RS/MP Lesson 01: “Our Heavenly Father” (Gospel Principles Manual)
Posted by BrianJ on January 3, 2010
As discussed in a previous post, I tried to create lesson notes/questions that explore what we, as individuals, believe and importantly why we do. I’ll stress that I prepared these notes with teaching in Relief Society or Melchizedek Priesthood in mind, not teaching the Gospel Essentials class for new members. But first, a little redlining:
The revisions made seem minor to me. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:
- The title switched from “Our Father in Heaven” to “Our Heavenly Father.”
- God now referred to as “the Supreme Being” instead of “the one Supreme Being.”
- Altered phrasing of God having a “body that looks like ours” to state that “our bodies are like His body.”
Two changes that are somewhat significant are:
- Added a quote by Joseph Smith where he described God as “the Great Parent of the universe….”
- Deleted the words “a god” from the phrase “…to help His children become like Him—a god.”
Why are those last two significant? The first is pretty straightforward: in a lesson about Our Heavenly Father, now we have a quote that emphasizes his fatherly nature. The second, I think, is less clear. Why would “a god” get dropped in the revision? Some reasons could be:
- Because this is a lesson about Heavenly Father, not about deification, exaltation, etc., so this phrase is a distraction.
- Because this doctrine is kinda…”big stuff,” and might be too shocking to new members (for whom this manual was primarily written). (Note: I don’t buy this explanation for one moment: the new members already heard this during the discussions.)
- To avoid the distraction of distinguishing between capital ‘G’ “God” and lowercase ‘g’ “god.”
- The difference between focusing on a title versus a state of being; becoming a god versus being like God:
Can we behave “like God” today? Can we be “a god” today?
If you’re like God, does it really matter how you’re labeled or what title you carry?
Why would you want to be a god? Why would you want to be like God?
Now for lesson notes.
What are some things that testify to you that there is a God?
What a great opening question (straight from the manual)! But without follow-up questions, it falls flat. I want to know why someone views a particular thing as evidence of God. For example, if Alma were in my class, I’d ask him why he views planetary motion as evidence of God. Lots of atheists, including 46% of astronomers, are not swayed by the same observations. Why aren’t they? If the “stars and planets…did not get there by chance,” as the manual states, then does any natural phenomenon happen by chance? e.g., the carving of the grand canyon, or the restriction of lemurs to Madagascar, or the assortment of genes that gave me green eyes and my brother blue eyes, or the pattern the leaves made when they fell on my lawn this fall? How does one distinguish between something that occurred by chance and one where God directly intervened? i.e., does the pattern of leaves on my lawn testify that there is a God? If something about you occurred by chance, does that diminish your importance in God’s eyes or your potential? (Note: I focused on this answer as an example for follow-up questions because it was the example I had, not because I think it is more appropriate or correct than other answers. In fact, the most appropriate answer to discuss is whatever answer(s) your class members give.)
What does it mean that “God created man in his own image and likeness”?
What is God’s image? Is this meant literally or figuratively or both? (A literal reading would be that we look like God whereas a figurative reading might take “image” to mean that we reflect God in some way—his attributes, responsibilities, or potential.) Are there scriptures that support whichever answer you chose? (e.g., Moses 2:26 supports—or at least fits with—a figurative reading, where “dominion over all life” might be read as expounding on “image/likeness”.) Why do you care that you look similar to God—would he love you less, or you him, if you looked nothing alike? Why does God want us to be like him?
Does God have a pancreas?
Does God have arms? eyes? lungs? a pancreas? blood? Why would or wouldn’t he need those organs? Why do you care that God has a tangible body? Assuming he could still love, guide, and protect you without a body, what difference would it make if he were only spirit? (It might be interesting to keep any spirit-only negative responses in mind for a future discussion on the Holy Ghost—lesson 07.) What does knowing that God has a body teach us about our own bodies (despite knowing very little about God’s body)?
Is God limited or self-limiting?
The manual states that God “has all power”; what does that mean? That he has all types of power or that all powers flow from him? Can God do anything? (A simple way to derail this question is to parry with some nonsensical response like, “create a rock so heavy he can’t lift it.” That line of discussion is, from my point of view, just silly. What follows are more serious questions to get to the point.) Can God force you to love or obey him? Can he renege on his promises? Can he create matter? Can he create spirits? Does God refrain from doing these things (i.e., he could but forever chooses not to) or are they actually impossible for him?