Christ
Scheduled to be studied April 1-14, 2019. Yes folks, this lesson covers two whole weeks, because of General Conference. Let’s ponder Peter’s testimony about Jesus being the Christ. These lessons talk about how he/we could know such a thing. These lessons talk about where revelation comes from, what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, holding on to our faith, and much more.

Note: Because these lessons skip Conference week, the next lesson will be #16 instead of #15. Lesson 15 is your review of Conference talks after this week’s lesson.

Day 1

Matthew 16-17; Mark 9; Luke 9 – A testimony of Jesus Christ comes by revelation

During the next two weeks, ponder Peter’s testimony, found in Matthew 16:15-17, and the testimonies of the prophets and apostles that you will hear during general conference.

Who and what was Jesus?

All my life I have heard various historical accounts of what people thought of Jesus. Some taught he was all God, because no one could kill him, and we are told that angels would come and bear him up if he even so much as stubbed his toe. Others declared him to be all mortal, but enlightened, because he “wasn’t able” to prevent someone from killing him. Some declared him to be mortal, but possessed by God. Others claimed him to be a mortal extension of God, Himself, with the idea that it was only through this extension that God could understand and empathize with humanity. If you look at the New Testament, some claimed Jesus to be nothing more than a past prophet come to life, which is interesting since the Jews didn’t believe in reincarnation.

For three hundred years after Jesus ascended into heaven people debated who he really was, and what he was. Everyone wanted to define him in some way that they could understand him with the intellectual mind. Of course nothing worked that would satisfy everyone, because through the scriptures we are taught that one can only understand anything that is spiritual by the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit one cannot comprehend the things of God. The things of eternity make no sense to the carnal mind.

It wasn’t until the Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea that the leaders of the scattered Christian congregations came together and concluded as a body that in order to bring unity to the whole church they would introduce a newly defined definition of God that would put down all other descriptions of God being taught by rival theologians, and give them a unified definition of God once and for all. This is when they created and defined the doctrine of the Trinity. By this time they no longer had the gift of the Holy Ghost, so they no longer believed he was literally the Son of God. This new definition of God’s Son took Jesus out of the realm of mortal man and elevated him to an extension of God, Himself, both being literally of the same substance. It also stripped him of his own personhood, because it made him an extension or an expression of God the Father, and of the Holy Spirit. Who and what Jesus is, under the doctrine of the Trinity, is not supposed to be something we can comprehend. It is supposed to be beyond the ability of the mortal mind to fully grasp. Somehow this was supposed to elevate Jesus to his proper status as being above anything as corrupt as a mortal.

With so many definitions of who and what Jesus is/was, is it any wonder that revelation is a key to understanding him?

What we are taught

From the beginning of the Restoration we have been taught that Jesus is the eldest son of God, our common heavenly Father. He was chosen, because of his superior capacity and ability to love us, to be our Redeemer when we came to have our mortal experience. Under the direction of God, our Father, he created all that we know of in the universe, including this earth. He was the God of the Old Testament, known then as Jehovah. He was born in the meridian of time (the middle of earth’s history) to work out the atoning sacrifice that opens the door for our repentance and salvation, and makes it possible for us to return to God, our Father. After he returns the second time and reigns personally on earth for a thousand years, he will judge all mankind and we will receive an eternal reward at his hands for the truth we either accepted or rejected in mortality and the spirit world.

This is what we are taught. But what do we know? We can’t “know” any of this unless we have gone to God on our knees and prayed for personal knowledge of the truth of these things. All truth must be revealed individually to be known in the core of our being. That is the whole purpose of the Holy Ghost in the Godhead. His position in the Godhead is to testify of Jesus and the Father, and to teach us all the truths we need to learn in order to return to God one day. He is our celestial tutor.

What did Peter know?

Peter declared to Jesus that “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” How could he know this when he hadn’t yet received the gift of the Holy Ghost? Sometimes we forget that the Spirit testifies to ANYONE who is willing to believe in the divinity of Jesus and his gospel. How long that testimony remains is up to the person. If they don’t get baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, eventually that witness fades until they aren’t sure why they ever felt that way. But it is the calling of the Spirit to testify of truth anytime, anywhere, to anyone who will listen and believe. It is his function to lead us back to God by giving us whatever truth we need in order to make that happen. So you might say that the Spirit probably does more work outside the Church of God than inside the Church.

Why can I say that? I believe it because the kingdom of God is very small compared with the population of the earth. Yet the Spirit is revealing truth to every child of God in every age, and to every nation on earth. And he has been revealing truth to all the children of God since the beginning of time. He inspired the Reformation and the age of enlightenment. He inspires new inventions and continues to testify of the divinity of Jesus to anyone who asks, in or out of the Church. His mission, though more advanced among the members in the Lord’s kingdom, is visible throughout all the earth. So Peter could know that Jesus was the Christ, the anointed one of God, even before he (Peter) had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Receiving revelation

So how do we come to know that Jesus is who he claimed to be? We must learn it the same way everyone else learns it, by asking God. Following are two scriptural passages that teach us about coming to know truth through revelation. The first passage is Moroni 7:16, 18-19. The second passage is Moroni 10:3-7.

16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.

19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.

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Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.

That truth which is born to our hearts by the Spirit is not just for the Book of Mormon, but all truth that we find anywhere in this life. That, of course, includes the Bible. There is no reason to suppose that the same kind of experience promised us to know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God won’t also be available to us if we ask if Jesus is the anointed one (the Christ). Is he really the Son of God? Is the scriptural account of his life basically accurate? Did he really pay for our sins in some amazing and miraculous way that we cannot fully comprehend?  Was he really resurrected, and will he come again to the earth? Did he bring the power of God to bless the lives of God’s children in the form of the priesthood?

All these questions and many more can be asked, and the Spirit will answer us, if we are willing to believe that we will receive an answer at the Spirit’s hands when we kneel in prayer and ask with sincerity of heart. Do we really want to know? That is the deciding factor. If we don’t really want to know then he will not be able to reveal it to us. If we do really want to know then he is all too willing to reveal those truths to us. Our faith is the deciding factor.

Day 2

Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:28-36 – What happened on the Mount of Transfiguration?

During the next two weeks, ponder Peter’s testimony, found in Matthew 16:15-17, and the testimonies of the prophets and apostles that you will hear during general conference.

As you read all of the source material for today’s study, a pattern emerges. On the Mount of Transfiguration a lot took place. Jesus took the Presidency of the Church to the top of the mountain with him. Peter, James and John waited for a while because Jesus went off by himself to pray. While Jesus was off praying, Peter, James, and John all fell asleep. When they awoke Jesus was not only already transfigured into a glorified state before them, but Elias (Elijah) and Moses were both there, also glorified, speaking with him.

Joseph Smith taught that Peter, James, and John were also transfigured at that time. Not only that, but they were shown in vision the glory of the earth after it will be celestialized and become the celestial kingdom. In addition to these changes and these visions, Moses and Elijah were there to deliver the priesthood keys from their dispensations that Peter, James, and John needed to administer the priesthood in their day. These keys weren’t shared with the rest of the Twelve until some months later. Joseph Smith also taught that in addition to these two prophets John the Baptist was also in attendance. The Baptist would have been the only spirit body in the group, as neither Moses nor Elijah had tasted death. The only reference to John the Baptist being there is found in JST Mark 9:3. The transfiguration occurred about six months before Christ’s death.

Even though Moses and Elijah were speaking with Jesus about his approaching death and resurrection, the apostles still didn’t understand what it meant. They kept their puzzlement to themselves. I can’t honestly say I understand why Peter wanted to build little tabernacles for them to rest under. That is a Jewish custom I have never completely understood. It comes from the building of tabernacles for individuals to meditate and pray in during the harvest feast called the Feast of the Tabernacles. But in any event, at some point in the process a cloud descended on them, and the voice of the Father testified of His Son. The three apostles fell to the ground in fear, but when they looked up the experience was over, and it was just them and Jesus on the mountain top. The Father really had the final word in this experience.

The Bible only records the presence of Moses and Elijah. These prophets transferred all the priesthood keys needed for the Apostles to carry out the Lord’s work in their dispensation. The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus participated in giving them keys, but Joseph Smith, in the History of the Church, does say that “Jesus, Moses, and Elijah” gave them keys.

Why did Jesus need the Presidency of his Church to have the priesthood keys held by Moses (the gathering), and Elijah (the work for the dead)?

Does the pattern that played out on the Mount of Transfiguration look like what happened in Doctrine and Covenants 110? If so, in what way? If not, how is it different?

What have you learned from your study of this experience on the Mount of Transfiguration?

Point to ponder: The apostles saw Jesus in all his celestial glory and they heard the testimony of Christ from our Father’s own lips. Why do you think this was a necessary experience for them?

Day 3

Matthew 16:13-19; 17:1-9 – What are the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”?

During the next two weeks, ponder Peter’s testimony, found in Matthew 16:15-17, and the testimonies of the prophets and apostles that you will hear during general conference.

I am assuming you have already read the manual, so I will give you a description of what a priesthood key is. I refer to priesthood keys as the rights of administration. The one who holds the keys has the right to preside, to govern, to make decisions or administer how those spiritual powers are used, and by whom. It is like someone who administers a program in the business world is the one who makes all the decision about how money will be spent, who gets employed, what the focus of the company will be, etc.

The prophet is the chief steward of the Savior in the Savior’s absence. The prophet therefore, as the chief steward, is responsible for who receives and uses the priesthood authority, what programs are used in the Lord’s Church, how the temples are run, how many temples there are, and where they are placed, etc. Everything that happens in the Lord’s earthly kingdom is done under the prophet’s stewardship. And as the Savior’s chief steward, he is responsible for delegating the right to make decisions about things to others. He can give to and take away physical and spiritual responsibilities wherever he chooses.

It is the prophet who delegates to the First Presidency Counselors their responsibilities or stewardships. He gives the marching orders to the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, who, in turn uses the keys given him by the prophet to give assignments to the members of his quorum. They, in turn, are sent by assignment to give keys to Stake Presidents, who, by assignment from the Twelve give keys or rights to administer the needs of a ward to a new Bishop. And it is the Bishop who holds the rights of administration over his limited stewardship who gives the keys to preside over auxiliaries and Aaronic priesthood quorums. Each time someone is awarded priesthood keys down the chain the scope of their authority to administer parts of the kingdom of God is smaller than the person above them. And the prophet answers for the administration of the Lord’s Church in all the earth for the whole of humanity.

The kingdom of heaven is a big place, and has more than one part to it. The keys to the kingdom of heaven here in mortality covers just those affairs of God’s children while they are on earth. Once we leave earth there are other people who preside over other parts of the Lord’s kingdom in the spirit world and in eternity. The Lord has many, many stewards who watch over and are responsible for the work the Lord is involved in.

Day 4

Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29 – When seeking greater faith, I must first hold on to the faith I already have.

During the next two weeks, ponder Peter’s testimony, found in Matthew 16:15-17, and the testimonies of the prophets and apostles that you will hear during general conference.

This story of the father with the son possessed by the “dumb and deaf” spirit illustrates a few truths about belief, faith, and spiritual labors. This comment is just an aside: I find it interesting that a spirit labeled as deaf and dumb (unable to hear or speak) seemed to have no problem hearing and obeying the Savior.

Sometimes just believing isn’t enough – The father in this story understood that belief was required to heal his son, but his faith, or willingness to trust that Jesus could help his son, was a little shaken by the failure of the Savior’s apostles to cure the boy. When Jesus told him he just had to believe, the father knew he had some belief, but, fearing he didn’t believe enough to have his son cured, he asked the Savior to help him with that part of himself that was still holding back. In this case there appears that there was a threshold the father feared he would not pass to allow his boy to be healed.

Exercising faith is the act of assuming that which we have chosen to believe is not only possible, but certain (not even probable, but certain). Faith, that trust that the promises of God will be fulfilled when we continue to believe and act accordingly, is what gives us hope and confidence in our choice to believe and act on that belief. When we plant a seed we don’t normally stew in doubt and disbelief. We make the assumption that even if the seed doesn’t sprout we will just plant another, because we are sure that sooner or later one seed will sprout.

Have there been times in your life when your basic belief just wasn’t enough? Can you think of an example?

If basic belief wasn’t enough, what was required to achieve what you wanted to have happen?

Sometimes just “some faith” isn’t enough – This spirit demonstrated to the Apostles that not all spirits are the same. Some could easily be cast out with the use of the priesthood, but this type of spirit required more than just the faith in the priesthood. This spirit required fasting and prayer in addition to the priesthood authority. This same principle is true of priesthood blessings when healing is the goal of the blessing.

Have you ever been given or have given a blessing that didn’t work because the blessing you sought required more effort than just pronouncing or receiving a blessing?

Will you write down or share with someone that experience?

Sometimes spiritual labors require more than we think – This is a lesson we can learn from generalizing the principles actually talked about in this story. There are times when we are given a calling or an assignment in the Church, and we think we know what will be required for success in that calling.

Have you ever experienced a time when what you thought should work in a calling didn’t?

How much did you have to do, above and beyond what you originally anticipated you would have to do, in order to be successful?

Why do you think sometimes one person can seem to accomplish something with ease, but we have to jump through all kinds of spiritual hoops in order to accomplish (seemingly) the same thing?

Do you think there is a difference in spiritual growth between the person who did something with ease and the person who really had to struggle to accomplish something?

Elder Holland’s talk referenced in the manual is a classic. I think it is important to remember one of his main points. When we seek an answer to something spiritual or when we want something spiritually based to happen in our lives, rely on the faith you already have. Never discount the faith you already possess just because you fear it may not be enough for your current purposes. To discredit your current faith, just because it isn’t on par with Christ’s current faith, is to throw the baby out with the bath water. Your faith is still usable, still serviceable, still able to accomplish much good.

All new faith has to be built on something. If we ignore what we have already obtained in our efforts to gain more then we shoot ourselves in the foot and cripple our efforts. I hope you will listen to Elder Holland’s Conference talk as listed at the top of page 56 of the manual.

Day 5

Improving Our Teaching – Gather together often.

During the next two weeks, ponder Peter’s testimony, found in Matthew 16:15-17, and the testimonies of the prophets and apostles that you will hear during general conference.

I hope you are always reading the manual before you look at anything I write. My writing is based on the assumption that you have already read the manual carefully and looked at the references for further study.

The quote in this section impressed me deeply. I calculated the percentage of time we spend in Church each week, and I figure most people probably spend more time in convenience stores each week than we spend in Church. So this really adds weight to President Eyring’s plea for us to gather our family around us as often as we can to discuss the gospel.

I was born and raised in the Church – the old Church. We had Relief Society, YM/YW, and Primary in the middle of the week, and we went to Church multiple times on Sunday, not just once. Our whole lives revolved around being in Church meetings of one sort or another. And you know what? I did not learn how to identify the Spirit in any of those meetings. I learned it at my mother’s knee in Family Home Evening. I didn’t learn how to study the scriptures at Church. I learned how to search and study the scriptures at home in Family Home Evening. Mind you, we didn’t have the best Family Home Evenings. They weren’t even that regular for many years, but the things most needed by my eternal soul were learned at home, where they are supposed to be learned.

I don’t believe there is any way to overstate the importance of talking about gospel topics with our family members. The more the better. Children learn from their parents’ examples what their parents consider to be the most important priorities in life. Even if those things are never directly taught, the parents teach their core beliefs in everything they say and do in life. And children aren’t stupid. They pick up on these things and adopt them, take them into themselves, and sometimes even distort their perception of reality by what they think they have learned. This is why parents need so urgently to specifically teach, over and over again, the things related to their feelings about gospel doctrines (teachings) and principles.

When my children were very young we bought some of the Church cartoon books that tell the stories of the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Church History. We read those books and talked about them until they were tatters. But guess what? One of my children called me years later and asked me why I never bothered to teach her any of the stories from the Bible. She was genuinely upset that I had left such a hole in her training growing up. I was speechless. We talked about it all the time. But that taught me a good lesson. We can’t control what our children remember about their upbringing. And we can’t control how they remember things. They will almost always remember things that had an emotional impact on them somehow.

So what are we doing with our children? Do we talk at them or with them? Do we take them ministering or send them ministering? Do we take them to the temple or hope someone else does? Do we teach them how to gain a testimony and feel the Spirit, seek answers to prayers, and testify to them of the blessings that come from living the commandments, or do we hope someone at Church or seminary will do it for us?

We may not know much about the Church. It takes time and effort to learn to understand how doctrines (teachings) relate and interact with each other. But if we don’t teach our children something about the gospel someone else outside our home will supply them gladly with what they want them to know instead. That’s life. My children told me once that they didn’t want to have to make the hard decisions in life. My response was that if they weren’t willing to make the decisions about how to live their life then there are plenty of others out there who would love nothing better than to take control of their life and tell them how to live it. And rarely would anyone outside the family care enough about them to give them good advice. As many good members of the Church as there may be living around us, as a parent I can’t rely on them to raise my child for me. That is my responsibility. And my child’s eternal welfare is at stake in the course of that raising. So yes, gather your children around you and talk about what is so important to the eternal welfare of their souls.

Family Scripture Study and Home Evening

Luke 9:61-62 – This scripture makes a farming reference about plowing a field. A plough (pronounced the same as “plow”) is a large blade that cuts into the earth and digs the soil, breaking roots and dirt clods, and building a ridge of soil to one side so you have a place for the water to run down the rows being made. The Plough is held from behind by the farmer, and is attached in front to horses or oxen that serve to drag the plough through the field. Following is what Jesus said to a man who wanted to follow him, but first he had other things to attend to (Luke 9:61-62).

61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.

62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Why would Jesus make such a statement? Take a look at the picture below. The man is literally standing on the blade in order to press it into the ground. In his hands he holds the reigns to steer the cattle. The object of plowing is to create straight rows, like those on the right. This makes watering, weeding, and harvesting much easier to accomplish.

plowingplowing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now let’s look at the reference Jesus made to putting your hand to the plow and looking back. What happens to you when you get into your car and while driving down a road you turn your head and try to look back at where you came from? What happens to your car? If you haven’t tried anything like this before, please don’t do it now. Most cars crash. Why? Because your body naturally follows the direction of your gaze. When someone is plowing a field and turns their head to look backwards, while still trying to go forwards, the change in pressure in the reigns turns the cattle, causing the row to be ruined, because it is no longer straight, but curved. Curved rows are of no use to anyone.

Spiritually speaking, the same thing happens to us when we come into the Lord’s Church. If we set our sights on eternal life, but then turn our gaze back to where we just came from, we steer ourselves off course and spoil what we just began. The Savior’s point is that once committed we need to see our way through to completion, keeping our eye on the “prize” so to speak the whole time. Eternal life is not easy to achieve, but it is impossible to achieve if we don’t keep it in our sights at all times, for then we begin to wander about in life and stop being spiritually productive.

When a farmer sets out to plow a row he has to set his vision on something at the far end of the field and not take his eyes off that mark until he arrives, otherwise he misses the mark and has to replow that row to make it straight again. This is also true of our spiritual progress.

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For next week’s study, the Brethren suggest listening carefully to the talks given during Conference then using talks that have special meaning for you or your family members for your course of study next week. I’ll see you on the other side with Lesson 16! Enjoy Conference!

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

New Testament 14