Two weeks ago, on Sunday, April 20th, as I was thinking of finishing touches for the Sunday School lesson, I had the distinct impression that the kids would hear my lesson in Sacrament Meeting and that they should attend Gospel Doctrine instead. I cleared that with our Bishop, and we cancelled class. Sure enough, the speakers in Sac Mtg went over every major part of my prepared lesson - and the Gospel Doctrine lesson was excellent. Also, I had an epiphany during it that served as the foundation of the lesson outline last Sunday. It was the final lesson about the Atonement, and I approached it in a way that was new for me. I was a bit concerned about how it would go, but it went really well.
I started by
writing "Chosen People" on the board and drawing a simple timeline below
it. I asked the students to name some "chosen people" from the
earliest records to the present time. We came up with Adam and Eve,
Noah, Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Moses, David, John (the Baptist), Jesus,
Paul and Joseph Smith. I mentioned Pres. Uchtdorf's talk "Faith of Our
Fathers" and added the Protestant Reformers to the list. We then added
Lehi and Nephi to the list to better represent our overall canon.
I asked them who constituted "The Chosen People" at the time each
person on the list lived. Adam and Eve were the first two chosen
people; Noah's family is listed as eight people; the Abrahamic Covenant
extended the number to millions / billions of people, eventually (and I
explained how, genetically, by now, everyone is related if we go back
far enough); Israel began a different kind of chosen people - one that
was focused on laws and ordinances and was a restriction in a real way;
Jesus re-established the universality of chosen-ness; it was restricted
again through the apostasy to include only Christians; Joseph restored the
idea that ALL are chosen for salvation and chosen for potential
exaltation, while ALSO restoring the idea of a smaller chosen people who
perform ordinances that make universal chosen-ness possible.
then talked about what that means about us (the LDS Church) being
"chosen people". We talked about the natural tendency to make
discussions of chosen-ness turn into "us vs. them" conflicts. We talked
about how, in our theology, even people who inherit the Telestial
Kingdom are "chosen" in a very real way - that only those who
consciously and knowingly choose Lucifer over God are not chosen in any
way. We talked about how our "chosen-ness" is unique ONLY in the sense
that we have been given the responsibility of making sure everyone has
the opportunity to be chosen, as well. I held my hands together to form
a small circle and said that we fail in our chosen-ness if we don't
expand that circle as broadly as possible - and spread my arms as I
talked to illustrate that point.
I told them that there are two
"states of chosen-ness", if you will. There is being chosen to teach
and share the Gospel (to expand the circle), and there is being chosen
to receive God's glory. They all understood that receiving God's glory
is more important than any idea of chosen-ness in this life - and that
those who accept God fully in the next life are "more chosen" than those
who have a chosen status in this life only.
We ended by
talking about the ultimate vision of the Atonement - the ideal that
every child of God ends up in the Celestial Kingdom and that we have to
learn to view every child of God as having that potential and treating
them accordingly, no matter how we see them naturally or how little
potential we see in them currently. I explained the Atonement as the
bridge between a smaller chosen people and a universal chosen people.