This lesson can be found here

I found it interesting that the objective specifically linked the faith in Christ of the young men to understanding the atonement better.  This thought stuck in my mind the entire time while I planned out this lesson.  I struggled, because dealing with sometimes rowdy 12 year olds can cause one to gloss over the important lessons that the boys need to take with them.  I didn’t want to use hokey analogies.  I wanted to treat this as serious.  The other thing that stood out to me was in the “Note” section of the lesson:

This lesson provides you an opportunity to help each young man understand the life and mission of the Savior. Some young men are entering the mission field without understanding the atonement of Jesus Christ and the ways it blesses their lives and the lives of others.

Wow.  So this needed more than object lessons and analogies.  This is serious stuff.

I planned the lesson and started to fall into the traps of such lessons that deal with concepts the boys have heard since their youth.  I actually told them that.  “I don’t want Sunday School answers…you know, those answers that can be the answer to just about any question.”  We’ve all heard them:

  • Say Your Prayers
  • Read Your Scriptures
  • Pray Always
  • Go To Church
  • Go To The Temple

Almost any question you ask in any lesson can be answered by one of these questions.  Dennis talks a great deal about going beyond the Sunday School answers, and I wanted my boys to really think hard about the questions I was asking.

Those were my goals…give part 1 of a 2 part lesson (part 2 this next week is faith and the atonement), don’t use any goofy object lessons or analogies that either convey the wrong message or cause the boys to lose focus of the lesson, and finally give them something to go home and think about.

We also have a deal going with the boys.  If they ALL bring their scriptures for 4 weeks in a row, I buy donuts (a carry-over from the previous teacher).  I don’t want them to bring their scriptures just for donuts.  We use them.  Extensively.

Here’s how the lesson went:  We first looked at Alma 32:21, and talked about the concept of needing to not know something in order to have faith.  We talked of having faith that the sun was going to come up the next morning, which lead to a detailed discussion lead by one of the boys that wanted to delve into IF the sun never came up, we wouldn’t have enough time to react and we’d be dead.  I decided to not get into a post-apocalyptic discussion on all of the “end of the world” movies I’d seen, and left him to ruminate on the science of it all.

We turned to Ether 12:6 and tried to analyze the scripture.

afaith is things which are bhoped for and cnot seen;

Again, this led back to the original discussion, but with the caveat that it is something that is hoped for with a Godly hope.

wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no dwitness until after the etrial of your faith.

I really wish we had more time to develop this thought.  I think we all don’t really understand the “trial of our faith,” and I think it goes back to the Abrahamic trial, or even the trial that Christ went through.  We seem to feel that at one point, we will get one big trial, and that will define our faith.  But if we believe in an ever-progressing God, with us ever-progressing through the post-existence, wouldn’t that trial be an ongoing trial?

I think of our entire existence as a people who struggle.  Whether they struggle with addictions, or doubts, or any kind of weakness.  That’s the reason we are here.  And every day should be a development of more faith.

I only had about 25 minutes with the boys, so I couldn’t really go very deep into the concept, but I wanted to let them know that they will have trials, and it might be daily, and our faith is defined by our trials.

I wrapped up with a story, and a question.  I was on the last month of my mission, with my last companion, in the southern town of Suncheon, South Korea.  The Korean government required us to have a foreigner card on us at all times, and to register in every city we moved to (at their local city office).  Usually, this meant presenting our foreigner card at the registrar’s office, and having them update their computer system.  My companion was at the main desk, and as I was looking for places to sit down, I saw a group of old Korean men sitting in chairs that had foot massages.  I hadn’t had a foot massage in at least 2 years, so I sat in one of the chairs, slipped my shoes off, and put my feet in the mechanized massager.  I closed my eyes and let my head rest against the back of the chair.  After 2 minutes, I heard a raspy Korean voice (with a smell of alcohol) say “Elder Malone” very slowly, as if he were reading it and trying to comprehend what it meant.  I opened my eyes, and saw him squinting at my name badge.  I said “Yes, sir,” informing him that yes, that was my name, and yes, I was willing to talk with him.  He looked at me with a sarcastic smile and said “You are an Elder?  In my church, Elders are old men like me!  You’re so young!”  I responded to him that yes, I was, and I was here spreading a message.  I’d switched my normal proselyting approach about every week for the past month, focusing on a street-approach of a different subject every week.  This week I was talking about how our Church had the priesthood, the authority to act in God’s name.   So I told him that’s the message I was sharing.

“Priesthood.  You know, I’ve heard of the priesthood.  That’s what they had in the bible.”  Then he looked at me, and pointed his finger at me.  “In the bible, they used the priesthood for miracles.  They healed the sick, caused the blind to see, caused the deaf to hear, cause the lame to walk, they even raised the dead.”  Then he locked eyes, and turned very serious.  “Can you do that?”

I looked at all my boys.  “What would you say?  Before you answer, think about the position I was in.  That’s a very bold question to ask someone, ‘With your priesthood, can you raise the dead?’

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a moment of weakness.  I actually had to ask myself “Can I do that?”  And part of me thought I couldn’t.  Part of me said to myself “That’s what the prophets and Apostles can do, not me.”  But then I realized that I do have that same authority.  With all the faith that I could muster, I looked him dead in the eyes and said “Yes.”

I wish i had a dramatic moment to share after that.  That he became a golden investigator, that he’d had that question for a while, or that he’d been searching for us.  But the alcohol seemed to come back to him, his eyes glazed over, and he looked at me a chuckled, and said condescendingly, “OK.”  Then he went off to his buddies.

That moment was one of the defining faith moments of my life.  That moment became clear to me about taking the step in darkness.  That moment was how I learned about faith.

Next week we’ll be tying faith in Christ to the atonement.