Relief Society Lesson: Careful Versus Casual by President Becky Craven

President Craven’s talk can be found here.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

by Paula (Paula can be found on Facebook on her page, The Gospel According to Paula, and on Instagram @thegospelaccordingtoPaula

***Teaching Tip: This is a long lesson with three potential deep dive discussions. It would take three Sundays to cover! Feel free to use the part best suited to your RS or change the topic order.

Throughout the lesson there are places for Class Discussion as well as Author’s Commentary, which gives you an idea of the commentary I’d make to guide the discussion.

You’ll want to replace my notes/ideas with your own! This is where you, as a teacher, get to insert the gospel according to you! ***

Part I: Careful vs Casual

At the beginning of the lesson, write the following words on the board. 

Careful           |             Casual

Class Discussion: what do these words mean to you? 

Write responses on the board, perhaps in a list or as a mind map. 

***Author’s Commentary: I find the word careful to be filled with fear. I have to be careful… or else I’ll get hurt! The world is a bad, scary evil place. I must be careful! ***

Have the class read the following quotes:
1) “If we are not careful in living our covenants with exactness, our casual efforts may eventually lead us into forbidden paths or to join with those who have already entered the great and spacious building. If not careful, we may even drown in the depths of a filthy river.”

2) “There is a careful way and a casual way to do everything, including living the gospel. As we consider our commitment to the Savior, are we careful or casual? Because of our mortal nature, don’t we sometimes rationalize our behavior, at times referring to our actions as being in the gray, or mixing good with something that’s not so good? Anytime we say, “however,” “except,” or “but” when it applies to following the counsel of our prophet leaders or living the gospel carefully, we are in fact saying, “That counsel does not apply to me.” We can rationalize all we want, but the fact is, there is not a right way to do the wrong thing!”

Class Discussion: How do these quotes make you feel? Ask the class how they would define careful vs casual based on Sis. Craven’s talk. Did your understanding of these words change after reading Sis. Craven’s quotes? 

***Author Commentary: When listening to this talk, I was a bit concerned how it would be received by those who struggle with scrupulosity, OCD, toxic perfectionism, and intrusive thoughts. 

I would definitely bring up mental illness and toxic perfectionism at the beginning of the lesson. I would then reframe the dichotomy so there’s a bit more grace. I would straight up mention all of this if I were teaching. YMMV. ***

Erase the definitions of careful and casual on the board, but leave the words “careful” and “casual.” Surround careful and casual with the following words: 

Mindful          |           Mindless
Careful           |           Casual
Intentional     |           Robotic

Class Discussion: what do these words mean to you now? How are careful and casual changed when augmented by these other words? 

Class Discussion: Think back to the train story from the beginning of the talk, as well as the mention of buying happiness for $15. Let’s messy up those examples. 

How might mindfully or carefully purchasing a $15 item bring a person happiness? How might staying on the covenant path (train tracks) in a mindless or robotic way not align to the gospel of Jesus Christ? 

***Author’s Commentary: Feel free to bring in research about the mental health benefits of mindfulness, setting intentions, etc. ***

Have people read the following modified quotes from the talk.

• Are we [intentional] in our Sabbath-day worship and in our preparation to partake of the sacrament each week?

• Could we be more [mindful] in our prayers and scripture study or be more actively engaged in Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families?

• Are we [intentional] in our temple worship, and do we [mindfully] and deliberately live the covenants we made both at baptism and in the temple? 

• Are we [mindful] of our appearance and modest in our dress, especially in sacred places and circumstances? Are we [intentional] in how we wear the sacred temple garments? 

• Are we [intentional] in how we minister to others and in how we fulfill our callings in the Church, or are [we mindless and robotic] in our call to serve?

• Are we [mindful or mindless] in what we read and what we watch on TV and our mobile devices?

• Are we [intentional] in our language? Or do we use [rote phrases robotically] and embrace the crude and vulgar?

***Author’s Commentary: I added “rote phrases robotically” because sometimes Latter-day Saint use Church-specific colloquialisms without stopping to ask if they’re actually authentic for them. Example: every fiber of my being. That isn’t true for me—and never really has been—but I used the phrase robotically. I am more mindful in my word choice these days. ***

Class Discussion: IMHO, the word changes make these items sound less like a checklist and more like items that invite my creativity and contemplation. Do the adjustments change anything for you? In positive or negative ways? Please share your experience.

Part II: Upholding Standards vs. Making Adjustments

Class Discussion: Sister Craven mentioned keeping the For the Strength of Youth standards, explaining that they do not expire and still apply to adults. How do you feel about this directive? How might it be helpful? Could adults keeping youth-oriented standards become harmful or infantilizing? 

Have someone read this quote:

“We do not lower our standards to fit in or to make someone else feel comfortable. We are disciples of Jesus Christ, and as such we are about elevating others, lifting them to a higher, holier place where they too can reap greater blessings.

I invite each of us to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost to know what adjustments we need to make in our lives to be more carefully aligned with our covenants. I also plead with you not to be critical of others making this same journey. “Judgment is mine, saith the Lord.” We are each in the process of growth and change.”

Class Discussion: How do we balance high standards and relationships? When are standards important to maintain? When might be using our standards as an excuse to remain inflexible or judgmental? 

Can lowering our standards to make someone else feel comfortable be helpful? When might we NOT want lower our standards? 

***Teaching Tip: I come up with personal responses to my discussion questions so that I can have the class lead the discussion. I know what I want to say, but once I’m in the classroom I let that all go and listen to where the class needs to be. 

Basically, I come to class with a full belt with different tools—and once I’m there I decide what needs to be used. In order to do that, I have to prepare my tool belt beforehand and let all my expectations go the second I walk into the room. 

Teaching is about serving the people who are there that day, however they decide to show up. Here are the three “tools” in my belt for Sis. Craven’s talk.

***Author’s Commentary:

1) Vulnerability concepts from Brene Brown. To answer the previous questions, I ask myself: “What would make me the most vulnerable, thereby opening me up to deeper connection and/or personal growth?”

Sometimes keeping my standards high is merely me digging in my heels. Compromising in those situations is more vulnerable and connecting. Other times, however, maintaining my standards is deeply vulnerable as it goes against my people pleasing tendencies. 

2) The difference between principles/values and behaviors/outcomes as they relate to standards. I am generally willing to sacrifice certain outcomes and behavior standards if I feel like my internal standards/values are upheld. 

3) Developmental considerations and personal preferences. My interests are NOT in alignment with For the Strength of Youth and I found this incredibly difficult. I thought I was a bad Latter-day Saint and despite my best efforts, no amount of repentance would take away my “afflictions.” Long story short, there’s nothing wrong with me for loving what I love. 

The other consideration is human development. Adult brains are considerably different than adolescent brains. I can see having strict standards as a teen so that poor decisions aren’t made as they develop into adults. The pre-frontal cortex is developed by the time a person hits their mid-20s. Should we deny adults the “gray,” the nuance, the complexity of life, merely because it’s easier to keep things black and white? ***

Part III: Worthy vs Perfect

Sister Craven mentioned, “Although we may not be perfect, brothers and sisters, we can be worthy: worthy to partake of the sacrament, worthy of temple blessings, and worthy to receive personal revelation.”

Do the same exercise with Worthy and Perfect that you did at the beginning of the lesson with Careful and Casual. Write the following words on the board. 

Worthy           |           Perfect

Class Discussion: what do these words mean to you? How does she clarify the differences between the two words? Does parsing out the differences give you hope about your own progression? 

***Author’s Commentary: To me, being perfect means that I have to do all the checklist items in an exact way. Worthy conjures up the meaning of intentionality, returning to myself (a la the Prodigal Son), re-dedicating or re-devoting myself to mindfulness, and letting go. ***

Class Discussion: Is there a danger that eventually worthiness will become just as toxic as perfectionism? How can we keep worthiness standards from becoming a checklist?

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5 Responses

  1. Taylor Huckstep says:

    Just a thought I had. The discussion around Careful vs Casual involves a discussion about intentions that lead to action. It’s then easy to make the leap to a discussion around Faith, that requires both intentions and actions. We often discuss Faith and Hope together, and when you discuss Being Worthy vs Being Perfect, it’s easy to connect that discussion to a conversation about Hope.

  2. Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for these ideas! I found this talk difficult and you put it in a different framework for me to appreciate in a different way. Another perspective that this talk directed me to was being versus doing and is always a productive thought process for me

  3. Ranae says:

    This is a wonderful resource. Part I is just what I was looking for and more for some needs in our ward. I could easily add discussion about initiative versus apathy as well. Thank you!

  4. wayfarer says:

    Wonderful work sister, you have helped me to be of greater help to my sisters and normalised my difficulties with the material. You made my church broader.

  5. mariagriffin8 says:

    Wow! I love your thinking on this challenging talk. When I first heard it, I had to check my calendar to see if we had teleported back to the 1980’s! Thank you for not including the train wreck metaphor. What did that have to do with anything anyway? Covenanting actually does require that we go out onto the “tracks” to rescue those who have gotten “stuck.” Her rhetoric was so off base in so many ways to me, and with only two women speaking in conference, I was so disappointed in her message as representative of a loving, Christlike, compassionate woman. You’ve done a marvelous job re-framing this nonsense into truth. Thank you!

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