Post on the board before people enter the room: "What is a Book of Mormon scripture or story that has blessed your life?" Display a few gift-wrapped boxes.
When it comes to gifts, our second son is very easy to please. When he was a little boy (and, really, still today in his 20s) we could buy him almost anything and he would be thrilled with it. He was fun to shop for. When he was about five, he unwrapped a birthday present and exclaimed with great joy--and this is an exact quote--"Oh, WOW! It's just what I've always wanted! What is it?" Because of his attitude, he was delighted with every gift.
There was another gift-receiving concept that this son stumbled upon over the years and probably did not even realize it. It is a little tricky, so listen up, here it is: You get what you want if you learn to like the same things your dad does. Dad liked guitar, therefore Nate liked guitar; therefore, Nate got access to great guitar stuff, tickets to guitar concerts, time to practice with Dad, and even his very own Seagull guitar when he got old enough. Dad liked paintball, therefore Nate liked paintball; therefore, Nate got a great paintball gun, CO2 from Dad's tank sitting right in the garage, somebody to play paintball with, and transportation to paintball fields. Dad liked winter camping; therefore Nate liked winter camping; therefore...you get the picture.
GIFTS FROM HEAVENLY FATHER
Nate's gift-receiving attitudes will serve us well in the Kingdom of God. First, when it comes to the gifts that Heavenly Father surprises us with, we would do well to be like 5-year-old Nate and trust our Father's gift-giving ability. He chooses the very best gifts for us. We can say, "Oh, WOW! It's just what I've always wanted!" even if we don't know what it is, or why he gave it, or what we are supposed to do with it. He'll tell us if we ask.
Secondly, if we are one with Christ, we will want the same things he does, which are the same things Heavenly Father does, and we are going to receive them if we ask. For example, the writers of the Book of Mormon all had the same desire, they all prayed for the same thing: That their writing would help to bring their brethren back to the knowledge of Christ in the latter-days. Has this request been granted? Of course. It is in process right now. It's the same thing that Heavenly Father wanted.
"Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth." (Mormon 9:21) Remember that to ask "in the name of Christ" means to ask as a representative of Christ, which means you would ask for what Christ would want for you.
Many people today are confused about what the good gifts are. In chapter 8, Mormon is writing to our day when he says, "For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted." (Mormon 8:37) He is calling us what we often call ourselves: Consumers! But when we get to the judgment day, the Lord is not going to consider "consumer" to be a good title. "Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?" (Mormon 8:39) He's going to consider the title "philanthropist" to be better. We are not to consume our material blessings, but to pass them on.
PROFESSING TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST
Now let's read the verse in between:
"O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies--because of the praise of the world?"
In all of these verses, Mormon is speaking to whom? Those who profess to believe in Christ. (You can see in verse 1 of chapter 9, that in that chapter he is changing his audience and speaking to non-believers.)
"University of Wisconsin historian Thomas Reeves indicts popular religious belief and service. 'Christianity in modern America is, in large part, innocuous,' he writes. "It tends to be easy, upbeat, convenient, and compatible. It does not require self-sacrifice, discipline, humility, an other-worldly outlook, a zeal for souls, a fear as well as love of god. There is little guilt and no punishment, and the payoff in heaven is virtually certain.'
"Former Secretary of Education William Bennett concludes that 'We have become the kind of society that civilized countries used to send missionaries to.'" (David Yount, Scrips Howard News Service, printed in the Herald Journal, September 5, 2000)
I am reminded of a popular church in Utah whose name speaks not of Christ or his gospel but of the beautiful mountain surroundings, and whose prominent billboards show that 1) they serve coffee at their service, 2) you can wear any type of clothing you like, and 3) you can go to their service at any time that is convenient for you. There is no billboard that states anything about their doctrine or Christ or the scriptures. Their advertisements give the impression that they are a social club that masquerades as a church.
It is very difficult in our society to keep a correct perspective. It's hard to remain focused on eternal laws and eternal rewards. Mormon knew that this would be so.
"Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts." (Mormon 8:35-36)
This is why he had such a great desire to bring the word of God to us and to the Lamanites, via the Book of Mormon.
"And behold, these things which we have desired concerning our brethren, yea, even their restoration to the knowledge of Christ, are according to the prayers of all the saints who have dwelt in the land. And may the Lord Jesus Christ grant that their prayers may be answered according to their faith; and may God the Father remember the covenant which he hath made with the house of Israel; and may he bless them forever, through faith on the name of Jesus Christ. Amen." (Mormon 9:36-37)
Heavenly Father wanted the same thing, and so this request is being granted, and we have a most wonderful gift, the Book of Mormon. (Add a Book of Mormon wrapped in a ribbon to the pile of gifts.) The Book of Mormon is so great, because if we study it regularly, it can help us keep a correct perspective.
(Follow this link for an optical illusion of the face of Christ. There are several on the page. I like the first one the best. If you have internet and projection capabilities, you can just show it from the website; otherwise, print up the picture for your class. Be sure to have them follow the instructions for viewing it and it is much more impressive.
You can also follow this link for an optical illusion of the name of Jesus. Project it, print up, or make your own out of strips of cardstock on a poster paper.)
The Book of Mormon can help us to see clearly the things of God, even in the confusion of our day.
Ask for volunteers to answer the question that is on the board: "What is a Book of Mormon scripture or story that has blessed your life?" Be prepared with one yourself if needed to get things started.
The Book of Mormon is a wonderful gift that has been dropped in our laps, tailor-made for us. We ourselves did not have to do anything to bring it forth. We owe a great debt to Mormon and Moroni, who risked their lives for the plates, and to Joseph Smith and the early saints who risked their lives for the translation and publication of the book. We owe a great debt to whomever brought it to us personally, be it missionaries or ancestors. Mostly, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Lord for granting all of their requests to preserve it for us.
With the Thanksgiving/Christmas season upon us, let's keep in mind the really great gifts that we have received and can receive if we ask for them--not material gifts only, but spiritual blessings of great eternal consequence. Let us ask for and receive the very best gifts.
"Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth...
"O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.
"Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God." (Mormon 9:21, 27-28)