Christ loves us
Week 16 is scheduled for study April 10-16, 2023. This lesson gives great examples of how Christ loves and takes care of us. He has given us the keys of the priesthood, and ways to stay clean from the taints of the world.

Day 1

Reading the scriptures invites the Holy Ghost into your life. One of the Holy Ghost’s important missions is to testify of Jesus Christ. As you read the scriptures this week, pay attention to spiritual feelings that strengthen your testimony of the Savior.

Matthew 16:13-17 – A testimony of Jesus Christ comes by revelation.

It is a common mistake with many members of the Lord’s restored gospel that they think testimonies have to come all at once, and be definitive in their scope. While many testimonies do come this way, more often than not they do not. Testimonies often come through many, many little nudges or spiritual experiences that, when put together, form our testimony.

Before I went on my mission as a lad I questioned whether I had a proper testimony of the gospel. How could I share a testimony with others that I had not yet received? When I talked to my mother about my worry she only asked me, “Could I ever convince you that the church is not true?” My immediate response was, “Of course not!” “Then there is your answer,” said she. It took me a while to figure out that I had felt the Spirit many times in testimony meetings, during Sunday School classes, in Family Home Evening, and elsewhere, like when I read the scriptures. I had been receiving tiny witnesses of the truthfulness of these things all along. I just never had one defining experience like we read about with people like Joseph Smith or Alma.

Your testimony of Christ may be based on a sense of appreciation and gratitude that has come to you as you took the sacrament, as you pondered the scriptures, prayed, served your neighbor, or from any number of other sources. In Doctrine and Covenants 6:22-23 the Lord says this to Oliver Cowdery. These verses show us that any form of revelation from God is acceptable to God, so why not us?

22 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.

23 Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?

Christ is ubiquitous, everywhere, in the gospel that bears his name. We learn of his majesty a little at a time, his kindness one experience at a time, and his love, one repentance at a time. So as you read these verses in Matthew and in the other scriptures mentioned in the manual for today’s lesson, take some quiet time to think of the different witnesses you have had given to you of Christ’s goodness and majesty. Your testimony is something that has built itself into the fabric of your life. It may be sparse or it may be all over the place. In either case, try to identify it and feel gratitude for what you already have.

If you haven’t had a defining experience yet that tells you that Jesus is our Redeemer, that is okay. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a love for Christ and what he has done for you. Keep studying his life, praying in his name, and contemplating his sacrifice for you when you participate in the sacrament each week. More witnesses will come if you are asking God for them. Whether He gives you one defining one or not, your love for your Savior will continue to grow.

Day 2

Reading the scriptures invites the Holy Ghost into your life. One of the Holy Ghost’s important missions is to testify of Jesus Christ. As you read the scriptures this week, pay attention to spiritual feelings that strengthen your testimony of the Savior.

Matthew 16:13-19; 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-9 – “The keys of the kingdom of heaven” are on the earth today.

The official definition of priesthood keys is that it “holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:8). This definition refers to the keys given to the prophet. His keys allow him to govern the administration of Christ’s church throughout the world. The prophet is responsible for the spiritual welfare and salvation of all the people on the planet.

The prophet delegates his keys of authority to those who serve with him in the Quorum of the First Presidency, as well as those in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Though all of these men possess the keys themselves, only one man is able to exercise the use of all the available keys at any one time, and he is known as the prophet. He is always the senior Apostle. I refer to keys as the right to administer. That’s my own definition of the rights of presidency. Under the direction of the prophet, the members of the Twelve also delegate the use of their keys to other priesthood leaders. That delegation goes all the way down to the Bishops, Branch Presidents, and quorum presidents throughout the Church. This is what gives the Bishop of a ward the ability to carry on the duties of a ward unit.

Wards need to have priesthood quorums. There is the Elders quorum, and all three Aaronic priesthood quorums. Under the auspices of the bishop’s keys, we bless our babies in sacrament meeting, baptize our children, and ordain our young men to priesthood offices as they are worthy and are of the appropriate age. The Bishop also performs civil marriages, decides who is worthy of continuing to exercise their priesthood callings, and who can have temple recommends in the ward.

The Church Christ restored on earth is the mortal arm of his kingdom. We, as a church, are a theocracy, meaning God rules. This is literally His kingdom on earth. The Godhead itself is a presidency of three. Our earthly presidencies are modeled (with varying success) after the Godhead. The purpose of presidencies is to administer the gospel of Christ in unity and love. And of course the goal of everything we do in the Lord’s restored gospel is to lead us to Christ so we can all experience exaltation in the hereafter.

I’m not familiar with any organization on earth that is as well defined and structured as the Lord’s church. The keys of the kingdom are what enables those called to leadership positions to receive the needed inspiration for those over whom they are called to lead and serve. As an individual I only have the right to receive inspiration for myself. As a father and husband/wife I/we have the rights to inspiration over all in our family. Presidents of any organization with keys have the right to inspiration in the guidance of those over whom they have been called to serve and lead. That pattern goes all the way up to the prophet who has the right to inspiration over all the inhabitants of the earth. This is how the Lord has set up His kingdom on earth. When Jesus comes again this is the priesthood organization he will use to govern the earth.

It is important to note that the principles of leadership and governance never change. They are based on eternal principles. But the manner in which the church is organized changes with the needs of the day. In the last roughly 200 years the church has undergone many changes to how it is run administratively, but the principles and the priesthood haven’t changed. President Russell M. Nelson has said many times that the restoration of the Lord’s church is not over. It is a continual process. It will continue until the Savior, himself returns to take the physical reins of his kingdom. Who knows what the administration of his kingdom will look like then.

Day 3

Reading the scriptures invites the Holy Ghost into your life. One of the Holy Ghost’s important missions is to testify of Jesus Christ. As you read the scriptures this week, pay attention to spiritual feelings that strengthen your testimony of the Savior.

Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29 – When seeking greater faith, I can start with the faith I have.

I promise I have included this hymn for a reason. Please read it then we will discuss why it is here.

If we have to start with our own faith in order to develop greater faith then it might help if we know what faith we do have. How can I tell if I have faith, how much faith I have, or where my faith is located? Follow the counsel of the hymn above and find your times of faith by counting when you have used it. Did you lose something and went to the Lord to ask for help? Did you have a problem you had difficulty solving, so you went to God for help? Were you disappointed or hurt by someone’s behavior and found solace in communicating with the Lord? These are just a few samples of ways in which we can count our blessings.

If we recognize that we have unbelief then it helps to also recognize that there are and have been times in our life when we have shown faith. Recognizing that we do, in fact, have some faith, helps us exercise more faith in something new to us. The man who brought his son to Jesus to have the evil spirit cast out acknowledged that he had faith, but he also recognized that he may not have currently had enough faith to do what was needed to have his son’s spirit cast out of him. He came to Christ to ask for additional strength to believe even more than he already did in order to save his son. One of God’s personal miracles is His ability to help us believe more than we did before in order to accomplish greater things today than we accomplished in the past.

Faith is putting our claimed belief into physical practice. I have claimed I believe the man who leads the church to be a prophet, but now he wants me to do something I am unsure I can do, or want to do. This is where I make a conscientious choice and decide to put my proclaimed belief into practice and do what the prophet tells me I should do. But I include in that decision prayer, and possibly fasting, to have the strength to follow up with my decision and to not have doubts (or at least be able to live with my doubts until they are resolved).

When we approach the Lord, not just with doubts, but with a willingness to do something despite our doubts, that is when He helps strengthen our resolve and helps us to have a greater capacity to obey than we thought we had before. This is Him strengthening our unbelief.

FHE/Personal Study

Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-7 – Honoring God

When the Bible was translated into English by King James, his scholars took the Greek word and translated it as “hypocrite.” In Greek, the same word can also be translated as “pretender.” Pretender is a good choice for these verses.

What makes the Pharisees pretenders is that they put on a show of being religious, righteous, pious, and godly men, but they don’t do it because that is what they are, but because that is what is expected of them to get the job done. They are godly in outward appearances only, but not in their hearts.

This raises the question we should probably all try to honestly answer – “Do I do the things I do in the church, because that is who I am, or do I do things because that is what is expected of me, and I don’t want people to see who I really am?”

It is this difference between what we truly are in our hearts and what we do outwardly for show that God is asking us to identify and fix in our lives.

Matthew 15:17-20; Mark 7:18-23 – What we put into our mouths vs. what comes out of our mouths

Ancient Israel had a real thing about cleanliness. They washed all the time to keep clean. Certain foods were considered unclean, and therefore couldn’t pass their lips. A lot of things were measured as either clean or unclean. Even a woman having her monthly period was considered unclean for a time.

Is it any surprise then that they got it into their heads that if they put certain things into their mouths that they could become unclean? Christ’s message to them was that all things that go into the mouth just pass through the system and is tossed as waste. What really makes us unclean, as a person, is what evil is conceived in our heart and mind, and eventually comes out in unclean and malicious speech. It is the hurt we give others by the things we say that defiles us.

All evil originates in our mind and heart, not outside of our self. It is we who generate that which is evil. The environment is neutral. If we are surrounded by evil then we might want to consider that that evil had to come from someone, for the environment in which we live doesn’t generate evil, only people. Perhaps we should be looking more closely at the company we keep.

We can ingest poison that will make us sick. We can also look at, read, or listen to that which poisons our soul. Why does it poison us? Because we willingly take it into our mind and heart, and that becomes what we then express in our own behavior. To keep our thoughts and feelings clean and pure we must make sure we do all we can to read clean and good things, watch clean and uplifting things, and listen to that which enlivens the soul, instead of darkens it.

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NT16-2023 – Thou Art the Christ

Week 16