Relief Society Lesson 18: Living by Every Word that Proceeds from the Mouth of God

lord-prayer-art-lds_451512_inl

Dear Relief Society Sisters,
I have strong beliefs on adult learning. Long term learning is attached to emotion and connected to the experiences of the learning. It appeals to a variety of learning modes. A teacher reading the manual or lecturing with no opportunities for discussion is my idea of the worst lesson ever. Inspiration/revelation only enters the room through one voice, the instructor. Conversely, a great lesson is discussion oriented with many voices providing comment and opportunity for inspiration/revelation to enter the room. The objective of the following lesson plan is to create opportunities for meaningful discussion, inspiration, and revelation.

Introduction: From the Life of Joseph Fielding Smith
Write on the board: “Why should we obey Gospel laws?” with numbers 1-5 listed below the question. This is our focus question. Throughout the lesson stop and ask the focus question and add new answers.
Assign sisters to read the watchtower quote and Word of Wisdom anecdote from President Smith.
The man in the humorous anecdote had already repented. He isn’t offended by a call to repentance because he has already chosen to change.

Ask the Sisters: When you listen to a call to repentance what makes you want to change? Is it feeling scared of consequences and fear driven? Is it feeling loved and understood? Does an emotional plea to your heart or logical reasoning directed to your mind work best for you?

Participation helps to increase learning! Have each sister turn to a sister next to her and take 2-5 minutes to share with each other what kind of appeal for change helps them the most and why it works best.
Call the group to order and have the sisters raise their hands to vote for which type of call to repentance they like best.

Ask the Sisters: What are some positive and negative aspects of each approach? Are there times when it might be best to scare someone into obedience? When might an emotional plea not be the best fit?

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Visiting Teaching Message August 2014: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Messiah

The Virgin with the Grapes

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Each one of these visiting teaching messages, including this month’s,  comes with a question or questions at the end of the message, probably meant to encourage discussion. I often disregard them as too “preachy” for a Visiting Teaching conversation, however, the single query at the end of this month’s message made me think. And wonder, and….as always, consider how and why this is important to women.

So I start this post in asking that question:

“Why is it important to understand the Savior’s role as the Messiah?”

First, I think it is important to differentiate between the terms: Savior/ Saviour and Messiah. The term savior is defined  as someone who saves, rescues, or delivers. The term Messiah is more antiquated as per its Hebrew origin (māshīach), and means “anointed one.” In combination, the Savior who is also Messiah is one who is anointed to save.

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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 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 who 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 they, or I do not seek an ongoing familial relationship now— much less in the eternities. It seems I am not alone in this feeling. Therefore, as I am wont to do, I re-angle the lesson for those of us (ME) who have family issues. (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.)

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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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