Perfecting of the Saints”
The dispensation of the fulness of times.
Jesus Christ is our cornerstone.
Unity between husband and wife and between
parents and children.
Putting on "the new man" and "the whole
armour of God."
A study of this lesson will help us understand that the process of
"perfecting … the saints" (Ephesians
4:12) requires us to increase our faith in Christ, follow the teachings of
the apostles and prophets, and protect ourselves from the wickedness of the
Scripture references for study:
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 39 Handout (PDF
Paul's letter to the Ephesians is generally
considered to have been written during his first Roman imprisonment, between
A.D. 61- 63.
This letter "does not seem to have
the specific purpose of combating errors of doctrine or evil practices,
as do most of his other letters. It is more like a deeply spiritual
sermon than a call to repentance. It seems to be directed to members
of the church who have maturity and understanding, and therefore it reflects
great depth in its concepts.
theme could best be summarized as a concise and beautiful outline of how
a person sets aside the things of this world in order to partake of the
unity and fellowship of the church." (Life & Teachings of Jesus
& His Apostles, p349)
1:3-4. Chosen before the foundation of this world.
WHAT IS SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE VERSES?
We were chosen and foreordained in the
Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
the Father.... Hath chosen, elected, and foreordained us, his saints.
Before the foundation of the world...while we were yet in pre-existence.
That we should be holy and without blame before him in love.... That
we should receive his gospel and gain membership in his Church and, through
baptism of water and the Spirit, have our sins remitted and thus become
clean and spotless before him." (DNTC 2:491)
Orson Pratt: "I
have already told you that the spirits of men and women, all had a previous
existence, thousands of years ago, in the heavens, in the presence of God;
and I have already told you that among them are many spirits that are more
noble, more intelligent than others, that were called the great and mighty
ones, reserved until the dispensation of the fulness of times, to come
forth upon the face of the earth, through a noble parentage that shall
train their young and tender minds in the truths of eternity, that they
may grow up in the Lord, and be strong in the power of His might, be clothed
upon with His glory, be filled with exceeding great faith; that the visions
of eternity may be opened to their minds; that they may be Prophets, Priests,
and Kings to the Most High God. Do you believe, says one, that they
are reserved until the last dispensation, for such a noble purpose? Yes; and among the Saints is the most likely place for these spirits to
take their tabernacles, through a just and righteous parentage. They
are to be sent to that people that are the most righteous of any other
people upon the earth; there to be trained up properly, according to their
nobility and intelligence, and according to the laws which the Lord ordained
before they were born. This is the reason why the Lord is sending
them here, brethren and sisters; they are appointed to come and take their
bodies here, that in their generations they may be raised up among the
righteous." (Journal of Discourses, 1:62-63)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO UNDERSTAND
We must have lived a worthy life in
the pre-existence to be as blessed as we are in this second estate. What a wonderful thought
to ponder in those times when we are depressed or think lowly of ourselves. Consider all the ages in the world we might have lived and yet we now live
in this modern age, in a free nation, blessed with the fulness of the
everlasting gospel. It was not a chance happening.
- "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of
children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."
- HOW DO WE EXPLAIN PAUL'S USE OF THE TERM "PREDESTINATED"? WAS OUR
"CHOSEN" STATUS PREDESTINED FROM OUR PRE-EXISTENT ESTATE?
- The word "predestinate" comes from the Greek "prohoridzo" which means to
anticipate, to set before, or to cause in advance. (see New Testament Apostles
Testify of Christ, p200)
- In contrast to the traditional Christian definition of predestination (God
predetermines our destiny), the Greek word is in harmony with the great
principles of foreordination and agency.
in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in
one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;
even in him." (Ephesians 1:10)
WHAT IS A DISPENSATION?
"A period of time when the Lord has
at least one servant on the earth who holds the keys of the priesthood
and is authorized to administer the gospel." (Teacher's Manual, p163)
WHAT IS PAUL TALKING ABOUT IN THIS VERSE?
It should be noted that this is the only statement outside of
latter-day scripture that makes reference to the phrase "dispensation
of the fulness of times."
Elder B.H. Roberts: "This
is the dispensation of the fulness of times and we see running into it,
as mighty streams rush into the ocean all the former dispensations, putting
us in touch with them, putting them in touch with us; and we see that God
has had but one great purpose in view from the beginning, and that has
been the salvation of His children. And now has come the final day, the
final dispensation, when truth and light and righteousness must flood the
earth." (CR, Oct.1904, p73)
President Gordon B. Hinckley:
and I are experiencing the profound and wonderful blessings of the dispensation
of the fulness of times. In this day and time there have been restored
to the earth all the principles, powers, blessings, and keys of all previous
dispensations." (Ensign, May 1992, p70)
2:8-10. Saved by grace.
ACCORDING TO PAUL, HOW DOES A PERSON
WHY IS IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR US TO SAVE
OURSELVES BY OUR WORKS?
We do not have the power to pay for
our sins. Only Christ, one who was God, who lived a perfect life
could do that. Though we live a life of good works, only through
the grace of Christ can we be saved. But we must qualify for the
Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
does not come by the works and performances of the law of Moses, nor by
'circumcision,' nor by 'the law of commandments contained in ordinances'
(as Paul specifies in verses 11 and 15), nor does it come by any good works
standing alone. No matter how righteous a man might be, no matter how great
and extensive his good works, he could not save himself. Salvation
is in Christ and comes through his atonement. God through Christ reconciles
man to himself. But building on the atonement man must perform the works
of righteousness to merit salvation, as verse 10 and the whole passage
testify." (DNTC 2:500)
Brother Stephen E. Robinson in his book, Believing Christ, gives a wonderful analogy about the atonement. He tells about the time his seven year old daughter, Sarah, wanted a new
bicycle. Not having a lot of extra money at the time, Brother Robinson
told his daughter to save all her pennies and someday she would have enough
money for a bicycle.
passed. As Brother Robinson was reading the newspaper one evening
he was aware of Sarah doing a chore for her mother. Later he heard
the sound of coins being dropped into a jar. When asked what she
was doing, Sarah responded, "You promised that if I saved all my pennies,
pretty soon I would have enough to get a bike. And daddy, I've saved
every single one!" Sarah was absolutely confident that she would
soon have enough money to purchase a bicycle. Sarah had sixty-one
was touched by Sarah's efforts and took her shopping for a bicycle. At a department store they found the perfect bicycle. When Sarah
turned over the price tag and saw the bicycle cost over a hundred dollars
she turned to her father in despair and said, "Oh daddy. I'll never
have enough for a bicycle."
looked at her and said, "I'll tell you what dear. Let's try a different
arrangement. You give me everything you've got, the whole sixty-one
cents, and a hug and a kiss, and this bike is yours. She did so and
Brother Robinson paid the difference and Sarah obtained her bicycle. At that time in Sarah's life, she did not have the capacity to obtain the
bicycle on her own.
And so it is
with the atonement. We desire eternal life, but all our work amounts
to about sixty-one cents. We do not have the capacity to bring that
about. Thus the need for intervention. Brother Robinson,
at this point, when we finally realize our inability to perfect and save
ourselves, when we finally realize our truly desperate situation here in
mortality and our need to be saved from it by some outside intervention--only
then can we fully appreciate the One who comes to save.
"At that point, the Savior steps in and says, 'So you've done all you can
do, but it's not enough. Well, don't despair, I'll tell you what,
let's try a different arrangement. How much do you have? How
much can fairly be expected of you? You give me exactly that much
(the whole sixty-one cents) and do all you can do, and I will provide the
rest for now." (Believing Christ, pp30-33)
we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."
(2 Nephi 25:23)
is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall
of partition between us." (Ephesians 2:14)
AN INTERESTING VERSE. WHAT IS
Paul is pointing out that the Gentiles
who accept the gospel are now brought in and made part of the covenant
In the great temple of Jerusalem, the
temple proper was shielded from Gentile influences. A special barrier
was erected, and if a Gentile passed beyond it, he could be put to death.
Recall that Paul was accused for bringing
a Gentile into the temple. It was this event that eventually led
to his being taken to Rome for trial.
2:19-21. Christ, the chief cornerstone.
WHAT IS BUILT UPON THE FOUNDATION OF
APOSTLES AND PROPHETS?
WHY DO YOU THINK PAUL REFERRED TO JESUS
AS THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE OF THE CHURCH?
The cornerstone anciently was the massive
stone laid at the corner to bind fast the two separate walls into one solid
whole. Christ is the one who holds the Church together. Without
him, what do we have?
Appropriate to Paul's day: In Christ,
both Jew and Gentile are bound together inseparable, not to form two separate
walls, but to create one unified people.
WHY ARE LIVING APOSTLES AND PROPHETS
ESSENTIAL TO THE TRUE CHURCH?
They are the source through which current
The structure for the Church, as provided by
has incredible stability (compare to man made organizations).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
and prophets are the foundation upon which the organization of the true
Church rests. (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20.) Where there are no apostles and
prophets there is no divine Church, but where these officers are found,
there is the Church of Christ in all its glory, beauty, and perfection.
The inspired promise is that these officers will remain in the Church 'Till
we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son
of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness
of Christ.' (Eph. 4:13)." (Mormon Doctrine, p606)
We recently enjoyed another General
Conference of the Church. As we listen to President Monson, the Spirit
bears witness that this man is God's chief representative here on earth. It is through him that we receive the mind and will of the Lord. It is
through him that the work of salvation is directed on this earth.
When I was on
my mission many years ago, we taught the discussions using a flannel board. To illustrate this scripture, we placed on the board a picture of a building
that represented a church or temple (I thought it looked like the Los Angeles
Temple). Various parts of the building were labeled with the different
officers of the Church. The bottom section, the foundation, was labeled
"apostles and prophets." We taught that this was the structure
of the ancient Church as organized by Jesus Christ. We then taught
about the Great Apostasy and the loss of the apostles and prophets. We would reach over and pull the foundation section (apostles and prophets)
from the flannel board and ask what happens when you remove the foundation
from under a building, thus illustrating the necessity of this organization
as taught by Jesus Christ.
Those who are
strangers or foreigners (Gentiles or Ephesians in this case) became fellowcitizens
with the Saints (v19). They partake of the full fellowship with the Saints
and the blessings of the gospel.
Citizenship implies that we have duties,
responsibilities, rights, and privileges.
- WHAT DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES DO WE HAVE AS CITIZENS OF OUR NATION?
- At a minimum we must obey the laws.
- Additionally, we should participate in voting, persuading our
representatives to vote for just laws, and building up our communities.
- WHAT DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES DO WE HAVE AS FELLOWCITIZENS WITH THE
SAINTS AND THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD?
- As a citizen of the "household of God"
we should heed the admonition of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object." (TPJS,
- WHAT CAN WE DO TO HEED THIS ADMONITION?
- Work out our own salvation and build Zion
within our homes. Though there is much else that we can and should be
doing, it is essential that we start with ourselves and our families.
4:4-6. One Lord, one faith.
WHAT DO THESE VERSES MEAN TO YOU?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
is only one thing, and every truth is in harmony with every other truth.
If one church proclaims that God is an exalted Man and another says he
is an incorporeal spirit essence; if one church teaches that baptism is
essential to salvation and another considers it of no importance whatever;
if one church says salvation consists in the continuation of the family
unit in eternity and another affirms there is no marrying or giving in
marriage in heaven; and so on and so on, through a thousand gospel doctrines,
something is wrong with somebody's religious views.
"Just as there is only one true science, or one true mathematics, so
there is one true God, one true Church, one true gospel, one true baptism,
one true celestial marriage, and on and on. When the Lord restored the
gospel and set up his Church in modern times, naming it The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, by his own voice he described it as, 'the
only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.' (D. &
C. 1:30.) In contrast, all other churches are man-made, which accords with
the instruction given the Prophet in the First Vision that he 'must join
none of them, for they were all wrong.' (Jos. Smith 2:19)."
4:11-14. Leaders for the perfecting of Saints.
ACCORDING TO PAUL, WHY DO WE HAVE TEACHERS
AND LEADERS IN THE CHURCH?
For the perfecting of the Saints (v12).
Work of the ministry (v12).
Edifying the body of Christ (v12).
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Elder McConkie: "Without
living apostles and prophets the members of the Church would not be enlightened
from on high or taught what the Lord would have them know. Why? Because
they make known the true doctrines of salvation; and they confer or authorize
the conferral of the Holy Ghost, without whose enlightening power none
can comprehend the things of pure religion." (DNTC 2:511)
To bring us to a unity of the faith
Provide knowledge of the Son of God
To keep us from being "tossed to and
fro" by every wind of doctrine (v14).
President Spencer W. Kimball:
authorities which the Lord has placed in his Church constitute for the
people of the Church a harbor, a place of refuge, a hitching post, as it
were. No one in this Church will ever go far astray who ties himself securely
to the Church Authorities whom the Lord has placed in his Church. This
Church will never go astray; the Quorum of the Twelve will never lead you
into bypaths: it never has and never will. There could be individuals who
would falter; there will never be a majority of the Council of the Twelve
on the wrong side at any time. The Lord has chosen them; he has given them
specific responsibilities. And those people who stand close to them will
be safe. And conversely, whenever one begins to go his own way in opposition
to authority, he is in grave danger. I would not say that those leaders
whom the Lord chooses are necessarily the most brilliant, nor the most
highly trained, but they are the chosen, and when chosen of the Lord they
are his recognized authority, and the people who stay close to them have
safety." (CR, Apr 1951)
Paul is saying that these officers are
necessary in the Church until these aims are achieved.
Elder McConkie: "Period
during which these officers are to remain in the Church: Until every living
soul on earth is converted, knows God, and is seeking to be like Christ
and have exaltation." (DNTC 2:509)
Paul admonishes the members of the Church
to live righteously.
I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as
other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through
the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work
all uncleanness with greediness." (Ephesians 4:17-19)
WHAT IS PAUL TEACHING?
As members of the Church we can no longer
live or "walk" as the Gentiles walk.
Vanity of mind - their minds are caught
up in the pursuit of earthly things. They are what we call the "natural
Understanding darkened - because of
their attitude, their understanding is darkened.
Paul has carefully chosen his words. Consider the phrases "understanding darkened" and "blindness of heart."
It would seem to me that this vanity
of mind over time forces out the light of Christ, which leaves one "darkened"
or "blind" to righteousness.
They are past feeling - lost the light
of Christ, no conscience.
Given themselves to lasciviousness.
Work all uncleanness with greediness.
ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt
according to the deceitful lusts;
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness
and true holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO PUT ON THE "NEW
To change your walk and put off the
the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that
yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds,
and people, must be born again; yea, born of God,
from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of
being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and
And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do
can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God." (Mosiah 27:25-26)
Paul lists some specific characteristics
of the new man:
Put away lying and speak truth with your
"Let not the sun go down
upon your wrath" (v26).
"Neither give place to the
HOW MIGHT WE GIVE PLACE TO THE DEVIL?
By not obeying the divine conscience
or the light within us.
Work for your upkeep and give "to
him that needeth" (v28).
corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth." What
we speak should edify one another (v29).
Put away all bitterness, wrath,
anger, clamor, and evil speaking (v31).
"And be ye kind one to
another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another" (v32).
This is truly putting off the "natural
man" and becoming "a man of Christ."
Paul lists additional qualities in
"Let no man deceive you
with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the
children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them" (v6-7).
HOW MIGHT WE BE DECEIVED BY VAIN WORDS?
An appeal to desires for material riches,
power, fame, or false doctrines.
Paul says not to be partakers with them. He says to "have no fellowship with the
unfruitful works of darkness" (v14).
We should give thanks for all things (v20).
5:22-29. Husbands, love your wives.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THESE VERSES?
WHAT DOES THIS COMPARISON TEACH US ABOUT
PROPER RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN HUSBANDS AND WIVES?
President Spencer W. Kimball:
you find in all the holy scriptures where the Lord Jesus Christ ever failed
his church?... Was he faithful? Was he true? Is there
anything good and worthy that he did not give? Then that is what
we ask--what he asks of a husband, every husband. That is the goal. Can you think of a single exception in his great life? There should
be none in yours....
"Much is said in Paul's words 'as unto the Lord.' Let it sink
deep into your hearts. A woman need have no fear of being imposed
upon or being subject to any dictatorial measures or improper demands when
her husband is thoughtful, self-sacrificing, and worthy...
"[Husbands,] you need to ask yourselves, 'Can I love my wife even as
Christ also has loved the Church?' Can you think of how he loved
the Church? Its every breath was important to him. Its every
growth, its every individual, was precious to him. He gave to those
people all his energy, all his power, all his interest. He gave his
life--and what more could one give?" (Men of Example [address
delivered to religious educators, 12 Sept. 1975], pp. 4-5).
6:1-4. Parents to teach, children to obey.
WHAT DID PAUL TEACH ABOUT THE RESPONSIBILITY
OF OF CHILDREN?
Obey your parents in the Lord.
Honor thy father and mother.
WHAT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS?
Provoke not your children to wrath.
Bring them up in the nurture and admonition
of the Lord.
EPHESIANS 6:11-18. Put on the armour
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO "PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD"?
President Harold B. Lee:
carefully that the Apostle Paul's declaration implies that our most deadly
contest in life is not with human enemies which may come with guns, with
army tanks, or bombing planes to destroy us, but that our eternal struggle
is with enemies which strike out of darkness and may not be perceived by
"The Apostle Paul demonstrates his great ability as an inspired teacher
as he pictures each of us as a warrior being clothed with the essential
armor to protect the four parts of the human body which apparently Satan
and his hosts, by their vigilant spy system, have found to be the most
vulnerable parts through which the enemies of righteousness might make
their 'landing,' as it were, and invade the human soul." (Stand
Ye In Holy Places, p.330)
WHAT CAN WE DO TO PUT ON THIS ARMOR
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on the teachings of Paul to the Ephesians. What
specific principles have meaning in your life? How can you incorporate the
these principles into your life?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Believing Christ by
Stephen E. Robinson.
Conference Reports (CR).
Doctrinal New Testament Commentary by Bruce R. McConkie.
Journal of Discourses (JD).
Life & Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles.
Men of Example by Spencer W. Kimball.
Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie.
New Testament Apostles Testify of Christ by D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C.
Stand Ye In Holy Places by Harold B. Lee.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (TPJS).
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
17 August 2015