Jill Armijo is a physical therapist assistant, health coach, author, editor, and ghostwriter. She lives in Ogden, Utah, with her husband, Joe, a Navy veteran, and her terrier mutt, Meggie. They raised three boys and have the best daughter-in-law, one on the way, and two grandchildren. Jill enjoys playing with the kiddos, walking the dog, hiking, star gazing, gardening, reading, eating, and cheating at Scrabble with Joe. Writing and publishing her book, Home of the Unknown Soldier, was a healing and transformational work that provided a new perspective and love for everyone in their story. You can contact Jill by email at jjdedarmijo@yahoo.com.

Enter Jill…

At April General Conference, 1991, Neal A. Maxwell gave one of his signature talks using the most exact and descriptive words to convey his meanings. One must listen carefully, not even trying to take notes (especially those of us with ADD), then go back and study what he said. It takes patience, intent, and maybe a dictionary to extract all we can from the wisdom of this beloved leader.

This talk addressed many lesson topics, such as how to be closer to the Savior, build faith, gain testimonies, and withstand temptation. Leaders, teachers, and advisors frequently cite the “Sunday School answers”: serve, study, pray, and worship.

Emma Addams wrote an insightful article sharing her application of Elder Maxwell’s prescription. She related her “tendency to look for grand answers” to her challenges and determination as a gospel doctrine teacher to ask profound questions that would elicit new, insightful responses other than the “Sunday School answers” offered each week.

Emma said, “I found the answers to my challenges by reading the scriptures, praying daily, serving my family and others, and attending the temple and my Sunday meetings. I learned that those simple things make the difference between enduring, and enduring well and with patience. The “Sunday School answers” really are the best answers.” Is this formula the magic bullet?

Could Emma have overlooked an essential piece of her experience? Let’s look at what the “Sunday School answers” are.

  • Read scripture
  • Pray
  • Serve
  • Attend the temple
  • Go to church

They are actions. Behaviors. Righteous ones. Potentially life-altering efforts.

Missionaries, newlyweds, teenagers, and grandparents do them.

Pharisees did them too. Instead of joyfully and gratefully recognizing and following the Savior, they demanded his crucifixion.

Many people devoutly practice this list yet struggle to endure life’s challenges without abandoning their membership with the church in the end.

What if we do all four of these essential things—serve, study, pray, and worship—and still feel a lesser measure of promised blessings? Some find discipleship constraining and the world appealing. These individuals are merely going through the motions without real intent.

The missing piece isn’t another thing to DO; it’s something to DESIRE.

Sunday School behaviors don’t lead to any particular results without intent. Desire comes from thoughts that create a longing for a result, prompting actions with much less gut-wrenching effort and willpower.

Lamoni’s Answers

King Lamoni demonstrated a sincere desire to learn when he asked Aaron to teach him. (Alma 22: 5-18.) His intent is powerfully evident in his expressions:

  • Verse 5 “…What is this that ye have said concerning the Spirit of the Lord?…”
  • Verse 6 “What is this that Ammon said—If ye will repent ye shall be saved…”
  • Verse 7 “…if now thou sayest there is a God, behold I will believe.”
  • Verse 11 “…I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words.”
  • Verse 15 “…What shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? … I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.”

Then, in verse 17, the king prayed. He prayed with belief, faith, intent, and desire enough to forsake all he possessed, even his entire kingdom. This sounds like many new members of the church who sacrificed all they had to travel immense distances under challenging circumstances to receive temple blessings.

Lamoni’s prayer and members’ sacrifices to attend the temple are actions performed only after thoughts and beliefs created a yearning for truth and joy.

Thinking we should DO the “Sunday School answers” feels like work.

The DESIRE to connect with God feels hopeful, loving, and restful. He wants us to “…continue faithful (not busy) in all things, …not be weary in mind, neither darkened.” (D&C 84:80)

Moroni’s Answers

Moroni 10:3-5 contains counsel that must precede the “Sunday School answers” to produce meaningful growth.

  • Remember the Lord’s mercy.
  • Receive His word.
  • Ponder it in your heart.
  • Ask with sincerity and intent.
  • Have faith in Christ.
  • Recognize truth through the Holy Ghost.

While this counsel is also a list of actions, notice the depth of thought, feeling, and desire in seeking connection with Christ.

Remember mercy.

Receiving His word feels more like a gift and less like a chore that many diligent saints consider studying the scriptures to be.

Pondering the word brings peace, and asking sincerely with intent suggests an interest in receiving answers rather than simply “saying a prayer.”

Recognizing the Holy Ghost feels like companionship, a group effort, yoking ourselves with the Savior so truth comes to us naturally.

How does Moroni’s list feel to you? Does it make the Sunday School behaviors seem more like appealing quests than duties to earn or deserve an outcome? Remember Alma’s invitation to experiment with the word?

He talks about desire and planting, nourishing and faith, not about doing more tasks. When we desire, plant, and nourish faith, the behaviors become engaging instead of tiring.

Church and temple attendance are beautiful activities that can bring us close to heaven. In the temple, the veil feels thin, and we’re blessed with glimpses of eternity and our connection with the whole family of Adam and Eve.

But going to church and the temple only feels that way if we want them to. Hebrews 4:2 teaches, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”

Elder Maxwell’s Answers

Building faith is often preceded by circumstances that shape us and prepare us to hear the word (Alma 32:6), but only if we don’t harden our hearts. Alma taught that if our hearts are hard, our state will be awful, and we will be uncomfortable in God’s presence. (Alma 12:13-14)

Leaders who emphasize behaviors without nurturing our members with love and faith risk losing the hearts of those who do all the right things but don’t embrace a desire to partner with Christ.

Fostering the beginning of a “desire to believe” and then exercising a “particle of faith” (Alma 32:27) requires learning what members in our stewardship hope for and helping them see a way to happiness through faith in Christ.

While faith is not perfect knowledge, it brings deep trust in God.

Serving with meekness and lowliness (Alma 37:34), Alma teaches us never to be weary of good works but to find rest to our souls as we avoid the wearying burdens of self-pity and hypocrisy.

Joseph Smith Sr.’s Answers

Before we embark on missions or engage in any service to God, we must understand what qualifies us for practicing and teaching the “Sunday School answers.”

The fourth section of Doctrine and Covenants teaches how our thoughts and feelings must precede service to bring success and joy to ministers and their flocks.

  • 1 Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.
  • 2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. (emphasis added)
  • 3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;
  • 4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;
  • 5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. (emphasis added)
  • 6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. (emphasis added)
  • 7 Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.

Our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions point us to and create the desire to engage in the “Sunday School answers” of asking and knocking so we might receive all God wants for us.

How do we help leaders

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