussion to the point where I felt that it was clearly established how seminal books are to our lives, our culture, our religion.

Then I would shift to reading the quotation from Joseph Smith that says:

“I have an old edition of the New Testament in the Latin, Hebrew, German and Greek languages. … I thank God that I have got this old book; but I thank him more for the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have [not] got the oldest book in the world; but I have got the oldest book in my heart, even the gift of the Holy Ghost. … The Holy Ghost … is within me, and comprehends more than all the world; and I will associate myself with him.”

While reading, I would stress, even repeat, the portion in bold. I would then say:

“We’ve just spent 5 (10?) minutes talking about how important books are, yet Joseph is saying that the Holy Ghost is far more important, that is more significant than even the oldest, most rare scriptural text and he suggests that it is far more comprehensive than any of our written texts. What does this mean to you? How might it impact the way you teach others, such as your children, about personal revelation?”

To segue into the lesson I would state that we are going to discuss both the importance of personal revelation and also the means by which we can access revelation through prayer.

  • God will hear our prayers and speak to us today, just as He spoke to the ancient Saints.

The lesson goes into great detail about the need for each generation of people to have God’s inspired wisdom for their time and for them individually. I would summarize the details of that part of the lesson and then emphasize this section, having an articulate sister stand and read:

“… I may believe that Enoch walked with God. I may believe that Abraham communed with God and conversed with angels. I may believe that Isaac obtained a renewal of the covenant made to Abraham by the direct voice of the Lord. I may believe that Jacob conversed with holy angels and heard the word of his Maker, that he wrestled with the angel until he prevailed and obtained a blessing. I may believe that Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire with fiery horses. I may believe that the saints saw the Lord and conversed with him face to face after his resurrection. I may believe that the Hebrew church came to Mount Zion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. I may believe that they looked into eternity and saw the Judge of all, and Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant.

“But will all this purchase an assurance for me, or waft me to the regions of eternal day with my garments spotless, pure, and white? Or, must I not rather obtain for myself, by my own faith and diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord, an assurance of salvation for myself? And have I not an equal privilege with the ancient saints? And will not the Lord hear my prayers and listen to my cries as soon as he ever did to theirs if I come to him in the manner they did?”

Before the lesson I would have asked one or two sisters who are relatively new converts to share their conversion stories–specifically to discuss the role of personal revelation in helping them to know that they were to be baptized.

  • We can make everything we undertake a subject of prayer.

If I am running short on time, I might condense this section along with the section below, just restating the main ideas. If time allows, I would have a sister read the full quotation from Sarah Granger Kimball as she is speaking at a regional Relief Society Meeting in 1892(found in The Woman’s Exponent, August 15, 1892):

“In the School of the Prophets in Nauvoo, when Joseph Smith was giving instruction to the brethren, he told them to make everything they undertook the subject of prayer. If we had the faith we ought this house would be filled, we are not required to do anything impossible; it is true we have many duties to perform, but let us do those that are most important, and meet our responsibilities in a proper manner.”

Sarah’s quotation, particularly in the context that’s missing from the manual, offers a pattern for women to follow for personal revelation. We need to make everything the subject of prayer, have faith, and recognize that we are all very busy and that the Lord understands this and will aid us in all that they do as we prioritize what’s most important. You can open this to the sisters to share their ideas about how to balance time for prayer with all of their competing obligations/duties.

  • When we pray in faith and simplicity, we receive the blessings God sees fit to bestow upon us.

Henry Bigler remembers Joseph Smith saying of prayer:

“I once heard Joseph Smith remark, ‘Be plain and simple and ask for what you want, just like you would go to a neighbor and say, I want to borrow your horse to go to [the] mill.’”

At this point I would probably point out that some of our most fervent prayers are the very simplest. They may be a simple word, like “Help!” or an abundant feeling of gratitude in which we silently give thanks to God for the goodness of our lives. Have the women turn to their neighbors and share an incident where they offered a simple prayer and felt its effectiveness. After a few moments for them to do this, ask if anyone would be willing to share their story with the entire group.

  • We can receive personal revelation through the Holy Ghost.

We began the lesson by quoting from this section, so we’ll end it by returning to that same quotation. Read it again aloud and bear your own testimony about having the book of the Holy Ghost in your heart, sharing some experiences where you have experienced the power of personal revelation through prayer.  You might also talk about what it means to collect a “library” of experiences with personal revelation, and how these become resources to draw on in time of need.

If you like to make lesson handouts, a bookmark with the JS quotation from the beginning of the lesson would be particularly apropos.

And if you do use the suggestions in this lesson, please drop us a line in the Comments below and let us know how it went. 🙂

*Photo by Lin Pernille, shared on flickr with a Creative Commons license

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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18 Responses

  1. Ana says:

    what happened to lesson #9????

  2. jody says:

    Yes, where is lesson #9?

  3. Jana says:

    Those of you looking for #9 will find it here. 🙂

  4. Sam says:

    Excellent ideas Thanx -do you have any ideas for visual aids I can use for this lesson
    Sam

  5. Randy B. says:

    These write ups are great. Keep up the good work.
    As a fellow bibliophile, I like the way you open the lesson. The quote from Joseph about “this old book” is interesting. It comes from the King Follett sermon in 1844. The quote in the manual leaves out some of the context. Joseph here is discussing the mistranslation of “Jacob” as “James” in the New Testament. He resolves this translation question by looking at old versions of the Bible in other languages. It is in this context that he says he places greater reliance on the Holy Ghost than in the words of the Bible.
    Incidentally, Kevin Barney had a write up over at BCC about the mistranslation issue awhile back. http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2007/11/peter-jacob-and-john/

  6. Staci says:

    I so appreciate the work you all put into these lesson plans. I am a convert, and when I received this calling, I was almost overwhelmed by the realization that I would be “teaching” those who know so much more than I! But, thanks to the generous ladies I meet with, and to your insightful “helps”, I have had very rewarding experiences so far. I find that I start with your ideas, then eventually branch off in other directions that allow me to present in ways that best suit my personality and experience level. You give me a wonderful starting place from which to begin. You also help me feel more confident, and therefore, I am able to serve my sweet, amazing sisters even better. Thanks, really and truely! You are MUCH APPRECIATED!

  7. Jana says:

    Randy:
    Thanks so much for providing the context for the JS quotation. I would have looked it up if I’d had more time, so I’m glad that you covered that base for me. 😉 [note: one of my pet peeves with these lessons is that I _want_ to know the context of the various quotations. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way!]

    Sam:
    I’m not much of a visual aid person, so my only suggestion here is the stack of books that I mentioned for the attention-grabber at the beginning of the lesson. Do let us know if you come up with something different so we can all benefit from your idea(s).

    Staci:
    So glad to know that you’re finding our lessons so helpful in your calling. Good luck with all that you’re doing!

  8. nicole says:

    I just discovered this site! What great ideas!! Thanks for sharing – I am a bit intimidated to teach from JS!

  9. Ginny says:

    I thoroughly enjoy reading your take on the lesson. I teach RS every third Sunday of the month and for the last couple of months have turn here for ideas to teach the lesson. Thank you so much for sharing especially for someone like me who feels so inadequate in teaching these lessons. You are all so wonderful.

  10. Teri says:

    Thank you for your wonderful insights into this lesson. It is always so helpful.

  11. andrea says:

    ooh! I love the thought of building our own library of personal experiences.

  12. darin says:

    Thank you for your posts on the lessons. Teaching RS would be much more difficult for me without your extra insights and ideas.

  13. You have just saved me – thanks for the ideas in this. I found out on Wednesday that I was going to teach on Sunday – I have two young children and also work part-time. My husband and I are struggling with finances and have both been quite stressed especially this week. Then on Friday my 3 year old little girl broke her arm. My emotions and brain have been tied up with her the past couple days. I finally now have a chance to sit down to prepare the lesson. I prayed for help to be able to prepare this lesson and do a good job. I found your posting/site and gave a prayer of gratitude. Thank you. You’ve saved the lesson – and my sanity!

  14. Deborah says:

    Our pleasure.

    I hope it went well — and that your family is on the mend . . . sounds like you have a lot on your plate and could use some extra prayers your direction.

  15. vicki says:

    Thanks so much for these lessons! They make my calling as Relief Society instructor so much more enjoyable as they relieve alot of stress for me. Thanks, Vicki

  16. April says:

    Thanks for the great suggestions! I taught this lesson last Sunday using the Book visual aide, and having the sisters share prayer experiences with each other. After they shared with each other, I told them I was glad that went well, because I knew if I had asked for volunteers to share, I wouldn’t have received nearly as many responses! This was the first lesson I have taught in 8 months that I actually went home feeling uplifted and not completely drained. Thank you for your efforts!!

  1. May 15, 2008

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