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?

To exercise faith in God and worship Him, we must have an understanding of His characteristics.

Joseph Fielding Smith used this scripture to explain how we come to know God:

D&C 93:19–20

19 I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and aknow what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.

20 For if you keep my acommandments you shall receive of hisbfulness, and be cglorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive dgrace for grace.

Joseph Fielding Smith explained this scripture as follows:

…If we are to be glorified in Christ, as he is in the Father, we must understand and know both how to worship and what we worship. (See D&C 93:19–20.) It is my desire to remind you of the nature and kind of being that God is, so that you may worship him in spirit and in truth and thereby gain all of the blessings of his gospel…God is our Father; he is the being in whose image man is created. He has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s, and he is the literal and personal father of the spirits of all men [and women]. He is omnipotent and omniscient; he has all power and all wisdom; and his perfections consist in the possession of all knowledge, all faith or power, all justice, all judgment, all mercy, all truth, and the fullness of all godly attributes. … If we are to have that perfect faith by which we can lay hold upon eternal life, we must believe in God as the possessor of the fullness of all these characteristics and attributes. I say also that he is an infinite and eternal being, and as an unchangeable being, he possesses these perfected powers and attributes from everlasting to everlasting, which means from eternity to eternity.6

Of the characteristics of God that President Smith mentions, which are most meaningful to you? Why? As you exercise faith in your Heavenly Father, how does it help you to know of His characteristics?

God is a personal being and the Father of our spirits.

Joseph Fielding Smith taught the doctrine that we are children of God:

We are the spirit children of God our Heavenly Father. … We are members of his family. … We dwelt with him for long ages in our premortal life. … He ordained a plan of progression and salvation which would enable us, if faithful and true in all things, to advance and progress until we become like him.8

Joseph Fielding Smith also taught the doctrine of Heavenly Mother:

How uplifting, comforting, is this thought, that the Father of Jesus Christ is in very deed our Father—that we are in very deed his offspring, and this is the doctrine of the Bible…And A Mother in Heaven! Latter-day Saints believe that not only have we a Father in heaven, but a mother there.7 (“The Eternity of the Family,” Ch. 26, Address delivered Sunday, December 3, 1944.)

Share this video of excerpts from General Conference about our Heavenly Parents.

How has the doctrine that we are offspring of Heavenly Parents influenced you?

Heavenly Father loves us and is interested in each of us.

Moses 1:37-39

And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. We learn from these scriptures from which I have read and from other revelations from the Lord, that man is the most important of all our Father’s creations. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof, even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

Joseph Fielding Smith explained the significance of this scripture:

From this, and other scripture, I say, we learn that the great work of the Father is to bring to pass the salvation of his children giving unto each that reward which each merits according to his works. I feel most assuredly that our Father in heaven is far more interested in a soul—one of his children—than it is possible for an earthly father to be in one of his children. His love for us is greater than can be the love of an earthly parent for his offspring.11

Why is it important to understand that God loves us and is interested in us individually?

Heavenly Father weeps over His disobedient children.

Moses 7:28-30, 32-33

And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy and from all eternity to all eternity?

And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there and also thou art merciful and kind forever.

The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should choose me, their Father; but behold they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.

Joseph Fielding Smith taught that God is not free of unhappiness:

I was asked by a brother one time if a man could be perfectly happy in the celestial kingdom if one of his children was not permitted to enter there. I told him that I supposed that any man who was so unfortunate as to have one of his children barred from the celestial kingdom would, of course, have feelings of sorrow because of that condition; and that is just the position our Father in heaven is in. Not all of his children are worthy of celestial glory, and many are forced to suffer his wrath because of their transgressions, and this causes the Father and the whole heavens to have sorrow and to weep. The Lord works in accordance with natural law. Man must be redeemed according to law and his reward must be based on the law of justice. Because of this the Lord will not give unto men that which they do not merit, but shall reward all men according to their works… I am satisfied that our Father in heaven would, if it were possible, save all men and give unto them celestial glory, even the fulness of exaltation. But, he has given unto man his agency and man is under the necessity of obeying the truth according to that which is revealed in order to obtain the exaltation of the righteous.12

Why is it important to know that God experiences emotions like sorrow? How is the knowledge that God has emotions relevant to our challenge to emulate God? Why would God grant us agency, when the results often lead to sorrow?

Heavenly Father has provided the way of redemption so we can be brought back to His presence.

We close with Joseph Fielding Smith’s testimony.

I say to you, and to the whole Church, and, for that matter, to the whole world, that a gracious and loving Father has in these last days spoken again from heaven to his servants the prophets. His voice has been one inviting all men to come to his Beloved Son, to learn of him, to partake of his goodness, to take his yoke upon them, and to work out their salvation by obedience to the laws of his gospel. His voice has been one of glory and honor, of peace in this life, and of eternal life in the world to come.17

What are your feelings as you think about Heavenly Father sending His Beloved Son?


April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at

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5 Responses

  1. EmJen says:

    I was absolutely delighted that the new manual included his quote about “a Mother in Heaven.” But further exploration showed this not the case, only focused on “Our Father in Heaven.” Bummer, a missed opportunity. Nice addition here though.

  2. EmilyCC says:

    This is a lovely lesson, April. I thought the part about atheists and the “A Mother There” You Tube clip are thoughtful additions.

    I think chapter 1 of The God Who Weeps by Fiona and Terryl Givens would be helpful for additional lesson preparation.

  3. Luzia says:

    Estou encantada e acredito que vai me ajudar muito nessa aula tao delicada sobre Nosso Pai Celestial ! Voce foi muito inspirada, usarei partes de sua ideia como complemento. Muito obrigada por sua dedicacao e em compartilhar conosco suas ideias !

  4. rich says:

    I love and appreciate these lessons! Just a friendly suggestion: in the future, can you link video clips that are NOT on youtube, since most (all?) LDS meetinghouses block youtube? TIA.

  5. sylvia says:

    The LDS Women’s Treasury book also has a section on HM with quotes from church leaders.

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