Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sunday School Lesson Recap: Chosen People and the Atonement

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.

Next, 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.

We 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.