Scheduled for study May 13-19, 2019. The greatest blessing/curse our Father in Heaven gives us is to grant us the desire of our hearts. Our whole mortal experience is designed to reveal to us exactly what those desires are. This is the purpose of the plan of salvation.

Day 1

Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; Luke 18 – What lack I yet?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Read and ponder Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; and Luke 18, paying attention to the promptings you receive. Make not of those promptings, and determine how you will act on them.

We have all heard the saying, “Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.” In the case of our Father in Heaven, this is exactly what happens. As you study and search the scriptures you will find that whether we are rewarded in the end with eternal life or eternal death, that reward is what we wanted. All God does is reward us according to the desires of our heart.

What we need to remember however, is that what we desire, truly desire, is what we do, moment to moment, and day to day. Living a life of absolute sin, but giving lip service to absolute redemption is pure hypocrisy, because how we live our lives is our demonstration to God of our true desire. His laws are designed to reward us with whatever it is we truly desire.

The story of the young ruler who asked Jesus, “What lack I yet?” is a great example of someone who had gone to a certain point in his progression, but the love of his earthly possessions prevented him from taking the next step in his spiritual advancement. Like his apostles, Jesus told the young ruler to sell all he possessed, give his riches to the poor then come follow him. This was the young ruler’s great test of his sincerity to his religion. Don’t think for a minute that the law of Moses didn’t also promote generosity to the poor and the widows. It was apostate Israel who strayed from the law and worshiped the things of the world. This was what Jesus chided the Pharisees for over and over again.

When the young ruler hears the instructions to give up all that he values most in life he goes away sorrowing. If the young man wasn’t willing to do what the Savior required of him to be made perfect, will his final judgment be just if he is kept out of the presence of God forever? Can we ask the Lord “What lack I yet?” then go on our way and do what we want with impunity? The final judgment of God is permanent. We can only repent up to a certain point. After that point no more mercy can be extended to us, no more chances to repent.

The reason we must be careful about what we ask the Lord is because his laws are designed to highlight our true desires. If our true desires are to be obedient then our judgment will be a blessing on our heads for eternity. If we demonstrate that our real desires were less than stellar then we will be given only as much glory in the eternities as we were willing to receive. And that reward is permanent.

Here is an article called The Basics of Eternal Judgment.  I wrote it for my website The article discusses the eternal nature of God’s judgments. It is an explanation of Alma’s teachings to his son Corianton. The purpose of including this article is that it illustrates how and why the Lord grants us what we want, and why that decision is forever, whether it be to our blessing or to our condemnation. The hope is that we take this passage and explanation seriously and search our souls for our true heart’s desire. Remember, if we ask the Lord what we should do, and we don’t follow through with what he tells us, then we have asked in vain and have mocked his counsel. And God will not be mocked. (Spoiler alert, the article is 12 pages long because the verses are discussed at length. It is very enlightening about the doctrine Alma is discussing.)

Day 2

Matthew 19:1-9; Mark 10:1-12 – Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Read and ponder Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; and Luke 18, paying attention to the promptings you receive. Make not of those promptings, and determine how you will act on them.

One of the keys to understanding what the Lord does and why he does it the way he does is to remember that God lives in eternity. Everything that is done is meant to be for the life of the object his laws effect. God’s children are eternal beings, so the laws governing them are eternal as well. We have not been given any ordinances for just our time in mortality. All of the covenants associated with our ordinances are eternal in nature.

When the Lord married/sealed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden their union was for eternity. As long as they both remained faithful to their covenants they would continue to be sealed to one another. This is how it is meant to be. The only form of marriage the Lord believes in that is not eternal is the sealing of a man and a woman together for Time only. This normally assumes the woman is already sealed to someone else. This kind of marriage is meant to assure that the widow is cared for during the remainder of her time in mortality.

Moses was told he could allow divorce for the children of Israel only because they weren’t keeping their covenants, and some marriages needed to be dissolved. For this reason the Lord allowed the bill of divorcement. Think about this in terms of today. Is there any good reason for divorce today, except for the cases where the commandments are being violated?

The union of a man and a woman creates an entirely new class of being. Gods are not exalted to that lofty status as two individuals, but as a couple. Only Gods are trusted with the responsibility in the eternities of having children. So only those who have come to the kingdom of God who are spiritually prepared for handling families can be exalted. This is the nature of our covenants. Families cannot be made from individuals, but only companionships of a man and a woman. Hence we have the statement that salvation is a matter of personal worthiness, but exaltation is a family affair. Exaltation in the highest level of the celestial kingdom can only happen to a worthy man and woman who have been sealed to each other through the covenants of the priesthood.

We need to remember that marriage was never designed to be something temporary or lightly entered into. Marriage is meant to be the highest of all the sacred ordinances in which we participate in the holy Temple. It is designed to be a forever commitment, a forever promise.

Problems of modern day families

There are so many new definitions of what constitutes a family these days that many have come to view the Lord’s original definition of a couple meaning a man and a woman as quaint and antiquated. When we talk with others about what qualifies in the eternities as a marriage, we need to remember that only marriages as defined by, and sanctioned by, God’s covenant process will extend into the eternities. It doesn’t matter how much one person may love their companion. If their union isn’t ratified by the Holy Spirit of Promise it will cease to exist upon the death of any of the parties involved. And the Holy Spirit of Promise will only ratify marriages as defined by God, our Heavenly Father. This is no different than the issue of baptism only being recognized by those holding the proper authority. Without the proper authority and being done the way the Lord has specified it be done, the baptism is not recognized as valid in the eyes of the Lord.

It is important to remember that we believe (see the Articles of Faith) in allowing people to worship how, where, and what they may. We should always be respectful of others when discussing delicate issues of religion, love, and family. We should always treat others’ beliefs with the same respect we hope they will treat our beliefs.

Day 3

Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12 – Did Jesus teach that divorce is never acceptable or that divorced people should not remarry?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Read and ponder Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; and Luke 18, paying attention to the promptings you receive. Make not of those promptings, and determine how you will act on them.

The Lord is very specific about his views on divorce in the New Testament. In the latter days he has told us that the sanctity of marriage has not changed, but that those who cause a divorce to happen in a marriage can repent of their part in the divorce and be forgiven. In the Topics on, under the heading of Divorce, we read the following passage.

Because of the poor choices and selfishness of one or both marriage partners, marriages sometimes end in contention, separation, and divorce.

If, instead of resorting to divorce, each individual will seek the comfort and well-being of his or her spouse, couples will grow in love and unity.  The gospel of Jesus Christ—including repentance, forgiveness, integrity, and love—provides the remedy for conflict in marriage.

Those who have caused a divorce through their own poor choices can repent and be forgiven. Those whose marriages have failed because of what others have done can receive strength and comfort from the Lord, who promised: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28, 30).

Satan knows that the major cause for dissension in relationships is some form of selfishness. This means that almost every cause of divorce has its roots in some form of selfishness. Learning to give and serve others becomes ever more important in our efforts to avoid the root causes of discord and divorce. But as in all things, each person is responsible for their own progress. I cannot make my spouse behave in the way I want any more than my spouse can make me behave in any way she wants. We must both be committed to the process of improvement and living close to the Spirit.

Day 4

Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23 – If I ask the Lord, He will teach me what I need to do to inherit eternal life.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Read and ponder Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; and Luke 18, paying attention to the promptings you receive. Make not of those promptings, and determine how you will act on them.

When we read the story of the rich young ruler and we read that he was told to sell all that he had and give his riches to the poor so he could follow Jesus, we may feel sorry for him. It certainly stinks to be him, having to give up everything in order to follow Jesus. But that is him, and we are not him. Surely the Lord would not require anything like that of us. After all, not many of us are rich, and would probably be the ones on the receiving end of charity rather than on the giving end of the process.

What we often fail to remember is that all of us have a weak spot, just like the rich young man. For him it was his possessions. For us it may be video games, pornography, our self-centered attitude that requires that everyone serve us, or it may be the level of our intellectual attainments that have set us above our fellows in mortality. All of us have something that holds us back. Many of us have multiple things that hold us back from truly following Jesus. Whatever it is that prevents us from being free to take up our cross and follow Jesus, that is what we will have to surrender to him first.

Notice that he didn’t tell the young man to take up his cross, which represents his willingness to sacrifice for the sake of his discipleship, until after he had already given up that which was most important to him in all the world. It was only after he had made this great sacrifice that he would have the ability to sacrifice and suffer for Christ through his obedience and discipleship to Christ.

This means we have two steps to take. First we have to give up whatever it is that is holding us back from beginning our real discipleship. Once that is gone we have to be willing to suffer and sacrifice in whatever way the Lord requires for us to learn what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ. Oh that it were so easy that all we had to do was to give up just one vice. No, that is just the first step. After that we have to root out all the rest of our weaknesses and ask the Lord’s help in changing the rest of the inner man into a vessel worthy of approval by God.

Years ago my mother, who had been trying to give away her sins for the welfare of her soul and that of her family asked the Lord that same question – “What lack I yet?” Her answer was “stop speeding.” My mother was notorious for her lead foot when she drove. She may not agree with this assessment, but she scared people with her speed and daring behind the wheel. It took several years to get her driving under control, but she did it. When we humbly ask the Lord to teach us what we need to do next, he will give us direction, but we have to be willing to accept that direction, no matter how inconvenient it is, and treat it with the utmost seriousness. For to ask the Lord for direction, be told what to do, then to ignore that direction is to mock God, and God will not be mocked.

The point about my mother’s story is that we rarely will see our next lesson coming. But if we ask humbly, and in faith, promising to do as we are instructed, you can be assured that the Lord will give you directions. We just need to learn to take those directions seriously, for they are the answer to our prayers. His instructions will rarely be convenient or easy for us, but such is the path to perfection.

Day 5

Matthew 20:1-16 – Everyone can receive the blessing of eternal life, no matter when they accept the gospel.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Read and ponder Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; and Luke 18, paying attention to the promptings you receive. Make not of those promptings, and determine how you will act on them.

There are times when our innate sense of fairness gets us into trouble. The story of the laborer is one such time. The thought of being that first laborer hired in the morning, laboring under the heat of the Jerusalem sun all day long, only to be paid the same wage as the person who got hired at the last possible hour, can just get our hackles up. Is there any way that this is a fair deal? Well, just like when our children yell “unfair” at some of our decisions, our Father in Heaven needs us to learn to see the bigger picture.

Think of the time difference between our time table and the Lord’s. What is a thousand years to us is but a day to Him.  With that being the case then this mortal journey for the whole family of God is only about a week in length. Like the laborers, some were sent to earth very early on in the process, others came a little later. We have waited until well past the middle of the whole affair, and there will be those of our brothers and sisters who won’t come to earth until after the Savior returns.

What is the blessing, wage, hope, whatever you want to call it, God wants for those first children to come to earth? Can you tell me how that desire, or reward has changed for any of the rest of His children in any time period of earth’s history? At any time has God decided that some of the children are worth saving and some are not? At any time has God determined that some are worthy of a far greater blessing than the others, so the others are just out of luck? Do you know of any contract or agreement between God and any of His children that specifies they will be treated any differently than any of His other children? Are there any children from any age of the world who cannot possibly receive celestial glory if that is their heart’s true desire?

The point of all those questions is that the Lord treats all of His children equally, no matter when they come to earth, or where they come to earth. There are those who are born into the families of prophets and those who won’t hear the gospel message until sometime in the spirit world. The point is that all of us have to wait. We are either waiting to come to earth to get our chance to prove ourselves or we are waiting for the final judgment because we were one of the first to come to earth. None of us have to wait any longer than any of our siblings. The only difference is in whether our waiting time is earlier or later or balanced between the two ends of the waiting spectrum.

God, like the master in the story, has offered us all the same wage, the same reward for work done. We have all agreed to this wage/reward before coming here. No one is being mistreated or shorted, for the reward is far in excess of whatever we have to do to achieve it. Without the wage offered by the owner of the fields in the story all of those men would have starved that day and had nothing to take home to their families. All of them would have been left without any employment. Without the plan of salvation our Father has offered us we too would be left without any way to progress toward celestial glory.

Fair? Yes, it is all fair. And it is all God’s to give as He sees fit. Just like the laborers in the story, we are, or at least should be, very grateful for being offered the opportunity at all. You can read more about this in this article I wrote for called Mapping the Plan of Salvation.

Scripture Study and Home Evening

Matthew 20:25-27; Mark 10:42-45 – “Whosoever will be chief among you …”

In most things whatever is the custom in society, the Lord’s ways are different. Our idea of formal wear is either black or bright colors, depending on our culture. The Lord’s idea of formal wear is pure white. Think of Temple attendance. In the world, if we don’t lift ourselves up there is rarely a time when someone else will do it for us. Most of us who are familiar with social media understand that if you don’t blow your own horn, no one else will do it for you. It is all about self promotion. This has been a consistent pattern for the whole of earth’s history.

In Jesus’ day those who wanted to feel important would go up to the top rooms in a celebration feast to claim one of the best seats and be surrounded by the most important people. It was a case of shameless self promotion. The Lord chastised those who do this, saying that we should be humble and go to the lower areas and let the person who is throwing the feast find us in a humble position and lift us up to a higher station.

This is the principle behind exaltation and glory. We cannot glorify ourselves, nor exalt ourselves, it must be done by someone else. It must be done for us. In the spiritual world people exalt and glorify others, never themselves. When Jesus talks in the New Testament about doing something so that he is glorified, he is doing it under commandment from his Father. It is his Father’s intention to glorify His son, not Jesus’s intention to glorify himself.

This is the principle Jesus was trying to teach his disciples. He will lift up and glorify those who learn to be the best servant of others. In his parlance he used the term “to be the least” among those around them. Those who promote themselves are trying to take glory upon themselves, and God frowns on this behavior. He rewards, and hence, glorifies those who are the most humble and least self serving.

As we serve in our families and in our Church callings, this is an important principle to remember. The Bishop is a difficult and important calling, but do we remember with love and fondness those Bishops who spoke and acted as though they were above others or better than others? Do we remember the Bishops who felt others should obey and reverence them, or do we remember those Bishops who gave of themselves constantly, without regard for their own personal sacrifices?

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

New Testament 20