This is a long one! Props to you if you actually read or skim it all!
Today I got to teach in Relief Society. I know I've said it before, but I think this is one of my favorite callings ever. It arouses so much passion and excitement for truth and doctrine. Another big reason I love it is because it ensures that I will have 1 child-free hour of church where I can actually focus on the spirit, doctrine, and sisters. I have to be honest, most weeks I don't even bother bringing my scriptures or manuals.
With Dean in tow, church is often like a glorified eating fest during sacrament meeting and a "quiet" playgroup in the other two. I've come to terms with this; it's just a stage that will pass like any other. It used to bother me, and one time way back when Dean kind of slept ok somewhere other than his crib, I had spent about 40 minutes trying to get Dean to fall asleep just to have him woken up 10 min. later by the bell ringing or people leaving Sacrament meeting and going to their classes or something. I stormed into my small Sunday School class and declared that "I hate church!" (To the shock and horror of one of the sisters in that class. I didn't mean it, I promise. I just hate that a 3 hour church is not that easy for children under 18 mo., nor the parents who care for those children. But that's unavoidable I'm afraid. Unless we could talk the Prophet into shortening church, but I like all the meetings so I don' t know what you'd cut out...)
Anyway, soon he will be in nursery and I will have (cross your fingers here with me) a chance to actually listen in class again. At least until August when we start this whole process all over. hahaha. 80D
On to my original post. The lesson I taught today was on the Parables in St. Matthew 13 and Joseph Smith's insights to those parables. It was such a fabulous lesson to read and I really enjoyed preparing for class. I mean, how many times have I read those parables? Yet I learned new insights from this lesson and my prep. I was a little sad I ended up with only about 20-25 min. for the lesson because of all the announcements and whatnots. Ah well, that is how it goes.
For those interested (mothers who can't really listen while at church? people who have aux. callings and don't get to go to R.S.? Anyone else?), I will share a few things that I loved out of this lesson.
First of all, for the lesson in the manual, click here. I will refer to the section titles and assume you've read it. Everything in quotes will be from the lesson unless I cite something else.
From the life of Joseph Smith
I think it's very important to note that they actively prepared themselves before going for the blessings they were going to receive at the temple. I often hear people wonder about why non-members can't go through the temple, but honestly, members shouldn't go if they haven't prepared and aren't ready to receive. Dedication to and understanding of church doctrine really are necessary to get anything out of the temple.
And reading the Old Testament in Hebrew??? It really amazes me what a man with a 6th grade education was able to accomplish by personal study, hard work, and the spirit. I really think that last one is a big key in learning anything. “Spent the day at school. The Lord blessed us in our studies. This day we commenced reading in our Hebrew Bibles with much success."
The Savior taught in parables so that those who believed in His teachings could gain greater light, while those who rejected His teachings would lose the light they had.
Really, one of the best insights for me came not in what was written in the manual on this one, but what was written in the JST of Matthew 13:10-11. The original in the King James Version reads, "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath." Now, this seems so unfair, doesn't it? Those who have will keep getting and those who have not will have it taken away. Where's the justice?? But the JST clears it up nicely. "For whosoever receiveth, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever continueth not to receive, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."
Light and truth are gifts given to us from our Heavenly Father. If we refuse those gifts, He'll stop giving them to us. How do you like it when you give a gift to someone who throws it back in your face, stuffs it under their bed, spits on it, or won't even open it? I don't think that's ever happened to me, but if it did, boy I would not want to give them another thing! Ingrates. So, when we refuse God's gifts we stop getting gifts and the light and truth we started out with will fade until it is unrecognizable in our dark abyss. "Therefore he that will not receive the greater light, must have taken away from him all the light which he hath; and if the light which is in you becomes darkness, behold, how great is that darkness!"
And how is it that people get to the point that they just close their eyes, plug their ears, and harden their hearts?
Some are lazy. "Men are in the habit, when the truth is exhibited by the servants of God, of saying, All is mystery; they have spoken in parables, and, therefore, are not to be understood. It is true they have eyes to see, and see not, but none are so blind as those who will not see."
I think, however, most are just too proud and self-absorbed to open their eyes and ears. Think of a time you've had an argument with someone and you just stop listening to anything they say. You know you're right, and they're not going to convince you otherwise. And even if, deep down, you know there's truth in what they're saying, you don't want to hear that truth. You want to be right more than you want truth. D&C 136:32 "Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God, that his eyes may be opened that he may see, and his ears may be opened that he may hear." We have to want to find the truth more than we want to be right. We have to surrender our pride and ask God to help us listen.
"The condemnation which rested upon the multitude that received not His saying, was because they were not willing to see with their eyes, and hear with their ears; not because they could not, and were not privileged to see and hear, but because their hearts were full of iniquity and abominations;"
The parable of the sower shows the effects of preaching the gospel; it also shows that the Savior established His kingdom in the meridian of time.
A missionary sews the seeds of the gospel. The seeds are all the same. The differences are in the ground where the seeds are sown. So, this parable is essentially about different types of soil.
Here in TX we've been trying to grow a garden. The last 2 years we have had some success, but we've also had lots of failure, often due to procrastination and poor soil prep. We have had good intentions, honestly we have. But we cannot harvest fruit (or in our case vegetables) on good intentions. To be successful you need to start early, research, prep, and work, work, work! It's easy to think, "Oh, I'll just do that tomorrow." But tomorrow often comes too late.
That's also the same with the gospel. It's easy to think, "I'm too tired tonight, I'll read tomorrow." etc. It's easy to put off, and put off and put off because we're too busy or not interested or not feeling it. But when tomorrow comes and you've not prepared, amen to you and your excuses!
There are different types of soil or different reasons people don't embrace the truth. I'm sure we've all seen (or been) one or more of these examples.
- By the wayside: these are people who hear, but don't understand and don't care to understand. They have no desire for righteousness. So the birds (Satan) comes and gobbles them up.
- Stony places: Initially these people joyfully hear and understand the truth. However, when they have little roots so when the heat is on, they shrivel up and die. They can't take the trials or burdens that come with the truth.
- Thorny places: They hear the truth, but they're more interested in worldliness and riches.
- Good soil: This soil has been prepped and ready for the seeds. These are people who hear truth, embrace it, live it, and are blessed because of it.
Some ground may naturally be more fertile, but that doesn't mean you can't fertilize and perp. less than desirable soil. It means you have to start a little earlier and work a little harder!
The parable of the wheat and tares teaches that the righteous and wicked will grow together until the end of the world, when the righteous will be gathered and the wicked burned.
Wheat represent Children of the Kingdom, those who receive the gospel of Christ and live it.
Tares are a kind of a grass that resembles wheat and its roots often intertwine with wheat. When at full maturity it's easier to distinguish the two. (paraphrased from the New Testament Institute manual.) Tares represent members of the church. They look like wheat, are intertwined with wheat, yet they are not wheat because they have allowed Satan to sow discord in their hearts. It is easier to tell the wheat from the tares as people grow up and make decisions on their own. Many will eventually divide themselves from the wheat before the end.
The literal separation and burning of the tares was a little hard for me to swallow. It conjurs up images of medieval crusades and burning people at the stake. It makes me think of torture and pain and unpleasantness. I mean, the tares grew up with the wheat! They are our friends! They came to church (maybe)! How could we separate and say, "You-Saved!" and "You-Burned!"
The D&C Manual came to the rescue for me on this one. Bruce R. McConkie explains on p.241 "The glory of a celestial being, of which the sun is most typical, is so radiant that to bring that glory to the earth will cause great burning. The cleansing of the earth by fire will be caused by the coming of the Savior to earth. Those who are not changed to withstand the presence of the Savior when he comes in his glory shall indeed perish by fire."
Now let me be clear on my opinion of this subject: It's not just members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who will be changed and able to withstand the presence of the Lord at His Second Coming. There will be good people of all faiths, who have opened their hearts and ears to truth offered them. These people will live on earth during the millenium and have opportunities to gain more truth and light. They received initially and will have the chance to receive more. The people who will not be able to withstand that day are those who have iniquity in their hearts, shut their eyes to truth, and/or openly fight against truth. It's not going to be a rounding up of "bad people" and burning them at the stake. Light cleaves to light and darkness to darkness, so most (if not all) of the separation is done by people themselves rather than a 3rd party saying, "You-Saved!" and "You-Burned!"
The parable of the mustard seed teaches that the Church and kingdom of God, established in these last days, will spread throughout the earth.
Mustard seed=tiny; Mustard tree=huge
"Now we can discover plainly that this figure is given to represent the Church as it shall come forth in the last days. Behold, the Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto it...Behold, then, is not this the Kingdom of Heaven that is raising its head in the last days in the majesty of its God, even the Church of the Latter-day Saints, like an impenetrable, immovable rock in the midst of the mighty deep, exposed to the storms and tempests of Satan, that has, thus far, remained steadfast, and is still braving the mountain waves of opposition, which are driven by the tempestuous winds of sinking crafts, which have [dashed] and are still dashing with tremendous foam across its triumphant brow; urged onward with redoubled fury by the enemy of righteousness?"
I will agree that the church, as a whole, (the tree) has remained steadfast and immovable. But think of this: in a storm it is very likely for branches and limbs far from the trunk to be torn off and lost. When we are on the fringe of the church, not close to Christ, the Prophet, or our leaders, we can easily be lost when storms arise.
(There's one more section to this lesson, but honestly, it just didn't speak to me as much as the rest of the lesson. I don't have any extra thoughts on it more than what is written.)
Phew! You made it to the end of the lesson. Good job.