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How We Taught the New Testament in the Past: Lesson 43: “A Chosen Generation”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 06, 2011

Our current lesson has as its purpose statement: “To help class members live in holiness and be a chosen generation” and teaches principles of living in faith, enduring trials, and recognizing our divine nature. The lessons below from the 1928 New Testament Sunday School manual use different language and a different approach to teach a similar lesson, that man has a divine origin and a divine destiny, and that our conduct in this life aids or retards our developing that nature.

(The first lessons contains an unfortunate mischaracterization of the claims of natural science – science does not regard “any belief that cannot be verified by the methods of natural science” as false, only unproven or unverifiable. It’s easy to understand how the anti-intellectual and anti-science strain developed within the Church with such misunderstandings or misstatements slipping into the curriculum as often as they did.)

New Testament Department, Course “C”

Divinity in Humanity

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (Psalms 82:6.)

Basal Readings:

John X:34-36; Psalms LXXXII, John I:11-13; I John III:1-3.

Problems

1. What significance do you attach to the opening phrase of the Lord’s prayer?
2. How and why may men be regarded as brethren of Jesus Christ? (Hebrews II:9-18.)
3. What is implied with respect to human possibilities in the admonition of Jesus, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. V:48.)

Supplementary Reading:

Matt. VI:9-15; Romans XII:1, 2; Heb. XII:9.

Comment

That Jesus existed before He became mortal man is evident from His own declarations as well as from other scriptural passages. (John XVII:5, 24; I:1, 2.)

That man also had a spiritual pre-existence is also implied in both the Old and the New Testament. (Job XXXVIII:1-7; Eccl. XII:7; Jer. I:4; John IX:1; Heb. XII:9.)

That the “Sons of God,” referred to in Job and elsewhere, were the spirits of men is the belief of the Latter-day Saints. This belief carries with it the implication that God and man are, at least spiritually, of the same species. This view is confirmed by Jesus, who was declared to be the express image of the Father, and who asserted His unity with the Father and also with His disciples. This unity no doubt has reference to spiritual life and purpose, but evidently among beings of like origin and destiny.

This belief may be ridiculed by those natural scientists who recognize nothing as worthy of belief that does not accord with the presuppositions of natural science. It should be noted that these presuppositions are assumed without proof and generally without the possibility of proof; also that while they m ay be useful as working hypotheses in some particular phase of the study of nature there is no justification for assuming that they have universal validity. This is especially true of the general assumption that any belief that cannot be verified by the methods of natural science is on that account to be regarded as false. Such an assumption is a form of begging the question.

Scientists of broader vision and philosophic insight generally recognize the limitations of natural science and freely admit belief in ultimate realities that transcend these limitations. Such recognition is as essential to belief in God as it is to belief in the divinity in man and his destiny beyond his temporal and mortal existence.

Many of the philosophers, also learned in science, regard the spiritual reality of man and the universe of intelligences of which he is a part as the most real and the most durable aspect of the universe. This is true of idealists, dualists, and some types of realists from the ancient Greeks to the present day. The opposite belief, the assumption that the physical world is the only enduring reality and that man who interprets this reality is himself but a passing effervescent aspect of this world is surely the more presumptuous and less reasonable.

The Latter-day Saints do not go to the extreme of denying the reality of the physical world, or the validity of science within its own sphere; they do, however, regard spirit and intelligence as eternal and indestructible no less than is matter and energy.

Application

How should a man’s belief in his kinship with God affect his attitude toward life?

The Teachings of Christ Applied

The Immortality of Man

“Faithfulness to the true self means that we live as if we were immortal or eternal beings. Man’s true life is not, like the animals, a life in time; its law issues from a world beyond “our bourne of time and Place,” from a sphere “where time and space are not.” In every moral act, therefore, man transcends the limits of the present life, and becomes already a citizen of the eternal world.” (James Seth.)

Basal Readings

Romans VI:23; I Cor. XV.

Problems

1. Some current writers of note regard belief in personal immortality as a relic of by-gone age; for this they substitute belief in the immortality of the race.

(a) Are these beliefs in any way opposed to each other?
(b)Are both in agreement with scripture?
(c) If man is a partaker of the divine nature, should not both be true?

2. To One who accepts a purely materialistic conception of the universe,

(a) What must become of belief in race immortality?
(b) Would not the life of the race be only a prolonged mortality?
(c) From this point of view must it not appear that all human attainment must ultimately come to naught?
(d) Why should anyone accept this belief rather than scriptural doctrine and the belief of many eminent philosophers from Plato to our own times?

3. What is man’s condition between death and the resurrection?

4. What is the difference between a resurrected body and a mortal body?

Supplementary Readings:

Romans II:1-7; V:21; I Peter I:1-5; III:18-20; II Timothy I:8-11; Luke XXIII:39-43; Matt. XXVII:52; John III:14-16; V:21-29; VI:39-54; Acts XXIV:15; Rev. XX:4-6, 11-15.

Comment

Belief in immortality is as old as civilization, and probably older. It is now common to primitive and highly developed races and to the great world religions,. It has such an important place in the history of philosophy that it has been claimed for philosophy that it gave us assurance of God, freedom, and immortality. From Aristotle to Kant philosophers offered various proofs of the existence of God and from this conclusion made other deductions. Kant rejected this proof as such, but substituted therefor the demands of “practical reason, by which he gained faith in God, freedom, and immortality, a faith which he regarded as more fundamental than mere logical proof. He asserted that he had destroyed knowledge that he might make room for faith.

The current point of view of philosophy and science is that these concepts are matters of faith rather than of knowledge. Religious founded upon revelation, however, while agreeing that the methods of natural science have, thus far, led only to faith, claim that faith, together with the spiritual gifts that follow obedience, leads to certain knowledge both of God and of immortality. This knowledge was proclaimed by Jesus and His apostles in no uncertain terms. The restored Church, with revelation as a basic and fundamental doctrine, offers testimony in support of human immortality no less certain, than its testimony of the existence of God.

Applications

1. (a) If this life is but a second estate and, in part, in preparation for eternal life, should there not be harmony between the essential needs of this life and the life hereafter?
(b) How are these needs to be determined?
(c) What difference may belief in a life hereafter make to our conception of the most essential needs of this life?

2. It is said to be characteristic of a highly developed person that he sees far into the future and plans for remote rather than for immediate ends. May this far-sighted wisdom properly be extended to the life hereafter?

The Teachings of Christ Applied

The Destiny of Man

“Who can wonder at the self-reverence of humanity, consciously called as it is to the possibilities of holiness?” – Immanuel Kant.

Basal Readings

II Timothy III:14-17; Matt. V:43-48.

Problems

1. What does man’s relation to God imply with respect to His possible destiny?

2. With respect to the moral and spiritual life here and now what factors determine the destiny of an individual?

Give historical illustrations.

3. How may a man’s eternal destiny be related to his attitude toward spiritual facts and laws?

Give illustrations from Modern Church history.

4. (a) to what extent is it possible for a person to determine his own destiny?
(b) By what means? Apply these questions both to temporal and to eternal destiny.

Supplementary Readings:

John X:22-36; Psalms 82:6; Rev. I:4-6; Heb. II:9-15; III:1; IV; V:1-3.

Comment

There is every reason to object to man’s regarding himself as merely “a worm of the dust.” First, because it is not true. even the morally degraded and the down-trodden yet have within themselves the possibility of rising far above the worm. it is not so much what a man is as what he is able to become that we have now to consider. The temporal outcome of these possibilities is illustrated in the greatest characters of history. The possible eternal outcome is beyond the power of the imagination of mortal man to picture. A very few years bring about the marvelous changes from helpless infancy to strong, creative manhood. this is but a suggestion of what eternity may do. All progress, both temporal and eternal, is, however, to be measured primarily in terms of spiritual attainments, using the term spiritual to include all non-material things; such as, knowledge, wisdom, intellectual power, artistic appreciation, moral and religious character. These may be permanent and imperishable gains; gains that become so much added spiritual capital, thus multiplying the powers for further spiritual progress. In the long run, whether in time or in eternity, this may mean very much. It may be feebly illustrated by citing what added powers accumulated capital gives men in business. It should be noted, however, that material capital is very perishable, much more so than is spiritual capital, even from a natural science point of view. It is the belief of the Latter-day Saints that spiritual capital may be a permanent or eternal possession. This faith gives assurance of a destiny far beyond the comprehension of mortal man.

Applications

1. Find out how men of high attainments utilize their time and opportunities for spiritual growth. What does this mean for youth?

2. Explain how application of the teachings of Jesus may affect human destiny, both of the individual and of the race, both temporal and eternal.

The Teachings of Christ Applied

Salvation Through Service, Faith and Works

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven.” (Matt. VII:21.)

Basal Readings

Matt. VII:24-27; XXV:34-46; III: 1-12.

Problems

1. (a) Explain how service is essential to spiritual growth, and how spiritual growth is essential to salvation.
(b) How is this illustrated in the missionary service of the Church?

2. How is service related to attainment of lasting happiness? (Matt. XVI:24, 25.)

3. Why is faith without works a dead type of faith?

4. Give illustrations of how faith is manifest in works.

Supplementary Readings:

John VII:16, 17; VIII: 31, 32; XIV: 14-21; XV:1-14; Romans II: 1-11; VI:16-18; Titus III:8; Heb. V:8; James I:22-25; II:14-26; III:13; IV:17; I John I:5-7; II:3-6; Rev. XX:12; XXII:14.

Comment

The point of view expressed in the readings for this lesson are so thoroughly in agreement with common sense and all thoughtful experience that they are not likely to be seriously questioned. Yet it frequently happens that men make at least nominal professions of religious belief and at the same time fail totally to put their religious beliefs into practice. This is illustrated in many generations and centuries of professed Christianity. Some of the teachings of the Master are expressly renounced by professedly Christian nations. Such is the inconsistency of man. His conduct, it appears, si determined not so much by what he knows or believes to be morally right, but by his appetites, passions, and other natural inclinations. This is doubtless the reason why St. Paul so roundly denounced the “natural man.”

It happens, fortunately, that there is another aspect to man’s nature, an aspect that may be developed by persistent effort, or even, under some conditions, by more happy means. this nature may properly be called spiritual. Its development leads to spiritual satisfactions – satisfactions of the mind, which bring lasting joy and no evils in their trail. These satisfactions tend to build up and strengthen the spiritual self.

Compare this with the contrary works – works in opposition to the standards of religious faith. Pleasures resulting from abuse of natural appetites and passions are very fleeting and normally bring subsequent pain and sorrow. This is the way of the thoughtless pleasure seeker, or of the individual who cannot learn wisdom except by personally suffering the evil consequences of yielding to dissipation or to inordinate ambitions. The further this goes, the more difficult is the road to a normal spiritual life. In the realm of the moral life, at least, it must be manifest to all who have normal powers of imagination that faith without works is not only dead but well on the way to disintegration.

Applications

1. Does moral thoughtfulness pay? Estimate results of such thoughtfulness and of its opposite.

2. Who is hurt by doing wrong ‘because it is forbidden”?

3. Can legalizing wrong actions do away with the natural consequences of such actions?

4. Give illustrations of how right actions bring their own reward.



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