5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions
See also Teaching Helps
Elder Bednar uses scholarly words, and I read some of his sentences several times to completely understand them. However, his rich, deep talks are always worth the effort! This particular talk explains how to make living the gospel a much simpler set of instructions. This is golden lesson material.
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 David A. Bednar and in blue (unless otherwise noted).
Quote #1 (govern themselves)
Note: Quote #5 could also be used as an introduction with or without quote #1.
Elder Bednar starts out with a charming little piece of Church history; he quotes John Taylor while he was a missionary in France:
“Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. ‘How?’ responded the gentleman; ‘to us it is very difficult.’ Mr. Smith replied, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.’”
Elder Bednar then quotes D&C 88:78 and the need for all of us to be instructed in principles and doctrines. He says:
Learning, understanding, and living gospel principles strengthen our faith in the Savior, deepen our devotion to Him, and invite a multitude of blessings and spiritual gifts into our lives.
Stated succinctly [n a brief and clearly expressed manner.], a gospel principle is a doctrinally based guideline for the righteous exercise of moral agency [i.e. to help us choose better]. Principles derive from broader gospel truths [come from foundational, basic gospel truths] and provide direction and standards as we press forward on the covenant path**.
Possible questions: Joseph Smith said ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.’ What does that quote mean to you? Why is it important that we govern ourselves? Can you give an example of this principle from your own home, either the one you were raised in or the one you have now? How would you describe a gospel principle to a friend [a guideline from gospel teachings that help us make better choices in daily life]? What is the covenant path?**
** “What is the covenant path? It is the one path that leads to the celestial kingdom of God. We embark upon the path at the gate of baptism and then “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men [the two great commandments] … to the end.” In the course of the covenant path (which, by the way, extends beyond mortality), we receive all the ordinances and covenants pertaining to salvation and exaltation.” D. Todd Christofferson (April 2021)
Quote #2 (4th Article of Faith)
Elder Bednar uses a perfect example of gospel principles and ordinances working together.
“…the fourth article of faith sets forth the first principles—the guidelines of exercising faith in Jesus Christ and repenting—and the first priesthood ordinances that enable the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be efficacious [successful in producing an intended result] in our lives.
4th Article of Faith:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Possible questions: What are the 2 principles from the 4th Article of Faith? How about the 2 ordinances? How are principles and ordinances different and how do they complement each other? [possible answer: principles are guidelines based on gospel truths, ordinances are sacred rites which are symbolic, outward vows or blessings which help us live those principles. What are your favorite ordinances? Why? What principle does that favorite ordinance help you live?
Quote #3 (simplicity, not lists)
Simplicity is my favorite part of Elder Bednar’s message. Gospel principles were designed to be simple. Once we understand them on a fundamental level – making choices and living the gospel becomes much more manageable. David A. Bednar quotes President Nelson:
“How do we hallow the Sabbath day? In my much younger years, I studied the work of others who had compiled lists of things to do and things not to do on the Sabbath. It wasn’t until later that I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father. With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, ‘What sign do I want to give to God?’ That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear.”
President Nelson’s simple but powerful question emphasizes a principle that cuts through any uncertainty about what it means and what we should do to honor the Sabbath. His question summarizes a guideline and standard that can bless all of us in our varied circumstances.
This reminds me of K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, saints) and how D&C 33:16-17 teaches that the simplest habits turn out to be our most powerful ally for the Second Coming. 1) Pray and 2) Read scriptures. These two habits are the oil that keeps our lamps bright, trimmed and burning despite it all.
Possible questions: How did a simple concept change the way President Nelson observed the Sabbath day? Have you ever seen lists of what to do and what not to do on the Sabbath day? Why does a simple principle work better than lists? If President Nelson were to ask you, “what sign do you want to give God on the Sabbath day” – what would you keep doing, stop doing or start doing on the Sabbath day?
Quote #4 (you are Israel)
Elder Bednar defers to President Nelson a lot in this talk. It’s little wonder as President Nelson’s teachings are frequently phenomenal. He is powerful. In April 2020, the prophet explained the principle of belonging to the House of Israel. It literally means to “let God prevail.” He says:
“Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life?Consider how such willingness could bless you.”
President Nelson gives several examples of how this principle applies – here are a couple of common ones:
If you are unmarried and seeking an eternal companion, your desire to be ‘of Israel’ will help you decide whom to date and how.
“If you are married to a companion who has broken his or her covenants, your willingness to let God prevail in your life will allow your covenants with God to remain intact. The Savior will heal your broken heart. The heavens will open as you seek to know how to move forward. You do not need to wander or wonder.
“When your greatest desire is to let God prevail, to be part of Israel, so many decisions become easier. So many issues become nonissues! You know how best to groom yourself. You know what to watch and read, where to spend your time, and with whom to associate. You know what you want to accomplish. You know the kind of person you really want to become.”
Two options to follow up, I would pick either the questions or the activity below, but not both. Personally, I prefer the activity because it touches on different learning styles.
Possible questions: What is your favorite part of President Nelson’s quote? What does it mean to belong to the House of Israel? How would it influence your family relationships and dynamics if you let God prevail? How do you handle frustrating or difficult people when you “let God prevail”? (This is a case by case situation and there is no one formula, but for sure we would dip into civility and kindness more often.) Would a determination to “let God prevail” reduce your fears and worries? How?
Possible activity: Have a volunteer read this quote. This activity will work even better if everyone has their own copy of the quote on a piece of paper with some space to write below it.
Note how many crucial decisions and life experiences can be influenced by the principle of being willing to let God prevail: dating and marriage, gospel questions and concerns, temptation, personal grooming, what to watch and read, where to spend time, with whom to associate, and many, many more. President Nelson’s inspired questions emphasize a simple principle that provides direction in every aspect of our lives and enables us to govern ourselves.
Make sure everyone has pen and paper and give them 2-3 minutes to answer this question (play soft music if practical): What would you work on about yourself if you let God prevail?
Follow up: Ask by show of hands how many people thought of something they would like to work on. Then ask if anyone minds sharing what they wrote (volunteers only!).
Quote #5 (ship)
If you have any time left, this section makes a great sum-up of your lesson. This could also be used as an introduction with our without quote #1. The ship is an effective visual.
A “helm” is a wheel or tiller and the associated equipment used to steer a ship or a boat. And “workways with the wind and the waves” denotes turning a ship so that it maintains its balance and does not capsize during a storm.
Gospel principles are for me and you what a helm is to a ship. Correct principles enable us to find our way and to stand firm, steadfast, and immovable so we do not lose our balance and fall in the raging latter-day storms of darkness and confusion.
If you haven’t already, be sure to share a principle and/or an ordinance that is especially important to you and why. Thank your group for their awesome contributions.
It’s no coincidence you are teaching this lesson. There are needed messages for you found in this material. Have faith in what you feel drawn to teach. Your efforts to prepare and involve others will lead to a more meaningful dialogue and memorable class. Reminding others of the importance of principles and ordinances helps to keep people on the covenant path. As times get darker and more challenging, we will need that helm to guide us through choppy waves.