I envy the teacher who is assigned this lesson. Three principles are at the heart of Christianity: Faith, Hope, and Charity . . . and Jesus is at the center of all three. Anytime a lesson focuses on the Savior (and somehow, all lessons should), you open the space for healing in the classroom. When I teach Relief Society, I assume there is at least one sister in the room who has come to class urgently, silently seeking some peace, some balm. If I keep that in mind, it helps me find the right tone.
I. What is faith?
It’s always good to review that faith is not perfect knowledge, but rather “hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (see Mosiah 3:12 and Hebrews 11:1).
Alma 32 talks about nurturing a desire to believe. It’s okay to start with simply HOPE – I hope that God loves me. I hope God answers my prayers. I hope I develop a stronger understanding of Jesus and the atonement.
I love this story of faith in Mark 9. It would make a great opener for the lesson:
A man brings Jesus his desperately ill child. He says to Jesus, “if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.”
Jesus responds saying, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
Then “straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
What does this exchange between Jesus and the father tell us about Jesus? What is the message here for us? For me, it says that the desire to believe is enough to bring us toward the healing power of Christ.
II. Why should we have faith in Jesus Christ?
Faith in Christ is THE first principle of the gospel (see Article of Faith 1). Not the Book of Mormon, not eternal families, not modern-day prophets. These principles are wonderful . . . in that they point us back to the core of our faith: Jesus.
How do other aspects of church and the gospel work to increase your faith in Christ? How does (or how could) Relief Society be a part of increasing faith in Christ?
What do we mean when we say we have “faith in Christ?” Faith in the truth of his teachings? Faith that he lived? Faith that he was resurrected? Faith in the atonement? Faith in his promises of peace and spiritual healing? That could be an interesting discussion.
How does faith in Jesus affect our choices? How does studying his life strengthen our spiritual core? To invite answers to these questions, ask the sisters to share a favorite teaching of Jesus, a favorite parable, or a favorite scene from his life – and how it affects them. Be prepared to share one of your own to start the conversation. Here’s what I would share
Luke 7: 36 – 50
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.
Do you SEE this woman? He asks. Really see her. Just before this passage, Jesus raises from the dead the only son of a widow “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said unto her, weep not.” He saw her.
III. How can we increase our faith in Jesus Christ?
Ask for responses to this question. How have class members increased their faith in Jesus. Return to Alma 32 and the discussion of faith at the beginning of the lesson. Faith begins with a desire to believe. Also, Jesus set a pattern of living for us to follow – a life of service and love. Part of faith is choosing to emulate him.
IV. What are some blessings that follow faith?
Ask for responses to this question. I would offer that one blessing is a greater sense of love, community, and sisterhood. As we seek to be like him, we will seek to reach out in love and compassion. Consider ending with this exposition from former General Relief Society Counselor Chieko Okazaki:
Remember Jesus healing the blind beggar. He spat on the ground, rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash [your face] in the pool of Siloam.” (See John 9:1–7.)
My sisters, this story has a lesson about service in it for us. First, remember that Jesus and the man didn’t have an appointment. They encountered each other almost by accident. So look for little opportunities in your daily life.
Second, Jesus saw the need of an individual. Sometimes I think we see programs instead of individuals.
Third, Jesus performed the service immediately with just the resources he had—spit and mud and a desire to help. He didn’t transport the man to an exotic medical facility, organize a cornea transplant team, or didn’t make it into a media event. Sometimes we think we can’t serve because we’re not rich enough, not educated enough, not old enough, or not young enough. Remember, if we have the desire to serve, then our bare hands, a little spit, and a little dirt are enough to make a miracle.
And fourth, Jesus didn’t just dump that service on the man and walk away. He gave that man a way to exercise faith and strengthen the faith he had by asking him to participate in his own healing. It was a simple thing—washing in the pool of Siloam. But what if the man had refused? Jesus took that risk and let the man participate in his own miracle.
Our desire to serve is divine. Charity is our motto. As women, we beseech with the prophets of old: “And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the Lord, be nigh unto the Lord our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of … his people Israel at all times.” (1 Kgs. 8:59.) “That [we] may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that [we] may become the [daughters] of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him.” (Moro. 7:48.)
Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.
Thanks for your thoughts, I like your linkage to Christ.
My take is going to be encompassing faith with opposite of fear, with the link to agency, & with the link to hope.
I’m wondering why the KJ version isn’t used, e.g., Luke 7 verses.
What NT version was used for the quote? One wag, noting the different version, asked if it was picked up at a motel.
Keep up the good work.
i am new so …. i hope we get along
Jerry: NIV. I copied that passage directly from a talk I gave a couple of years back, when I had wanted a slightly more conversational tone for delivery over the pulpit (NIV is a great translation). Didn’t even pay attention to that when I pasted it here. Go ahead and use KJV 🙂
Thank you for your insight to this lesson. It really helped add that special something and contributed to the spirit greatly. It was well received. You make my calling much easier.