Elijah
Week 3 is scheduled for study Jan. 11-17, 2021. There is lots and lots of information in this week’s lessons. You’ll consider the meaning of words, the fulness of the gospel, the prophet Elijah, and how to find your mission in life.

Day 1

Joseph Smith — History 1:27-33 – God has a work for me to do.

The Holy Ghost can teach you every time you read the scriptures – even scriptures you have read many times before. So be open to new insights and inspiration.

For today’s lesson I am going to ask for your forgiveness, for I can only address this subject in a way I can understand if I talk about myself. I am loath to focus on myself, since I spend a good deal of energy trying to move the focus from me and onto the doctrine about which I write each week. I ask that you be patient with me.

Today we are supposed to think about the mission God has for each of us. Some are lucky enough to have their mission in this life spelled out for them in their patriarchal blessing, but I am guessing that most do not have it specifically stated in their blessing. Some may have had their mission given to them in a blessing by a member of the priesthood, or may have stumbled across their special talent to promote God’s work early in their life (The Osmond brothers come to mind). But I am guessing, again from personal experience, that most of us have, and will continue to struggle over, multiple decades to learn our mission in this life.

Signs and wonders

Even though we are usually left to discover for ourselves what our mission in life is, or how to perform our mission if we already know it, we are not left without clues from above. If we become spiritually sensitive to the whisperings of the Spirit, and are actively seeking for further clarification of what the Lord would have us do or become while here in mortality, over time this information will distill upon our souls. Think of the hymn, “As the Dew From Heaven Distilling.” Dew takes time to collect, and often we don’t notice that the dew has appeared until we are already wet from it.

Look to the Old Testament for an example of what I am talking about. Samson had been prepared to be strong in his youth, but he was a prideful man. Despite his weaknesses, the Lord was still able to use Samson to accomplish his designs of punishing the Philistines, the enemy of Israel. It took Samson losing his gift and spending time without it for him to come to appreciate what he had had all those years. His story is one of final redemption when he repents of his sin of pride and accomplishes one final act of service to God that ends in the giving of his own life.

Now I get to the part I have been trying to put off – my story. I received my patriarchal blessing at the age of twelve. In that blessing I am specifically told that my mission in life is to help prepare people for the Savior’s return. That’s it. I’m currently 63 years old, and up to this point in my life I have had no clear notion as to how I was supposed to accomplish what the Lord specifically told me I was to do. I have explored many ideas and possibilities over the years. All of them have lead to dead ends. I have spent more than four decades in quiet frustration. I don’t want to return home not having done what I was sent to do, but what I have been told is so generic a statement that I have always assumed many of us have this same responsibility. So how do I do it?

For years I thought it might have something to do with one or more church callings in leadership. That hasn’t panned out as assumed. Perhaps it would happen by my becoming a great teacher. That also hasn’t happened, though in the course of my years of teaching I have learned that I receive personal revelation on my feet while in the act of teaching. It is akin to giving a blessing. I’ll be talking to the class and suddenly in my mind’s eye I can see and comprehend things I had not thought about before. As I speak what flows into my mind I am learning as I go. It is a glorious experience, but it only affects those in the room at the time. Wasn’t I supposed to “change the world?” At least that was how I was looking at my mission.

More than a decade ago President Ballard spoke at BYU-Hawaii in a special commencement address. He removed his academic robes so he could give his talk as an Apostle. He told us all we needed to get online and join in the worldwide conversation about the gospel of Christ. It was going on already, with or without us, so we may as well wade in and contribute truth to the conversation. That address haunted me for a number of years. Finally, I found myself alone one day with one of the entrepreneurs of the Center in which I worked at the university. He and I got talking, and I felt the need to share with him my frustration that I had not been able to fulfill my mission in life, and that President M. Russell Ballard’s injunction to go online had not left me all these years after he gave it, but I couldn’t figure out how to do what he instructed us to do.

Wouldn’t you know it, but the entrepreneur I was talking to specialized in online marketing. He had helped many people get online and set up their own websites. He offered to become my mentor and help me get started. His first assignment was for me to decide what it was that I wanted to accomplish by going online. At first I thought I needed to do missionary work to the world at large, so I could fulfill my perception of my mission. We struggled through many hardships trying to get me set up. Everything that could go wrong, did. He even made the comment many times that he had never seen anyone with as much bad luck as I had in trying to set up a website.

Eventually, mormonbasics.com was launched, and I began writing short articles about the basics of the gospel. But the more I wrote, the more I realized that I am drawn to the members of the church. My real desire is to help them better understand the gospel they already have, so they can get a greater enjoyment of the blessings they already have at their disposal. Eventually, because of the directive of the prophet, I had to change the name of the website so we avoided the use of the word “Mormon.” This how gospelstudy.us came to be. Same website, but different name.

Because I continued to write on a schedule, I came to learn that the same experience I had while teaching a class was happening when I sat down to write commentary on gospel-related lessons. Thoughts just began to flow onto the paper and I taught myself about the gospel as I was in the act of writing. As soon as I had written the article, all of it fled my mind. When I go back and read my own work, it is as though I am reading someone else’s writings, even though I remember writing parts of it. When I write, the words just come into my head and I type as fast as I can. There is almost no editing, making versions, or fixing things. In almost every article I write there are usually no more than three or four word changes or one sentence reworded according to my wife’s suggestion for clarity, but the whole article stands as it is first written.

Now comes the hard part for me. Like Samson and his feats of strength, my writing has come as effortlessly as flowing water going downhill. But what I haven’t figured out is how this is helping me fulfill my mission to help others prepare for the second coming of Christ. I have been writing now for more than seven years, and I have struggled with my feelings of insecurity about fulfilling my mission all that time. Until recently, I assumed that for me to fulfill my mission I needed to have a worldwide reach on my website, with hundreds of thousands of weekly readers lapping up what I wrote. That certainly was a prideful pipe dream.

After years of prayer and pondering, reflection and humbling, I am finally coming to the determination that I will never make any money on my site (large websites like mine are very expensive to maintain). I will always maintain it at great cost to my family out of our personal retirement funds. I will never have the adoring global audience that my pride craved, though I have never wanted the attention on me, but on the doctrine about which I wrote. I am finally, just now, beginning to feel at peace that my writing is my calling. If the Lord wants someone to read it, He will lead them to my site. If not, the writing has made a better convert out of me. As my wife told me this morning during scriptures, it isn’t about what we can get out of it, but about how much help we can be to the Lord and His work that counts. I love my wife.

My point in sharing this embarrassing detailing of my personal journey to discover my mission in life, is that even when the Lord tells us directly what our mission is, He rarely tells us how to do it. We have to search, ponder, and pray about the how of our calling for as long as we live. He wants us to connect with Him in humble prayer. When we do then go to work doing good wherever we can, and however we can, He will lead us gently along, giving us clues, opening doors of opportunities, and helping us discover new talents we didn’t even know we had along the way. In this manner we will each come to learn, and appreciate the Lord’s mercies in our life. Only by looking back on our life will we see that He has had a hand in our progress and development in some pretty marvelous and subtle ways.

We can each come to learn what our mission is, but it doesn’t usually come easily, nor quickly. We must search our heart, read our scriptures, and put our daily efforts into the discovery of what we can do to assist the Lord in His work. It may be through humble means, like making timely comments on other’s posts on social media. It may be that we become extra sensitive to the needs of others around us, helping them in times when others may not even be aware that a need is present. The possibilities are endless, and our growth in our service will lead us along to finally coming to terms with our calling in this life.

I hope this is helpful to at least one person who reads this. It is my story and experience. I only understand this process from my own perspective. I am sure you have other perspectives that will help and aid you in your search, if you don’t already know what your mission in life is.

Day 2

Joseph Smith — History 1:34-65 – The Book of Mormon contains “the fulness of the everlasting Gospel.”

The Holy Ghost can teach you every time you read the scriptures – even scriptures you have read many times before. So be open to new insights and inspiration.

There are many parts to the definition and description of what the “fulness of the everlasting gospel” is. The Book of Mormon doesn’t tell us in full modern language what parts of the gospel it is restoring to us, for that knowledge is embedded throughout that book. The manual gives us a great example to look at to consider how the Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel.

At the bottom of today’s lesson the manual gives us some verses out of Isaiah to consider. Look at  Isaiah 29:4, 11–18. Do these words in Isaiah sound familiar? These are almost verbatim phrases used in the Book of Mormon. The doctrine they refer to is that God has a work that must come forth in the latter days, and that it will be prepared well in advance of the day in which it would come to light. Because everyone involved in creating these words of Christ, those who read these words would feel a familiar spirit about them. In other words, the Spirit will make these ancient writings ring true, and feel right. These works the Lord would bring to light will bear testimony of the scriptural record of the Jews, putting down contention and answering questions about the principles of salvation. This is exactly what the Book of Mormon does.

With the acceptance of new scripture comes the acceptance of modern revelation, for it is modern revelation that gave us the new scriptures. President Boyd K. Packer made this comment about the doctrine of premortal life that only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches.

President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, addressed the significance of this doctrine: “There is no way to make sense out of life without a knowledge of the doctrine of premortal life. … When we understand the doctrine of premortal life, then things fit together and make sense.”

Without an understanding of our premortal life we cannot correctly comprehend our relationship with our Heavenly Father, nor can we completely grasp the purpose of this earth life and our divine destiny. “This doctrine of premortal life,” said President Packer, “was known to ancient Christians. For nearly five hundred years the doctrine was taught, but it was then rejected as a heresy by a clergy that had slipped into the Dark Ages of apostasy. Once they rejected this doctrine, … they could never unravel the mystery of life. They became like a man trying to assemble a strand of pearls on a string that was too short. There is no way they can put them all together.”

There are many doctrines in the Book of Mormon that fill in the missing pieces of what was lost to the rest of Christianity over the centuries. Because of the Book of Mormon, and modern revelation (think Doctrine and Covenants) we have the fulness of the gospel of Christ – all the knowledge we need to receive our salvation.

Day 3

Joseph Smith — History 1:36-41 – The Restoration of the gospel fulfilled ancient prophecies.

The Holy Ghost can teach you every time you read the scriptures – even scriptures you have read many times before. So be open to new insights and inspiration.

Today I will suffice with a suggestion for you. As you read the Doctrine and Covenants, the Come, Follow Me manual, and the Saints books, pay particular attention to the many comments made by those whose journal entries are quoted who lived prior to Joseph Smith’s first vision. Note how often ministers and laymen alike were looking for a restoration of Christ’s original church. They were not ignorant that Christ’s original church was lost, that his authority was no longer on the earth, and that at some point it was promised in the scriptures that it would come again to the earth. These people hungered for this restoration. Unfortunately, their own official church doctrine taught them that there was no such thing as revelation from God, so they had to keep their opinions largely to themselves, or just among trusted friends.

We need never be surprised or ignorant about Christianity’s knowledge of their own descent into spiritual darkness, for this acknowledgement is the whole basis for the Reformation that lead to the splintering of Christianity hundreds of years before Joseph Smith was born. The basis for the Protestant Christians’ hope was the fulfillment of the ancient promises that God would one day restore what was prophesied to be lost.

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Day 4

Doctrine and Covenants 2 – What did Elijah restore?

Day 5

Doctrine and Covenants 2 – Elijah came to turn my heart to my ancestors.

The Holy Ghost can teach you every time you read the scriptures – even scriptures you have read many times before. So be open to new insights and inspiration.

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To study the lessons for days four and five, please refer to the following article that discusses the subjects of both days.

FHE/Personal Study

Use scripture study helps

In our daily routine of reading the scriptures, it might be easy to forget that the book we have opened before us has more than just the text of the scriptures we are reading. If we don’t remind ourselves to explore the study helps the Church has built into our books of scripture and their help for us online, we will miss a lot of good information.

Explanations of words and cultural terms are most often found in the footnotes of the Old and New Testaments. But there are some also in the Book of Mormon and books of modern scripture. There is the pronunciation guide at the end of the Book of Mormon to help you learn to correctly pronounce people and place names. The chapter headings in all of the scriptures summarizes the contents of each chapter, and in the Doctrine and Covenants in particular you get historical and contextual background for that section. Finally, if you want an interesting evening of exploration, open to the back of your Bible or Doctrine and Covenants and reading selections from the Bible Dictionary or the Topical Guide. If you want to see how a particular principle is explained by multiple prophets, the Topical Guide is especially helpful. And outside of the scriptures, consider looking up words of interest in the current dictionaries. And to see how the word may have changed over the last couple of centuries, look in the Webster’s 1828 edition online. I quote from this edition often in my articles. This is the dictionary with word meanings that Joseph Smith would have found to be comfortable and familiar to him. As far as I know, it is also one of the earliest versions of a dictionary in America.

Click the link below to

print a PDF copy of the file.

The Hearts of the Children …

Week 03