5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions
See also Teaching Helps
Clarity and a bold spirit – that’s what comes to mind when I think of President Oaks. He’s ever willing to do the heavy lifting, whether it’s popular or not. He is a solid source of doctrine and understanding. This is an excellent opportunity to teach and help others understand our eternal destiny.
You can find his full talk here. Unless you opt to spend a lot of time on a particular quote, try to pick around 2 questions per quote. Choose the questions that resonate the most with you and make a meaningful discussion for your group of personalities. These highlights and questions fit with Lesson Template 1 or Template 2. You can also check out several other General Conference Talks with 5 Highlights.
All blue quotes by Dallin H. Oaks (unless otherwise noted).
- Teacher Master Copy (quotes and questions)
- PDF download of small group discussion
- All 5 quotes PDF (just quotes)
Quote #1 (great news)
Elder Oaks helps us to remember there is great mercy in the Father’s plan. Even for sinners.
The revealed doctrine of the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that all the children of God—with exceptions too limited to consider here—will ultimately inherit one of three kingdoms of glory, even the least of which “surpasses all understanding.” After a period in which the disobedient suffer for their sins, which suffering prepares them for what is to follow, all will be resurrected and proceed to the Final Judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ. There, our loving Savior, who, we are taught, “glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands,” will send all the children of God to one of these kingdoms of glory according to the desires manifested through their choices.
Sometimes, we focus on what isn’t in the lower kingdoms rather than what is. Elder Oaks reminds us to notice how much love is built into even the lowest kingdom. The telestial kingdom is full of glory, light, angels, and the ministrations of the Holy Ghost.
Possible discussion questions: In what way does the Father show all his children mercy? How good is the telestial kingdom? How can we tell what our true desires are? (“the desires manifested through their choices.“)
Quote #2 (focus)
Another unique doctrine and practice of the restored Church is the revealed commandments and covenants that offer all the children of God the sacred privilege of qualifying for the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom. That highest destination—exaltation in the celestial kingdom—is the focus of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Possible discussion questions: What commandments or ordinances help you aim for the highest destination in the Celestial Kingdom? What do you love about the gospel of Jesus Christ? What is one of your favorite teachings? What is the four-fold mission of the Church? (To Proclaim the Gospel, To Perfect the Saints, To Redeem the dead, To Care for the Poor and Needy) Pick one of these four missions and tell us why it seems essential to you or what meaningful experiences you have had with it.
Lesson Organization Notes
This next section is divided into three groups (A, B, and C). You can choose between traditional whole-group discussions, like you did for Quotes #1 and #2, or small-group discussions.
Well-structured small-group discussions are an excellent way to effectively cover a lot of material in a short amount of time. If you have 12 or more people, please consider them. Even introverts enjoy small-group experiences when well-structured (more tips at the end of quote #3).
Quote #3 (mini-quotes)
Instructions: If using whole-group discussion, read quotes A, B, and C aloud together and discuss the questions after each one is read.
If using small groups, divide the class into several groups of 3-5 people now. Let each group direct their own discussion. Tell them they can pick any or all of the three quotes together and discuss them as a group. Don’t worry about which ones they pick – what your class needs to talk about most will rise to the top. (More detailed instructions at the end of quote #3)
No matter which discussion style you choose, ensure everyone has a copy of the three quotes (and questions if using small groups). [Printable PDF download at the end of this article.]
In the “celestial” glory, there are three levels, of which the highest is exaltation in the celestial kingdom. This is the dwelling of those “who have received of his fulness, and of his glory,” wherefore, “they are gods, even the sons [and daughters] of God” and “dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.”
God’s plan, founded on eternal truth, requires that exaltation can be attained only through faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman in the holy temple, which marriage will ultimately be available to all the faithful. That is why we teach that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
Question A: Who obtains the highest if the celestial kingdom has three degrees? Why is gender such an important part of the plan? How do you feel about being a woman (or a man)? What are some of your favorite characteristics/privileges of your gender?
For example, those in the terrestrial kingdom—comparable to the popular concept of heaven—“are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.” They were “honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men,” but “not valiant in the testimony of Jesus.”
valiant: noble, courageous, heroic, lionhearted, bold, strong-willed, vigorous
Question B: Can you strongly believe something is true and not be valiant about it? What are some examples of the “craftiness of men.” (Mormons aren’t Christian, the Brethren aren’t inspired, etc.) How can we avoid the “craftiness of men”?
The revealing description of those assigned to the lowest of the kingdoms of glory, the telestial, is “he who cannot abide … a terrestrial glory.” That describes those who reject the Savior and have observed no divine limits on their behavior. This is the kingdom where the wicked abide, after they have suffered for their sins. These are described in modern revelation as “they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus. …
“These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.”
whoremonger: a sexually promiscuous man [or woman].
Lying is a BIG deal to God. Elder Oaks just reminded us that the telestial kingdom is for whosoever loves and makes a lie. THE. LOWEST. KINGDOM. The scriptures also tell us that lying gives Satan leeway and control fast. (See 2 Nephi 28:20-29 for additional context)
Honesty means never having to remember what you said.
Question C: “Whosoever loves and makes a lie.” How important is honesty to God? Who gains more control over our lives when we lie? (Satan) How does God feel about gossip and backbiting?
And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking; D&C 20:54
Follow the outline above. Because there is so much material, I usually give everyone their own copy to read. You only need to include the actual quotes, not the questions. It really helps to pass out quote assignments earlier in the week or before Sacrament meeting. This allows people to absorb them before reading them aloud and upgrades the quality of the discussion!
[See a PDF download at the end of this article.]
Do not read quotes A, B, or C as a class together. Let the individual groups handle that part. Have people split into smaller groups (3-5). Instruct them to skim the quotes independently, share their favorite parts, and discuss the questions together as a group. The questions and quotes can be addressed in any order and do not all have to be covered.
It takes about 5-10 minutes. You will likely have to stop the conversations, and that’s okay!
Essential preparation for introvert-friendly small groups: Give each person their own copy of the quotes and questions to look at. Also, walk around and listen to each group for a bit (30 secs to a minute) without directing their conversation. Validate and nod. Only jump in if they are highly challenged, and no one is talking.
At the close of the discussion time, have each group elect a spokesperson to summarize their group’s ideas. Allow others to add comments as you go along. Expect about 15-20 minutes total for Quote #3.
Quote #4 (conversion)
Possible engagement activity: Invite your class to notice three keywords that are italicized in the original quote and how they are used. You can write them on the board or say them: “Done,” “Become,” and “Conversion.”
“…the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is based on the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. We qualify for eternal life through a process of conversion. As used here, this word of many meanings signifies a profound change of nature. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.
become: grow to be
conversion: profound change in nature
Possible discussion questions: According to Elder Oaks, what is the difference between “done” and “become”? What does conversion mean to you? Do you still have some converting to do?
Quote #5 (another chance)
If you have wayward children or friends/family that have fallen away, all hope is not lost. The Lord has prepared a way for them, even after death. This is not always taught, and Elder Oaks shares some good, hopeful news.
“…what the Lord revealed to President Joseph F. Smith, [is] now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 138. “I beheld,” the prophet wrote, “that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead.”
“The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,
“And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.”
In addition, we know that the Millennium, the thousand years that follow the Second Coming of the Savior, will be a time to perform the required ordinances for those who have not received them in their mortal lives.
Possible discussion questions: Is the gospel good news? What important tasks take place during the Millennium? How does it help you know that repentance and redemption also occur after death? What stands out for you from this quote? In what ways can this teaching bring peace and reduce sorrow?
Joseph Smith also says some beautiful things on this topic! If your soul needs comfort, consider reading this post. (Not recommended for class preparation – too much material)
Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about President Nelson’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.
If you would like some tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.” Put the quotes in any order that makes sense to you.
PDFs for Download – click the blue links to view online.
This section is a deep dive and not for class. I love sharing Joseph Smith’s wisdom (and that of a couple of apostles).
This material is just for you as a teacher or reader. This is not for class discussion because it pushes back at tradition – and you’ll get at least a few who will react strongly. It is not a good situation to create in class, for learning, or for the Spirit.
Elder Oaks made an interesting statement at the last General Conference. “There is much we do not know about the three major periods in the plan of salvation and their relationship to one another: (1) the premortal spirit world, (2) mortality, and (3) the next life.”
Why would Elder Oaks make a point about what we don’t know? How often do you hear a statement like that – clarifying what we don’t know?
Elder Eyring said something similar in April 2021. “We don’t know the details of family connections in the spirit world or what may come after we are resurrected.”
Why are these apostles emphasizing that we don’t know those details when we have so many teachings and culture circulating that describe details about life before we came here and after we die?
Because the folklore is not doctrine.
Think of any understandings you’ve been taught about the premortal life or life after death. Do they have a pedigree? In other words, can you find scripture that says that, temple ceremonies that say that, or an actual revelation or an angel with a message that says that?
No, it probably came from a song, a poem, a play, a musical, some art, or a book.
The only prophet to talk about this topic and tell you God told him this directly is Joseph Smith. The Joseph Smith Papers are a miracle in our time.
Joseph Smith on Premortal Life and Your Rich Identity
Extraordinary Joseph Smith Quotes
This may push back on stuff your seminary teacher and gospel doctrine teacher taught you…but it will match all scripture verses perfectly.
“…it is necessary for us to have an understanding of God himself in the beginning. If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong, it is a hard matter to get right. There are a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God.”
This is from General Conference, April 1844, just a couple of months before Joseph died. All the scriptures are written. Many sermons and meetings and revelations later, yet there are only a “very few.”
I believe that is still true among members today because of cultural and traditional teachings.
“First, God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heavens, is a man like unto one of yourselves, that is the great secret. If the vail was rent to-day, and the great God, who holds this world in its orbit, and upholds all things by his power; if you were to see him to-day, you would see him in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion and image of God; Adam received instruction, walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.”
I think most members get this part really well. But not the following ones.
“…it is necessary they should understand the character and being of God, for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are the simple and first principles of the gospel…
“The head God called together the Gods, and set in grand council. The grand counselors sat in yonder heavens and contemplated the creation of the worlds that were created at that time.”
This next part is about you. See what you get out of this. It rings 100% true to me.
“I must come to the resurrection of the dead, the soul, the mind of man, the immortal spirit…”
He is clearly indicating/describing the spirit that resurrects after death.
“…All men say God created it in the beginning [soul, the mind of man, the immortal spirit]. The very idea lessens man in my estimation;
Agreed. You are more substantive and regal than you might have imagined.
“I do not believe the doctrine, I know better. Hear it all ye ends of the world, for God has told me so. I will make a man appear a fool before I get through, if you don’t believe it. I am going to tell of things more noble—we say that God himself is a self-existing God; who told you so? it is correct enough, but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles?”
Who? Many teachers and others who meant well and were taught that themselves. It’s tradition.
“The mind of man is as immortal as God himself. I know that my testimony is true, hence when I talk to these mourners; what have they lost, they are only separated from their bodies for a short season; their spirits existed coequal with God, and they now exist in a place where they converse together, the same as we do on the earth.
He is referring to the same spirit before birth and after death. Please pay attention to this next part.
“Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal, and yet have a beginning? [Our traditions teach a beginning and a birth]. Because if a spirit have a beginning it will have an end; good logic. I want to reason more on the spirit of man, for I am dwelling on the body of man, on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; but as the Lord lives there would be an end.—All the fools, learned and wise men, from the beginning of creation, who say that man had a beginning, proves that he must have an end and then the doctrine of annihilation would be true.”
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:
Intelligence: “A spiritual being…it is believed that the universe is peopled with innumerable superior intelligences.”
“God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself: intelligence exists upon a self existent principle, it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. All the spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement. The first principles of man are self existent with God;”
Did you just read that?
“…that God himself finds himself in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was greater, and because he saw proper to institute laws, whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself, that they might have one glory upon another, in all that knowledge, power, and glory, &c., in order to save the world of spirits.”
18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.
19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all. (Abraham 3:18-19)
- God did not make your spirit
- Your spirit is self-existing, just like God
- your spirit has no beginning and no end
- God doesn’t create spirits; he didn’t create himself
One of the reasons I love Joseph Smith as a prophet? He gifted me with a broader, more profound understanding of who Heavenly Father actually is. Therefore, I understand more about myself. His teachings are powerful and life-changing.
Ours is a glorious, extraordinary gospel and religion full of empowering and ennobling truths.