February Young Women Lesson: What is the purpose of life?

When someone asks the question, “What is the purpose of life?” they may actually be asking one of two different questions.  They may want to know why God created the earth and placed life upon it.  Or they may be asking a more specific question: “What is the purpose of my life?  How do I discover my divine destiny?” This lesson discusses both questions and how the answers relate to each other.

If the young women in your class are familiar with the Plan of Salvation, the introduction to this lesson will be a brief review. If not, or simply because the purpose of life is a big enough topic to merit more than half an hour’s discussion, consider dividing this lesson plan into two separate weeks. The first week, teach Section One: Our Common Purpose.  The next week, teach Section Two: Finding Your Unique Purpose.

Section One: Our Common Purpose

Introduce the Doctrine

The Plan of Salvation

Share this diagram and discuss these questions. If the young women are stumped by the questions, invite them to look for answers in the referenced scriptures.

  • The scriptures refer to this plan as “the plan of salvation” (Alma 24:14; Moses 6:62), “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8), “the plan of redemption” (Jacob 6:8; Alma 12:30), and “the plan of mercy” (Alma 42:15). What do these different titles for the plan mean? What is merciful about it? How can it make us happy? What does it redeem us from and save us from?
  • What is the path that leads us out of our fallen condition? What are the first steps we must take to get on that path? (2 Nephi 31:17–19) Where does the strait and narrow path lead? What must we do to stay on it? (2 Nephi 31:19–21).
  • What are some of the ways the gift of the Holy Ghost helps us overcome our fallen condition and press forward on the path? (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; 3 Nephi 27:20; D&C 45:56–57).

Learn together

Ask the young women to listen for three life purposes we all share as you read this quote from President Monson. After reading, work together to list the three purposes on the board.

All of us commenced a wonderful and essential journey when we left the spirit world and entered this often-challenging stage called mortality. The primary purposes of our existence upon the earth are to obtain a body of flesh and bones, to gain experience that could come only through separation from our heavenly parents, and to see if we would keep the commandments. In the book of Abraham chapter 3 we read: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.”-President Thomas S. Monson Reference A

Becoming like Christ

Continue reading more of President Monson’s talk:

Other instructions given to us by the Savior are at our fingertips, found in the holy scriptures. In His Sermon on the Mount, He tells us to be merciful, to be humble, to be righteous, to be pure in heart, to be peacemakers. He instructs us to stand up bravely for our beliefs, even when we are ridiculed and persecuted. He asks us to let our lights shine so that others may see them and may desire to glorify our Father in Heaven. He teaches us to be morally clean in both our thoughts and our actions. He tells us it is far more important to lay up treasures in heaven than on earth. As we strive to place Christ at the center of our lives by learning His words, by following His teachings, and by walking in His path, He has promised to share with us the eternal life that He died to gain. There is no higher end than this, that we should choose to accept His discipline and become His disciples and do His work throughout our lives. Nothing else, no other choice we make, can make of us what He can. -President Thomas S. Monson Reference A

Invite the young women to individually read from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3-16 and look for attributes that Jesus wants us to develop during our mortal lives. (Note: the Topical Guide defines “poor in spirit” as “meek.”) As they read, ask them to think about these questions. Discuss the questions after reading.

  • Can you think of people in the scriptures or in your own lives who exemplify these principles?
  • Have you been trying to develop any of these attributes? How is it going?
The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch

The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

As we become more like Christ, we qualify ourselves to participate in God’s work:

He has set each of us here with the capacity to become like him. He knows our names; he knows our hearts. How deeply satisfying to think that our Father could say, “Call upon John for this work, call upon Mary. I trust them. I know I can count upon them.”

“Here am I, send me” is a most worthy desire, to remember who we are, “to do the will of him who sent (us)” (see John 4:34). This is a commendable goal to make into a living, consistent reality in the year to come. –LDS hymn lyricist Susan Evans McCloud Reference B

Section 2: Finding Your Unique Purpose

In addition to the purposes we all share as part of the Plan of Salvation, we each have a unique role to play within God’s plan:

fingerprint-1427210You know you are a child of God, a son or a daughter of a loving Father who has structured a glorious plan for the salvation and happiness of each of His children. …What a blessing it is to have this solid, revealed-from-on-high doctrine as a foundation upon which to build our lives and as a foundation for our trust and hope in eternal happiness. It is the foundation for our faith and hope that our Father in Heaven has made such happiness available to His sons and daughters. But are these glorious, majestic understandings enough? They are certainly critical underpinnings for our eternal progression, but to reach our divine, eternal potential, I think they are only the beginning. We are each individuals with singular talents, strengths, opportunities, and challenges. We are as individual as are our fingerprints or our DNA. Unfortunately we cannot discover our individuality as easily as we can identify ourselves with our fingerprints or our DNA. We believe we are foreordained to come to earth at a particular time into particular circumstances and that our particular set of gifts, attitudes, and talents—if properly developed and employed—will enable us to fulfill our foreordained purpose. …For us to move in the desired direction for our own life, we must come to know ourselves. We must study, stretch, and test ourselves and ponder the results of our stretching and our testing and other observations. We need to become familiar with our own particular set of gifts and talents. …Why is this getting-to-know-yourself process so important? Because it will enable you to do more with your life. It will permit you to come closer to realizing your full potential. It will let you build on and use your strengths, your gifts, and your talents to carry out your purpose in God’s plan. –Elder Robert C. Oaks Reference C

  • Why do we need the Plan of Salvation as a foundation to achieve our potential?
  • How can we “study, stretch, and test ourselves” to discover our unique mission in life?

Esther was an example of a woman who channeled her unique circumstances, privileges, opportunities and talents to fulfill a divine role that only she could accomplish:

estherIn the Old Testament we read about Esther and Mordecai, who worked for King Ahasuerus. Mordecai took in Esther as his own daughter after her parents passed away. He brought her to the palace. Esther pleased the king, and he made her his queen (see Esth. 2:17). Meanwhile, Haman, a leader in the king’s court, became angry with Mordecai because he would not pay obeisance to Haman. Therefore, Haman plotted to destroy Mordecai and all the Jews. Realizing the grave danger which loomed over his people, Mordecai pled with Esther to seek help from the king: “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esth. 4:14). Consider Esther’s dilemma: It was against the law to approach the king without being summoned. Such an act was punishable by death. If she were to remain quiet, she would likely enjoy a life of luxury and ease. She could live the life of a queen or risk her life to save her family and her people. She counted the cost and chose to heed the longings of her people and of her heart. She asked Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Shushan and fast three days for her, and she and her handmaids would do the same. Then she said, “I [will] go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (Esth. 4:16). Spiritually prepared, Esther approached the king. She was received by him, and she invited the king and Haman to a feast she had arranged. During the feast, Haman’s plot was unveiled, and Mordecai received great honors. Esther, born for such a time, had saved a nation. …Sisters, like Esther, we must prepare for our time because our time has come. –General Relief Society President Mary Ellen Smoot Reference D

  • What were Esther’s unique circumstances, privileges, opportunities and talents that put her in a position to save her people?
  • What unique circumstances, privileges, opportunities and talents do you have that you could use for the good of others and to fulfill your own destiny?

Ask the young women to consider these questions as they read these final quotes. Discuss after reading.

  • What barriers may prevent us from fulfilling our divine purpose? How can we overcome these barriers?

It has been said that one of the greatest tragedies of our time is that so many people live far below their potential. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has a favorite two-word statement that he uses frequently to motivate us: “Always improving.” President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) continually encouraged us to “lengthen our stride” and to “enlarge our vision.” Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) said it another way: “The Lord loves each of us too much to merely let us go on being what we now are, for he knows what we have the possibility to become!” … Is the road you are now traveling and the present conduct of your life leading you to achieve your full God-given potential? If you were to make no changes in the present course of your life, would you be happy with who you are and what you have become five years from now? -Elder Donald L. Staheli Reference E

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Author and activist Marianne Williamson, from her book A Return to Love

Live what we are learning

Write a specific goal you will accomplish during this year to prepare you to better identify and/or fulfill your eternal purpose.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is an advocate, mother, professional, lover of the arts, hater (but doer) of housework and seeker of truth. Podcast: Religious Feminism Podcast Twitter: @aprilyoungb

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1 Response

  1. EmilyCC says:

    The lesson title alone feels super big! I love your focus here on the Sermon of the Mount here. Thanks, April!

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