BoM 7: Unity in Christ

King Benjamin’s sermon is one of my favorite passages of scripture. I have held several formal leadership positions over the years and now as a mother especially I really admire and value King Benjamin’s selflessness, compassion, and love for his people. And his amazing success in uniting a diverse society is undeniable.

For Family Home Evening the week we studied King Benjamin’s sermon (Mosiah 2-5, BoM) I wanted to help my children embrace difference and understand the powerful way in which King Benjamin united his people. To do this I borrowed an idea from a lesson plan a missionary companion and I developed about 11 years ago to teach some of our friends who were getting baptized. We used heart shaped necklaces with the name of Christ written on them to discuss the baptismal covenant as found in Mosiah 18, BoM.

The goal of my FHE lesson was to have each person identify as different from everybody else and, through the scriptural narrative, reveal how we can become unified. To establish each individual in our home as a separate entity, I cut out construction paper hearts with a different color for each person. I wrote each person’s name on a heart. On the back of each heart I glued a matching red heart with the name of Christ written on it. To start the lesson I handed out the necklaces to each family member to wear with their name facing out, careful not to reveal the matching red backs.

I began by narrating King Benjamin’s struggles as a leader of a diverse society. He was king of a group of Nephites who had joined with an older society of Mulekites. A small group had headed off to seek new lands and was never heard from again which resulted in some social disturbance among the core group at Zarahemla. At the end of his reign, King Benjamin made a final effort to reinforce unity among his people.

My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.

Mosiah 2:9, BoM

King Benjamin taught his gathered people about the reality of God’s existence, the nature of life on earth, and the prophecies of a coming Savior. He helped them understand their relationship to God and the need each individual has for redemption. He testified boldly and invited the people to repent and keep the commandments. The response of the people is astounding to me:

O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men….

Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

Mosiah 4:2; 5:2, BoM

King Benjamin invited the people to enter a covenant and use a new name to signify their acceptance of that two-way promise with God:

…the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

…There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

Mosiah 5:6-7, BoM

Taking the name of Christ upon us

In our lesson I instructed everyone to turn over their necklaces to reveal the matching hearts with Christ’s name written on them.

The result of King Benjamin’s sermon and invitation was social unity. By writing the name of Christ on their hearts the people began to see each other with new eyes, as brothers and sisters with common goals, as essential parts of a whole community, as individuals whose welfare and happiness contributed to the overall harmony of their collective society. And the people lived in peace.

BoM 5: Boundless Mercy and Blessings, Likening the Scriptures

Tonight for Family Home Evening we tackled 2 Nephi 26. I was taken with the quote from Joseph Smith in one of the suggested study subtopics from Come, Follow Me for this week, that God is “more ‘boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive’ (The Joseph Smith Papers, “History, 1838–1856, volume D-1,” p. 4 [addenda], josephsmithpapers.org).” My kids wanted to make Muddy Buddies as well so I considered if there was a ready way to liken the scriptures and use the treat-making as an object lesson. And I hit on something great!

We started by reading the quote from Joseph Smith and discussed what “boundless” means in context. We defined what it means to have boundaries and then talked about how Jesus has no limits on His love, mercy, or the blessings He wants to share with us. We read 2 Nephi 26:20-22 to lay the groundwork for our thinking about boundless love and mercy. I paraphrased a little, asking if the people described in those verses are making good choices or bad choices. Once we established that they’re making bad choices, we moved on to Nephi’s exclamations about the love of Jesus Christ for “the world” (all people in the world, I clarified) (see v. 23-33). I used our easel to summarize ways in which God is merciful as described by Nephi in the verses.

My narration helped them connect the fact that God loves everyone and wants to bless everyone, even if they’re making bad choices. Mercy comes into play as God blesses us even when by many standards we don’t seem to be deserving. My kids really got this as I asked whether they always make good choices. Does Jesus still love you when you make bad choices? I asked them. YES! They exclaimed.

I felt it was important to add a final note (like Nephi) about obedience. All God asks from us is to be obedient to His commandments. Nephi lists out many of them but I just wanted to touch on this essential component.

Then we began on the Muddy Buddies….

I explained that we’re kind of like the cereal—a little plain, tasty but nothing special. Jesus, however, wants us to be our best selves possible and offers us many different ways to achieve greatness (in my narration, “to become more delicious”). The kids took turns adding ingredients which I simultaneously wrote into our existing list, discussing with the kids as I went.

At one point I asked the kids what ingredient we should add next. My oldest suggested chocolate. I asked, “how do you know to add chocolate?” When she finally got to, “we need to follow the recipe,” I brought us back to obedience. God offers us unlimited mercy, continually inviting us to repent and come to Jesus to “buy milk and honey without price.” He freely offers magnificent blessings, but we have to follow His recipe as found in the scriptures and taught in His Restored Church to receive the greatest blessing of all—eternal life.

The girls were pretty quiet by the end—yes, they were eating Muddy Buddies hand over fist—but they were also attentive as I closed the lesson and testified of the importance of following God’s “recipe” for a happy and, eventually, eternal life. A basic understanding of mercy (we defined this as unlimited love for and desire to help/bless someone even if they’re making bad choices) seemed to click. I hope they caught a glimpse of the Savior’s boundless love for each of them.

*No promotional considerations were made in writing this post. (It is simply hard to separate the cereal from its iconic recipe.)

NT 2: Turning Our Hearts

The new home study curriculum is amazing! I bore my testimony about it in church yesterday and then again in Sunday School. I can already see positive changes in our home, family, and myself from this program. The hardest part of scripture study for me is deciding what to study. With the curriculum provided, my biggest roadblock is gone! I have been able to pick out one to two verses or a story or a Gospel principle to share with my kids each day and they actually listen!! No more fighting over reverence and sitting still through a 60-verse chapter, no more difficult concepts flying over their heads. I feel so empowered by this curriculum to make the scriptures accessible to my children. If you haven’t already started implementing Come, Follow Me––For Individuals and Families, you need to do it! Don’t spend one more day without the blessings that will come if your family studies the scriptures together.

Getting off my soap box now….

For Family Home Evening tonight I borrowed an idea from this week’s material (Come, Follow Me, “January 7-13,” p. 8) to work from Matthew 1:1-17 and discuss the importance of knowing about our family history. I broke in the topic this morning by reading just Matthew 1:1 with the girls, telling them about Samuel anointing David to be the future king, the prophecy of Christ’s lineage, defining “lineage,” and telling them what we would be doing for FHE. The girls asked if we could play a game. I pondered the request and with the help of the Spirit I came up with an “Ancestor Matching” game.

The Lineage of Jesus

Singing “The Hearts of the Children” from the Children’s Songbook really set a nice tone for our lesson tonight. We reviewed the main points of the morning’s teaser and re-read Matthew 1:1. My oldest daughter helped write out the lineage of Jesus from king David down to Joseph and Jesus. I then wrote my kids’ names on the board and showed them their lineage through of my ancestral lines. The girls asked if we could say the names out loud. As we read the names of our family members, I felt a powerful spiritual witness of my ancestors’ continued life beyond the grave and their awareness and appreciation of us. They care that we know about them.

Malachi prophesied, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:5-6, OT). Elijah restored the sealing power of the Priesthood to Joseph Smith and it is available today in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see D&C 110:13-16). I think one of the essential points of the Gospel is that, through the sealing power of the Priesthood, we unite every generation. This is one of the ways Heavenly Father brings His children back and it is one of the great blessings of eternal life: living with our family members in God’s presence for eternity. But I think part of the blessing is having our hearts knitted together. How can we do this unless we know about ancestors and start cultivating that bond now?

To this end, I told the girls stories about the ancestors we listed on the board. I tried to keep the stories short and centered on topics they could grasp and also easily remember. My oldest is almost six so I told them about my grandpa being given a gun and horse at the same age and sent out to the mountains with his brother overnight to watch the family sheep. I told them about my third-great grandmother who had thirteen children. She raised geese and ducks for various family needs (we are all about livestock and farms). I told them about my grandmother who never learned to swim or ride a bicycle but who built on her strengths to become a talented seamstress, cook, baker, and homemaker.

Then the kids got their wish! We played a game matching information about ancestors to their picture and name.

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We felt our hearts turn to our ancestors tonight. I hope my kids will remember some of these stories, finding strength and inspiration in them; I hope through the stories they will also build a powerful bond with these family members.

 

Day 52: Taught to Keep the Commandments of God

Alma 53:17-21

By way of follow up, my husband and I began a Family Home Evening lesson series on the commandments. I had mentioned in a previous post that I felt the need to do this. So far it’s going well! We kicked off the series with a lesson activity discussing life and the many choices we get to make on a daily basis. I presented our family with a plate of bite size pieces of several varieties of chocolate. Scattered amongst the chocolate pieces were toothpick flags, each representing a choice. I wrote a scenario on one side of the flag and once someone had read the scenario and provided a response, s/he flipped the flag to read a commandment-oriented statement. One flag read, “It’s Sunday and a friend invites you to go to the movies.” The reverse side paraphrased the commandments to keep the Sabbath Day holy. My kids really enjoyed the hands-on experience (and now they want chocolate every Family Home Evening). We have continued with “love the Lord thy God” and “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39, NT). I struggle a little with making the lessons completely kid-friendly, but I really want to follow through on this prompting.

In case I was feeling a little discouraged, the perfect motivation popped up in my Book of Mormon reading. I’m in the midst of the war chapters of Alma and 2000 young men (sons of the people of Ammon) have joined the Nephite army to help “fight for liberty” and “to protect the land” (Alma 53:17). Despite being young, inexperienced, and untrained as soldiers, “they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity…. [T]hey were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted…. [T]hey were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God…” (Alma 53:20-21, emphasis added). This is what I want for my children! If I persevere, continue teaching them the commandments, and provide them with opportunities to grow their faith and personal testimonies, then they, too, will become valiant, courageous, strong, true, trustworthy, honest.