An (Out)Burst

Three Sundays ago in Relief Society we had lesson 1 in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual. It was the lesson on Heavenly Father. I had  ended up on the front row with my knitting and my baby. The first discussion in the class included listing the traits of God on the board. I sat there wondering if I had something to add while everyone else put up all the phrases  I was already thinking about: all the omni-stuff, loving, merciful, etc. And then,

“Male.”

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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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Young Women Lesson: How Can I Find Solutions to My Challenges and Problems?

You Are Enough, Vicki JohnsonThe overall theme in November is “self reliance.” Spunky did an excellent introduction last week here, and you can look up the Aaronic priesthood lessons here; they have additional ideas that I thought were helpful for the Young Women.

When I was in high school, I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Self Reliance.” That essay gave me confidence and made me feel like I was capable of handling anything that came my way. I was determined to be self-reliant. So, I would start with my favorite part of the essay:

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great women and men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now women and men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

I would begin by asking the class,
What does this quote mean to you?

Self-reliance is difficult to obtain, especially in the face of trials and the unknown, but as individuals who believe in the importance of free agency, it is vital that we study and gain the faith we need to be able to make big decisions as we face challenges in our lives.

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Young Women Lesson: How Can I Develop Christlike Love?

As I was reading through October’s lessons, I was very excited about the focus on Christ and love. The lessons on the Come Follow Me website are very good. In this lesson, I tried to get away from the cerebral aspects of “we need to love everyone” and go into the “how” to love everyone.

Washing of Feet

Lesson Prep/Intro

The week before the lesson, I think it would be good to ask the students to spend time thinking of their favorite story of Jesus. You could ask some of the older girls who studied New Testament last year in seminary to share a story they learned about that was important to them to share with the younger girls, or you could ask everyone to spend some time reading in the Gospels this week in their personal study. Then when you start class, you could ask each to share the story they picked and write it on the board in a list.

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Seeing Through The Veil

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”  I Corinthians 13:12

You know how strings of musical instruments that share harmonic likeness, sometimes when struck or plucked, respond to each other with sympathetic vibration? Well, sometimes when I’m sitting in fast and testimony meeting I begin to feel something like that. Only, it’s inside me. Maybe you’ve felt it too. Maybe it’s the spirit whispering, or our own spirit recognizing the truth in someone else’s words. Sometimes it’s not in a church setting when it happens. But whatever it is, or whenever it happens, I’ve learned to pay attention. I try to listen to my heart and to the words being spoken. Most importantly, I seek to understand why I am responding to those particular words or ideas. I allow myself to wonder: Why does this resonate with me? What am I really hearing? Then I wait for answers.

Earlier this month, as the men and women in my ward began bearing their testimonies, I felt that familiar vibration.  My emotions began to soften, and somewhere in my adrenal glands preparation for fight or flight had begun.

As I listened to one of the local full time missionaries share his thoughts about how God looks upon the heart, I noticed my inner truth harp vibrating wildly. I began to see or feel an image of what we typically term the “veil of mortality.” I’ve always imagined the veil as a sort of curtain, behind which the world of spirit and our memories of heaven are concealed.

But on this particular day I saw or felt awareness of another kind of veil. I saw each human being veiled by the effects of the fall, each soul walking the earth, clothed not only in mortal flesh, but also in accoutrements of hardship, disability, and various distortions of truth inherent in earth life. When viewed this way, mortality separates us not only from the presence of God, but the veil also separates us from each other.

For some this veil takes the form of homelessness or addiction. For others it looks like crippling shyness, boisterousness or mental illness. Maybe rigid religiosity or inactivity in the church–or being a person of a different religion, race or sexual orientation is how the veil appears to us. Whatever keeps us (personally or individually) from connecting freely and lovingly with each other may be part of the veil. I have come to believe that heaven is not just a place we “go” when we are done with mortality. It is something we work to create as we live our lives. We are helping God prepare our eternal mansions with our every thought, word and action. Likewise, the veil isn’t just a curtain; it’s also a state of being.

In my understanding of celestial glory, we will return to that place we left by learning to shed our own personal veils; learning to live our truest lives and to love one another the way our Savior loves us. We must do this in order to be comfortable in His presence. We attempt this monumental task in what are perhaps the most challenging circumstances of our eternal existence–in mortality–where each of us is veiled in so many ways. Indeed, we see through a glass darkly.

Burning man 2013.rick egan

Yet, on occasion we are rewarded for our efforts. The scales fall from our eyes, the beam is cast out and whatever normally keeps us separate or at a safe distance from one another seems to disappear. In these rare and wonderful moments the veil is rent and we see each other as God sees us, clothed in light and love. We feel profound humility and respect as we experience communion and reunion with our eternal sisters or brothers; God is in our midst and, for a moment, we are home.

 

Have you shared a moment of loving clarity with a friend or stranger?

Have you had such a homecoming?

.                                                            .                                                      .                                                        Photo by Rick Egan, Burning Man 2013
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