Monday, March 12, 2012

What I wish I had said in my GAS lesson yesterday

I taught priesthood yesterday. That’s not such a big deal, except that I completely forgot I was teaching. I also spoke in sacrament meeting, and had concentrated on my talk this past week. On Friday, I wondered if I was teaching or not, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t. Well, Sunday just before class, the group secretary handed out new lesson schedules, and there was my name next to this week’s lesson.

The good news: I had gotten my wires crossed and carefuly read the lesson a couple of weeks earlier, forgetting that it was “teaching for our times” lesson, so I had some ideas. And on Friday, I read through the lesson again, just in case.

I said a silent prayer as our group leader conducted a bit of business, and I quickly looked over my highlighted passages in my Kindle Fire (I didn’t have my paper book, which I prefer on days I teach). The lesson was #5 about the blessings of the restored priesthood, a subject near and dear to my heart. Looking at the questions at the end of the lesson, I found where I wanted to begin and where I wanted to end, so with a little faith and some bravado, I stood to teach.

We started with D&C 84:21, which makes clear that the blessing of the priesthood is in priesthood ordinances. We spoke a bit about those ordinances required for exaltation (baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordination, temple endowment, temple sealing). And we read several passages from the manual about President Smith’s love of the priesthood, the blessings of ordinances, and his sensitivity not to offend others, but to be clear that the proper authority to perform priesthood ordinances rests in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We turned to blessings of the priesthood, and read D&C 84:33-38, what has often been referred to as The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. We pointed out specific blessings to faithful priesthood holders (sanctification, renewing of their bodies, membership among the seed of Abraham and the elect of God – see verses 33-34).

In the next few verses come the Great Blessing, namely All That The Father Hath (v. 38). I asked the group who can receive that particular blessing. A visitor said (without my calling on him) “men only.” I ignored his comment and walked through the logic of verses 36-38:

For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
Who receives the Lord’s servants? Anyone who receives priesthood ordinances.

What is the path to exaltation? The saving ordinances of the gospel.

Who receives the Great Blessing from verse 38? Anyone who receives all of the saving ordinances.

Our visitor then said, “Well, I see where you’re going with this, but….”

I don’t know what his real concern was. I sensed a resistance in him (my impression was driven by his first “men only” comment, I suppose) to think that these verses applied to anyone outside the priesthood club.

I didn’t have time to pursue it. I wish I had the time. It would have been interesting to unpack his concern and examine it more closely, and to see if we could reason together to understand it. But we were at the end of our class time.

What I really wish I had done (and had I been better prepared, maybe I would have) is followed my discussion with this quotation from President Smith from near the end of the lesson:

The authority of our Heavenly Father is upon the earth for the blessing of mankind, not to make those who receive that authority arrogant, but to make them humble; not to make those who have received special privileges feel that they are greater than others, but to make us humble in our souls, prayerful in our hearts, and considerate of all men in all that we do, and thus exemplify by upright lives that which our Heavenly Father desires us to teach.
By citing that quotation, I don’t mean to suggest that our visitor was arrogant. I don’t think he was. But This quotation, taken with the rest of President Smith’s words from the lesson, make clear that President Smith saw the blessing of the restored priesthood in the service that the priesthood requires, not in the mere holding of it.


  1. I think that the line of reasoning that you were able to put out there was flawless. It pointed unequivocally to what was right.

    I understand the feeling after the lesson when you feel like you didn't handle things right and you should have said ______. It is frustrating.
    But it is possible that adding the quote on the end of your lesson would have done more harm than good. And while you know you wouldn't mean to suggest with that quote that the visitor was arrogant, it is possible the visitor would have taken it that way and felt vaguely attacked instead of edified.

    Now, I know I wasn't there, so I don't have the full experience, but from what you have shared in this post, it is my feeling that what you said was to be preferred.

  2. Michaela,

    What you say is interesting. As I looked back at the lesson, I realized a few things I would have concentrated that were different from what I did. And looking back, I think what I did discuss was most important at the time. So (without encouraging non-preparation as a normal practice), I think things did work out for the best.

  3. Paul, I really liked your lesson outline, especially with little preparation. As to my own ideal lesson . . .

    I'm not sure I could approach the topic of women and the Priesthood the way I would prefer in anything except a leadership meeting of some sort (which I think is a real shame), but I think we do each other a grave disservice in church classes when we fail to talk openly about what happens in the temple with endowed women. It's not just that they perform ordinances there, but they also leave literally "clothed in the Priesthood" in a very real way. I'll leave it at that and not go further, but . . .

    It is so easy, imo, to separate the "temple ideal" from the "worldly real" and, at the very least, admit that we communally have no solid reasons why that separation exists. I'm not advocating for the elimination of that separation - but I certainly wouldn't be shaken or upset in any way if it disappeared in my lifetime, especially since there is plenty of historical precedent for a different practical implementation model.

  4. Papa D, I think what you say has merit. It is challenging to talk about the temple openly outside the temple, I think. But of course that is one reason why those temple covenants are critical to exaltation, because they have significant implications as it relates to priesthood blessings.