Episode 14: Sunday School general presidency on Doctrine and Covenants and seeking revelation

The Come, Follow Me” gospel study curriculum, announced by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2018, has enabled a greater home-centered, Church-supported approach to gospel living, learning and teaching.

When the global coronavirus pandemic shut down a majority of in-person worship in March 2020, “Come, Follow Me” allowed for the continued blessings that come through study of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. This year, the “Come, Follow Me” resource focuses on the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of history, scripture, invitations and answers.

This episode of the Church News podcast features the Sunday School general presidency: President Mark L. Pace and his counselors, Brother Milton Camargo and Brother Jan E. Newman. They offer insights about gospel study, the Doctrine and Covenants and “Come, Follow Me,” and share their testimonies of the power of the scriptures. 

Subscribe to the Church News podcast on Apple Podcasts, Amazon, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, bookshelf PLUS or wherever you get podcasts.

Transcription

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Come, Follow Me,” announced by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has enabled a greater home-centered, Church-supported approach to gospel living, learning and teaching. When the global coronavirus pandemic shutdown a majority of in-person worship and gospel study classes in early 2020, the prophetic invitation to a more home-centered Church allowed for the continued blessings that come through study of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. This year in 2021, the “Come, Follow Me” resource focuses on the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of history, of scripture, and, most important, a book of invitations and answers. Today, on the Church News podcast, we are joined by the Sunday School general presidency: President Mark  L. Pace and his counselors, Brother Milton Camargo and Brother Jan E. Newman. They are all working to help us strengthen our commitment to personal and family scripture study, and thus increase our faith in Jesus Christ. I am so excited today to discuss the importance of the Doctrine and Covenants, and of personal revelation, and to talk all about our testimonies of the Church. Welcome, brethren.

01:38

President Mark L. Pace, Brother Milton Camargo, Jan E. Newman: Thank you. Great to be here. Thank you.

01:41

Sarah Jane Weaver: Why don’t we just start with you Brother Pace. During 2020 when Latter-day Saints will focus our “Come, Follow Me” study on the Doctrine and Covenants; in an interview that your presidency did a few weeks ago with the Church News, you called the Doctrine and Covenants a book of invitations. Can we start today by expanding on that?

Why Doctrine and Covenants ‘Come, Follow Me’ in 2021 will be ‘more than Church history,’ Sunday School general presidency says

01:59

President Mark L. Pace: Thank you. It’s a great blessing to be able to study the word of God. And this year, while we always want to be reading the Book of Mormon, it’s a great thing to study the Doctrine and Covenants, with “Come, Follow Me” as a guide. The Doctrine and Covenants was given to us as Latter-day Saints, but it was also given for the benefit of all mankind with messages, warnings and exhortations and invitations to people everywhere to hear the word of the Lord, Jesus Christ. As you are aware, the revelations were primarily given to Joseph Smith, in answer to questions, prayers, inquires, but responding to the needs of a population of Saints who wanted to follow the Lord and do His will and build up His Church. So wonderful book of scripture written in our day, from the Lord, to the prophet, to us. A wonderful blessing.

03:01

Sarah Jane Weaver: Now, Brother Camargo. We are coming into the study of the Doctrine and Covenants after spending a year studying the Book of Mormon. How do those two books fit together?

03:10

Brother Milton Camargo: Well, one is, I would say, is totally invaluable without the other. In fact, the Doctrine and Covenants, it starts right from the beginning, explaining and showing in the sections we have there, how that happened when the Prophet Joseph Smith was praying and received the visit of Moroni. So really, when we read the Book of Mormon, and now study the Doctrine and Covenants, we might understand some other things, so important. For example, the baptism. When Joseph Smith was translating with Oliver Cowdery, they got to understand “Well, we need to be baptized by someone with priesthood authority.” It was right there when he was doing the translation of the Book of Mormon, when we was reading in 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi. And that took him to that wonderful experience of receiving the visit of John the Baptist and, and having the priesthood. So they are all connected. So it is a great continuation, to continue to read the Book of Mormon everyday like, Brother Pace just said, but then understanding how it all came through?

04:17

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and Brother Newman, we also celebrated the 200th anniversary of the First Vision last year, this has to be a really special time to now focus on the Doctrine and Covenants.

04:29

Brother Jan E. Newman: You think of the events that occurred after the First Vision, of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, which was completed before the organization of the Church. That’s how important that was. And then throughout all this time, these revelations are coming to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I hear the Brethren often refer to the Doctrine and Covenants as “the Revelations.” And this book of revelations and commandments that were given were just instrumental in the organization of the Church in the latter days. I think it’s just remarkable, as you think about what the Saints were going through, and not knowing what was ahead of them and what was to come and how they would implement this or that. The Lord would give them line upon line, precept upon precept, just like he does with us in our own lives. And so I think to a certain degree, the Doctrine and Covenants is a type for each of us of how the Lord speaks to us, how we #HearHim, and how He guides us in our daily lives.

05:33

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, one of the things that was so remarkable in each of our Latter-day Saint experiences in 2020, was President [Russell M.] Nelson’s invitation for us to #HearHim and to learn to #HearHim better. Brother Pace, can you talk about that invitation, and how that actually has new relevance as we study the Doctrine and Covenants?

05:56

President Mark L. Pace: I found myself thinking about #HearHim about 30 seconds ago, before you mentioned it. As Latter-day Saints, there are many noises, and much commotion in the world in which we live, and the influence of the adversary, rests upon us and our families and our lives. Incessantly. Daily. And the Prophet’s invitation to #HearHim is a call to be spiritually sensitive to the word of the Lord, and not just #HearHim on Sunday. Not just #HearHim when we’re in a sacrament meeting, but to #HearHim by our own efforts, to reach out and to be seeking Him and to be seeking direction from the Holy Ghost in our lives. I love this verse at the end of the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, talking about searching these commandments “for they are true and faithful and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.” And then “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken and I excuse not myself; and though heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled.” (Doctrine and Covenants 1: 37-38) What a blessing it is for us to have the word of the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants, and to be able to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost bear testimony of the Lord’s teachings to us, and to strengthen us and protect us, day by day, week, by week throughout the year, and to be fortified against the attacks of the adversary, as President Nelson promised us.

07:42

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, let’s go a step further. I would love to hear how each of you #HearHim. That was an invitation from our prophet, and one that blessed so many Latter-day Saints across the world. And when we get to ponder it again, as we study how Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saints #HearHim. So Brother Camargo, can you start with that? How do you #HearHim?

08:06

Brother Milton Camargo: Thank you for that question. In fact, I can see two ways that it’s more common to me. One is really through the scriptures. When I am reading the scriptures, it happens with me sometimes that I’m reading, and at a certain point, it looks like I’m not, I’m not reading anymore. Looks like the Lord is reading to me. And that moment, I recognize that it’s His voice talking to me. It doesn’t happen every single day that I’m reading the scriptures, but I’m so happy that it happens sometimes. And I recognize it is His way of telling something very special, specific to me, through the words of the scriptures that were written for a different situation, but are totally applicable to me. And fortunately, there’s also another way that I can #HearHim through the impressions that come to my mind and my heart while I’m praying. Those are more common. And it’s like learning another language. For me speaking a different language is something new I had to learn. And the same thing happens as I pray, sometimes or many times in that case, I feel that small voice talking to my mind and my heart.

09:26

Sarah Jane Weaver: Brother Newman, is there something that you think of when you think of hearing Him?

09:31

Brother Jan E. Newman: Yes, first of all, I would just say that, I hope you all felt what I felt while Milton was sharing that thought. It was very touching. And you could just hear in his voice of his love for the Lord, for revealing His will to him, as he reads the scriptures. That was really touching. Thank you, Milton. What Milton said was profound and I have felt those same exact feelings as I have read the scriptures and as I have prayed. Another thing I have experienced in my lifetime, and I experienced to this day, as I am struggling with something, to try to understand something, or to get guidance, or whatever it may be, I have found when I am about that thing, when I’m doing that thing when I’m working on that thing, that is when the revelation comes about the thing that I’m worried about, or needing guidance on. If it is about a family that I’m ministering to, when I’m with them, and I’m thinking about them, and I’m worried about them, that’s when those sacred moments are that the Spirit whispers to me, in that still small voice, this is what you need to do. I remember serving as a mission president, and trying to understand how I could help a certain missionary. When I was in an interview with the missionary, that’s when more revelation came to me about that missionary than at any other time. When I was thinking about where to send missionaries to serve. When I was working on the transfer and I had all the missionaries pictures before me. The revelation would flood to me as a mission president. And as a husband and father when I’m thinking about or worried about a particular child or my spouse, and I’m praying about them and thinking about them. Even when I’m driving down the road in my car. That’s when the revelation comes. And I think about how revelations came to the Prophet. Many times it was questions. Other times the Lord said, “These are the things that you need to know.”

11:42

Sarah Jane Weaver: And Brother Pace we’ll let you also comment on this.

11:47

President Mark L. Pace: Thank you, you can understand why I love my counselors so much. They are great men. And it’s a joy to serve with them. How do I #HearHim? I continue to grow, as President Nelson said, grow in the principle of revelation. I continue to grow in that regard. I #HearHim as I take time to #HearHim. And I take time to #HearHim as I read the scriptures in a way that’s perhaps not overly rushed. I #HearHim as I take time to read the scriptures in a setting that could be quiet or I could ponder. I #HearHim as I read the scriptures and ask myself, as I try to do each week as I read a section and a chapter in “Come, Follow Me.” I try to ask myself, “What is the Holy Ghost teaching me this week as I read this section in the Doctrine and Covenants?” I write that question down in my “Come, Follow Me” manual at the beginning of every week. And as I go through the week, reading the section, reading the references, watching a video or listening to a conference talk, I have the thought in my mind, “What is the Holy Ghost teaching me this week?” And as those thoughts come, I make them my own by writing them down. My experience with the Holy Ghost is that I need to pay the price to hear the word of the Lord, by reading His word in the Doctrine and Covenants, praying and being sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost that come, and then recording them and trying to act on them.

13:50

Sarah Jane Weaver: Thank you so much. This has been a year, especially 2020, was a year where I learned to specifically #HearHim better. I lost my father. We launched my daughter into the mission field from a home MTC. We struggled a lot with home-based work and school. And then professionally, you know, I was writing about natural disasters and civil unrest and political instability in the United States and in other countries. And the one thing that brought me continued peace was “Come, Follow Me.” So I would love to talk about that inspired program that came to all of us at a time before we needed a home-centered, Church-supported Church. You know, Brother Pace, can you just start with what that meant to so many people?

14:41

President Mark L. Pace: Well, indeed, it was marvelous, wasn’t it? That the Prophet and the Apostles introduced the “Come, Follow Me” resource to help us have improved, home-centered and Church-supported gospel learning, and we drove the car around the block the first year with the New Testament. And it was wonderful. I don’t know how it was for you. But for me, it was the best study of the New Testament I’ve ever had in my life! And then as we started up the next year, we started up with the Book of Mormon. And then, lo and behold, COVID-19. Everything changes. We’re not able to meet together as Latter-day Saints. But, we are studying the scriptures, and we are studying the Book of Mormon. And I felt that there was “not a famine in the land” because as we studied the scriptures, the Book of Mormon with, “Come, Follow Me” as a resource, we were supported. We were buoyed up, we were inspired. And even though we missed being together, and so many things were changed, and so many things were difficult, it was wonderful. And the Lord has been so kind to us and so good to us. I recall what the Prophet said when he introduced this, and, Sister Weaver, maybe I could just read this really quickly. When he introduced “Come, Follow Me” in the general conference of October 2018 in his closing remarks for the conference. He said this, “The new home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. I promise you, that as you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning over time, your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining.” I testify, that in my life over the last two years, these promises have been felt and realized, and I am so grateful for the power that has come into our lives because of studying the scriptures with “Come, Follow Me.”

17:20

Sarah Jane Weaver: Brother Camargo, we recently did a Church News podcast with Sister Wendy Nelson. And she said, when she and President Russell M. Nelson, do “Come, Follow Me” they are so touched to think that someone in the Philippines or someone in Rome, or someone in Brazil is studying the exact same things they are, during the exact same week. Talk about the blessing of this program, touching everyone in the Church no matter where they live.

17:49

Brother Milton Camargo: That is a great blessing for many reasons. One is that when we, sometimes have to travel, not now I would say, but sometimes when we used to travel, we go to different wards, and then we would have different lessons on Sundays. And then we had to go to another Sunday to another place, and then we would have even a different one. We don’t know what exactly we were going to discuss and learn in that class. Now with this curriculum worldwide, it is the same. And it is based on the family. … We know that we are all studying at the same time. And that is a blessing worldwide. It’s a blessing as a family. I have my children also living in different cities. And now it’s so great that I can talk to them about what we’re reading this week, what their experiences are. The fun of it is sharing some experience and things that we’re reading. And we can exchange that. It is also great that everything is now integrated in this curriculum. So our children that are doing seminary, they do exactly in the same curriculum that we’re studying as a family. So it makes it so much easier. I feel that is something so simple, but it was a great inspiration when it was done. And we enjoy that blessing in the Church in any place, any place now, even with a pandemic, here and there. I had watched a class in Brazil — even while living here — or in Mexico — where I lived — and it’s the same. I have my friends and or family or whoever, members of the Church in any place, I can attend their class with the technology today, and we have the same curriculum. so it is wonderful.

19:37

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m so glad that you brought up the Seminary and Institute of Religion alignment with “Come, Follow Me.” That is such a blessing, especially, you know, there’s been earlier times when it would be overwhelming for me to be a parent because we were studying one thing in Sunday School and the Young Women had asked us to do another thing and then we were trying to keep up with our Seminary reading. It felt like all of our efforts were sort of divided. And this is such a unifying, exciting thing. Brother Newman, can you talk about that and how this further alignment with “Come, Follow Me” and Seminary will bless families?

20:15

Brother Jan E. Newman: Sure. And I think you’ll just see over time, there will be more and more fine tuning that will make it better. This whole alignment with Seminary and Institute, and what’s going on in the wards and families, is going to be critical. Because at the end of the day, the most important thing we can do is improve the home-based gospel learning. And whenever there’s anything that makes that difficult for a family, because there’s too many things to do, or whatever, we are missing the opportunity to really unify a family around gospel learning. And we don’t want it to be a burden. We want it to be something that’s joyful. And as our children that are attending Seminary come home, and they can have these great gospel conversations, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. When our families are studying the same thing, away from a time where you’re discussing the lesson or the scriptures, you’re driving somewhere and you have a conversation or your child brings something up, or as they come from Seminary and they say “I’ve learned this.” Have you ever thought of that? That is really the power of this integrated curriculum across all the learning environments in the Church, and the power of what can happen in a family.

21:34

Sarah Jane Weaver: Thank you so much for that. We have found that blessing in our family too, as part of a recent “Come, Follow Me” study experience, we came across this quote. “When we take part in God’s work, we can expect to face opposition, even persecution, just as the Prophet did. But we can also have faith that the Lord will make us instruments and His hands, just as He did for Joseph.” And we have had so many great discussions as a family talking about that, in this time, that is sort of a time of turmoil for so many families. You know, we have a daughter on a temporary mission assignment. She wants to go to her ultimate mission call, which is in Brazil. She’s happy where she is serving in an assignment in Ohio. But this idea that whatever she can do, she can be similar to Joseph Smith and with faith she can be an instrument in the Lord’s hand, was truly a healing balm for her. Brother Pace, Can you talk about how individual revelations like that can actually be applied to very specific family circumstances? And how “Come, Follow Me” and the applications found in Doctrine and Covenants will be such a blessing?

22:44

President Mark L. Pace: The scriptures, particularly the Doctrine and Covenants, as we read them, we see the questions that the Prophet had or questions that the Saints asked the Prophet and asked him to ask the Lord. And we see that the Lord is mindful of individual people. And that responses come. And they often ask us to, to rise up and be better and be faithful. But the Lord gives promised blessings and the teachings in the Doctrine and Covenants were written for our day, for our day. They weren’t written to people of another era, they were written to the Saints in the dispensation of the fullness of times, as we prepare for the second coming of the Savior. I feel that families, individuals, any member of the Church, as they read the Doctrine and Covenants, they will feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost. They understand what the Lord was saying to Saints 100, 200 years ago, 180 years ago. But he’s also talking to us. That’s why it was preserved. Because those teachings apply to us and help us and speak peace to our souls just like they did to your daughter related to her missionary assignment. It couldn’t be more of a blessing,

24:02

Sarah Jane Weaver: Brother Camargo, if there was something like that, that you wanted Latter-day Saints to know about the Doctrine and Covenants and studying this book of scripture, what would it be?

24:11

Brother Milton Camargo: It is a continuation of what Brother Pace has mentioned that I see this book, Doctrine and Covenants. You can see that it’s just the history of the Restoration, and all of the evolution that happened. But in fact, all of us are going into the same journey as we receive our testimonies. And then we start to have the experience with the gospel. And I see your example, when you mentioned your daughter going to a mission. And then I see that’s exactly the same happened at the beginning of the Restoration. Some of the members, now they got a testimony: “I know Joseph Smith is a prophet. Now what should I do? We’ll preach the gospel!” That’s the answer for so many of them and then they go and start preaching the gospel. Same happen with us when we got our testimonies. “Now, what should I do? Share that with other people and invite them to, to know what I just learned and the testimony I have.” And then, with a little bit more time in our journey with a gospel, it so important, that is what covenants do. And those covenants strengthens us. And so we learned the importance of going to the temple or even of receiving the priesthood or giving blessings with the priesthood. It is the same thing we read in this, in the evolution of the Restoration. And then we can see that and read that into Doctrine and Covenants, when they start to learn about the Restoration of the priesthood, and all of the quorums. And then later on with the temple covenants. So I think it’s a great individual blessing for each one of the members — new members or old. There’s in fact no old members, we are all new members when we learn the gospel. I was born when my parents were baptized, they were baptized already. But I consider myself a new member, as I got a testimony myself, and then went on a mission. Now I had to formed [my] family in the covenants and then I see my children … being sealed in the temple. All of that is my journey in the gospel, every one of us, every one of the members of this Church, and every one of this world that had that experience with the gospel, will resonate with the Doctrine and Covenants, all of that experience. I think it’s wonderful and a great blessing for all of us.

26:31

Sarah Jane Weaver: Brother Newman, is there something that you want members to know about the Doctrine and Covenants?

Brother Jan E. Newman: That’s a great question. I think the thing I would want the members to know or to think about as they read the Doctrine and Covenants is the Lord reveals Himself and a lot of His attributes in the Doctrine and Covenants. A lot of what we think of is just the revelations and information flowing. But if you read a little deeper and if you look a little more broadly at the revelations, He’s really teaching us about who He is and what His attributes are. He’s a kind and loving God, He comforts us when we have difficulties, and sometimes He has to get after us a little bit when we make mistakes. But He’s forgiving and He’s willing to allow us to try again. And that’s one thing I just love about the Doctrine and Covenants — He reveals things about the eternity that no one ever knew. When you think about the degrees of glory and in Section 138, when we get a look into the Spirit World like no one has ever seen. And I think that’s just a blessing. And then you think about that amazing moment in Section 110 of the Doctrine and Covenants in the Kirtland Temple when the Savior appears to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon and we get to know that He is a living being of flesh and bone, and He is standing right before them and He talks to them and we get a description of Him. No longer is our faith pinned on something that happened 2,000 years ago, but things that happened in our day, so relevant to us. That has strengthened my faith so much as I’ve read the Doctrine and Covenants and see all the times where He communicated to the Saints but He also was allowed to reveal Himself in a beautiful way. So I think we just need to maybe think a little more broadly as we read the revelations and what they really mean, and what the Lord’s teaching us about how He interacts with His children.

28:34

Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. Well, I want to give each of you the chance to answer a specific question that we ask as a tradition in the Church News podcast and to share your testimonies. We like to end each Church News podcast by giving our guests the final word. And by allowing them to contemplate the question, “what I know now,” and we’ll start with you, Brother Newman, but what do you know now after studying the Doctrine and Covenants and actually pondering how you could help Church members study it better?

29:05

Brother Jan E. Newman: I think the most important part, anytime you study the scriptures is as you read them, think about yourself. Think about what the Lord is trying to teach. And most importantly, seek to understand through the Spirit what the Lord would have you know about it, because there’s a personal message in these books of scripture and these revelations for us and I think it is incumbent upon us to find out what that is. I found over the years, once in a while, you’ll find a little phrase that’s in just about every book of scripture. There’s one that I found that is in every book of scripture; it’s these words: ask, seek, knock. And I think what the Lord wants us to do, is to ask and seek and knock as we read the revelations to better understand Him.

29:55

Sarah Jane Weaver: Brother Camargo, can you answer that question?

29:59

Brother Milton Camargo: What I could say is that as I read the Doctrine and Covenants and all of the other books in fact, Book of Mormon and Bible, but in specifically the Doctrine and Covenants, what I know now is that God lives. He knows me. Jesus Christ lives. He knows and loves me. He is my Savior, is my Redeemer. He bought me back and He is my friend. This is what I know.

30:35

Sarah Jane Weaver: Brother Pace. What do you know?

30:39

President Mark L. Pace: I know that the Doctrine and Covenants contains the words of the Savior, Jesus Christ. And I know that prophets, seers and revelators have guided the process that has created for us a scripture study resource entitled, “Come, Follow Me,” which is a great blessing to the Saints as we study the Doctrine and Covenants this year. I would encourage all of us to remember how important it is to seek to read the scriptures as a family and to help our children have experiences reading the scriptures and feeling the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I know that sometimes the reading assignments for a week are not particularly long. but if we will take time to read, reread, ponder and consider and study all the various resources that are provided, we will learn much more. And we will be taught by the Spirit in a way that we haven’t been taught previously. And I know that that is true.

I also wanted to share what it is that the Holy Ghost has taught me this past week, as I considered that on Sunday and I was looking and considering what had I learned as I had been reading Joseph Smith—History 1, verses 1-26. I realized that what I had learned is something I had learned before, but the Holy Ghost confirmed it to my heart again. That the First Vision was a reality. It really happened! And the Restoration was of such great importance that the Father and the Son came to the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was sacred. It was transcending. It was eternity changing. It was the stone being cut out of the mountain without hands starting to roll forward to fill the earth. I was taught by the Holy Ghost once again that the Restoration is true. It’s of God. It’s heaven directed. And it continues. And in this knowledge, and other knowledge that will be reconfirmed to me as I read the Doctrine and Covenants this year, I rejoice! I rejoice yesterday, I rejoice today, and I’ll rejoice forever. And we thank you, Sister Weaver, for this opportunity and I share my testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

33:26

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News Editor, Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you’ve learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Thanks to our guests, to my producer KellieAnn Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.