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Who is thy Neighbor?

Who is thy Neighbor?

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 14 – April 10, 2011

The disciples ask Jesus an interesting question.  They ask him “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Why do you think they were interested in the answer to that question?

How do we get caught up in that concern?

Who here is competitive?

What are you competitive about?

Which of those things are good and which are not good to be competitive about?

Our spirituality is not something that we can be competitive about.  Nor is it something that we can compare to others.

Why can’t we compare or compete with our spirituality?

When I think about comparing our spirituality, I think about President Benson’s pride talk.  One of my favorite quotes from his talk is actually from C.S. Lewis.  President Benson said…

In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”

But, Jesus’ response was a little different than what the disciples expected.


Matthew 18:3-4

3   And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

4   Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to become as little children?

What are some qualities that we can gain learn from children?

How can we become more submissive to the will of the Father, like a child?

I think that there are times in our lives that it is much easier to become submissive, to be like a child.  Unfortunately, most of those times are when we are going through a trial, or when we are forced to because of our circumstances.

It is very difficult for me to be humble and ask for or accept help, even from my mom.  There are times that I may really need help and other times when just a little help would make a difference.  Like when my house has gotten away from me and my mom offers to help me.  My answer is nearly always, “I’m a capable grown up, I should be able to figure it out and get it done.”  Then there are other times when I’ve been forced to accept help.  Nearly 3 years ago this summer, I broke my foot and couldn’t put weight on it for 4 months.  I was so grateful that family and friends helped me and were there for me – even though I wanted to be able to do it on my own.  I had to accept that I just couldn’t.  From that experience, I have learned that it is okay – even good to be humble and accept help.

How can we become like a child when times are good?


Matthew 18:5

6   But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

In this scripture “offend” means to  “cause to stumble”.

What are some ways people cause a child to stumble?

How does the Lord regard these offenses?

Elder M Russell Ballard shared the following statement…


“We hear disturbing reports of parents or guardians who are so far removed from the Spirit of Christ that they abuse children. Whether this abuse is physical, verbal, or the less evident but equally severe emotional abuse, it is an abomination and a serious offense to God” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 107; or Ensign, May 1991, 80).

How can being childlike ourselves help us care for children?

Last week, during conference, there was an amazing talk about teaching.  I would like to take a few minutes to listen to the talk.  It is entitled “What manner of Men and Women ought you to be?”  by Elder Lynn Robbins.

Many of us create to do lists to remind us of things we want to accomplish. But people rarely have to be lists. Why? To do’s are activities or events that can be checked off the list when done. To be, however, is never done. You can’t earn checkmarks with to be’s. I can take my wife out for a lovely evening this Friday, which is a to do. But being a good husband is not an event; it needs to be part of my nature—my character, or who I am.
Or as a parent, when can I check a child off my list as done? We are never done being good parents. And to be good parents, one of the most important things we can teach our children is how to be more like the Savior.
Christlike to be’s cannot be seen, but they are the motivating force behind what we do, which can be seen. When parents help a child learn to walk, for example, we see parents doing things like steadying and praising their child. These do’s reveal the unseen love in their hearts and the unseen faith and hope in their child’s potential. Day after day their efforts continue—evidence of the unseen be’sof patience and diligence.
Because be begets do and is the motive behind do, teaching be will improve behavior more effectively than focusing on do will improve behavior.
When children misbehave, let’s say when they quarrel with each other, we often misdirect our discipline on what they did, or the quarreling we observed. But the do—their behavior—is only a symptom of the unseen motive in their hearts.We might ask ourselves, “What attributes, if understood by the child, would correct this behavior in the future? Being patient and forgiving when annoyed? Loving and being a peacemaker? Taking personal responsibility for one’s actions and not blaming?”
How do parents teach these attributes to their children? We will never have a greater opportunity to teach and show Christlike attributes to our children than in the way we discipline them. Discipline comes from the same root word as disciple and implies patience and teaching on our part. It should not be done in anger. We can and should discipline the way that Doctrine and Covenants 121 teaches us: “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge” (verses 41–42). These are all Christlike be’s that should be a part of who we, as parents and disciples of Christ, are.
Through discipline the child learns of consequences. In such moments it is helpful to turn negatives into positives. If the child confesses to a wrong, praise the courage it took to confess. Ask the child what he or she learned from the mistake or misdeed, which gives you, and more important, the Spirit an opportunity to touch and teach the child. When we teach children doctrine by the Spirit, that doctrine has the power to change their very nature—be—over time.
Alma discovered this same principle, that “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword” (Alma 31:5; emphasis added). Why? Because the sword focused only on punishing behavior—or do—while preaching the word changed people’s very nature—who they were or could become.
A sweet and obedient child will enroll a father or mother only in Parenting 101. If you are blessed with a child who tests your patience to the nth degree, you will be enrolled in Parenting 505. Rather than wonder what you might have done wrong in the premortal life to be so deserving, you might consider the more challenging child a blessing and opportunity to become more godlike yourself. With which child will your patience, long-suffering, and other Christlike virtues most likely be tested, developed, and refined? Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?
We have all heard the advice to condemn the sin and not the sinner. Likewise, when our children misbehave, we must be careful not to say things that would cause them to believe that what they did wrong is who they are. “Never let failure progress from an action to an identity,” with its attendant labels like “stupid,” “slow,” “lazy,” or “clumsy.” Our children are God’s children. That is their true identity and potential. His very plan is to help His children overcome mistakes and misdeeds and to progress to become as He is. Disappointing behavior, therefore, should be considered as something temporary, not permanent—an act, not an identity.
We need to be careful, therefore, about using permanent phrases such as “You always …” or “You never …” when disciplining. Take care with phrases such as “You never consider my feelings” or “Why do you always make us wait?” Phrases like these make actions appear as an identity and can adversely influence the child’s self-perception and self-worth.
Identity confusion can also occur when we ask children what they want to be when they grow up, as if what a person does for a living is who he or she is. Neither professions nor possessions should define identity or self-worth. The Savior, for example, was a humble carpenter, but that hardly defined His life.
In helping children discover who they are and helping strengthen their self-worth, we can appropriately compliment their achievement or behavior—the do. But it would be even wiser to focus our primary praise on their character and beliefs—who they are.
In a game of sports, a wise way to compliment our children’s performance—do—would be through the point of view of be—like their energy, perseverance, poise in the face of adversity, etc.—thus complimenting both be and do.
When we ask children to do chores, we can also look for ways to compliment them on being, such as, “It makes me so happy when you do your chores with a willing heart.”
When children receive a report card from school, we can praise them for their good grades, but it may be of greater lasting benefit to praise them for their diligence: “You turned in every assignment. You are one who knows how to tackle and finish difficult things. I am proud of you.”
During family scripture time, look for and discuss examples of attributes discovered in your reading that day. Because Christlike attributes are gifts from God and cannot be developed without His help, in family and personal prayers, pray for those gifts.
At the dinner table, occasionally talk about attributes, especially those you discovered in the scriptures earlier that morning. “In what way were you a good friend today? In what way did you show compassion? How did faith help you face today’s challenges? In what way were you dependable? honest? generous? humble?” There are scores of attributes in the scriptures that need to be taught and learned.
The most important way to teach to be is to be the kind of parents to our children that our Father in Heaven is to us. He is the one perfect parent, and He has shared with us His parenting manual—the scriptures.
My remarks today have been addressed primarily to parents, but the principles apply to everyone. May your efforts to develop Christlike attributes be successful so that His image may be engraven in your countenance and His attributes manifest in your behavior. Then, when your children or others feel of your love and see your behavior, it will remind them of the Savior and draw them to Him is my prayer and testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Jesus told us that we need to become as a little child.  It isn’t about what we “do” but what we “be”.

The other day, a girl in my daughter’s gymnastics class was telling her that she wasn’t very thin.  My daughter came home just heart broken.  The next day she and this girl were back to playing together and being the best of friends.

Forgiveness is another trait that is very strong with children.

What should we do if someone offends us?

We read in in Matthew 18:21-22 just how important forgiveness is.


21  Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I aforgive him? till seven times?

22  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until aseventy times seven.

Why do you think Jesus gave such a high number?

Why is it so difficult to forgive people when they have offended or hurt you or someone you are close to?

When have you been blessed by forgiving someone?

What lessons can we learn by forgiving others?

I am touched by the way Jade was able to forgive her friend and carry on as if there hadn’t been any disagreement the day before.  It was a simple example but one that shows the heart, humility and love of a child.  The features that are so important for us to be like a child.

Lastly, the final theme from today’s lesson is the story of the good Samaritan.

Again this is another trait of a child that we tend to lose when we become older.  A child will be kind to everyone, whether they know the person or not.  How often are we telling a child to not talk to strangers?

President Howard W Hunter said,


“We need to remember that though we make our friends, God has made our neighbors—everywhere. Love should have no boundary; we should have no narrow loyalties” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 44; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 35).

How can we be more like a child in our relationships with others?

Children will be friends with everyone – no matter how they are dressed, how they look, what they sound like or where they live.  Little children will help bring a smile to anyone who needs one.

What are some reasons we don’t help someone?

There are many ways that we should look to our little ones as examples of how we should be.  I know that the little ones have so many of the traits that we need to work harder to make our strengths.  I am grateful for the examples my little girls set for me.  I pray that we can apply the words from conference, and focus on the be’s more than to do’s and become more like a little child.

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2 comments to Who is thy Neighbor?

  • Miel Abeille
    Twitter: miel_et_lait

    This is the best post I’ve read in a long time & almost my favorite of yours (the one about the grill house party is my favorite!

    Being is harder than doing, because being requires constant attention. Being a forgiving person is something I need to be always, and forgive in the moment, not just when I get to it on my list. It’s also a little harder to figure out how to be a patient person, whereas I can figure out how to fold my laundry, know what I mean?

    Thanks for a great post, it definitely has me thinking about several things. I guess first, is who do I want to be?
    Miel Abeille´s last blog post ..Dear God!


    Twitter: familytrifecta

    thanks- It is definitely harder to “be” than “do”. The talk I shared has me thinking a lot about it. Luckily not folding our laundry just hurts our to do list, but we can still “be” amazing – just amazing with a pile of laundry 🙂


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