Sunday, February 08, 2015

I like how Andrew S and Brigham Young actually reach a parallelism on deconstruction (so that they do not reach the same place but they both realize that the current paradigms in the Church are social constructs).

Without taking too much time on deconstruction as it is in philosophy ("any given concept is constituted and comprehended linguistically and in terms of its oppositions, e.g. perception/ reason, speech/writing, mind/body, interior/exterior, marginal/central, sensible/intelligible, intuition/signification, nature/culture") the essence of deconstruction is that a concept is defined from its context,  a concept is constituted, comprehended and identified in terms of what it is not and self-sufficient meaning is never arrived at because context can never provide that.

LDS versions of the same concept conclude that there is a reality, but no description can properly define it because all descriptions are in our language and limited by what we have for language.
When God speaks to the people, he does it in a manner to suit their circumstances and capacities…. Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings
and
When the Lord reveals anything to men, he reveals it in a language that corresponds with their own. If you were to converse with an angel, and you used strictly grammatical language he would do the same. But if you used two negatives in a sentence the heavenly messenger would use language to correspond with your understanding


In discussing that point, I agreed to revisit the topic for a post at Wheat and Tares.

Brigham Young and Joseph Smith both taught that we see the world through a lens of our own experience, language and knowledge and that it creates filters not only for what we see and know, but for what God is able to communicate to us and what and how revelation works in our lives. (e.g. http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/As_the_most_correct_book#cite_note-2).

It is important to realize that in that framework, our viewpoint is not superior to the framework of Abraham or Moses or Peter or Moroni, it is just different.  Each framework has its own selection of weaknesses and follies.  The best way to understand it (rather than the morass of philosophy and outside of just reading Joseph Smith and Brigham Young on the topic) is the linguistic relativity hypothesis.   


Large differences in language lead to large differences in experience and thought. They hold that each language embodies a worldview, with quite different languages embodying quite different views, so that speakers of different languages think about the world in quite different ways. This view is sometimes called the Whorf-hypothesis or the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, after the linguists who made it famous. But the label linguistic relativity, which is more common today, has the advantage that makes it easier to separate the hypothesis from the details of ...
This is easily seen in the three ball experiment.  In dealing with people whose language does not have a word for the color orange, if they have three balls (orange, red and yellow), are allowed to handle them for a while, then told to remember the orange one, when they are asked to choose the ball that was identified, they tend to pick the red or the yellow one.  If their language has a word for orange, they pick the orange one.  They literally remember the ball as the color they have a word for, rather than the color it is.

In religion, it is not only if five people without inspiration read a scripture that they will have five different interpretations.  If if five people with inspiration read the same scripture they also will have five different inspirations. This applies even if the five "different" people are the same person, just at different stages of their life experience, different vocabularies and different connotations with the vocabularies.

Notably Brigham Young was very clear that if Joseph Smith had translated the Book of Mormon at 30 it would have been a much different book than it was than what we have now.  "And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation."

This begs a number of questions and should serve as a warning that anyone who writes down a spiritual communication is not writing down what the Spirit communicated but their construct of it in the language they have at the  time.  Anyone reading it or hearing it has to escape both the frame of the sender and their own frame to come closer to the truth.  I touched on this on the older essay on God being a Quantum God (viz. http://www.wheatandtares.org/7938/our-god-is-an-awesome-quantum-god/ ) -- the idea that the views of God that we have are like the blind men and the elephant -- except if you are someone who can see you would see that there is no "elephant" just the differing views of the blind men.

The difference between Brigham Young's deconstruction and many modern deconstructionists (who could use a lot more real science in their backgrounds) is that Brigham Young believed in not only a physical reality, but that there was a pure spiritual reality that we could someday grasp and that should inform the way we faced life.  He believed in an ultimate meaning that we all approached, and that had many different valuable approaches (thus his famous sermon about how other religions had truths that we lacked and how we need to go out and bring back those truths for ourselves).  He realized that his vision of that spiritual reality had holes in it that were inevitable.  cf Joseph Smith's discussions of a perfect language and similar matters on language.  (e.g. http://chaunceyriddle.com/courses/philosophy-110-byu/joseph-smith-and-the-ways-of-knowing/)

 Which, surprisingly, Joseph Smith combined a theme, a note, where "no note is more frequent in his private and public statements than that each can come to know for himself."

Thus, just because there are many socially created paradigms does not mean that our paradigm is the one true paradigm untainted by human error, instead it means that our paradigm and our filter necessarily has error and mistakes. It means that we believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things and that we, at present, go through mists of darkness in the Church, with only Christ's core principles that he gave us to hold to.

In addition, we believe that the parable of the Iron Rod reflects that those who have entered into the way and who have the truth will experience "mists of darkness" and find themselves unable to know which way to go from logic and intuition alone.

So where does this leave us in our own quest for truth?  What is "really" true?

I begin with the Book of Mormon's two key doctrinal points:

  1. Jesus is the Christ.  The true love of Christ is the heart of what it means to have a testimony that Jesus is the Christ.
  2. Cleave unto Charity (be kind).
 13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
 and
43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.










Everything else flows from this, and for everything else there is always more time.


Lesson 3


Preface:

    Discussions in small groups “give a large number of people the opportunity to participate in a lesson. Individuals who are usually hesitant to participate might share ideas in small groups that they would not express in front of the entire group”

_________________________________________________________


    “Agency has been given to all of us to make important decisions that will have bearing on our salvation. Those decisions affect our happiness in eternity.”

    Living and working on a farm, Ezra Taft Benson learned about the consequences of good decisions. He recalled: “I grew up believing that the willingness and ability to work is the basic ingredient of successful farming. Hard, intelligent work is the key. Use it, and your chances for success are good.”1

    At a young age, Ezra learned that he and his family would have more to eat if they chose to take care of their garden. He learned that if he wanted the family to be successful in their dairy business, he had to decide to get out of bed early every day to milk the cows.2 He saw that when he made the choice to work hard, local farmers hired him to thin their beets and pitch their hay.3 He saw that trials come even to the faithful, but he also saw that individuals and families could decide to respond to trials in a way that would help them be happy and successful.

    *    How do some professions reflect the effects of effort and attitude better than others?  Which are based mostly on hard work and effort, which on social connection and personality?

    *    What choices do we have in dealing with trials?  What choices do we not have?

    With this experience as a foundation, President Ezra Taft Benson frequently reminded Latter-day Saints and others of the importance of agency—the freedom “to choose the course they should follow.”6 His teachings about the principle of agency included more than just a reminder to “choose between right and wrong.”7 He spoke of agency as the ability to “make important decisions that will have bearing on our salvation” and that will “affect our happiness in eternity.”8 He encouraged Latter-day Saints and others to use their agency to “act on their own,” without waiting to be commanded in all things.9 The principle of agency, he said, “runs like a golden thread throughout the gospel plan of the Lord for the blessing of his children.”10


    *    How easy is it to think of “free agency” as only choosing between right and wrong? 
    *    What do we miss when we don’t think of other choices we make in the same way?

Ezra Taft Benson’s testimony:

    I testify that we are the spirit offspring of a loving God, our Heavenly Father. He has a great plan of salvation whereby His children might be perfected as He is and might have a fulness of joy as He enjoys.

    I testify that in our premortal state our Elder Brother in the spirit, even Jesus Christ, became our foreordained Savior in the Father’s plan of salvation. He is the captain of our salvation and the only means through whom we can return to our Father in Heaven to gain that fulness of joy.

    I testify that Lucifer was also in the council of heaven. He sought to destroy the agency of man. He rebelled.) There was a war in heaven, and a third of the hosts were cast to the earth and denied a body. Lucifer is the enemy of all righteousness and seeks the misery of all mankind.

    The central issue in that premortal council was: Shall the children of God have untrammeled agency to choose the course they should follow, whether good or evil, or shall they be coerced and forced to be obedient? Christ and all who followed Him stood for the former proposition—freedom of choice; Satan stood for the latter—coercion and force.

    *    Have you ever considered the concepts above as things you would bear testimony of?
    *    Are there other gospel principles that might fit into areas you might have a testimony of?
    *    How often do people try to govern by coercion and force?

    Abraham was shown the spirit children of our Heavenly Father before they came to earth. He, too, was shown the creation of the earth, and the Lord said to him: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:25.) In that divine statement is embodied also the right of choice.16

    This life is a probation: a probation in which you and I prove our mettle, a probation that has eternal consequences for each of us. And now is our time and season—as every generation has had theirs—to learn our duties and to do them.17

    That the Lord is displeased with wickedness is true. That He desires that it not occur is also true. That He will help those who oppose it is true. But that He allows wickedness to occur at all through His children here in mortality is proof of His having given them their freedom to choose, while reserving for Him a basis for their final judgment.18

    There is no evil that [Jesus Christ] cannot arrest. All things are in His hands. This earth is His rightful dominion. Yet He permits evil so that we can make choices between good and evil.19

    *    How important is choice?
    *    What happens if there is no choice?

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION:

    *    In what ways have you seen that “the war that began in heaven … is not yet over”? What can we do to continue to stand for the principle of agency?

    *    People often wonder why God allows evil to exist in the world. How do President Benson’s teachings help to answer that question?

    *    Why or why not?

    *    What can we do to help those younger than ourselves understand how the decisions they make (and the decisions we made) have affected our happiness and our lives? What can we do to help children and youth understand the impact of the decisions they make?

    *    How can we teach from our own lives?



[We ran out of time before this point, but]

More reading and large group discussion:

    If we are to make proper, Christ-like decisions, we must first of all live so we can reach out and tap that unseen power without which no man can do his best in decision making.

    The Lord said, “Knock and it shall be opened unto you” (3 Nephi 14:7; Matthew 7:7). In other words, it requires effort on our part.30

    Wise decisions are usually arrived at following work, struggle, and prayerful effort. The Lord’s response to Oliver Cowdery’s ineffective effort makes this clear: “But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8.)

    Let us begin, therefore, by saying that earnestly seeking our Father in heaven, having faith that he will answer our prayers, is a comforting base on which to begin. … The Lord will not take water from a dry well, so we must do our part. Sometimes attempting to find a correct decision takes great amounts of energy, study, and long-suffering.31

    In decisions of crucial importance, fasting combined with prayer can bring great spiritual insight.32

    *    In reviewing what the lesson manual refers to as President Benson’s counsel about making “proper, Christ-like decisions” what have you learned about combining prayer with diligent effort in making decisions?

    *    What else do you consider part of a proper, Christ-like decision?

    *   What does it mean to you to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause”?
    *    How does your life change when you do good things “of [your] own free will” rather than waiting to be commanded?

    *    What would you consider a good cause?

In 1831 the Lord said this to his Church:

    “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

    “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

    “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

    “But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.” (D&C 58:26–29.)

    The Lord wants us to use our agency to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27).

    The purposes of the Lord—the great objectives—continue the same: the salvation and exaltation of his children.
 
    Usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but he expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and his prophets, and then prayerfully act—without having to be commanded “in all things.” This attitude prepares men for godhood. …

    Sometimes the Lord hopefully waits on his children to act on their own, and when they do not, they lose the greater prize, and the Lord will either drop the entire matter and let them suffer the consequences or else he will have to spell it out in greater detail. Usually, I fear, the more he has to spell it out, the smaller is our reward.33

    We should be “anxiously engaged” in good causes and leave the world a better place for having lived in it.34

What does it mean to you to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause”?


  *   Any final comments?
 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

ETB #2 Lesson -- Pray Always



“All through my life the counsel to depend on prayer has been prized above almost any other advice I have received,” said President Ezra Taft Benson. “It has become an integral part of me, an anchor, a constant source of strength, and the basis for my knowledge of things divine.

“‘Remember that whatever you do or wherever you are, you are never alone’ was my father’s familiar counsel to me as a boy. ‘Our Heavenly Father is always near. You can reach out and receive His aid through prayer.’ I have found this counsel to be true. Thank God we can reach out and tap that unseen power, without which no man can do his best.”1
 

President Benson said that we should “let no day pass” without personal prayer (section 1). How have you been blessed as a result of personal prayer?
 

“I have knelt with him and heard him pray.

“His prayers were always interesting. Almost without exception, they consisted for the most part of expressions of thanks. He asked for very little. He expressed gratitude for very much.

“He thanked the Lord for life, for family, for the gospel, for faith, for sunlight and rain, the bounties of nature, and the freedom-loving instincts of man. He thanked the Lord for friends and associates. He expressed love for the Savior and gratitude for His atoning sacrifice. He thanked the Lord for the opportunity to serve the people.”5


How often do we have prayers that are just gratitude?

Jesus Christ has taught that we should pray always.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught us a pattern for prayer:

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
“Give us this day our daily bread.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Why would Jesus tell us to include these things in our prayers?

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:9–13.)

He further instructed, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” (Luke 18:1.)

“Watch and pray,” He said, “that ye enter not into temptation.” (Matt. 26:41.)

In this dispensation He admonished, “Pray always lest that wicked one have power in you, and remove you out of your place.” (D&C 93:49.)

The Savior declared to Joseph Smith, “In nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” (D&C 59:21.)

How does confessing God’s hand in all things help keep us from temptation? How does prayer keep us from the power of evil?

If we would advance in holiness—increase in favor with God—nothing can take the place of prayer. And so I adjure you to give prayer—daily prayer—secret prayer—a foremost place in your lives. Let no day pass without it. Communion with the Almighty has been a source of strength, inspiration, and enlightenment to men and women through the world’s history who have shaped the destinies of individuals and nations for good.9
 
Why does it become easy to let daily prayer lapse?

We need as families to kneel in family prayer, night and morning. Just a few words added to the blessing on the food, which is becoming the custom in some parts, is not enough. We need to get onto our knees in prayer and gratitude.11
Prayer has been and is the ever-present anchor for strength and a source of direction in our family activities. I remember kneeling at the bedside of our young children, helping them with prayers in their younger years, and later seeing the older brothers and sisters helping the younger ones. We had family prayer night and morning, with children given the opportunity to lead, and had special prayers to meet particular problems. Mention was made in family prayer, for instance, of children with [Church] assignments. … We asked for help when one of the children faced a difficult examination in high school. Special mention was made of members of the family [who were] away. … This special mention of particular concerns in our family prayers gave confidence, assurance, and strength to members of the family facing difficult problems and assignments.12
 
President Benson mentions several blessings that come to families who pray together regularly. When have you seen family prayer lead to these blessings?

 What can we do to make family prayer a priority?

Here are five ways to improve our communication with our Heavenly Father:

1. We should pray frequently. We should be alone with our Heavenly Father at least two or three times each day—“morning, mid-day, and evening,” as the scripture indicates. (Alma 34:21.) In addition, we are told to pray always. (See 2 Ne. 32:9; D&C 88:126.) This means that our hearts should be full, drawn out in prayer unto our Heavenly Father continually. (See Alma 34:27.)

2. We should find an appropriate place where we can meditate and pray. We are admonished that this should be “in [our] closets, and [our] secret places, and in [our] wilderness.” (Alma 34:26.) That is, it should be free from distraction, in secret. (See 3 Ne. 13:5–6.)

3. We should prepare ourselves for prayer. If we do not feel like praying, then we should pray until we do feel like praying. We should be humble. (See D&C 112:10.) We should pray for forgiveness and mercy. (See Alma 34:17–18.) We must forgive anyone against whom we have bad feelings. (See Mark 11:25.) Yet the scriptures warn that our prayers will be vain if we “turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart [not] of [our] substance.” (Alma 34:28.)

How can you apply these first three points?

What are good ways to implement these points?

4. Our prayers should be meaningful and pertinent. We should avoid using the same phrases in each prayer. Any of us would become offended if a friend said the same words to us each day, treated the conversation as a chore, and could hardly wait to finish in order to turn on the television set and forget us. …

For what should we pray? We should pray about our work, against the power of our enemies and the devil, for our welfare and the welfare of those around us. We should counsel with the Lord regarding all our decisions and activities. (See Alma 37:36–37.) We should be grateful enough to give thanks for all we have. (See D&C 59:21.) We should confess His hand in all things. Ingratitude is one of our great sins.

The Lord has declared in modern revelation: “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” (D&C 78:19.)

We should ask for what we need, taking care that we not ask for things that would be to our detriment. (See James 4:3.) We should ask for strength to overcome our problems. (See Alma 31:31–33.) We should pray for the inspiration and well-being of the President of the Church, the General Authorities, our stake president, our bishop, our quorum president, our home teachers, family members, and our civic leaders. Other suggestions could be made, but with the help of the Holy Ghost we will know about what we should pray. (See Rom. 8:26–27.)

5. After making a request through prayer, we have a responsibility to assist in its being granted. We should listen. Perhaps while we are on our knees, the Lord wants to counsel us

How can you apply these last two points?

What are good ways to implement these points?


It is soul-satisfying to know that God is mindful of us and ready to respond when we place our trust in Him and do that which is right. There is no place for fear among men and women who place their trust in the Almighty, who do not hesitate to humble themselves in seeking divine guidance through prayer. Though persecutions arise, though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life’s greatest blessing.

‘What gospel principle is taught in this passage? How can I apply this in my life?’

If you had one thing to teach someone else about prayer, what would it be?

What is the one thing you would suggest that they apply in their lives from this lesson?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

ETB Lesson #1



“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.”

Ponder President Benson’s promises to those who “turn their lives over to God” (section 3).

?? What examples have you seen of people turning their lives over to God?
?? In what ways did God make those people better than they could have become on their own?


President Ezra Taft Benson’s life reflected his love for the Lord and his steadfast commitment to living the gospel. An extended family member once said, “To Ezra and his family religion is a complete way of life—something to be lived seven days a week. It takes first place in his consideration when the time comes for making decisions.”1
People outside the Benson family also noticed President Benson’s love for the Lord. In 1939, when President Benson was serving as a stake president, he was invited to Washington, D.C., to meet with the directors of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. “After looking him over and questioning him, the board of trustees offered him the position of executive secretary of that organization. … Though he was thrilled by this unsolicited bid for his services, he did not wish to accept it. As he understood it, the job would entail lobbying by the use of cocktail parties, which would not be compatible with his religion.
“‘Mr. Benson,’ Judge John D. Miller, head of the group, replied, ‘that is why we selected you. We know what your standards are.’ With full assurance from the board that he would not be expected to seek an understanding of agricultural problems over cocktail glasses, he was delighted to accept the position, but only after consultation with the First Presidency and his wife.”2

?? How many stake presidents did the Church have in 1939?

?? Is consulting with the First Presidency something that you might expect a Bishop or a Stake President to be able to do now?

President Benson taught that we manifest our love for the Lord by our willingness to do the Lord’s will. He said: “I wish that every Latter-day Saint could say and mean it with all his heart: ‘I’ll go where you want me to go. I’ll say what you want me to say. I’ll be what you want me to be’ [see Hymns, no. 270]. If we could all do that, we would be assured of the maximum of happiness here and exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God hereafter.”3

?? What excuses do we use to do what we want rather than what God would have us do?

?? What should we be doing?


The first and great commandment is to love the Lord.
The great test of life is obedience to God. “We will prove them herewith,” said the Lord, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25).
The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it.
The great commandment of life is to love the Lord.
“Come unto Christ,” exhorts Moroni in his closing testimony, “… and love God with all your might, mind and strength” (Moroni 10:32).
This, then, is the first and great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30; see also Matthew 22:37; Deuteronomy 6:5; Luke 10:27; Moroni 10:32; D&C 59:5).

?? Thoughts?



It is the pure love of Christ, called charity, that the Book of Mormon testifies is the greatest of all—that never faileth, that endureth forever, that all men should have, and that without which they are nothing (see Moroni 7:44–47; 2 Nephi 26:30).
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren,” pleads Moroni, “pray unto the Father with all the energy of [your] heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him” (Moroni 7:48).
In the closing accounts of both the Jaredites and the Nephites, Moroni records that except men shall have this pure love of Christ, called charity, they cannot inherit that place which Christ has prepared in the mansions of His Father nor can they be saved in the kingdom of God (see Ether 12:34; Moroni 10:21).
The fruit that Lehi partook of in his vision and that filled his soul with exceeding great joy and that was most desirable above all things was the love of God.5

?? What is Charity?



We show our love for God when we put Him first in our lives.
Why did God put the first commandment first? Because He knew that if we truly loved Him we would want to keep all of His other commandments. “For this is the love of God,” says John, “that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3; see also 2 John 1:6).
We must put God in the forefront of everything else in our lives. He must come first, just as He declares in the first of His Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.
We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives.

?? How is this compatible with what this life is about?
?? Is it easy?

To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—to a love of the Lord.



?? How do we put God first?
The breadth, depth, and height of this love of God extend into every facet of one’s life. Our desires, be they spiritual or temporal, should be rooted in a love of the Lord. Our thoughts and affections should be centered on the Lord. “Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord,” said Alma, “yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever” (Alma 37:36).7
We show our love for God when we put Him first in our lives.
Why did God put the first commandment first? Because He knew that if we truly loved Him we would want to keep all of His other commandments. “For this is the love of God,” says John, “that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3; see also 2 John 1:6).
We must put God in the forefront of everything else in our lives. He must come first, just as He declares in the first of His Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.

?? How does this make our love for others and our care for them better instead of worse?



When Joseph was in Egypt, what came first in his life—God, his job, or Potiphar’s wife? When she tried to seduce him, he responded by saying, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).
Joseph was put in prison because he put God first. If we were faced with a similar choice, where would we place our first loyalty? Can we put God ahead of security, peace, passions, wealth, and the honors of men?
When Joseph was forced to choose, he was more anxious to please God than to please his employer’s wife. When we are required to choose, are we more anxious to please God than our boss, our teacher, our neighbor, or our date?

?? Is this hard?
The Book of Mormon teaches that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11)—and so there is. Opposition provides choices, and choices bring consequences—good or bad.
?? What is the result of putting God first?
Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life.9

The Book of Mormon explains that men “are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27).
God loves us; the devil hates us. God wants us to have a fulness of joy as He has. The devil wants us to be miserable as he is. God gives us commandments to bless us. The devil would have us break these commandments to curse us.
Daily, constantly, we choose by our desires, our thoughts, and our actions whether we want to be blessed or cursed, happy or miserable. One of the trials of life is that we do not usually receive immediately the full blessing for righteousness or the full cursing for wickedness. That it will come is certain, but ofttimes there is a waiting period that occurs, as was the case with Job and Joseph.

?? Does that waiting period make it harder?



I testify to you that God’s pay is the best pay that this world or any other world knows anything about. And it comes in full abundance only to those who love the Lord and put Him first.
The great test of life is obedience to God.
The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it.
The great commandment of life is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30).
May God bless us to put the first commandment first and, as a result, reap peace in this life and eternal life with a fullness of joy in the life to come.10



OPEN DISCUSSION

Ponder President Benson’s promises to those who “turn their lives over to God” (section 3).
?? What examples have you seen of people turning their lives over to God?
?? In what ways did God make those people better than they could have become on their own?

The lesson manual warns that it is a mistake for the class instructor to believe that he or she is really the teacher.  It warns “Be careful you do not get in the way.”

?? How can we encourage class participation so that the instructors do not get in the way of the message that God has for us?