Gospel Principles Lesson One: Our Heavenly Father
–From Robert Fulghum:
“[My mother's maiden name] was Howard. She came from a big Memphis clan that was pretty close and was referred to as the Howard Family. As a small child, I thought of myself as a member of the Howard Family because it was often an item of conversation as in “The Howard Family is getting together,’ and The Howard Family thinks people should write letters to their grandmother.” The matriarch, my grandmother, was referred to as Mother Howard. . . . Howard was a name that was important to me from early on in my life. What happened was that I got packed off to Sunday School at around age four and the first thing I learned was the Lord’s Prayer, which begins “Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy name.” And what I heard was “Our Father, which art in heaven, HOWARD be Thy name.” And since little kids tend to mutter prayers anyhow, nobody realized what I was saying was Howard. And believing I was a member of His family–the Howards. Since I was told that my grandfather had died and gone to heaven, God and my grandfather got all mixed up in my mind as one and the same. Which meant that I had a pretty comfy notion about God. When I knelt beside my bed each night and prayed, “Our Father, which art in heaven, Howard be thy name,” I thought about my grandfather and what a big shot he was because, of course, the prayer ends with “For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever, Amen.” I went to bed feeling pretty well connected to the universe for a long, long time. It was a Howard Family Enterprise. All human images of the ultimate . . . are metaphors, and as metaphors go, this is a pretty homey one. And I thought it for so long that even when I passed through all those growing-up stages of skepticism, disbelief, revision and confusion–somewhere in my mind I still believed in Howard. Because at the heart of that childhood image there is no alienation.”
–I love this story because of the delicious mixture of getting the nature of God absolutely right and absolutely wrong at the same time. Also because his knowledge–even imperfect–blessed his life. Obviously, Howard isn’t God. But–and would that it were also obvious to each of us–God is as close to us as a grandparent. I hope in this lesson we can think about what we know about God, how that knowledge blesses our lives, and what we can do to know more about God–to refine our knowledge and maybe even get rid of some misconceptions.
There Is A God
–I’m going to share my personal story of first knowing of the reality of God. Ask: Does anyone else have a similar experience that they would like to share?
–If you knew someone who was doubting the existence of God, what would you tell her?
–Read Alma 30:44. Some people take the same data (i.e., existence of planets, natural elements) and reach the opposite conclusion (=that there is no God). What do you do with that? How do you develop the perspective that lets you take something (stars, plants, whatever) and see God’s hand in it as opposed to seeing the absence of God from it? How might this be relevant to your life?
–There are so many titles for God in the scriptures. Which ones resonate with you and why? I like JS’s “great parent” mentioned in this section!
The Nature of God
–”Because we are made in His image, we know that our bodies are like His body.” How does this (or: how should this) affect how we think about our bodies?
–Issue of God’s attributes: What difference does it (or: should it) make? Is this something you think about: “I should be more merciful because God is merciful?”
Coming to Know God
–”Knowing God is so important that the Savior said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”
–My experience (no details): God doesn’t always want us to suffer as much as possible. What have you learned about God through your own experiences? Have you had any misconceptions cleared up?
–What have you found most effective in your efforts to come to know God? What hasn’t worked?
–Mosiah 4:9. Interesting contrast with the above section on the nature of God: What do we do with the fact that we can’t know everything about God and about God’s plan?
–I was talking to my husband recently about how sometimes, it seems to me, Mormons can be arrogant in acting as if they know everything about God. He said, “It’s like a computer. People think they know how it works, but they don’t.” I thought that was a perfect image: you probably know enough to use a computer, but not build one. You know some things (No magnets! Ask me how I know that!), but you don’t know others. But you know enough to operate it. Similarly, we know enough to pray, to gain salvation, etc., but we can’t claim we know everything about God. Thoughts?
The manual introduction says this: “You can find answers to life’s questions, gain an assurance of your purpose and self-worth, and face personal and family challenges with faith.” What in this lesson can help you meet each of these goals?