Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunday School Lesson Recap: The Atonement as Taught in Our Hymns

Last Sunday, we talked about how the Atonement is taught in our hymns. We used the sacrament songs as the text, going through as many as we could (in numerical order in the hymn book) in the time we had - having each student read one verse at a time and summarize the message of that verse.

It was interesting to lead them through a study of what is taught in the hymns and point out how many atonement theories (lesson from earlier this month) were mentioned. I won't go into detail for all the hymns, but it is a fascinating process I recommend highly.  I do want to mention, however, one thing that hit me and about which we talked in more detail at the end of the lesson.

A number of the hymns we read talked about partaking of the sacrament with clean hands and/or a pure heart. (e.g., "Let us remember and be sure our hearts and hands are clean and pure." "In Jesus' name we ask thee to bless and sanctify, if we are pure before thee . . ." etc.)

"O Lord of Hosts" (#178), however, in its entirety, says the following, emphasis added:

O Lord of Hosts, we now invoke thy Spirit most divine to cleanse our hearts WHILE we partake the broken bread and wine. May we forever think of thee and of thy suffering sore, endured for us on Calvary, and praise thee ever more. Prepare our minds that we many see the beauties of thy grace - salvation purchased on that tree for all who seek thy face.

I pointed out the contrast between the idea that we need to be pure to partake and be blessed and the idea that partaking is part of the process of cleansing wrought by the Atonement - that we don't have to be perfectly clean and pure but, rather, are required merely to be actively and sincerely seeking God.

I told them about a dear friend who went to the temple for the first time and was overwhelmed by the covenants he made - who was a wonderful man but didn't return to the temple for about 15 years, since he felt fundamentally unworthy. I told them that I hoped they never latched onto the idea that we need to wear ourselves out and become "perfect" before the Atonement can benefit us but that, as the song above teaches, strive to "seek (his) face" and allow the Atonement to be a force for progress in that pursuit - that we see it not so much as a reward in the next life but more as a guiding light in this life.

1 comment:

ji said...

I once told a teachers quorum that I could teach all of the most important principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the eight verses of Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire. I took the first verse, and asked the others in turn to take a verse and discuss its meaning. There is power in hymns.