authority
Scheduled to be studied Feb 25 – Mar 3, 2019. Why was Jesus able to teach with authority? Is it possible for us to be able to speak, act, and teach with that same kind of authority? If so, where does that come from? How do we develop that authority? This is what we will be discussing in this week’s lessons.

As you look at this week’s lessons you will probably notice quickly that the title of this lesson doesn’t seem to easily match up with what is listed as the lessons for this week’s study. This one took some thinking to work out, at least it did for me. The question in my mind is this, “What gave Christ the air of authority when he taught, and is this something we are all able to develop within ourselves?” This was a big question for me, because I had always assumed he spoke with authority because he was Christ. Duh! But as I read the intro to the lesson I got the feeling this authority thing was far more than just because of who Jesus was.

Let’s look at some examples of authority. If you want to build a home, who would you more readily believe, someone who has built a dog house once or someone who has been building homes for 20 years? If you need a medical diagnosis, would you rather listen to a nurse or a specialist in the field you need help in? If you answered the home builder and the specialist, then why would you rather listen to them than someone else? What gives them that air of authority that you trust?

Let’s not talk about Christ for this example. He is too high above us to help us bring this closer to home. Let’s talk about the Apostles. What is it about their lives or experiences that gives them authority when they speak? It isn’t their calling, because we have had Apostles get excommunicated, so it has to be something else. I would like to venture my opinion and say that what gives them authority when they speak, teach, and live, is the quality of their lives. They have learned to do all the things we are going to be studying this week. They judge righteously. They have learned by experience how to pray, how to set their hearts upon heavenly things, and very importantly, they have spent their lives coming to know Christ by following God’s will.

I believe that as we do all the things I have outlined in the previous paragraph that we change. We come to understand more about how God thinks, feels, and behaves, and as we become more like Him we can speak and act with more authority. Why? Because we have learned from firsthand experience the nature of God. It has become a nature we are comfortable with, because we are becoming like Him. I believe this is why it was evident to all around Jesus that he spoke with authority. He learned this in the same way we learn it, through obedience and lots of practice.

Day 1

Matthew 6-7 – I should set my heart upon heavenly things.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Here are a couple of housekeeping items for this week. Note that the first two days cover the entirety of Matthew 6 and Matthew 7, so you will need to allot extra time to read the whole week’s reading assignment before scripture study the first day. The second item is that there is a lot you can do to study in these two chapters. I’m not talking about the overall content of the chapters. I’m referring to the footnotes. I spent as much time just going through the footnotes as I did reading and thinking about the chapters.

My recommendation for this assignment is that you FIRST go through all the footnotes and mark anything with a JST, or an i.e., or with a GR (Greek translation or wording) and then place a mark in your scriptures so you know when you have reached the next substitution point. If you will do this BEFORE you read the chapters, I believe you will have a much better experience with this week’s lesson.

Here is just a small example of what I am referring to. Here is Matthew 6:1.

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

There is an addition to the beginning of the verse by Joseph Smith, but I want to focus on the second footnote (b) about the word “alms.” My whole life I have been taught that alms are money offerings. When a beggar on the street asks for money, what we give them are considered alms. I would hear in the movies beggars saying things like, “Alms, alms for the poor!” and holding out their hands to receive the occasional coin from a passerby. Alms were always money in my mind, because that is all I ever heard.

But what does it say in footnote b for alms? It says this, “GR righteousness, acts of religious devotion.” Can you see a difference between just handing out a few coins and providing an act of righteousness or religious devotion? Think about the difference in the description given in the original Greek, and how it was translated into English.

What do you see as the difference in what is implied between money as alms and acts of religious devotion or righteousness as alms?

What does alms have to do with ministering?

If we were to use the Greek word choices instead of the English word alms, how might this change the way we see and use this first verse of chapter 6?

How does something as simple as changing the word choice in a translation affect our understanding of a scripture verse?

I strongly encourage you to verbally, meaning out loud, say the verse using the alternate word choices. Sometimes when we do that we see a whole new relationship within the verse. This week’s assignment has many alternate ways of thinking about the verses you are reading and studying. This can truly be a mind-expanding experience if you take some time to quietly think through each of the alternate choices and how they affect your understanding of the verses of these two chapters.

Another substitution I would like to suggest is not for the feint of heart. When you look at the definition of the word “hypocrite” (pretenders; the Greek word means “a play actor,” or “one who feigns, represents dramatically, or exaggerates a part.”), what modern equivalent do we have to describe this kind of person? I suggest we consider the phrase “drama queen.” Don’t we all know people we would refer to accurately as drama queens? Everything is over stated, blown out of proportion, or exaggerated. They are always dramatic about everything. Sometimes a word or phrase substitution works better in one verse than it does in another. For example, just for the effect of it all, try reading verse 2 again, but this time substitute drama queen for the word hypocrite, and see if it makes more sense to you now. It may or it may not, depending on your experience with that phrase in modern society. The substitution is especially accurate in verse 16 when it refers to how the Pharisees would fast. Be sure to read that substitution out loud. That one made me laugh. Great visual.

Here is a substitution that will forever change how I see these verses. This section recommends looking at verses 1-4 of chapter 6 as their first example of how to go through all the verses in these two chapters. Below are just verses 3-4 of Matthew 6. I have chosen to replace the English word alms with the Greek meaning of righteousness.

But when thou doest righteousness, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

That [thy] righteousness may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

I have italicized the changes I made to the verses in order to make the substitutions. I found this change to be far more inclusive of the whole range of acts and behaviors that fall under the intent of these verses than just money offerings. The title of today’s study is “I should set my heart upon heavenly things.” That is addressed in this substitution of righteousness for alms. When we change the way we behave as to go about doing good to bless the lives of others by keeping it private, so our good works are not seen by others, we will find that we have difficulty doing so if our hearts are not set on doing good for good’s sake. If we are “hypocrites” (drama queens), who do things to be seen of others then we cannot actually “set our hearts upon heavenly things,” because we are actually doing good for the effect we want in the eyes of those who see us.

This kind of attitude change takes time to acquire for some. I have had some exposure to LDS Philanthropies who handle all the big donations to the Church. They gave some seminars to us when I worked at BYU-Hawaii and told us that people need a chance to grow, even when they are doing good. For example, when they first start learning how to give money to the Church a person may feel a need to have their picture taken with the prophet while they present the check to him. They are doing it to be seen of men. But as the Spirit works with them and they do more giving, eventually the Church just needs to ask for the money and they cut a check and send it in. They no longer need to be recognized for the good they are doing.

This example is specific to those with lots of money, but the lesson can be learned by everyone. We are all at various stages of growth. Some of us need our neighbors to know when we have done good for someone in the ward or community. Others no longer feel the desire for others to know what good they do. They derive great satisfaction in just doing good. No one needs to know about it. These are the people who perform their “alms”, their righteousness secretly so that their right hand knoweth not what their left hand doeth. These are the people the Lord refers to as the salt of the earth.

Day 2

Matthew 6-7 – I can draw closer to God through humble, sincere prayer.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

This will be much shorter (on my part) today than yesterday’s study. But be that as it may, the same principles of applying alternate word choices to the verses still apply today. The topic you feel you need to study can be anything among these two chapters. Let the Spirit guide you in that choice. But they are suggesting you consider the subject of prayer, as the Lord’s prayer is found in this first of our two chapters.

In the example of prayer the Savior gives in chapter 6 he tells us in verse 12 that we need to forgive other’s debts to us as we hope the Lord will forgive our debts. But wait, what is a debt? If you immediately thought, a debt is money owed, then you have not read the footnotes yet. In the footnotes we learn that a debt can also refer to “offenses, faults, or sins.” That certainly expands the meaning and implications of verse 12.

The Savior is not saying that we all need to be more tolerant in our money management practices. He is telling us that when we pray we need to remember that the law of reciprocity applies. If we want to be forgiven of our flaws, offenses, and sins, we must also be willing to forgive those same things in others, even when those sins committed by others have affected us in a deeply personal way.

When we seek the Lord in humble and fervent (intensely heartfelt) prayer, we need to remember that part of what we need to be praying for is the ability to be as forgiving and tolerant of the weakness and failings of others as we hope the Lord is with us. The following questions are best when asked and answered out loud to another person. Doing so will bump up the level of commitment required to answer fully and honestly.

How do you feel your attitude in your prayers would change if you remembered each day that your ability to be forgiving of others will affect the Lord’s willingness to forgive you?

How does our level of sincerity change our attitude when we pray?

How does our level of sincerity change the effectiveness of our prayers?

How do you think you can make the Lord’s name more holy or sanctified in your own heart?

Prayer and fasting often are paired in the scriptures. How can proper fasting help you learn to more effectively pray?

Day 3

Matthew 6:7 – What does it mean to use “vain repetitions in prayer?

Matthew 6:9-13 – Why don’t we recite the Lord’s prayer?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Note that today’s study has two passages and two questions to consider. I have put them together because they are so closely related. Be sure to read the manual for both of these sections. Both of them have some good material in them.

I am assuming you have read chapters 6 and 7, looked at and thought about the footnotes and JST passages, and have read the manual.

After looking at the footnote for verse 9, can you see how people mistakenly assumed the Savior was wanting them to repeat verbatim how he taught them to pray? (This is a good example of how a sentiment in one language doesn’t necessarily translate equally into another language. In this case the sentiment was going from the original Greek into English.

“After this manner” can mean “you should pray in this exact way,” or it can mean “it is in this way that you ought to pray.” What is the difference in meaning you see between these two interpretations?

How would each interpretation change the effectiveness of your prayers to get the answers you seek?

It is important that we remember that everything in the gospel of Christ is supposed to change us to make us happier and more like Christ in our attitudes, thinking, and behavior. Can you see how your choice in how you interpret the scriptures makes a difference in the final outcome of our lives? One interpretation gives us something of very limited good to recite, while the other interpretation teaches us to communicate better and more effectively with our Father in Heaven.

Day 4

Matthew 7:1-5 – I should judge righteously.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Since by this day of the week you have already read the weekly assignment at least once, I strongly recommend you read Elder Lynn G. Robbins talk in the November 2016 Ensign and Liahona, pages 96-98.

We are accustomed to reading the scriptures in small, well-defined packets of information, by verses. Too often we refer to one verse only and ignore all that is connected to that verse. For example, sometimes a single verse is only a part of a sentence. You may have to read many verses both above and below your selected verse just to get from the beginning to the end of the sentence. Without knowing the full setting for the sentence or thought we are researching, our understanding may be severely cut short and limited. A good example of this is Matthew 7:1-5.

My whole life I read verse one, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” and moved on to other things. We’re not supposed to judge others. Period. Wrong.

The scripture doesn’t really say that at all. Look at the first footnote for verse one at what Joseph Smith added to the verse. It comes from JST Matthew 7:1-2.

1 Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people.

2. Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.

First of all Jesus was not talking to the multitude, but to the disciples he was sending out to teach the multitudes. He is delivering here the lessons he wanted them to teach the people in general. Secondly, they were not told there was a ban on all judging, but that when we learn to judge we need to make sure our decisions are arrived at righteously. Thirdly, if you look at the rest of the five verses you will see that he is teaching them how to be righteous so they can be capable of making righteous judgments. In the past I had always separated these verses into separate lessons that had nothing to do with each other. I am focusing here on just the first five verses of this chapter, but if you look closely at the rest of the chapter you will see that there are other parts of this chapter that also contribute to our knowledge of learning how to judge righteously.

I have used the term “the law of reciprocity” before. It means that however you behave to others, God will behave to you in your final judgment. If you are kind and patient with others, God will be kind and patient with you in your final judgment. If you are unkind and cruel to others in this life, that is what you will have used to judge you in the next. The Lord uses the phrase “with what measure ye mete,” but it means basically the same thing.

I wonder about how that judgment process really works. I have been told that most of the judging is really done by ourselves, because we will see our own behavior for what it really was, with no sugar coating. If this is the case, I can see why we would feel we deserve to be condemned if we review our life and see our self condemning others and being unkind. I have a difficult time imagining the Savior would actually be cruel to us in return for our own personal cruelty. But I don’t have a problem imagining that I would be plenty cruel to myself with my own judgment of my unrepentant behavior.

Proper judgment requires clarity of vision. This is where the story of the mote and beam comes in. We can’t very well correct someone else’s sin if we have a far larger sin blocking our spiritual vision. We first need to get rid of our own sin so we can see clearly what is happening to the person with the small sin.

To further the comparisons and lessons for learning to judge righteously, let’s consider the following questions.

Casting our pearls before swine refers to sharing that which is sacred, and difficult to understand with someone who has no spiritual understanding. How do we learn to judge if something should be shared with someone who doesn’t yet understand as we do?

Proper judgment requires wisdom. How does the act of seeking and knocking create the wisdom we need to make good choices in life?

This next question it a tough one for me. Perhaps you will have an easier time answering it. A broad way leads to destruction, but the strait or narrow gate leads to life eternal.

How does having our path in life kept narrow lead us to life everlasting? (Remember this is a lesson in how to help us make righteous judgments.)

Verses 15-20 talk about how to discern false prophets or teachers. Christ tells us that good trees produce good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit. How does that help us recognize and judge what we are being taught by someone professing to teach us the things of God?

Day 5

Matthew 7:21-23 – I come to know Jesus Christ by doing His will.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

These are some scary verses. We are told that in the day of judgment there will be those who will claim a close relationship with Christ. Why? Because in His name they have prophesied, cast out devils, and done “wonderful works.” In other words, they have put on a good show of being a real Christian. But Jesus points out in the JST that “ye never knew me.” In other words, they put on a good show of outward works, but never learned to know the heart and mind, will and personality of God. Despite all their supposed good deeds, they are still strangers to Christ. They have been more concerned about their image than about their relationship with the Divine.

Are we supposed to do good? Yes. Are we supposed to do some of these big things, like casting out devils, healing the sick, and prophesying in his name? Yes. Sisters, you still possess all the covenants of the priesthood, but without the direct responsibility. The lesson is the same for you as the brethren.

So what is the difference between what they are doing and what we are supposed to do, since it is obviously supposed to produce a different result?

The point of the gospel of Christ is that through the process of repentance we are able to draw close to the Holy Spirit and receive instruction and direction from Him that will help us change and become more like Christ. If we don’t change and become more Christlike in our thinking, feeling, attitudes, and behavior then what is the good of doing any good thing? If we do good all the days of our lives, but don’t draw closer to becoming like Christ then we will have never come to know him. John 17:3 says,

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

If we are not changed from the inside to the outside to think, feel, and act like Christ then we have never come to know him. Can you see why the Savior would tell these people who focused only on the superficial acts of good that, “ye never knew me?”

Knowing this, what is the connection between the lesson of identifying those who did good in His name, but never came to know him, and the lesson about discerning a good tree from a bad tree?

What is it we are looking for in someone’s behavior and teachings that help us identify whether what they are doing is going to produce good or bad fruit?

I have led you down the proverbial garden path in this lesson. If you get stumped and can’t find anyone to help you with answers, feel free to ask me in the comments and we can talk about it. These questions are all new to me as well, and took a lot of thinking on my part to put together. I don’t want anyone to be frustrated because they felt I was leading them on to only one right answer when there are probably several right answers.

Family Scripture Study and Home Evening

Matthew 6:5-13

List the individual parts of the Lord’s Prayer. Why do you think he included just the parts that he did? Looking at his prayer as a model for what is most important to include in our prayers, how many do you think are about gratitude? How many parts do you think are about acknowledging the Lord’s hand in our daily lives?

As you think about how you currently pray, how much time do you feel you spend asking for favors or for the Lord to do something in your life? Which parts of the Lord’s prayer are involved with petitioning for the Lord’s help?

Here is a random question for you. What do you think might be the advantages or blessings of just praying at times to thank the Lord, without asking for anything? Can you think of how just expressing gratitude might change your attitude, perspective, or feelings when you pray?

Matthew 6:33

Who in your family is too young to be taught the importance of seeking the kingdom of God?

At what age do you think a child can begin to understand the concept of being obedient to God and Jesus?

What are some activities that a family can do to seek, as a family, the kingdom of God?

What can the parents do to make this activity of seeking the kingdom of God a priority in the family’s life?

Matthew 7:24-27

This week’s lessons are all about following Christ, learning wisdom so we can judge wisely, and learning how to pray. Look through all the individual lessons Christ taught to help us learn wisdom and to learn how to become more like Him (a list here would be helpful) then answer the following questions.

How do the individual lessons from these scriptures teach us how to gain a “sure foundation” or a “spiritual foundation” in our relationship with God?

How does learning to judge righteously, how to appropriately pray to our Father, and setting our hearts upon heavenly things help to anchor our souls to the rock that is Christ?

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament 09