Gospel Principles 1: Our Heavenly Father

by EmilyCC

We’ve noticed that people have been a little nervous about starting this new manual, so I’ve put in more material here than is necessary.  Pick and choose what you find most helpful.

I think this it’s helpful to remember that these lessons aren’t designed to be a lecture but a discussion.  And, with a topic like God, this is particularly important because it would be pretty awful to hear one teacher pontificate on the nature of God for the full class period.  We all have different ways we experience God that are meaningful to each of us.  So, this lesson shouldn’t be one that lacks for people want to share their experiences.  (And, can I get a WOOT for the manual writers who have sections that use the word “God?”  I love a little gender-neutral language in my Church materials!)

One more thing, in the past, I have put my words in italics and the manual’s in regular font.  This time, because I mostly used the questions and headers from the manual and added quite a bit of my own commentary, I have put the manual stuff in italics and my words in regular font.

There Is a God

• What are some things that testify to you that there is a God?

Usually, I don’t open with a question, but this one that the manual suggests is intriguing and the answers one gets can really set the tone for the rest of the lesson, which is why I would recommend calling 3-4 class members a few days before the lesson and ask them to have an answer—a story, a piece of art, a poem, a scripture, a hymn, whatever they’d like.

This section goes on to use scriptures as examples of who God is and what God does.  I wouldn’t use all of them, but I think one or two would be helpful for generating more discussion.  I’m particularly fond of this one:

God is the Supreme and Absolute Being in whom we believe and whom we worship. He is “the Great Parent of the universe,” and He “looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 39).This quote encapsulates a piece of doctrine that is fairly unique to the LDS Church, namely, that what many churches see as a metaphor, i.e. God as a father, we believe to be literal.

Does knowing God is our “Great Parent” help you in your life or strengthen your testimony of the Church?  Why?

I think this would be a lovely place to put in “O My Father.”  Though it’d fit in just about anywhere in this lesson.  If you have oodles of time, I would have the class sing all the verses.  While it would be nice to have someone perform the song, I think the class would get more out of it if they were singing the words.  If you don’t have time, save it for a closing hymn or ask your class to read it over this week.

What does this song teach us about God? (O My Father can then serve as a nice transition to the next section)

The Nature of God

• What are some of God’s attributes?

Again, the scriptures listed in the manual provide some nice answers.  Pick your favorite.

I think these two in the Additional Scripture section could be helpful:
a. D&C 88:41–44 (attributes of God)
b. Mormon 9:15–20 (God of miracles) — What miracles have you seen in your lives?

After going over your chosen scriptures, I would ask:
How have you experienced these attributes (being in God’s image, God’s love, mercy, work, etc.) of God in your life?

Have you seen godly attributes in others?  How do these people help you better understand the attributes of God?

If there’s silence, tell an experience of your own or perhaps use this famous joke:

It had been raining for days and days, and a terrible flood had come over the land. The waters rose so high that one man was forced to climb onto the roof of his house.

As the waters rose higher and higher, a man in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord, the Lord will save me.” So the man in the rowboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and suddenly a speedboat appeared. “Climb in!” shouted a man in the boat. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me.” So the man in the speedboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters continued to rise. A helicopter appeared and over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. “No,” replied the man on the roof. “I have faith in the Lord, the Lord will save me.” So the helicopter went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually they rose so high that the man on the roof was washed away, and alas, the poor man drowned.

Upon arriving in heaven, the man marched straight over to God. “Heavenly Father,” he said, “I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?” God gave him a puzzled look, and replied “I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you expect than that?”

I love how this joke is a little cheeky while also showing our own capacity to let God shine through us.  As we learn to serve others (and thereby God), we can develop those divine attributes we just discussed.

Coming to Know God

• How can we come to know God?

Again, great scriptures to ponder and pray about to decide which would be best for your class.

The lesson has a list of four concrete ways we can know God.  I might have someone read each scripture and then ask the class if they have an experience of how they have come to know God through one of these ways

What else have you found to help you draw nearer to Go?


As we work on knowing God, we are more able to feeling God’s Love.

I love Matthew 10:29-31.  This simple scripture that reminds us of God’s love for everything on this world.  God knows and loves the sparrows, and God knows and loves each of us.

We will never know everything about God but when we serve God, we can know God.  When we work on developing and strengthening our faith, we can know God.  And by doing these things, we can know, most importantly of the love that God has for each of us.

Close with testimony.

Want more helpful links?

  • Julie offers her lesson outline here, which made me just want to cut and paste the link here for the entire post and call it a day.
  • ESO asks for advice for her lesson here.
  • The Exponent’s list of online resources can be found here.

Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes.  The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and  primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.


EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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22 Responses

  1. Lisa says:

    Yes, I appreciate all your help in preparing this lesson. I also found very good resources from the Conference Messages. Robert D Hales talk on Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

  2. Molly says:

    I couldn’t plan my lessons without your help. 😉 Thanks so much for the wonderful ideas!

  3. Diana says:

    A great resource is a talk given by Elder Holland The Grandeur of God Ensign November 2003.
    LDS.org – Ensign Article – The Grandeur of God

  4. EmilyCC says:

    Lisa, thanks for posting that so quickly!

    Molly, glad you’re finding the outlines helpful!

    Diana, a great resource that I’ve heard someone else mention–thanks!

  5. DeAnn O says:

    I have been trying to figure out how I want to approach these lessons. They seem so simple and for many of us we feel that we already “know” this stuff. I almost want to dig deep and supplement. As I was reading the conference talks this morning, I re-read Elder Scott and Sister Matsumori. Both are on recognizing the spirit. The impression that came is that these lessons are being offered now for a reason and if we feel we “know” it all, we have a lot more to learn. I intend to briefly share the ideas from these two talks and challenge the sisters to listen and participate with their hearts open. I have purchased some small inexpensive notebooks to hand out for them to record any impressions they have during these lessons. I will be keeping my lessons simple and to the point. Luckily I have a great group of sisters who are willing to share.

  6. DeAnn O says:

    oh yeah- I forgot. The first thing that came to my mind when I read this lesson is the primary song-“I know Heavenly Father Loves Me”. We sill be singing that song as we..

  7. Calla says:

    Thank you so much for your nice lessons! It halps me a lot!

  8. Calla says:

    Thank you so much for your nice lessons! It helps me a lot!

  9. Patty says:

    oh my word i can’t believe there is such a site. A friend of mine told me she uses it all the time.. I have to admit I am a little intimidated about the new R.S. manual,especially since I have been teaching the last few years out of the manual of the prophets.I feel so inadequate!!! So keep the info coming Thank you! Patty

  10. Patty says:

    how do you start off..

  11. m Bradford says:

    You used to post lesson two weeks in advance will you be doing that with these as well

  12. Kelly Ann says:

    EmilyCC, this is an awesome lesson! Thank you for your thoughts and your links.

    M Bradford, here is the schedule of tbe lessons that will be posted on the 1st and 2nd Tuesdays of the month.

    Exponent RS Lessons for 2009 – 1st and 2nd Tuesdays of the Month

    01/05/10 – Chapter 1: Our Father in Heaven
    01/12/10 – Chapter 2: Our Heavenly Family

    02/02/10 – Chapter 3: Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior
    02/09/10 – Chapter 4: Freedom to Choose

    03/02/10 – Chapter 5: The Creation
    03/09/10 – Chapter 6: The Fall of Adam and Eve

    04/06/10 – Chapter 7: The Holy Ghost
    04/13/10 – Chapter 8: Praying to Our Heavenly Father

    05/04/10 – Chapter 9: Prophets of God
    05/11/10 – Chapter 10: Scriptures

    06/01/10 – Chapter 11: The Life of Christ
    06/08/10 – Chapter 12: The Atonement

  13. Laurel C. says:

    This is WONDERFUL help! Thank you so much for posting this lesson outline. I was completely freaked out when I saw how little the new manual contained. With your help, I am seeing how this lesson can be powerful and well done. THANK YOU! I am less freaked out today. 🙂

  14. EmilyCC says:

    DeAnn O., great lesson ideas! I’ll have to look at the two talks you mentioned.

    Calla and Patty, glad to be helpful!

    m. Bradford, due to the fluctuating calendars, some months the lessons are up two weeks in advance (when the first Tuesday is before the first Sunday), other months (like this one unfortunately), it’s only up about 5 days before. (February should be easier.)

    Laurel, you’re welcome!

  15. Karen says:

    Thank You for your help! I like Laural was completely freaked out when I saw how little the new manual contained. Because of your help getting me started I now have more material than I need. Thanks again

  16. rebecca says:

    Oh I am so grateful for these outlines! I just found out I’m teaching tomorrow and when I saw that two-page lesson, I had a mini-freak-out… better now. Thanks.

  17. AlliOop says:

    One thought that came to me in preparation for the lesson was what the king told the crown prince in “Ever After” (the Cinderella story with Drew Barrymore). He said, “You were born to privilege and with that come specific obligations.”

    Understanding the attributes of God and realizing that we are His offspring also makes us “born to privilege” and we certainly do have obligations with that privilege.

  18. mo says:

    I really appreciate your hard work in pulling this lesson together…helped me with my last minute lesson planning…church in 1 hour! woops…

    One comment to Allioop …. don’t put to much pressure on yourself or the women you teach with “obligations”. That is why we have the atonement. I have we as Mormon women tend to put way to much undue pressure on ourselves which leads to unhappiness, antidepressant medicine…etc…..

  19. Sharon T says:

    Allioop…I love “Ever After” and find your comparison very good. As members of the church, we do take upon us a certain amount of obligations and that is because of the privileges we enjoy as being members of the church.
    THANKS to those that contribute their lesson ideas. So awesome and much appreciated!
    Thank you also to all that contribute comments. I love them; they really help me to organize and prepare for my lesson.

  20. Jaynee says:

    Thank you for sharing your talent of teaching!

  21. Karen says:

    I’m a little late posting this; my lesson was a week ago (Lesson 1)
    I came home feeling so good about my lesson; thank you so much for posting the lesson outline. I took a little from you and some from Julie and then added my own.

    Can’t wait to see what you have for Lesson 3.
    I totally appreciate everyone’s comments. Thanks again!!!

  1. January 12, 2010

    […] the first time, you may want to look at the great advice Amelia and EmilyCC put together here and here for tips on ways to help flesh out these lessons for meaningful discussion. Surprisingly, I already […]

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