Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Church and Kingdom of God - Elders Quorum Lesson

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith Chapter 8 - The Church and Kingdom of God
This lesson is about things that I am not necessarily good at, but that are true and must be.

There are many stories at the beginning of the lesson on President Smith's dedication to the work of the Lord.

The manual says, “Through these service opportunities, Joseph Fielding Smith came to appreciate the Church’s inspired organization and its role in leading individuals and families to eternal life.”

What do each of you appreciate about the organization of the Church?

I have always felt that the Church stands out is its doctrine of responsibility and accountability, which leads to growth.

For example, whenever there was an oral presentation required in junior high and high school I would take a zero rather than get up and talk in front of people.  Last month I said yes to three different Church leaders to present things in front of groups.

The month before that they asked me to stand up in front of the Laurels and talk.  Teenaged girls are exactly why I did not do oral reports in school.

So why do I put myself through this? Because it is our responsibility to help in the kingdom of God wherever we are able.

I am able to prepare a lesson or talk and present it. Am I good at it?  No. But I am able.

President Smith said, “I know that we have the truth of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, just as well as I know that I live. If I did not know it, I wouldn’t want to be here or have anything to do with this work.” (118, last paragraph right before Teachings of Joseph.)

The gospel is often inconvenient.  I have an idea of how my life is gonna go and that's the way I like it.  I have an idea of how my evening is going to go or my weekend.  I have my own agenda and that is what I want to follow.  I have things I want to do.  Things I want to get done.  But I have to call and make home teaching appointments or that elders quorum president calls and asks me to do something.

One thing I have always appreciated about the Church, is that as a member of this Church the idea is to not just show up to Church.  The idea is to make covenants, fully participate, and to grow.  We are given expectations and boundaries.

Wives are also good at giving us boundaries and adjusting our expectations, but that is a lesson for another day.

Unfortunately, growth often happens by being inconvenienced and by learning to put aside our agenda or will and finding out, in everything we do and in every minute we spend, if we are on the same page as God.

That can be very hard to get our heads and hearts around, and very hard to do at times, but Revelation flows more freely when we adjust how much of our time is us winging it on our own and how much is following God's agenda.

“We announce that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on earth, the only place where men may come to learn the true doctrines of salvation and find the authority of the holy priesthood.” (119 Third paragraph before section 2)

Has this thought ever made any scriptures make more sense to you as you have read them talk about the Kingdom of God?

Quotes from Elder Rasband’s conference talk
“Currently in the Church, the Lord has called 317 Seventies, serving in 8 quorums, to assist the Twelve Apostles in carrying the burden placed on the First Presidency. I joyfully feel that responsibility in the depths of my very soul, as do my fellow Brethren. However, we are not the only ones assisting in this glorious work. As members of the Church worldwide, we all have the wonderful opportunity of blessing the lives of others.”
“To sustain our leaders is a privilege; it comes coupled with a personal responsibility to share their burden and to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“May we all find the joy that comes from the sacred service of bearing one another’s burdens, even those simple and small…”

I have thought the last few months about what level of dedication to the Church and kingdom of God I expected from missionaries before I went on my mission.  Or the level of dedication to the Church and kingdom of God that I expect from my Church leaders.  All of these expectations are much higher than I sometimes set for myself.

So I thought, does expecting a leader to meet my internal standard advance the church and kingdom of God and make me more like Christ, which is the goal of life?  It does not, but what if I set those standards that I expect of my leaders to myself?  I guess this is similar to "what would Jesus do", but bringing it down to a short term goal instead of a long term goal.

Would it strengthen our ward if we had a ward full of people that behaved like our internal picture of a bishop?  Or would it build the kingdom of God in our neighborhood?

The Restoration
" The Lord [has] restored the gospel and organized again his Church upon the earth. The reason for such organization and restoration is the fact that for centuries the world had been in spiritual darkness, without the authority, and without the understanding; they knew not how to worship the living God. …

“ The everlasting covenant had been broken; the correct understanding of gospel principles had disappeared through apostasy; the right to officiate in the ordinances of the gospel had ceased among men. It became necessary that all this might be restored, and that faith might increase among the people through an opening of the heavens and a restoration of the gospel." (Page 119, First two paragraphs under Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith)

Do we have times in our day or week when we are content to walk life on our own in spiritual darkness by the choices we make?  Choices about reading our scriptures, praying always, our attitude, or the media or conversations that we partake of throughout the day.

Even if we are on track with the things I just mentioned, do we sometimes leave ourselves without spiritual guidance due to our inaction.  Do we let things not of the gospel exhaust us to the point that when it is time to do our duty we are resting.

President Dieter F Uchtdorf
“I would like to...propose a question to all of us who hold God’s priesthood: are you sleeping through the Restoration?"

President Henry B Eyring
"As you pray and serve others, your knowledge that you are a child of God and your feelings about Him will grow...You will be more determined to be on time and to complete every task you are given by the Lord that you have accepted to do.”

"I thank him every day of my life that he has restored in these last days his everlasting gospel for the salvation of all who will believe and obey its laws." (Page 119, last paragraph before Section 2)

Who are those that believe and obey his laws?  Those that check the boxes?  Baptism, mission, temple marriage?

Sister Linda S Reeves
“...take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being.”

"The Lord Himself directs the work of the Church, and it is our privilege to have membership in it." (Heading 2 page 119)

In what ways does the Lord direct the work of the Church?

He directs it through revelation.  What are some examples of where he leads the church through revelation?

What about revelation on how to help or home teaching families?  Revelation on how to communicate with your wife or children or parents or siblings or coworkers?

How does one get revelation?  We are not the prophet.

" If we would carry out that which the Lord has revealed, as he has revealed it, then all things would be perfect, for the organization is a perfect organization; the theory of it—the plan of it—is without flaw." (First paragraph Section 3 Page 121)

" In every gospel dispensation there are special needs to be met, problems to be solved, and help that must be given to assist and aid the members of the Church in working out their salvation “with fear and trembling” before the Lord. (See Phil. 2:12.) Hence we have auxiliary organizations [Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School] to aid and assist the priesthood. They are so organized as to meet the needs of the people in whatever social conditions may exist." (Third paragraph Page 121)

Many struggle to find the answers to social problems.  They line up an equation, so to speak, and they take out one of the values they need to solve it.  That variable is revelation from God.