Our Gospel Doctrine lesson this week starts with a profound teaching about prayer and our relationship with our Heavenly Father:
Before Elder Hugh B. Brown left on a mission, his mother told him, “Hugh, you remember when you were a little boy and you would have a bad dream or wake up in the night frightened? You would call from your room, ‘Mother, are you there?’ and I would answer and try to comfort you and remove your fears. Now as you go on a mission and out into the world, there will be times when you will be frightened, when you feel weak, inadequate, alone, and have problems. I want you to know that you can call to your Heavenly Father as you used to call to me and say, ‘Father, are you there? I need your help.’ Do this with the knowledge that He is there and that He will be ready to help you if you will do your part and live worthy of your blessings. I want to reassure you that He is there and will answer your prayers and needs for your best good.”1
This is an excellent way to begin the lesson because it emphasizes our Father’s love for each of his children. You may also want to share a personal experience with prayer that illustrates the same thing.
The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
● Jesus gave this parable to a group of Pharisees to teach we “ought always to pray” (Luke 18:1–8).
● What does it mean to “pray always”? (Alma 34:27; 2 Nephi 32:9; D&C 90:24). Elder James E. Talmage said: “Jesus did not indicate that as the wicked judge finally yielded to supplication so would God do; but He pointed out that if even such a being as this judge, who ‘feared not God, neither regarded man,’ would at last hear and grant the widow’s plea, no one should doubt that God, the Just and Merciful, will hear and answer.”2
— Elder Richard G. Scott said, “It is a mistake to assume that every prayer we offer will be answered immediately. Some prayers require considerable effort on our part. . . . When we explain a problem and a proposed solution [to our Heavenly Father], sometimes He answers yes, sometimes no. Often He withholds an answer, not for lack of concern, but because He loves us—perfectly. He wants us to apply truths He has given us. For us to grow, we need to trust our ability to make correct decisions. We need to do what we feel is right. In time, He will answer. He will not fail us.”3
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican
● The Pharisee exalted himself in his prayers, while the publican showed humility (Luke 18:9–14). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Pharisees and publicans are found in every religious group. As here described, the Pharisees are self-styled Christians who work in the Church in order to be admired for their religious achievements. They flaunt their charitable contributions, boast of their good works, publicize their strict compliance with this or that law, and rejoice in their supposed spiritual superiority over ordinary men. Publicans are those who are so reticent and self-effacing that, though possessed of a proper spirit of humility, they are too timid to serve in positions of leadership in the Church organizations. If members of the Church could do the works of the Pharisees and have the spirit of the publican, they would be sound, balanced, useful Saints.”4
Jesus Heals a Faithful Blind Man near Jericho
● A blind man near Jericho showed his faith by calling out to the Lord (Luke 18:35–43).
— He called Jesus “thou son of David,” which indicates his belief that Jesus was indeed the rightful heir to David’s throne and the King of Israel (vv. 37, 39).
— He fully believed that Jesus could heal him, and would not be silenced by those who found him annoying as he cried out (vv. 38–39).
— Jesus showed great compassion by asking, “what wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” and the man said simply, “that I may receive my sight” (v. 41). Jesus commanded him to receive his sight, and it was done immediately (vv. 42–43).
— The man showed his gratitude by “gloryfying God,” which caused others to also praise God for the thing which had been done for him (v. 43).
Jesus Is Received in Zacchaeus’ Home
● Zacchaeus—a publican—showed his great desire to see Jesus by climbing a tree (Luke 19:1–7). The Jews despised him because of his profession. They considered him a traitor.
— Jesus specifically requested that Zacchaeus take Him to his home, which Zacchaeus did with great joy (v. 6).
— While others despised Zacchaeus and shunned him, Jesus set the example by showing him respect and love. It is important that we do not shun others or think we are better than they are (Alma 5:54–56; 38:13–14). Each person is a child of God and is loved by Him.
— Even among our youth, this kind of hatred is increasing; bullying has become a national problem in our schools and on the Internet. In some extreme cases, young people have committed suicide because of the treatment they have received from others.
— Elder Joe J. Christensen said, “There are those who wake up every morning dreading to go to school, or even to a Church activity, because they worry about how they will be treated. You have the power to change their lives for the better… The Lord is counting on you to be a builder and give them a lift. Think less of yourself and more about the power you have to assist others, even those within your own family.”5
RAISING LAZARUS FROM THE DEAD
Jesus Deliberately Delays Coming to Help
● He received word that Lazarus was sick but waited two days before he went to Bethany (John 11:1–7).
● He knew that Lazarus was dead but waited for a specific purpose. When Jesus and his Apostles arrived, Lazarus’ body had already lain in the tomb four days (John 11:11–15, 17).
— The Jews believed that the spirit of the deceased lingered around the body for three days, hoping to be able to enter it once again. After that (when decay began to set in) the spirit departed forever.
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Why this studied buildup, this centering of attention upon one of the mightiest miracles of his ministry? Two reasons in particular stand out. (1) As our Lord neared the climax of his mortal ministry, he was again bearing testimony, in a way that could not be refuted, of his Messiahship, of his divine Sonship, of the fact that he was in very deed the literal Son of God; and (2) He was setting the stage, so as to dramatize for all time, one of his greatest teachings: That he was the resurrection and the life, that immortality and eternal life came by him, and that those who believed and obeyed his words should never die spiritually.”6
— This left Jewish unbelievers without excuse for rejecting their Messiah. Elder James E. Talmage said, “No question as to the actual death of Lazarus could be raised, for his demise had been witnessed, his body had been prepared and buried in the usual way, and he had lain in the grave four days. At the tomb, when he was called forth, there were many witnesses, some of them prominent Jews, many of whom were unfriendly to Jesus and who would have readily denied the miracle had they been able. God was glorified and the divinity of the Son of Man was vindicated in the result.”7
Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead
● Martha ran out to meet him and expressed her great faith in Him (John 11:18–27). This is the same Martha who had been so busy on Jesus’ previous visit while her sister chose to sit at His feet and listen to His teachings. We can see from this that Martha was just as faithful as her sister.
● After Martha told her Jesus had come, Mary also ran out to meet him and expressed her faith in Him (John 11:28–32).
● Jesus showed great compassion for their sorrow by also weeping for them (John 11:33–37). Why did he not just say, “Chin up, sisters. There’s no reason to weep, I’m going to raise Lazarus from the dead.” Why instead did He cry? We seem something of Jesus’ true compassion when we see Him weep for the sorrow of these two women.
● Despite her great faith, Martha objected when Jesus asked the stone to be removed (John 11:38–40).
● Jesus offered a prayer of gratitude to the Father, then raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41–44).
● The Pharisees now feared that the “whole world” would follow him (John 11:45–57), and they sought thereafter to kill Him.
1. Told by Marvin J. Ashton, “Know He Is There,” Ensign, Feb. 1994, 50.
2. Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 436.
3. In Conference Report, Oct. 1989, 38; or Ensign, Nov. 1989, 30–31.
4. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:543–544.
5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 54; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 39.
6. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:530–531.
7. Jesus the Christ, 496.