RS/MP Chapter 15: Faithful, Energetic Service in the Kingdom of God (Lorenzo Snow Manual)
Posted by Robert C. on August 8, 2013
First, as the dog days of summer drag on, it might be good to start your lesson (or lesson prep) off with a Lorenzo Snow cone. Enjoy.
From the Life of Lorenzo Snow
I really like the opening vignette for this lesson relating how Pres. Snow (Elder Snow back then) got caught in Malta (check here for a little background) and basically decided to make lemonade (another good dog-days treat…). Here is the key quote:
Rather than complain about the delay, he decided to go to work. In a letter dated March 10, 1852, he wrote, “I feel that much good will result from the manner in which the Lord may direct the employment of the time now at my command, as I am surrounded by an interesting people, and in a most important field of labour, where a great work will be accomplished, extending to adjacent nations.” [p. 183]
Also, the conclusion is worth adding:
Elder Snow never realized his dream of serving in India and circumnavigating the globe. Instead, he diligently followed the will of the Lord during his unexpected stay in Malta, building a foundation for missionary work there. When he was finally able to board a ship in May 1852, he went west rather than east, following his leaders’ instructions to return to Salt Lake City. About two months later, Elders Woodard and Obray organized a branch of the Church in Malta. [p. 184]
I think this part of the manual’s Question #1 for this quote is nice: What words would you use to describe Lorenzo Snow’s attitude about serving the Lord? I also plan to invite my quorum members to share experiences—either positive or negative—that they have had or witnessed where life threw lemons and the response to those lemons was interesting, noteworthy, or instructive.
Because we have received . . . we serve
In the next section, I like the following quote at the very end of the section, explaining that we are “answerable for our individual acts and for the manner in which we use the talents and ability the Lord has given us” (p. 185).
Again, the manual suggests a nice question here. From Question #2: “What does it mean to you to be an ambassador of Christ?” I’d change the wording a bit of the first part of Question #2. Instead of “Why do you think membership in the Church brings such great responsibilities?” I would ask what responsibilities membership in the Church brings, and then add “why” as a follow-up question.
I have always felt rather moved by the “where much is given much is required” scriptures (Luke 12:48; D&C 82:3), and I think that it would be time well spent to give class members a chance to reflect, privately and aloud, on what we have been given (on this earth, in our wards, in our families, in our cities and country, etc.) and what ways we can give back.
Membership . . . is a call to help others
I like the following quote:
The design of the Lord was to bless not only him and his posterity, but all the families of the earth. . . . When Jesus came, He came as a sacrifice not simply in the interest of Israel, or the posterity of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but in the interest of the whole human family. . . . [p. 186]
Part of what I like about this quote is the idea of universality here. I think a good question for this quote might be something like the following: The Gospel is for everyone. How (and why) does this compare or contrast with worldly norms or institutions? The aim of this question would be to get class members to think about the various ways that we tend to discriminate, whether by race, gender, age, ability, looks, etc. In my ward, and in most parts of Mormondom, I suspect these last two categories (ability and looks) are the most widespread bases for hurtful discrimination.
Every calling and responsibility is important
Two quotes from this section stand out to me. The first:
I am sometimes led to believe that some of our brethren, Elders in Israel, are too ready and willing to shirk the obligations they are under by reason of their covenants, the faith they once possessed seems to be almost exhausted, and they appear to settle down into the quiet satisfaction of a mere nominal membership in the Church. [p. 186]
Here’s a brainstorm of questions for this quote: In what ways are we prone to “settle down into . . . mere nominal membership”? Why? What are some signs or symptoms of this kind of settling? What is a cure for this kind of settling? What is the opposite of this problem, and how do we get there?
Second money quote for this section:
There are others who think . . . if they belonged to the Quorum of the Twelve, or were they President of the High Council, or of the High Priests or Seventies, then they would consider it important how they conducted themselves. [p. 187]
Here, I’d be inclined to ask a question such as the following: If you were Bishop (or Relief Society President), do you think it would change the way you acted, apart from your specific calling-related responsibilities? How and why? I’d ask this question with a knowing, mischievous smile—after all, we all know that it shouldn’t matter, and yet I think we all know that it would matter.
When we serve God with . . . cheerfulness, He strengthens us
I like the first paragraph of this section:
I say, let men serve God faithfully and energetically, and be cheerful. . . . There are times when persons are brought into conditions where it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to assume a cheerful aspect. But such times are very few.
I think Question #5 is a nice, simple, and yet evocative question: In what ways do faith, energy, and cheerfulness influence our service?
My own sense is that we, as Mormons, are prone to let martyr-like attitudes infect our Church service. Guilt is perhaps the most common motivator in the Church. And, somewhat ironically, I think that oftentimes those in the Church who are the most susceptible to feelings of guilt are the most obedient and active members of the Church. This can be problematic, of course, and it’s a problem that I think would be very productive and cathartic to discuss in a classroom setting.
I often find that in my efforts to serve “energetically and faithfully,” I fail to serve “cheerfully.” Do any of you face the same challenge? Why do you think that is? What advice do you have for me?
The work . . . is sometimes difficult, but it brings great joy
I think this section of the lesson nicely bring the themes above full circle. In the previous section, I asked about the challenge of serving cheerfully. This section offers comforting words in a way that should help the lesson end on a positive note, with words of assurance, and a reminder of Pres. Snow’s example of making lemonade out of lemons when he was stuck in Malta.
If we serve God properly, we should be happy and cheerful, at least generally. If we are not happy and cheerful, it stands to reason that we are either not serving God, or we are not serving God properly. I often struggle to keep my heart in the right place, and so my efforts to serve do not always yield joy. But recognizing this lack of joy has itself been a blessing, since it has helped me to repent of whatever it is that is troubling my heart, which is usually some sort of pride or ingratitude. After repenting, I have inevitably experienced the joy of service that President Snow describes.
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