1. Make connections
This week, I wanted to just ask the students if they had any experiences this week that linked back to the gospel - if they talked to someone about the gospel, or if something happened in their lives that made them grateful for the gospel or think of the gospel. I asked them to think of that, and while they were thinking, I shared two of mine.
The first experience I had last week was when two Jehovah's Witnesses knocked on my door. I get a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses, and I'm always very courteous to them, because that's how I hope others are treating our LDS missionaries. They had a pamphlet and were talking about how important the scriptures are. I said, "Oh yes, without the scriptures, we'd be lost!" They were a bit taken back that I agreed with them. They asked if I was active in any church, and I told them I was LDS. They seemed a little miffed. Then they said, "Well, some churches only focus on the resurrection of Christ, but we also like to focus on His atonement." "That's awesome," I replied. "I'm so glad that you preach that, because the atonement gives us a chance to repent of our sins so we can return to live with Heavenly Father." They just kind of stared at me, and then they were like, "Well, um, do you want a pamphlet?" "Oh, no thanks, I'm very happy with my religion. But good luck and God bless you. You're teaching people about Christ and bringing people to Christ, and I think that's really great. Have a great day!" I don't know. It was just nice to positively affirm my testimony to someone who isn't of my faith.
The second experience I had last week was when I was hanging out with my BFF and her friend, neither of whom are LDS. Her friend's daughter had been dating an LDS boy who wasn't being a very good example of what we believe. And it made me really sad. So I just told my students that learning of that reaffirmed to me the power of example. This kid's example is perhaps making a bad impression of who we are as LDS people and about what we believe.
(And the students wanted me to tell them the kid's name so they could go egg his house. I told them, truthfully, that I didn't know his name. They're funny.)
So then, after sharing those two experiences, the kids had had time to think about their past week and share a few experiences they had. One girl mentioned that she invited her friend to church, but that he declined. I told her that at least she was planting seeds. Maybe one day they will come to fruition. And that she's probably a good example to him.
2. Bible Dictionary Exercise
As the lesson suggested, we looked up "apostle" in the Bible Dictionary. I had us just read the first paragraph together, because the second and third paragraph talk specifically about Christ's apostles, and I wanted to focus on what the role of apostles is. After we read it, I told them to look back through the paragraph and find out what the role of an Apostle is. What an Apostle's job description is. They came up with two things:
1. They represent Christ.
2. They are special witnesses of Christ's divinity and resurrection.
3. Matching Activity
There were a whole lot of scriptures in this lesson that all basically say the same thing - that apostles are special witnesses of Christ. Instead of looking them up one by one, reading them, and moving to the next scripture, I just kind of made a matching activity. I gave each kid a slip of paper with a scripture on it. Then I had them pick, from a pile in front of them, the summary that most closely matches their scripture. I offered them summaries to pick from, rather than word-for-word scriptures, because I wanted them to synthesize their scriptures better that way, if that makes sense. So here were the scriptures I gave them:
Mosiah 13: 33-35
Mosiah 15: 11-12
D&C 107: 23
D&C 76: 22-24
It just so happened that I only had six kids in my class this week, so it worked out that I give one scripture to each of them. I had planned that, if I had my usual nine kids, I was going to give them a pile of scriptures and the pile of summaries and have them work together to match them up. Orrr, I might have put them in pairs to work. Some in pairs, some individuals.
Here are the summaries I gave them (they're in the same order as the scriptures above. You'll have to mix them all around, obviously, when you present them to your students):
None of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning Christ.
All the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began have spoken more or less concerning the coming of the Messiah and His redemption of His people.
Holy prophets have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord.
Peter, James, and John were sent by Christ to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery; they ordained them and confirmed them to be apostles, and especial witnesses of Christ's name.
The Twelve Apostles are special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world, thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw Christ and heard God's voice bearing record of Him.
I had a poster all ready with spaces on it for them to put their pairs. I just had them tape the pairs together on the poster. Here is what it should look like when you're done:
4. Conference Talks Activity
I wanted each kid to have a quote from last fall's conference that specifically talked about the atonement. So I went onto lds.org's conference index and found a few. Then I scanned most of the other talks (I learned to scan things quickly from a newspaper scanning job I had in college, so it went really quickly) in conference to find any more quotes referring specifically to the atonement. I put each quote on a slip of paper for each student with instructions on it. Here they are:
Read the following quote from our most recent General Conference. Be prepared to summarize what the apostle said, and also be prepared to say what stood out to you as you read it.
When our commitment is diminished for any reason, part of the solution is repentance.10 Commitment and repentance are closely intertwined.
C. S. Lewis, the striving, pragmatic Christian writer, poignantly framed the issue. He asserted that Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness; but until people know and feel they need forgiveness, Christianity does not speak to them. He stated, “When you know you are sick, you will listen to the doctor.”11
- Elder Quentin L. Cook – October 2012 General Conference - “Can Ye Feel So Now?”
Sexual immorality and impure thoughts violate the standard established by the Savior.17 We were warned at the beginning of this dispensation that sexual immorality would be perhaps the greatest challenge.18 Such conduct will, without repentance, cause a spiritual drought and loss of commitment.
Youth who have been exposed to immoral images at a very early age are terrified that they may have already disqualified themselves for missionary service and sacred covenants. As a result, their faith can be severely impaired. I want to assure you young people, as Alma taught, that through repentance you can qualify for all the blessings of heaven.20 That is what the Savior’s Atonement is all about. Please talk with your parents or a trusted adviser, and counsel with your bishop.
In the words of Isaiah, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”28
Elder Quentin L. Cook – October 2012 General Conference - “Can Ye Feel So Now?”
If you have made no mistakes, then you do not need the Atonement. If you have made mistakes, and all of us have, whether minor or serious, then you have an enormous need to find out how they can be erased so that you are no longer in darkness.
President Joseph F. Smith taught: “Men cannot forgive their own sins; they cannot cleanse themselves from the consequences of their sins. Men can stop sinning and can do right in the future, and so far [as] their acts are acceptable before the Lord [become] worthy of consideration. But who shall repair the wrongs they have done to themselves and to others, which it seems impossible for them to repair themselves? By the atonement of Jesus Christ the sins of the repentant shall be washed away; though they be crimson they shall be made white as wool [see Isaiah 1:18]. This is the promise given to you.”8
No matter what our transgressions have been, no matter how much our actions may have hurt others, that guilt can all be wiped out. To me, perhaps the most beautiful phrase in all scripture is when the Lord said, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”11
- President Boyd K. Packer – October 2012 General Conference - “The Atonement”
It is my testimony that many of the deepest regrets of tomorrow can be prevented by following the Savior today. If we have sinned or made mistakes—if we have made choices that we now regret—there is the precious gift of Christ’s Atonement, through which we can be forgiven. We cannot go back in time and change the past, but we can repent. The Savior can wipe away our tears of regret11 and remove the burden of our sins.12 His Atonement allows us to leave the past behind and move forward with clean hands, a pure heart,13 and a determination to do better and especially to become better.
- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf – October 2012 General Conference – “Of Regrets and Resolutions”
It is true that we are in many ways ordinary and imperfect, but we have a perfect Master who wrought a perfect Atonement, and we have call upon His grace and His priesthood. As we repent and purge our souls, we are promised that we will be taught and endowed with power from on high (see D&C 43:16).
- Elder D. Todd Christofferson – October 2012 General Conference - “Brethren, We Have Work to Do”
Because of the eternal and unfathomable Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the priesthood of God can be available even if you have stumbled or have been unworthy in the past. Through the spiritually refining and cleansing process of repentance, you can “arise and shine forth”!11 Because of the boundless, forgiving love of our Savior and Redeemer, you can lift up your eyes, become clean and worthy, and develop into righteous and noble sons of God—worthy bearers of the most sacred priesthood of Almighty God.
- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf – October 2012 General Conference - “The Joy of the Priesthood”
A Christian has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the literal Son of God, sent by His Father to suffer for our sins in the supreme act of love we know as the Atonement.
A Christian believes that through the grace of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, we can repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, and inherit eternal life.
- Elder Robert D. Hales – October 2012 General Conference - “Being a More Christian Christian”
[Christ] called [His disciples] His friends and laid down His life for them. And He has already done the same for you and for me.
- Elder Robert D. Hales – October 2012 General Conference - “Being a More Christian Christian”
The essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through the Savior’s Atonement.
- Elder David A. Bednar – October 2012 Conference - “Converted Unto the Lord”
I gave them a few minutes to read their quotes. Again, I only had six kids, so I took one to read and talk about, and a couple of the other kids took two shorter quotes to share. The kids came up with some really great insights.
5. The Living Christ Activity
I handed each kid a copy of the document, The Living Christ. I gave each kid a highlighter and told them to read the document, highlighting things that stood out to them. I also had pens available if they wanted to take notes in the margins. I told them to be prepared to share their favorite part. You can find The Living Christ here.
So after a few minutes, we each shared our favorite parts. Some were the same as each other, and some were different. But it was neat, and really, the kids were, in a small way, bearing their testimonies to each other about the atonement.
6. The Power of the Teachings of the Living Prophets and Apostles
I asked the kids if their faith in Christ would be different if we didn't have the teachings of the living prophets and apostles. They were kind of quiet, so I said, "Okay. Picture this. You have the scriptures. You go to church. Your bishop and members of the ward still speak in sacrament. You still go to Sunday School and then to Priesthood or Young Womens. But you don't have the words of the living apostles and prophets. What would that be like?"
One girl said that the apostles and prophets kind of keep things up-to-date. The doctrines are the same as they are in the scriptures, but the apostles and prophets can make them apply to us and to what we go through in our specific generation. I thought that was an insightful response.
A testimony of Christ that has always affected me was Elder Bruce R. McConkie's last testimony. None of these kids was alive when he was an apostle, and I myself was a young child, but I learned of this testimony when I was an EFY counselor, and it really moved me, especially in light of the fact that he died soon after he bore it. I also love how he puts it.
I wanted the kids to see it, so I got it all ready on YouTube on my smart phone and just showed it to them. You can go watch it here. You'll have to fast-forward to the last minute or so of the talk.
I printed out that last minute and gave each student a copy, as well. Here it is:
Elder Bruce R. McConkie's Final Testimony
[Christ] is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.
I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.
But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way.
- April 1985 General Conference
I have always found that testimony to be so powerful. It was a nice way to end the lesson. I bore my testimony of the importance of apostles and prophets and of the love I feel for them, and then I closed the lesson.