In our classroom we have a “question box”. I have found this to be a useful tool in the classroom. When a student has a question that would take us far off topic, yet is still relevant to their lives, a teacher has a couple of options. The teacher can go in that direction, examine the question, solicit student participation, and the class is edified. Sometimes time or other circumstances do not permit this.
I have found it useful, and the students appreciate it as well, that when we cannot examine a question to the satisfaction of the students, that we revisit the question when time permits. Occasionally a student has a question they are not comfortable asking in front of the entire class, yet feel it important to be addressed. Perhaps in front of their peers they feel judged. It is for these reasons we have a “question box” in the classroom.
A student recently put the following question in our “question box”: Brother Day, sometimes I feel like my family and friends wish I was never born. Everyone has those feelings from time to time, but lately these feelings are starting to come more and more and I do not like it. It is making me sad and depressed. I also feel like many of my peers hate me. I am not looking for popularity, and I realize that popularity isn’t everything, but I just want to feel loved. I don’t know what to do and I have a hard time talking with my parents, so I don’t know what will solve this problem.
This question is striking. First of all, it tells us that students in our classrooms are dealing with serious issues and they come to seminary to be strengthened to handle the pressures of their lives. I was impressed by this student having the faith and courage to reach out for help. It is my hope that in some way we could use the scriptures to empower this young person to have hope, feel loved, and continue to grow in faith and testimony.
We were working through the last 20 chapters in Isaiah when this question was raised. In Isaiah 49 Isaiah takes us through a vision of a servant struggling to gather Israel. This servant is:
1. Selected before birth -verse 1
2. Hidden in the Lord’s hand – verse 2
3. Like a polished shaft – verse 2
4. Sometimes feels like he or she has labored in vain – verse 4
5. Is involved in gathering Israel – verses 5-6
6. Chosen by The Holy One – verse 7
Many commentaries focus on Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of this prophecy. As many of Isaiah’s prophecies illustrate, there are usually multiple meanings and fulfillment to his words (see 3 Nephi 23:1-3). Certainly the prophet Joseph Smith could also fill the role of the servant in Isaiah 49. I believe an application can be made to the youth of the Church as well. They are chosen and called to do a great work of the gathering of Israel in these last days.
The chapter shifts in verse 13. It reads, “But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:13-16)
I believe this group of verses echo the sentiment expressed in the question raised by the concerned student. Certainly there are times when we feel as if we are alone and that the Lord is not aware of our situation. We turned to the Suffering Servant chapter in Isaiah, chapter 53. This chapter is clearly Messianic in nature, pointing our hearts and minds to Christ as the author and finisher of our faith, the one who was “wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). Without fail Jesus Christ knows the pain of one who feels alone.
We looked more closely at verse 10 of this chapter, “when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed…” (Isaiah 53:10). Abinadi comments in the Book of Mormon that “his seed” are those that “heard the words of the prophets… who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins…” (Mosiah 15:11).
Merrill J. Bateman stated: “The Savior, as a member of the Godhead, knows each of us personally. Isaiah and the prophet Abinadi said that when Christ would ‘make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed’ (Isaiah 53:10, Mosiah 15:10). Abinadi explains that his seed are the righteous, those who follow the prophets (Mosiah 15:11). In the garden and on the cross, Jesus saw each of us and not only bore our sins, but also experienced our deepest feelings so that he would know how to comfort and strengthen us….
The Savior’s atonement in the garden and on the cross is intimate as well as infinite. Infinite in that it spans the eternities. Intimate in that the Savior felt each person’s pains, sufferings, and sicknesses. Consequently, he knows how to carry our sorrows and relieve our burdens that we might be healed from within, made whole persons, and receive everlasting joy in his kingdom.” (Merrill J. Bateman, Ensign, May 1995, pg. 14)
At this point we emphasized two important points:
1. The Savior has a great love for us
2. He saw our lives while he was going through the atonement
I shared the following video teaching the concept that even though we do not see what we are at this time, the Lord knows of our wonderful potential- see the video here.
Think of where you come from. You are sons and daughters of the greatest most glorious being in the universe. He loves you with an infinite love. He wants the best for you. This knowledge changes everything. It changes your present, it can change your future, and it can change the world. If only we understood who we are and what is in store for us, our hearts would overflow with such gratitude and happiness that it would enlighten even the darkest sorrows with the light and love of God. The next time you feel unhappy, remember where you came from and where you are going. Rather than focus on things that dampen your thoughts with sorrow, choose to focus on those things that fill your soul with hope. (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The Reflection in the Water, CES Fireside for Young Adults • November 1, 2009 • Brigham Young University)
After viewing the video presentation of President Uchtdorf’s remarks, we addressed the importance of letters. I keep letters that my wife has written to me. When I am down or when times are tough, I will read these letters from my sweetheart to lift my spirits and keep me going. When you think about it, we just left the presence of our Heavenly Father. He didn’t send us here without help. Indeed, much of Isaiah’s writings deal with the care and love God has for his children, the phrase “his hand is stretched out still” comes to mind (see Isaiah 5:25; 9:12,17,21; 10:4)
Later Isaiah states: “Ho, every one that athirsteth, come ye to the bwaters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, cbuy wine and milk without money and without dprice. Wherefore do ye aspend money for that which is not bread? and your blabour for that which satisfieth not? hearken cdiligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and acome unto me: hear, and your bsoul shall live; and I will make an everlasting ccovenant with you” (Isaiah 55:1-3). This has the message that the Lord wants us to hear his words, to read his letters of love and concern. As we do this, we come to know how much he loves us and we are given strength to carry on in adversity, to be forgiven of sin, and to receive revelation (see D&C 18:35-36; 19:23; 50:36; 84:60-61)
The 56th and portions of the 57th chapter of Isaiah teach the message that if you do good, you will feel good about yourself. “Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do ajustice: for my salvation is bnear to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the asabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any bevil (Isaiah 56:1-2). A saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion” rings true. I took some time to summarize a story from an LDS veteran of World War II, Joseph Banks. His understanding of the importance of preparation, doing good, and having faith in the face of danger was valuable as we looked at Isaiah’s words. His life is an illustration of what it means to be happy. He went about doing good while in the service. The final point: do good. It is impossible to do good and feel horrible.
Isaiah answers problems and concerns of modern young people. May we remember the important truths taught in the last few chapters of his book: that God loves us, that Jesus Christ saw us when he was offered for our sins, that we are to read his letters to us, and that when we are doing good, we will inevitably feel good about ourselves. It is my testimony that the words of Isaiah are relevant in our lives today every bit as much as when he wrote them some 2,700 years ago.