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For years a hallway in our basement, known as Graffiti Hall, has been dedicated to our children for spontaneous creativity. Many a friend, neighbor, relative, and random visitor has left his or her mark upon our home with colorful artwork, messages, and signatures. It’s been brilliant fun. And now, it’s time for a change; time for a clean slate, a fresh start, and a new look. (That disturbance in the force you feel is my children crying out in anguish). Change is a necessary part of life, and can be difficult at times.
In my opinion, the prep work is the most difficult part and my least favorite, but I, also, know it is the most important part. No matter how beautiful and fabulous the ending result, if the prep work is shoddy, the whole thing will soon deteriorate and look shabby. Shoddy equals shabby. Good prep work means lasting transformation. Its true in painting, and it is just as true in spiritual matters.
Repentance is like a good primer, cleansing and ensuring that the sins of the past don’t bleed through into our new life. Developing good habits to replace old ones is like filling in the holes and dents. And only then are we ready to make changes, to become ‘new creatures’ (1), more beautiful and fabulous than before, as we gain the ‘image of Christ in our countenance’ (2). But it’s a transformation we want to last. Forever.
We are a month into this new program and I see incredible transformations all around. I am excited at what’s happening in our home, in our congregations and in conversations with friends.
First of all, in my home we’ve been making individual goals each week, all different, because we are at different places in our spirituality. This worked well for us, because it affords us the ability to grow in our own space. Some goals were simple, and others were more involved. And yet, I have noticed an increase of joy as we work to become more like Christ. I feel the difference. We have more frequent conversations about the scriptures and our goals. I attribute the change to the prep work. We are developing new habits. We are analyzing ourselves and determining what needs to change. Good prep work, new creatures.
We still have far to go. We have times when the shenanigans and instigating try the patience. But that’s normal, and we love it. But there is an added dimension to our conversations.
In our congregation—people are actually coming prepared to share ideas, inspiration, and thoughts they’ve had during personal and family scripture studies. People not only read the Sunday School lesson (how often has that happened in the past?), but they come ready for revelatory experiences. I am personally inspired, not only by what is said, but by the collective unification of our preparation. Good prep, new creatures, strong Spirit.
Even those feeling frustrated over not covering all the material with young children, or trying to do it alone with no support of a spouse, seem inspired, as hearts are opened, testimonies expressed and love shared.
In conversations with friends, we discuss the ideas studied outside of Church. Questions about difficult to understand passages and principles are considered and pondered. We are able to have these special conversations because we, too, are prepared and have the scriptures fresh in our minds. Our preparation has made a vast difference in how much we ‘get out of’ our official lessons and in how much we can contribute to them. Good prep, new creatures, unified goals.
One thing I want to try is a family goal. Something we can focus on and work toward together. We have to discuss it, see where it takes us and how it develops. I’m not sure what we will choose to do, but I expect amazing things! Good prep, new creatures, more like Christ.
In our readings this week we will learn about some prep work that Jesus Christ did, among other things, as he prepared for his ministry. After his baptism he went into the wilderness to commune with God. He rejuvenated his mind, and cleansed his body through fasting and prayer. He didn’t need to cleanse himself through repentance, like we do. But he knew that good prep work was necessary for what was to come.
Here is a quote that sums up my feelings. “I am grateful for emphasis on reading the scriptures,” President Gordon B. Hinckley said. “I hope that for you this will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God. I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted. At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine” (Hinckley, 1995).
Read & Search:
As you read through the assigned chapters, draw a line between ideas, concepts, and stories. This helps mark the transitions, and separate the ideas, concepts and stories, in a physical way.
One of the reasons we study the scriptures is to learn principles of the gospel and then seek to apply them in our lives. Often when looking for principles, they are not directly stated, but rather implied. When reading a story, ask yourself, “ What is the point of this story?” Or “what is the moral of the story?” If you look at a story with this in mind, you will see principles in the attitudes, the conduct and the remarks of those involved. Make it a habit to take a moment after each story or experience to pause and verbalize the point or the moral of the story. You might be surprised what you discover. And often there is more than one principle that can be discovered.
Discuss your thoughts while you read. Take time to comment on the stories. You don’t have to give a discourse on each one, but when you discover a principle that is meaningful, share your thoughts. Or if you don’t understand something, address it and ask questions. If you are alone, use a journal to make a record of the things you are learning and the impressions or questions that come. Don’t worry if you don’t get through the entire scripture block in one day—just continue on the next day.
“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.”
― Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher 1820-1903(goodreads, 2019)
What will you do this week to put your spiritual knowledge into action? What will you work on individually? Is there something you would like to try to improve as a family?
Here are some ideas for activities you can do throughout the week.
- Which is your favorite experience or story from this week’s chapters? If you could watch the events unfold, which experience would you choose to watch and why? Or imagine you are experiencing the events as they happen. What do you see? What do you hear? What smells do you detect? What is going on in the background? What is the weather like? How does it feel, both physically and spiritually? Do you taste anything? What stands out to you?
- This is a good one to do with children while your engaged in another activity like cleaning, or bathing, or even while just driving around.
- Spend some time discussing the temptations of Jesus. President David O. McKay suggested that we can “classify them, and . . . [we will] find that under one of those three nearly every given temptation that makes you and me spotted . . .comes to us as (1) a temptation of the appetite; (2) a yielding to the pride and fashion and vanity of those alienated from the things of God; or (3) a gratifying of the passion, or a desire for the riches of the world, or power among men” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1911, 59).
- Cross-reference the temptations of Jesus with 1 John 2: 16. In this verse, the three types of temptations are listed. They have to do with 1–God’s provisions (and our desire for immediate gratification), 2—God’s protection (we cannot expect to insolently saunter into temptation and then ask God to deliver us), and 3—God’s promises (God’s promises will come, in His time). Take some time to look at how these temptations apply to the following: Eve (see Gen. 3: 1-4), and Abraham (see Gen. 16: 1-4). Can you think of more examples in the scriptures? Do you see examples in your life? You could, also, make a list of different sins and determine which category they fall under.
- Discuss the ways that Christ handled the temptations? How can you do the same in your life? In what ways were the temptations similar? In what ways were they different? Using this experience of Christ, what can you expect from the temptations in your life?
- If you have young children you might read ahead and pull out one or two stories to read with your children directly from the scriptures, in order to get them familiar with the words and grammar of the scriptures. You could then tell them the other stories throughout the week, maybe as a naptime story, or as you are driving or shopping. Definitely take the opportunity to have them act out at least one of the stories and videotape it, so they can watch it later. After watching it a few (dozen) times you can then have some discussion about what the story means to them and draw out some principles they can use to become more like Christ themselves.
These videos are available online in the gospel media library at lds.org
Jesus Forgives Sins and Heals a Man Stricken with Palsy
Jesus Declares He is the Messiah
Jesus is Tempted
From the Children’s reader pictures and story to video
Angry People in Nazareth
From the Children’s reader pictures and story to video
Available from other sources:
Bible Project Luke Ch. 3-9
Other Possible Lesson Directions:
- There are a couple of stories about fishing in this week’s readings. Here are a few activities that could enhance or lead into discussions.
- Actually go fishing. Or go faux fishing with paper fish and paper clips. Tie a string on a pencil and tie a magnet to the other end of the string. Write the name of a person or refer to a person whom Christ helped on the back of the fish. When you catch the fish, review how Christ helped them and share an idea of how you can help someone else this week. Then actually do one.
- Discussion Thought— What was the purpose in having the disciples catch all those fish? Do you think they just left all the fish on the beach? Could they have been used to support their families while they were away on Church business? Do you believe Christ will help you to do his work?
- Play ‘Go Fish’. When you get a match—share something you remember from the readings or a principle you learned from the readings.
- Read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It is a satirical, fictional book about a young devil, Wormwood, who is learning to tempt man. His uncle, Screwtape, is training him and gives advice. It is an interesting read and can lead to insightful discussions, especially with teen-agers.
- Here is a flavor of what to expect: “Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s (God’s) ground…He [God] made the pleasure: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures, which our Enemy [God] has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He [God] has forbidden.”
- Look at the story of the man with palsy. How is this an example for us in our ministry duties?
- Jesus Christ teaches with the word with power. As you consider that, ponder this quote by Elder Orson F. Whitney:
“It is not so easy to put the spirit of life into things. Man can make the body, but God alone can create the spirit. You have heard, have you not, of the scientist who took a grain of wheat and endeavored to make one just like it? First he separated the grain of wheat into its component parts, and found that it contained so much lime, so much silica, so much of this element and that; and then he took other parts corresponding thereto, brought them together by means of his chemical skill and produced a grain of wheat so exactly similar to the other that the natural eye could not detect any differences between them. But there was a difference, a vast difference, and it was demonstrated when he planted the two grains. The one that God made sprang up, and the one that man made stayed down. Why? Because the manmade grain of wheat had no spirit—only a body, and the body without the spirit is dead. Man cannot breathe into the body of things the breath of life; that is a function and prerogative of Deity.” (Otten, 1982, p. 331).
What can you do to ensure that you teach and learn with power?
1. 2 Corinthians 5:17
2. Alma 5:19
1. [The Bible Project]. (2017, April 14). Gospel of Luke Ch. 3-9. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k4GbvZUPuo
2. Goodreads. (2019). Herbert Spencer Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/108463-the-great-aim-of-education-is- not-knowledge-but-action
3. Lewis, C.S. (1943). The Screwtape Letters. New York, N.Y. Macmillan Co.
4. Hinckley, G. B. (April 1995). “The Light Within You”. General conference. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/04/the- light-within-you?lang=eng
5. Otten, L.G., Caldwell, C.M. (1982). Sacred Truths of the Doctrine & Covenants, Volume 1. Salt Lake City, UT. Deseret Book Company.