think as eternal beings
Week 09 is scheduled for study Feb. 20-26, 2023. This week is all about learning to think as eternal beings. Christ speaks as one with authority because he is the fount of those eternal truths.

Day 1

When we read the scriptures with a question in mind and with a sincere desire to understand what Heavenly Father wants us to know, we invite the Holy Ghost to inspire us. As you read Matthew 6-7, pay attention to these impressions.

Matthew 6-7 – Living the Savior’s teachings can help me become like Him.

The title of today’s lesson is a truism, because you can’t become like someone if your behavior is nothing like that person. This is the very reason we become disciples and spend our lives emulating Christ’s behavior. We can’t begin to truly understand someone’s motives for why they do the things they do unless we first try to act like they do. Becoming like Christ has to happen on a very deep and personal level. We aren’t just performing monkeys who are learning to imitate. It is important that we learn to walk and talk, think and feel, like the most perfect person to ever live.

We do have to actually put into practice our Savior’s teachings. But first we have to figure out what they mean, and how they apply to us. That can be challenging. Let’s look at the first few verses of Matthew 6. These can be instructive in learning how to come to understand what Jesus is talking about in this sermon. Read Matthew 6:1-4 then talk to yourself. Explain what these verses mean. For many of us the immediate explanation may seem very simple and straight forward. Once you are comfortable with your explanation then continue on with the text below these verses. Please be patient and do this exercise. There is method to my madness.

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.

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

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

That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Let’s do a breakdown of these verses.

Verse 1 – When you do a charitable act, are you doing it for show? Is your response to the needs of another person meant to be impressive to those who see you do it? If that is our attitude when we do good for others then our Father in Heaven (God) will give us no reward. Hmmm. What reward should we be expecting? If we did our good deed to impress someone or to put them in our debt then we have already accomplished what we set out to do. God doesn’t reward us for serving our self.

Verses 2-4 – How do you define a hypocrite? I have always thought of a hypocrite as someone who, in this example, only does good for the immediate payoff that comes from the act. The good deed was done, after all for the public display of your personal goodness. There is no heart or genuine desire behind the good deed, only the hopes that it will come with “returns.”

According to the footnotes for verse 2 this is what it says for the word hypocrite. “GR pretenders; the Greek word means “a play actor,” or “one who feigns, represents dramatically, or exaggerates a part.” I always thought of a hypocrite as a deliberate display of something that is meant to deceive someone else. But the intent behind the act isn’t part of this definition. A hypocrite may just be someone who doesn’t know how to be sincere in what they do, so they feign or fake what they think is sincerity. Some even exaggerate the act of doing good, because they believe that in doing so it may actually make their “kindness” more real and somehow “better.”

People who are not sincere, who don’t act from the genuine desires of their heart, are considered shallow, or possibly even fake. It finally occurred to me that some people may not have ever been around people who are genuine and sincere. Perhaps this is the only way they know how to be good to others. This certainly makes it more difficult for each of us to judge their intentions.

In today’s world, being “seen of men” is the de facto way of behaving. Social media is built around this idea that we promote ourselves and tout our accomplishments so that we seem bigger than life. Social media sets people up as idols or icons of behavior so that others want to be like them. It is more rare to see people’s examples of quiet and heartfelt service. That kind of service isn’t trumpeted in the streets so that all see you as you do it.

Christ wants us to be anonymous as often as possible. The purpose in anonymity is that we exist to bless others. When everyone knows what we did, it often looks like we are glorifying ourselves, something Jesus would never agree to. Does that mean it is a bad thing for others to know of our true nature? Of course not. But the good that we do should be who we are, not done as part of a show to make people think we are better than we actually are.


This is a side note to the previous section, not a completely different thought.

Jesus was very public in his service. His duty was to display his Father’s love for His children anywhere and in any way that he could. We, on the other hand, are to be as private as possible. But, like that city set on a hill is visible and out in plain sight, so too is our life. Those looking at us will see that we are happy. They will admire our character and think, “Gee what a nice person!” But they probably won’t know why we are so different from others. They may need to get to know us for a while before they come to realize that doing good is just part of who we have become.

This is the same process we go through as we seek to know God and Jesus Christ. Jesus has given us examples of ways to behave. We can read the doctrines in the scriptures. But it takes living those teachings to come to understand what they mean and how to implement them in our life. To be sincerely good, and not someone who fakes goodness is something we need to judge for ourselves each time we are presented with an opportunity to do good. We have to learn why we do what we do. Who are we trying to impress, those around us or are we trying to genuinely learn how Christ feels about goodness by doing what we think he would do in the same situation? One person needs a quick payout for their behavior, the other just wants to be good. The payout is left up to the Lord to decide what, when, and where the blessings will come.

Day 2

When we read the scriptures with a question in mind and with a sincere desire to understand what Heavenly Father wants us to know, we invite the Holy Ghost to inspire us. As you read Matthew 6-7, pay attention to these impressions.

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

If the word vain means “without sincere, heartfelt feeling” then we might need to look at our personal prayers and think about the words we use. How often do we use the same words to express our common feelings? Do our words sometimes become “filler” to get us to the end of the prayer? If so, are our expressions to God truly heartfelt or just what we could think of to say?

When was the last time you did something truly difficult in your prayers and knelt or sat there and didn’t say anything until you could think of something different to say? This can be a very uncomfortable exercise as we try to learn how to truly communicate with our Father in Heaven. Since He doesn’t verbally carry on a conversation with us, we are left to do the conversing then listen to see what thoughts and feelings come into our mind and heart from Him. We have to learn a whole new way of communicating with another person. Sincerity is often one of the first things to fall by the wayside in turn-taking communication.

If we think to our self, “I almost always say this when I pray,” then you might have hit upon a vain repetition. Does that expression really define how you feel? Is there another way to say it if that is really what you want to say? If your best friend was sitting across from you, would you always use the same phrase to start a conversation or to try to communicate how you feel? I think we are far more resourceful in our abilities to communicate than what we often offer to our Father in Heaven.

Day 3

When we read the scriptures with a question in mind and with a sincere desire to understand what Heavenly Father wants us to know, we invite the Holy Ghost to inspire us. As you read Matthew 6-7, pay attention to these impressions.

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

This will be short. God expects us to learn to be good judges of right and wrong. We can’t become like Christ if we don’t allow ourselves to weigh the goodness or the evil of a thing or behavior. This is a good example of why we believe that the Bible is true as far as it is translated correctly. Learning to judge righteously requires more than just taking everything at face value.

We can all make righteous judgments, but that requires broader perspectives and a deeper understanding of the doctrines of Christ. We can do this, and are expected to do this!

Day 4

When we read the scriptures with a question in mind and with a sincere desire to understand what Heavenly Father wants us to know, we invite the Holy Ghost to inspire us. As you read Matthew 6-7, pay attention to these impressions.

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

I mentioned in Day 1 that we are not just trained monkeys learning to imitate. We imitate Christ’s attitudes with the intent to comprehend and appreciate them better. Acting out our goodness is the only way for God to reveal to us the value and need for such behavior. This is a process that takes place over time and with practice. The more we learn to behave like the Savior, the greater our appreciation is for what he modeled for us. Learning to behave like Christ is the only way to come to understand his motives and intentions. It is the only way to learn the wisdom of his methods.

Day 5

When we read the scriptures with a question in mind and with a sincere desire to understand what Heavenly Father wants us to know, we invite the Holy Ghost to inspire us. As you read Matthew 6-7, pay attention to these impressions.

Matthew 7:24-27 – Obeying the Savior’s teachings creates a firm foundation for my life.

I have been struggling with this concept for a long, long time now. So what you get today is just my current understanding. This is a work in progress.

I have never felt comfortable with the concept that Christ is our rock. What that means is never explicitly stated anywhere. Only today does it occur to me that Jesus is talking about the philosophical difference between his teachings and the teachings of the world. Here is my comparison of the two.

The values of God

God deals only in eternal truth. The definition of truth being the reality of the way something is today, yesterday, and tomorrow. It deals in the things that never change, despite the circumstances surrounding its application. For example, our family may live on this planet or on any other inhabitable planet. We may have lived 12,000 years ago or in another 12,000 years. But how we treat each other, our responsibilities as a husband and wife, the duties we have to our children, etc. never change. Those are eternal truths. Those are principles of being in a family that are constant.

It doesn’t matter if we live in the stone age, the nuclear age, an age of political upheaval, or in Zion. That which constitutes a happy family is eternal in nature. These are the truths Jesus teaches us. These are the truths God wants us to base our lives upon. In this way it is like building our life on a rock, something that is immovable and never changing. The changes of the world can come and crash upon us, but if we are built upon the principles of righteous living that never change, the temporary volatility of the world around us won’t tear us down.

The values of the world

The world in which we currently live is filled with a certainty that is absolute, until it isn’t. Today we are told how things used to be by scientists, but all it takes is one small bit of knowledge to be revealed that wasn’t there before, and suddenly their entire story changes to fit the new narrative. For example, I saw a series of three images on Facebook once. The first image showed a skull of a vicious looking animal with savage teeth. The second image showed what scientists claimed it looked like based on their reconstruction of the animal from its skull. It was the scariest animal I had ever seen. The last image was a photo of of the living animal. Yes, that frightening skull was of a hippo. With all the certainty in the world the scientists had declared what that animal looked like, but they weren’t even close.

It is this certainty we need to be aware of and to be wary of. What science thinks it knows is so limited in the eternal realm of things as to be laughable. They claim they know all the laws of physics at this time, yet there are planets they know about that are, according to their own admissions, too big to exist. No science on earth can yet explain why a bumble bee can fly. According to everything we know it shouldn’t be able to.

My point here is that science can only address what we can see, experience, and hypothesize within the limited framework of our mortal lives. In this way we are ever learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth. That would be the same truth that God is asking us to use to base our lives upon. Science knows a lot, but in the grand scheme of things they are still in large measure still blind to most of what God knows.

The difference between the two values

It is the fickle nature of politics, social norms, and changing cultures that God is talking about when He tells us not to trust the teachings of man when it comes to our immortal soul. When Jesus talks about building our house on sand, that is a great description of how changeable and unsteady mortal lives are. The slightest changes to the economy, moral values, customs, political mandates, and everything we have based our lives upon in the past suddenly no longer holds up. What we relied upon before no longer counts.

When we base our lives on the teachings of Christ, we live independent of the world’s whims and changing fancies. We are basing our lives on that which will never change, for it has remained true in all ages and societies past, on any planet, and in any time period. Eternity and its values is God’s rock. Mortality and its shifting values is the sand. We choose which we will rely upon.

FHE/Personal Study

Matthew 6:33 – Seeking

All of us seek for something in this life. We might be looking for a way to better provide for ourselves or our family. We may want more fame, more talent, more ability in certain areas of our lives. All of us want something. If we don’t then we are playing war games while we live in our parent’s basement, expecting everyone else to take care of us.

Jesus knows that the world is pulling at us from all directions. Some want us to further their political agendas. Others want us to jump on their physical fitness bandwagon. Still others have social agendas that call for your support, whether that is to save an obscure bird in the rain forest or to provide drinking water to needy people in a foreign country. There is no end to the list of what others want you to do. They couch their pitch as altruism for the planet or for others, but for most of them your participation just increases their income or presence in the world. Sorry if that sounds a little harsh, but I think it is basically true.

Christ teaches us in Matthew 6:33 that the highest priority in this life is to seek after God and His righteousness. I refer you to yesterday’s lesson on that one. Let’s look at the JST Matthew 6:38. I have placed Joseph Smith’s changes in red so you can see what was changed.

33 Wherefore seek not the things of this world, but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew’s record prior to this verse had been talking about all the basics we all seek in this life, shelter, clothing, food. Jesus makes the point that God takes care of all creatures, then how not His own children more than everything else? This goes back to encouraging us to build our lives upon the rock of eternal truths that God gives us. Don’t seek for the things of this world. Why? Because they keep changing. They are temporary, all of them. The most important thing we can do in our life is to seek to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness. I believe that means to make His ways our ways, His habits our habits, His thinking our thinking. When we do that the necessities of life will be given to us.

I note here that God doesn’t say we will all become powerful, rich, have a life of ease, or any other promise. All He promises is that if we focus on what is eternally true, everything else will fall into place. Don’t worry too much about the fleeting and temporary. We need to keep our attention on what is eternal, for we are eternal beings. We just don’t see it at the moment. But that doesn’t alter truth’s reality and eternity’s effect on our lives.

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NT09-2023 – As One Having Authority

Week 09