Relief Society Lesson 8: the Church and Kingdom of God
I would start this lesson by listening some of the varied ways that President Joseph Fielding Smith served in the organization of the Church.
In the manual, we read, “Through these service opportunities, Joseph Fielding Smith came to appreciate the Church’s inspired organization and its role in leading individuals and families to eternal life.”
Ask the class, What service opportunities have you had in your life that have helped you to gain a testimony of the Church’s inspired organization?
I work hard for my faith. It hasn’t come easily for me, but the structure of the Church is something I have a testimony of. I know my experience isn’t universal and I hope others will chime in with their’s, but as a woman who wanted very much to be a pastoral leader, I went to Divinity School, trying to figure out how I fit in. Though I still struggle with this, I do feel like that time helped me to gain a testimony of the divine inspiration of selecting lay members, rather than paid clergy, to lead in our church. The personal growth and spiritual development I have had because of my various callings is something I cherish deeply and I think of all the wonderful relationships I have with people who think very differently than I because we have held callings together.
In the lesson, we read President Smith’s testimony,
“I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son in the flesh of our Father. I have perfect faith in the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith and those who have succeeded him.
“I know that we have the truth of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, just as well as I know that I live. If I did not know it, I wouldn’t want to be here or have anything to do with this work. But I know it in every fiber of my body. God has revealed it to me.”3
When I compare my doubts and testimony to what I read here, I feel like a failure, but I take heart in the analogy we see over and over again in our scriptures…the building of the Kingdom of God, which the Bible Dictionary aptly defines here.
How do you define the Kingdom of God?
In the manual, President Smith talks about the apostasy after Christ’s death and the reorganization of the Church brought about by President Joseph Smith.
President Smith said, “We announce that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on earth…”
I find great solace in thinking about the Church as the kingdom of God. This kingdom is not yet complete, but it is something we work on together as we build both our hearts and our communities as we get prepare for eternity and the Celestial Kingdom.
I love everything under the heading, “The Lord Himself directs the work of the Church, and it is our privilege to have membership in it.”
As President Smith said, “What a privilege it is to have membership in such a divine institution!”12
How do you build the Kingdom of God as a member of our church?
The next section’s header is, “The Church is organized to help members find joy and happiness in this life and eternal life in the life to come.”
The manual talks about how the Lord’s system is perfect, that the Church is divinely inspired, how “In every gospel dispensation there are special needs to be met, problems to be solved, and help that must be given to assist and aid the members of the Church in working out their salvation ‘with fear and trembling’ before the Lord.”
I want to expand on this. I believe that history has shows us that God’s system is perfect but it is not easy. As women and men grow in Christ-like love and understanding, we are given new insights, revelations, and challenges. We have struggled in the past with the Law of Consecration, polygamy, and the extension of the priesthood to all worthy males. As we come through these struggles, I believe that we, as a church, as a community are building the kingdom of God. We are becoming more like our Savior (don’t get me wrong…we still have a LONG way to go) and we are more worthy to receive the relation that comes after prayer, struggle, discussion and hard work.
I wonder if how we the treatment of our LGBT sisters and brothers and how we will give women more equality in the structure of the Church are the great questions of our generation–the struggles we are going through now will be put to rest after we have done the hard work and revelation comes from our leaders.
Will we use these divisive topics to draw closer to each other, to work together to build our kingdom?
I stopped dead in my tracks a week ago while doing some scripture study for this lesson when I read Luke 11:17, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.”
I don’t know how these important topics will be settled in the Church. I have my hopes and my biases, but as I struggle in my study and prayer, I feel over and over again that I am to show love–to everyone, but perhaps especially those who have said things that have felt hurtful.
I feel the divine inspiration in President Oscarson’s words at the General Women’s meeting a few weeks ago whenever I read them, “Tonight we rejoice in our many different roles as women in the Church. Though in many ways we are different and unique, we also acknowledge that we are all daughters of the same Heavenly Father, which makes us sisters. We are unified in building the kingdom of God and in the covenants which we have made, no matter what our circumstances. This combined assembly is, without a doubt, the most glorious sisterhood upon the face of the earth!1”
I think this talk would provide a teacher with far better supplemental information than my attempts here.
How has a sister in your ward shown you love? Helped you feel that together you are working to build the Kingdom of God?
I run with a group of friends in my ward who hate the idea of Mormon women holding the priesthood, but they listen to my reasons about why I would like it, and they stand up for me when others question my testimony or motives. They are an example of what we are trying to achieve as we build the Kingdom of God. We haven’t changed each other’s minds, but our talks are frank and honest, spoken with words of love and respect.
Sister Patricia Holland’s talk, “‘One Thing Needful': Becoming Women of Greater Faith in Christ,” also has profound words about judging each other and building the Kingdom of God within ourselves.
The next section, “Our service in the Church expresses love for others and appreciation for the Lord’s infinite service,” talks about the way service both through callings and on our own helps to build the Kingdom of God.
I would end with bearing my testimony…that we can best build the Kingdom of God when we follow the two great commandments that Jesus outlined in Mark 12: 28-31, to love our God and to love our neighbors. When we do that, the contention and worry will give way to dialogue and progress.