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A top Mormon leader Friday invited Church educators around the world to see the familiar New Testament symbols of bread and fish in a new way.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Presidency of the Seventy (a group just below the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared insights from the Biblical accounts of Jesus Christ miraculously providing bread and fish to thousands of hungry followers. (See, for example, Mark 6:34-44.)
Elder Gong’s remarks came at the Church Education System’s (CES) annual “Evening with a General Authority” devotional on Temple Square. The global audience included 2,780 Seminaries and Institutes employees from 129 countries—more than 1,000 of them outside the U.S. Also watching were 45,700 volunteer teachers and missionaries in 133 countries—some 34,500 of them outside the United States. This volunteer group contributes more than 20 million hours of educational service each year.Elder Gong shared nine observations from his study of Christ’s miraculous feedings—the purpose being to help teachers help students better understand what it means to follow Christ.
1. Christ is moved with compassion. Jesus knows “our hearts and circumstances,” Elder Gong says. “He is filled with compassion for our hopes and hurts, our desires and needs.”
2. Christ begins from where we are. Just as Christ began his miraculous feedings with what the people had (such as five loaves of bread and two fishes), “we begin with what we have, with who we are now. He can then magnify us and multiply our efforts.”
3. Christ does things in an orderly way. Instead of introducing the chaos of “a large crowd … shoving and grabbing for something it wants,” Christ has the people sit down in organized companies “with a higher shared purpose,” Elder Gong says.
4. Christ is grateful. Luke 9:16 says Christ took the loaves and the fishes, and “looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake.”
5. Christ feeds his disciples and has them feed the crowds. Elder Gong calls this a pattern of “teaching the teachers so the teachers can teach the students.”
6. Christ feeds the 5,000 and the individual at the same time. “This is a miracle we teachers seek—to teach our whole class and each person in the class,” Elder Gong says. “It invites addressing general concerns and individual needs.”
7. Christ makes sure nothing is lost. Whether the subject is souls or material things, Elder Gong says, “Heaven’s economy does not waste. Everything is drawn on in the beginning, nothing is left to be lost in the end.”
8. Christ helps us end with more than we began. With Christ, “we end with more love, more learning, more inspiration, more kindness,” Elder Gong says.
9. Christ teaches of “sacramental abundance.” This point speaks to the spiritual edification Latter-day Saints seek during their weekly worship service (called “sacrament meeting”), which includes a communion-like distribution of bread and water, symbolizing the body and blood of Christ.