If I was teaching this lesson, I would begin with the video clip from Elder Holland’s talk (embedded on the left), “The First Great Commandment.” Then, ask:
Why is loving God the first and great commandment?
What acts does Elder Holland suggest we perform to show our love for God?
How do you show love for God in your daily acts?
One early Christian mystic, Julian of Norwich wrote, “The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”
What does her statement mean to you?
I think this might be the biggest take-away from this lesson–that we live with joy because we know God loves us.
Another early Christian mystic, Hildegard von Bingen wrote, “‘With my mouth,’ God says, ‘I kiss my own chosen creation. I uniquely, lovingly, embrace every image I have made out of the earth’s clay. With a fiery spirit I transform it into a body to serve all the world.'”
What does this statement mean to you?
I love this idea that as God’s creations or as children of God we are vessels in the world and can manifest God’s love through our daily interactions. This follows with a sentiment Mother Teresa once expressed, “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
Do you ever feel like God’s little pencil? In what ways?
Once, as teachers, we’ve shown that a. God loves us so much and b. why and how we can strive to show our love for God, I think we can move onto the next part of the lesson (bold indicates a header from the manual).
When people allow worldliness to pervade their minds and hearts, they turn their backs on eternal principles.
What do we mean when we talk about “worldliness?” (list on board)
How do you avoid worldliness in your own life?
In this lesson, we see President Snow’s accounts of people leaving the Church. I would summarize these accounts and then ask the following questions:
Do you see parallels between those who are leaving the Church today and those President Snow is referring to here?
Can someone do their callings, pay their tithing, read their scriptures, and come to meetings every week and still succumb to worldliness?
I think it’s too easy to say that those who leave the Church are becoming to worldly just as it is too easy to say that if we can say that if we follow a simple checklist, we don’t need to worry.
I see people who have left the Church, serving their communities in real and beautiful ways, just as I see active members (myself included) being a little too worldly with overconsumption, vanity, and intolerance of other systems of belief or political attitudes.
Below is a quote directly from the manual where President Snow talks about what happened just before the problems in Kirtland:
All these blessings, and many others that I have not time to enumerate, were enjoyed by the Latter-day Saints just previous to the time when this spirit of speculation began to pervade the hearts of the people. One would have imagined that after receiving these wonderful manifestations no temptation could have overthrown the Saints. But it did, and it scattered them, as it were, to the four winds.
Singular as it may appear, this spirit of speculation pervaded the quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the quorum of the Seven Presidents of Seventies; indeed, there was not a quorum in the Church but was more or less touched with this spirit of speculation. As that spirit increased, disunion followed. Brethren and sisters began to slander and quarrel one with the other, because their interests were not in harmony.
Will this be the case with the Latter-day Saints I am now addressing? I fear it is coming, but how far it will affect you it is not for me to say. You will have the experience, however; and perhaps it is very necessary that you should.
Do you think this could happen to us as Latter-day Saints today?
How can we avoid this situation?
We have covenanted to separate ourselves from worldliness and devote ourselves to the kingdom of God.
I think this is another great quote from the manual:
I thank God that in these times of corruption and wickedness in the world, we have holy and righteous men and women who can devote those superior talents which God has bestowed upon them to His praise and glory. And I might say further, that there are thousands of virtuous and honorable men and women, whom the Lord has gathered out from the nations, that are also willing to devote their time and talents to aid in accomplishing the work of God in the interest of His children.9
How do you avoid worldliness in your daily life?
How can we help others do so?
We follow the Savior’s example when we refuse to trade the glories of eternity for the riches of the world.
The manual has some good quotes here from President Snow, but I would leave this part to the class…
How can we use our Savior as an example of how to love God?
How can we use Jesus’ example to avoid the trappings of worldliness?
I feel like it is increasingly difficult to stay separate from the world, to keep my focus on loving God and therefore, on loving and serving others. So, I would like to end with one last quote from Julian of Norwich as I close with my testimony:
“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”