5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions
See also Teaching Helps
Elder Christofferson gave a first-rate talk about blessings and presented us with a fresher perspective. Sometimes a slight adjustment to our focus brings about considerable results. This talk was harder for me to transform into a lesson but definitely worth the extra time. I love D. Todd’s Christofferson’s insights.
You may 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 right in with Lesson Template 1 or Template 2. You can also check out several other General Conference Talks with 5 Highlights.
All quotes by D. Todd Christofferson and in blue (unless otherwise noted).
Possible Lesson Plan: Whichever quote you feel is the most inspiring content for your group should come first. For me, that would be 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Quote #1 (vending machine)
Elder Christofferson’s analogy of the vending machine is sublime:
Some misunderstand the promises of God to mean that obedience to Him yields specific outcomes on a fixed schedule. They might think, “If I diligently serve a full-time mission, God will bless me with a happy marriage and children” or “If I refrain from doing schoolwork on the Sabbath, God will bless me with good grades” or “If I pay tithing, God will bless me with that job I’ve been wanting.” If life doesn’t fall out precisely this way or according to an expected timetable, they may feel betrayed by God. But things are not so mechanical in the divine economy. We ought not to think of God’s plan as a cosmic vending machine where we (1) select a desired blessing, (2) insert the required sum of good works, and (3) the order is promptly delivered.
God will indeed honor His covenants and promises to each of us. We need not worry about that. …It is essential that we honor and obey His laws, but not every blessing predicated on obedience to law is shaped, designed, and timed according to our expectations. We do our best but must leave to Him the management of blessings, both temporal and spiritual.
Possible discussion questions: Elder Christofferson outlines a common practice of envisioning a blessing ahead of time and then experiencing disappointment. How would you explain the relationship between obedience and blessings to a friend? What has been your experience with blessings? Have you ever prayed for help or a blessing and got an unexpected outcome? Have you ever looked back and realized trials blessed you?
Quote #2 (Himself)
Our repentance and obedience, our service and sacrifices do matter. We want to be among those described by Ether as “always abounding in good works.” But it is not so much because of some tally kept in celestial account books. These things matter because they engage us in God’s work and are the means by which we collaborate with Him in our own transformation from natural man to saint. What our Heavenly Father offers us is Himself and His Son, a close and enduring relationship with Them through the grace and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.
This quote lights a fire in my soul! Perhaps our culture prompts us to focus on wanted blessings as the yardstick which determines how we measure up to the Heavens. Elder Christofferson reminds us that the true measure is how advanced and personable our relationships with Jesus and the Father have become.
Redirecting our focus to a relationship with Deity sheds new light on hardships. Look at the extreme sufferings of Job, at those of Joseph of Egypt, at those of Joseph Smith, and then you. Elder Christofferson helps us grasp that it was never about the opposition. It was about how much further upward to Christ’s presence we allowed the opposition to take us.
A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.Franklin D. Roosevelt
Possible questions: When it comes to good works, what’s the difference between keeping tally vs. increasing our spiritual stature and experiences now? (Keeping tally is more for a final score and reward in the future VS. transforming ourselves to be closer to the Godhead and reaping benefits now.) What does it mean when Elder Christofferson says, “What our Heavenly Father offers us is Himself and His Son, a close and enduring relationship with Them…” What does a close relationship with the Father and/or the Son look and feel like? Are life experiences worth developing the affection and empowering bond we feel with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?
Quote #3 (a good pruning)
This might be one of the best pieces of advice going into the last days! Elder Christofferson puts personal hardship into perspective; he helps us respond to it differently.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit [the Father] taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
The process of God-directed purging and purifying will, of necessity, be wrenching and painful at times. Recalling Paul’s expression, we are “joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:17)
So, in the midst of this refiner’s fire, rather than get angry with God, get close to God. Call upon the Father in the name of the Son. Walk with Them in the Spirit, day by day. Allow Them over time to manifest Their fidelity to you. Come truly to know Them and truly to know yourself. Let God prevail.
One of my hardest-earned understandings in life is that suffering and trials elevate us. They produce a better, empowered version of ourselves (if we keep the faith). Even though none of us would intentionally sign up for distressing experiences, when we look back, we realize they grew us somehow. Sometimes they help us get rid of bad habits.
Over time, I’ve learned the question is not “why me, Lord”? But “what now, Lord”? One mindset shuts the soul down and closes off inspiration; the other opens the soul up to motivation, encouragement, and stronger solutions. Perhaps, next time a hard circumstance hits, be mindful and notice which process you choose?
Possible questions: How would you sum up Elder Christofferson’s advice? How do you feel about Heavenly Father and the Savior feeling fidelity to you? How do you get closer to Heavenly Father? How do you get closer to the Savior? How have hard trials helped you? Can we sometimes not truly know ourselves? How does getting closer to God allow us to know ourselves more?
Quote #4 (Patricia)
This is a wonderful story that makes an eloquent point. God is willing to walk by our side through whatever suffering we are called to endure.
Elder Brook P. Hales related the story of Sister Patricia Parkinson, who was born with normal eyesight but by age 11 had gone blind.
Elder Hales recounted: “I’ve known Pat for many years and recently told her that I admired the fact that she is always positive and happy. She responded, ‘Well, you have not been at home with me, have you? I have my moments. I’ve had rather severe bouts of depression, and I’ve cried a lot.’ However, she added, ‘From the time I started losing my sight, it was strange, but I knew that Heavenly Father and the Savior were with my family and me. … To those who ask me if I am angry because I am blind, I respond, ‘Who would I be angry with? Heavenly Father is in this with me; I am not alone. He is with me all the time.’”
Often, when someone suffers, people on the outside focus on the injustice and seek to blame. They miss the extraordinary inner work a person experiences and their potential development of a deeper relationship with God. Opposition, injustice, and irony make a humble, faithful soul expand.
One of my most successful prayers is, “please make me equal or greater to what I face.” The Lord is in the business of growing people’s statures and capacities, much more than He is into eliminating difficult people or problems.
14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. (Mosiah 24:14)
Possible questions: What stood out for you from Patricia’s story? What part of it can you relate to? Afflictions open the door to a closer bond with the Savior and lead the way to a better version of ourselves – have you ever experienced this in your life? What happens to us when we get angry about life’s circumstances? (It shuts us down and blinds us to better paths.)
Quote #5 (refocus)
In the end, it is the blessing of a close and abiding relationship with the Father and the Son that we seek. It makes all the difference and is everlastingly worth the cost. We will testify with Paul “that the sufferings of this present [mortal] time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” I bear witness that no matter what our mortal experience may entail, we can trust God and find joy in Him.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Use this as a closing quote.
Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Elder Christofferson’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.
This is a heavier topic about faith, life’s disappointments, and having a relationship with the Savior and Heavenly Father. Pray for the Spirit to touch the hearts and minds of your group. If you would like some tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.” Please put the five quotes in any order that makes sense to you.