5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions
See also Teaching Helps
Comparing the Good Samaritan’s inn to the church is a powerful visual; Elder Gong makes several compelling points throughout his Conference talk. I love the multi-cultural perspectives and world experiences apostles like Gerrit W. Gong contribute to our understanding. He’s been an apostle for 3 years now (March 2018) and he is a treasure!
His complete talk can be found 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 which resonate the most with you and which you feel will 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 Gerrit W. Gong and in blue (unless otherwise noted).
Quote #1 (the true litmus test)
Elder Gong makes one of the most needed statements of our current times. Marital and family status are not the ultimate hallmarks of true discipleship. Unfortunately, our church culture sometimes holds up successful marriages and prosperous family life as the pinnacle to achieve. While love at home and love in marriages are primary, important goals whenever possible, this narrow status depends on multiple people cooperating and eventually leaves out many noble-hearted, dedicated Saints. I consider the following quote an ultra-inspired, apostolic message for all of us in 2021 and beyond.
Also, the majority of adult Church members are now unmarried, widowed, or divorced. This is a significant change. It includes more than half our Relief Society sisters and more than half our adult priesthood brothers. This demographic pattern has been the case in the worldwide Church since 1992 and in the Church in the United States and Canada since 2019.
Our standing before the Lord and in His Church is not a matter of our marital status but of our becoming faithful and valiant disciples of Jesus Christ. Adults want to be seen as adults and to be responsible and contribute as adults. Disciples of Jesus Christ come from everywhere, in every shape, size, hue, and age, each with talents, righteous desires, and immense capacities to bless and serve. We seek daily to follow Jesus Christ with faith unto repentance and enduring joy.
My husband, who was single until he was 46, is a returned missionary and an outstanding, faithful member. Trust me, I know! He mentioned how people have often considered him second-class or not qualified by others at church because he was not married. I was divorced with six young children at age 39, and I can affirm our church culture is somewhat flawed regarding single parents. How powerful and comforting Elder Gong’s clarification is – my standing with God, with the Church, and the ultimate litmus test is how faithful and valiant I am as a disciple of Jesus Christ. No other status or litmus test applies.
Let’s set the record straight on what some chosen, valiant members might look like. Some of us purposely chose a more profound sacrifice and signed up to be born through troubled, chaotic, broken family lines. We willingly volunteered to take on the more difficult journey of finding ourselves, of loving those who would reject the gospel and who maybe even reject us. These are heroic and caring acts. For those who know exactly what I am talking about – have faith in your majestic standing before God. You bring honor, light, and salvation to your ancestral lines.
Might I remind you – all of Joseph Smith’s surviving sons left the Church? Are any of us greater than he? I consider those striving with difficult people, enduring them, surviving them, and/or loving more rebellious family members as rendering the most incredible service of all. And I completely salute you, admire you, and love you for it. Heavenly Father and the Savior love you much, much more.
Possible questions: How do you feel about Elder Gong’s statement about our standing in Church is not dependent upon marital status? Does our Church culture always agree? (Sometimes the emphasis is on achieving a picture-perfect family which involves inflated egos, exclusiveness, feelings of superiority or inferiority, and other unChrist-like behaviors both inside and outside the family. Instead, the purpose of Christ’s gospel is becoming a true disciple of Christ.) Why is Elder Gong’s statement so important? In what ways can we allow all people to be contributing, esteemed adults? What helps you to feel like you belong at Church? How can we extend that feeling to others?
Quote #2 (the Inn)
Another stellar quote, Elder Gong compares our life with several central Bible stories. The first is Adam and Eve leaving the garden, the second is the Good Samaritan and the third is the second coming of Christ. I find Gerrit W. Gong’s parallels remarkable:
Like Adam and Eve, we come into a world of thorns and thistles.
On our dusty roads to Jericho, we are beset upon, wounded, and left in pain.
Though we should help each other, too often we pass to the other side of the road, for whatever reason.
However, with compassion, the Good Samaritan [Jesus Christ] stops and binds our wounds with wine and oil. Symbols of the sacrament and other ordinances, the wine and oil point us to the spiritual healing in Jesus Christ. The Good Samaritan puts us on His own donkey or, in some stained-glass accounts, carries us on His shoulders. He brings us to the inn, which can represent His Church. At the Inn, the Good Samaritan says, “Take care of him; … when I come again, I will repay thee.” The Good Samaritan, a symbol of our Savior, promises to return, this time in majesty and glory.
“…Jesus Christ invites us to become, like Him, a good Samaritan, to make His Inn (His Church) a refuge for all from life’s bruises and storms. We prepare for His promised Second Coming as each day we do unto “the least of these” as we would unto Him. “The least of these” is each of us.
The Church is the good Samaritan’s inn. There are several deep points in this quote – let’s take a look at them by discussing them with our groups.
Possible questions: How do ordinances like the sacrament heal our wounds? Which is your favorite ordinance and why? How can people at Church be a refuge from the bruises and storms of life? Have you ever felt healing from someone’s kindness at Church? What happened? When Linda K. Burton was General Relief Society president, she challenged us to “first observe, then serve.” (Oct 2012) What comes up for you when you hear that quote? Elder Gong gave us an important clue of how to prepare for the Second Coming – what is it? (“We prepare for His promised Second Coming as each day we do unto “the least of these” as we would unto Him.”) How can we individually make our ward or branch more like the “Inn” for others?
Part #3 (unity, not superiority)
We’re not Zion yet (one heart, one mind), and we need this repeating message about unity until we achieve it.
First, we come to the Inn as we are, with the foibles and imperfections we each have. Yet we all have something needed to contribute. Our journey to God is often found together. We belong as united community—whether confronting pandemics, storms, wildfires, droughts or quietly meeting daily needs. We receive inspiration as we counsel together, listening to each person, including each sister, and the Spirit.
As our hearts change and we receive His image in our countenance, we see Him and ourselves in His Church. In Him, we find clarity, not dissonance. In Him, we find cause to do good, reason to be good, and increasing capacity to become better. In Him, we discover abiding faith, liberating selflessness, caring change, and trust in God. In His Inn, we find and deepen our personal relationship with God, our Father, and Jesus Christ.
He trusts us to help make the Inn the place He needs it to be. As we offer our talents and best efforts, His spiritual gifts also strengthen and bless.
Joseph Smith once said the Savior and the angels love us and work with us anyway, despite the ridiculous things we do, and he suggests following that example. Second, he wished there was better friend-shipping and inclusion because we all get more power and miracles from heaven when we are united. Last October (2020), Sister Eubank referred to that quote and the elevated civil unrest, political difficulties, and the presence of polarized opinions that find their way into church life.
After quoting Joseph Smith, Sister Eubank said:
That small sentence [by Joseph Smith] struck me like lightning. By union of feeling we obtain power with God. This world isn’t what I want it to be. There are many things I want to influence and make better. And frankly, there is a lot of opposition to what I hope for, and sometimes I feel powerless. Lately, I have been asking myself searching questions: How can I understand people around me better? How will I create that “union of feeling” when all are so different? What power from God might I access if I am just a little bit more unified with others? (Oct 2020)
Possible activity: Have people split into small groups (3-5 people per group if possible) and have them compare the two quotes from Elder Gong and Sister Eubank. For remarkably better participation, make sure every person has their own copy of the quotes. What similarities can they find between the two quotes and why is unity important? Have each group elect a spokesperson to summarize their findings. Allow some time for additional thoughts if people are raising their hands.
Possible questions: At the last general conference Elder Uchtdorf said, “He teaches us to become His disciples—that our hearts should not strive for personal power, wealth, approval, or position. (April 2021) – how does this teaching help our unity? Why are asserting superiority and status-seeking an enemy to unity? (first, it needs inferiority to succeed and second, it energetically and emotionally creates competition between people) What happens to our ability to pull down the powers of heaven when we are unified? Could we use more powers and gifts from heaven? What can you personally do to help that happen? Rather than identify those who don’t encourage unity, brainstorm some things we each can do to promote unity. Create a list on the board.
Quote #4 (others)
How we treat and respond to others is the hallmark of discipleship. Elder Gong holds up some needed basic benchmarks for church culture. See which areas you feel need improvments as you study this quote.
He entreats us to make His Inn a place of grace and space, where each can gather, with room for all. As disciples of Jesus Christ, all are equal, with no second-class groups.
All are welcome to attend sacrament meetings, other Sunday meetings, and social events. We reverently worship our Savior, thoughtful and considerate of each other. We see and acknowledge each person. We smile, sit with those sitting alone, learn names, including of new converts, returning brothers and sisters, young women and young men, each dear Primary child.
Imagining ourselves in their place, we welcome friends, visitors, new move-ins, busy individuals pulled in too many directions. We mourn, rejoice, and are there for each other…our Savior, Jesus Christ, knows everything about us we don’t want anyone else to know, and He still loves us. His is a gospel of second and third chances, made possible by His atoning sacrifice. He invites each of us to be a good Samaritan, less judgmental and more forgiving of ourselves and of each other, even as we strive more fully to keep His commandments.
We help ourselves as we help each other.
Possible Activity: Here is a summary of Elder Gong’s “room at the inn” benchmarks to achieve in our wards and branches. As you go over them, think about what you could do more. Avoid the temptation to identify the shortcomings of others and contemplate the strength of your own contributions instead. What could you do better? What stands out for you today from the list? Share your inspirations!
Elder Gong’s Checklist
- Do we have feelings of superiority over anyone at church? Do we reinforce clicks?
- Do we greet and acknowledge everyone?
- Do we sit by those who are alone?
- Do we learn names and use them?
- Do we acknowledge the youth by name?
- Do we welcome people?
- Do we mourn with others and rejoice with others – do they know they can call on us?
- Do we spend more time loving and less time judging?
- Do we help out others…just because?
- What do you do to strengthen unity and well-being among all? What would you like to do more of?
Quote #5 (temples)
If you still have time left, this is a quick short statement about temples by Elder Gong.
“…at His Inn we become part of a gospel community centered in Jesus Christ, anchored in restored truth, living prophets and apostles, and another testament of Jesus Christ—the Book of Mormon. He brings us to His Inn and also to His house—the holy temple. The house of the Lord is a place where, as with the wounded man on the road to Jericho, the Good Samaritan can cleanse and clothe us, prepare us to return to God’s presence, and unite us eternally in God’s family. His temples are open to all who live His gospel with faith and obedience.
Possible Visual: Display your favorite temple and share why you love going there.
Remember, you were asked to teach this lesson for a reason. Have faith in what you feel drawn to teach. Thank you for taking the time to prepare yourself! Your study and preparation bless your group with meaningful, richer discussions.