Friday, May 28, 2010

Moroni's Last Words

I have completed the year!  My seniors have had their last day of seminary for the rest of their lives (until they're called to be seminary teachers)! I have 14 seniors graduating this year, and I am so proud of them.  I wasn't too diligent with blogging my lessons toward the end.   But here are my last thoughts for the book of Moroni.

 As I was reading the book of Moroni, I noticed that the entire book had a theme; the Holy Ghost.  Chapters 2-6 are instructions on how to operate and organize the church.  Basic church ordinances are mentioned, and they are all to be performed by the power of the Holy Ghost or in preparation to receiving the Holy Ghost.  Chapters 7-8 give us direction on how to discern good from evil by the Spirit of Christ.  Each of us is born with the light of Christ.  By following this light, we can be led to lay hold upon every good thing, which good cometh of Christ. We're also taught to exercise faith, hope, and charity, and how those things bring the Holy Ghost to dwell with us continually. 

In contrast to the previous chapters, Chapter 9 shows us what happens to a society of people who no longer have the Spirit to dwell with them after being a Zion people.  This chapter probably hit me the hardest.  Mormon is describing a people (the Nephites) who have degenerated to canibalism, hatred, family abuse, sexual offenses, perversion, murder, and torture.  They are without civilization and are "past feeling".  They are beyond being affected by the Holy Ghost

In Moroni 10:4-5 (one of our Scripture Masteries this year), Moroni promises us that if we read the Book of Mormon and ponder the words we read in our hearts, God will manifest the truth of the book to us by the power of the Holy Ghost.  We must specifically ask Him if it's true.  We must be sincere and have true intentions to act upon what we have read (which is an exertion of our faith).   Because the Book of Mormon IS TRUE, our faith will access this power!  That's a promise from a prophet of the Lord, who is the keyholder of the record of the Stick of Ephraim.  Moroni was the principle figure in the transmission of the record to this dispensation, and the protector of this record.   
I prefer my class work through their impressions and figure things out on their own rather than me feeding them my thoughts.   So I asked my class, "Why do you think the Book of Mormon ends with so much emphasis on the Holy Ghost?"   Here are a few of their answers:

* It's really important, in these last days, for us to discern what is true from what is not, and that will be taught to us by the Holy Ghost
* By qualifying for the presence of the Holy Ghost, it protects us from becoming hardened, so we don't become like the Nephites and Jaredites.
* The Holy Ghost keeps us from being deceived by Satan.  Sometimes what looks good to our eyes is deceiving.  If we listen to the Holy Ghost with our hearts, regardless of what "looks" good, we will always be led to good.
* The Holy Ghost will teach us the truths in the Book of Mormon, which was written for us.  We don't always understand everything we read in the Book of Mormon, but if we keep the Holy Ghost with us, He will keep teaching us new things as we are ready to learn.
* Moroni knows that we need the Holy Ghost, more than anything, to bring us to Christ.

It was pretty profound for them to realize how important Moroni's last words were to them.  I'm so proud of this class.  They have progressed through the year beautifully.  They've grown to think for themselves and apply the principles of the gospel to their every day lives.  They've learned to sift through the scriptures for what's important and to "see" more clearly.  I'll miss them and seminary in general.  Class, I love you and wish you all the best!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's All About the Land!

The more I read the Book of Mormon, the more I recognize how the Lord requires the inhabitants of this highly coveted Promised Land to be worthy of it's possession.  This free land has been preserved for a righteous people for a specific purpose.  The work of the gathering of Israel was meant to originate from this land in the latter-days, and the freedom of this land must be protected.  The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ occurred on this land.   Records of the early inhabitants of this land were buried in this soil.  The Lord requires us to serve Him while on this soil, or be swept off of it.  The Book of Mormon contains a record of two groups of people who were swept from this land because of their refusal to worship God.  

Today we discussed the sad scene at the end of the book of Ether of a king named Coriantumr.  He has been educated on the "arts of war and all the cunning of the world" (Ether 13:16).  He refuses to repent of his worldly ways, and so do his people.  Secret combinations are prevalent everywhere, war is continual, and many lives have been lost.   The prophet Ether has been sent to Coriantumr and warns him that: "if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people— Otherwise they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself. And he should only live to see the fulfilling of the prophecies which had been spoken concerning another people receiving the land for their inheritance; and Coriantumr should receive a burial by them; and every soul should be destroyed save it were Coriantumr."  

As recorded in Omni 1:21, Coriantumr did, in fact, live to see another people (Nephites & Lamanites) receive this Promised Land as their inheritance.  The priviledge was taken from the Jaredites.  Coriantumr's pride to be the most powerful, worldly king overshadowed his judgment to honor the land and the God who blessed him with it.

The Book of Mormon has made me more aware of the land I live on.  The Lord gave the Children of Israel the land of Canaan as their inheritance if they would worship Him.  They were scattered from it because of their wickedness.  There are priviledges associated with honoring God on the land He's given us.  The land doesn't come free of obligation.  He needs us to serve Him and build the kingdom of God on the earth.  Our blessings come through the land.  Our prosperity is revealed through prospering with the growth of families and relationships on the land.  As the righteous gather, they are required to build temples, make covenants, and receive instruction on how to rise above worldliness and become more like Him, with the promise of exaltation to follow.

Something I learned, and something to ponder.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Seeking the Savior

Today I let the natural man take over.  Before class, I hid several dollars worth of money in bills and coins throughout the classroom.  I hid them under shelves, under chairs, on the side of picture frames, under the piano bench, under my ipod dock, over the chalkboard; everywhere.  I wrote the word "SEEK" on the chalkboard, and told them they had 5 minutes to scour the room for as much money as they could find.   And yes, they could keep what they found.  (I spend more on them buying them a box of donuts than I did on this lesson.)  I can never predict what they are going to do with these object lessons, so I watched and observed them as they were busy searching.

My observations:
- The students who usually fall asleep were up on their feet.
- One of my quiet boys, I discovered, is a chatterbox.
- One young lady found a dollar bill and sat down.
- One young man got discouraged after finding a dime and sat down.
- 5 students didn't leave their seat ("Mormons do too many object lessons").
- Everyone who looked for money found something, even if it was just a penny.
- The longer they looked, the more they found.
- After the 5 minutes were up, I revealed another 75 cents they hadn't found.

In Ether 12, the prophet Ether teaches us so beautifully about FAITH and HOPE (an expectation of something in the future); and not just faith itself, but faith in God and His power to bless us.  Moroni adds his own testimony on faith to Ether's in our Scripture Mastery verse Ether 12:6: "And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."  Moroni then shows us that Christ SHOWED HIMSELF to MANY PEOPLE, including the Nephites at the Bountiful temple, because of their faith.  It was their faith that allowed them to see Him.  There had to be a point where they SOUGHT AFTER HIM in order to have Him manifested unto them. 

Moroni himself then tells us at the end of the chapter, "And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things; And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.  And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever." (Ether 12:39-41)

Moroni has challenged us to SEEK HIM.  How do we go about doing that?  That's where our object lesson comes in.  My question to the class was, "What did it take to SEEK and find the money in the room?" 

Some points they brought up were:
-They knew me and that I wouldn't lie to them so they KNEW the money was there, somewhere even if they couldn't see it.
-They wanted the money (DESIRE)
-They had to get up off their chairs and move (WORKS)
-They had to KEEP LOOKING (persistence, endurance)

I asked them to apply this to themselves with the money representing a blessing/prompting from the Lord.   Using prayer and scripture study as an example, the young lady that found a dollar bill and sat down might reflect someone who prays for something, receives an answer, and doesn't pray again until she needs to.  One student said this would be someone who reads her scriptures only when forced to in class.  Or perhaps even someone who reads for 10 minutes a day just to say she did it rather than to get a message out of it. 

I asked them what was the difference between that person and someone who took the entire 5 minutes to carefully search every inch of the room for any coin he could get his hands on?   What might that young man be like with regard to his prayers and scripture study?  They shared that his prayers would be more carefully worded.  He would be consistent and more reverent with his prayers. He would take the time to express gratitude and not just ask in this prayers.  His scripture study would involve searching for an answer to his prayers and SEEKing for ways to live more like Christ.  

I shared with them how I prepare to go to the temple. This was my example of SEEKing the Lord.  I told them that before I enter a session, I take a few minutes to pray for the Lord to teach me something.   I don't always go with something specific on my mind.  But I do want to be open to what He has to teach me.  This prayer opens my senses.  I hear better, see better, think better, and I feel more from my experience there.  There have been times where I've left not feeling I had been taught by the Spirit.........only to have an impression come to me days later as a result of my temple experience.  The prayer I have before entering the temple, is an exertion of my FAITH that the Lord CAN and WILL teach me what I need to know.  It is my way of SEEKing Him.

My challenge to my class was to SEEK the Lord throughout their day.  Pay attention to small blessings He grants them through their FAITHfulness.  Acknowledge those blessings in prayer frequently.  Before leaving home for seminary, pray for Him to teach you through the Spirit what you need to hear.   Do the same for Sunday instruction and in sacrament meeting.  Petition to be taught.  I think they'll be amazed at the inspiration and small miracles they are open to receiving if they do this.

In our object lesson today, those who were only looking for dollar bills missed out on all the smaller coins because they weren't looking for them.  There were more smaller coins in the room than there were bills, and the value of the coins exceeded the value of the bills.  There are smaller blessings everywhere if we look for them.  Those who never "get up and look" will never "find". If you "look" daily, you'll "find" daily.   As we notice the blessings in our lives, our FAITH in the Lord's power increases.   Will we be able to receive the "larger" blessings, like the one Moroni had in seeing the Lord face to face?   I believe it's possible, if it's the Lord's will.  But we won't if that's all we look for.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Destined to Meet

Today we covered a small chapter in the book of Ether.  Chapter 5 left an impression on me.  Moroni speaks directly to Joseph Smith and gives him a bit of instruction.  He also eases his heart.  The instruction was that Joseph Smith was not to touch the sealed part of the golden plates once he had them in his possession.  But he would be able to show the plates to people who would testify of what they saw.  "And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work; And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true."  (Ether 5:2-3) Up until this point in his translation of the plates, he had not been allowed to show them to anyone, thus carrying a tremendous burden by himself.  Reading, and translating, these words must have eased this burden for him. 

The eight witnesses, whose testimonies are in the front of each Book of Mormon, testified that they had seen, felt, and held the plates, therefore being physical witnesses. 

The three witnesses (this picture shows Joseph Smith with Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer with the angel......Martin Harris separated from them at this time),  testified: "And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true."  These three men received a spiritual manifestation of them and were spiritual witnesses.

Moroni also tells Joseph Smith that the Book of Mormon will stand as a true testimony against the world at the last day.  The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost bear record of the truthfulness of it, and Moroni also bears record of the same.  Powerful stuff.  Joseph must have felt a great priviledge, responsibility, weight on his shoulders, and importance of the work of translating these plates, all at the same time.  But what a relief he must have felt having the support and guidance of these "beings" in his calling as prophet.

This chapter made me sit and wonder what it must have been like for both of these men, who were destined to meet.  This message was from one prophet/editor/compiler to one prophet/translator who were separated by centuries of time, yet working on the same "project".  They would meet, and one (as a resurrected being) would be a mentor to the other.  Moroni possessed the keys of the record of the Stick of Ephraim (D&C 27:5)  He was assigned to oversee the work.  He would groom Joseph Smith over years of teaching to understand the importance of his role in the restoration of the gospel and the translation of the tool which would be used to gather Israel in the last days. 

What a great chapter! 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Scriptures = Parenting 101

Today, as we studied Ether 2, I couldn't help but share with the class some thoughts from my viewpoint as a parent. (I want the parents to know that I always plead their case and cheer for them in my lessons to their youth!!!)   I find it so fascinating to learn about the feelings of the Lord through being a mom.  I feel I am growing closer to Him by reading about how he deals with "His children" in the scriptures.  I feel what He feels. This photo of my 4 daughters was taken 7 years ago.  The oldest is almost 23 now, and the youngest is 12.   They're all so different.   I love each one!   My parenting has been individualized towards each separate spirit/personality.  What works for one doesn't work exactly for another.   My comments to my class about my daughters were that the Lord also deals with us on an individual basis.  None of us are the same.  He gives each of us the opportunity to discover what we are capable of doing by seeing us through our adversity. He knows us from the pre-mortal existence, thus knows our strengths before we can discover them here on earth.  We've forgotten, but He hasn't.   In Ether 2, we are able to see how the Lord answers prayers for the Brother of Jared according to his abilities and needs, and according to the Lord's will.  

In Ether 2, the Lord gives the Brother of Jared specific instructions on how to build the barges which will take them to the land of promise.  He follows the Lord's instructions, exactly.  But now that the barges are built, there are three challenges to overcome: How will they breathe, steer, and have light in the barges while they are in them?  "And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish." (Ether 2:19) Interesting that the Lord has him build these barges with the problems built into them too.  It is a part of the Lord's design for the Brother of Jared to inquire of the Lord and petition for His help.  What the Lord is really doing is requiring the Brother of Jared to qualify himself spiritually so that through his faith, the Lord can use His power to help him. 

The Lord answers the Brother of Jared with 3 different responses which show us just how the Lord answers prayers.  (Ether 2:20-25)

PROBLEM #1: No air in the barges.          
SOLUTION: Make a hole in the top and bottom (tells him exactly what to do).

PROBLEM #2: Can't steer.
SOLUTION: "I will bring you...." (requires him to trust Him and in his power to deliver them).

PROBLEM #3: No light.
SOLUTION: "What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?" (wants him to work on his own for the answer of how the Lord can use His power to help him).

The reason I thought of my own daughters when I was preparing this lesson was because I can see the Lord's intent in having the Brother of Jared grow through this experience.  He's showing the Brother of Jared what he can do for himself and by himself.  There are times when I want to do everything for my daughters to help them.  But having them reason their way through situations on their own first, strengthens them.  I gauge their abilities to handle situations, and then help them with what they are incapable of doing themselves.  Sometimes they surprise themselves!  In the process of maturing, they learn more about themselves than they would have if I had done it for them.  The ideal situation is for them to lean less on me, and lean more on our Heavenly Father.  We, as parents, serve our children best by pointing them to Him as the real source of help and strength.  We won't always be around to help them, but He will.

The Lord answers our prayers according to our faith.  Sometimes He tells us exactly what needs to be done, sometimes He will take care of our needs and requires our trust to do so, and other times we're left to do further work on our own before He can help us.  We have the promise of the confirmation in our heart from the Holy Ghost if our choice is according to the Lord's will, and an absence of that feeling if it is not.  I see the Lord's wisdom in the eternal plan for us to become parents.  We see a glimpse of what it's like to see through his eyes.   What a gift.

Scriptures = Parenting 101

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sister Wright's Feeling Lazy

I have been so lazy with this blog lately. I cruised through Mormon with my class. I found Mormon to be a sad, but necessary, book to cover. We're in Ether right now. I see the parallel and the purpose behind the insertion of this book at the end of the Book of Mormon. If I find the energy, I'll blog about tomorrow's lesson in Ether 2. I have a good point to make in our lesson. 'Hoping the Spirit will help me get that point across to them.

I have been spending at least 10 minutes each day with my class preparing for our annual Scripture Olympics. This activity is for all the youth in our stake that are enrolled in seminary. We compete as classes.  We review Scripture Mastery for the year and although it's meant to be fun, there are those of us who are competitive by nature who will not settle for anything but WINNING. Win or go home! Argggggg! I've been working on memorizing all 25 SM with my class, but I have to say, the Book of Mormon SM are the hardest of all 4 years.  It's hard work but worth every ounce of energy.

Just wanted to let y'all know that the lazy in me has prevailed, but I'll catch my second wind and be back to blogging my lessons soon.  I'll be concluding my blog this month.  This is my last year teaching seminary.  It has been quite a journey.  It's true.  The teacher always learns the most.  Very true. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unique Book of Mormon Storyline/Timeline

My Book of Mormon seminary year is almost over and I'll be taking down my boards in the classroom in about 4-5 weeks.  I thought I'd take my camera to class today and take a picture of this before I take it down.  My CES Director passed along this storyline/timeline to us.  The idea came from a seminary teacher, but I don't know who she is.   I drew out this timeline with a Sharpie marker with my own icons and in a way that made sense to me, laminated it, and stapled it to my rolling bulletin board for reference throughout the year.  THIS HAS BEEN SO HELPFUL!  We refer to it frequently.  It helps us to remember what we've studied, and also what to look forward to in upcoming chapters.

It starts on the left and moves to the right.  We begin in Jerusalem ("J" with the castle wall) in 600 B.C., and the "zig-zag" is Lehi's journey in the wilderness for 8 years. The "r.i.p." is for Ishmael who dies before they get on Nephi's boat and sail to the Promised Land. The next "r.i.p" is for Lehi who dies before "Nephi & Co." settle in the land of Nephi ("N" with the castle wall) after a separation from Laman and Lemuel. That places us roughly around 2 Nephi 5.

The "Z" at the top of the timeline stands for Zarahemla. There are 3 kings who reside in Zarahemla (Mosiah I, Benjamin, and Mosiah II), and 3 kings who end up in the land of Nephi (Zeniff, Noah, and Limhi). The kings are represented by the crowns.) Zeniff's people travelled to the land of Nephi and ended up being in bondage to the Lamanites until Limhi's people were brought back to Zarahemla, thus the "squiggly lines". This takes us to the end of the Book of Mosiah.

 The "r.i.p" after the kings is for the death of King Mosiah II.  He was the last king before they switched to a system of judges, which explains the "no kings" and "gavel" icons.  During that period, we have the 4 sons of Mosiah doing missionary work with the Lamanites in the land of Nephi for 14 years, and concurrently we have Alma (the younger) and Amulek on a mission to re-activate saints in the Land of Zarahemla.  This leads us up to Alma 42.

The flag with the "T" represents Captain Moroni's Title of Liberty.  The "2000" shield represents Helaman's Stripling Warriors, and the stick figure standing on a wall being shot at with stones and arrows represents Samuel the Lamanite.  That takes us through to the end of the Book of Helaman.  The resurrected Christ visits the Nephites (3 Nephi), 200 years of peace (4 Nephi), Mormon and Moroni fight for their lives (Mormon), and the end of the record leaves us at 421 A.D. (Moroni).  I didn't include the Book of Ether, which is placed between Mormon and Moroni, because those events happened centuries before and not on this timeline.

I am a visual learner and it helps for me to see something like this drawn out for reference.  I photocopied all of these icons, reduced them in size, and cut them up.  I gave each student in my class a miniature version of this storyline/timeline in a plastic bag.  Periodically I hide my bulletin board and I have them take their timeline pieces out and put them in order from 600 B.C. through 421 A.D.  It's good review and I KNOW IT HELPS THEM!!!  Again, this timeline wasn't my idea, but I sure love it.  I'm happy to share my version with you if it helps you to better understand the events in Book of Mormon.