Relief Society Lesson 17: Sealing Power and Temple Blessings

family-holding-hands

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Don’t be fooled! This lesson plan can be a real challenge. I think that more often than not, an almost automated response to this lesson is to ask whoever is serving as the ward or branch genealogy specialist to teach this lesson. And likely, this person will be a genealogy bug and will swirl rings of testimony about how “easy” doing the admin side of genealogy is, topped with a dose or two of guilt for not doing the work, thereby paining us with reminders of our duty to those who have gone before us.

 

So. To be clear, I want to do more genealogy and family line temple work because I have a testimony of it. But I have deep empathy (and experience!) in not feeling motivated to do the work because of raw and aching relationships with genetically or legally “close” family members whom either I, or they, do not seek an ongoing familial relationship now— much less in the eternities. It seems I am not alone in this feeling. (plus, I thought the intro in the lesson seemed a bit pompous. I think that Joseph Fielding Smith’s story was never intended to be pompous—but rather a revelling in the miraculous. But still. The story did not address the real issue of apathy or even hurt in regard to dealing with the closeted skeletons of family history and temple work.) Therefore, as I am wont to do, I re-angle the lesson for those of us (ME) who have family issues.

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Relief Society Lesson 16: Bringing Up Children in Light and Truth

kyrie-eleison

Kyrie Elaison by Soichi Watanabe

 

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Introduction: As with any lesson that focuses on parenthood or marriage, it may be helpful to remind the class that these lessons can be difficult for those who do not have children, whose children have left the Church, or whose families do not represent the “norm” of LDS culture. Let us keep these things in mind as we discuss a sensitive topic and remember to extend love and grace to all of our sisters in the class and their families. Song suggestion: Teach me to Walk in the Light Opening question: Think of the families you have known, either in or out of the Church, that seem truly happy. What are some of the characteristics you note that are common among those families?  I would share that all of the families I have known, the ones who seem sincerely happy are the ones where love and grace are extended unconditionally, where the children know that they are always welcomed and wanted, even when they make mistakes. I would share the story of the prodigal son and the father who welcomed his son back with open arms, even after the son had done much that likely displeased him. I would also share this section of a talk given by  Elder Jack H. Goaslind, Jr:

“A good friend shared this story about how she learned the deeper meaning of love. Their family has always been active in the Church, trying their best to live the commandments. They were shocked and disappointed, however, when the daughter became engaged to a nonmember. The next day the mother was telling a good friend about her feelings. She knew her daughter’s fiance was a fine young man, but she felt angry, hurt, betrayed, and numb and did not want to give her daughter a wedding or even see her. She said that the Lord must have guided her to talk to her friend because she received this reply:

“‘What kind of mother are you that you only love her when she does what you want her to do? That is selfish, self-centered, qualified love. It’s easy to love our children when they are god; but when they make mistakes, they need our love even more. We should love and care for them no matter what they do. It doesn’t mena we condone or approve of the errors, but we help, not condemn; love, not hate; forgive, not judge. We build them up rather than tear them down; we lead them, not desert them. We love when they are most unloveable…” “With tears streaming down her face, the mother asked her friend how she could ever thank her. The friend answered, ‘Do it for someone else when the need arises. Someone did it for me, and I will be eternally grateful.’” (April 1981)

I find it interesting that study after study has shown that it is children who *feel* loved and cherished exactly as they are, are the ones who thrive throughout life. Our responsibility is to not just love our children, but to express our love in ways they understand and recognize, regardless of their decisions or mistakes.

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Visiting Teaching Message July 2014: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Advocate

Visiting Teaching Message July 2014: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Advocate

EstherThe term “advocate,” when used in an LDS context, in my experience, usually means a) Christ is advocating for my forgiveness, because I am an unworthy sinner, and b) social and political advocates are outspoken about good things, but in an unruly and distasteful way, which is unbecoming of a “good Mormon girl.”

 

Neither of this things is really all that positive or inspirational. And yet…. This message isn’t about either of these things. As complicated as it is to be a woman in the church, this message, for the first time in my church life, breathed hope in regard to the term “advocate.”

 

Consider the use of the story of Esther in the From The Scriptures section:

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Relief Society Lesson 15: Eternal Marriage

a mother's love

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Introduction:

I would begin this lesson by mentioning that the topic is eternal marriage, and that this can be a difficult (or maybe just uninteresting)  topic for some people who are not currently sealed to a beloved partner. So as we discuss, let’s be sensitive to the fact that many of the people in this room don’t have this right now.

Starter question: In your own experience, or from what you have observed in others, what are the key characteristics of a successful marriage? As they are thinking, tell them a couple of your own insights or stories relating to this question. Personally, I might mention the idea of respecting my spouse’s desires and dreams and doing what I can to support them, as he does for me. That phrase from Marjorie Hinckley comes to mind, as she talked about what kind of husband President Hinckley was: “From the very beginning he gave me space and let me fly.” I think this applies to dreams and desires, and I also think it applies to conscience. My husband and I are not exactly on the same page on certain things ideologically, and after several years I think we are getting better at learning to honor the journey of the other person and allow each other space to follow our consciences. Giving each other this kind of space and respect has been key to the success of our marriage.

Other things people might say: love, kindness, consideration, helpfulness, respect, words of affirmation, quality time together, service, etc. As people mention kindness and consideration, mention that the manual points out how kind JFS was as a husband and how helpful he was. Read a few sentences describing that from the intro section.  Encourage a good discussion on this question – people should enjoy sharing their insights. 

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Relief Society Lesson 14: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Gift of the Holy GhostLe don du Saint-Esprit / 

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Near the beginning of this lesson, President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that “every faithful member of the Church ‘has a right to receive the revelations that are expedient and necessary for his [or her] guidance individually.’” He tried to receive this individual revelation himself, particularly in his endeavors to guide his children.

The Holy Ghost has many names: Comforter, Holy Spirit of Promise, Holy Spirit, The Spirit of God, and so forth. The Holy Ghost has many roles. Just one is to bear record of God, Christ, and “all truth.” If teaching, I might ask class members to share how they have personally experienced the Holy Ghost as these names and roles. Women’s voices are essential, and in this case, rather than seeking them out from Church leaders, I would let the women present speak their truths and experiences. Then I would go on.

As a member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost “partakes of the things of the Father and the Son and reveals them to those who serve the Lord in faithfulness.”

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June 2014 Visiting Teaching Message: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Minister

visiting-teaching-901054-galleryIn many denominations the term “minister” refers to an ecclesiastical role analogous to the Bishop in our church.  To me, the idea that Latter-Day Saint women are ministers (albeit in a different sense) is one stop toward acknowledging both in language and in deed the vital role that women play in the Gospel.  My grandfather was a Presbyterian minister, and I am a Mormon minister.  It is both a plan of action and a title that reflects a spirit of service.

The suggested materials include a quote from President Linda K. Burton, who said:

“With practice, each of us can become more like the Savior as we serve God’s children.  To help us better [minister to] one another, I would like to suggest four words to remember: ‘First observe, then serve.’ … As we do so, we are keeping covenants, and our service, like President Monson’s , will be evidence of our discipleship.”

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