Saturday, January 2, 2010

Chapter 1: Our Father in Heaven


If you have not yet done so, please read the “Welcome…” introduction at the beginning (very bottom now) of this blog.

A great scriptural passage to discuss for the confusion over whether or not God exists is 2 Nephi 2:13-14.

In this section, the lesson discusses Alma 30:44. The following is a good illustration of the idea that the creation denotes a Creator. It is taken from a Website named CreationWiki, under “Isaac Newton”:

In the book: The Truth: God or evolution? Marshall and Sandra Hall describe an often quoted exchange between Newton and an atheist friend.Sir Isaac had an accomplished artisan fashion for him a small scale model of our solar system, which was to be put in a room in Newton's home when completed. The assignment was finished and installed on a large table. The workman had done a very commendable job, simulating not only the various sizes of the planets and their relative proximities, but also so constructing the model that everything rotated and orbited when a crank was turned. It was an interesting, even fascinating work, as you can imagine, particularly to anyone schooled in the sciences.Newton's atheist-scientist friend came by for a visit. Seeing the model, he was naturally intrigued, and proceeded to examine it with undisguised admiration for the high quality of the workmanship. "My, what an exquisite thing this is!" he exclaimed. "Who made it?" Paying little attention to him, Sir Isaac answered, "Nobody." Stopping his inspection, the visitor turned and said, "Evidently you did not understand my question. I asked who made this." Newton, enjoying himself immensely no doubt, replied in a still more serious tone, "Nobody. What you see just happened to assume the form it now has." "You must think I am a fool!" the visitor retorted heatedly, "Of course somebody made it, and he is a genius, and I would like to know who he is!" Newton then spoke to his friend in a polite yet firm way: "This thing is but a puny imitation of a much grander system whose laws you know, and I am not able to convince you that this mere toy is without a designer or maker; yet you profess to believe that the great original from which the design is taken has come into being without either designer or maker! Now tell me by what sort of reasoning do you reach such an incongruous conclusion?"

In this part of the lesson, Joseph Smith is quoted calling God “the Great Parent.” Following are some of my favorite quotes on this subject:

…he [God the Father] has passed the ordeals we are now passing through…” (Brigham Young, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 30)

Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 2006, 58–61)

There has come to you as your birthright something beautiful and sacred and divine. Never forget that. Your Eternal Father is the great Master of the universe. He rules over all, but He also will listen to your prayers…and hear you as you speak with Him. He will answer your prayers. He will not leave you alone. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 2004, 112)

How does God feel towards the human family? He feels that they are his children. What, all? Yes; the white, the black, the red, the Jew, the Gentile, the heathen, the Christian and all classes and grades of men; he feels interested in all, he as done so from the beginning, and will continue to do so to the end. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 21:17-18)

Each of us is His child. Can we really believe that? We know it! We have conviction concerning that. If we have, then we will rise above the sultry, sleazy things of the world and stand taller and be better than we might otherwise be. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Pleasant Grove Regional Conference, Church News, January 25, 2003)


In Newsweek magazine, October 17, 2005 appeared an interview with President Gordon B. Hinckley. He was asked, “What do you believe is [Joseph] Smith’s most meaningful contribution, not only to the church, but also to the world?” President Hinckley answered:

His greatest contribution I think is defining the nature of deity. He saw the Father and the Son. He spoke with them. They were beings of substance. They were in form like a man. And they could express themselves and he could speak with them. Such an interpersonal relationship. And such a warm and reassuring thing to know the nature of God.

In this section of the lesson the concept that “we are made in His image” is discussed. Following are some of my favorite quotes on this subject:

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. (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund, First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, November 1909; reprinted in Ensign, Feb. 2002, 26)

Our bodies are sacred. They were created in the image of God. They are marvelous, the crowning creation of Deity. No camera has ever matched the wonder of the human eye. No pump was ever built that could run so long and carry such heavy duty as the human heart. The ear and the brain constitute a miracle. The capacity to pick up sound waves and convert them into language is almost beyond imagination. Look at your finger and contemplate the wonder of it. Clever men have tried to match it, but have never fully succeeded. These, with others of our parts and organs, represent the divine, omnipotent genius of God, who is our Eternal Father. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1996, 46)

Consider the power of the idea taught in our beloved song “I Am a Child of God”…Here is the answer to one of life’s great questions, “Who am I?” I am a child of God with a spirit lineage to heavenly parents. That parentage defines our eternal potential. That powerful idea is a potent antidepressant. It can strengthen each of us to make righteous choices and to seek the best that is within us. Establish in the mind of a young person the powerful idea that he or she is a child of God and you have given self-respect and motivation to move against the problems of life. (Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, Nov 1995, 25)
NOTE: This quote is also in Lesson 1 of the Old Testament Sunday School Class Teacher Manual. This is available online at "" then "Gospel Library" then "Lessons" then "Sunday School."

For resources concerning the question “Why is it important for us to understand the nature of God?” the following quotes from Joseph Smith form last year’s manual are helpful:

If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 40)

“… 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.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 40-41)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland also taught:
Little wonder then that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God.” “I want you all to know Him,” he said, “and to be familiar with Him.” We must have “a correct idea of his … perfections, and attributes,” an admiration for “the excellency of [His] character.” Thus the first phrase we utter in the declaration of our faith is, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father.” So, emphatically, did Jesus. Even as He acknowledged His own singular role in the divine plan, the Savior nevertheless insisted on this prayerful preamble: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God.” (Ensign, Nov 2003, 70)


I want to tell you, each and every one of you, that you are well acquainted with God our Heavenly Father, or the great Elohim. You are all well acquainted with him, for there is not a soul of you but what has lived in his house and dwelt with him year after year; and yet you are seeking to become acquainted with him, when the fact is, you have merely forgotten what you did know. (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 50)

From Lectures on Faith, Lecture Third, p. 33:
2 Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.
3 First, The idea that he actually exists.
4 Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes.
5 Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

President Monson, when he was in the First Presidency taught:
Develop a yearning to know the Lord, to understand His commandments and to follow Him. Then shadows of despair are dispelled by rays of hope, sorrow yields to joy, and the feeling of being lost in the crowd of life vanishes with the certain knowledge that our Heavenly Father is mindful of each of us. (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, May 1998, 46)

In this part of the lesson the idea is presented that “By keeping His commandments we can become like Him.” Many of other faiths think it blasphemous that we believe this doctrine literally. Many believe that God is “unreachable” in human progression and that God is “nothing like us” in spite of the idea that we were “made in His image.” I like the following quotes for dealing with this issue:

Some believe or conceive the idea that to know God would lessen him in our estimation; but I can say that for me to understand any principle or being, on earth or in heaven, it does not lessen its true value to me, but on the contrary, it increases it; and the more I can know of God, the dearer and more precious he is to me, and the more exalted are my feelings towards him. (Brigham Young, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 30)

The Father is the one true God. This thing is certain: no one will ever ascend above Him; no one will ever replace Him. Nor will anything ever change the relationship that we, His literal offspring, have with Him. He is Eloheim, the Father. He is God. Of Him there is only one. We revere our Father and our God; we worship Him. (Elder Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov 1984, 66)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

It is one thing to know about God; to have information relative to his character, perfection and attributes; and to know what he has done and is doing for men and all created things. But it is quite another thing to know God in the real, full, and accurate sense of the word. We do not know the Lord unless and until we think what he thinks, say what he says, and experience what he experiences. In other words, we know God when we become like him. It is one thing to know about God and another thing to know God. (Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, July 20, 1871

God is our Father; we are his children. He has brought us into his covenant, and it is our privilege to go on from wisdom to wisdom, from intelligence to intelligence, from understanding of one principle to that of another, to go forward and progress in the development of truth until we can comprehend God. For we are his children, we are his sons and daughters, and he is our father. He has organized this Church in order that we may be educated in the principles of life, that we may comprehend those principles that exist in the bosom of God, that we may be able to teach our children correct principles, in order that we may be placed in a position whereby we can be assimilated in the likeness of our heavenly Father. (John Taylor, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 6-7)

In this part of the lesson, four suggestions are listed under the heading, “We can know God if we will:” A quote which has to do with a combination of # 1 and # 3, as well as summarizes much of what is discussed in the whole lesson is as follows:

God is our Eternal Father. He is the great Governor of the universe. There is none to excel Him, none to equal Him. He is over all, and yet He is our father….He has a body, and he can speak to us as a Father counsels His children. We were created under His direction and in His image. What a wonderful and remarkable thing it is to know that the great God of the universe is the Father of our individual spirits, and that there is something of divinity within each of us. It matters not our nationality, the color of our skin, or the shape of our eyes. We are all sons and daughters of the Eternal God who loves us and is anxious and willing and able to help us if we will ask for help. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, form Australia Stake Conference satellite broadcast, Feb. 12, 2005, in Church News, April 1, 2006)

I also like several answers to this question found in a statement made by Elder Harold B. Lee:
One man asked: How can one find God? To him I gave a hurried answer. One finds God in the same way he finds anything—by searching. The Master had answered to a similar question: "If any man will do his will, he shall know" (John 7:17). Conference Report, April 1969, pp. 129-133)

Concerning suggestion # 3, “Pray to Him” I like the following:
“…it is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345)

That we may know and still not be able to convey that knowledge to others is well illustrated in the following story by Elder Boyd K. Packer:
I will tell you of an experience I had before I was a General Authority which affected me profoundly. I sat on a plane next to a professed atheist who pressed his disbelief in God so urgently that I bore my testimony to him. “You are wrong,” I said, “there is a God. I know He lives!”
He protested, “You don’t know. Nobody knows that! You can’t know it!” When I would not yield, the atheist, who was an attorney, asked perhaps the ultimate question on the subject of testimony. “All right,” he said in a sneering, condescending way, “you say you know. Tell me how you know.”
When I attempted to answer, even though I held advanced academic degrees, I was helpless to communicate.
Sometimes in your youth, you young missionaries are embarrassed when the cynic, the skeptic, treat you with contempt because you do not have ready answers for everything. Before such ridicule, some turn away in shame. (Remember the iron rod, the spacious building, and the mocking? See 1 Ne. 8:28.)
When I used the words Spirit and witness, the atheist responded, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” The words prayer, discernment, and faith, were equally meaningless to him. “You see,” he said, “you don’t really know. If you did, you would be able to tell me how you know.”
I felt, perhaps, that I had borne my testimony to him unwisely and was at a loss as to what to do. Then came the experience! Something came into my mind. And I mention here a statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas … and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 151)
Such an idea came into my mind and I said to the atheist, “Let me ask if you know what salt tastes like.”
“Of course I do,” was his reply.
“When did you taste salt last?”
“I just had dinner on the plane.”
“You just think you know what salt tastes like,” I said.
He insisted, “I know what salt tastes like as well as I know anything.”
“If I gave you a cup of salt and a cup of sugar and let you taste them both, could you tell the salt from the sugar?”
“Now you are getting juvenile,” was his reply. “Of course I could tell the difference. I know what salt tastes like. It is an everyday experience—I know it as well as I know anything.”
“Then,” I said, “assuming that I have never tasted salt, explain to me just what it tastes like.”
After some thought, he ventured, “Well-I-uh, it is not sweet and it is not sour.”
“You’ve told me what it isn’t, not what it is.”
After several attempts, of course, he could not do it. He could not convey, in words alone, so ordinary an experience as tasting salt. I bore testimony to him once again and said, “I know there is a God. You ridiculed that testimony and said that if I did know, I would be able to tell you exactly how I know. My friend, spiritually speaking, I have tasted salt. I am no more able to convey to you in words how this knowledge has come than you are to tell me what salt tastes like. But I say to you again, there is a God! He does live! And just because you don’t know, don’t try to tell me that I don’t know, for I do!” (Ensign, Jan 1983, 51)

Finally, Joseph Smith states how important it is for us to “Know God”:
“… 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.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 40-41)

1 comment:

  1. once again I came away from your class refreshed and ready to continue my week. You and Pat give me a little dose of peace in the middle of the week when sometimes I really need it. It was wonderful to see so many people in class but just lets me know I need to be sure to be on time to get a seat. Great job.