Assembly Summary: Two Laws of Success

Author: Yolanda Watt | Student, Living Education – Charlotte 2021

In his forum addressed to the Living Education students,

Mr. Greer opened by giving a brief description about his initial contact with the church, and that he would like to share with us what he wished he knew earlier in life. He then reminds us of the first two laws of success from Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet “The Seven Laws of Success”; namely set the right goals and education for preparation.

Set the right goals

Mr. Greer mentioned from Mr. Armstrong’s booklet that most people never plan their career goals and “allow themselves to drift. They make no effort to master or control their circumstances”. He mentioned that there are things we can do to control our success.

God has goals– The Bible mentioned that Jesus Christ was slain before the foundation of the world, and therefore God has plans. Even in the physical creation, God did not create everything all at once, but He did it in sequence. Christ planned to complete the work of His Father as seen in John 4:34” My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work”.

Education for preparation

“We did not come equipped with instinct. We need to learn, that we need to learn” Mr. Greer mentioned.  When we set goals, we need to follow through. Preparation provides a path as it gives a step to take. We must also realize that our goals can change. Mr. Greer stated that based on surveys taken by university students, that paths to being successful lies in four steps:

  1. Write down your goal.
  2. Plan how to achieve your goal (and write it down as well).
  3. Share your goals with family or friends.
  4. Update your family or friends on your goals.

Goal setting has no real boundaries. We may not always get the goal right, but the process will help us succeed. We must always involve God in our goals as seen in Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” The process of achieving our goals is a blessing.

LivingEd – Charlotte: Orientation Week 2021

On August 6, eleven students arrived in Charlotte to begin a brand new year at Living Education – Charlotte.

After taking some time to settle-in and spend the Sabbath together, the students prepared to leave on Sunday with some of the faculty for their first adventure together in the mountains of North Carolina. The students and faculty arrived in Blowing Rock that evening in time to eat a delicious meal and to fellowship together for a while. Over the next two days, the students spent time listening to presentations by the faculty on all topics LivingEd, sharing yummy meals, learning about each other through games and fellowship, and testing their courage on a white-water rafting adventure.

The presentation portion of the trip not only helped to welcome the students to the program, but meant to explain the program expectations and the LivingEd culture, and to give an overview of what the students had to look forward to during the next nine months. Along with Mr. McNair’s overview of program expectations and opportunities,  Mr. Kenneth Frank presented to the students a history of education in the church, and Mr. Ruddlesden encouraged the students to take advantage of their opportunity and to consider ways they could serve others, both in the program and in the local church congregation. The topics seemed well-received as the students enthusiastically engaged in the interactive aspects of the presentations.

The students at Blowing Rock

After the presentations, the group took some time to drive over to The Blowing Rock, which is a beautiful look-out point to the surrounding mountains. The students enjoyed walking around the park and getting some cool pictures before heading back to the cabins for dinner.

Tuesday was a full day of white water rafting thoroughly enjoyed by all, after which the students and faculty got back on the road for the three hour trek home. However, Orientation was not yet over for the students. The rest of the week was used as an introduction to their core classes, instructors, work-study positions at headquarters, and dorm life. Via webex, the students met each of the Living Church of God department heads and learned a bit more about operations at the headquarters building. They also heard from several of the leaders at headquarters on topics to help prepare them for student life such as “The Myth of Multi-tasking”, “Goal Setting”, “Study Less, Study Smart”, and more.

At the conclusion of Orientation week the students got to spend some time settling-in, and preparing for classes to begin on Monday. As a Friday morning bonus, the guys had the opportunity to take a special class with Chef McNair on the topic of “Expert Bachelor Cooking” which was certainly beneficial for all involved. The McNair’s hosted all the students for a special Friday night dinner. The rain could not stop the evening from being a splendid ending to an exciting week. The students look forward to the upcoming weeks and all the unique and inspiring opportunities in store for them.

Forum Summary: Your Pillars

Author: Caanin Fausone | Student, LivingEd-Charlotte

Estimated reading time: 1 min. 18 sec.

“What are Your Pillars”?

This week in a lecture addressed to Living Education students, Mr. Wally Smith brought attention to this thought-provoking question—How should we as Christians invest in and develop our ideological pillars—and more importantly, as members of the church what should our “pillars” be? Pillars, simply put, are ideals and beliefs that hold up our worldview, and they can range from something as trivial as “red M&M’s are the best flavor” to fundamental truths such as “God exists.” 

Invest Time in Your Beliefs

  “Your worldview is like a pair of rose-tinted sunglasses,” Mr. Smith explained. It affects how we see the world and influences the decisions we make.  Because of this, it is important that we spend some time developing our beliefs and lay a solid foundation to build our worldview upon. Mr. Smith went on to read Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” 

“Can Your Pillars Stand the Test of Time”? 

“Choose your central pillars with care” Mr. Smith admonished the students. It is important that during our younger years we take advantage of our time and establish moral pillars that can stand the test of time and will endure disaster and the collapse of other less important ideals. With these strong foundational beliefs, we as Christians will be able to weather the uncertain moral landscape of our world today.

Caanin headshot

Caanin is a student at LivingEd – Charlotte and is excited and interested in learning more about God’s way of life and developing a closer relationship with God during his time at Living Education. Caanin has past experience working as a sales representative, and currently works as a server at Southgate Brewing Company. In high school, Caanin participated in basketball, football, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Academic Decathlon. For his work-study position, Caanin is on the program staff for Living Education and works with data analytics and statistics reporting.

Second Thoughts: Redefining Masculinity

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 55 seconds.

Several weeks ago, Mr. Jonathan McNair introduced the Christian Living unit on masculinity and femininity. He began his lecture on masculinity by presenting some of the different views of society—rather, he let us present these views to each other. Mr. McNair split us into groups for a little classroom activity. Each group was given an article that promoted a certain perspective on masculinity. After reading the article, we had to explain the author’s position to the class.

“It’s All About Definitions.”

We found some interesting opinions. Sadhguru, an Indian yogi and spiritualist, said, “A complete human being is an equilibrium between the masculine and the feminine.” On the other hand, for some, masculinity is toxic and contentious, something to be avoided altogether—a psychological sickness. The American Psychological Association stated that “traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.” And yet another contingent believes real masculinity is embodied in physical strength, ruggedness, and courage. The website Focus on the Family asserted, “Womanhood is not as laden with inherent moral expectations. Manhood is….”

There are many different views on masculinity—but whose opinion is right? Mr. McNair was making a point through the exercise:

“If we’re going to have any sort of solid foundation on which to base our thoughts, we have to go to the Bible to define masculinity.”

The words masculinity and femininity cannot be found in the Bible. What can be found are commands given specifically to men and commands given specifically to women. Based on this, Mr. McNair provided a working definition of masculinity: “The ability to fulfill the roles and responsibilities that God has specifically designed for a man.” For example, one of the biblical responsibilities Mr. McNair outlined was that men were given the ultimate responsibility to lead in the marriage relationship (Genesis 2:18-24; 1 Corinthians 11:3-12). Another characteristic of masculinity, according to Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, is that a man is not to imitate a woman in dress, appearance, or even mannerisms.

Here is one more view some in society have on masculinity. This is a taste of the perspective my group encountered in our assigned article:

Masculine men are bold. Women are not…. Have you ever heard the phrase, “She is a woman of her word”? Me neither. Women make up their minds through their emotions. Since emotions are fleeting, they constantly change their minds…. Honesty, sincerity, loyalty, and integrity are all honorable masculine traits every man should have (“Top 10 Traits of Masculine Men,”

A Matter of Character

While there are traits every man should have, are they solely masculine traits? For example, when Esther stood up and risked her life for her people (Esther 4:16), she was exercising courage—or boldness. Was she being masculine by doing so? No—she was exercising a character trait God intended for men and women. Submissiveness, which some might like to consider a feminine trait, is likewise a matter of Christian character. Both men and women are commanded to submit to authority and government (Romans 13:1-14).

Mr. McNair emphasized a fundamental truth: God intends the exact same character to be developed in both men and women, but exactly how it is developed is to be different for each. Through the different responsibilities God gave men and women—in the family, in the Church, in the community—both grow in the character of God Himself. Godly character is not unique to men or to women, but to true Christians.

True Masculinity

In this Christian Living unit, we learned what masculinity is—and what it isn’t. True masculinity is not a sickness or toxic. And, while it may be contentious, it is our society that makes it that way. Godly masculinity is not measured by physical strength and stature, but rather by a man’s willingness to fulfill the roles God intended for him. And though Jesus Christ came as a man, the opportunity to become like Him is not limited to men—men and women alike are responsible for developing true Christian character.

Even if we were somehow able to untangle the ridiculous web of opinions the world has on masculinity and even if we chose the most reasonable opinion, at the end of the day, we would be left with just that—an opinion. We would be left holding an inaccurate or incomplete pattern of what it means to be a man. But the Bible reveals the only opinion that really matters. God defined masculinity at creation, beginning with His command for Adam to leave his parents and become one with his wife (Genesis 2:24). When we choose to measure a man by his dedication to fulfilling God’s commands for him, we will see the redefining of a man—that is, a return to the true, original definition of masculinity.

Juliette McNair headshot

Juliette McNair is a student at Living Education Charlotte. She works in the Editorial Department transcribing sermons and proofreading transcripts. She also assists Living Education by writing Second Thoughts essays and Forum/Assembly Summaries for the website. Juliette recently graduated from SUNY Cobleskill in Upstate New York with an A.A.S in Horticulture, a B.T in Plant Science, and a minor in English with a writing focus. She loves playing soccer on the beach, getting up early to watch the sunrise, and playing piano with the lights out.

Assembly Summary: Keep the Doors Open

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 17 seconds.

Mr. Gerald Weston began the final Assembly of the year, “People tend to fall into one of several categories.” Some individuals map out their futures early on and single-mindedly dedicate themselves to their goals. For example, he noted Deion Sanders—a first-round draft pick for the National Football League in 1989. Sanders won two Super Bowls, was elected for eight NFL Pro Bowls, and was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Achievers know what they want in life and pursue it relentlessly. But another category Mr. Weston gave was the under-achievers. “These expect others, including God, to be responsible for their success—to do it all for them.” Rather than taking initiative, they make excuses, develop a “victim” complex, blaming others, or wait for a lucky break.

What Do You Want to Do in Your Life?

“Most of us fall into a third category—those who are willing to work hard but struggle to figure out what they want to do.” As a young man, Mr. Weston wanted to be a forest ranger and a “smoke jumper”—a wildland firefighter who jumps out of planes to fight forest fires. Then, at Ventura College, he switched his major from geology to social work to English. “I confess, I didn’t have a clue what to do with my life. And how can a young person be expected to know what to do—at age eighteen, for example—when the whole world is out there?” He asked, “So what do you do to figure that out if you’re in this category?”

What is Your Primary Goal?

“Let’s begin with our primary goal.” Deion Sanders’ goal was to be the absolute best at football, and arguably, he was. But later, he admitted his aim had been flawed—he titled his autobiography, Power, Money, and Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life. Mr. Weston said, “Sometimes, we think we know what we want, but it’s not always what God shows us we should want.” Matthew 6:33 contains what a Christian’s main goal should be. Ultimately, every decision and action should have this end in mind. Mr. Weston said, “But does that mean God will do everything for us?” He held up his Bible, “Not according to this instruction book here.”

What Are You Doing to Prepare?

Young people may wish to be independent or to get married and raise a family. “But when you look at these goals,” Mr. Weston emphasized, “the question is what are you doing to prepare for that?” He told a story about a high school friend who would talk about his dreams and plans for life. The friend wanted to move to northern California, living off the land while training to become a baseball star—yet he never played on any kind of organized team. This friend went to Ambassador College for a year and then dropped out. He had told Mr. Weston he wanted to be a city planner, yet he threw away the opportunity to build and design cities under Christ in the Millennium. He told Mr. Weston once, “You know what I’m really afraid of? I’m afraid that I will wake up and be forty years of age and not know what I want to do.” Mr. Weston said, “And that happened. The door was open to his dream, but he never prepared himself for that open door.”

Open Doors

People open or close doors by the decisions we make. Mr. Weston commented, “My father always said, If you can read, write, and do arithmetic, you could have a job.” Without basic education, fewer opportunities come. But if a young person educates himself, perhaps developing his public speaking skills or learning a second language, opportunities arise. In Daniel 1, four young men were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon to work in the king’s palace (v. 4). They were “young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand….” Mr. Weston pointed out that while they couldn’t have controlled their lack of blemishes or good looks, they certainly had developed their knowledge and understanding and as a result, doors (opportunities) opened to them. “As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all wisdom and literature” (v.17). Mr. Weston explained God didn’t pour knowledge into their minds using a funnel—they had to read literature and learn wisdom. “These were young men who had certain native ability, but they developed it with hard work.”

“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.”

– Proverbs 22:29

“The harder you work at a young age, the more the doors are opened for other opportunities. But if you spend all your time goofing off, you close doors.” Even if a young person is struggling to figure out what they want to do in life, by having the right primary goal and preparing for their future, with God’s help, opportunities for success will open to them. Mr. Weston encouraged the students as they move forward after Living Ed, “Keep the doors open. Only if you have prepared yourself, will you be able to walk through those doors when opportunity knocks.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Forum Summary: Protocol — Loving Your Neighbor

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 36 seconds.

“Those are all the announcements I have, so I will leave the balance of the Forum to Mr. Ames—this is your last opportunity to hear from him in a regular Forum or Assembly. We want to take every advantage to hear what he has to say, so please give him your full attention today.”

If You Please

Years ago, Mr. Richard Ames and his wife visited Paris. While there, the director of the Worldwide Church of God office took them to eat at a restaurant. Mr. Ames noticed their host would always call the waiter over by saying, S’il vous plait. “I picked up on that.” Mr. Ames said, “We were told the French don’t like Americans, but every time I started talking to a Frenchman, I said, S’il vous plait.” Later, Mr. Ames explained he was looking for a parking space at the French Feast site and was told to park in the VIP area to unload his luggage. “So, I go up to the parking area and there’s a speakerphone. And I said, ‘S’il vous plait,’ and the gate opened up—if you’re ever in France, that’s the secret to getting along with people.”

Standard Operating Procedure

Protocols are a part of daily life, whether in cultural customs, social manners, dining etiquette, military procedures, or employee handbooks. Mr. Ames defined a protocol as “an accepted way of conducting oneself in a given situation.” For example, in France, it is socially acceptable to use the phrase, If you please. But there are also expected ways of conduct in the professional world. In the aviation industry, the major cause for aircraft crashes is a neglected protocol from the pre-flight checklist. Mr. Ames said, “I first learned about Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) when I was a junior in high school.” He worked as a disc jockey for the daytime radio station WMMW in Connecticut. On Sunday mornings, he would have to follow the SOP to start up the station equipment and get the program on the air.

Mr. Ames referenced Dr. Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto. Dr. Gawande worked as a surgeon in eight hospitals around the world. Surveying these hospitals, he found that out of 4,000 surgeries performed, 435 people had major complications and fifty-six people died. Yet, after implementing a nineteen-point checklist for surgeries, 277 people had complications, with only twenty-nine deaths. Checklist protocols can save lives.

“We need Godly protocols. I’m going to give you four points on how to love your neighbor as yourself in the context of protocols.”

Have an attitude of respect. Dr. Meredith noted in the October 10, 2005 co-worker letter, sent out after a destructive typhoon in Bangladesh, “Every human being is precious in God’s sight.” Mr. Ames turned to Philippians 2:1-4, where Paul encouraged Christians to “esteem others better than himself.” One protocol Christians should have on their checklist is respect for all human beings.

Choose words of respect and courtesy. Mr. Ames reminded the students of the five responses that should be a part of their communication: “Thank you; You’re welcome; Please; I’m sorry; How may I help you?” He explained these phrases should be automatic responses. Polite communication—expressing respect and courtesy in speech—is a godly protocol.

Follow Biblical instructions. “You’ve heard the quote, When all else fails, follow instructions…” Mr. Ames said, “No. It should be, Before things fail, follow instructions.” Proverbs 2:1-6 reads, “If you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you… then you will understand the fear of the LORD….” But to follow instructions, Mr. Ames explained, one must be willing to submit—whether to God’s Word, Church authority, or family leadership.

Obedience is a choice. Every individual must make the conscious, personal decision to establish and follow the protocols God established in His Word. Mr. Ames mentioned Proverbs 1:28-29, which warns those who choose to ignore His wisdom: “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD….”

“Surgical protocols have saved lives, airplane protocols have preserved life, and godly protocols ensure an abundant life.” Mr. Ames concluded the Forum, “So, make sure that you are personally learning and growing in the true values of godly protocol, godly procedures, godly communication, and God’s way of life—and love your neighbor as yourself.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Forum Summary: A Hidden Key to Success

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 48 seconds.

In the staff meeting room at Headquarters, Mr. Frank introduced Mr. Mario Hernandez as the Forum speaker. Mr. Hernandez asked, “Do you remember the laws of success?” The students nodded and recited them. The seventh law of success, Mr. Hernandez explained, is to acknowledge God in all your ways. “I’m going to give you an indispensable key to being successful. Without it,” he said, “even if you have all the others, you won’t succeed before God or man… What is the fifth commandment?”

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

– Ephesians 6:1-3

For those who obey and honor their parents, God gives a two-fold promise: a long life and a successful life. Mr. Hernandez turned to Exodus 21:15-17 to show God takes the fifth commandment seriously. Children who struck or cursed their parents were to be put to death. Yet, Mr. Hernandez noted that disrespect towards parents parallels this sin. In Leviticus 19:3, God commanded Israel to revere their parents. Mr. Hernandez said, “Treat them with great respect no matter what. They represent God.”

Respect as a Facet of the Culture of God

“We’re living in a generation where children are oppressors of their parents. They’re not taught to respect.” He read Leviticus 19:32, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man….” The custom to rise and acknowledge an older person when they enter a room may seem outdated or not culturally practiced. But, Mr. Hernandez said, “That’s a lack of culture, my friends. We are here to learn the culture of God and not to say, Oh, in my country we don’t do that.” Young people should acknowledge the presence of an older person rather than ignoring them and turning to their peers. “In this country, which I love and respect, there is a tendency for there to be different cultures for the youth and for the elderly. Each [group] lives in their own world, and there is not much communication.” This phenomenon, which Mr. Hernandez termed “the teenage syndrome,” is nurtured in the modern education system. In tomorrow’s world, a family-oriented learning system will encourage young people to respect and interact appropriately with the older generation.

“The commandment goes all the way to the adult age until the end of your parents’ lives.”

In Mark 7:1-13, Christ rebuked the Pharisees for disobeying God’s command to honor one’s parents. In 1 Timothy 5:4-8, Paul commands, “if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents….” Mr. Hernandez explained that adult children—who are at the productive stage of life—are still obligated to honor their parents.


“Now we’re going to see the story of a man who honored his father and was greatly blessed. That is the story of Joseph.” Out of all the sons of Jacob, only Joseph truly honored his parents. The “bad report” Joseph brought to Jacob in Genesis 37:2 indicates the brothers had a poor reputation in the community. When Jacob called to Joseph to send him to his brothers in the field, Joseph replied, “Here I am.” Abraham had this same response when God tested him by commanding him to kill Isaac (Genesis 22:1). Mr. Hernandez compared it to saying, “Whatever You say, here I am to obey you.”

“Here I am.”

Reuben committed adultery with one of his father’s wives (Genesis 35:22), in contrast to Joseph, who refused to lie with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:10). At the end of Jacob’s life, in a final act of respect, Joseph bowed down to the ground as Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:12). Joseph was 110 years old when he died, and he had become the second most powerful man in Egypt. “God was fulfilling His promise because Joseph obeyed and respected his father.”

Honor the Hoary Head

Mr. Hernandez concluded, “Don’t just stay among the youth, having your different culture apart. Open your heart and talk to the older person… They feel dishonored—although they don’t complain—when a youth passes by and ignores them or rarely comes to greet them. The hoary-head are becoming weak because of age, and they need respect.” Mr. Hernandez explained that respect to one’s parents and older people is respect towards God. He challenged the students to honor older people, revere their parents, and fear God by keeping the fifth commandment—so they may live a long and successful life as God promises.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Assembly Summary: Embrace Your Trials

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

Mr. Wallace Smith, the executive editor for Editorial, walked into the classroom with a homemade lightsaber hilt, a replica Star Wars lightsaber, and a samurai sword. A young man built the hilt for Mr. Smith last year as a gift. It consisted of various pipes and fixtures, along with some electrical tape and rubber bands. Mr. Smith borrowed the glowing green lightsaber—sans accompanying sound-effects—from one of his sons. While it looked deadly, the lightsaber was essentially a harmless prop—compared to the sword he pulled out next.

“Some swords are battle-ready, and some are not.”

“This is a katana, actually formed in Japan, according to the traditional methods.” These samurai swords have a single-edged blade, curving in the traditional Japanese style. The blade does not end at the handle but extends into it—a characteristic of well-built swords. Underneath the cloth binding of the handle, on the metal of the blade that lies within, the creator etches his signature. Mr. Smith explained a samurai warrior’s daily business was deeply connected to the concepts of life and death. The making of a katana was a work of passion, and the creator would purify himself before forging the sword—a process that took months to complete.

The Steel

The forge used to make a katana is kept extremely hot by containing and turning the fire in on itself. “A katana,” Mr. Smith noted, “is made up of multiple metals that are forged into one thing, but not necessarily mixed.” Iron ore, coal, sand, and sometimes other materials are added. The steel is hardened by adding carbon. But if too much carbon is used, the blade will turn brittle. Iron, which is a softer element, provides the necessary flexibility in the weapon. The metals are mixed at different stages and the swordsmith produces a material called tamahagane—translated, “steel jewel.” This material is broken into different-colored cubes, which contain varying amounts of carbon. The cubes are sorted depending on the level of carbon and hammered into sheets. “The real work,” Mr. Smith said, “goes into forging the blade.”

Forging the Sword

“If you take a piece of paper and fold it, it doesn’t take many folds, and it gets almost impossible to fold.” Some of the hammered sheets are selected to make the kawagane, “leather steel,” and the hagane, “blade steel.” The steel is layered, hammered, and folded several times over until a plank with thousands of layers is formed. At this point, the smith prepares the “heart-steel,” the shingane. The low-carbon shingane is more flexible and is placed inside the folded kawagane. “You need the edge to be extremely hard.” Mr. Smith said, “What is the hardest substance that we know of? Diamonds. The carbon bonds are capable of making it extremely hard.” The swordsmith fuses the steel, creating a blade with a “diamond-hard” exterior and a flexible core that can absorb the force of impacts.

The Blade

To temper the weapon, it is plunged into water or oil to drop the temperature of the metal. But before it is dipped in liquid, the spine of the sword is encased with a protective clay layer that allows it to be tempered differently across its width and leaves tell-tale markings on the edge of the blade—another sure sign of an authentic katana. Even at this final stage, the edge hardens as the metal changes molecularly. When a katana was completed, the quality of the sword was normally tested on prisoners. “How sharp is it? They say, made properly, you can throw a piece of silk in the air and a master would be able to slice right through the silk, not having to hold it taut—just allowing the silk to float in the air.”

Embrace Your Trials

“Of these three weapons I’ve shown you today,” Mr. Smith held up the katana, “this one has been through the toughest time.” The steel was heated up to 1600 degrees Fahrenheit, hammered, fragmented, pounded, and tempered with a drastic drop in temperature. Mr. Smith explained Christians are forged into weapons of righteousness (Romans 6:13). “Too often, we think of trials as what God is supposed to deliver us from.” He pointed out that God is not like the “genie” from the Disney movie Aladdin. James 1:2-3 reads, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The “testing of your faith,” Mr. Smith said, does not mean one’s faith causes the trial to end. Faith is developed and forged through hardship.

Mr. Smith concluded his Assembly with a lesson he had learned from another pastor. There are different levels to trials. He said, “We can go through the middle level where we begrudgingly go through them… But it’s not quite the same as embracing it, where, when you go to God, you can say, ‘Father, I don’t know why I’m going through this. But I do trust You are working the ‘long game’ in my life, not just for now but for eternity. If this is a burden I have to face for a month, a year, or a lifetime, I trust you.” Trials are the heat, hammering, and tempering God uses to forge His people into the perfectly balanced tools He desires.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Forum Summary: The Best Laid Plans

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 29 seconds.

Mr. McNair introduced the manager of the Mail Processing Department at Headquarters, an elder in the Charlotte congregation, and a long-time member of God’s Church. “Mr. Gaylyn Bonjour, as you all know, is responsible for all of that major operation that happens downstairs—it’s the heart of the Work.”

“Either good or bad, what happened this year is going to be a memory that you’ll build on all the way through your life.” Mr. Bonjour spoke to the students about planning their futures. At a time when many of the students are making decisions regarding their educations, careers, or even whether to remain in Charlotte, Mr. Bonjour reminded them that their lives would not unfold exactly according to plan. He joked, “I was going to be retired at thirty-five. I’m 77 and I’m still working. Sometimes, as we go through life, all the things that you plan and the direction you that you’re trying to go—it seems to go the other way…”

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…”

– Robert Burns

“You have your plan, and God has His plan.” In 1971, Mr. Bonjour bought twenty-seven acres in Kingsburg, California on which to plant plum trees and raise a farm. Yet, the timing was not good—many other people had the same idea, and the market was competitive. There was little profit in their endeavor, Mr. Bonjour had to work as a masonry contractor to support the farm. Finally, years later, after his son finished high school, Mr. Bonjour and his wife decided to sell the ranch, and they began managing a mini-storage center. He was eventually ordained and hired by the Church. He said, “We may be frustrated that our plan is not working, but we can be assured His plan is.”

“Remember the time you were here.” Isaiah 46:9-10 reads, “Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other… Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand….’” Mr. Bonjour advised the students to use the lessons they learned at Living Ed to seek God early in their lives. He said, “The most precious, tangible thing you have is your time. Every minute you spend is lost. You’re not getting it back.” As he read through Ecclesiastes 3, Mr. Bonjour reminded the students that now is the time for them to seek God, so they will have fewer opportunities to make mistakes in the future. “Every sin committed is a little scar on the brain.”

“Our character is built through adversity.” God allows His people—and their plans—to be tested. Mr. Bonjour explained, “God wants us to be able to stand upright before Him and to reflect Jesus Christ in our lives.” In his first year of being called into the truth, Mr. Bonjour was tested on the Sabbath. His boss needed him to work seven days a week, but Mr. Bonjour refused to do it and was let go. When he registered for the “out of work” list in the Piledrivers Union, his name was dropped to the bottom of the list, because he would not work on Saturday. For a year, he supported his family by working at a junkyard, earning two dollars an hour. “I’ve never been tested on the Sabbath after that.” God is interested in a Christian’s character, not their intelligence or wealth. “When you go through difficulties, you learn and then you can empathize.” Mr. Bonjour explained God uses a “hands-off” approach with His people to see what they will do. But if a Christian does not judge himself—if he fails to align his plan with God’s plan—God will step in and correct it.

“If you’ve got God, you’ve got everything. If you don’t have God, you have nothing.”

Mr. Bonjour concluded, “Looking back, I can see God very gently moved me in a direction where I can benefit not only me and my family but the Church. You don’t always get to go in the direction you want to go. You don’t always get to do the things you want to do. But you trust God, and you know that God is involved in your life.”

“And, as Mr. Armstrong said, ‘I read the book, and, in the end, we win.’”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Assembly Summary: Church Administration—The Story in Stats

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 57 seconds. 

“I would like to talk today a little about something I’ve been a part of for some years.” Mr. Rod McNair has worked as the Assistant Director of Church Administration (CAD) since 2005. He began, “I thought maybe the best way to do it is to tell the story in statistics.”

“What is our mission in CAD?”

The Church’s main goal is to preach the Gospel to the world (Matthew 28:18-20). But the second primary aim is to feed the flock. In John 21:15-17, Christ commanded Peter three times to care for His flock. Mr. McNair pointed out two different words are used in this passage for “feed” and “tend.” The Greek word, bosko, means to pasture or feed,and poimaino, means to rule or govern. The mission of CAD is “to serve the ministry of God’s flock in fulfilling the second commission of the Church, feeding the flock by providing coordination, communication, and administrative support.”


Genesis 6:5-8 is the account of how Noah “found grace in the eyes of the LORD” in a wicked world. He was a “preacher of righteousness” (1 Peter 2:5), yet not one person was called and baptized through his ministry. Mr. McNair asked the students, “What was the first statistic? How many coworkers did Noah have?” He pointed to a single number projected on the whiteboard behind him. “Zero… We may get discouraged. But as we go through the statistics, I think it’s good to keep things in perspective.”

In an Assembly last semester, Mr. McNair discussed the Festival Office. Today, two other major components of CAD were covered: Tomorrow’s World presentations and local ministry and churches.

Tomorrow’s World Presentations

In years past, Mr. Armstrong went on preaching campaigns in cities all over the country, speaking at convention centers or large venues. These programs were advertised in advance, with titles such as, “A Voice Cries Out.” In 2006, in LCG, several ministers proposed having pastors speak at local presentations. Since then, a system was developed for planning TWPs. Mr. McNair showed the students the chart that displays the process. At least eight weeks are required to coordinate the topic, time, venue, brochures, and invites for the meetings.


To date, 30,164 people have attended 1,195 presentations in the U.S and around the world. In the U.S.A, about two percent of invitees attend. Outside America, 4.2 % of invited people attend. “It does seem to be that our people in this country are less interested in the message than people overseas.” The top two topics requested from attendee surveys are prophetic topics (40-50% of requests) and the Holy Days (30%). Many who call and write Headquarters believe Tomorrow’s World is purely a media effort. “The presentations show we are friendly, warm, and welcoming. They show we are a Church.”

Local Ministry and Churches

There are 398 congregations worldwide. Over 160 of these are in the U.S.A. Last year, there were about 2,600 people under the age of seventeen in the Church—out of an average total of 12,000 members. “We do have a lot of older people, but we also have an awful lot of young people—about 20%.” Since 1999, 5,950 people have been baptized. Mr. McNair mentioned, “Those are not all people who have grown up in the Church… There are still people being called today. There is still Work to be done.”


There are 5,986 prospective members, baptized members, and Church youth in the U.S, compared with 6,417 in ninety-one other countries. “Does this tell you anything about how God has blessed the U.S. materially—with the freedom of religion, the freedom of expression, and the ability to do the Work—with the ability to be the engine of the Work? What a blessing that God has allowed us to do the Work in this country… And it shows that we have a responsibility.” 116 brethren are “scattered members.” These are brave members who stand alone in their countries as pillars for the truth.

“… providing for the needs.”

Since 2004, the Personal Correspondence Department has responded to 56,000 emails, calls, or letters. There are twenty volunteers who transcribe sermons for the hard of hearing—thirty-six deaf members receive these transcriptions. The transcriptions are translated into nine languages.

Feeding the Flock

Matthew 24:45-47 is the account of the “faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season….” God commissioned the Church, like that servant, to feed and care for His household. Mr. McNair concluded, “If we put our focus and our attention on being a part of preaching the Gospel to the world and also supporting the back-end of what happens to people once they do come, God is going to give us so many more opportunities in the future, because we’ve been faithful with these very tiny opportunities.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.