In this post I’ll highlight a few excerpts from chapter six, “Sustaining Those Whom the Lord Sustains,” and offer some suggested questions for discussion. As the manual’s introduction suggests, “You could also develop your own questions especially for those you are teaching” (vi). There’s plenty here and more to fill up the time. If your class is anything like mine much of the discussion will actually come from the seats in answers to good questions.
I’m interested to hear your feedback on how this lesson is structured and on the content itself. You’ll notice most of the questions lead into the next quote or talking point but I tried to keep the overall structure flexible enough to allow for skipping around if class members bring up points from later in the lesson. How did your teachers share this lesson? Also feel free to suggest your own favorite scriptures/anecdotes/quotes for use in this lesson.
Teachers might begin with the opening section, “From the Life of George Albert Smith,” which quotes from Smith’s General Conference remarks of October 1945. He began his public ministry as prophet by calling attention to his weaknesses:
“I thank you for the confidence that has been manifested, my brothers and sisters, in hoping that I may succeed, and promising as some of you have, that you will help me to succeed, because I am only a man, one of the humblest among you, but I have been called to this service—and I would not be here if I did not know I had been called—by the authority of our Heavenly Father.”
“I will need the help of every man and every woman and every child, not for my blessing, but for your blessing, and for the blessing of the children of men wherever they may be. That is not my responsibility, that is our responsibility” (TPC:GAS, 57, emphasis in original).
Possible Discussion Questions, Scriptures, Sources:
p. 57: “I am only a man…” (first paragraph)
- What could a prophet mean by such a statement?
- Acts 14:15. Joseph Smith quoted this verse on multiple occasions. For instance: “I was this morning introduced to a man from the east, after hearing my name he
repliedremarked that I was nothing but a man: indicating by this expression that he had supposed that a person <to> who<m> the Lord should see fit to reveal his will, must be something more than a man, he seems to have forgotten the saying that fell from the lips of St. James, that Elias was a man of like passions like unto us, yet he had such power with God…” (From the Joseph Smith Papers; Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen, eds. Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839 [Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2008],85, or online with image here).
- See also: “Although prophets are men with human frailties, they are called of God to teach and lead His people,” from Chapter 45: “Joseph Smith’s Feelings about His Prophetic Mission,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007), 517–27.
- Point out that the next paragraph cautions against “words of criticism or of unkindness” against leaders. This could pertain to local leaders, as well.
- Exodus 18:13-24. Moses receives counsel from his father-in-law. Was Jethro criticizing Moses in these verses? What does this account suggest in regards to how we might interact with our own leadership?
p. 57: “I will need the help of every…” (second paragraph)
- What sorts of things does prophet need help with? How about GAS in particular?
- Go to p. xxxvi, “Reflections on Life at Age 80.”
Read: “In these eighty years…” to end of page. May be an appropriate time to briefly discuss some of the emotional difficulties Smith dealt with. What does this tell us about those in whom God places his trust, including local leaders? ourselves?
p. 57-8: “In 1946…carry your part of the work.” (last paragraph)
- Any interesting stories about the physical ritual of sustaining General Authorities?
- What insights do we gain by thinking about the actual way this ritual is carried out? (Over satellite, for instance.)
- We also sustain the Relief Society presidency and other auxiliaries during Conference. Discuss sustaining of local women and men leadership in the ward and stake.
p. 59-60: “From the time…enrich mankind.” (last paragraph on the page)
- This quote pertains to the type of teachings we might expect from prophets.
- “instruction tending to happiness…” What sort of instructions would tend specifically to happiness?
- “ennoble and enrich mankind…” These are interesting descriptors. Examples of ennobling and enriching truths?
- What are some recent examples of things our prophets have discussed in GC, any particular talks that have struck you, or that ennoble and enrich? Any examples from local leaders or sacrament meeting talks by other members?
p. 116: “I believe in you, my brothers and sisters…we live a godly life.“ (last paragraph)
- Not only did George Albert Smith feel the need to be sustained by members of the Church, he also sought to sustain the membership of the Church, as this quote indicates. He taught that each member “is entitled to the same inspiration.”
- 1 Nephi 16:20-25. Lehi murmurs; Nephi collaborates with him in seeking a solution.
- p. 1, Read from Smith’s “Personal Creed”: “I would not seek to force people to live up to my ideals but rather love them into doing the thing that is right.” How does this relate to his view that everyone is entitled to their own inspiration? How might it affect the way we might act as local leaders, parents, friends?
“NO Latter-day Saint is compelled to sustain the General Authorities of the Church. …However, there is the principle of honor involved in the member’s choice. When a person raises his hand to sustain Church leaders as “prophets, seers, and revelators,” it is the same as a promise and a covenant to follow their leadership and to abide by their counsel as the living oracles of God. …When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done” (Reprinted in “A 1945 Perspective,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19:1 (Spring 1986), 35-6.
Read and discuss President Smith’s response:
The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not “prepared” by “one of our leaders.” However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.
I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts” (see the full letter here, here, or in Dialogue).
- Conclude: Sustaining is a group effort. We sustain leaders, they sustain us, we sustain one another.