The overall theme in November is “self reliance.” Spunky did an excellent introduction last week here, and you can look up the Aaronic priesthood lessons here; they have additional ideas that I thought were helpful for the Young Women.
When I was in high school, I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Self Reliance.” That essay gave me confidence and made me feel like I was capable of handling anything that came my way. I was determined to be self-reliant. So, I would start with my favorite part of the essay:
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great women and men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now women and men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.
I would begin by asking the class,
What does this quote mean to you?
Self-reliance is difficult to obtain, especially in the face of trials and the unknown, but as individuals who believe in the importance of free agency, it is vital that we study and gain the faith we need to be able to make big decisions as we face challenges in our lives.
<from the manual>How can I find solutions to my challenges and problems?
Self-reliance includes the ability to find solutions to our own problems and challenges. Many of these solutions are found in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father is mindful of the challenges we face. He loves us and wants to help us. We should pray for guidance as we seek answers to our challenges in the scriptures and the words of the prophets and apostles.</from the manual>
What challenges have you had to find solutions for in your life?
If I taught this lesson, there are two primary categories I would address in being self-reliant.
1) Spiritual self-reliance (Spunky asks some excellent questions in her lesson earlier this month here)
2) Emotional and mental self-reliance
I would first address spiritual self-reliance because if we don’t teach our youth how to gain and rely on their own testimonies and faith, how can we hope that they will use the blessings and tools of the Gospel to find solutions to other challenges in life?
One of my biggest worries when I was growing up was that I didn’t have a testimony. “Fake it ‘til you make it,” wasn’t a satisfying answer, but would I ever feel that burning in my bosom?
Today, I still feel like my testimony doesn’t look like what I’ve read in the Ensign or heard in General Conference, and it’s taken me a few years to trust myself and that the testimony I have is good enough and is one that God is pleased with. One of the most helpful pieces of gaining self-reliance is trusting my spiritual convictions and trusting that as I study and pray, God will give me the insight I need even when (and particularly when) it doesn’t look like the insight of my friends.
Prepare yourself spiritually
I love the Mormon Message below. Here we see a young woman saying the words from the History of Joseph Smith as she works to gain her own testimony. I would show this video to the class and then ask the following questions.
How was this woman self-reliant?
What did she do to gain a testimony? (In particular, I would point out all the time she spends thinking and reflecting by herself about what she has read, seen, and heard from friends and family.)
Does this mean that a testimony and being spiritually self-reliant will come in 3 minutes (like in the video)?
No, but as Elder Holland points out in his talk listed in the lesson, “Broken Things to Mend,” when he refers to Alma 32:27. We begin to become spiritually self-reliant when we take the first steps as Alma says to “exercise a particle of faith, yea even if ye can no more than desire to believe” rather than having a taciturn or passive acceptance of the teachings of the Church
This is also when I would have a class member read one of the scriptures listed in the lesson, Alma 37:35-37.
I would ask a Young Women’s leader or a member of the class ahead of time to talk about her path to being spiritually self-reliant.
2) Emotional and Mental Self-Reliance
With our spiritual self-reliance (even when it feels like little more than just a desire to believe), we can trust in the gifts of the Gospel to help us gain emotional and mental self-reliance for difficult times in our lives.
What are gifts we have from the Gospel that can help us solve our problems?
I think this is an excellent time for the class to lead the discussion and talk about how prayer, faith, scripture study, counsel from teachers, friends, and family can help us be emotionally and mentally self-reliant as we face trials in our life.
As we learn and grown from difficult times in our lives, we become more self-reliant.
Does this mean that we can’t ask for help or that we will always feel confident in relying on ourselves?No, being self-reliant means relying on one’s own power and resources. Those resources may not always be internal.
I believe that self-reliance is what helps me to know when I need to lean on others (both our Heavenly Parents and our friends and family) to get through difficult times and to heal myself. In that vein, I would look at the following talks and consider which ones might be good resources for your Young Women.
This lesson suggests Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, “Forget Me Not,” in which Elder Uchtdorf outlines doubts that can often erode our confidence and ability to be self-reliant.
In a time when mental illness is still not readily discussed in church settings, I think it is important to also consider Elder Holland’s talk in this most recent General Conference, “Like a Broken Vessel.”
And, finally, Sister Chieko Okazaki’s seminal talk on abuse, “Embracing Hope: Confronting, Understanding, and Healing from Abuse,” is a remarkable example of showing how to gain self-reliance by healing oneself by turning to outward resources. In the past, I have linked to a transcript Deborah posted years ago here, but I was delighted to find that BYU’s Women’s Services and Resources has published Sister Okazaki giving this talk on YouTube here.
I would close with reminding my Young Women of President Monson’s talk on Sunday morning of this past General Conference where he says, “A fundamental question remains to be answered by each of us: Shall I falter, or shall I finish?”
Being self-reliant does not mean that I am alone as I try to finish and endure. It means that I have studied, prayed, and pondered as I work to gain confidence in my ability to gain wisdom (both spiritual and temporal) and that I use that wisdom to know when to rely on my own strength and testimony and when I turn to resources outside of myself to continue to grow and progress.
I love this last quote from the Emerson essay I referenced at the beginning of this lesson:
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it.
It is my prayer that each of our Young Women will be learn to be true to herself and God.