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Last Sunday I spoke in our stake conference about how Jesus cared for and loved the children. In preparation, I studied Jesus’ life to better understand how we ought to love the children in our own lives — the ones in our church classes, our neighborhoods, in our extended families, and in our own homes.
I found a beautiful pattern Jesus established as to how we ought to love God’s children. And it repeats itself in multiple gospel accounts. The truths I learned came from Matthew 19, Mark 10, and 3 Nephi 17. I was delighted to realize that much of the text I had studied was also part of this week’s lesson.
The manual, however, doesn’t spend any time on Jesus’ moments with the children, nor does it seem to show up in the curriculum later. So rather than discuss it in detail here, I will simply link to the text of my talk, which is about suffering the little (and big) children to come to us. I also pose the question, “How do we see and love the prickly ones?” Because occasionally we all have a prickly child to love.
Now, let’s jump into the rest of the chapters!
Quotes to Memorize or Post
Here are the verses I loved most for memorizing and wanted to point out to my children. You can choose to post a few up in your kitchen, or around the house. You could discuss one each morning before your children scoot out the door. Or challenge your children to memorize one or more and offer a prize! We have a small prize box (mostly from the dollar section at Target) for memorizing scriptures and articles of faith.
“Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19: 14
“And [Jesus] took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” – Mark 10:16
“With God, all things are possible.” – Matthew 19: 26
“Whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” – Matthew 20: 7
“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” – Matthew 20: 27
“Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him.” – Mark 10: 21
“How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God.” – Mark 10: 24
Marriage is Ordained of God – Matthew 10:1-9; Mark 10:1-12
In Matthew 19: 5, Jesus teaches that a man ought to “cleave unto his wife” and that they should be “one flesh.” At this point in Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees again take their turn trying to find fault with Jesus when discussing marriage and divorce. It is helpful to note that the phrase “put away” means divorce. It is also good to point out that even in a gospel and church that believes so strongly in eternal marriage, there are times, as President Dallin Oaks explained, “when marriage does not progress towards that ideal.” In these circumstances, “when a marriage is dead and beyond hope of resuscitation, it is needful to have a means to end it.”
President Oaks also cautioned, “Spouses who hope that divorce will resolve conflicts often find that it aggravates them, since the complexities that follow divorce—especially where there are children—generate new conflicts.”
While reading this section, I felt it would be important for both my husband and I to bear testimony to our children, very simply, about the importance of marriage in God’s plan — how He designed a man and a woman to be together and has asked them to make that relationship the most important in their life — to bear children, strengthen and complement each other, learn to love each other selflessly, and teach their children the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is God’s plan for families. And while not everyone who comes to earth has a positive marriage experience, or even a marriage experience at all, it is still a blessing God desires to give and will provide for all of His righteous children in His own time.
This beautiful piece of art is currently being featured at the Church History Museum as part of the Church’s 11th International Art Competition. It was painted by a friend of mine, Clint Whiting. He titled it Of One Mind. Clint helped me notice the very faint outline of a figure in the background. It’s subtle. Just a deliberate change in temperature. But if you look carefully, you can find the third and necessary partner in this successful union.
What Lack I Yet? – Matthew 19: 16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23
This story of the rich young ruler always gives me pause. I find myself wondering, could I give it all up? Could I sell everything I had and give it to the poor? Could I leave a life I knew behind and follow the Lord? Many of us can answer yes to these questions in partiality. We’ve gone on missions. We pay our tithing. We covenant to give all we have to the Kingdom, but most of us have not yet been asked to give up all.
Mark tells us the young man came running and knelt before Jesus, and then he asked the Lord his question: “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Clearly this young man was a follower, a religious observer of the law. He called Jesus “good” and Jesus in turn, deflected the praise and said, “there is none good, but one, that is God.”
We also know the man was wealthy. After asking Jesus how to obtain enteral life, Jesus tells him to keep the commandments and upon further questioning, explains which commandments. But before he does, Mark writes that Jesus “beholding him loved him.” This phrase is so beautiful. To me, it says Jesus looked into his soul and saw much good there. His admonition then was for the young man to sell all he had, give it away, then “take up the cross” and follow Him.
This cross symbolizes sacrifice, maybe even suffering. One of my favorite quotes from Joseph Smith’s Lectures on Faith, which haunts me just a bit, speaks to the level of commitment we ought to have to Christ and His gospel:
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation… The faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things” (Lectures on Faith, 6:7).
Sadly the result of the conversation was that the young man went away sorrowing, because he had many possessions. We don’t know if he ever gave them away, or freed himself fully for Christ’s work.
Our family loves this children’s book about a selfish King who ends up giving away all of his possessions, and as a result, discovers true happiness.
Activity: Have your children come to family study with three of their most precious items. After discussing the story of the rich young ruler, ask your children if they could give those three things away. Ask if they would give them to a nearby homeless shelter or charity organization to help the poor. Maybe they will surprise you and be willing? Maybe not. But maybe just the thought will help them have an increased understanding of what sacrifice means and how important it is to not hold so tightly to our material “things.” Because really, all the earth is Lord’s and the fullness thereof, yes? (Psalm 24)
A little saying I love is: “Love people, not things. Use things, not people.”
It Will Be Worth It
I love these verses in Mark 10: 29-30. When I think of the sacrifices some have made for the gospel in countries with less freedom, less proximity to places of worship, in times of war or at the loss of family support and connection, I find great hope and comfort in these words from the Savior:
“There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or fathers, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive and hundredfold now in this time, house, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”
All These Things are Possible
Mark 10: 23-24 has a wonderful footnote or clarification offered through Joseph Smith’s translation. Here Jesus is teaching about how difficult it is for a man with riches to enter into heaven. The corrected verses, however, reads this way: “With men that trust in riches, it is impossible [to enter the kingdom of God]; but not impossible with men who trust in God and leave all for my sake, for with such, all these things are possible.”
Questions to Discuss: What is the difference between having riches and trusting in riches? What would be an example of trusting in riches or being temped to trust in riches? How do we keep ourselves from caring too much about riches and things of the world?
Parable of the Laborers – Matthew 20: 1-16
In this parable, the Lord of the vineyard hires three groups of laborers. One early in the morning (the third hour), the next around noon (the sixth and ninth hours), and finally a group of workers in the early evening (the eleventh hour). Yet, in the end, he pays all the laborers the same day’s wages. Hard to imagine right? Laboring in the summer sun, which is so physically taxing. Surely the Lord could not think this was fair. Equal pay in this situation seemed undeserved!
But this verse, which the Lord spoke at the end of the parable, calls us home to what matters:
“Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Matthew 20: 15)
The Lord is teaching that, in the grand scheme of mortality, there will be some laborers who are found early in their lives and will labor most of their lifetime in the Lord’s vineyard, preaching and teaching the gospel. Others will be found later in their lives and will offer comparatively less time serving in the church. Yet, God will not withhold any blessings for an individual, no matter when they receive the gospel. He teaches in this parable that we ought to rejoice when anyone is found. Chronology or length of service is not as important as becoming grafted into the great tree of life — the family of God.
This sketch was created by English painter and illustrator, John Everett Millais, in 1864. It is from a book Millais illustrated called, The Parables of Our Lord. I love the look on the laborer’s face, his hands turned up in question. Will we question the Lord? Or will we have ears to hear?
Questions to Discuss: What do you think Jesus meant when he said the last shall be first, and the first shall be last? What is our responsibility as a “laborer” in God’s vineyard? How ought we to treat every other laborer? How can we welcome or bring in new workers to the vineyard?
Watch the bible video for this parable. It’s quite powerful: Laborers in the Vineyard
Activity: The manual actually makes this suggestion and I thought it was a great idea. Set up a simple competition, such as a foot race. Promise that the winner will get a prize. After everyone completes the race, award everyone the same prize, starting with the person who finished last and ending with the person who finished first. Then discuss what this teaches us about who will receive the blessings of eternal life in Heavenly Father’s plan.
Chiefest Among You – Mark 10:44
This is such a wise saying from the Lord. “He that is chiefest among you shall be your servant.” And who is always chiefest among us? Christ himself. And how did he spend His days? In service. A great cross reference for this verse is Luke 22: 24-27 where the Lord teaches again, “I am among you as he that serveth.”
Our examples provide the greatest teaching for our children. When they see us serving others, serving in our own home, serving in our communities and loving as Jesus would, that speaks more powerfully than any of our teaching and talking about service.
This video tells a touching story of how a community rallied around one woman to care for her: Lift: The Power of Service
Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican – Luke 18: 13
This brief, but dramatic parable remains one of my favorites in all of the gospels. Largely, because of the imagery in verse 13 when the publican “smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” So often, at the end of the day, when I kneel to repent and gather up the failings of the day, the things I did that weren’t as patient, loving, or pure as they could have been, I want to clutch my hand in a fist and beat upon my own breast as I pray for God to forgive me and help me do better.
Jesus’ parable here contrasts two very different roles in Jewish society. A Pharisee, who belonged to the strictest of Jewish sects in observing tradition and law. One who clearly admired himself and despised others. Then we have a publican who was employed as a tax collector — a profession scorned at large by the populace. Romans collected ordinary taxes like land taxes, but taxes like toll taxes for transporting goods were collected by publicans, and they made a profit on each transaction. Thus, their fellow countrymen regarded them no more than thieves or robbers.
Yet, both came to the temple to pray, at a time set aside for private prayers. The Pharisee expressed gratitude that he was not like other men — unjust sinners, “even as this publican,” to whom he disdainfully drew unnecessary attention.
Then the humble publican (not capitalized in the text from Luke) prays. He stands “afar off” and wouldn’t even lift his eyes from the floor as he prayed, so sublime was his relationship with God, so low his regard for himself. And then that emotional moment when he smote his breast, a sign of self-abasement and humility, and pled with God to be merciful with him, for he knew he was a sinner.
Jesus concluded the parable with something he had said more than once before: “for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18: 14)
Howard W. Hunter said made this great statement about humility,
“Humility is an attribute of godliness possessed by true Saints. It is easy to understand why a proud man fails. He is content to rely upon himself only. This is evident in those who seek social position or who push others aside to gain position in fields of business, government, education, sports, or other endeavors. Our genuine concern should be for the success of others. The proud man shuts himself off from God, and when he does, he no longer lives in the light. The Apostle Peter made this comment: ‘Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)
Questions to Discuss: Why is humility so important to the Lord? Who do you know that demonstrates this attribute of humility? How can you develop more humility? What keeps us from being humble? How can we establish more genuine concern in our family for each other?
Doer of the Word Challenge
Below are some ideas for the week — things you and/or your family can “do” to apply the teachings in this week’s lesson.
1 – Decide on three attributes you want to develop that will help you become a better parent or family member. Put an alarm on your phone several times a day that lists those attributes and reminds you of your goal.
2 – Study the Proclamation on the Family. Pay attention to what is written about marriage.
3 – Have your children go through their bedrooms and decide on some things they can give away. Donate them to a charitable organization. Or go through your house and determine some things you could give away to those in need.
4 – Decide on a service you can do as a family. As summer approaches, one of my goals is to choose one day a week that our family will offer a service somewhere. Doing for others, in a joint effort, always seems to strengthen our relationships with each other and unite us in an elevated purpose. Utilize justserve.org to see needs in your own community. You an also load the Just Serve app on your phone.
5 – Make a list in your journal of your “spiritual treasures.” Decide to focus less on wanting material things by being more conscious of your true and eternal treasures – people, knowledge, experiences, spiritual gifts, and determine how you can move more of those things into your life.
6 – Study humility in the topical guide and bible dictionary. Read all you can in the standard works about humility and write down your observations. Write what it is. Write what it isn’t. Then pray for more humility in your personal prayers.