5 Highlights for “Remember What Matters Most” by Elder Ballard

by | Apr 10, 2023

painted heart with lots of colorful inner strokes

5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions

See also Teaching Helps

Elder Ballard’s general conference talk was one of the most requested lesson templates from the April 2023 poll. Elder Ballard teaches and testifies about several important gospel highlights: our relationships, our testimony bearing, following promptings, and our connection to Christ.

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 Elder M. Russell Ballard (unless otherwise noted).


Lesson Prep

  • Please remember that when teaching, less material is more. The goal is to get your group to talk and discuss with each other. Discussion deepens the concepts better than any other teaching method, presentation, or learning tool. It’s far better to understand one golden new thing deeply than to rush through 10 “important” concepts that are forgotten by the time they get to the parking lot.
  • Think about how the Holy Spirit works…one new impression and thought at a time. If your group spends the entire 50 minutes on one quote and the discussion is hearty, interactive, and spiritual – you scored a huge victory and blessed Israel. (See 9 Tips for More Participation)
  • If I were teaching this lesson, I would do quotes 1, 2, 5, 3, and 4 in that order.
  • Please note that quotes 4 and 5 are essentially the same principle, so pick the one that fits your group the best and do it first. Save the other one for the last quote in case you still have time for another quote.
  • There’s an optional take-home handout – PDF download for quote #2 if it fits your lesson plan and emphasis. It’s probably better to hand it out at the end of class, otherwise, it’s a reading distraction.

Quote #1 (matters most)

While this quote is short – it is the most important of Elder Ballard’s comments.

Today I will share from my heart a few feelings and thoughts on what matters most.

First, a relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is most important. This relationship matters most now and in eternity.

Possible discussion questions: How do you have a relationship with Heavenly Father? How do you have a relationship with Christ? What helps you strengthen those relationships? Why is it essential to cultivate and strengthen those relationships now?

Christ blue robe
The Lord is personable, and you can develop a strong relationship with Him.

Optional – Deepen the Understanding

Moses wanted the Children of Israel to have the same in-person experiences with Jehovah that he had. While he was up the mount – preparing for that to happen – the Children of Israel made a golden calf to worship. So, they ended up with the lesser Aaronic priesthood instead.

President Nelson tries to guide us, much like Moses, to a personal, powerful relationship with Christ. Perhaps we sometimes have old customs and habits – our golden calves – that distract us from such an extraordinary invitation.

President Nelson:

“When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do.

When you spiritually stretch beyond anything you have ever done before, then His power will flow into you. And then you will understand the deep meaning of words we sing in the hymn “The Spirit of God”:

The Lord is extending the Saints’ understanding. …
The knowledge and power of God are expanding;
The veil o’er the earth is beginning to burst.

(Russell M. Nelson ~ October 2019)

And this quote from the prophet probably needs to be repeated often, especially as the world falls further and further.

I urgently plead with each one of us to live up to our privileges as bearers of the priesthood. In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity. (The Price of Priesthood Power – April 2016)

Quote #2 (relationships)

Probably, the majority of us did not grow up in a stable, supportive, or close-knit family. More and more, I find that to be an exception, even in the Church, so Elder Ballard’s words here are so fitting! They also coincide perfectly with the 2nd great commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Every human relationship we can build and strengthen matters.

I recognize some may not have the blessings of a close family, so I include extended family, friends, and even ward families as “family.” These relationships are essential for emotional and physical health.

These relationships can also offer love, joy, happiness, and a sense of belonging.

Nurturing these important relationships is a choice. A choice to be part of a family requires commitment, love, patience, communication, and forgiveness. Sometimes we disagree with another person, but we can do so without being disagreeable. In courtship and marriage, we don’t fall in love or fall out of love as though we are objects being moved on a chessboard. We choose to love and sustain one another. We do the same in other family relationships and with friends who are like family to us.

Possible discussion questions: Besides a spouse and children, do you have any close, strong relationships with others? According to Elder Ballard, why are those relationships important? Why are they important to you? How is love a choice?

Optional – Deepen the Understanding

Possible discussion question: Do you remember anything from President Nelson’s recent general conference talk, “Peacemakers Needed,” that helps with your relationships?

Note: these quotes are included in Quote #5 as well.

“The Savior’s message is clear: His true disciples build, lift, encourage, persuade, and inspire—no matter how difficult the situation. True disciples of Jesus Christ are peacemakers.” and “One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.” Russell M. Nelson – April 2023

Optional: See 10 ways to keep peace with difficult people. I shared this list with Elder Bednar’s talk “We Heeded Them Not” It also seems like an excellent fit for this quote.

Quote #3 (great story)

Elder Ballard’s story is touching and emphasizes an essential point. Spiritual impressions are usually given when needed – not as an item to add to your to-do list for later. The Lord’s errands seldom fit neatly into our schedules.

Another thing that matters most is following the promptings of the Spirit in our most important relationships and in our efforts to love our neighbors as ourselves, including in our private and public ministries. I learned this lesson early in my life while serving as a bishop.

Late one cold, snowy winter evening, I was leaving my bishop’s office when I had a strong impression to visit an elderly widow in the ward. I glanced at my watch—it was 10:00 p.m. I reasoned that it was too late to make such a visit. And besides, it was snowing. I decided to visit this dear sister first thing in the morning rather than disturbing her at such a late hour. I drove home and went to bed but tossed and turned throughout the night because the Spirit was stirring me.

Early the next morning, I drove straight to the widow’s home. Her daughter answered the door and tearfully said, “Oh, Bishop, thank you for coming. Mother passed away two hours ago”—I was devastated. I will never forget the feelings of my heart. I wept. Who more than this dear widow deserved to have her bishop hold her hand, comfort her, and perhaps give her a final blessing? I missed that opportunity because I reasoned away this strong prompting from the Spirit.

Brothers and sisters, young men and young women, and Primary children, I testify that following the promptings of the Spirit is one of the things that matter most in all our relationships.

I had an experience similar to Elder Ballard’s where I arrived too late by my own choice – and someone died before I got there. So his story yanks at my heartstrings and regrets.

Promptings Matter

  • important relationships
  • neighbors
  • private ministries (i.e., not an official church calling)
  • public ministries
  • all our relationships

Possible discussion questions: Elder Ballard urges us to follow through on promptings for whom? (accept any reasonable answer / see list above) Does the Spirit prompt us to say and do things in our family and friend relationships? Have you ever been an answer to someone’s prayers? Has anyone unexpectedly been an answer to yours? Can we include our relationships in our prayers?

Quote #4 (foundation)

This is quite similar to quote #5 – perhaps choose this one or quote #5.

Finally, on this Palm Sunday weekend, I testify that being converted to the Lord, bearing testimony of Him, and serving Him are also among the things that matter most.

Faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of our testimonies. A testimony is a witness or confirmation of eternal truth impressed upon individual hearts and souls through the Holy Ghost. A testimony of Jesus Christ, born of and strengthened by the Spirit, changes lives—it changes the way we think and how we live. A testimony turns us toward our Heavenly Father and His divine Son.

Alma taught:

“Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?

“Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit.”

Possible discussion questions: How does a strong testimony affect your choices? Elder Ballard said, “A testimony of Jesus Christ, born of and strengthened by the Spirit, changes lives—it changes the way we think and how we live.” Have you ever had a change of heart or a change of viewpoint because of the Spirit? Why are fasting and prayer effective? (accept all reasonable answers – because they bring more Spirit into our lives)

Quote #5 (I know)

This is substantial guidance about testimonies.

Often in our testimony meetings on fast Sundays, we hear the phrases “I am thankful” and “I love” more than we hear the phrases “I know” and “I believe.”

I invite you to bear your testimony of Jesus Christ more often. Bear testimony of what you know and believe and what you feel, not just of what you are thankful for. Testify of your own experiences of coming to know and love the Savior, of living His teachings, and of His redemptive and enabling power in your life. As you bear testimony of what you knowbelieve, and feel, the Holy Ghost will confirm the truth to those who earnestly listen to your testimony. They will do so because they have watched you become a peaceful follower of Jesus Christ. They will see what it means to be His disciple. They will also feel something they may not have felt before. A pure testimony comes from a changed heart and can be carried by the power of the Holy Ghost into the hearts of others who are open to receive it.

I’ve seen people use testimonies for a blessing resume and a show of attention for those they “love.” I’ve had my husband tell everyone he loves me from the stand, and yes, that does feel sweet. Nonetheless, even when sincere and humble, our blessings and love relationships are not something everyone can experience or share. Whereas “I know” and “I believe” are relevant to everyone in the room. The purpose of a testimony is to testify and edify.

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. (1 Corinthians 14:26)

21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darknes
s. (Doctrine and Covenants 50:21-23)

edify: enlighten, uplift, improve, teach, open up understanding, deepen concepts, ignite joy

Edify sometimes gets pushed off to the side during “I love” and “thankful for my personal status and good fortune blessings” narratives. Elder Ballard reteaches a long-established spiritual doctrine that helps uplift everyone – speaker and listener.

Possible discussion questions: Why would Elder Ballard prioritize “I know, and I believe” over “I love” and a recitation of blessings? Why is it important to include our experiences with Jesus Christ in our testimonies? Why does a peaceful follower of Christ have more influence than those who are not peaceful? Does our heart sometimes need changing? President Nelson shared who is a true follower of Christ during the same general conference – what were his main points? (accept all reasonable answers)

“The Savior’s message is clear: His true disciples build, lift, encourage, persuade, and inspire—no matter how difficult the situation. True disciples of Jesus Christ are peacemakers.” and “One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.” Russell M. Nelson – April 2023

More possible questions: Do you believe it’s important to live up to your testimony? Why? (Accept all reasonable answers – True followers invoke the Spirit and create light others can see and recognize as goodness and truth. Hypocrisy discredits and repels seekers of truth.)

Summary

Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Elder Ballard’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.

Final Comment

You’re well on your way to giving a meaningful lesson full of thought-provoking discussion. Put the quotes in any order you prefer. Teach with confidence, and if you would like some tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.


10 Practical Ways to ‘Heed Not’ in Difficult Situations

A list I cultivated with lots of trial and error. This is a life-long study of how to deal with difficult people. I still make mistakes and have to review this list frequently. However…when applied, these suggestions work wonders.

The Spirit of Christ, regular scriptures, and daily, connected prayer will help you develop and acquire the calm and the strength to follow these steps:

  1. Don’t get pulled into drama or a “word salad” (meaning lots of words which include bickering, refuting, proving, recalling)
  2. Cultivate a peaceful, graceful response to invalidations, pettiness, talking in circles, and setups. See item #1. Neutral responses: “I’ll keep that in mind” – (great response 75% of the time). “Let me think about that and get back to you.” “I have no response to that.” “That’s a story.” Make sure you keep your voice tone neutral – no emotion, no faces, and no body language.
  3. Don’t pick it up when crazy-making accusations or head games are laid at your feet. You have no points to make. Just observe.
  4. When someone behaves poorly or aggressively, shrug it off (to yourself). Please don’t wear it.
  5. Don’t try to change them. Don’t steer them. Don’t catch them in the act. Period.
  6. Step away and give yourself a timeout. Soothe yourself – do something you enjoy. Don’t rehearse it in your head.
  7. Let them make a fuss. They look ridiculous.
  8. Develop self-worth that is independent of anyone but Christ.
  9. Decompress. Regularly do self-care and enjoy yourself. Hard calendar and schedule at least a half-hour each day for your hobby, gift, talent, and calling in life. Take it off the back burner, and don’t let other things crowd it out.
  10. Some people are “unpleasable” or forever expressing disapproval. Don’t get wrapped up in pleasing them. See items 1-9 for help with this. © 2023 Divine Code | Shawnie Cannon

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