joy
Weeks 40-41
are scheduled for study Sep. 28-Oct. 11, 2020. In keeping with the theme of the Lord’s joy being full, this week’s lessons focus on four aspects of gospel living that will increase our joy.

Day 1

3 Nephi 17 – The Savior is my perfect example of ministering.

While previous chapters in 3 Nephi focused mainly on the Savior’s words, chapters 17-19 describe His ministry and teachings among the people. As you read these chapters, what does the Spirit teach you about the Savior?

We tend to look at the big, the grand, the public, the large display, but God, who also does all those things, understands that it is the small, the individual, the quiet things that create, over time, the most change. A large bush may be a thing of beauty, but it doesn’t make much of a difference to us personally. But cut a single switch or branch from that bush, and apply it judiciously to the backside of an errant child, and it can have a profound effect on the attitude of that child.

Elder Bednar has spoken repeatedly about the Brethren’s need to minister to “the one.” They preach to thousands at a time, and work with large bodies of Saints by the stake, region, or area, but they are always on the lookout for that one person the Lord wants them to reach and help. Here is a quote from a news article about Elder Bednar that illustrates this.

“It was not so much what he said, but what I observed him do that had an impact on me,” said President Pack. “Wherever he went, I noticed that he looked for opportunities to minister to ‘the one.’ That one person was different wherever he went. The one included a bishop leading a small congregation and feeling the weight of his calling, a missionary wanting to know he was in fact called of God, a less-active member he met on the street of Las Palmas, a nonmember of the Church wanting to know what he needed to do to believe, and even my own children. I believe Elder Bednar came to Spain to minister to individuals, and I observed this firsthand on multiple occasions while with him.”

I have taken the liberty of writing an entire article about ministering to help illustrate the nature and power of the act of serving the “one.” I highly recommend you look it over for today’s lesson. It is important to remember that very few of us will ever be called upon to serve thousands at a time, but all of us are under divine directive to always be looking to help “the one.”

Day 2

3 Nephi 17:13–22; 18:15-25; 19:6-9, 15-36 – The Savior taught us how to pray.

While previous chapters in 3 Nephi focused mainly on the Savior’s words, chapters 17-19 describe His ministry and teachings among the people. As you read these chapters, what does the Spirit teach you about the Savior?

It can be difficult to pray to our Father in Heaven if you believe Him to be a man of stern character and unforgiving in His ways. If that is all you have known in mortality from the man/men in your life, it will take some prayer and study to learn to see God in a more kindly light.

When Jesus commanded everyone to kneel down and pray in chapter 19, we see everyone break a cardinal rule about prayer. They were praying directly to Jesus, and it is surprising to some that he did not correct them, but let them continue to pray to him. When he kneels and prays to God moments later he begins his own prayer by thanking Him for giving them the Holy Ghost. The second thing he brings up is his own desire that the Holy Ghost will be given to those who believe on the words of those who already believe in him. It isn’t until the third point is made that Jesus mentions that they are praying to him directly, but he excuses this because he knows it is only because he is with them that they are doing it. He then goes on to reiterate his desire that God will help them/us become unified as he and God are unified, that all of us may be one together.

20 Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.

21 Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.

22 Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them.

23 And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one.

What impresses me about this passage is Christ’s tolerance for imperfection, for variance in the way someone does something that is otherwise so clearly defined that they should know better. This reminds me of what we all experience when a new or returning member of the Church is asked to do something, and not fully understanding the rules of the religion, they do what they are asked in an unorthodox way. We can condemn them for their mistake or we can smile at their attempt to exercise their faith and praise them for it. They will learn over time. There is no need to always be corrected over every error.

This is the only example I know of where Jesus demonstrates the kind of universal compassion we ascribe to him as he prays to God for those for whom he has suffered so much. These verses show clearly his gentleness, his willingness to tolerate our imperfections, and to focus on our potential. I find this passage to be sweet, encouraging, and filled with heartfelt love.

25 And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them …

Praying with the Spirit

3 Nephi 19:24 talks about how they prayed to Jesus. This is the only place I can recall in all of the scriptures where it talks about having the subject matter of prayer given to the one praying. I wanted to address this subject separately, so I wrote a separate article entitled, Praying with the Spirit. I hope it helps you in your own personal efforts as you polish your ability to pray effectively.

Day 3

3 Nephi 18:1–12 – I can be spiritually filled as I partake of the sacrament.

While previous chapters in 3 Nephi focused mainly on the Savior’s words, chapters 17-19 describe His ministry and teachings among the people. As you read these chapters, what does the Spirit teach you about the Savior?

Today’s lesson has been difficult for me. You may have noticed that I am a simple thinker. I like to define things and then see how they fit in with real life according to their definitions. When I find something I can’t define I struggle with how to treat it, think about it, and use it personally. Enter a loving and oh, so intelligent wife. My wife, Elaine pointed out to me that the term I was struggling with in the manual – to be filled – can be experienced in multiple ways.

Think about the ways in your life you have experienced being filled. What did you do last time to experience being filled with the Spirit? What were the circumstances the last time you were led to being filled with gratitude? What was happening in your life the last time you were filled with love for someone? Have you experienced being filled with awe and wonder as you gazed upon a beautiful world around you? When was the last time you were overwhelmed with the many blessings you had been taking for granted, but now could see with so much more clarity?

The invitation for today’s lesson is to take these events of being filled with good things, and bring them to the sacramental table. As you experience the sacrament, either at home or at Church, do you take time to think, reflect, and ponder on where you stand currently before God? Are you seeking for ways to appreciate Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf that enables us to return to our Father in Heaven? These things should be filling us with positive, soul-enriching emotions that the Spirit can use to teach us, reveal things to us, and to deepen our testimonies and conversion to Christ’s mission in the plan of salvation.

Our time of reflection, as mentioned in the manual, should not be just about what we may have not done well this week, or may have even failed to do this week, but we should also be reflecting on all the blessings we receive and the wonderful progress we are working on to become more like Christ. The sacramental reflection time is a great opportunity to review any of the godly virtues and think about how well we are doing in our efforts to learn to be more godly in our own behavior. And yes, this means you are supposed to be trying to develop those virtues conscientiously and persistently.

I know most people recoil at the thought of being godly, for we all know how far short of this behavior we fall each day. But this is the purpose of trying to become like Jesus, isn’t it? Why wonder what Jesus would do, if you have no intention of emulating that behavior? Christ acts godly, and this is what he has commanded us to do. I believe his instructions are that we are to become perfect as he is perfect. We can all perfect our ability to pay an honest tithe, to pray or study our scriptures consistently. It is completely possible to learn to be nearly perfect in becoming nonjudgmental and forgiving of others. Is any of this easy? Of course not, but the point is not about being easy, but about being possible. Isn’t this why we pray in the first place? Surely we don’t fool ourselves into believing that we have any right to expect answers to heavenly petitions when we aren’t doing anything to be more worthy of them. God does not indiscriminately hand out blessings like a genie granting wishes. His blessings are based on our obedience, and obedience requires thought and intention.

Day 4

3 Nephi 18:36–37; 19:6-22 – Disciples of Jesus Christ seek the gift of the Holy Ghost.

While previous chapters in 3 Nephi focused mainly on the Savior’s words, chapters 17-19 describe His ministry and teachings among the people. As you read these chapters, what does the Spirit teach you about the Savior?

Please comment below if you think I am wrong in my opinion, but after thinking a long time about what is meant by the Spirit of Christ or Christ’s Spirit, I believe that the tool referred to as Christ’s Spirit is actually the Holy Ghost. The way it is used in the scriptures tells me that Christ’s Spirit is more than just the light of Christ, which even the Holy Ghost uses to teach us and help us. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Our Father in Heaven gave us one, and only one way back to Him, and that is through Christ. You can see this law taught by Christ in everything that he does with the Nephites. Everything Jesus says and does emphasises that everyone must come to him to be saved, for he of all people understands that there is only one way back to God, and that is through his atoning sacrifice. The Holy Ghost serves in much the same way in that there is only one testator in the Godhead. The Holy Ghost is our teacher. He shows us, inspires us, prompts us, and teaches us how to be more like Christ. There is no greater thing we could ask for, given that we already have Christ and his sacrifice, than the gift of the Holy Ghost.

This means we have two members of the Godhead personally working with us to help us return to God, our Father. This doesn’t mean our Father is just sitting around waiting and watching either. He is answering all our prayers, granting us forgiveness for our sins, giving instructions to Christ as to what needs to be done next for the salvation of the family, etc. Did you ever think about how involved these three men are in our lives? Their whole way of life is wrapped up in doing whatever is necessary and can be done to bring us safely back into God’s presence.

As the only member of the Godhead acting as our personal tutor in all things spiritual and godly, there is no gift we should value more than the gift of the Holy Ghost, for his companionship is essential for our return home to happen. Once we have been baptized and have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, our life should be filled with his tutelage and instructions. We should be praying for more sensitivity to his communications. They may start out as a club over the head to get our attention, but with practice, his voice becomes a whisper that we must listen for to hear. The closer we get to him, and the more we learn how he thinks and what he usually would have us do in a particular situation, the quieter he can become. Eventually, his thoughts almost merge with our thoughts as we become united in our attitudes and behaviors. That is what Christ wants of us, to become one with each other, and with them, as they in the Godhead are one with each other.

FHE/Scripture Study

3 Nephi 18:17–21 – Purpose of prayer

To begin this section let me say I am assuming you have just read these verses. I hope you have also read the article I wrote on praying with the Spirit.

In my mind, prayer has always fallen into two categories, the asking kind and the thanking kind. That is about as simple as it gets. But what about the kind of prayer where you are discussing something with God? That isn’t so simple, is it?

Verse 18 has this phrase in it: “ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation.” It seems to me that there is a vast difference between “always” praying, as in the morning, noon, and night kind of praying, and watching always – accompanied by constant prayer. That combination seems a lot more complicated and complete to me.

When we watch for something it assumes constant awareness, a looking for signs and indications that something is happening or is about to happen. You can’t be spiritually asleep and still be watchful. This tells me that in order for me to stay away from temptation I need to be aware of where temptations are and when I am being presented with a temptation. To be aware that something is actually a temptation makes it a lot easier to resist or turn away from. It is when we don’t see it for what it is, or we are tricked into thinking it is a legitimate choice that we slip and fall.

With that said, if I ask you if there is another kind of prayer other than asking and thanking, what would you say? Does the discussion type of prayer make more sense? If we are watching for the traps and snares of this world, and are in constant communication with our Father in Heaven then we can tell Him what we see. We can ask for greater insights, more tolerance, more sensitivity in needed areas, and more love for those around us. These things shore us up or support us so we are stronger where we need more strength to overcome those things in which we have a particular weakness.

Prayer can be verbal, but it can, and should, also be mental. One of the reasons people forget to pray verbally is because they don’t have God in their thoughts during the day. When we think and include God in our thinking, asking questions, stating our concerns, thanking Him, etc., we remember Him, we remember Christ. And it is when we remember Christ during the day’s activities that we have his Spirit to be with us. If we only pray to or think about God once, twice, or three times a day then that just makes it all the more difficult for us to have the Holy Ghost with us throughout the rest of the day. Remember, the conditions stated in the sacrament prayers is that we will always have the Holy Ghost to be with us when we always remember him.

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BoM Weeks 40-41

(3 Nephi 17-19)