Relief Society Lesson 13: Baptism

Guest Post by KMeldauc

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

The last couple of weeks The Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith manual has hit the topic of priesthood HARD. Honoring Priesthood Keys. Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. With priesthood being such a hot topic within the Church right now, I hope we all feel a little more familiar with what it is and how it works. Lets be optimistic and say that we did.

So now that we recognize all this great priesthood power and authority in our midst, what are we going to do with it?

Give Birth.

Wait. What?

Did you think I was going to say baptism? Baptism is the beginning of our new spiritual life. In that way, baptism is a birth.

Baptism is the third principle and first ordinance of the gospel, performed by immersion using the authority of the priesthood. Baptism is a richly symbolic ordinances with beautiful layers of meanings. It is symbolic of not only birth but also death and resurrection. So lets talk about these symbols.

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October Young Women Lesson: How Can I Develop Christlike Love?

As I was reading through October’s lessons, I was very excited about the focus on Christ and love. The lessons on the Come Follow Me website are very good. In this lesson, I tried to get away from the cerebral aspects of “we need to love everyone” and go into the “how” to love everyone.

Washing of Feet

Lesson Prep/Intro

The week before the lesson, I think it would be good to ask the students to spend time thinking of their favorite story of Jesus. You could ask some of the older girls who studied New Testament last year in seminary to share a story they learned about that was important to them to share with the younger girls, or you could ask everyone to spend some time reading in the Gospels this week in their personal study. Then when you start class, you could ask each to share the story they picked and write it on the board in a list.

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Teaching: A Pretty Good Call

Since moving back to a family ward I have spent most of my time working with the youth.  Other than a brief stint as a Relief Society teacher (cushiest calling ever…) I have either worked in the Sunday School with the 14-15 year olds or as the Laurels advisor.  I found Sunday School to be particularly challenging, both because the mixing of genders often changes the dynamic, and because you tend to have less of a personal relationship with the kids than if you work in the Young Women/Men organization.  To make matters worse, when I was teaching Sunday School we were still using the Gospel Doctrine manual, which had no suggested activities and was in no way tailored to help teachers reach teenagers.  I like to think my frequent complaining letters about this through helped them move toward the new curriculum.

The women of Exponent II were having a conversation on the backlist about how to work with youth and there were so many good ideas that we decided to make it into a post.  Many of these ideas come from the other bloggers. If you readers have any more ideas of how to make church more engaging for teenagers, we would love to hear them.

Classroom management:

  • If this is the first time teaching your class, have all the students introduce themselves and say what grade they are in, where they go to school, and what they are interested in doing post-graduation
  • At the beginning of class, go around and ask everyone what the highlight of their week was.  Giving a space to discuss something other than the lesson makes them more likely to listen and interact positively during the lesson itself, and gets every kid talking.  This can also be a useful filler during the time you’re waiting for students to file in.
  • Whatever the lesson is, tie it to their lives (news of the week, scandal etc.) Apply what principle you’re teaching, for instance ask “was the Holy Ghost with the people in that situation?” let them debate it.
  • Ascertain your students’ reading levels and have them participate accordingly.  If you have students who really struggle, plan to have them share quotes that are modified to meet their reading level so they can participate without feeling embarrassed.  Similarly, if you want a long complicated quote to really make an impact, think in advance who is a strong reader and save that quote for them while encouraging others to participate elsewhere.  Reading aloud is an important skill to develop, especially in the church, but an atmosphere of shame or dread will make teaching Sunday School that much harder.
  • Pick up on little things (side talking, rocking in chairs, shredding paper on the floor) and call them out.  Do this consistently so they don’t walk all over you.
  • Bring food.  This is cliché, but consider when your ward meets.  Mine meets from 11-2, which means my class is always hungry.  You could use it as a reward for good behavior, or simply to get the blood sugar high enough that they are able to engage.  It doesn’t have to be a treat, I have brought cherry tomatoes, carrots, fruit slices, crackers and other snacks.  I often bring wet wipes with me to avoid the inevitable “may I go to the bathroom to wash my hands?” exodus that seriously disrupts a lesson.  When their physical needs are met, they’re better able to attend to the Spirit.  I think so anyway.
  • Try starting a lesson with ascertaining their knowledge levels.  This is particularly important with younger teens who have not been in Seminary or had several years of Sunday School under their belts.  Ask them what they know about X, maybe putting their answers on the board.  At the end of the lesson check back and add things they may have learned to your list, and ask if they feel comfortable with their knowledge levels or if more instruction on the topic would be helpful.
  • Call on specific students to give the prayer, rather than waiting for someone to volunteer.  One of my tactics is to call on someone for the opening prayer and then have them choose who gives the closing prayer.
  • If necessary, reassign seats.  This might be particularly true if you have visitors and your class is being cliquey.  Having them sit next to someone new, then do an introduction activity to help the class be more attentive and to have more group spirit.
  • Once a month have one of the students teach the lesson, particularly if you have an older class.  They will soon be going on missions or teaching in singles wards and getting a little practice and instruction in a safe place would be valuable experience.  Students often listen closely to one of their own.  It also helps the student who teaches have more appreciation for the work that the teacher does every week.

I’m a firm believer in trying to meet different learning styles, even though I personally respond best to reading and discussion.  Here are some alternative presentation ideas:

  • Role playing.  Some kids are hams and like to be the center of attention.  Harness that by having them act out scripture stories.  Provide props to make it more dramatic and memorable.
  • Drawing.  If you’re having a more quiet lesson, harness their doodling powers for good.  I often provide art supplies and have them make illustrations for the lesson.  You might give them a scripture or a principle to illustrate then explain to the class, or you could have them draw while you talk and explain, then show what they learned at the end.
  • Play-doh.  This is like the drawing activity, but a different approach.  It helps keep kids focused on something and gives them something to do with their hands.  I used it for a lesson on the creation, but it could be applied in other ways.
  • Dioramas.  One Sunday I brought a bunch of playmobils (legos or action figures could work well too) and some premade prop pieces and we made dioramas to illustrate the lesson.  I think that one was about Daniel and the lion’s den and Shadrach Mishak and Abednego.
  • Journaling.  Keep notebooks in a church closet and have them on hand for the start of a lesson.  I like to start lessons with an introspective question e.g. what are your big questions about your future? (for a lesson on Patriarchal blessings) What is one time you had to forgive someone for something they did to you? etc.  I give them five minutes to write something and then I have them share if they feel comfortable.  It gets the ball rolling, helps them to gather their thoughts and means you have a supply of examples you can tie the lesson back to throughout.
  • Journals are also helpful for extending weekly challenges.  I have them write down what they’re going to do that week to apply the lesson at the end of class.  Then we start class by asking how they did and what experiences they had.  Generally they forget, but having it in writing at least reminds them they should be applying the lessons.
  • Have them copy what people in the scriptures did in a more literal way.  For example, when teaching about the Ammonites burying their weapons of war for peace, have them write on slips of paper what they needed to let go or work on, then go and bury the papers in the ground outside.  When teaching about the Title of Liberty, have them make a list of things they would stand up for and share it.

These are only a few ideas among many possible approaches.  The new manuals do a better job of tailoring the lessons for youth, but a little creativity doesn’t go amiss.  What approaches have worked for you? What were your favorite lessons as a teenager?


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An Invitation to Celebrate Mormon Women in Sacrament Meeting

This year, the 171st anniversary of the establishment of the first Relief Society falls on Sunday, 17 March 2013. With this, an opportunity is created for branches and wards throughout the world to have sacrament meeting on this day devoted to Mormon women and the Relief Society. What’s that you say? Mother’s Day is all about women? No. It is not. Mother’s Day is about mothers. Although all mothers are women, not all women are mothers. This is a chance for all church members to gather, teach and learn about the contribution of women who are devoted to Christ.

True to my conscience, I emailed my Relief Society president with this suggestion. She responded by asking my for listed talks and special musical numbers that I thought would be fitting. I was happily surprised that my email had been noticed so quickly, so spent a day asking what others thought about topics for talks about women. My response is included below, and although it is specific to my ward, the same topics can be adapted to any ward or branch in the church.

Please join us in encouraging leaders at a local level to enlist Sunday, 17 March 2013 with a Sacrament Meeting program dedicated to Mormon women of the Relief Society.


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The Churchmen’s Voice, Mansplaining and Mormons

The Churchmen’s Voice, Mansplaining and Mormons

On Saturday, August 18th 2012 I attended the We Are Woman Rally in Washington, D.C. which was organized to protest the war on women, evaluate the current state of women’s rights and make our interests known to our representatives; to communicate that we won’t sit back and remain silent while women’s rights—for the first time in more than a century—are not only being threatened, they are moving backwards. I was invited to speak about The Equal Rights Amendment and the importance of women getting the same constitutional guarantees and protections as men. I represented Mormons for ERA and talked about how my religion shaped my moral imperative to fight for equality, social justice and rights and protections for women, children, mothers and families. I argued that for too long we have let the conservative right co-opt religion and families as the motivation for their legislation even when it is evident how many their laws and policies harm women, children, mothers and families. I concluded by encouraging everyone to press forward in the fight for women’s rights and led the masses in the now 50 year-old chant: “Hey! Hey! What do you say? Ratify the E.R.A.”

Hearing hundreds of voices join together in support of what I consider one of the greatest travesties of legislative justice in American history was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Unfortunately, another memory from that day stands out just as clearly.

Mormons for ERA were gathered on the West lawn of the U. S. Capitol holding signs, mingling with fellow protestors, and wrangling our children when a family approached us. They were a Caucasian seemingly upper-middle class family of four on vacation to the District of Columbia. They saw our signs and wanted to know more about the rally and our organization. We explained briefly and the wife inquired about our Mormons for ERA sign. “Are you for or against Mormons?” she skittishly asked. “We are all Mormons” I cheerfully explained. A look of relief flushed across her face and she reached out to connect, “We are Mormons, too” she enthused. We soon got talking about banal subjects and the husband interrupted to ask what the ERA was. I had not even gotten through a basic description of the 24 word amendment when he interrupted me again to explain why what I was saying was wrong because “God makes those decisions, not humans or governments” he assured me. “Excuse me?” I asked. I was certain I had misunderstood him because his statement made no logical sense in the context of what we were talking about. “The scriptures clearly show that marriage is between one man and one woman. That is God’s truth and humans or governments have nothing to do with it.” He preached and then reached out, gathered up his family and began quickly turning his back on us. “Well, do you want to talk about this or are you leaving?” I asked trying to be considerate of their family vacation schedule and not wanting to debate in front of his children unless he was game. He turned to look at me exasperated. His visage was scrunched with annoyance that tacitly communicated, “I’ve already explained it to you little girl. What more can be said?” I was not intimidated. I dared to suggest, “Actually our scriptures have many forms of marriage sanctioned by God: polygyny, polyandry, concubines, marrying the eldest daughter, widows marrying brothers, etc. More importantly, however, what does this have to do with women’s rights and the ERA for which this rally is gathered?” He ignored everything that I said then he rolled his eyes and shook his head as he reasserted his point about the bible, God, and governments with “the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant” (Solnit 2012). When the last phrase left his lips he turned and walked away without so much as acknowledgment that I was still standing there or that I might want to reply. He made sure that his was the last word. As he made a hasty retreat his wife and children were left to awkwardly say goodbye and rush ahead to catch up to him.

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Poll: How often do you comment in Sunday School?

It is always hard for me to comment in Sunday School. Even if I’ve studied the lesson beforehand, planned out a few comments I can make, I rarely will follow through and make one of those comments. But, I see others in Sunday School who seem to have the opposite problem from me. Of course, it takes all kinds to make a Sunday School class flow.


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