Relief Society Lesson 17: Keeping the Law of Chastity

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 217–28

Law of chastityChastity lessons are challenging because people’s life circumstances determine the way they live chaste lives.  Giving this lesson to a group of women with varying marital status will require a lot of forethought.  I recommend reading “Two Sides of Being Single and Chaste” and acknowledging that living out your adulthood as an abstinent person is a quite different thing from being an abstinent teenager or young adult.  Chastity and singlehood deserve a serious conversation and in some wards this could be the main topic of the discussion, but I am going to focus this lesson plan on chastity for married women since this is something I can speak to from experience.

 

 

1. Attraction

“The natural desire for men and women to be together is from God. But such association is bounded by his laws. Those things properly reserved for marriage, when taken within the bonds of marriage, are right and pleasing before God and fulfil the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.”

One of my grandmothers remarried when I was in college, and I remember her saying she didn’t think she could still feel giddy when a man called, but she did.  I was surprised, too, that someone her age could still have those feelings.  But the fact is as we age our brains remain totally capable of that dopamine surge that gives us the euphoric feeling of falling in love, and the adrenaline-driven pitter-patter we felt as teenagers when we made eye contact with a crush.

We are wired for falling in love, and a brain in love is often compared to a brain on cocaine.  As the brain becomes tolerant of those highly stimulating hormones, and love changes to secure attachment, vasopressin and oxytocin give a sense of well-being conducive to sticking together.  Finally, your hormones return to normal.  The ideal for Mormons is not to ride this hormonal roller coaster over and over, it’s to form lasting, even eternal, marriages. The main challenge for unmarried people is getting dopamine hits with your loved one without going “too far,” whereas a real challenge for married people is living in long term relationships without the hormonal roller coaster.

“Most people fall into sexual sin in a misguided attempt to fulfill basic human needs. We all have a need to feel loved and worthwhile. We all seek to have joy and happiness in our lives. Knowing this, Satan often lures people into immorality by playing on their basic needs. He promises pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment.”

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Relief Society Lesson #16: The Elderly in the Church

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

In all stages of our lifes there are joys and difficulties – and the older years are no different.

I’ve listed some of the joys here for class discussion. Some are in the lesson manual and some are my own.

  • Continued association with a spouse or other close family member.
  • Children: great nieces and nephews, grandchildren, friends and ward members.
  • Peace: there can be times of rest and peace in later years. A great blessing.
  • Time: often there is more time in later years – to be used for interesting travel, new hobbies, renewed friendships, etc.

Here I’ve listed difficulties in the same way.

  • Unresolved past problems: relational, spiritual, or temporal – these problems can weigh on the mind and heart.
  • Financial difficulties. Financial problems can come in many forms and are not always the result of poor planning. These can be difficult to resolve in later years.
  • Health Concerns – Illness and Pain. As we age, our bodies break down and the elderly can be plagued with many illnesses and also chronic pain. Poor vision and hearing loss can also create frustration.
  • Losing loved ones – including spouses. Many close friends and family members pass away as we age. This can be emotionally painful and lonely.
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One More Example of ETB Lesson 15 (AKA: What Motherhood Looks Like For Me)

Connecticut, Family

I said this to my Relief Society sisters Sunday, more or less. (Not included are the beautiful, thoughtful answers they said back.) (If you happen to still be teaching Lesson 15, please check out Spunky’s inclusive and thorough plan.)

Divinity of Parenthood

What I hope that you will get from this lesson is that both fatherhood and motherhood are godly, and that cooperative parenting is the most godly of all.

Benson said, “A mother’s role is ordained by God. [Mothers] are, or should be, the very heart and soul of the family. No more sacred word exists in secular or holy writ than that of mother.”

Our Differences

Before I go further, I want to acknowledge that this topic can be sensitive. While we are all daughters of God and sisters in the gospel, we have different lived experiences. Some of us have never married, and never had children. Some of us have married, but now carry the load of parenthood by ourselves. Some of us are stepmothers. Some of us are adoptive or foster mothers. Some of us who do not have children, desperately wish to. Some of us who have children, at times desperately wish not to. Some of us are expectant mothers. Some of us are new, new mothers. Some of us are just pretty new. Some of us are seasoned. Some of us are empty nesters. Some of us are grandmothers. Some of us have difficult relationships with our own mothers. Some of us have no desire to be mothers. Some of us are mothers to everyone we meet.

I honor these differences. My hope is that we can draw upon them, and speak honestly and openly from our own experiences, to better learn from each other, and increase in charity and understanding.

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August 2015 Visiting Teaching: Divine Attributes of Jesus Christ—Meek and Humble

Jesus said, “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:26–27).

 

One of the first times I can recall that I really learned about the term, “meek,” was when I was in Young Women. I was a Mia Maid, and a Laurel gave a talk about the epistemology of the terms “meek” and “humble.” Like me, she had previously thought of the term meaning weak and quiet, maybe even a person who is frightened. But she had discovered that the term really meant more, especially in a religious sense. Sure, one of the thesaurus.com synonyms is “weak.”  But we don’t think of Christ as weak. Indeed, as Christ sweat blood and experienced all He did in His life, He was the epitome of strength as much as He was the epitome of meekness and humility. So it is a mistake to think of ourselves as weak. We are not weak when we are being humble. We are powerful when we are meek and humble, because we have the force of God with us.

 

But then I had a problem. You see, I thought *I* was meek. I thought this because I was and am, Mormon. I thought somehow because I knew that meekness meant more, that I was among the meek. But I wasn’t. Not really. Not then, and not even now. You see, although this month’s message is aimed at being meek and humble, I still felt it lacked because its attribution of these characteristics was focused on doing as God would have us, perhaps because so often, as Mormons, we think we are doing what God asks us to when we are really doing what we, or what church culture, tells us is most important.

 

For me as a youth, and well into adulthood, I attributed ‘Mormon meekness’ to myself because of my faith, my sacrifice of time inc doing church callings, my paying tithing on a pinched budget, and in a general sense, my membership in the church. I convinced myself that because testimony was strong, and because I was suffering through a number of problems (death of a parent at 18, dating woes at 20, mac-n-cheese AGAIN for dinner, etc.)– I had great meekness and humility. I began to see myself in Matthew 20:16, as chosen—and I believed I would be the first in the next life to obtain all the righteous desires of my heart. In my heart of hearts, I believed myself to be suffering, and I was. Life is not easy for anyone, and some of the obstacles in my life were and are— too complicated and personal to even think about.

 

But that all changed for me in India.

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Relief Society Lesson 15: The Sacred Callings of Fathers and Mothers

Capítulo 15: Los llamamientos sagrados de los padres y las madres, Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

Some of the format on this page can hard to read. Please click on this link for a pdf of this lesson plan: Lesson 15 ETB.Exponent.

This is a LONG lesson (lds.org text is here). I do not think you will be able to cover all of the material in the lesson, or in this lesson plan. But because teaching typical/gendered model-based lessons is difficult, I tried to be inclusive of all women, including childless women, those who are in a mixed faith marriage or those who are single parents. So- let’s get into it:

Introduce the term, “Family.” I have written about the term previously here, and highlight this quote as a way to model inclusiveness:

 

Family is a rubbery term at best; even within the church, the black-and-white-paper-cutout-men-standing-holding-hands-together_9777700definition of family comes in varied terms of a mortal family, an eternal family, a heavenly family, a ward family (wherein the bishop is the father of a ward) and for those in University wards, you may get “assigned” membership in FHE family groups. Even at work or in sports, a branch or a team can be described as a family unit. In consideration of this, you can see why I prefer the mathematical definition of the term “family”: a group of curves whose equations differ from a given equation in the values assigned to constraints in each curve. In applying this concept to the more common definition of family, I am comfortable in defining family like this: A group of individuals who share values assigned to and within the constraints of a common group.

 

 

Print out some of these quotes as relate to the women in your class. ( I have added descriptors in italics at the front of each quote, you are not obligated to read or include these) . Have members of the class each read one. I would not encourage discussion at this stage (timing!), but rather, invite the women to adapt the idea of mothers and fathers to be inclusive of all church members in all walks of life:

 

(widows or divorcees) A woman in the role of single parent, whether widowed or divorced, has a very special calling, and she will be held accountable before the Lord for what she does with her stewardship. Although her spouse is absent, she stands nonetheless commissioned by the Lord to perform the charge he issued to all parents: “And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” She may feel at times that she carries a disproportionate share of that responsibility, yet she has the Lord’s assurance that he will prepare a way for her to accomplish her task.  –  Maren Eccles Hardy, This You Can Count On, Ensign, September 1990.

 

 

(Mixed Faith Marriages): The fact is, many of us will never see our spouses join the Church. But we must continue to follow what we know to be true. We will not be held accountable for their salvation, but we will be held accountable for our own actions—how brightly we let our own light shine. Understanding this truth has relieved us of a great burden; in a very real way it has set us free to find contentment, joy, and growth in our part-member marriages. – Kristin Sandoval and Susan Heumphreus, When Your Spouse Isn’t a Member, Ensign, March 1990.

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Relief Society Lesson 14: Marriage and Family — Ordained of God

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation
portrait-mother-children-argentina-1080296-galleryWhen I realized that I was in charge of the write-up for this lesson, given current events in the United States, I admit that I cringed. I was really happily surprised to read the content, which is full of helpful suggestions on how to strengthen your relationships with those you love. I’ve gotten so used to the phrase “Ordained of God” being a prelude to a discussion of same-sex marriage that I was surprised to see a lesson on the family that wasn’t a political stance.

Consider setting conversational parameters from the outset, particularly if you live in the United States or have many Americans in your class. Specifically asking people to refrain from expressing political opinions or referring to the Supreme Court decision could deter unnecessary side tracking. Alternatively, this lesson could be a good jumping off point to address ways to be more Christlike in our interactions with others, including responses to gay friends and family members. Set the tone for the discussion by acknowledging that, at least in the United States right now, this topic can easily drift off course and you’d like to set off in a specific direction.

Empty Chairs

From the beginning of their marriage, Ezra and Flora Benson made their home and family their top priority. When their children were young, they began emphasizing that they wanted their family to have no “empty chairs” in the eternities . . . May He bless us to strengthen our homes and the lives of each family member so that in due time we can report to our Heavenly Father in His celestial home that we are all there—father, mother, sister, brother, all who hold each other dear. Each chair is filled. We are all back home.

We cannot control what happens to other people in the eternities, but we have often been taught that our homes can be a little piece of heaven on earth. Think about who would sit around your table at a big holiday, if everyone could come.

Why might a family member not feel welcome or comfortable in your home/your company?

How can we make sure that all family members feel fully loved and accepted? How can you show love and acceptance of a person when their choices deeply concern you?

If you have ever felt rejected, were you able to make peace within yourself or with the other person? How?

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