5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions
See also Teaching Helps
This is a WARD LIFE and CULTURE lesson. It could make for some great, meaningful discussion.
Perhaps one of Elder Gong’s greatest gifts as an apostle is his understanding with what goes on in ward land. And, he understands you. He is wise and personable, and this particular lesson addresses several things about ward dynamics and our personal spirituality.
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 Gerrit W. Gong (unless otherwise noted).
- Please don’t worry if you only get through a couple of quotes. Spiritual discussion is golden; it resonates and teaches more than a lecture covering all points will.
- If the discussion gets too secular, pull it back to the quotes and a spiritual tone…naturally and with tact.
- Encourage discussion by accepting all reasonable answers. Validate people for participating and be thankful they spoke up. Engage with the answer in a conversational way whenever it feels natural. Never say, “We haven’t got to that part of the lesson yet.”
- Roll with it. The Spirit intends for you to be successful.
Quote #1 (reverence)
Words cannot express my gratitude for how Elder Gong ATTEMPTED to course-correct our use of the word “reverence.” Our Church culture has mangled that word to mean “be quiet.” Reverence has never meant that. A large swath of our church population has no idea what reverence actually refers to. Elder Gong does a great job expounding on an important concept.
Possible engagement tool: Post the word “reverence” with its accurate definitions on the board and ask the class to listen for examples of reverence in Elder Gong’s quote.
reverence: admiration, adoration, awe, devotion, esteem, loyalty, respect, honor, love, praise, worship
First, the gospel language of warmth and reverence.
With warmth and reverence, our sacrament and other meetings focus on Jesus Christ. We speak reverently of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, personal and real, not only of atonement in the abstract. We call Jesus Christ’s restored Church in His name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We use reverent prayer language when we address Heavenly Father and warm respect when we speak with each other. As we recognize Jesus Christ at the heart of temple covenants, we refer less to “going to the temple” and more to “coming to Jesus Christ in the house of the Lord.” Each covenant whispers, “Love is spoken here.”
Let us always speak with warm and reverent gratitude for God’s work and glory and the merits, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.
Elder Gong’s Reverence:
- Speak up (with warmth and respect)
- Focus on Jesus Christ
- Christ’s atonement
- Use the full name of the Church
- Use reverent prayer language
- Speak to others with warm respect
- Refer to the temple as “coming to the Jesus Christ…”
- Speak often of God’s work and glory
- Speak often of Christ’s merits, mercy, and grace
- Speak often of His atoning sacrifice
Possible discussion questions: Of the items on the above list, which one stands out for you today and why? Why does Elder Gong refer to reverence as speaking warmly and respectfully? What topics help us focus on Jesus Christ (accept all reasonable answers – His atonement, using the correct name of the Church, referring to the temple as a way to come to Christ, etc.) How would you explain reverence to a friend? How can we make sure our definition of reverence includes warmth, respect, and love? (Not ssshhhhh!)
Optional: Deepen the Understanding
What is reverence? You’ve already seen this list of attributes. Every one of these words expresses an element of reverence:
reverence: admiration, adoration, awe, devotion, esteem, loyalty, respect, honor, love, praise, worship
At some point, I became aware that Christ adored me first, devoted himself first, esteemed me first, was loyal to me first, and loved me first. Reverence is a two-way channel we open between God and ourselves to grow within ourselves those same loving qualities that He has – and then return them to God.
Reverence is primarily an internal transformation and a soul’s awareness and connection with the Divine.
Two other essential elements that are present in mature reverence are praise and worship. We hear these words often, but specifically, what are praise and worship? When you walk out of the chapel on any Sunday, do you feel like you’ve praised and worshiped Christ, for example?
Praise: express warm approval or admiration of, applaud, pay tribute to, speak highly of, sing the praises of, rave about, go into raptures about, make much of, admire, hail
Worship: show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites. Revere, venerate, pay homage to, honor, adore, praise, pray to, glorify, exalt
Reverence is a collection of keenly aware, higher emotions, and when we strive to be fully reverent, we develop finer qualities and experiences within us.
**Not for class! But if this topic really interests you, please see “Reverence Has Almost Nothing to Do With Being Quiet.”
Quote #2 (callings)
Second, the gospel language of service and sacrifice.
When I ask local Church leaders what concerns them, both brothers and sisters say, “Some of our members are not accepting Church calls.” Calls to serve the Lord and each other in His Church give opportunity to increase in compassion, capacity, and humility. As we are set apart, we can receive the Lord’s inspiration to lift and strengthen others and ourselves.
When Sister Gong and I were married, Elder David B. Haight counseled: “Always hold a calling in the Church. Especially when life is busy,” he said, “you need to feel the Lord’s love for those you serve and for you as you serve.”
There’s not been one bishopric I have ever known who didn’t remark how hard it is to fill callings and assignments because people say no.
Is it time to say yes?
You can be the heart of loveliness and life in any calling for at least a few people. Every calling has the seeds of greatness and influence built in. That is truly the Lord’s way. It’s all in how you magnify it or not. Consider this verse from Doctrine and Covenants 84:109-110
Even with minor callings – if you humble yourself in prayer, partner with the Heavens, and allow your divine, creative nature to ponder and explore possibilities – you will find satisfaction and fulfillment. You will also feel the mighty hand of the Savior in your life. He will open more and more doors – whatever form they may be. This is His world, and you are of great worth to Him.
Possible discussion questions: Why is it essential to hold a calling whenever possible? Why do some callings that aren’t high-profile still matter significantly? What advice would you give someone who feels inadequate about a calling? Have you ever seen someone take a smaller calling or assignment and magnify it in admirable ways? Can you share an example?
Deepen the Understanding
This is not for class discussion – this is for you.
I understand some of the issues regarding callings and ward politics. Many wards cycle the same few people into the most choice callings and experiences. And sometimes you may feel like you’ve ended up with a lesser call/status because of their lesser esteem for you. If this is you – here are some secrets to get your fire and enthusiasm back.
Quote #3 (together)
Possible engagement tool: Ask your class to listen for how many times Elder Gong mentions interaction with other people. (I counted approximately 10)
The Lord’s restored Church can be an incubator for a Zion community. As we worship, serve, enjoy, and learn His love together, we anchor each other in His gospel. We may disagree politically or on social issues but find harmony as we sing together in the ward choir. We nurture connection and fight isolation as we regularly minister with our hearts in each other’s homes and neighborhoods.
…when we serve and sacrifice in the gospel together, we find fewer faults and greater peace. When we let Him, Jesus Christ helps us speak His love here.
What a stellar comment! “The Lord’s restored Church can be an incubator for a Zion community.”
Possible discussion questions: What interactions does Elder Gong mention in this quote? Why does Elder Gong focus on our interaction with others? How does service and sacrifice tie into our relationships with others? What helps us to find fewer faults and greater peace? (accept all reasonable answers – serve and sacrifice in the gospel together) What does a Zion community mean to you?
Quote #4 (activities)
…ward social and service activities can build new and enduring gospel bonds. For some time I have felt that, in many places in the Church, a few more ward activities, of course planned and implemented with gospel purpose, could knit us together with even greater belonging and unity.
One inspired ward activities chair and committee nurtures individuals and a community of Saints. Their well-planned activities help everybody feel valued, included, and invited to play a needed role. Such activities bridge ages and backgrounds, create lasting memories, and can be carried out with little or no cost. Enjoyable gospel activities also invite neighbors and friends.
Possible discussion questions: How do ward activities help belonging and unity? What is your favorite kind of ward activity that doesn’t cost much money? Why is it important to participate in group events? (to fellowship, to serve, and to get to know more people better) Why are good memories strengthening? Have you ever taken a friend to a ward activity? How did it go?
If the topic of ward activities interests you – here are some ideas and some ways to encourage them to happen:
Quote #5 (covenants)
Covenants bring greater power to our lives.
And that brings us to the gospel language of covenant belonging.
We live in a self-centered world. So much is “I choose me.” It is as if we believe we know best our own self-interest and how to pursue it.
Jesus Christ offers a better way—relationships founded on divine covenant, stronger than the cords of death. Covenant belonging with God and each other can heal and sanctify our most cherished relationships. In truth, He knows us better and loves us more than we know or love ourselves. In truth, when we covenant all we are, we can become more than we are. God’s power and wisdom can bless us with every good gift, in His time and way.
Possible discussion questions: How would you define covenant belonging? How can our covenants help us have more profound, stronger relationships with each other? Do you believe Elder Gong when he says Jesus Christ knows you and loves you more than you do yourself? Do you think covenants endow us with more power than we would have on our own? Why?
Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Elder Gong’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.
This talk can potentially energize better ward dynamics, whether it be a new outlook on reverence or more ward activities. Thank you so much for teaching this lesson. Put your heart into it. You were asked to teach this lesson for a reason, so believe in what you are drawn to teach. If you would like some tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.” Please put the quotes in any order that makes sense to you.