Christ taught by parable, by precept, through scripture, directly to those prepared, and by perfect example, always loving and inviting us to 'Come unto Him' and to repent and be healed. He reinforced these teachings with symbols; of bread and water, of lambs, rocks, salt, lamps, and seeds. He taught us to pray, to read and obey the scriptures, attend our meetings and fulfill our callings, to make and keep covenants, and to feel and follow the Spirit. We need to do the same in our homes with our families.
“Latter-day Saint scriptures refer to Jesus Christ as both the Father and the Son. Most notably in the Book of Mormon, [where] Christ introduced himself to the brother of Jared saying, "I am the Father and the Son" (Ether 3:14); and the prophet Abinadi [saying] that the Messiah would be "the Father…and the Son" (Mosiah 15:3).”i
Confusing? Yes, but I like this explanation: “All persons have multiple roles in life. A man can be a father, son, and brother; a woman can be a mother, daughter, and sister. These titles describe roles or functions at a given time, as well as relationships to others. For Latter-day Saints, this is so with the Christ. He has many names and titles. He ministers as both the Father and the Son. After explaining that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would come to earth, take a body, and minister as both Father and Son, Abinadi summarized: "And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth" (Mosiah 15:4; see also Mosiah 7:26-27; D&C 93:14).”ii
For example: I have a father in Heaven. I know that he loves and cares for me and for our growing family. He watches and listens with loving interest of my daily trials and exploits, failures and successes. I also have a Heavenly Father there who loves and cares for me and for each of us. Though my fathers are not here with us on earth; He sends help and I feel his Spirit guiding me in my daily decisions. I have a mother here - or near here - currently serving on a mission in Nauvoo at age 82, who will return home to us at the end of this summer, but realize that one day she also will be called to another mission in the mansions on high. I also have a Heavenly Mother there. They love and care for us no matter where they or we are. Our extended family will continue there, 'feeling after' and encouraging us to continue on back home to them.
Christ taught truth, then and now, in many ways: by parable, by precept, through scripture, directly to those prepared, and by perfect example, always loving and inviting us to 'Come unto Him' and to repent and be healed.
Consider this modern parable which I call 'The Lost Son and Daughter': “A certain man and his wife were blessed with 12 children, sons and daughters, valiant and brave, full of potential, their lives full ahead of them. And the children grew and chose their paths in life. Nine of the children made wise decisions, chose well and brought much joy to their parents. One son, the 10th, at first said he would not, but later repented and also chose well and also brought joy to the hearts of his parents. But the last son, the 11th, at first said he would, but later chose unwisely and moved himself away and was lost from the family. And the last daughter, the 12th, had been lost and then found, later hurt by others who should have protected her, was offended and lost again far from home. Will that man and his wife forget their lost children? Ten are safe and prospering. But what of their lost son and their lost daughter? Will that man and his wife stop reaching out for them, calling for them, praying and fasting for them, and watching for them? I say unto you, Nay. Yes they have joy in the ten, but sorrow for the lost two. Their family is not complete without them all. But when the lost children are found and return, how great will be their joy in their family.”
There is something compelling in the telling of a story. Those who are willing to listen with their hearts are able to draw deep meaning from that story. The others at least hear a good story. Stories are easy to remember, and often hold our attention and can be easily retold. Christ often used stories or parables to teach and reach us at many levels. After the story was told it was sometimes explained, at least to his faithful followers. At other times he spoke in parable to keep those who were not ready to learn from being held accountable for that teaching had it been plainly taught as a commandment. In this way, He could provide teachings that brought blessing to those prepared to follow, willing to listen and understand with their hearts.
“And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” (Matthew 13:10-11)
In my parable of the lost son and daughter, what might He have taught on this subject? Luke chapter 15 records several similar parables from Christ on the topic of being lost and later found. For example, in that chapter on “the lost sheep” he concluded with: “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7) .. and later in the same chapter, in “the prodigal son” .. “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” (Luke 15:17-19)
We have been assigned this month to address the topic of “Teaching as Jesus Taught”+“in our homes”. Parents are blessed with the opportunity to teach in their families. One powerful way to do this is to simply tell the lessons you have learned by sharing your own personal or family stories. As Fathers and Mothers you can tell your own stories - experiences from your own lives, to your children at their bedside or on your knee, and to others you have been assigned to care for. They will remember those stories and the feel the meaning behind them. Teachers share a similar duty for their students. Home teachers to the families they are assigned to.
And just who is my family? Christ was asked a similar question. Who is my neighbor? His response was teaching the parable of 'the Good Samaritan'. “But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:29-30). As part of a trek re-inactment several years ago, out among the hills west of McIntyre ranch, with several other stake members, I was asked to help portray this story to a series of youth groups. Poor Brother Mothersell was playing the part of the traveller. I was one of the robbers. Every 30 minutes or so, in costume, we acted out beating up Bro Mothersell and left him laying on the side of the hill while we ran away over the top of the hill with his goods. “Which now [..], thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he [answering Christ] said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37). Who is our Neighbor? We know by how we are treated and by how we treat others.
Who are our family? In response, I would first ask another question, “Who is our Father?”. I listened the other day with interest to a video posted on the internet at mormonchannel.org. It was a 'Happy Families' story, telling of another 'Davies' family (no relation to me that I am aware of) who had adopted 4 of their 7 children (see lds.net/blog/life/mormon-channel-features-adopted-happy-family or their posting on youtube). The first thing that drew my attention to the story was that 'Davies' family name. We love to hear our own names in a story. The next thing was that their experiences with adoption, paralleling the experiences with which our family has been blessed as well. The definition of 'Father, Mortal'? From the The Guide to the Scriptures reads: “A sacred title referring to a man who has begotten or legally adopted a child.” For those in this imperfect world who find themselves without family, we can be guided to invite lost sons and daughters into our families to form expanded family units, with the potential for them to be sealed to us for time and eternity, just as those who had been physically born into our family. It strikes me that Christ himself needed an adoptive 'mortal father' to care for him and his family while here on earth. Who is our Father? Hymn 292 [vs 2] “For a wise and glorious purpose Thou hast placed me here on earth and withheld the recollection Of my former friends and birth; Yet ofttimes a secret something whispered, 'You're a stranger here,' and I felt that I had wandered From a more exalted sphere.” The words of this hymn teach us what we most likely already felt or knew – that we truly are part of a great heavenly family. He is our Father. We have a Mother there and beloved Brothers and Sisters. Who is our Father? On this day, as we commemorate our own earthly fathers, it would be well for us to also remember and revere our Heavenly Father as well. He has a plan for us, individually and collectively, to bring about our greatest potential happiness. For those without families of their own, families will be created for them through His plan, in my opinion through the principle of adoption. There is nothing stopping you from loving those around you and inviting them into your 'family circle'.
Come Unto Him
In our stake there are many families. Last week I sat on the stand with the choir and looked out across our congregation there. Not all are typical LDS happy family units with righteous mothers and fathers and happy sons and daughters in tow and with little or no problems to address. Some have experienced divorce, death, disease; some are childless, abandoned, alone; some have never married; some have remarried, and some have adopted. Regardless of our current situations, He has a plan for us that will give hope, will heal us and our families in ways we cannot now imagine. As he says in the scriptures: “And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them.” (D&C 112:13). In my mind, that applies to our families as much as to ourselves. “And now [..], I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Alma 38:5).
Who is our family? What would Jesus have taught? Perhaps another parable? Another story? “Which now [..], thinkest thou, was [family] unto him [or her, here on earth]? And he [might well have responded], He that [cared for them and] shewed [love] unto [them]. Then [might] Jesus [say] unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37 modified). Who is our Family? We know by how we treat and love them, by the covenants we make and keep with them. As Elder Perry testified in his final conference talk last April 2015 in his talk 'Why Marriage and Family Matter', “[..] Family is the center of life and is the key to [our] eternal happiness” and “What the restored gospel brings to the discussion on marriage and family is so large and so relevant that it cannot be overstated: we make the subject eternal! We take the commitment and the sanctity of marriage to a greater level because of our belief and understanding that families go back to before this earth was and that they can [and do] go forward into eternity.” Marriage and families are not temporary, not disposable, nor inconsequential. Done the right way, marriage and family are eternal, growing, and essential to our happiness and well being. Our Father has a plan for us, a great and permanent plan of Happiness, which will bring joy and happiness to us individually and collectively, if we but learn His way and obey His precepts.
Plain and Precious Truths
To those proved worthy, spiritually mature and prepared, the Lord and his servants teach with plainness and clarity. As Nephi wrote: “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.” (2 Nephi 31:3). Of course, in the same chapter he [Nephi] praises the prophecies of Isaiah which to some, like myself, are somewhat difficult to understand ..
Although, as far as I know, we do not have any direct writings of Christ, yet He specifically commanded that His words be recorded and passed down to us as scripture via the apostles and the prophets. Written scripture was so important, that Lehi was instructed, after many days travel, to send his sons back to danger filled Jerusalem for the Brass Plates, “And these plates of brass, which contain these engravings, which have the records of the holy scriptures upon them, which have the genealogy of our forefathers, even from the beginning - Behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon.” (Alma 37:3-4). Written scripture was so important, that a later Nephi, at the time of Christ's return, was asked [by Christ] why the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite were missing from his record. “And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written” (3 Nephi 23:12) and so he was instructed to go back and include them into his record. The miraculous fact that we have the Book of Mormon, the words of the prophets from Nephi to Moroni, in our hands today is also testament to the importance of written scripture. In this same volume it is recorded that Christ commanded us to study the words of Isaiah .. saying: “And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.” (3 Nephi 23:1). And then this from the original Nephi, “Wherefore, hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy ..” (2 Nephi 25:4).
In the scriptures we are presented with the words and teachings of God. Without Him, we would have no scripture and without His Spirit, they would have no power. They testify of all that we must do to return safely back to our family above. As it is written; “And I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it. These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man; For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them; Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.” (D&C 18:33-36).
Line upon Line
Great are the words of Isaiah! “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, 'This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear'. But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might [not] go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” (Isaiah 28:10-13). I have used parts of this phrase all my life without realizing it originally came 'from [or through] Isaiah'. Nephi loved and knew and quoted the words of Isaiah as well, when he taught; “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Ne 28:30). This is reiterated in our day by modern scripture, where it is written: “And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God. For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.” (D&C 98:11-12). It is in families that we are best given the gift of learning, 'line upon line and precept upon precept' in ways in which we simply could not learn alone. If we value our families, and cherish and protect them, they will be added upon no matter what the world can do. If we do not, perhaps what we have will be taken away from us and lost.
Symbols Remind Us
About a year ago, we - like many of you here - were called to participate in the Magrath Stake Youth Trek (2014). We were assigned to be Ma and Pa to our 'Davies family', with a dozen treklings under our care. I believe the assignment to those family units was done by inspiration. I believe the individuals assigned to each of our trek families was also done by inspiration. With them we experienced great joy. Even today we watch for them at each stake event we attend. We are in the families we are in not by accident but by design, because we are supposed to be in them – for our benefit or for the benefit of our other family members, most likely for both of those reasons. I recently completed transcribing my journal of that event (Trek Journal - Pa Davies, Jul 2014) and there recorded this incident – about water and about bread – that I would like to share at this time. “[page] 39 Just before our Friday lunch break we crossed a small stream and as we bumped across, one of the sleeping bags [.. came loose and ] bumped off the handcart into the creek. We quickly recovered it from the muddy water and it was little worse for wear, but the distraction kept us from seeing and stopping to replace our [less than full] water container with freshly full ones just there cooling a little to the left in the creek bed for us. Just up the hill from that crossing we were directed to stop for our lunch break. We used our handcart tarp for a picnic blanket and checked out our cooler .. four unsliced loaves of whole wheat bread, a block of cheese, and a large summer sausage to [share]. We had some trouble finding a serrated knife that would slice the bread properly without squashing it. I eventually found a small steak knife in my mess kit that worked OK, but by then the loaves had been mostly divided by hand and the ragged bread/cheese/meat sandwiches tasted great [despite this minor obstacle].” I was struck then, and again now, by the symbolism of the bread and water used by Christ in his Sacrament. They are powerful reminders of our need for regular nourishment spiritually just as we need them physically (especially in the summer heat of a long trek) and especially in times of great effort or hunger. Later, on the Sabbath, my journal continues: “[page] 108 We asked our [trek] family to sit together at the fast and testimony sacrament meeting. We all sat in the shade of a large pine tree at the back of the clearing – a tree I liked to call 'the trek tree of life'. Mosiah found a spot behind us and did his best to distract his sister Grace. Faith sat next to Ma and the others. I was just in front next to Ammon and Mosiah. Nephi had been asked to assist with the blessing of the sacrament as one of the three priests. They announced that for the sacrament portion of the meeting they would first pass the bread/water to all the sisters and then to all the brethren. I had never seen it done this way before [nor since] and pondered if there were any historical significance to this method. After the Sacrament portion of the meeting they started the Testimony portion. Many talked of how much they were learning to love their trek families and how the rescue had affected them. I kept turning and counting heads; feeling a powerful need to ensure that all were paying attention and feeling the same spirit I was. 12 trek kids, 5 boys, 7 girls, and 2 parents – anyone missing? - any in trouble? - anyone need help? It struck me that this should be how we feel about our own families and toward the various families assigned to us to visit and home teach.”
This day truly is Father’s day – the Lord’s day – a day of remembering and honoring Him. He commands: “But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.” (D&C 59:12). In the sacrament prayer we promise and: “witness unto [our Father ..] God, the Eternal Father, that [we] are willing to take upon [us] the name of [His] Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us]”. Each day, when we say our personal and family prayers, we should be think about just whom we are addressing and be reminded of our weekly promise (aside: that is weekly spelled with two 'ee's – not weakly with 'ea'). Each day as we partake of our meals, tasting bread and drinking water should serve to remind us of this sacred weekly covenant.
Christ taught by parable, by precept, through scripture, directly to those prepared, and by perfect example, always loving and inviting us to 'Come unto Him' and to repent and be healed. He reinforced these teachings with symbols; of bread and water and wine, of sheep and goats, lambs, rocks, salt, lamps, and seeds, and of things lost and found. He taught us to pray, to read and obey the scriptures, attend our meetings and fulfill our callings, to make and keep covenants, and to feel and follow the Spirit. We need to teach the same in our homes with our families.
The Lost Son and Daughter: “A certain man and his wife were blessed with 12 children, sons and daughters. Yes they have joy in the ten, but sorrow for the lost two. Their family is not complete without them all. But when the lost children are found and return, how great will be their joy in their family.” If you are lost and ready to be found. Call home. If you have lost someone and are waiting for them to be found, call Him, repent and keep the faith. Then it will all turn out as it should in the end.
Of these things I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
- i Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, Jesus Christ, Fatherhood and Sonship Of; Robert L Millet (1992) 'Fatherhood and Sonship of Jesus Christ' lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/christ/father_son.html
- ii ibid.