Feast upon the Word Blog

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RS/MP Chapter 21: Loving God More Than We Love the World (Lorenzo Snow Manual)

Posted by Robert C. on November 8, 2013

This week, I will skip the “From the Life of” section, but make comments on each of the other sections. The lesson can be found online here.

When people allow worldliness to pervade their minds and hearts, they turn their backs on eternal principles.

Lorenzo Snow discusses “a spirit of speculation” in several parts of this section. I think interesting analogies could be drawn between the kind of speculation that occurred during the times Pres. Snow is referring to (in his past and present) and the kinds of speculation that occurred during the recent financial crisis triggered by certain kinds of speculation or speculation-like positions taken by banks in the subprime housing market.

However, I’m not sure what the point of this kind of discussion would be. That is, even though these past parallels are interesting, I’m having a hard time seeing any particularly interesting relation to the kinds of present challenges that I understand members in my elders quorum to be facing. So, I’m going to focus more on the parts of this section where President Snow talks about the state of harmony and blessedness that occurred just prior to this apostasy. Starting at the bottom of page 250, we read the following:

Just previous to this great apostasy the Lord had poured out wonderful blessings upon the people. The gifts of the Gospel had been poured out to a remarkable extent—the riches of eternity. . . . They felt that they were dwelling almost in the presence of God, and it was natural that they should have that feeling under such marvelous influences.

All these blessings, and many others that I have not time to enumerate, were enjoyed by the Latter-day Saints just previous to the time when this spirit of speculation began to pervade the hearts of the people. One would have imagined that after receiving these wonderful manifestations no temptation could have overthrown the Saints. But it did, and it scattered them, as it were, to the four winds. (pp. 250-251)

Some questions: Have you had periods of your life where you felt humble and blessed followed by a period of either pride or less spiritual attunement? Why are periods of humility and spiritual attunement so difficult to maintain? How can maintain spiritual attunement better? What does the Book of Mormon teach us about this spiritual cycle?

Next, I find it fascinating that the manual mentions a time when half of the Quorum of the 12 “feel beneath these evil influences [of speculation]” (p. 251). I’m disinclined to bring this topic up with my particular quorum, but this topic makes me more motivated to develop my own spiritual understanding of the Gospel, apart from anything like a blind trust in Church leaders, whether at the local level or higher up.

Finally, I like the final passage of this section:

The Latter-day Saints ought to be too far along in wisdom and intelligence to fall into snares of this character. It does not pay. It will pay no man to turn his back upon these glorious principles and those things which have been received from the eternal worlds—to turn our backs upon these things and mix up and devote ourselves to the beggarly things of the world. It will not pay us. Whatever temptation may come upon us or to which we are now exposed we should listen to the history of the past and not allow ourselves to be overcome, or we will much regret it.

The end-of-chapter question for this section strikes me as a bit bland, though it might work in some classes: How can our love of God help us avoid being overcome by worldliness? Here are some other question ideas: Pres. Snow claims that snares of this world don’t pay. But they do pay sometimes, don’t they? Isn’t it the “payoff” that makes worldly temptations attractive? In what sense, then, should we understand Pres. Snow’s comment, that worldliness doesn’t pay? What does Pres. Snow mean when he says “we should listen to the history of the past”? What lessons should we learn from history, and how can we learn these lessons?

My own responses to these questions would tend toward the following. First, regarding worldliness, I am at a point in my life where it is rather obvious to me that worldly successes are very shallow compared to meaningful relationships, esp. with family and ward members. Second, regarding the lessons of history, I think secular history is interesting and instructive, but it pales in comparison to what we can learn from the scriptures. References back to the exodus out of Egypt are frequently used in the Book of Mormon to remind the people to focus on Christ, as symbolized by the serpent in the wilderness. So, my inclination would be to steer this discussion toward the importance of making time to ponder the Gospel and to ponder the scriptures in particular. My sense is that finding time for this sort of pondering and reflection is the biggest challenge we face in our fast-paced, modern lives.

We have covenanted to separate ourselves from worldliness and devote ourselves to the kingdom of God.

The opening sentence of this section is powerful: “The god of the world is the gold and the silver. The world worships this God.” How does money work as the god of this world? What does it mean to worship money? As a husband, father and provider, it strikes me as a fine line between properly attending to my work responsibilities and financial matters in my family and letting these concerns detract from my focus on spiritual matters? What is this line and how can we avoid crossing to the wrong side of it?

I thank God that in these times of corruption and wickedness in the world, we have holy and righteous men and women who can devote those superior talents which God has bestowed upon them to His praise and glory. (p. 253)

What does it mean to devote our talents to God’s praise and glory? Can you give some specific examples of how you are or could be doing this?

We follow the Savior’s example when we refuse to trade the glories of eternity for the riches of the world.

I like the contrast highlighted in this section between the way the world measures success and the way that God looks upon us.

The gospel binds together the hearts of all its adherents, it makes no difference, it knows no difference between the rich and the poor; we are all bound as one individual to perform the duties which devolve upon us. . . . (p. 254)

And, later:

Who shall say that the rich, or those that possess many talents, have any better hope or prospect to inherit these blessings than the poor, or those who have but one talent? As I understand it, the man who works in the shop, whether as tailor, carpenter, shoemaker or in any other industrial department, and who lives according to the law of the Gospel, and is honest and faithful in his calling, that man is just as eligible to the receiving of these and all the blessings of the New and Everlasting Covenant as any other man. . . . (p. 255)

What are some differences in the way that the world measures success and the way that God looks upon us? Are there correlations between righteousness and worldly success? How should these correlations affect the way we interact with those of varying degrees of worldly success?

In answer to these questions, I have seen statistical correlations between certain traits befitting of a disciple of Christ and worldly success. Just the other day I saw research showing that humble leaders tend to be more successful. However, we are commanded not to judge others. And the reasons for this should be obvious: first, there are many, many exceptions to the rule; second, we never know the particular circumstances someone has been through; third, only God has sufficient love and understanding to judge others. I’m purposely tackling this somewhat controversial or at least provocative topic regarding the correlation between righteousness and success because I think it’s a rather common problem, and the particulars of the problem are often not reckoned. The reason is, I believe, because this correlation is often recognized by people but it is not explicitly acknowledged. By acknowledging this correlation, and deconstructing the false logic that leads toward judgmental attitudes, I am hoping the problem can be addressed better.

Finally, I like the following quote about seeking first the kingdom of God:

The fact that that law requires us to seek first the kingdom of God, and that our time, talent and ability must be held subservient to its interest [see Matthew 6:33; 3 Nephi 13:33]. (p. 254).

What does it mean for us to hold our our time, talent and abilities subservient to the kingdom of God?

The world we live in is a worldly place. The challenge of living in the world but not being worldly is, I think, an extremely difficult challenge. It requires more than just avoiding worldly “sins,” like being dishonest or breaking one of the commandments. Rather, I think the harder challenge is to find time in our lives to focus our attention on spiritual things. Even when we are busy with Church-related activities, I find it tempting to think and talk about worldly things like sports or politics or the news rather than more important topics. To focus on the spiritual development of my kids, or the needs of my wife that I should be attending to better, or certain topics and questions that have arisen in my prayers or scripture study. In my experience, these are the more important spiritual kinds of things that the world is most successful at crowding out.

3 Responses to “RS/MP Chapter 21: Loving God More Than We Love the World (Lorenzo Snow Manual)”

  1. Jodee said

    Love this. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing. I had a thought. It has been said by prophets of old and in times anew, while it is still called today to prepare to meet God, for once this day of mortality and probation is gone, where we find ourselves are by those things we laid our hearts upon, so true too, that which we loved. Are we building eternal and lasting treasures in heaven or on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt? What we inherit is that which we thought and acted upon. Do we love the things of God which are not of this world, or rather, the things of heaven?

  3. Cindy said

    I’m teaching this lesson tomorrow and just wanted to say thanks for your outline. I have really struggled with this, knowing from the beginning that I didn’t want to go too much into the historical aspect but not entirely sure how to shape the lesson. I appreciate your thoughts!!

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