WHY ARE COVENANTS IMPORTANT IN MY LIFE?
Find my lesson on the plan of happiness as a path of covenants by clicking this link.
Find my lesson on the plan of happiness as a path of covenants by clicking this link.
Covered Wagon Cakes
For each cake you need:
minute or two. Lay the "wagon" on its side and add the cookie wheels with a
dab of frosting. Let harden a minute or two. Lay the "wagon" on its other side
and add the remaining wheels.
If you like, you can add a small pretzel stick for a tongue. I didn't because then
it doesn't fit in a baggie. One cake will fit perfectly in a fold-over sandwich bag if
you put it in the bag marshmallows first and the fold-over part under the wagon.
WHAT SPIRITUAL TRUTHS CAN I LEARN FROM THE ORDINANCES OF THE GOSPEL?
In conjunction with Elder Neuenschwander's talk, "Ordinances and Covenants," particularly in light of the fact that the way that youth can participate in the temple is in baptisms for the dead, you may want to present the history of the revelation on that topic. Follow this link to one of my favorite Gospel Doctrine Plus lessons: Baptism For the Dead, which includes stories on three lesser-known historical figures, Seymour Brunson, Elijah Fordham, and Samuel Rolfe, as well as the building of the Nauvoo Temple. It also includes the amazing and inspiring story of the Freedman Bank Records and their indexing done at the Utah State Penitentiary, which provided salvation for multitudes of people, both living and dead.
HOW DO I KEEP MY COVENANT TO ALWAYS REMEMBER THE SAVIOR?
One of the most important baptismal promises for teenagers (and all of us) to keep is also sometimes one of the easiest to disassociate from: bearing one another's burdens. In a school setting, it is often scary to stand up for those who are dorky, different, or disabled, and it sometimes seems really fun and clever to tease or belittle them. Such objectification of another person (in other words, not considering that they are human, have feelings, and are a child of God) is a big problem in our society with all of its sarcasm, witty memes, and snide comedy. In order to promote integrity between their beliefs at church and their actions at school, it may be good to show two opposing videos from lds.org: First a wonderful depiction of a negative example of a young priest who later understands the gravity of what he has done and tries to repair it in "Bullying--Stop It", and then the amazing example of the Aaronic priesthood holders who halted the torment of a mentally challenged girl by letting her into their elite group in "Bullied No More."
Often good but less confident teens will not bully a "different" person, but will distance themselves from them. This is also an abandonment of the baptismal covenant and of Christ's commandment to "love our neighbor." Here is something else you could use to encourage proactive service, either as a follow-up to those videos, or at a separate time. I made a Power Point presentation using The Hollie's song "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," with pictures of love and service. I showed it to my class and invited them to think and pray about what they could do to share the Savior's love with others. After/As they carry out their service, we are going to have a professional videographer, who is also our Sunday School president, make a video of our class members' activities and put it to the same music, probably followed by a few little interviews with the kids. We plan to post it on YouTube at the end of the summer. (Wouldn't it be cool if LDS youth classes all over the world flooded YouTube with videos of their service? If you should make one too, send me a link!) If you would like a copy of the Power Point (I'm pretty proud of it) e-mail me and I'll e-mail it to you. email@example.com. I am unable to post it on the blog.
HOW CAN I DEEPEN MY UNDERSTANDING OF COVENANTS?
RECEIVING, RECOGNIZING AND HEEDING THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST. My class is still unsure about how to recognize the Spirit (as are many of us adults!) and needs a lot of reinforcement about this concept. It is so important for teenagers to be able to recognize the guidance of the Spirit! Who has to make as many difficult and life-altering decisions on a daily basis as do teenagers? We are all given the opportunity to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and then to re-receive it weekly as we remember Christ through the covenant of the sacrament. This wonderful little video from the Mormon Channel just popped up on my Facebook today, and I'm so glad it did!!! Here's the YouTube link: Feeling the Holy Ghost. When I watched it I found there are several more related Mormon Channel videos under the topic "Power of the Holy Ghost": Comfort in Trials; Increase Your Testimony; Receiving Revelation; Having the Holy Ghost With You; and Patterns of Light (which includes Elder Bednar teaching that revelation can be like a light switch or like a dawn). We are going to have an entire lesson using these various videos and discussions of each topic, with the addition of my experiences and testimony (and hopefully a few of the students') about each aspect covered. Hooray for the Mormon Channel!!
THE BOOK OF MORMON AND COVENANTS. Please refer to my sacrament meeting talk "Freedom and Covenants" which uses examples from the Book of Mormon. Decorate the room with a flag of your country, the Book of Mormon, and a picture of your temple. It would go especially well for classes in the U.S. since this is the month we celebrate Independence Day.
THE PIONEERS AND COVENANTS. I also have a fascinating talk that my brother, an expert on pioneers, gave in his ward in Boise on the many little-known miraculous "coincidences" that all came together during the Mormon migration all across the country involving and interlinking the overland pioneers, the Ship Brooklyn pioneers, the California Gold Rush, and the Mormon Battlion. Certainly the pioneers are fabulous examples of covenant-keepers, and it is especially nice to talk about some different angles of the pioneer experience in July to commemorate the first pioneers reaching the Salt Lake Valley on July 24th (which is actually a state holiday in Utah). "A Table in the Wilderness" Similar information, including maps, can be found in the July 1997 Ensign.
THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND HARRY POTTER. I am going to start the discussion on covenants by asking why we call each other brothers and sisters in the Church. Is this really important? What does it actually mean? Assuming no one will have better than a vague answer, I'll ask them to hang onto that question. I'll introduce the topic of covenants, first explaining a present-day temporal covenant, such as Elder Nelson does in his talk. Then I'll switch to the gospel context (as he does).
Adam kept the laws of obedience and sacrifice and sacrificed animals, as did all the Old Testament saints as a part of a covenant with God. The purpose for this sacrificing was to keep the people always looking forward to Christ and his coming, remembering that if they kept their baptismal covenants (yes, Adam was baptized; Moses 6:64-65) of obeying the Lord and serving others (the two great commandments), the Lord will keep his covenant to sacrifice himself for their sins and for their resurrection. This covenant is still intact, only once Christ came, he changed the ordinance marking the covenant from one of sacrifice of animals to one of the sacrament (aren't we glad?), but the purpose was still the same: to keep our minds focused on the Atonement that has now already taken place.
The next great Old Testament covenant was the "everlasting covenant" made with Enoch, that when the people create a Zion on earth through their love and obedience, God will bring down the Zion in heaven and we will have one great joyful society. (Whether this is the Millenium or the final judgment, I'm not sure, but I lean toward the Millenium. Anyone who knows, leave a comment and a reference.) (See JST Gen. 9:21-25)
Then when Noah had to endure the flood, the Lord sent the rainbow (the "bow in the cloud") as a token or sign or reminder of this covenant that he had made with Noah's ancestor Enoch, not just as a promise that He wouldn't flood the earth again, but as an assurance that the covenant still stood. The promised blessing would still come to pass if the earth became more righteous. Every time we see a rainbow, we can be reminded that, just as the beautiful rainbow seems to form a bridge between earth and heaven, we will be joined here on earth by heaven if we can only form a true Zion society. (JST Gen. 9:21-25)
And one more very important covenant is the one that God made with Abraham to form the House of Israel, that through Abraham's seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed, as Elder Nelson outlines in his talk.
All of these covenants are in force again today, through the Restoration of the Gospel, and are collectively called "the new and everlasting covenant." We are all members of the House of Israel if we are members of the Church, or if we are not yet baptized but have been born into a temple-sealed family. Another way of saying House of Israel might be to say Family of Israel. This is why we call each other brother and sister in the Church. It reminds us that we are all in the same family, all on the same team, all with the same goal. Our mission is to bring the gospel to everyone in the world and in the Spirit World (through temple work), and to gather them all into the Family. The Lord's part of this covenant is that He will send His Son through this Family to atone for the sins of the world, He will multiply the Family of Israel and give them the privilege of the Priesthood, and He will promise them Eternal Life. That is us! And what is our part of the covenant? It is to spread the gospel through missionary work, Priesthood work (that includes Relief Society, under the umbrella of the Priesthood), and through temple work so that everyone on earth and in the Spirit World has the opportunity to join the House of Israel. When someone joins the Church, we immediately begin calling that person "sister" or "brother," don't we? They are now in the Family of Israel. We are not like other churches, in which you just go to church and you're friendly and helpful to others. We cannot be content to simply participate in church ourselves; we have a mission to bring others to the church. To be a member of the House of Israel means we have the "believing blood" and are quick to embrace the gospel, but it is not an elitist position: it is a service position. We are to use our faith to bring others to Christ and to strengthen their faith.
Our patriarchal blessings can serve as a sign, a reminder, and a guide to an individual's personal mission as a member of the House of Israel. (My patriarchal blessing, for example, tells me which branch of the House of Israel I am from so that I know my general mission is to spread the gospel, and it also tells me my individual instructions for fulfilling that mission, which include being a supportive wife, raising children in righteousness, teaching people to love the scriptures, and using music to further the work. This has been very useful instruction as I have made decisions in my life.)
Talking about the House of Israel reminds me of the Harry Potter books. In the Hogwarts School which Harry Potter attends, there are four "houses" which new students can be assigned to. It seems to be something of a destiny. As they go through the school year, students can win "points" for their houses in a competition with the other houses. At the end of the year, the house with the most points wins "the house cup" trophy.
In the family of God, however, there is only one House: The House of Israel. We are all members of this house. We are not competing against each other; we are all working together to win the great glory of eternal life. We cannot win it by doing well at others' expense, we do not win it by "winning," we win it only when we work together. All of the "points" we win go to the House of Israel, and when we have collected them all, we truly win.
For this July and August, for a fun summer project, our class will be having a House Cup contest. We will be trying to fulfill our roles as members of the House of Israel, and each Sunday I will have the class members report on what they have done in that role. This would include scripture study (addressed on the front page of this blog), family home evening, attendance at Sunday School, service in the Priesthood and YW, reaching out to nonmember, less-active, and even fully-active-but-needy friends, serving in the community, preparing for temple marriage, missions, and motherhood through church YM/YW programs. Anything the youth can report and link to their mission in the House of Israel, they will receive a "house point" for at the beginning of each class. I'll keep a running tally. I have a large class of 13 regularly-attending deacons and beehives. When they earn 500 points collectively, we will celebrate in the meetinghouse kitchen during Sunday School class with ice cream. I will display the "House Cup" (a large Gold Cup trophy borrowed from my daughter and temporarily re-labeled), and I will award them each individual candy sucker gold cup trophies using molds from a kitchen store I already have and a basic hard candy recipe. (If you want to go a simpler route, you could buy gold-colored paper cups at a party store, fill them with candy, and skip the ice cream. Or just make cupcakes in gold-foil liners.)
I know it sounds a little silly, but what I am hoping to accomplish by this is to help them understand
- their mission as members of the House of Israel
- the idea that we all are on the same team and we are asking others to join our team
- the specific things they can do to fulfill that role in their daily lives.
"..inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
"For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;
"Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment." (Moses 6:59-61)
The covenant of baptism opens the door for us to enter the Kingdom of God.
Once we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we are cleansed of our sins are given the power to make correct choices. Baptism is never complete with the receipt of the Holy Ghost. Joseph Smith said: “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half -- that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” [History of the Church 5:499] Each time we repent of a new sin, we again are filled with the Spirit and cleansed of our sins. (Notice that in the New Testament, whenever Jesus healed a person physically, he first pronounced their sins forgiven. The presence of the Holy Ghost used for the healing proves that the sins have been forgiven as well. God cannot dwell in an unclean temple, and the Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead. Bruce R. McConkie taught this principle clearly. If I can find the reference, I'll link it. Check back.)
As we act upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost more and more often in our lives, we become more and more like Christ and receive "grace for grace." The Atonement also gives us power to accomplish those things we need to but which are actually too hard for us, and to overcome those bits of "baggage" (damage caused by our earthly experiences) that weigh us down. Sanctification, therefore, is not a one-time event, but a life-long process.
Of course, the U.S. flag, the Russian flag and many other countries' flags are blue, white and red, and could be used for room decoration, and as a visual aid. The more senses that are involved in a lesson, the more the students are likely to remember.
Red, white and blue jelly beans would be a good sensory reinforcement of this concept. A simple healthy snack would be red apples sliced horizontally with a large blueberry over the seed core of the slice, stuck there with a dollop of cream cheese. Or if you have plenty of grocery money or a great garden, you could serve strawberries and blueberries with whipped cream, or any number of other red, white and blue treats.
OBJECT LESSON ON TEMPLE SEALING:
Have several paper clips lying on the table. With a magnet, pick one up. Touch that paper clip to another paper clip and they should stick together. You will probably be able to pick up three paper clips touching each other in a line until the magnetism is too weak to pick up another and it will drop. This symbolizes family members (paper clips) and earthlife (magnet). While we are here on earth, we are connected, father to son to grandson, but it is not permanent. Eventually one family member dies and the link is broken. The bond is not strong enough. It is simply "till death do you part."
Then pick up the paper clips again, but this time link them together instead of relying just upon the magnet. This symbolizes our temple covenants. It doesn't matter whether we have the magnet anymore. The bond cannot be broken, and it can be linked back generations and forward generations with no fear of a break.