Relief Society Lesson #45: The Millenium
I must admit my practical bias in teaching any church lesson: How do these teachings influence our thinking to help us become better people now? For me, finding what is at the core of these lessons that can comfort our hearts and stretch our souls is the key to making these lessons both successful and meaningful.
In lessons that focus on abstract ideas or events that have been prophesied, it can be easy for a class to be side-tracked by speculation and pontificating (hence the manual’s caution that “the subject of the Millennium sometimes leads people to speculate about ideas that are not found in the scriptures or the teachings of latter-day prophets. As you guide this lesson, be careful to avoid such speculation.”)
With those points in mind, I have structured this lesson around how considering the prophecies of the Millennium offers practical spiritual insights that can meaningfully influence our lives now.
People on the Earth during the Millennium
For me, one of the more compelling aspects of the Church’s teaching on Millennial life is its continuity with this earth life in many regards. As the manual discusses, Mormon theology teaches that
“During the Millennium, mortals will still live on earth, and they will continue to have children as we do now (see D&C 45:58). Joseph Smith said that immortal beings will frequently visit the earth. These resurrected beings will help with the government and other work. (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 268.)
People will still have their agency, and for a time many will be free to continue with their religions and ideas.”
Questions worth asking in this section:
- What aspects of these teachings are surprising?
- Who will participate in the Millennium?
- Can we imagine a peaceful world which still has a multiplicity of religious beliefs and governments? What conditions would be necessary for that to exist?
- We sometimes think that being witness to the Second Coming of Jesus would be an experience that would compel you to become a follower of Christ. Yet modern day prophets have taught that there will be righteous people in the Millennium who will still hold other religious beliefs. Why is that important?
Brigham Young went so far as to assert a belief that in the Millennium people would “have the privilege of being Presbyterians, Methodists or Infidels, but they will not have the privilege of treating the name and character of Deity as they have done heretofore.”
- How does an understanding of a diverse Millennial society influence the way we live now?
Even in a Millennial world, our theology still upholds its commitment to personal agency.
The Work of the Church during the Millennium
One thing I have always really loved about LDS theology is its foundational belief in eternal progression. We are a church that believes in second chances, in redemption, in atonement, in forgiveness. Institutionally we are designed not just to teach this to each other, but to actively participate in offering these gifts to each other.
- What is the purpose of making human beings responsible for performing temple work in the Millennium?
- How does performing this work enrich us individually and as a human family?
I like the idea that if the whole human family is going to be sealed together, the work has to be done by human beings themselves. God can’t just want this for us—we have to want it for ourselves. Ours is a gospel which demands that we care for each other on a cosmic scale—we must not only leave the ninety-nine in search of the one, but must leave the billions in search of the one. The Millennial focus on seeing the whole human family restored is one of the more beautiful aspects of this doctrine for me.
The lesson manual asks “How can we prepare now for work in the Millennium?” It might be worth asking your class about what elements of the modern Church have been instituted in preparation for the Millennium. When the early saints were first making their way to Zion, they did so with the belief that Jesus needed them to prepare a place for Him to return. There was a sense that Jesus could not come without a righteous society already in place.
- What would adopting such a mindset look like in 2011?
- How can we continue to prepare for Christ’s return now that we are no longer asked to assemble in a specific geographical region designated as Zion?
Conditions During the Millennium
This section probably harbors the highest risk of eliciting the kind of “speculation” the manual cautions against. I would prayerfully consider what elements of this section would most resonate with the women in your particular class.
I do love the teaching that all things will be revealed during the Millennium and how we can consider this thousand years of peace devoid of temptation and sin as a period of potentially accelerated learning and progression for the whole human family.
- What teachings in this section bring you particular peace?
One Final Struggle After the Millennium
At the heart of this section is the reaffirmation of the LDS doctrine of free agency. Even after the eternities of living we are taught we will have already done by the time the Millennium has reached its end, every soul will still be an agent in determining their own future. Not even one thousand years of Millennial peace can “destroy the agency of man” (Moses 4:3)
- How is this final struggle evidence of God’s respect for human agency?