Forms of Grace

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And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

Poor Joseph. Birth order and his father’s feelings were not his fault. He was only 17. But still, you’d think common sense or modesty would have warned him off of telling his brothers about his dreams. They weren’t terribly nice guys, for instance Simeon and Levi had murdered all the men in Shechem’s household as they lay recovering from circumcisions. Clearly Joseph underestimated his brothers’ hatred for him, and would have been murdered himself if Reuben hadn’t stepped in and gotten him sold into slavery instead. (Reuben, who may have felt he owed their father some form of apology after he’d slept with Mama Bilhah). Joseph was apparently still peeved at his brothers many years later, because when they showed up in Egypt he “spake roughly unto them” and put the fear of God into them by framing Benjamin for theft before revealing his identity and insisting that they all move to Egypt, reuniting the happy family. All this is of course a prelude to the enslavement of the Israelites and their dramatic exodus back to Caanan (a land flowing with milk and honey–no going back to Egypt to buy corn [1]).

This story is about forging a covenant people. It’s such good drama that Hollywood, Broadway, and Disney have all had turns at telling it, and like all good drama, the story involves flawed characters whose motives aren’t always admirable. Here we have a cast of sinners motivated by jealousy, retribution, and the will to survive, whose lives turn out to form an enduring story of faith. God works in mysterious ways.

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This Is Life Eternal. Right Here. Right Now.

jesus_christ_image_204For this is life eternal, that they know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hath sent.                                                                    ~ John 17:3

It’s hard to remember just exactly when I realized God speaks every language. And not just current languages, but all the lost languages and all the emerging dialects. More importantly, God speaks the language of each proverbial heart. God speaks Melody and Karen and Jill and Sarah and every other named and personal understanding of humankind.

I do remember a few year ago when I had a conversation with one of my neighbors who, like me, is an active Latter-day Saint. He and I were discussing a certain gospel principle. We shared how the spirit had taught us truth. The images used by the spirit to teach my friend involved this friend climbing back up on a horse after falling off. My revelatory images involved a harp, whose strings continued to vibrate even after the sound was no longer audible. God had spoken to each of us, had taught us the same truth, led us to the same conclusion, but through two entirely different spiritual dialects.

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Young Women Lesson: How Can I know my Heavenly Father?

Photo by Gerald Browne The lessons from the new program Come Follow Me center on the nature of God.  In our ward we typically do an overview lesson the first Sunday of the month to introduce the topic to all the Young Women at once, so for the month of January we would probably choose “What do we know about the nature of the Godhead”?  The next several lessons then break down the Godhead into its constituent elements: The Father, The Son, The Holy Ghost and then, ultimately, you and your divine potential.

The lesson about Heavenly Father does not at all refer to our Heavenly Mother.  However, I think in this class it is appropriate to discuss our Heavenly Parents.  I should note that I taught this lesson last year and, I believe, agitated at least one of our young women in the process.  My fellow leader backed me up to the Bishop and affirmed that I had taught nothing that was contrary to doctrine or in any way undermined our belief in our Heavenly Father.  For some young women the idea of acknowledging a Mother as well as a Father may seem very foreign and frightening, but it is a topic worth addressing and this lesson seems to me to be the place to do so.

1. Begin the lesson by having the girls take turns reading the verses to “O my Father” (Hymn 292). What does this hymn teach us about our Heavenly Parents? How do you imagine your Heavenly Parents based on this hymn?

You may get a variety of responses, my class talked about feeling loved and wanted.  I was the one who pointed out that it mentioned the presence of a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father together.  It may also help to bring up The Family: A Proclamation to the World and read passages that refer to having Heavenly Parents.

2. Personal Experience Discussion: When have you felt closest to your Heavenly Parents? What were you doing that enabled you to feel close to them?  (You may want to think of a personal experience of your own in advance to help get the ball rolling)

3. Getting to know God:

Invite a Young Woman to read John 17:3. What is the difference between knowing about someone and knowing someone?

Ask them to think about someone they know very well. What have you done to get to know that person? (List responses on the board) How can we use similar methods to get to know our Heavenly Parents?

Invite half of the class to read Enos 1:1-7 and the other to read the first two sections of Elder Richard G. Scott’s talk “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer.” Ask them to look for ways they can improve their communication with their Heavenly Parents.  After they have discussed what they found, invite them to ponder their relationship with their Heavenly Parents for a few minutes and consider what they can do to improve it.

Emphasize that God promises us that if we seek, we shall find. If we do not know God now, we can if we desire it. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63-64)

4. The story of Enoch and God

As a class read: Moses 7:28-33, 41 (God weeping for the wickedness of the world)

What evidence does this give of God’s love for us? How can these scriptures comfort us when we feel sad?

5. Conclusion of class

Allow a few minutes for the Young Women to write in their class journals any reflections they may have on the lesson.  Ask them to write something that they plan to do to improve their relationship with God this week.  If they feel comfortable, ask them to share with the class.  This will be their assignment for the week, have them reread their commitment at the beginning of class next week to see how well they followed through.

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Relief Society Lesson 1: Our Father in Heaven

Relief Society Lesson 1: Our Father in Heaven
credit: NASA/JPL

credit: NASA/JPL

In the Book of Mormon, Alma debated Korihor about the existence of God:

Alma 30:43-44

43 And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me aasign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.

44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of aall these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the bearth, and call things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its dmotion, yea, and also all theeplanets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

What strengthens your testimony of God?

From the Life of Joseph Fielding Smith

While Alma’s knowledge of science added to his testimony of God, Joseph Fielding Smith observed that the increased scientific knowledge we enjoy today does not always have the same effect:

Great progress has been made in mechanics, chemistry, physics, surgery, and other things. Men have built great telescopes that have brought the hidden galaxies to view. They have, by the aid of the microscope, discovered vast worlds of microorganisms. … They have discovered means to control disease. … They have invented machines more sensitive than the human touch, more far-seeing than the human eye. They have controlled elements and made machinery that can move mountains, and many other things have they done too numerous to mention… All of these discoveries and inventions have not drawn men nearer to God! 1

Joseph Fielding Smith taught that science is inadequate to learn about God:

We know that God is known only by revelation, that he stands revealed or remains forever unknown. We must go to the scriptures—not to the scientists or philosophers—if we are to learn the truth about Deity.

For some, believing in God comes naturally.  For others, it is a struggle.  As we discuss faith in God, it is important not to let the discussion turn to vilifying atheists and agnostics.  The scriptures teach that a testimony is a spiritual gift and not all people receive the same spiritual gifts.

D&C 46:11-14

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man [and woman] is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

13 To some it is given by the aHoly Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

14 To others it is given to abelieve on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

While we may not all be blessed with the spiritual gift of a testimony of God, this revelation encourages us to “seek ye earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46: 8).

Hoyt W. Brewster Jr., Joseph Fielding Smith’s grandson, reported that Smith’s “…prayers were always very personal—as if talking to a friend.”2

What do you think leads a person to be able to pray to God “as if talking to a friend”? How might we “seek earnestly” to strengthen our relationships with God?

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Ah! Turn Me Not Away

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Stephanie Lauritzen, an OW action participant, being turned away from Priesthood Session. Photo taken by Josh Johnsen.

On Sunday morning I flipped through picture after picture of women being turned away from the doors of our worship places. The Mormon Tabernacle choir sung in the background. Tears streamed down my face; many of those women are my friends. All are my sisters.

Ah! Turn me not away, Receive me tho unworthy. Hear Thou my cry, Behold, Lord, my distress.

I have performed this song countless times but the cry remains with me always. Hear Thou my cry.

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