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Cover image: The King of Love by LDS artist, Julie Rogers.
I love the first paragraph in the study manual for this week. It states,
“Word of Jesus’ healing miracles was spreading quickly. Multitudes followed Him, hoping for relief from their sicknesses. But when the Savior looked upon the multitudes, He saw more than their physical ailments. Filled with compassion, He saw “sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) So he called twelve apostles, gave them power, and sent them to teach and minister to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Whenever we hear “sheep” in the scriptures, we can think of the house of Israel and Jesus’ compassionate efforts to bring all of God’s children into His true fold.
Last Sunday, we had a special youth meeting in which a member of our stake presidency answered questions the young men and women from our ward had submitted ahead of time. One of the questions submitted was about the gathering of Israel. It stated, “President Nelson has been talking so much about this idea of gathering. I know it’s important but I don’t really understand what it means.”
I have wondered how many youth have a similar question mark in their minds. This phrase, “The Gathering,” sounds big (because it is). They know it has something to do with sharing the gospel, but I think it’s a little confusing to them.
The doctrine of the gathering is not an obvious focus in this week’s lesson, but I have felt prompted to write about it here and discuss the concept with my own children. I want our family to feel a part of President Nelson’s vision, part of the army he has enlisted to prepare the way of the Lord. I hope that with improved understanding, my children will find empowerment, just as the Apostles did, when Christ commissioned them.
So how do we explain this idea of gathering to our children?
Gathering Scattered Israel
A few years ago I heard an amazing talk about Gathering Scattered Israel by Laurel Lawrence, wife to Elder Larry Lawrence of the Seventy. You can listen to it here. It’s an hour long (including a Q&A) and probably over the head of most children, but if you are interested, you can listen for yourself then decide how to explain the ideas to your kids. She gives a one minute version of the history that’s super impressive — zip forward to about 17 minutes — and answers questions like, “Who are the tribes of Israel? Who are the gentiles? What does lineage have to do with responsibility?”
This video also has a helpful and thorough explanation by President Nelson.
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel, correct? But the literal descendants of Jacob (Israel) are a very small percentage compared to the majority of peoples on the earth. All nations are gentile nations except for Israel, and God scattered Israel — sifted them throughout the world because He knew the world would need their influence everywhere. Now, when someone of that heritage reads the Book of Mormon wth an honest heart, or hears the restored gospel, they recognize it as truth and feel the need to gather. The Book of Mormon is key to finding scattered Israel.
Sister Lawrence shared this awesome way of teaching “The Gathering” to children. I did it with our kids tonight, following a history lesson and discussion about the gathering. It’s a super cool visual.
- Spread a bunch of salt across a cookie sheet. The salt represents the Gentiles that live all across the earth.
- Take a pepper shaker and sprinkle a very small amount of pepper over the salt.
- Blow up a balloon. This balloon represents the Book of Mormon. Rub the balloon on your hair to get static electricity. That electricity represents the influence and power of the Book of Mormon.
- Hover the balloon over the cookie sheet, slowly lowering it towards the salt and pepper, and the pepper will float up and attach to the balloon. This shows how the Book of Mormon attracts the House of Israel, brings them back to the fold.
My kids loved this! We had an amazing discussion about Jacob, his 12 sons, the lost 10 tribes, the scattering of Israel, patriarchal blessings, and the need for a gathering. They had so many questions I could barely make it through the main points. They felt the purpose and power of being covenant keepers, and I could tell through their questions that they wanted others to have this same power. (They were very concerned about the large amount of salt on the cookie sheet.)
Sister Lawrence also showed us a fascinating painting known as The Holy Rus, painted by Mikhail Nesterov (1901) before communism took hold in Russia and Christendom was strong. It is a depiction of Christ appearing to a group of slavic people and is said to represent stories passed down from their ancestors.
Notice how the people are bringing their children to Jesus. So similar to what we read in 3 Nephi. This, to Sister Lawrence, who served with her husband as area authority in Russia, is evidence that Christ did appear to “other sheep” — other groups outside the records we have in the Bible and Book of Mormon. They too heard his teachings and witnessed His miracles.
These Twelve Jesus Sent Forth
In Matthew 10, Jesus calls Twelve special Apostles to help him with the Gathering. He called, trained, empowered, and sent them forth to further the Father’s work on the earth. He also called Twelve Apostles in the western hemisphere among the Nephites. They too were sent out to do as the Master would: teach, cast out devils, heal all kinds of maladies and sicknesses, raise the dead, perform priesthood ordinances, and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.
“Freely ye have received,” he said. So “freely give.”
This is a powerful verse to consider when contemplating all that we have been given as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and our role in finding scattered Israel.
Questions: How can I help gather friends and family into Christ’s fold? What can I do to gather Israel? What does my patriarchal blessing tell me about my responsibilities? How can I prepare now to serve a full-time mission? How can I hasten the work?
Video: Jesus Calls Twelve Apostles
Scriptures to Post or Memorize
This week’s lesson includes a lot of material. Many stories are covered, and some are covered in earlier lessons, so I will try to focus on the events and teachings that are specific just to this lesson.
Here are some verses you may want to post around the house or memorize. Honestly, if you went through each of these verses and discussed them, that would be a pretty great family study!
— “Freely ye have received; Freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)
— “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”(Matthew 10: 16.) JST changes this verse to “wise servants, harmless as doves.” We are working on this one right now. The harmless as doves part. I continue to mention it over and over again to my twin boys.
— “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
Last week I listened to this fantastic talk by Steve Davis, given at BYU-Idaho called Seeking, Finding Joy. In his talk, he relates the story of hall-of-fame pro football player, Gale Sayers, and his friend, NFL player Brian Piccolo. Gale and Brian were the first interracial roommates in the NFL. Through their experiences, Gale came to write a book about his life and his proposed secret to happiness. It’s called, I am third. Meaning, “God is first, others are second, and I am third.” Isn’t that what the Savior is teaching here? Davis also uses the acronym JOY to represent the order in which we should consider our commitments and focus in life.
First = Jesus
Second = Others
Third = Yourself
— “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 is light.” (Matthew 11:28, 30)
All of us have burdens. We won’t move through mortality without them. Some result from our choices, some from the choices of others. And some are just part of our earthly journey. I have found that certain seasons of life can weigh heavier on us than others – physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Christ knew this would be our difficult walk and He offers us relief.
Elder Bednar taught, “Making and keeping sacred covenants yokes us to and with the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ensign, May 2014). Sometimes we think of yokes as undesirable, but animals were yoked together to harness their energy and strength, to increase productivity. The yoke Jesus offers us is the same. It’s the yoke of submission — when turn ourselves over to the Savior and ask for his help.
On Saturday we took our twin girls (age 12) to the temple for the first time. It was such a beautiful experience.
I was reminded of the marvelous way God’s holy temples renew our spirits and fill us with light. I can’t explain how it is done, but it happens for me every time I am inside those holy walls. I could see that same light on my girls’ faces. Their older sister was so excited to show them the ropes, tell them how everything worked, and as we sat in the baptismal font area, waiting our turn, I looked at the twelve oxen, bearing the weight of that huge basin of water on their backs. I thought of the Savior’s words: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Our yokes are not easy. Our burdens do not feel light. But He promises us His ways are easier, lighter, and He will take our yoke upon Him. Who else can do that for us? No one.
Covenant-keeping fills us with strength to forge on. It connects us to God and gives us confidence in God — that He will take care of us, provide for us, and bless us.
A book I have cherished during times of sorrow, trouble, or unrest, is Elder Holland’s selections from the Psalms. I read pages of this book to my Mother when her health was deteriorating. The artwork is beautiful and we both found such solace in the Psalmist’s understanding words.
— “Learn of me.” (Matthew 11:29)
— “Every house divided against itself shall not stand.” (Matthew 12:25)
Video: A House Divided
— “He that is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12:30)
— “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matthew 12:34)
Emily Dickinson wrote, “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.”
Our words have potential to lift, change, inspire, and love. They also wield an opposing impact that can tear down, obstruct, depress, and destroy. I find it interesting that whatever fills our hearts will eventually spill out of our mouths.
Another scripture we have up on our kitchen wall reads, “Be quick to listen, slow to anger, and slow to speak.” (James 1:19)
— “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
In these verses Jesus declares himself as Lord of the Sabbath. President Nelson said that “faith in God engenders a love for the Sabbath; faith in the Sabbath engenders a love for God.”
I like this short video about the intent of the Sabbath Day.
— “Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” (Luke 11:28)
— “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” (Luke 11:13)
One of my favorite applications of this verse is in the Restoration film the church made a number of years ago about Joseph Smith’s First Vision. I love the relationship between Joseph and His Father. It’s 20 minutes. When you think of one of the greatest questions ever asked of our Heavenly Father, it is the question Joseph took to God in the Sacred Grove about which church to join. That question split the heavens, opened up a new dispensation of knowledge and revelation, put in motion a full restoration of Christ’s church. To ask in faith, believing that God knows how to give us good gifts, is how the universe turns.
Other Important Stories and Moments
In addition to these wonderful verses listed above, there are some important moments or stories the take places in this week’s chapters.
More than a Prophet
In Luke 7:27, Jesus acclaims John as more than a prophet. We know his role was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” President Nelson also uses this phrase when talking about the gathering – that we are to “prepare the way for the Lord today.”
Jesus also stated that there was “not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.” (Luke 7:28) This could be because he not only had the divine mission of preparing the way of the Lord; he had the divine mission of baptizing the Son of God. And Joseph Smith taught that he was the only legal administrator in the affairs of the kingdom at that time on the earth (Joseph Smith manual, 81).
Thy Sins are Forgiven Thee
In Mark, we find the story of the man sick with the palsy. The painting below is by Frank Adams. Look at the skeptics in the room, the criticism on their faces. I love that this paralytic man had four faith-filled friends who were going to do whatever it took to get him inside to see Jesus. They were so determined they ended up hauling him to the top of the house and lowering him down through the roof.
This story beautifully depicts the practice of ministering. Ministering is not just taking a meal to the family we care for, although at times that is definitely needed. True ministering is bringing others to Christ. And that is what these “ministers” did for their paralytic friend.
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, thy sins be forgiven thee.” (Mark 2:5)
Jesus was moved by their faith and He forgave the man’s sins, which caused a stir among the Pharisees. This bold act indicated to those present that Jesus was indeed divine. He was God. And He had power to forgive sin. Not just at the judgment day. But here on earth.
Question: The Savior wants to forgive us. When have you felt His forgiveness and what did it feel like?
I Have Not Found So Great Faith
I love this story in Luke of Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant. It teaches us that great faith was not confined to the members of the House of Israel. This centurion was a Roman officer who commanded 50-100 men. Yet, his faith that Jesus could heal his servant, even without laying hands on the man or meeting him, caused Jesus to say, “I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel.” (Luke 7: 9)
James Tissot (1836-1902), a french painter, created this watercolor of Jesus raising the Widow’s son in Nain. Look carefully at the crowd. Some seem to be shouting Hosanna at Jesus’ miracle. Others are playing instruments and barely seem to notice. Or maybe they are playing a song of rejoicing? Can you find the widow?
The Lord’s compassion in this story levels me every time I read it. This beautiful widow did not ask Jesus to raise her son. He simply saw her and had compassion on her. The first words he spoke to her were, “Weep not.” The following exchange touches me so deeply. He commands her son to arise. “And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And [Jesus] delivered him to his mother.” (Luke 7: 11-17)
Of all the videos I included for this lesson, this is the one you should make time to watch. It always makes me cry. It is so very tender — so full of emotion, awe, and gratitude.
Video: The Widow of Nain.
Which of Them Will Love Him Most
This is Daniel F. Gerhartza’s rendering of the woman who anointed Christ’s feet, found in Luke 7. Once a gain, Luke includes a very intimate story of a woman. The scriptures tell us she “stood at Jesus’ feet behind him weeping, and [then] began to wash his feet with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”
There has been much speculation about the identity of this woman, but it has been precisely that — speculation. James E. Talmage wrote this about the woman, “The name of the woman who thus came to Christ, and whose repentance was so sincere as to bring her grateful and contrite soul the assurance of remission, is not recorded… By certain writers she has been represented as the Mary of Bethany who, shortly before Christ’s betrayal, anointed the head of Jesus with spikenard; but the assumption of identity is wholly unfounded… Equally wrong is the attempt made by others to identify this repentant and forgiven sinner with Mary Magdalene, no period of whose life was marked by the sin of unchastity so far as the scriptures aver.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 263-64)
When Jesus is slighted by the Pharisee regarding what kind of woman this was, Jesus responds with a parable. He tells the story of a creditor who forgave two debts, one much more egregious than the other. “Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?” he asks. The Pharisee answers, “To whom he forgave the most.” Jesus replies, “Thou has rightly judged… Thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss, but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet… Her sins, which are many, are forgiven… Because she loved much.” (Luke 7:47)
Consider for a moment that this woman did not care what others thought of her. She was not concerned about being accepted by the Pharisee or the others in the room. Her only focus was on the Savior and that incredible gift of forgiveness she knew He could offer her. This trust moved her to break social conventions and tend to Jesus with great affection.
Doer of the Word Challenge
Here are a few ideas, you could consider for application this week:
— Prepare a special family study session about the Gathering of Israel
— Read the last conference message from each of our current Twelve Apostles.
— Spend time pondering Matthew 10:39. Write in your journal about your commitment to Jesus and what you are willing to sacrifice for His work.
— Find rest, peace, and light by attending the temple, then determine how you will make temple worship a bigger part of your life.
— Study the topic of Forgiveness, beginning with the Bible Dictionary. Listen to or read this incredible talk about the Atonement and faith to forgive grievous harms by James Rasband. One of the best dissertations I’ve heard on forgiveness.