perfecting
Scheduled for study Sept. 30-Oct. 13 (two weeks). The perfecting of the Saints is a many-step process. As taught by the living prophet, the restoration is a process, not an event. The same was true in Paul’s day. The people needed to learn to live with Christlike attitudes amid changing conditions.

Day 1

Ephesians – Finding our peace in Christ

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Do you see any connections between the messages in general conference and Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians?

The Saints in Paul’s day lived with much confusion and upheaval. Everywhere the Church spread, there were detractors who tried to get them condemned and punished for belonging to the Church. In the case of the Saints in Ephesus, one of their main detractors was the guild of silversmiths. They made idols for the Roman/Greek gods. That was their trade and livelihood. The Christians believed in only one God. This was a threat to the silversmiths, so they spread falsehoods about the people and the religion to get people angry with the Christians. They complained to the city’s government to try to get the Christians banned or punished. There was great contention all throughout the city over this new religion that had moved in.

Paul tells the Saints to turn to Christ. He will give them peace and the strength they need to face their adversities. He counsels them to keep the basic commandments and urges them to rely on the Spirit for guidance. The gift of the Holy Ghost was a new thing for all of them, so not many of the Saints had learned to fully rely on the Spirit’s ability to lead them and comfort them as much as they needed him to.

Our day

I recognize that the good Saints in Ephesus were in the middle of a war of ideas. They were surrounded by all sorts of pagan religions. They had all belonged to one of those religions a short time before. They had all the silversmiths who earned their living by making idols for all these pagans fighting against them, and the Saints realized they were now outsiders, because they had accepted a faith that only worshiped one God. Their religion was not like anything that surrounded them. Everyone wanted them to change.

We too live in a day where everything is changing. All that was normal and natural just 50 years ago has been abandoned by the world. We now live in a climate where families are considered something you create through choice, not necessarily through marriage. Even biological basics, like gender is now considered optional and up for grabs. Many television shows and movies are systematically removing any reference to God from their dialog. For the people in these stories, God simply doesn’t exist. Politics throughout most of the world is getting out of control, and contention among political parties is making cooperation more and more difficult to achieve. Anarchists literally run free in the streets. Almost nothing you can do or say is safe in cyberspace. People are attacked for “offenses” made 20 years ago, that weren’t considered offensive back then, but are now.

In two ages of great divisions, both our own and Paul’s time, Paul teaches us that the gospel of Christ breaks down the walls of division and makes us all one in Christ. When we obey the commandments and seek the Spirit to guide us in our lives, the Spirit teaches us how to get along with our neighbor and family members better. He shows us how to be peacemakers, how to love each other despite our differences, and how to become unified as a people. This is the power of the gospel of Christ.

Day 2

Ephesians 1:4–11; 17-19 – Has God “chosen” or “predestinated” some of His children to be saved?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Do you see any connections between the messages in general conference and Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians?

An important concept to remember when seeing words in the New Testament like “predestinated” is that when the Bible was translated into the King James Version in the 1600’s they no longer had any knowledge of a premortal world. All they knew was that God knew about us before we were actually born, but there was no knowledge that we knew God before we were born. We would use the term “foreordained” instead of “predestinated” or predestined. This is an important concept to consider.

Foreordination indicates that we knew God in the premortal world, and that He set us apart to accomplish certain things during our time before the resurrection. We would have known what God wanted us to do, and were accepting of that assignment. Predestination can happen with or without another person’s knowledge. In this case, completely without our knowledge. Christians who believe in predestination have no way of knowing who might be predestined for heaven and who for hell, for personal choice has nothing to do with the final outcome. The doctrine of predestination goes against everything the gospel of Christ teaches us about free will. Only foreordination honors our agency or free will.

Another concept some might have problems with is the idea that God can know an outcome, yet not sway or skew our behavior in order to influence us to make it happen. To assume that knowledge of something makes someone do that thing is faulty. If I know my child really wants to earn some spending money, and as we are walking down the street together I spot a dollar bill on the sidewalk, does my knowledge alone of that money being there force my child to pick it up if they see it? Does my prior understanding of my child’s personality and desires make me responsible for my child’s actions if my child sees the money and picks it up? No, for my knowledge is mine alone. Now, if I point out the money on the street and encourage my child to go get it, then yes, I have influenced their behavior with my own actions. So it is possible for God to know something about us without His knowledge making us do something of His choosing.

Remember that our agency is sacred. He has made it clear to us that our agency will not be meddled with by anyone until we are called upon in the day of judgment to account for our choices. Whether we ever receive more agency, or an expanded form of agency, in the future will depend on how we are able to account for the agency we have been given to exercise during our mortal probation.

So, in reference to the title of today’s lesson, God may know who will be faithful and who will not be faithful in keeping His commandments. But His knowledge is His to keep. He will not at any time do or say anything to us that will infringe on our ability to make our own choices. This whole mortal experience is designed to graphically demonstrate to us where the desires of our hearts lay. If the great law giver was to influence us one way or another, it would invalidate all His laws. And a God who cannot live by His own laws ceases to be a God at all. So our Father in Heaven is strict about staying out of our decision making so that the choices we make are truly our own.

Day 3

Ephesians 1:10 – God will “gather together in one all things in Christ.”

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Do you see any connections between the messages in general conference and Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians?

The manual gives five scripture passages to read in your study of this lesson. Please read them, think about them, and imagine. I know my imagination was sparked by reading these passages, especially the last one in Doctrine and Covenants 128:18–21. Let’s take a look at at these four verses. Yes, they are long, but they have amazing information in them.

18 I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.

We learn from this verse that all things are required to be brought back into a unified whole – all doctrine, laws, keys, and practices. The very family, the children of God must become unified, as the salvation for any one of us depends on all the others in the family. The dead cannot be saved without us, nor we without them. We must come together and do whatever is needed to provide the saving teachings and ordinances for each and every child. God is not responsible for doing it, we are. Our very salvation depends on coming together and loving our kindred dead enough to search them out and do all in our power to provide them with the ordinances they need to be exalted. Whether they currently want that work done for them is not the point. The promise was made that those ordinances would be provided for all so that none could come to the judgment and say they didn’t have a chance to receive them.

The very fact that it is our responsibility to push ahead and do this work demonstrates that those who do it are far more prepared to return and live in God’s presence than those who decide they just can’t be bothered with it. This is just one of the many ways we separate ourselves into the sheep and goats categories we read about in the scriptures. It is a self-selection.

19 Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!

20 And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from CumorahMoroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!

21 And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!

The gospel of Christ, especially in the last days, is a gospel of rejoicing. Look at the list of prophets who have come and restored priesthood keys to our living prophets. Think about all the bits and pieces of the many dispensations that are being brought back to fulfill the mandate that all things be gathered again as one in Christ. We have received the book that was meant especially for the Saints of the latter day, the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The angels prophesied of by so many of the prophets of old have come and given their knowledge and keys to the living prophets of our day. And the Savior continues his work of preparing his people as quickly as we are able to keep up with the teachings of the prophets. We are being readied as a people for the coming of the Savior and his personal reign on the earth.

Note: I know that all these prophets came to Joseph Smith and gave him the keys as part of the restoration of all things. I deliberately use the term “living prophets” because we know that the restoration is an ongoing process that will continue until the Savior returns. We can’t discount the Lord’s ability to continue revealing himself and his will to our living prophets as he did to the prophet Joseph Smith.

We don’t know the details of each of the dispensations before us. We know generalities only. But our faith is that the contents, the covenants, and the blessings of every dispensation will eventually be brought together into this one final dispensation of the fulness of times. There is yet much to be revealed, and much to be experienced by the Saints. Life will not be easy as we approach the time of our Lord’s second coming, but he is our hope, our joy, and our salvation. We rely on his peace to calm our hearts while Satan rocks the world with his wickedness. We will sleep easy through the turbulence of  the destructions that are to come. Why? Because we have faith that the Lord is fulfilling his promises to his people that he will give us his peace and transform us into people ready and worthy to live with the Saints who were taken up with the city of Enoch. We will become a Zion people. Truly this is grounds for rejoicing.

Day 4

Ephesians 2:19–22; 4:11-16 – The Church is founded on apostles and prophets, and Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Do you see any connections between the messages in general conference and Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians?

We have all heard that Christ gave us apostles and prophets, and that he is the chief cornerstone. But have you really considered why apostles and prophets are needed? Wouldn’t just one prophet work as well? Or why not just give us all the personal revelation we need so we don’t even need the prophet? Why did he give us an entire structure, with priesthood, ordinances, doctrines, etc? What is the reason?

I believe the name of the gospel game is unity. If we were all left to our own devices, and our own revelation, Satan would have a field day deceiving so many of us that no one would be able to tell who was right and who was wrong. The Lord has been very clear that He is not a God of confusion, but of order.

Think about the examples given in the scriptures. The picture is painted of the cornerstone of a building that acts as the measuring source for all other measurements of the building. The chief blocks of the foundation are the prophets and apostles. Along with them we have ordinances, priesthood structure, covenants, etc. All of these things are designed to give us a fitting building to rejoice in for it is rock solid and sound. The other example we are given in the scriptures is the Saints as a body. We all have a part to play just as each member of the body has its specific function. Without this diversity we lack the functionality that a healthy body requires.

Consider the Godhead. All have their own unique responsibility within the Godhead, yet all three act in unison for the welfare of someone other than themself. God wants us to learn to be the same way, to act in all our diversity in a unity of spirit for the welfare of someone other than our self. All of the doctrines of the devil and of man are self-centered in nature and cause strife and contention. All of them lead us away from God and the peace He offers us.

The structure of organization God has given us gives us something by which we can measure our performance. When we look at the prophets and apostles, are we following their counsel? Are we reading their teachings and coming to a better understanding of Christ? Does our personal revelation measure up to the standards we have been given by the living oracles of God? They had better. This structure, this organization is given to us to help us learn how to become more Christlike. The very organization of the Church is designed to get us outside of ourselves and into the service of others. It is only because we have Christ as our cornerstone that everything else holds up and is secure. This “building” of apostles and prophets is what gives us the security we need to press forward in our desire for exaltation.

Day 5

Ephesians 5:21–6:4 – I can strengthen my family relationships.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Do you see any connections between the messages in general conference and Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians?

Unity, unity, unity. Christ and his gospel is always about unifying us with all those around us. Celestial people are unified. They think and feel independently of each other, but they love and act as one. No one in a good home or marriage feels neglected, used, abused, taken advantage of, or ignored. No one feels like they are misunderstood and underappreciated. This is our challenge as Christians, to learn Christlike behavior, and it begins with our family.

One of the great problems in marriage, and in fact, all human relationships, is building trust. How often do you say something with one intent, but the other person assumes a different intent, so reacts defensively, or in anger? When reading Paul’s instructions on how to behave towards one another in the family, one of my first thoughts was of all the misunderstandings and resentments that would happen if I expected my wife to do exactly as Paul recommends. My wife is a very independent woman who worked almost 40 years as a mathematician at the university level. She is very comfortable and confident in her own opinions.

My mother once told me that a man can rule in his home only insofar as his wife lets him. I believe her. I cannot expect my wife to follow my counsel unless she trusts that everything I do is for her good, because I love her, and she trusts my judgment. That is asking a lot of her. But that is what Paul is describing. This is how Christ works with the Church. He asks us to put complete faith in him and his directions. Unfortunately, mortals don’t have limitless wisdom like Christ, so ladies, your husbands will make mistakes. Please try not to hold it against them. Remember, Paul is asking you to both trust each other and be respectful of each other’s feelings and efforts.

To the women I would only add that it is not reasonable to expect any greater perfection from the men in your life than you are able to produce in your own life. We are all working on strengthening our ties to each other through mutual trust. This takes patience, and a lot of forgiveness. Oh, and it also takes a lot of prayer. More often than not we will each need to have our heart changed by the Spirit so we allow ourselves to let others in and learn to trust their love, even when it is imperfectly given or demonstrated.

Scripture Study and Home Evening

Let the Spirit guide your study.

The Spirit is tricky. We may sit down to read the scriptures and start by praying for the Spirit to influence us and teach us while we study, only to be told to go call a neighbor, or get reminded that we needed to do “that thing,” or that we need to contact Sis. or Bro. Soandso. What does that have to do with the Spirit guiding our studies?

How many times have you heard someone at the beginning of a Conference session tell the congregation that if you are listening and praying for the Spirit he will whisper to you your answers at some point during a talk given during that session? And how many times are we told that when we are studying the scriptures or praying we may receive feelings to act on something that has nothing to do with what we are studying? And again, how many times have you been doing something completely unrelated to the scriptures, but have a doctrinal point suddenly become clear to you because of something that just happened around you?

When we let the Spirit into our lives, we must let him into all of our life, not just our moments of study. He is the consummate, supreme teacher, and as such knows us better than anyone else can. He knows when we are receptive to promptings and what must be done in order for us to connect the needed dots for us to comprehend a doctrine or life lesson. He is always working on us, not just when we are studying.

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

New Testament 40-41