example of the believers
Week 44 is scheduled for study Oct. 23-29, 2023. This week we use Paul’s personal letters to his old missionary companions to give us an example of the believers in Christ.

Day 1

Sometimes it’s helpful to approach your scripture study with one or more questions in mind. Invite the Spirit to guide you to answers as you study, and record any inspiration you receive.

1 Timothy 4:10-16 – Be thou an example of the believers.

The manual points out that Paul had several companions in his work of the ministry. Two of his most trusted companions were later called to be Bishops, one over a congregation in Crete, and the other in the city of Ephesus. Paul had other companions besides Timothy and Titus, but several of them left the ministry for various reasons. These were the two most stalwart missionaries to serve with Paul, besides Luke, who wrote some of the most iconic New Testament scriptures.

Imagine the Apostle writing a letter to this young Bishop. His words are filled with encouragement and instruction to help him be the best example of a Saint he can be to his congregation. Paul has every faith in Timothy’s ability to be a wonderful servant in his stewardship. The same advice Paul gives Timothy applies to us as Latter-day Saints. As you read these verses, read them as an Apostle giving you personal advice for being successful in your calling and in life. This is a powerful passage when read aloud.

10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

11 These things command and teach.

12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.

16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

Verse 10 states a truth we often overlook or don’t talk about. Jesus is the Christ, the Savior for every soul, not just those who repent. Jesus paid for all the sins we don’t have the ability to pay for, and he gave each of us the gift of the resurrection. He is “specially” the Savior to those who believe, because they have made covenants that enable them to fully repent and change into more godly people. It is because they believe and behave in godly ways that the Holy Ghost changes their heart and helps them become pure before Christ, worthy of exaltation.

According to the footnotes, the word presbytery refers to the elders who ordained Timothy and blessed him.

Day 2

Sometimes it’s helpful to approach your scripture study with one or more questions in mind. Invite the Spirit to guide you to answers as you study, and record any inspiration you receive.

2 Timothy – God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Today’s lesson has a certain amount of speculation in it. Just thought I should get that statement said so you aren’t left wondering about where some of my comments below came from.

The apostles were clear to the Saints that an apostasy was on its way. I believe that they also knew that each of them would die, leaving the church to manage on its own the best it could. The Brethren were fighting a losing battle. There were Saints scattered in too many places too far away from the center of the church to keep a handle on the doctrines of salvation. And there were too many Jews who were bent on the destruction of their faith. Without the modern benefits of instant communication there was no way to bridle the speculation and false doctrine that was being spread by those who deliberately sought to sew discord among the members of the church.

I have often contemplated what the early apostles knew concerning the future of the Lord’s church. Surely the Lord showed them the purpose of beginning this all important work, only to see it apparently crash and burn. But did it? They left enough of their writings and their teachings to give the people hope, even when they, themselves were martyred and the people left to run the church without any priesthood keys. The leaders knew that the Lord would preserve a vestige of the truth they taught the members and that one day God would return to restore His gospel in the final dispensation of time. They were part of this preparation. What a privilege.

All that the apostles displayed to the leaders of the people were messages of hope in the future of God’s church. They gave the people individual hope in the gospel of Christ, for they knew that salvation could be had nowhere else. So knowing what was happening to the priesthood, knowing that each of them would be called upon to die for the truth, they taught hope, strength in Christ, and faith in Jesus. I think of their sermons like the sermon of Lehi on his deathbed. He was honest, hopeful, and his words were filled with faith in Christ. Lehi knew what would happen to his posterity, that they would become wicked and be destroyed, but he also saw the day when God would send the gospel to them to bring them back into the covenant fold. So he looked to the brightness of that future day. The apostles never sugar coated the future of the church, but were, to the last, encouraging and optimistic, even knowing the hardships that would come upon the church when they were gone. This shows their own faith in Christ and his purposes.

I honestly can’t say how much of my musings of today’s lesson are correct, and how many of them are only partly right. But it feels correct, so for now, in the absence of scriptural or prophetic fact, I can live with this perspective.

Day 3

Sometimes it’s helpful to approach your scripture study with one or more questions in mind. Invite the Spirit to guide you to answers as you study, and record any inspiration you receive.

2 Timothy 3 – Living the gospel provides safety from the spiritual dangers of the last days.

This chapter closes with the following sentence (2 verses).

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Now here is the correction Joseph Smith made to verse 16.

JST 2 Tim. 3:16 And all scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable …

The truth of the matter is that not all Bible scripture was written under the inspiration of the Almighty. This explains why we never study the Song of Solomon, for example. He may have written those words, but they are not inspired, nor are they doctrinal.

What is important in this sentence that closes chapter 3 is that those scriptures written under inspiration from God serve a powerful purpose. Inspired scripture furnishes or provides us with the basic tools we need for learning doctrine, instruction in righteousness, being reprooved for our sins, for correction, so we can live more righteous lives, and they teach us how to do good to others. No scriptures provide us with everything we need to return to God. The words of the living prophets are even more important than the written word, for the words of the living prophets are here to fulfill our needs in an ever-changing society. Scripture may be true, but it is static. The words of the prophets are dynamic and always up to date with the times in which we live.

To live the gospel and find within it the safety we need from the dangers of our times, we need both the written inspired scriptures as well as the current voice of the Lord in our day. Only with both of these tools can we pass through the last days in spiritual safety.

Day 4

Sometimes it’s helpful to approach your scripture study with one or more questions in mind. Invite the Spirit to guide you to answers as you study, and record any inspiration you receive.

Philemon – Disciples of Jesus Christ treat one another like brothers and sisters.

As I understand the story of Philemon, he had a servant/slave named Onesimus who robbed his master then ran away to Rome, where Paul happened to be. Paul taught Onesimus the gospel. After a while Paul sent him back to his master, Philemon. By rights Philemon could have had Onesimus killed or resold for his disobedience, but Paul wanted Philemon to treat Onesimus as a fellow brother in Christ. For their day and time this was a radical perspective and action. Slaves and servants were often considered property. It was most unusual for Philemon to treat a runaway servant as an equal.

Many slaves were named Onesimus, which means “helpful,” “useful,” or “profitable.” Paul loved Onesimus so much that he personally offered to pay Philemon back for anything that Onesimus had stolen from him. He also reminded Philemon that it was he, Paul, who had brought Philemon the gospel and the hope of salvation. Paul used every form of persuasion he could to get Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to accept him back, not as a slave again, but this time as a fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, an equal.

The example of Onesimus demonstrates the power of the gospel message to transform anyone from any strata of society into an equal with anyone else from even the highest levels of society. The gospel is the great leveler and equalizer among men.

FHE/Personal Study

Improving Our Teaching

1 Timothy 1:3-7 – Teach clear and simple doctrine

Let’s start by referencing a verse from the Book of Mormon – Jacob 4:14.

14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.

This is a classic example of what happens when we deliberately, or not so deliberately, stray from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ. Jesus would have us keep his doctrine and teachings pure and simple. Feed the hungry, house the homeless, take care of the widow and orphan – these are what constitute pure religion. Think “ministering.” The Jews despised the simplicity of Christ’s gospel. They wanted the complex, the difficult, the hard to understand. Somehow it had to be hard to be right. You had to be intellectually sharp in order to perceive truth. As a people, the Jews had a problem with simplicity.

The Jew’s desire for the complicated and difficult is clearly demonstrated in the rise of the intellectual classes like the Pharisees – the keepers and interpreters of the law of Moses, and the Sadducees. It is because of the complexity they introduced to the law of Moses that the Lord criticized them so often. They had overlaid so many rules and laws on top of what God had given to Moses that the intent of the law of Moses had all but completely vanished. People in Christ’s day lived the law of Moses for the sake of the law and its many rules, not so they could look forward to their Messiah, their spiritual liberator.

Paul is censoring anyone who gets complicated with the gospel. Look at verses 5-7 which is one sentence. Read these verses as one thought.

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;

Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

When you give or listen to a lesson at church or in your home, is it simple? Does it revolve around doing good, being good, and keeping the commandments? Or does the lesson focus on minute details, difficult abstract doctrine, speculation, or things difficult for those of simple faith to comprehend? If the new member of the church cannot grasp the concept then we might need to look at whether it is appropriate to even be bringing it up for discussion. All of these Come, Follow Me lessons focus on the basics such as faith, obedience, trust, and doing good in one way or another. I can’t think of a single lesson to ever be published in this series that dwelt on the difficult doctrine. All of them are faith promoting. Are we making them more difficult to understand than they need to be, or are we focusing on the simple principles that bring us joy in Christ?

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NT44-2023 – Be Thou An Example of the Believers