Week 50 is scheduled for study Dec. 6-12, 2021. Everything about this week’s lessons boils down to what we believe. We each need to personally answer the questions of why we need to believe in living prophets and what they teach us.

Day 1

As you study the Articles of Faith and Official Declarations 1 and 2, consider the impact they have had on the Church. What impresses you about the truths they teach?

The Articles of Faith – The Articles of Faith contain foundational truths of the restored gospel.

I love the use of the term “foundational truths.” The Articles of Faith truly do distill all that is most sacred about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and presents it in easy, bite-sized bits of information that most anyone can comprehend. And they are presented in such a nonthreatening way that it is difficult to object to any of the articles, for they are not worded in such a way as to demean or lessen anyone else’s beliefs.

For the first time, I realized that with all that we have studied and discussed this year about the importance of the temple in the life of every latter-day saint, there is not one word of temples mentioned in the Articles of Faith. So I went and looked up some dates. The Kirtland temple was dedicated in 1836. All the final keys necessary for the temple ordinances were bestowed that this time. The Articles of Faith were written in 1842, and the Nauvoo temple was dedicated in 1846. The actual ordinances weren’t practiced in full until the Nauvoo temple was dedicated, but the keys had already been given, and some ordinances were performed before the Nauvoo temple was dedicated.

“So what does this have to do with today’s lesson?”, you ask. The answer is this – even if Joseph Smith had already had some of the ordinances revealed to him when he penned the Articles of Faith, it still wouldn’t have made any difference. Reread the 13 Articles of Faith and I think you will see that what goes on in the temple falls under various articles. Article seven says we believe in revelation. That covers knowledge that Joseph didn’t have at that time, because the Lord was regularly giving him new information as part of the ongoing Restoration. Article nine covers this same thought by saying we believe in ongoing revelation. And Article 10 talks about the gathering of Israel, which we are still doing on both sides of the veil today, and is the most important feature of this dispensation. And finally, Article 11 claims that we believe everyone has the right to worship in whatever way they want to. This is our way of saying “You worship your way, and we’ll worship our way, and we can still be friends.”

The manual suggests we use the topics of each of the Articles of Faith and look up scriptures that back up those topics. This is a good idea, and will be different for each individual. I suggest you consider this as a personal study project for this week.

Day 2

As you study the Articles of Faith and Official Declarations 1 and 2, consider the impact they have had on the Church. What impresses you about the truths they teach?

The Articles of Faith 1:9; Official Declarations 1 and 2 – The Church of Jesus Christ is guided by revelation.

I would like to sidestep the official topic for today’s lesson for just a moment. I think it important to make a point here. The law of plural marriage is something all who have been to the temple have promised to abide by, if the Lord ever requires it. The promise falls under the category of promising to follow, and be obedient to, the Lord’s servants. But our society is not accustomed to marriages between multiple people. In other countries such an arrangement is normal and natural, even expected. But that isn’t the way our society works. It took a lot of faith for the people to accept the law of plural marriage when it was first introduced. Even the prophet held out and didn’t want to introduce it. He was finally brought to a sword’s point before he caved and taught the doctrine. It was a test of faith then, and its very existence continues to be a test of faith today.

When the enemies of the Church had something as substantial as plural marriage to attack the Church over, they lobbied for laws that would destroy the Church or force the members to relinquish a doctrine that was uniquely theirs. It was a way to vent their hatred for the Church, and they were successful. When the prophet finally wrote the Manifesto, he even said that the Lord showed him what would happen to the whole Church if they didn’t relinquish this law. The enemies of the Church had backed the Saints into a corner. If they didn’t give up polygamy, the government would seize all their assets, shut down the temples, and imprison every priesthood holder who participated in the “practice.” It was important that the Saints obey the laws of the land, and those laws now prohibited plural marriage.

The members of the Church were used to persecution. They were willing to live with the punishment to prove their loyalty to God, but the Lord showed President Woodruff the wisdom of backing down so that the Church could thrive. It was already evident that the Saints were willing to suffer to show their faith. Now the Saints had to show their faith by letting the enemies of the Church have their way.

The reason we have so many talk quotes in Official Declaration 1 on the necessity of giving up the “practice” is because the Saints who believed in it were wanting to continue it. Giving it up looked like the Church was caving to evil. But the Lord showed President Woodruff the wisdom of not shutting down the Church because of the desire of the enemies of the Church to do just that. He knew that His work would still get done, and that those who had been faithful to accept this law would now have to be faithful in giving up the practice of the law. It took awhile for many in the Church to accept the Manifesto, just as it was a relief for many that the practice was now being abandoned. Everyone had to exercise faith that this was the will of the Lord. They all had to follow the living prophet in faith, no matter their personal view of what had been done and what needed to now be done by the Church. All of the members needed to accept the testimony of the Brethren and move on in faith.

The living of the law of plural marriage, and the abandoning of the law serves to demonstrate that following the prophet is not always an easy thing to do. Sometimes the prophet will tell us that we must do hard things, things that go against our political views, our social views, and even our life views. This has been evident in spades with the pandemic. The Prophet encouraged everyone to be good global citizens and get vaccinated. He called the vaccines a miracle. Some in the Church followed the counsel of the prophet and got the vaccine, while others insisted that it wasn’t a commandement, so they weren’t required to get the vaccine. I fell into this second group, because I didn’t trust the vaccine – still don’t. But after days of struggling with why I didn’t feel at peace with my decision, I decided that I don’t ever want to have to face the Lord and tell Him that I felt my judgment was better than His servant leader. I got the vaccine with the full belief that if the pandemic claimed my life that was okay, for I would be able to face the Lord and tell Him I followed the Prophet in all things. I never knew, until this pandemic, how difficult it could be to follow the counsel of a man I have always upheld as a prophet of God. Many of the Saints in President Woodruff’s day experienced this same kind of struggle. Personal revelation is so important in being able to always follow the counsel of the living oracles of God. The prophet either leads by revelation or he doesn’t. This is something we must come to know for ourselves.

Day 3

As you study the Articles of Faith and Official Declarations 1 and 2, consider the impact they have had on the Church. What impresses you about the truths they teach?

Official Declaration 1 – The work of God must move forward.

The bulk of today’s lesson is encapsulated in yesterday’s lesson. It is worth rereading that lesson with today’s title in mind. I think the point of today’s lesson is that the Lord is never defeated. No amount of lobbying, law making, or even outright rebellion can stop from happening what the Lord has decreed will happen. Once the words leave His mouth, all the power of eternity cannot stop their decreed course. He is God after all.

It is in the fact that God cannot be stopped from accomplishing what He sets out to do that should give us absolute confidence in what we are about when we are being obedient to God’s commandments. His promises never fail, and whether in this lifetime or the next, all commitments will be honored.

Some people mistakenly are led to believe that if they choose something other than what God wants us to choose they can frustrate the work of God. It matters not how many people band together to rebel against Him, for His will is greater than all of creation. That is a simple truth, since He made all of creation. By His word all things come into being, and by His word they pass away. What makes us think there is anything we can do to prevent His purposes and designs from coming to pass?

Day 4

As you study the Articles of Faith and Official Declarations 1 and 2, consider the impact they have had on the Church. What impresses you about the truths they teach?

Official Declaration 2 – We can trust in the Lord, even when we do not have a perfect understanding.

One of the greatest mistakes many of us make in this life is listening to those who lack faith try to second guess God. They try to explain why He did this or didn’t to that, having no idea, personally, why He actually did any of it. But when they tell us their theories or give us their concocted explanations, they often sound so confident that we allow them to plant a seed of doubt that can grow, like a weed, with remarkable rapidity.

When a new member of the Church is faced with a historical fact or a doctrinal question they haven’t considered before, and they have had a seed of doubt sprout up in their soul, what is a direct and simple line of reasoning for them? We tell them, “Is the Book of Mormon true?” When they answer, “Yes.” We say, “then Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Church is true.” When we put our faith in what we do know then what we don’t know is easier to accept on faith. Believing that we must know everything before we believe anything will only drive us away from God altogether. At some point faith is always required. Better to exercise it today than to put it off for another time, for the sooner we learn to exercise faith in God and His ordained servants, the sooner we will find ourselves getting the answers we so earnestly seek.

Remember that God does everything out of love. All of His motives have our best interests at heart. He does nothing that will harm us, put us in jeopardy, or eternally place us at a disadvantage. His promises are always guaranteed, are assured. His love is absolute for all of His children. The nation we are born in, or the time in history we enter mortality make no difference to His love for us. Our personal doubts and lack of understanding only offer the evil one a fertile garden bed for doubt and misery. Once we come to believe in the absolute devotion of our God towards us, we will have the strength to exercise our faith and trust in His loyalty to us and look past those issues that are difficult for us to understand. The secret when dealing with doubt from a lack of understanding is to not throw out everything we have built in our relationship with our Father, but to trust in what we have already learned and gained, so we can have the faith to wait a little longer, and search a little harder until the answers come. They always come at some point.

FHE/Personal Study

Consider revelation

Even though most Christian denominations don’t believe God speaks to prophets any more, they all teach that He can and does speak to each of us when we pray to Him. I don’t think any of us will argue as to why personal revelation makes a difference in our collective lives.

  • But why does belief in a prophet make a difference to each of us?
  • How does believing in a living, authorized, representative of God make a difference in our life?
  • What can or should be different in our life if we accept that such representatives live and walk among us?
  • The calling of a prophet is to deliver God’s current communication with each and every child of God. His words are not just for one class, nationality, race, or select group. The words of the prophet are for the whole family of God. Can you think of how this would make a difference to someone who already believes in individual revelation? Why is a prophet needed?

I’m not being deliberately obtuse here by not answering these questions for you. We each need to prayerfully and carefully ponder such questions as those I have just asked. For the sake of our own testimony we need to figure out how to answer these questions. I think the answers will all smack of sameness, while each will have its own flavor of the basic answers. What is important here is that each of us figure out the answer for our self.

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D&C50 – We Believe

Week 50