Lies My Laurel Advisers (and Elder Callister) Told Me

It was deadly silent in the Young Women’s room where I was sitting as a Laurel some twenty years ago. The Young Women president, whom I loved dearly, was reading a letter. It was an open letter to the Young Women of the church, long before the days of open letters on the internet. This letter was from a woman who had been raped, and it was written to us, the Young Women of the church. She said she invited the rape because her makeup was too much, her sleeves were too little, her skirt was too short and her nails were too long. She was alone, in the wrong place, and dressed “inappropriately.” It was her fault because of her dress, she told us. She had asked for it. And she was paying for it.

We sat in reverence and shock at the close of the letter. “This girl was nineteen, but it could happen to you….” That could happen to me! I felt sick, but…  something felt… wrong. Something twinged in me… because, well… didn’t the man who attacked her—didn’t he have a choice? I mean, wasn’t HE the rapist? I sat feeling confused and a little angry. I felt like I should question this… but I didn’t know why. And I was scared. Because no one wants to be raped.

In conclusion, the Young Women’s first counsellor reverently added, “Because men really do have less control in this than women.” BAM. That was it!! That is what was bothering me! The Plan of Salvation. Agency. Because I was being taught that we all had agency…. And this was teaching me that men do NOT have agency. At least when it comes to sex. And this didn’t make sense. This was not the gospel I knew and loved. This was false doctrine. But I didn’t challenge my Young Women’s leaders…. even if what they were teaching me was opposite to what I was being taught in rape prevention classes at school.

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Visiting Teaching: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Light of the World



This is an interesting visiting teaching topic. The message itself is typical, yet friendlier because inclusive brackets have been added to the text to make it more easily applicable to women, and the history section choices are examples of actions which reflect the “Light of Christ.”

But—in reading, I couldn’t help but wonder what is the “Light of Christ”? Is it the Holy Ghost? Is it symbolism of the Son/Sun giving light? I have heard the phrase so often, and it is defined in my mind… yet… I suddenly wondered if there were more that I did not know. So I looked it up in the most reliable resource I know. The Relief Society magazine. And this is what a 1965 lesson on the “Light of Christ” taught me:

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Relief Society Chapter 5: Faith and Repentance

This is a very broad lesson (seven sections!), and will be too much, I think, for any class to go over in meaningful detail. Having been freshly inspired by TopHat’s great Young Women lesson plan on repentance (oh, how I would have loved her lesson when I was in Young Women!),  I chose to focus on repentance for this lesson. repentanceThe reason is because I think that repentance is generally taught in a manner that brings fear, sorrow and judgement: it is a downer of a lesson. Though the focus on faith and the seven (!) sections in this lesson detracts from an overt focus on repentance, I still opted to try and present repentance in a way that is peaceful and loving.

Repentance is a topic that is personal. In this, it is difficult to teach without offering an ugly feeling of being judged and degrading our self worth. Indeed, some of my darkest hours are a result of self-hate for feeling unworthy and unable to repent, once even for something as minute as temporarily removing the garment to go to a ballet class!  Thus, and because branches and wards can be small and gossipy, it is important for this lesson to be taught in a manner that expresses the love of the Atonement. The Atonement is love, which means repentance is love. And this, is good news. The link to the text is here.


I would be anxious to ensure the class starts on a positive note, so would write the word “repentance” on the board, and underneath, add the word “positive.” Have the women in the class list the positive characteristics of repentance. Some of the positive characteristics might be: clean, baptism, refresh, start over, uplifted, freed. In having a list that is only positive, the focus opens to a sense of the positive side of repentance, rather than the guilt and shame of imperfection. Through the lesson, be in tune when positive terms come up describing the feelings of repentance and continue to add them to the board.

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Young Women Lesson: How Can the Atonement Help me in my Trials?

The theme for the month of April is the Atonement. The Atonement is such a fascinating, powerful and peaceful part of pure religion; it is only in the Atonement that we are made whole. But the topic of being made whole is rife with problems, especially when dealing with trials. I think most of us have hear any number of well-intended ideas such as “God won’t give you a problem you couldn’t handle,” “God gave you this trial to make you grow,” and “You chose this trial in the pre-existence.”  All of these statements are intended to offer peace, but it truth, they echo an idea of blaming the victim. I recommend avoiding these types of statements all together.


The suggested scriptures and talks associated with this lesson  are good and might be relevant to your class (the link to the church resource is here). Many are focused on the act of service as a distraction or remedy to trials. I agree with this point; being engrossed in service is a way in which we can cope with trials. But whilst service is a coping mechanism, I do not think it really directs to an understanding of the healing power of the Atonement. It is in this thought that I have framed my lesson: the healing power of the Atonement.

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February 2014 Visiting Teaching Message: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Good Shepherd

This is a sweet message, and it is an easy one to adapt individually without too much issue. I say this because I think at the heart of this—it is addressing isolation. The isolation of the “lost sheep” wandering away from the fold—or even, as the James Faust quote includes—the “brokenhearted parents” who might feel isolated because their child might not have made choices that reflect the desire of their parents- especially in regard to the church.


Now. Because I am short on time this month as a result of… many things, I chose to just focus on that simplicity: addressing isolation. There are times in all of our lives that was have felt isolation- the teen who aches to be included in social activities, the single adult who longs to be married, the mother of young children who finds herself at a loss for conversation outside of her family, the unmarried or divorced mid-single who is tired of being labelled a “problem” because they “can’t get married,” and the widow who makes cash withdrawals from bank tellers just for the conversation…. Isolation is a common illness, one that we have all suffered from at one time or another.

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