RS Lesson 12: Tithing, a Law for Our Protection and Advancement

From the Life of Lorenzo Snow 

Watch the 11 minute movie “The Windows of Heaven.” Ask the women to think about Lorenzo Snow’s willingness to travel to St. George and the people’s readiness to obey the law of tithing.

After the movie, ask the sisters what their thoughts are about the movie and what we can gain from the account.

President Snow had repeatedly assured the Saints that they would be blessed individually, both temporally and spiritually, as they obeyed the law of tithing. He also promised that obedience to the law of tithing would bring blessings to the Church as a whole. He felt certain that the tithes of the faithful would enable the Church to break free from its indebtedness, which had come largely as a result of persecution. This promise was fulfilled in 1906, five years after he died.

Quote 1:

In the April 1907 general conference, President Joseph F. Smith announced: “There never has been a time in the history of the Church, I believe, when the law of tithing was observed more universally and more honestly than it has been observed by the Latter-day Saints of late. The tithes of the people during the year 1906 have surpassed the tithing of any other year. This is a good indication that the Latter-day Saints are doing their duty, that they have faith in the Gospel, that they are willing to keep the commandments of God, and that they are working up to the line more faithfully perhaps than ever before. I want to say another thing to you, and I do so by way of congratulation, and that is, that we have, by the blessing of the Lord and the faithfulness of the Saints in paying their tithing been able to pay off our bonded indebtedness. Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes not a dollar hat it cannot pay at once. At last we are in a position that we can pay as we go. We do not have to borrow anymore, and we won’t have to if the Latter-day Saints continue to live their religion and observe this law of tithing.

 

Earl C. Tingey said, “The Lord has established the law of tithing as the law of revenue of His Church. It is also a law by which we show our loyalty to the Lord.” (“The Law of Tithing,” Ensign, May 2002). I believe that the law of tithing goes hand in hand with the law of sacrifice, which is to test our obedience to the Lord and to help us come unto Christ. How can we come unto Christ by paying our tithing?

The law of tithing is easy to understand and can be obeyed by all. 

Quote 2

I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child…shall pay one-tenth of their income as tithing.

 

Tithing is not a difficult law…If a man receives ten dollars, his tithing is one dollar; if he receives one hundred, his tithing is ten…It is very easy to comprehend.

In what ways is tithing “not a difficult law?” Why might some people thing the law of tithing is difficult to obey?

Quote 3

A part of a tithing is no tithing at all, no more than immersing only half a person’s body in baptism.

 

Brethren and sisters, we want you to make this a matter a subject of prayer…instead of having such groveling ideas as some have in regard to money, we should pay our tithing…what the Lord requires of us is to pay our tithing now. And he expects every person in the future to pay his or her tithing. We know what one-tenth is; let us pay that to the Lord. Then we can go to the Bishop with an open face and ask him for a recommend to go to the temple.

President Snow went on to say, “I say to you in the name of the Lord God of Israel, if you will pay tithing from now on, the Lord will forgive you for all the past [nonpayment of tithing] and the blessings of the Almighty will be poured out upon this people.

I want to have this principle so fixed upon our hearts that we shall never forget it. As I have said more than once, I know that the Lord will forgive the Latter-day Saints for their past negligence in paying tithing, if they will now repent and pay a conscientious tithing from this time on.”

How might President Snow’s teachings help someone gain a testimony of paying a tithing?

When we pay tithing, we contribute to the work of the Church.

Quote 4

This Church could not go on unless there was revenue, and this revenue God has provided for [through the law of tithing]. Our temples, in which we receive the highest blessings ever conferred on mortal man, are built through revenue. We never could send the…Elders out into the world to preach the Gospel, as we are now doing, unless there was revenue to do it…Then there are a thousand other things constantly occurring for which means are required.

In order for the Church to grow and progress in its work, it requires faithful members to pay their tithing. President Snow explained that if some Latter-day Saints had not paid tithing, the four temples they had in 1899 never would have been erected. He taught, “The first principle of action to the Latter-day Saints is to sanctify the land by keeping this law of tithing and placing themselves in a position where they can receive the ordinances that pertain unto exaltation and glory of our dead.”

Paying tithing is a way to sanctify a land, which opens the door for the Lord to bless the people of that land with temples in which they can receive sacred ordinances.

My husband served his mission in Rome, Italy and has seen how tithing can affect the growth and progression of the Church. While he was there, he said the Italians had been praying and looking forward to a temple in Italy because they had to travel either by train or bus to Switzerland or by plane to Madrid. It was very costly and time consuming. But at the same time, there was concern about the Saints paying their tithing. Many had struggled with the law of tithing for a long time due to poor economies, and as a result, stakes were slow in being organized. Many districts had the population and the Melchizedek Priesthood members, but were unable to be organized because they struggled to pay their tithing. There were some areas that had as many as 12 branches, but no stakes.  This is what Brad observed on his mission when he came home Fall 2007. A year later, we met and started dating. We had discussed several times how awesome it would be to hear the church announce a temple in Rome. But I remember several times Brad saying that it would only be possible if more members were faithful in paying their tithing so that stakes could be organized and a temple could be built. Little did he know that the Saints in Italy had been working hard that year since he left the mission. To our surprise, (and I’m sure everyone else’s) It was only 4 days after we had this discussion that President Monson announced in 2008 that there would be a temple built in Rome. We have since learned that church membership and faithfulness has grown rapidly in Italy. More stakes have been organized and the members in Italy have become stronger in their faith and paying their tithing.

What are some blessings you and loved ones have received through the buildings and programs funded by tithing?

Why is it a privilege to pay tithing?

The Lord will bless us temporally and spiritually as we obey the law of tithing.

Quote 5

The law of tithing is one of the most important ever revealed to man…Through obeying this law the blessings of prosperity and success will be given unto the Saints.

 

If we will keep that law…the land will be sanctified and we shall be counted worthy to receive the blessings of the Lord and to be sustained and supported in our financial affairs and in everything we do, temporal as well as spiritual.

 

I believe truly if the Latter-day Saints will conform with this law we can claim deliverance from every evil that may come upon us.

President Snow testified that we will be blessed as we obey the law of tithing. What are some blessings the law of tithing has brought into your life? Into the lives of family members and friends?

Everything we have is a gift from God. Paying an honest tithe is a way to show gratitude to Him and help build His kingdom here on earth. Tithing on our increase is a test of obedience and our willingness to put aside the things of mortality for loftier, more spiritual pursuits. It doesn’t take money to pay tithing…it takes faith! We can tithe our time, in addition to money, as we live the principle of sacrifice. As with all commandments, we are blessed when we have an attitude of obedience. Tithing supports the many wonderful programs and facilities the Church offers us and our families. Brad and I often say that we can’t afford NOT to pay our tithing. We have found that we can do more with 90 percent of our money and the Lord’s help than we can with 100 percent of it on our own!

Bear testimony and close.

—————————————

There is a section about teaching children about the law of tithing, but there aren’t very many young members in Relief Society in our ward. I am the youngest Relief Society member in my ward (That’s saying something seeing as I’m closer to 30 than I am to 18 years old) and most of the ladies I teach are grandmothers and great-grandmothers. I just felt like we could spend more time discussing the other topics in this lesson.

As always, I would love to hear feedback and continue the discussion of tithing! Thank you to those who read through my lessons. I hope to be able to touch just a few more lives with what I have learned.

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Relief Society Lesson 6 – Becoming Perfect before the Lord: “A Little Better Day by Day”

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.

I included an object lesson. I got the idea from Daring Young Mom‘s blog post on Drops of Awesome and adapted it to fit the lesson. Thank you, Daring Young Mom!

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.

Quote 1

“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:

Quote 2

“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

48 aBe ye therefore bperfect, even as your cFather which is in heaven is dperfect.

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: 

Quote 3

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. 

Quote 4

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.)

Quote 5

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.

Quote 6

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.

Quote 7

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.

Quote 8

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.)

 Quote 9

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.

Bear Testimony.

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Thank you! Again, if you have any thoughts or comments on this lesson, please feel free to share them with me by commenting.

Relief Society Lesson 3 – Lifelong Conversion: Continuing to Advance in the Principles of Truth

I am a Relief Society lesson leader in our ward and as I was preparing my lesson for tomorrow, I thought I would post my lesson plan. I’m not very good at presenting lessons, so I always write it out like a talk. I try not to present it like a talk and make sure to lead discussions, but I do it this way as a safety net in case something happens and I don’t know what to say next or how to lead into the next section. And when I write it out like this, I always feel much more prepared and able to answer questions. So in case there are any other lesson leaders out there who may be looking for more references or thoughts at the last minute, hopefully this will help.  If anyone has any thoughts or comments about my lesson, please feel free to comment and share them with me! I would love to hear them!

*All quotes below are directly from the Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow manual unless otherwise stated.

Lifelong Conversion: Continuing to Advance in the Principles of Truth

From the Life of Lorenzo Snow

As I was preparing this lesson, I realized that this topic could become very personal. I would like each of you to ponder about where you are in your spiritual lives and to evaluate what you need to do personally to grow spiritually. It is not a time to beat up on yourself and compare your spirituality with the person sitting next to you or to anyone of our ward, stake, or general leaders. (To clarify, there should never be a time to compare your spirituality with anyone else’s.)

President Benson explains it so clearly: “The…point I wish to make about the process of repentance (or conversion, or building a testimony…you name it) is that we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, and almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically in an instant…Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.

“But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance (or as stated earlier, conversion, testimony, etc.) much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the lamanites, who the lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. (3 Nephi 9:20)” [A Mighty Change of Heart, President Ezra Taft Benson. Ensign, Oct 1989.]

Each of us is at a different place spiritually, no matter our age. I hope this lesson can be uplifting and motivating to help each of us become who we want to become spiritually.

Quote 1: Lorenzo Snow was baptized and confirmed in June 1836. Recalling his developing testimony, he later said: “I believed they [the Latter-day Saints] had the true religion, and I joined the Church. So far my conversion was merely a matter of reason…I was perfectly satisfied that I had done what was wisdom for me to do under the circumstances…I had had no manifestation, but I expected one.

“This manifestation did not immediately follow my baptism as I expected…but although the time was deferred, when I did receive it, its realization was more perfect, tangible and miraculous than even my strongest hopes had led me to anticipate. One day while engaged in my studies, some two or three weeks after I was baptized, I began to reflect upon the fact that I had not obtained a knowledge of the truth of the work – that I had not realized the fulfillment of the promise: ‘He that doeth my will shall know of the doctrine;’ [See John 7:17] and I began to feel very uneasy.

 “I laid aside my books, left the house and wandered around the fields under the oppressive influence of a gloomy, disconsolate spirit, while an indescribable cloud of darkness seemed to envelop me. I had been accustomed, at the close of the day, to retire for secret prayer to a grove, a short distance from my lodgings, but at this time I felt no inclination to do so.

 “The spirit of prayer had departed, and the heavens seemed like brass over my head. At length, realizing that the usual time had come for secret prayer, I concluded I would not forego my evening service, and, as a matter of formality, knelt as I was in the habit of doing, and in my accustomed retired place, but not feeling as I was wont to feel.

 “I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray, than I heard a sound, just above my head, like the rustling of silken robes, and immediately the Spirit of God descended upon me, completely enveloping my whole person, filling me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and O, the joy and happiness I felt! No language can describe the instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness in to a refulgence of light and knowledge, as it was at that time imparted to my understanding. I then received a perfect knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the Holy Priesthood, and the fullness of the gospel.

 “It was a complete baptism – a tangible immersion in the heavenly principle or element, the Holy Ghost; …I was perfectly satisfied as well I might be, for my expectations were more than realized, I think I may safely say, in an infinite degree.

 “I cannot tell how long I remained in the full flow of this blissful enjoyment and divine enlightenment, but it was several minutes before the celestial element, which filled and surrounded me, began gradually to withdraw. On arising from my kneeling posture, with my heart swelling with gratitude to God beyond the power of expression , I felt – I knew that he had conferred on me what only an Omnipotent being can confer – that which is of greater value than all the wealth and honors worlds can bestow.”

 Lorenzo Snow remained faithful to the witness he received that day, and he worked diligently to increase in his spiritual knowledge and help others to do the same. He then said, “From that time on, I have tried to live in such a way as not to lose His Holy Spirit, but to be guided by it continually, trying to get rid of my selfishness and any wrongful ambition, and endeavoring to work in His interest. As long as memory continues and reason shall assert in its throne, I never can permit the powerful testimony and knowledge that was communicated to me to remain silent.”

As we go through this lesson, I would like you to ponder about these questions up on the board:

Do you yearn for something more spiritual in your life?

How did your testimony become real for you?

Consider sharing your experience with a family member or a friend, or maybe even in the next fast and testimony meeting.

Gaining a testimony is a good starting point for Latter-day Saints

The foundation upon which we have placed our faith is grand and glorious. Gaining a testimony that there is a God, that he has a Son, Jesus Christ, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God is a good starting point for a Latter-day Saint, and it is something that every person will need at some time or other. We will all come into circumstances of such a nature that we will need strength, and that strength will come from a knowledge of the fact that the path in which we are traveling will lead us to our Savior.

President Snow says that gaining a testimony is “a very good starting point for a Latter-day Saint” Why is a testimony only a starting point – and not a final destination?

Quote #2: Lorenzo Snow said, “Brethren and sisters, there are some things that you and I ought to think about. The time is come when it behooves every man and every woman to know for themselves in relation to the foundation on which they stand. We should all strive to get a little nearer to the Lord. It is necessary for us to advance a little and obtain a full knowledge of those things which we should more fully understand. It is the privilege of every Latter-day Saint.”

I like that: “We should all strive to get a little nearer to the Lord. It is necessary for us to advance a little…” I like the emphasis of incremental change. “We get a little nearer.” “Advance a little.” That seems doable, within grasp, and realistic. But in the same sentence we get a sense of the expansiveness of this progression we need to work toward. We need to “obtain a full knowledge.” Full knowledge is a pretty lofty vision of what we need to get.

What are the advantages of having this focus of incremental change and progress?

Regarding the idea of incremental change, Relief Society leader Ardeth Kapp said, “Sometimes we feel that we need to do it all – and all at once. But that is not the case. When we give what we have according to our time, according to our energy, according to where we are at this moment in our development, then the Lord will take what we have to offer and he will make up the difference.” (Women and the Power Within p. 46).

We can increase in our faith and spiritual knowledge

Men and women can increase their spiritual knowledge; they can grow better as they grow older.

Quote #3: I feel that Latter-day Saints are advancing; that they are receiving an education. We are getting up higher and higher. We are advancing to a higher condition and sphere and to a higher plane, and we are receiving such an education that the wisdom of the world with all its attainments and false doctrines and principles, will have no effect upon the Latter-day Saints, for they are rising above the theories and hypothesis of human inventions and soaring in things of truth that raise the mind, exalt the understanding, and establishing themselves more and more fully in the true principles of life and glory. We are filled in our hearts with these truths and we cannot tell the day or the hour in which our faith has been increased, but we feel, when we look back over the last week, month, or year, that we have increased in faith and in the knowledge of faith and power of God; we know that we have got nearer our God and we feel that we are in fellowship with God our Father.

 President Snow contrasts the world’s education with the “higher” education the Lord offers. How can we pursue this “higher education?” What blessings have come to you as you have done so?

Talk about putting everything through a gospel filter and not filtering the gospel into a worldly filter.

If we desire to increase in our faith and spiritual knowledge, we must exert ourselves

President Snow said, “Every man has got to learn to stand upon his own knowledge; he cannot depend upon his neighbor; every man must be independent; he must depend upon his God for himself entirely.” This statement resonates well with our belief to become self-reliant. I think we can all see the benefits of learning to stand upon your own knowledge, and not to depend leaning on others’ knowledge as we grow spiritually. He goes on to say, “It depends upon himself to see if he will stem the tide of trouble and overcome the impediments that are strewn in the pathway of life to prevent his progress. A man can get information by the operations of the Holy Spirit and as he approaches to God and increases in his faith in proportion as he is diligent.”

What can we do as parents, grandparents, teachers, etc. do to help youth stand upon their own knowledge?

 Quote#4: It is impossible to advance in the principles of truth, to increase in heavenly knowledge, [unless] we exercise our reasoning faculties and exert ourselves in a proper manner. We have an instance recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants of a misunderstanding on the part of Oliver Cowdery, touching this principle. The Lord promised him the gift to translate ancient records. Like many of us today, he had misconceptions in regard to the exercise of the gift. He thought all that was necessary for him to do, inasmuch as this gift had been promised him of God, was to allow him to wait in idleness without effort, until it should operate spontaneously. But when those records were placed before him, there was no knowledge communicated, there still remained sealed, as it were, for no power to translate came upon him.

 Although the gift to translate had been conferred, he could not do the work, simply because he failed to work toward developing that gift. But the Lord was merciful and informed Oliver Cowdery of his mistake, teaching us all a very important principle.

D&C 9:7-8 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

“So in regard to us, respecting the things which we are undertaking, if we expect to improve, to advance in the work immediately before us, and finally to obtain possession of those gifts and glories, coming up to that condition of exaltation we anticipate, we must take thought and reflect, we must exert ourselves, and that too to the utmost of our ability.”

Gifted, talented people in whatever area did not become gifted or talented by waiting for that talent to come. It required a lot of work. President Snow compared this principle to a person learning how to play the flute, which relates to anyone attempting to master any skill. “An individual undertaking to learn to play upon a flute at first finds a difficulty in making the notes, and in order to play a tune correctly there is a great deal of diligence and patience required. He has to go on, to pause, to turn back and to commence afresh, but after a time he is enabled, through a great deal of exertions, to master that tune. When called upon to play that tune afterwards, there is no necessity for remembering where to place the fingers, but he plays it naturally. It was not natural at first; there had to be a great deal of patience and labor, before it became natural to go through with the tune.”

And so it is with each of us. We have to take it upon ourselves to put into action our spiritual goals so that they may become a natural part of ourselves. As President Snow said, “Our religion should be incorporated within ourselves, a part of our being that cannot be laid off.”

As we dig deep into the things of God and remain faithful, our religion becomes part of our being.

Quote #5 There is a danger of our being satisfied with a superficial advancement, with merely advancing on the surface. We talk of walking in the light of the Spirit and of feeling it upon us, but do we do these things? We ought to dig deep into the things of God, lay our foundation upon the rock, until we come to that water which shall be in us an everlasting fountain of eternal life.

What do you think it means to “dig deep into the things of God?” What are some ways we can “dig deep into the things of God?”

Quote #6 I will [present a] figure in regard to bringing about and getting this spirit in us, and digging deep that we in the time of storm, may not be driven off. Place a cucumber in a barrel of vinegar and there is but little effect produced upon it the first hour, nor in the first 12 hours. Examine it and you will find that the effect produced is merely upon the rind, for it requires a longer time to pickle it. A person’s being baptized into this church has an effect upon him, but not the effect to pickle him immediately. It does not establish the law of right and duty in him during the first 12 r 24 hours; he must remain in the church, like the cucumber in the vinegar, until he becomes saturated with the right spirit, until he becomes pickled in ‘Mormonism,’ in the law of God; we have got to have those things incorporated in our systems.

President Snow also said, “Stick to the ship of Zion. If boats come to the side, showing beautiful colors and making wonderful promises, do not get off the ship to go to the shore on any other boat; but keep on the ship. If you are badly used by any of those that are on the ship, who have not got the proper spirit, remember the ship itself is all right. We should not allow our minds to become soured because of anything that the people on the ship may do to us; the ship is all right, and the officers are all right, and we will be right if we stick to the ship. I can assure you it will take you right into the land of glory.”

As I mentioned at the beginning of the lesson, each of us are at a different place spiritually. Some of us may be struggling to get started and feel stuck, and some of us may be successfully progressing, and everywhere in between. In my studies and preparation for this lesson, I came across some words of wisdom from a former 1st Counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency, Chieko Okazaki.

“What builds your spirituality may be different from what builds someone else’s…You should do what works for you. It’s okay to consult your own needs and wants. Growth comes when we feel ourselves drawn in certain directions, when we feel unsatisfied needs in ourselves and reach out to meet those in needs of righteous ways…Ask yourself:

‘What do I want out of my attendance at church? Am I getting it?’

‘What kinds of experiences with the scriptures have brought me the most joy in the past, or been most satisfying to me? Is there a way to have those experiences more regularly?’

‘What kind of prayer life do I have?’

‘Do I consciously invite the Holy Ghost to ‘come along’ in my daily activities?’

Spirituality is individual. Find things that work for you as you develop spiritual strength.” (Lighten Up! P. 193-194)

 I invite each of you to take some time in the near future to evaluate where you are and what set some spiritual goals. Share your goals with someone for support. If you don’t know where to start, take a look at the Personal Progress program. There are a lot of great resources and goals to help you draw closer to our Savior.

Close with Testimony.