This Redeemer

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Just a quick thought as I end my day. This week it is my turn to teach 2 Nephi 1-2 in gospel doctrine. This section of, 2 Nephi you will remember, speaks much about the fall of Adam and the redemption of that fall through Jesus Christ.

In our family scripture study this evening, we read a related thought in 1 Nephi 10:

5 And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world.
6 Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.

We are all lost and subject to the effects of the fall. Only through Christ can we be made free. We cannot rely on our own works, we cannot depend on man’s reasoning, or in the arm of flesh. Salvation comes only by reliance on Jesus Christ.

Great and marvelous things are promised as we seek to come unto him. It can be unto us even as it was to the prophets of old, or as it was to those who lived during his ministry on earth.

17 …I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
18 For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.
(1 Nephi 10)

Work Out Your Salvation

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37 And now, my beloved brethren, I desire that ye should remember these things, and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God, and that ye should no more deny the coming of Christ;
38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.
(Alma 34)

In studying the scriptures, I often find it helpful to look for formulas. Here, Amulek puts the responsibility of working out our salvation directly on our shoulders, but in certain, specific ways.

  1. Contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but receive it
  2. Take upon you the name of Christ
  3. Humble yourselves even to the dust
  4. Worship God in whatever place ye may be in
  5. Live in thanksgiving daily for the mercies and blessings bestowed on you

This is not a prideful, ‘earning your way to Heaven’ type of work. It is a humble work, “relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (2 Nephi 31:19). Everything given to us in the restoration: the gospel, ordinances, priesthood, is to help us draw closer to Christ.

Our first step in the process of coming unto Him is to stop resisting the influence of His spirit. We can contend against the spirit by the things we choose to allow into our lives, the media we consume, the way we spend our leisure time. If we do not feel his influence as we would like, perhaps we need to figure out a way to carve a space in our lives that gives him room to work with us.

Teaching the Book of Mormon

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Partway through the year last year, I was called to be one of the two Gospel Doctrine teachers in my ward. I was, unfortunately, called just after the class finished studying the Gospels in the New Testament, so I ended up cutting my teeth as a teacher the epistles, not always an easy task. I admit that I do not know the New Testament as well as I should, so I looked forward to this year’s study of the Book of Mormon, which I am more familiar with.

Of course, that familiarity can also be a trouble spot.

We as humans tend to like the familiar and the comfortable, especially when it comes to matters of faith. We often want to respond with, “I’ve never heard that before,” whenever someone teaches a new insight, as if the newness of it to us is the biggest argument against such a thing being right or true.

With the Book of Mormon, I would expect that most of the members of the church are familiar with its contents at least as far as our standard lesson manuals try to take us. I think it is easy to take the path of teaching only what is already familiar to the class.

Since I have only been teaching a short time, I have not yet fully developed my methods and philosophies of teaching, but I do have some approaches that I try to follow in preparing the lesson.

1. My primary lesson material is the section of Scripture we are studying.

Whatever I am teaching must square with what the scriptures actually say. So, the first order of business in preparing a lesson is to become very familiar with the section we are scheduled to study. For me, this means both reading the section assigned, and then listening to it many times as I commute to work.

2. Ask the Lord.

It is impossible to teach properly without having the spirit of the Lord with you. Every ward and every class is different. He knows what the members need much better than I do, so I pray and ask that he will lead me to teach those things that are most beneficial for my class to know.

3. Use non-canonical resources to aid in understanding.

By non-canonical, I mean anything outside the scriptures. I have used alternate bible translations, bible commentaries, conference talks, books, blogs, etc. in my search to understand what is involved in the section of study.

In my approach, the lesson manual falls into this category. I treat it as a help and an aid, not the final say on exactly how and what must be taught. If the intent was to teach exactly the same material in exactly the same way each week, the church could easily produce and distribute video lessons for us to use instead of a live teacher.

4. When teaching, use the scriptures as much as possible, and use any thing else rarely.

I believe that as a teacher, I have a very strict responsibility to teach the truth as purely as I am able to do. The scriptures are the standard works, and using them as my sources almost exclusively gets me as close to the word of God as I can get.

Besides the standard works, I place the teachings of Joseph Smith next in priority. He is the head of our dispensation and the things he taught carry the greatest amount of weight.

I am not necessarily advocating this method as the only correct way to teach, but it is what I have used so far in my preparation, with varying degrees of success. In any approach to teaching the Book of Mormon, the key is to obtain the Holy Spirit and have its influence felt during a class time.

I have found that as I prepare this way, I am more likely to be guided to teach what the Lord would have me teach, while at the same time guiding me to what is most important for me, personally, to learn. These two have not always been the same thing.