By Meredith Marshall Nelson

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #12 covers John 5 and 6. The objective as stated in the manual is “to help class members look to Jesus Christ as ‘the bread of life,’ the source of everlasting life.”


To discuss John 6 in the context of modern-day discipleship, and the transmission of the Gospel to our children.


Somewhere in the symbol of bread is lodged the great contradiction of Christian discipleship.

Bread is the “staff of life” — the staple of every day’s subsistence. It evokes simplicity and accessibility, the one food found on the tables of both rich and poor, the “daily” necessity (Prov 30:8). And yet, it can only be made by the strain of many months’ “sweat” and “labor” (Gen 3:19, Moses 5:1). We all know the story of the little red hen! When cultivated in Biblical times, grain was planted in fertile soil which was then plowed — with oxen or by hand tools. The field was tended carefully until the reaping, a tiring labor itself of either uprooting or cutting the stalks with a sickle. The stalks were then bound in sheaves and taken to the threshing floor, where they were trampled or rolled to loosen the grain from the straw. Finally, the grain was thrown into the wind to separate it from the chaff, a process called winnowing. Only then could the grain be ground into flour and baked into bread, a good morning’s work whether the end-goal was a standard near-eastern flatbread or a leavened loaf.

Jesus tells his disciples that his yoke is easy, his burden light — yet he calls upon them to sell all they have, to forsake their families, to lose their lives. Simple as bread?

In John 6, Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.” He encourages those who are listening to partake of the bread — of him.

What does it mean to put that bread on our tables?

I didn’t realize how much my parents sweated and labored to serve us Christ daily, until I became a mother myself. (Adam learned to make bread “by the sweat of his brow,” and “Eve, his wife, did labor with him” — Moses 5:1). Now I know that bread doesn’t bake itself. Now I know that if my son is to taste even so much as a crumb of Christ, I have to plant, plow, reap, gather, thresh, winnow, grind, bake, and serve. I understand now what I didn’t understand fully as a young adult: my testimony in Christ formed step by step during Family Home Evening, family scripture study, family prayer, family church attendance, and daily family conversation about Christ and his doctrine. I could have found Christ on my own, without my parents’ support, but the labor would have been all my own too.

Those “Sunday school” actions — crucially combined with Christ-like examples — are each a step toward bake day. And if we take ourselves back to the Biblical context of my metaphor, bake day is just about every day. (Interestingly, the one day that was certainly bake-free was the Sabbath day: the only day, in our modern context, that much of my parental Gospel teaching load is lifted from me and taken up by others.)

Where is the grace in all of this? Where is the “light” and “easy” promised by the Savior if we come unto him? I do feel confidence when I pray for the Spirit’s help in conveying Christ to my son — for if I ask bread of my Father (Luke 11:11), will he give me a stone?

In John 6:58 Jesus says of himself, “This is the bread that came down from heaven.” He compares himself to the manna that fed the wandering Israelites — the bread that fell, ready to eat, from the sky.

Some days I am planter, thresher, baker. I am the only means by which my son or I will “eat of this bread.” Other days, and for this I humbly thank God, manna falls from heaven.

Related Mormon Women Project Interviews

The Love of Her Parents, Jamie Pon

I love my parents. It must not have been easy for them to have a daughter like me who had doubts about the gospel. But during the time when I was not active in the Church, my parents continued to show their love to me. They continued to encourage me to pray even though I did not feel like doing it. They encouraged me to read the scriptures, even just a few verses every day. When I was not active in the Church, I did not pay much attention to their words. Now when I look back, I am grateful for their patience and persistence. They never gave up on me. Without them, I would not be able to be who I am today.

Goodness Has a Lunge To It, Catharine Platt McGraw

Every week, I had to put muscle and brain into figuring out how thirty plus people were going to fit in my house to worship, and into feeding them all afterwards. I don’t know if I would have been able to wrestle my way into a testimony if I hadn’t been asked for such a personal investment in the worship.

Other Related Women’s Voices

Keep Walking and Give Time a Chance, Virginia H. Pearce

This week-after-week walking forward is no small accomplishment. The pioneer steadiness, the plain, old, hard work of it all, their willingness to move inch by inch, step by step toward the promised land inspire me as much as their more obvious acts of courage. It is so difficult to keep believing that we are making progress when we are moving at such a pace—to keep believing in the future when the mileage of the day is so minuscule.

Strengthening the Family, Joanne B. Doxey

Parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers. The responsibility of teaching proper values and sacred truths cannot be successfully delegated to anyone else. We must remember the sanctity of these children; they do not belong to us; they are children of our Father—his spirit children come to earth.