Saturday, January 09, 2010

Gospel Principles: Our Father in Heaven

Here are the notes and outline I've pulled together for the Elder's Quorum lesson I'm teaching on January 10.

“Chapter 1: Our Father in Heaven,” Gospel Principles, (2009), 4–7
A New Manual

Take a couple of minutes to discuss why we are studying Gospel Principles in 2010 and 2011.

Elder Nelson explains why we are using Gospel Principles; "Since we first began using Teachings, millions of people have joined the Church. Many of them have tender testimonies and, with relatively limited experience in the Church, will benefit greatly by a focus on the fundamentals of the gospel. In addition, all Church members will benefit by a return to the basics. A careful study of core doctrines as presented in the new and improved Gospel Principles manual will help members strengthen their understanding of the fundamental teachings of the gospel." Russell M. Nelson, “The New Gospel Principles Manual,” Ensign, Jan 2010, 28–31

You may also discuss some of the changes to the new Gospel Principles (design, text, teaching and learning suggestions).

Goal of the Lesson

The Elders should gain a desire to learn more about our Father in Heaven. The Elders should come to learn why they need to study the Nature of God; why they should seek to know God.

Joseph Smith said. “There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. The great majority of mankind do not comprehend anything, either that which is past, or that which is to come, as it respects their relationship to God. They do not know, neither do they understand the nature of that relationship; and consequently they know but little above the brute beast, or more than to eat, drink and sleep. This is all man knows about God or His existence, unless it is given by the inspiration of the Almighty.

“If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink and sleep, and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, the beast comprehends the same things. It eats, drinks, sleeps, and knows nothing more about God; yet it knows as much as we, unless we are able to comprehend by the inspiration of Almighty God. If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. I want to go back to the beginning, and so lift your minds into more lofty spheres and a more exalted understanding than what the human mind generally aspires to.

“… The scriptures inform us that ‘This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ [John 17:3.]

“If any man does not know God, and inquires what kind of a being He is,—if he will search diligently his own heart—if the declaration of Jesus and the apostles be true, he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle.

“My first object is to find out the character of the only wise and true God, and what kind of a being He is. …

“God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make Himself visible,—I say, if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another. …

“… Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, He begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to come to us." (“Chapter 2: God the Eternal Father,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), 36–44)


1. There is a God
2. The Nature of God
3. Coming to Know God


There is a God

Two examples of men who came to know there is a God.
1) Moses (read Moses 1:1-11)
2) Korihor (read Alma 30:37-52)

These experiences are different, but what makes them the same?

Both had faith that God existed. Both were 'touched' by the hand of God. Afterwards, both knew without a doubt that God exists.

I have this theory and I preach it to my kids all the time. Whenever one of them decides to disobey me or their mother, they'll end up getting a lecture … a painful lecture. I always bring it to their attention that that in the end, they always had to do what we asked them to do anyway. But by being disobedient, the experience became unpleasant. And then I ask them, "is it easier to obey and get it done or is it easier to disobey and then be forced to do it anyway?" We're all going to know there is a God, but the manner in which we come to know Him can be either extremely rewarding or extremely unpleasant.

What about each of you individually … how do you know there is a God? What things testify to you that there is a God?

Side note/personal note: In Moses 1, we read how Moses perceived all of God's creations in this world. Perhaps this is how prayer works … how God can hear us out of the trillions of people praying to Him.

The Nature of God

What are some of God's attributes? (list these on the board)

Elder Hales said the following in his October 2009 talk, "From the New Testament we know that Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have a physical presence. They stand in one place at one time, as the New Testament disciple Stephen testified: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)

"We also know that the Father and the Son have voices. As recorded in Genesis and the book of Moses, Adam and Eve “heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden, in the cool of the day.” (Moses 4:14, Genesis 3:8)

"We know that the Father and the Son have faces, that They stand, and that They converse. The prophet Enoch declared, “I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another.” (Moses 7:4)

"We know that God and His Son have bodies, in form and parts like ours. From the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, we read, “And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood.” (Ether 3:6) Later the Lord revealed Himself, saying, “Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and … I [will] appear unto my people in the flesh.” (Ether 3:16)

"We know that the Father and the Son have feelings for us. The book of Moses records, “And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept.” (Moses 7:28)

"And we know that God and His Son, Jesus Christ, are immortal, glorified, and perfected beings. Of the Savior Jesus Christ, the Prophet Joseph Smith recounts, “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters.”" (D&C 110:3) (Robert D. Hales, “Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 29–33)

Why is it important for us to understand the nature of God?

Joseph F. Smith taught that we are to strive to become like God. And to become like God requires keeping his commandments and learning of Him (His nature). "God originated and designed all things, and all are his children. We are born into the world as his offspring; endowed with the same attributes. The children of men have sprung from the Almighty, whether the world is willing to acknowledge it or not. He is the Father of our spirits. He is the originator of our earthly tabernacles. We live and move and have our being in God our heavenly Father. And having sprung from him with our talents, our ability, our wisdom, we should at least be willing to acknowledge his hand in all the prosperity that may attend us in life, and give to him the honor and glory of all we accomplish in the flesh. …

"… [Man] is made in the image of God himself, so that he can reason, reflect, pray, exercise faith; he can use his energies for the accomplishment of the desires of his heart, and inasmuch as he puts forth his efforts in the proper direction, then he is entitled to an increased portion of the Spirit of the Almighty to inspire him to increased intelligence, to increased prosperity and happiness in the world; but in proportion as he prostitutes his energies for evil, the inspiration of the Almighty is withdrawn from him, until he becomes so dark and so benighted, that so far as his knowledge of God is concerned, he is quite as ignorant as a dumb brute.

"… We must become like [God]; peradventure to sit upon thrones, to have dominion, power, and eternal increase. God designed this in the beginning. … This is the object of our existence in the world; and we can only attain to these things through obedience to certain principles, through walking in certain channels, through obtaining certain information, certain intelligence from God, without which no man can accomplish his work or fulfill the mission he has come upon the earth to fulfill. These principles are the principles of the gospel of eternal truth, the principles of faith, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins, the principle of obedience to God the eternal Father; for obedience is one of the first principles or laws of heaven.

"Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God." (“Chapter 37: Sons and Daughters of the Eternal Father,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 331)

Coming to Know God

How can we come to know God?

From Gospel Principles:
1. Believe that He exists and that He loves us (Mosiah 4:9)
2. Study the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
3. Pray to Him (James 1:5)
4. Obey all His commandments as best as we can (John 14:21-23)

Elder Hales said, "I testify that the way to know the truth about God is through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead, is a personage of spirit. His work is to “testify of [God]” (John 15:26) and to “teach [us] all things.” (John 14:26).

"Brothers and sisters, you may already know, deep in your soul, that God lives. You may not know all about Him yet and do not understand all His ways, but the light of belief is within you, waiting to be awakened and intensified by the Spirit of God and the Light of Christ, which you are born with.

"So come. Believe the testimonies of the prophets. Learn of God and Christ. The pattern to do so is clearly taught by prophets of old and prophets today.

"Cultivate a diligent desire to know that God lives.

"This desire leads us to ponder on the things of heaven—to let the evidence of God all around us touch our hearts.

"With softened hearts we are prepared to heed the Savior’s call to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39) and to humbly learn from them.

"We are then ready to ask our Heavenly Father sincerely, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, if the things we have learned are true. Most of us will not see God, as the prophets have, but the still, small promptings of the Spirit—the thoughts and feelings that the Holy Ghost brings into our minds and hearts—will give us an undeniable knowledge that He lives and that He loves us.

"Gaining this knowledge is ultimately the quest of all God’s children on the earth. If you cannot remember believing in God or if you have ceased to believe or if you believe but without real conviction, I invite you to seek a testimony of God now. Do not be afraid of ridicule. The strength and peace that come from knowing God and having the comforting companionship of His Spirit will make your efforts eternally worthwhile." (Robert D. Hales, “Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 29–32)


I know our Heavenly Father is real. He hears and answers our sincere prayers. I don’t know how some people come to think or believe He does not exist. For me, the struggle is more of trying to remind myself and ingrain in my mind and heart that the whole goal of this life is to become more like Him – to become perfect. I think that as we live each day, if we would try to keep that perspective – that long, eternal perspective, we will begin to make more decisions that are aligned with our Father in Heaven’s will and by and by, we will begin to be more like Him.

Bear testimony.