Feast upon the Word Blog

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RS/MP Lesson 2: “Our Heavenly Family” (Part 1)

Posted by Robert C. on January 9, 2010

(This is the first of 3 parts for Lesson #2 from the Gospel Principles manual on “Our Heavenly Family.” These notes are primarily aimed at supplementing study for MP/RS lessons. You can find Part 2 here.)

Preliminaries. I am a young father—not that I am particularly young (got married relatively late), but my oldest child is only 4 years old. The newness of the tremendous responsibility of being a father has not warn off. I am intimidated by the responsibility, and pray that my efforts and desires will not be in vain. More than anything else right now, this desire to be a good father motivates everything I do, from my efforts at work to provide for my family, to my dedication to Church activity, to my efforts at this blog and elsewhere to understand this world that I have brought my kids (3 now!) into.

For these reasons, the metaphor of a family is particularly powerful to me at this stage of my life. Thinking about God as my Heavenly Father, having the same kinds of concerns, desires, worries, hopes, pleadings, etc. that I have with my kids, is poignant.

Now, on to the lesson material itself. I follow several scripturally-based tangents below, but I really only focus on reading three key scriptural passages, one for each section of the lesson. I choose the scriptures and tangents in order to lead up to a culminating point at the end of the lesson in Part 3.

Also, I recommend using these notes only as background study to help teachers come up with their own lesson plan, hopefully to help facilitate the free flow and promptings of the Spirit for each particular class. (Besides, I probably have more than enough material here for, say, a 90+ minute lesson!)

PART 1. We Are Children of Our Heavenly Father

Question (straight from the manual): What do scriptures and latter-day prophets teach us about our relationship to God?

Key scripture: Hebrews 12:5-11. I think the best scripture cited in the lesson on this topic (see the “Additional Scriptures” section in the manual) is Hebrews 12:9. However, I think it is worth studying this verse in its larger context, starting with verses 5-6:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Question: What does “chastening” and “scourgeth” mean here?

I find the word “scourgeth” here quite striking. The Greek term here is mastigoo which is the same word used to describe the “flogging” (NRSV, NET, etc.) of Christ in John 19:1 (the NET note for this verse has a rather graphic description of the Roman practice of mastigoo). This serves as a reminder to me that the scriptures were written in a different time and place, when corporal punishment of children was probably the norm. I’ve struggled with this issue myself, as our first child is particularly stubborn. Spanking is a hot-button topic, so I don’t really recommend bringing this topic up in class, but thinking about my own struggles regarding this question of knowing the appropriate ways, degrees and manner to punish a child has important implications for how I think about our Heavenly Father’s similar predicament with us. (Note: the phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” is Biblical, Prov 23:13 being one of the starker formulations. I think we misinterpret the spirit of this verse if, say, we simply use it as a justification for spanking, or something, but this point is already too tangential.)

Moving on to verses 7-8:

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Question: Why does the word “if” show up in these verses?

Actually, the “if” in verse 7 does not show up in modern translations (“endure” is translated as a present imperative—see here). But the conditional in verse 8 cannot be so easily dismissed (see alternate modern translations here). Note also how strong the language is here, esp. in the KJV! (If “illegitimate sons” is a common translation if you do not feel comfortable using the term “bastards” in class.)

Elder Nelson on conditional love. I think this verse raises a very important theological point: typically, we think of our Heavenly Father as our father, who is loves us and is related to us as our father unconditionally. However, this scripture suggests something different. Elder Nelson taught something similar in a 2003 Ensign article titled “Divine Love.” Elder Nelson claims (controversially—this article was heatedly discussed at the time, in the Bloggernacle and elsewhere!):

While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures. On the other hand, many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us—and certain divine blessings stemming from that love—are conditional.

Elder Nelson goes on to cite several scriptural examples of conditional love, not unlike this passage in Hebrews that we are reading.

Nephi and covenantal love. Lest Elder Nelson’s point be taken to an extreme position, beyond what I believe he intended, it might be useful to review Nephi’s teaching on the matter in 1 Nephi 17:34-38. Nephi asks the question in verse 34,

Do ye suppose that our fathers would have been more choice than they if they had been righteous?

Question: What do you think Nephi answered?

The answer is “nay” (v. 35), which is perhaps surprising in light of Elder Nelson’s teaching on the matter. But Nephi goes on to explain himself, and he actually uses the term “love” in a conditional way—similar to Elder Nelson—in verse 40:

And he loveth those who will have him to be their God.

I understand this use of the term “love” to be covenantal. A great article explaining this use of the term (along with the term “hate” as it is used in Helaman 15:4, “the Lamanites hath he [God] hated because their deeds have been evil continually”) is David Bokovoy’s article “Love vs. Hate” (Insights v 22 n 2).

Back to Hebrews. Let’s now finish the Hebrews 12:5-11 passage by looking at verses 9-11:

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

I think this is a gloriously inspiring passage pertaining to adversity and patience.

In the next part of the lesson we will continue by seeing how the conditional aspect of God’s love for us, as covenantal children, can be seen in the (so-called) pre-mortal plan.

26 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 2: “Our Heavenly Family” (Part 1)”

  1. J. Madson said

    Robert C.

    Im curious why you think these scriptures imply God’s love is conditional. While they state that God loves those he chastens, he loves those that have him as his God, but do they imply he doesnt love those who dont fall into these categories? Is there any scripture that says God does not love a certain set of people?

  2. BrianJ said

    I really like where you go in this lesson. J Madson brings up an important point, however.

    My thoughts are that we have to discuss what God’s love is—what it “looks like.” If I tell you that I love you and yet do nothing for you, you would say that my love isn’t real. Likewise, I can say that I “love” all people in the world, but since I have absolutely no contact whatsoever with someone in say, Mongolia, my global love assertion is rather empty. So what does it mean to say that God’s love is “unconditional” and then (in another lesson, no doubt) to talk of those spirits relegated forever to outer darkness?

  3. PDeverit said

    There have been official LDS statements on “spanking” and the “rod” references. Additionally, BYU School of Family Life publications use these statements to try to teach people why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea.
    The Presidents of the Church have repeatedly counseled members against this practice, many have ignored or chosen to wrest this scripture to justify it.

    “I have never accepted the principle of “spare the rod and spoil the child.” I will be forever grateful for a father who never laid upon his children. Somehow he had the wonderful talent to let them know what was expected of them and to give them encouragement in achieving it.I am satisfied that such punishment in most instances does more damage than good.I recently read a biography of George H. Brimhall, who at one time served as president of Brigham Young University. Concerning him, someone said that he reared “his boys with a rod, but it [was] a fishing rod” (Raymond Brimhall Holbrook and Esther Hamilton Holbrook, TheTall Pine Tree: The Life and Work of George H. Brimhall, n.p., 1988, p. 62). That says it all.”
    General Conference 1994, Gordon B. Hinckley, “Save the Children,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 52

    Church magazines: You have said that your father never laid a hand on any of his children when disciplining them. 4

    President Hinckley: That’s right. I don’t believe that children need to be beaten, or anything of that kind. Children can be disciplined with love. They can be counseled—if parents would take the time to sit down quietly and talk with them. Tell them the consequences of misbehaving, of not doing things in the right way. The children would be better off, and I think everyone would be happier.

    My father never touched us. He had a wisdom all his own of quietly talking with us. He turned us around when we were moving in the wrong direction. I’ve never been a believer in the physical punishment of children. I don’t think it is necessary.

    Church magazines: Sister Hinckley, you have said that “you don’t teach a child not to hit by hitting.” 5

    “At Home with the Hinckleys,” Liahona, Oct 2003, 32

    “It is not by the whip or the rod that we can make obedient children; but it is by faith and by prayer, and by setting a good example before them (DNW, 9 Aug. 1865, 3).”

    “Although it is written that, “The rod and reproof give wisdom; but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame [Proverbs 29:15],” and, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes [Proverbs 13:24];” these quotations refer to … wise and prudent corrections. Children who have lived in the sunbeams of parental kindness and affection, when made aware of a parent’s displeasure, and receive a kind reproof from parental lips, are more thoroughly chastened than by any physical punishment that could be applied to their persons (DNW, 7 Dec. 1864, 2)…….”

    -Teachings of the Presidents of the Church,Chapter 46, Parental Responsibility, Brigham Young.

    “Use no lash and no violence, but … approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned. 11”
    “Chapter 28: The Wrongful Road of Abuse,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 249

    There are several more, but I think these references should suffice.

    Also refer to BYU School of Family Life’s publication “Helping and Healing Our Families”, or Glenn Latham’s “Christlike Parenting” for further references.

  4. PDeverit said

    In addition, some clinical information:

    People used to think it was necessary to “spank” adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual assault if a person over the age of 18 is “spanked”, but only if over the age of 18.

    For one thing, buttock-battering can vibrate the pudendal nerve, which can lead to sexual arousal. There are numerous other physiological ways in which it can be sexually abusive, but I won’t list them all here. One can use the resources I’ve posted if they want to learn more.

    Child bottom-battering/slapping vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child bottom-battering (euphemistically labeled “spanking”,”swatting”,”switching”,”smacking”, “paddling”,or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like “Supernanny” and “Dr. Phil” are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit http://www.nospank.net.

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    American Psychological Association,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  5. KirkC said

    PDeverit, a few questions:

    -How would you back your no spanking policy with scripture? I did not see any verses in either of your posts.

    -God is the perfect parent, and our greatest example. With this in mind, how do we reconcile non-violence while disciplining our own children, with a God who is always dealing with his children in violent ways? God is always loving, and gives his children chance after chance, however, at a certain point, he sends destruction/famine upon nations. If we are not supposed to follow God in this way, then what does it say about his parenting methods, and is he still the perfect example of a parent if there are things he does which we should never do?

    I do no disagree with you as much as I am uncomfortable with such a passionate post not citing scripture or using our own Heavenly Father as an example of parenthood.

    I would be interested to hear your responses to the above inquires.

  6. joespencer said

    Incidentally, I think Ranciere, in the first chapter of The Ignorant Schoolmaster, does a nice job of making sense of the “spare the rod, spoil the child” business. To “spare the rod,” for Ranciere, is to replace education with explanation, and so to give the child to understand that s/he cannot understand without being explained to. To discipline “with the rod” is to be a master without imposing a hierarchy of intelligences.

    In other words, it is less a question of physical punishment than it is a question of sharp, non-explicative punishment that sets the child’s intelligence to work: not “Here are all the reasons, son, you can’t do that”; but a swift placement of the child in his room that thus forces the child to begin thinking about what isn’t working in the situation.

    So far as God’s conditional/unconditional love goes, aren’t we simply working with two notions of love here? I think Elder Nelson is right to caution against a blandly liberal image of God as the figure of unconditional love, where that image gives us a God who doesn’t really care about sin, or who will judge us mercifully, etc. On the other hand, we have got to recognize that we are nonetheless saved by grace, and by grace alone. Hence, we are right to militate also against the image of God as the figure of conditional love, where that image gives us a God who holds out against human beings until they comply with certain standards.

    Might we then take Elder Nelson’s point to be something like “to sin is less to reject God than it is to reject God’s love“? That, I think, is how I read him.

    At any rate, great post, Robert. Keep the other parts coming….

  7. Robert C. said

    J. Madson #1, you make a good point, Nephi stating God loves those who “will have him to be their God” does not imply God does not love those who do not. On the other hand, I think the asymmetric wording in passages such as 1 Ne 17:40 is conspicuous and we need to be careful not to reduce the meaning of these passages to insignificance (if God loves the disobedient as much as the obedient, what’s the meaning and significance of phrases such as 1 Ne 17:40??).

    In the end, I think Nephi’s theological view ont this is pretty clear: God “esteemeth flesh in one,” and all are equally “choice” in God’s eyes; nevertheless, “he that is righteous is favored.” This seems consistent with the politico-covenantal language in Helaman 15:4, as Bokovoy talks about. I appreciate Elder Nelson’s provocative and scripturally-based article because it has forced me to rethink all of this quite carefully.

    PDeverit #3-#4, thanks for posting these Pres. Hinckley quotes in particular. One of the virtues of having modern prophets is that they help us navigate this tricky path of being faithful to the truths in scripture, but also recognizing the cultural changes and improvements from scripturall to modern times. I take the force of President Hinckely’s statements as a reminder that scriptural use of a particular cultural metaphor like corporal punishment is not (esp. in this case) an endorsement of that cultural practice.

    Kirk #5, yes, this is the tension I was hoping to bring to the surface. I believe we often give ourselves too easy of outs when reading scripture by glossing them with easy and unthinking (and vainly repetitious) interpretations. My strong belief is that careful and faithful study will not justify either unrighteous-dominion-like punishment, nor lackadaisical parenting.

    Joe #6, fantastic (Rancierean) interpretation of “spare the rod, spoil the child.” To employ the rod in discipline is to give consistent consequences but to respect children’s agency, not getting angry and upset when a child misbehaves, but appreciating the fact that they are working through a learning process that we all must go through. Hmmm, definitely worth pondering….

  8. NathanG said

    I’ve been thinking lately about being children or sons of God. We believe we are spiritually begotten children of the Father, and as such I believe that the Father has an unconditional love for his spirit children.

    However, the are numerous scriptures that talk about becoming songs of God or children of Christ. This parent/child relationship comes by accepting Christ and through righteous living. I think if we put this discussion of conditional love into this context, we may come to better conclusions about what God’s love for us is like.

  9. […] RS/MP Lesson 2: “Our Heavenly Family” (Part 1) […]

  10. BrianJ said

    Nathan: “We believe we are spiritually begotten children of the Father, and as such I believe that the Father has an unconditional love for his spirit children.”

    But what does “spiritually begotten” mean? And are there any scriptures that say we (not only Christ) are “begotten” of the Father? And whatever you think “spiritually begotten” means, why does that automatically equate to unconditional love?

  11. NathanG said

    I can’t say why I chose to add “begotten”. I was using it to refer to a heavenly parent of spirits. The Family proclamations states:

    “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” (I’ll throw in that I don’t know why it is heavely parents as opposed to Heavenly Parents or “of our Heavenly Father.”)

    The church’s website has under Gospel Topics, God the Father, additional information
    “We are all literally children of God, spiritually begotten in the premortal life. As His children, we can be assured that we have divine, eternal potential and that He will help us in our sincere efforts to reach that potential.”

    As far as the scriptures, it is hard to find scriptures that unequivocally talk about us as spirit children of the Father as opposed to having reference to a parent child relationship with the Son. However, I think Romans 8:14,16-17 talks about both relationships. In verse 14 we are sons of God if we are led by the Spirit of God. In verse 16-17 we are initially similar to Christ in potential, we are the children of God and so we are heirs of God. Then to meet that potential we have a conditional clarification, “if so be that we suffer with him”

    I recognize there are other references to “spiritually begotten” in the scriptures, such as in Mosiah 5:7 at the conclusion of King Benjamin’s address where they enter a covenant and describe their change of heart. This is a conditional parent/child relationship.

    Does the statement that we are spiritually begotten children of the Father automatically equiate to unconditional love? Probably not from a purely logical standpoint, that’s just what I believe. There is nothing enticing to me as an imperfect man to draw me towards a Father that doesn’t love me until I love him or obey him. I think he loves us first. If he doesn’t love us, at what point did he stop loving us? When we first came to the earth? When we first sinned?

    I guess a further question I have is what is unconditional love? Does this mean “God loves all people in this world equally regardless of faith or action” (There is nothing I can do to make God love me more)? Or “God does not stop loving people based on their actions.” (I can not be so bad to make God stop loving me.) When I think of unconditional love, I think of the second. No matter how bad I get, God still loves me.

  12. AdamB said

    Great post. I wonder why we relate Hebrews 12:7-8 about conditional love? As I understand sonship in biblical times, it is a title or privlage that that a slave or servant can be bestowed upon by a master. Usually this is given to those who recipicate that love, and loyalty to the master, and have grown in experience in the master’s affairs. Thus once sonship is given he has the right to act in the mater’s name, and administer the master’s business as he seems fit.
    Perhaps with this understanding, the author is saying that this “sonship” does not come without growth, grooming,experience, loyalty and our own willingness to recipercate Christ’s love. Because it is only through this process that we can confidently administer his business among our family, ward, and community.
    Thus we become like him, with the legal right to act in his name. This is a greater developed relationship, but I am not sure if I can say this means God loves me more because of it, rather I as a son have developed that love to create a more intement relationship.
    From this perspective I am not sure how conditional love fits into this. I may be missing something and pulling this out of its context.

  13. Robert C. said

    Nathan (esp. #11),

    I think these are all great questions and points you raise. I wrestle with several of them in the subsequent part to this lesson. Utimately, I think you are write—as 1 John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us. In this sense of agapao, I think God’s love for us is unconditional. In Hebrew, perhaps there’s a distinction that could be made between chashaq, such as it is used in Deut 7:7 (“the Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number”), as opposed to `ahab, such as it is used in Lev 19:34 (“thous shalt love [the stranger] as thyself”), presumably in an uncondtional way. This is something I definitely want to study and think about more….

    Adam #12, thanks for raising this point about the ancient practice and rights associated with sonship. Indeed, I think it is in this sense that Elder Nelson means God’s love is conditional: in a certain sense, it seems he loves us unconditionally, but not all will inherit all that he has, so being sons and daughters in this inheriting sense, is very much conditional. But I don’t want to gloss the tension that Elder Nelson brings to the fore too easily, and I think it’s worth thinking quite seriously about the ways in which we show both unconditional and conditional love (i.e., discipline) to our children, and others.

  14. J. Madson said

    I wonder if one of the problems we have in discussing God’s love is that we think of God as someone giving out gifts or cookies. I personally believe that all justice is simply the law of the harvest and that God’s conditional love as people describe it, is simply the fact that God cannot turn us into something we are not without violating our eternal soul.

    I personally believe God has unconditional love for all of his children and that the blessings which are conditional are conditional not because of some arbitrariness or choice in God but the very nature of the universe and creation. This is the justice Alma speaks of in Alma 41 which he defines as restoration. This is also why I think we go so very wrong in many of our atonement theories. We have this keen sense of justice and conditional love that we place in the personage of God which leads to all sorts of violent atonement theories more akin to paganism than any christianity.

    God rains on the just and unjust. He seems to love everyone, if Jesus is believed, and any blessing, reward, inheritance or love that seems to be denied upon certain conditions, in my view, stems from the eternal reality that evil cannot be restored to good and vice versa absent real concrete change which is what the atonement is. As Amulek says, the atonement simply gives men the ability to exercise enough faith to actually change.

  15. […] RS/MP Lesson 2: “Our Heavenly Family” (Part 1) […]

  16. Robert C:

    I am disappointed in how you seem to me to be obviously skipping what is one of the main points of this lesson – the literal parent/child relationship. You deliberately call this relationship a metaphor, and skip what is obviously the money quote of the entire lesson:

    God is not only our Ruler and Creator; He is also our Heavenly Father. All men and women are literally the sons and daughters of God. “Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 335).

    You then refer to this relationship as covenantal. This is very disapponting to me as it appears you are forcing your own ideas in, and the main point of the lesson out.

  17. KirkC said

    Eric, I don’t know if Robert is “skipping” that part of the lesson, as much as he is just shifting the focus. The quote you stated does still not answer the inquiry of “conditional vs. unconditional love” that God has with mankind here on earth.

    I also think the literal parent/child relationship is very much in Robert’s post, especially when it comes to discipline and love.

    However, you might be right, and now I might ironically be putting words in Robert mouth!

    Also, I saw on your blog you will be presenting a paper on this topic. So I understand your passion with this post. Congrats!

  18. Robert C. said


    Yes, good point, in focusing on the covenantal relationship, I skipped over this other teaching that you cite. For balance, that quote is a very good one.

    As a sort of a apology, I will say that my approach was to focus on the scriptures in the lesson, rather than the other quotes and statements (my “agenda” here is rooted in a conviction that we tend not to really study our scriptures very carefully…), and I think it’s interesting that the scriptures provided in this lesson seem to naturally raise this question of conditional sonship (and daughtership). At any rate, that is the strand in the lesson that I became interested in and followed (through all 3 parts of the lesson).

    These are definitely not comprehensive notes—caveat lector!

  19. BrianJ said

    Nathan (and I’m sure Eric will be interested here too): Joseph Smith and the Book of Abraham state that spirits have no beginning. It’s difficult to reconcile that with numerous quotes from later prophets who say things like “Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body” (as quoted above, #16).

    Nevertheless, if Joseph Smith was right—that God cannot create spirit—then I wonder if the answer to my question, “why does being a spirit child of God automatically equate to unconditional love?” might be answered by in 1 John (as Robert brought up):

    “God loved us first”; i.e., he loved us before he had any relationship with us—before he would even have been called our Father, perhaps—and it was his love for us that makes us “spiritually begotten” of him. (Is this what Joseph meant when he said: “God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge…” as quoted in Chapter 17: The Great Plan of Salvation, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith)

    Or, to be quippy: He doesn’t love us because we’re his children, rather we’re his children because he loves us.

  20. Bill said

    On the question of unconditional love, I am reminded of something Spencer W. Kimball once said to a regional or area meeting (it’s in his biography): “We love you if you are righteous, and we love you if you are not – but we wish you were!”

  21. Bill Mathews said

    So many times the “sparing the rod” is used in a punitive temporal connotation. I find it interesting when you re-read the scriptures and intead think of the “iron rod,” i.e., the scriptures instead. If a father spares the rod of iron from his children. . . if a father does not teach his children the scriptures, this phrase (and others) take on a much more significant spiritual menaing when dealing with fathers and fatherhood.

  22. TheSisterofJared said

    I hope you don’t mind if I share a thought.

    As a parent, I love all of my children, and I loved each one of them before they were capable of expressing their love to me or could comprehend me as their parent. That love-the natural bond that a parent feels for their offspring is unconditional-because there is no “condition” that can change it. I will love them and my heart will yearn for them and their well being forever no matter whether or not they love me in return forever. In fact, at one point years ago we were struggling with the behavior of one of our older daughters. In a fit of fury one night she said “I HATE YOU!” And I sincerely and honestly replied- “I cannot change how you feel about me. But I want you to know that I love you enough for both of us, and that if you need to hate me for a while it won’t change my love for you”.

    My daughter needed to learn that her actions brought consequences into her life that had nothing to do with whether I loved her or not. She chose to break established rules with the false expectation that “if we really loved her”-we wouldn’t really allow her to suffer or experience a loss of blessings or privileges.

    I think too many people today view God’s love in the same way.

  23. Robert C. said

    SisterofJared, yes, good perspective. I think we see something similar with the parable of the prodigal son, which would make a good counterpoint study to the conditional aspect of our relationship with God that I’ve emphasized in this particular lesson. As I touched on this in the 2nd (and 3rd) part(s) of the lesson, I think there’s a strong sense in which this unconditional aspect of God’s love take priority, and precedes, any of these more conditional kinds of blessings….

  24. TheSisterofJared said

    Don’t mean to blather on, but this topic is stuck in my head and something came to mind today that was relevant.

    Brian J said:
    “Joseph Smith and the Book of Abraham state that spirits have no beginning. It’s difficult to reconcile that with numerous quotes from later prophets who say things like “Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body” (as quoted above, #16).”

    I look at it this way…
    Joseph Smith discussed that “intelligence” is a spirit “element”, and as such, it has always existed just like the physical elements have. If God “organized/created” this world out of chaotic physical matter, then those elements were in a different state prior to becoming part of it, so I have no problem accepting that spirit matter has not always been in a state that resembles a “being” or spirit child.

    The physical elements that eventually became the physical bodies of my own children existed in myself and my husband since our “beginnings”-we were born with them inherent within us. The two of us did not “create” or “organize” their bodies ourselves-we merely set that process into motion. But anyone you ask would say that we are their “literal” parents and that they were “begotten” of us both.

    If God (and his wife)set into motion the creative/organizational process that resulted in spirit elements becoming spirit children then it is easy to reconcile them as the literal parents of those offspring in the same way.

  25. BrianJ said

    SisterofJared: I see what you’re saying, but I can only say it doesn’t make sense to me. Joseph talked about the “spirit of man” having no beginning, that God could not create it, etc. I understand how you’re breaking “spirit” down into something like “spirit matter,” but that doesn’t seem to be what Joseph was getting at when he said (see Joseph Smith manual, Ch 17):

    Man was also in the beginning with God.

    Where did [the soul—–the mind of man–—the immortal spirit] come from? All learned men and doctors of divinity say that God created it in the beginning; but it is not so: the very idea lessens man in my estimation. I do not believe the doctrine

    I am dwelling on the immortality of the spirit of man. Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it has a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits.

    God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.

    God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself….”

    Joseph’s words leave room for some “thing” being added to our already existing spirits that made us into “spirit children,” but I still think it’s simplest to read him as saying that we always have existed as some sort of sentient being (i.e., not just a bunch of unorganized spirit particles without a “mind” or free will, etc.).

  26. TheSisterofJared said

    Brian J

    I don’t disagree with you at all, and I have no problem with the idea that pre-spirit children are sentient and organized in some fashion rather than just pixie dust floating around somewhere. :)
    My point was more to compare human parenthood with spiritual parenthood and your comments (and Joseph’s) don’t necessarily conflict with what I said.

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