One of the beautiful things about weekly Church lessons is that they repeat the same messages over and over. This repetition, Elder David A. Bednar said in a recent devotional, “is a vehicle through which the Holy Ghost can enlighten our minds, influence our hearts, and enlarge our understanding.” After all, who can forget the lessons learned from a story about a pint of cream or the arch and the keystone?
But there’s also something to be said for those unique lessons that make us approach a subject in a new way. And even though we might only hear these stories, analogies, or ideas once, they can be powerful influences in our lives.
While I can’t say I remember who taught me these concepts or when, here are five unorthodox Church lessons that have stuck with me over the years. (And they just go to show members that you never know what’s going to stick in the minds of those listening!)
The Color Green
This story goes something like this:
A man traveled far and wide searching for the rarest color. In his travels, he spoke with many people to get their opinions. Some named unique and little-known colors, like xanadu, or amaranth, or coquelicot.
But then the man asked an old woman the same question. “What is the rarest color?” The old woman answered, “It is green.”
Confused by such a simple reply, the man asked the woman to explain. Her answer was thus: “The rarest color in the universe is green because God wanted to fill the Earth with that which is most precious and beautiful for His children to enjoy.”
Ever since I heard this story, I’ve never thought of grass, trees, moss, or anything else green the same way again. Now, they always remind me of Heavenly Father’s love for me and all His children.
Empathy for Sins
Some people justify sinning because they say that they will be able to better empathize with others who go through the same trials down the road. How can someone who has never had a period of inactivity in the Church or an addiction to pornography ever empathize with those who have?
The answer to this question came to me in the form of a lesson from my bishop. It is easy to say, but hard to grasp: it’s through the Atonement.
Christ descended below all things and suffered all things. In doing so, He knows our pains and our infirmities. Through the power of the Atonement, bishops, Relief Society presidents, or home and visiting teachers can all come to understand intimately the problems of those they serve without ever needing to have walked the same path in this life. By appealing to the Atonement, we can have perfect empathy. All without needing to dabble in sin ourselves.
Be Ye Therefore Perfect
Most of us have heard the idea that the Greek word for perfect means “complete” and not necessarily “without flaw.” But I once learned a lesson about what it takes to get to that state of being “perfect.”
As part of Jesus’ famed Sermon on the Mount, He tells us the following: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The word “therefore” in that phrase was once pointed out to me very specifically. In logical discourse, “therefore” means that something shown before proves the thing said after. Or in this case, something in what Jesus had taught to that point, if found and followed, could perfect us. It is as though He said, “I have taught you these things; therefore, you can now use these things to work towards being perfect.”
I haven’t read the Sermon on the Mount the same way since.
Testimony Burning in Your Bones
Unlike some of the other lessons here, I clearly remember where I was when I learned this one: at a fireside at BYU.
The speaker gave a masterful sermon, but one phrase he said, only one line, has stuck in my head for years and years after. It went like this: “If you do not have a testimony burning in your bones, when the last day comes, you will burn in another sort of way.”
Having felt the Spirit “burning in my bosom,” this new simple line—not even an entire lesson or story—reminds me constantly of what I’m striving for: that same sensation at a level so deep, I can’t deny it’s a part of me. And the strength of that testimony will get me through these latter days.
“Do You Love Me?”
Of all the unorthodox lessons I remember, this four-word one has had the most measurable influence on me.
When life gets hard, when you are in the midst of trials, when you have fallen by the wayside and are lost in dark places and forbidden paths, or when it feels like you’re alone and nobody is there, remember this: it may seem like God is not answering your prayers, but there is one prayer He will always answer. It’s a simple question: Do you love me?
I can’t even type it here without my eyes getting misty because it’s a question I’ve often wondered, and it’s a question there is always a warm, waiting, wonderful answer to.
Yes, He loves you. No matter what. No matter your sins or your circumstances. All you need to do is ask, and He will answer. Even when there are no other answers, you can trust this one. Pray and ask it with sincerity and real intent, and He will always answer.
When my heart is breaking, I know I can rely upon my Heavenly Father to reassure me He is there. And because of this simple question, He has never felt more real to me.