I meant to post this on Saturday, but alas, life happened. I taught this lesson in my Relief Society yesterday. I had a really positive response and I don’t think I’ve ever had a lesson go as smoothly as this one did yesterday.
For the object lesson, you will need a tall glass cup, a glass bowl, an eyedropper, and water. (I suggest putting food coloring in your water so that it can be seen easily by your class. That would be the one thing I would’ve done differently yesterday if I could do it all over again.)
I would describe what to do for the object lesson, but it explains it pretty well in my lesson plan, so read it and it’ll make sense. Besides, it gives away the point I was trying to teach in my lesson if I were to just tell you now. 🙂
Please, if you have any thoughts or comments on this lesson, please feel free to share them with me by commenting. Enjoy!
Becoming Perfect Before the Lord: “A Little Better Day by Day.”
When I first took a look at the title of this lesson, I thought, “Oh, goodness…how daunting!” Then the second half caught my eye: “A Little Better Day by Day.” Here’s the incremental change again. A little day by day. Not all at once. That’s encouraging and doable!
As we go through the lesson, I want to show you how doing a little each day will help us to become perfect before the Lord. I have this glass here that we are going to fill with water throughout the lesson. The water will represent our endeavoring actions to become perfect. By the end of the lesson, I promise that water will be overflowing the cup, showing that we have become perfect before the Lord. (Have the glass cup inside a big glass bowl so that the sisters can all see it, but when you go to fill the cup with water, it won’t get everything wet.)
From the Life of Lorenzo Snow
The lesson starts out when President Lorenzo Snow attended a priesthood meeting where an elder from each quorum were to report the work that had been done. During this meeting, he noticed a sort of reluctance from the representatives to speak before the audience. When he stood to speak, he shared the following experience with them.
“It would not be amiss, perhaps, if I should tell you a little of my experience when I commenced to talk in public, even before I was an Elder. I remember the first time I was called upon to bear my testimony…it was something I very much dreaded, yet at the same time I felt that it was my duty to get up, but I waited, and waited. One bore testimony, another gave his testimony, then another, and they were nearly through, but I still dreaded to get up. I had never spoken before an audience…I [finally] concluded it was about time for me to get up. I did so. Well, how long do you suppose I talked? I judge about half a minute – it couldn’t possibly been more than a minute. That was my first effort; and the second, I think, was about the same. I was bashful…but I made up my mind, solidly and firmly, that whenever I was called upon to perform a duty of this nature or of any other, I would do it no matter what might be the result. That is a part of the foundation of my success as an Elder in Israel.
I am sure this is an experience most of us can relate to. Being asked to do something that makes us step out of our comfort zone, especially when it is going to be a recurring event, can be daunting. So let’s put a drop of water in our cup for President Snow trying his best to bear his testimony, even if it was a short witness of his testimony. (Take an eyedropper and put in one drop of water in the cup.) President Snow went on to tell these elders that shortly after this experience, he was to hold his first meeting as a full-time missionary. He dreaded having to speak in public and prayed for help and guidance because he had no idea what he was even going to say. When the time came, he described that he felt the Holy Ghost rest upon him, filling his mind with light and communicated the ideas and words to share with these people. As a result, the group requested another meeting. So he gets another drop for his obedience and faith in the Lord to do what he needed to do. (Put in another drop.) President Snow shared the lesson he wanted these elders to learn from his experience:
“My young friends, there is an opportunity for you to become great – just as great as you wish to be. In starting out in life you may set your hearts upon things very difficult to attain to, but possibly within your reach. In your first efforts to gratify your desires you may fail, and your continued efforts may not prove what may be termed as a success. But inasmuch as your efforts were honest efforts, and inasmuch as your desires were founded in righteousness, the experience you obtain while pursuing your hearts’ desires must necessarily be profitable to you, and even your mistakes, if mistakes you make, will be turned to your advantage.
This was a favorite theme of President Snow. He often reminded the Saints of the Lord’s command to be perfect, and he assured them that through their own diligence and with the Lord’s help, they could obey that command. He taught, “We ought to feel in our hearts that God is our Father, and that while we make mistakes and are weak, if we live as nearly perfect as we can, all will be well with us.” I love that: “if we live as nearly perfect as we can, all will be well with us.” All the Lord asks of us is to try our best to be like him. I think that can be a realistic expectation for all of God’s children.
One thing that is important to remember is that there is little comfort in a growth zone and little growth in a comfort zone.
How can practicing skills like public speaking or teaching help you to become perfect before the Lord?
Invite everyone to open their scriptures and have someone read Matthew 5:48
This scripture is an example of those many reminders from the Lord President Snow talked about to be perfect. It simply states, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Kind of sounds like a big task, doesn’t it? But if you understand the language that was being used at the time and how it was translated, it can take on a completely different meaning.
If you look in the footnote, next to the word “perfect,” you’ll see that it says: complete, finished, fully developed…potential to become like Heavenly Father. If you even include the JST, it changes to: “Ye are therefore commanded to be complete (or finished, or fully developed, or to have the potential to become like Heavenly Father) even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
I found a quote regarding this scripture from my notes when I was in Seminary. It is by Elder Russell M. Nelson and he explains the following:
In Matt. 5:48, the term perfect was translated from the Greek Teleios, which means, “complete.” Teleios is an adjective derived from the noun telos which means “end.” the infinitive form of the verb is teleiono, which means, “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or finish.” Please note that the word does not imply “freedom from error”; it implies “achieving a distant objective.” In fact, when the writer of the Greek New Testament wished to describe perfection of behavior – precision or excellence of human effort – they did not employ a form of teleios; instead they chose different words…Eternal perfection is reserved for those who overcome all things and inherit the fullness of the Father in his heavenly mansions – the kind of life that God lives. (Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, Nov 1995, pg. 86)
What I have learned from my studies, God doesn’t expect us to become without flaw while on this earth. By nature, we are imperfect beings. It would be impossible to be without flaw before we complete this mortal existence. But he does expect us to become more complete, like our Father in heaven is complete. Our Father in heaven doesn’t try to be good. He simply is good. He is complete. So God wants us to become complete, to become like Him.
What are some things we can do to become more like our Father in Heaven?
(For each answer, put a drop of water in the cup.)
When we comply with a requirement from the Lord, we are perfect in that sphere.
Abraham was called to leave his kindred and country [see Abraham 2:1-6]. Had he not complied with this requirement, he would not have been approved of the Lord. But he did comply; and while he was leaving his home he no doubt was living in obedience to this divine law of perfection. Had he failed in this he certainly could not have obeyed the requirements of the Almighty. And while he was leaving his father’s house, while he was subjecting himself to this trial he was doing that which his own conscience and the Spirit of God justified him in doing, and nobody could have done better, providing he was doing no wrong when he was performing this labor.
Abraham gets a drop of water for leaving his country as the Father commanded. He also gets a few more drops for his continued faith and perseverance as he endured this trial. (Put in 4 or 5 drops of water in the cup.)
The early Saints were also asked to leave their land and their families in order to reach the land of Zion. President Snow said, “They complied with this requirement, so far they were walking in obedience to this law, and they were perfect as men could be under the circumstances in the sphere in which they were acting, not that they were perfect in knowledge or power, etc.; but in their feelings in their integrity, motives, and determination” The early pioneers get drops of water for their obedience to this law. (Put in 1 drop of water in the cup.)
I love how President Snow explains that they weren’t perfect in knowledge or power. But he explains that they were perfect in their obedience to his laws. They were perfect in this one particular test in their lives. Perfection does not require a full knowledge. It requires faith in the Lord.
Does God ever ask us to leave people and/or places today in order to get us closer to perfection? In which ways? Why or why not? (For each answer or experience shared, put in a drop of water in the cup.)
We must seek the ability to keep this law to sanctify our motives, desires, feelings, and affections that they may be pure and holy and our will in all things be subservient to the will of God and have no will of our own except to do the will of our Father…A person may be perfect in regard to some things and not others. A person who obeys the word of wisdom faithfully is perfect as far as that law is concerned. When we repented of our sins and were baptized for the remission of them, we were perfect as far as that matter was concerned.
(Put in a drop of water for obeying the word of wisdom, repenting, and baptism.)
We can be successful in one thing at a time and still be progressing towards perfection. Our available time and our responsibilities change throughout or lives, and God does not require us to “run faster than we have strength.” What is important during one phase may not be important in another. We can find what God wants us to focus on in each phase of our lives, and don’t need to feel guilty for not doing everything at once.
Rather than become discouraged when we fail, we can repent and ask God for strength.
President Snow acknowledged that we all have our little follies and our weaknesses. We should try to overcome them as fast as possible and we should teach this principle to our children.
If the husband can live with his wife one day without quarrelling or without treating anyone unkindly or without grieving the Spirit of God in any way, that is well so far; he is so far perfect. Then let him try to be the same the next day. But supposing he should fail in this his next day’s attempt, that is no reason why he should not succeed in doing so the third day…We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged whenever we discover our weakness.
(Put in 3 drops of water in to the cup for the husband’s endeavor to be kind.) How can we rise above feelings of discouragement? (Put in a drop of water for every answer given.)
Closing the Lesson
In the scriptures, we learn that he Lord gives Abraham many great promises, but before he is to receive them, Abraham was required to become perfect before the Lord (Genesis 17:1). The same requirement was made by the Savior to his Disciples.
The Lord proposes to confer the highest blessings upon the Latter-day Saints; but, like Abraham, we must prepare ourselves for them, and to do this the same law that was given to him of the Lord has been given to us for our observance.
It is getting near the end of our lesson, so let’s see how close we are to overflowing our cup with water. (There should be very little water in the cup.) I promised that this cup would be overflowing with water by the end of the lesson. We’ve done all we could to try and achieve that goal. The Lord never has, nor will he require things of his children which it is impossible for them to perform. So to quote President Snow, “Why should we fret and worry over these temporal things when our destiny is so grand and glorious? If we will cleave unto the Lord, keep his commandments, pattern after his perfections and reach out unto the eternal realities of His heavenly kingdom, all will be well with us and we shall triumph and obtain victory in the end.”
Let’s try adding some more water in the cup with the little time we have left. This next quote advises ways to become perfect.
In all your acts and conduct ever have the consciousness that you are now preparing and making yourselves a life to be continued through eternities; (1) act upon no principle that you would be ashamed or unwilling to act upon in heaven, (2) employ no means in the attainment of an object that a celestial enlightened conscience would disapprove. Whilst feelings and passions excite you to action, let principles (3) pure, (4) honorable, (5) holy, and (6) virtuous always rule and govern.
(Put in six more drops of water in the cup.)
Again, we have continued to do our best to become perfect before the Lord. Yet we have not made our cup overflow. We’re missing one important principle to aid us in our path to perfection. (Take out a pitcher of water that is labeled “Atonement.” With the class watching, pour the water into the cup that is sitting in the glass bowl and let the water overflow the cup, letting the bowl catch the excess water so as to not spill water everywhere.)
We also are required to arrive at a state of perfection before the Lord; and the Lord in this case, the same as in every other, has not made a requirement that cannot be complied with, but on the other hand, He has placed for the use of the Latter-day Saints the means by which they can conform to His holy order. When the Lord made this requirement of Abraham, he gave him the means by which he could become qualified to obey that law and come up fully to the requirement.
In reference to the Latter-day Saints; [we] could not possibly come up to such moral and spiritual standard except through heavenly aid and assistance. Neither do we expect that [we] at once will or can conform to this law under all circumstances. It requires time; it requires much patience and discipline of the mind and heart in order to obey this commandment.
With patience, discipline, and perseverance, we can arrive at a state of perfection, with the aid of the atonement. When we experience trying moments, then is the time for us to avail ourselves of that great privilege of calling upon the Lord for strength and understanding, intelligence and grace by which we can overcome the weakness of the flesh against which we have to make a continual warfare. When we have a relationship with Christ, striving to do His will, He will pour more into our cups than we can ever hope to imagine. He can fill us to overflowing with peace, with joy, with perfection.
In closing, I would like to share one last quote with you from President Snow. “Do not expect to become perfect at once. If you do, you will be disappointed. Be better today than you were yesterday. And be better tomorrow than you are today. The temptations that perhaps partially overcome us today, let them not overcome us so far tomorrow. Thus continue to be a little better day by day; and do not let your life wear away without accomplishing good to others as to ourselves.
Thank you! Again, if you have any thoughts or comments on this lesson, please feel free to share them with me by commenting.