Sunday, December 20, 2015

Youth Lesson - How can I understand the symbols used to teach about the Second Coming?

How can I understand the symbols used to teach about the Second Coming?

The hard events of the last day are a witness of God’s love for us and that His promises are about to be fulfilled.  He says the same things about trials that come to each of us individually.  He says these things are for our our good and to help us grow.

Is that a weird concept that awful things are for our own good?

How can these horrible world events give us hope?

We know, based on what we are witnessing, that Christ's return is near. It can strengthen our testimony that God is speaking to his prophets. We also can know that God is aware and watching.

The events of the last day also have a way of getting people's attention and give us opportunities to share our hope in Christ with them.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
Matthew 13:24-30
24 ¶Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

What is he describing about how wheat grows?  What is a tare?

A tare is a weed that looks like wheat when it is young. Because of their similarity it makes it difficult to pull out the tares when they are young and before they get all entangled in the wheat. Otherwise wheat might get pulled out by accident thinking it was a tare.

What is he saying about the last days with this parable?

Doctrine and Covenants 86:1-7
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servants, concerning the parable of the wheat and of the tares:
2 Behold, verily I say, the field was the world, and the apostles were the sowers of the seed;
3 And after they have fallen asleep the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon, that maketh all nations to drink of her cup, in whose hearts the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign—behold he soweth the tares; wherefore, the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness.
4 But behold, in the last days, even now while the Lord is beginning to bring forth the word, and the blade is springing up and is yet tender—
5 Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields;
6 But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.
7 Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned.

The Second Coming will come as a thief in the night.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-8
2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

In Ephesians Paul talks about the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation.

If we have been learning how to use our armour and been using it every day to fight the adversary we will already be prepared at each step closer to the second coming.  If we are constantly watching and observing the conditions around us and reviewing the information that God has given us, then we will not be caught off guard and many thing that would not make sense will make sense because we have already witnessed many thing necessary to understand.

2 Peter 3:10-14
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

Peter records that to prepare for the second coming we need to be in holy conversation and godliness.  Why is this important?  Is it going to be uncomfortable if we slip up in our language in front of the Savior or righteous resurrected beings, how would that feel?  Developing good ways of speaking now is a good way to prepare for the second coming and to be a person of good character at all times.

Doctrine and Covenants 106:4-5
4 And again, verily I say unto you, the coming of the Lord draweth nigh, and it over taketh the world as a thief in the night—
5 Therefore, gird up your loins, that you may be the children of light, and that day shall not overtake you as a thief.

JS Matthew 1:46-48
46 And what I say unto one, I say unto all men; watch, therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord doth come.
47 But know this, if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up, but would have been ready.
48 Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.

Each watch was a period of  several hours.  We do not know the hour which the Savior will return, but we know that he will come in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.  When is that dispensation?  When did it start?

So a dispensation might be compared to a month in which we don’t know exactly how many days are in that month is the month August or February and is it a leap year.  We don’t know.  We know that he is coming at the end of this dispensation, but we don’t know how long the dispensation is going to be.  As we look at what the Lord has revealed about the work that needs to be done and things that are going to happen preceding the second coming I think it is safe to say that, figuratively speaking, we are in the last few hours before the second coming.  I think we are in the last watch or right before the last watch.  Many things are happening right now.  Things are happening that are at a more increasing rate separating the wheat from the tares.

The tares are being separated from the wheat in the Church, but are we having to make some potentially hard choices about things in our lives that we might call separating the wheat from the tares?  Determining what things are wheat that we want to cultivate and have them sustain us and things or ideas that are tares that would choke out or spoil our supply of wheat.

In decades past the hard things were maybe justifying to people why we don’t drink alcohol or coffee and why the Church practiced polygamy for a time or why at one time not every man could have the priesthood.

Today we have issues constantly in our faces about why can’t women have the priesthood and why doesn’t Church recognize a gay marriage as a marriage.  The world would try to convince us that the Church is being unfair and it can be a hard thing to explain to someone that doesn’t have all the facts or rejects some of the facts it is not unfair and God knows what is best for us, so what man perceives as unfair is the protection of a loving Father.

A young child might perhaps cry that you are being mean as you make a rule that they can not touch a wood burning stove.  You know that sometimes that thing is really hot and could severely damage them.  You also know that the bricks in front of the stove can be tricky for little legs to navigate without tripping and running into the into the pointed edge or hard metal of the stove, even if the stove is cool.

Heavenly Father knows how life works and the rules he sets are to help us be who we need to be to have what he has.  The arguments the world makes today in favor of some of these social issues are much more compelling and harder to get people to understand than convincing people that alcohol should not have a place in our lives.  The arguments are also much harder to not get ourselves confused by.

JS Matthew 1:38-39
38 Now learn a parable of the fig tree—When its branches are yet tender, and it begins to put forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh at hand;
39 So likewise, mine elect, when they shall see all these things, they shall know that he is near, even at the doors;

If we had no calendar we could notice winter possibly coming to a close as we see days getting warmer.  It could just be a warm spell and might get cold again, but as we watched we might see it trending even warmer and we might see buds on the trees.  Sure we could have a late frost and make a mess out of things, but the fact that the trees started to bud gives us a pretty certain indication that we are in spring or it is really close.  The same is true of the second coming.  When we see the things of preparation coming then we can know it is true.

We can see wars and rumors of wars, but we can also see the pace of the work of the Lord rocketing forward.  Younger and more missionaries than every before going out.  The standards for those missionaries have also been raised.  We see temples being built in many diverse places around the world at a pretty quick rate considering the cost of each table and the manpower needed to staff open houses and to staff operating temples.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Elders Quorum Lesson - Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson Chapter 23 - Strengthen Our Stakes

“A stake has at least four purposes:
“1. Each stake, presided over by three high priests, and supported by twelve men known as a high council, becomes a miniature church to the Saints in a specific geographic area. The purpose is to unify and perfect the members who live in those boundaries by extending to them the Church programs, ordinances, and gospel instruction.
“2. Members of stakes are to be models or standards of righteousness.
“3. Stakes are to be a defense. The members do this as they unify under their local priesthood officers and consecrate themselves to do their duty and keep their covenants. Those covenants, if kept, become a protection from error, evil, or calamity.
We build temples only where we have stakes. The blessings and ordinances of the temple prepare one for exaltation. Of course, it is not possible for every stake to have a temple, but we are presently witnessing some remarkable, yes, miraculous developments, in the building of temples in different parts of the world. Such a program permits members of the Church to receive the full blessings of the Lord.
“4. Stakes are a refuge from the storm to be poured out over the earth.11”

Should Christmas really be that much different than the rest of our days of the year?  Shouldn’t we be as charitable every day as we are at Christmas time.

I gave a Sunday school lesson last week on being more effective church members. I drew on material from that and two lessons I had heard my Sunday school teaching partner give. One on setting goals and one that talked about strengthening ourselves, then strengthening our families and growing out to strengthen neighbors, ward, stake, church, and the world.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Youth Lesson - How can I learn to serve more effectively in the Church?

What have you been learning in your gospel studies?

How can I learn to serve more effectively in the Church?

What is the 4 fold mission of the Church?  Proclaim the gospel, redeem the deem, perfect the saints, care for the poor.

Who has Church Handbook 2 with them?
“The work of salvation includes member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, and teaching the gospel” (see Handbook 2: Administering the Church [2010],5.0)

Which of the things listed in Handbook 2 fall into which mission of the Church?

All of these things require us to serve people, correct?  So the lesson wants us to learn how to serve more effectively.  What does the word effectively mean?  What are some examples of effective service?

Ask the youth to talk about any callings they have had in the Church. What were their responsibilities? What did they find difficult or challenging about the calling? How did the Lord help them? What were some areas where you felt you were effective in that calling.  What are some areas where you think you could have been more effective?  What are some examples of others where you thought someone’s service was particularly effective?  

Here’s a thought on effectiveness:
Is being on time important to be effective in your service or important in even just being an effective member of the Church?  It is easy when leaders are late to activities or meetings or our family members are late to activities and meetings to get discouraged and say to ourselves that they are going to be late, so why should I be on time.  If everyone gives up on trying to be on time, then nothing will ever change.  When someone says something starts at a certain time or people agree to meet at a certain time and everyone assumes that no one really means the time they said, then how is that effective.  Review the definition of effective again.

What can you do as a youth to take responsibility to do your part to make activities and meetings more effective by starting them on time?

Family councils to discuss goals to be on times.  Last week we talked about setting goals using the SMART pattern.  What would be a goal you personally could set using the SMART pattern to help yourself be on time and serve more effectively?  What would be a family goal to help your family be on time and to serve more effectively?

Share an experience of your own, and bear your testimony.
Ask the youth to share stories from the scriptures or modern prophets and apostles in which someone was given a difficult assignment and received help from the Lord.

Here are some examples from the scriptures that the manual online pointed out.

Let's read about Jeremiah’s call as a prophet. Jeremiah was around when Lehi was in

Jeremiah 1:5-9
5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
6 Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
7 ¶But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.
9 Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.

Jeremiah says that he cannot speak because he is a child.   The Lord tells him to fear not their faces. Perhaps Jeremiah was scared to talk in front of people.

Let's read a little about what Mosiah had to say about his being chosen to be king.

Mosiah 2:11
11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.

Mosiah said that the Lord had might, mind, and strength.

Now let’s read about Enoch’s call.

Moses 6:31-14
31 And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?
32 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good.
33 Say unto this people: Choose ye this day, to serve the Lord God who made you.
34 Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course; and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me.
Enoch, like Jeremiah felt he was too young and could not speak well and was scared to speak to the people.
Let’s read Emma Smith’s calling in the early days of the Church in Doctrine and Covenants 25.

What is she called to do?

What counsel is she given?

What promises is she given?

Talk to me about verse 15.
15 Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.