This lesson is often focused on J.S.’s testimony of Christ’s reality and his existence as our redeemer. There is not as much here about Jesus’ earthly ministry or about him as our examplar, so I made a conscious effort to play up that angle in this lesson plan.
First section: Joseph (and Oliver) saw Jesus“the veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened. We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us;…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, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth; I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” p. 47
– What are your feelings when you hear testimonies like this from the prophets – that they saw and heard Jesus? Are they compelling to you? Do they influence the way you look or feel about Jesus? Why or why not?
One possible direction the discussion could take – Could this be related to gifts of the spirit? D&C 46 :13-14 “1To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful. “ Are accounts like these meant to appeal to those whose gift is to believe others’ testimony of Christ?)
Second Section: Jesus as a sacrifice for all humans
This section talks quite a bit about animal sacrifices. “Certainly the shedding of the blood of a beast could be beneficial to no man, except it was done in imitation, or as a type or explanation of what was to be offered through the gift of God Himself – and this performance done with an eye looking forward in faith on the power of that great Sacrifice for a remission of sins… ” p.48
(Expect the usual responses of the sacrament and baptism. Encourage the class to go beyond Church ritual and think of things like a sunrise. A new baby. A new beginning. As an example, you could talk about Mother Teresa and tell this story, a story of how she found Jesus in unexpected places.
“Would you like to see Jesus?“ asks Mother Teresa, to a visiting Bishop.
Mother Teresa takes Bishop Curlin around a few walls to a man lying on a black leather pallet who has clearly visible things crawling on his body. As the bishop stands there in shock, Mother Teresa kneels down and wraps her arms around him, holding him like a baby in one’s arms.
The bishop asks “Who?”
“Jesus. Didn’t he say you’d ‘find me in the least person on earth?’ Isn’t this Jesus challenging us to reach out and love?”
This would be a great time to invite someone in advance to prepare a few words about seeing Jesus in her life. Is there a social worker in your RS who sees Jesus in troubled people she serves? A beleaguered mom who sees Jesus in the women who help her? Is there a woman who went through a painful divorce, and came to know the comfort and unconditional love of Jesus through her trials? A single career woman who feels she doesn’t fit in, but feels the acceptance of a Jesus who spent his life reaching out to and loving those who didn’t fit in?)
Section Three: All will be resurrected (I’d skip this part.)
Section Four: We can be joint heirs with Jesus
Most LDS have a special understanding of this idea of being “joint heirs” with Christ. We often take it to mean that we have the potential to eternally progress towards divinity. What role does the concept of eternal progression play in your life? Has it affected any major life decisions? Does it give you peace to know that all of us imperfect humans, LDS or not, will have an eternity to grow in our humanity, compassion, and charity?
Section Five: Jesus is perfect
“ When we reflect upon the holiness and perfections of our great Master, who has opened a way whereby we may come unto him, even by the sacrifice of himself, our hearts melt within us for his condescension.” P. 54-55
The term condescension often connotes patronizing behavior, but a secondary meaning lacks this pejorative idea. The dictionary defines it as “a voluntary assumption of equality with a person regarded as inferior.” I think this is an interesting way to think about it. A voluntary assumption of equality. A total respect and love for a being still working on getting better. I love that, and I love the idea of our hearts melting because of this.
Conclude with a story of a person’s heart melting because of the atonement. One of my personal favorite stories of a person’s heart melting because of Jesus Christ is that of sea captain John Newton, who spent many years captaining slave ships. Later, as he lay wracked with guilt over the thousands of human souls whose lives he had helped to destroy, he was overcome with despair. The only way he could live with himself was to focus on God’s amazing gift of the Christ’s atonement – that grace that allows even the most guilt-wracked human the opportunity to become whole again. Devoting his live to Jesus and going blind, he became a clergyman and wrote the timeless words to the hymn Amazing Grace
End with singing the first couple verses of Amazing Grace. You might want to photocopy a couple of verses and pass them around, since the hymn isn’t in our book.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!
Songs: I stand all amazed. (opening)
Songs: Amazing grace (closing)
Additional quotes on Jesus by women:
Chieko Okazaki in Sanctuary p. 14. “The Savior is with us, ready to shelter us under his own wings and to lift us, soaring with him, on the wings of eagles. May we seek his face, hear his voice, be grateful for the shelter of his wings, and praise the power that sends us soaring.”
Chieko Okazaki in Aloha p. 134. The message of the Atonement is that Jesus suffered and died for us while we were still sinners. He is willing to meet us where we are. Christ’s redemptive sacrifice was for all humankind, but it was also for each of us individually.”