Relief Society Lesson Plan: “Young Women in the Work” by Bonnie L. Oscarson
Access President Oscarson’s April 2018 General Conference talk here.
Write this quote from the talk on the board (if available) and ask for a volunteer to read it aloud:
“Every young woman in the Church should feel valued, have opportunities to serve, and feel that she has something of worth to contribute to this work.”
Ask the class to close their eyes (if they feel comfortable doing so) and think back to when they were ages 12 to 18 and what their goals and dreams were for themselves as teenagers. (Give them one to two minutes to ponder this question silently.)
Discuss their answers.
Next, ask the class to try to recall the activities they enjoyed participating in as teenagers or pre-teens, including ways they liked helping others. (Take another minute for this.)
Discuss their answers.
Read these sections from President Oscarson’s conference address:
“In Handbook 2, we learn that the work of salvation within our wards includes ‘member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, and teaching the gospel.’ . . . For many years now, our presidency has been asking the question ‘Which of these areas mentioned should our young women not be involved in?’ The answer is that they have something to contribute in all areas of this work. . . . [Italics added]
“As we consider the roles that our young women will be expected to assume in the near future, we might ask ourselves what kind of experiences we could provide for them now that will help with their preparation to be missionaries, gospel scholars, leaders in the Church auxiliaries, temple workers, wives, mothers, mentors, examples, and friends.”
I would emphasize that since more than half of women in the U.S. work outside the home—even in Utah—that these roles will likely include contributing to society in their work/career lives, which also benefits others. (See this link from United States Department of Labor’s Statistics and Data page for more info: https://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/stats_data.htm)
Give the class a challenge to sit in groups of 2 to 4 people and come up with ideas for how they could have practiced the skills necessary to prepare them to achieve their personal goals and dreams as teenagers in their wards, families, and communities while serving others. Tell them you will ask for a volunteer from each group to briefly share the group’s ideas. (Allow for about five minutes for small group discussion.)
Ask each small group leader to share her group’s ideas for how they might have learned skills as young women that helped them succeed as adults and achieve their personal goals and dreams.
Now ask the class to narrow their focus to further elaborate specific ways the young women in their ward could be utilized to fulfill President Oscarson’s vision for them to “feel valued, have opportunities to serve, and feel that [they have] something of worth to contribute to this work.”
If they need a jumping off point, read the following sections from the talk:
“Several months ago, I had the opportunity to test an idea with two 14-year-old young women. I obtained copies of two actual ward council agendas and gave Emma and Maggie each a copy. I asked them to read over the agendas and see if there were any action items from the ward councils in which they might be able to be of service. Emma saw that a new family was moving into the ward, and she said she could help them move in and unpack. She thought she could befriend the children in the family and show them around their new school. She saw there was a ward dinner coming up and felt there were many different ways she could offer her services.
“Maggie saw that there were several elderly people in the ward who needed visits and fellowshipping. She said she would love to visit with and be of help to these wonderful older members. She also felt she could help teach members of the ward how to set up and use social media accounts. There really wasn’t one thing on those agendas with which those two young women could not help! . . .
“Do those who sit on ward councils, or hold any calling in the ward, see the young women as valuable resources to help fill the many needs within our wards? There is usually a long list of situations that require someone to serve, and we often think only of the adults in the ward to meet those needs. Just as our Aaronic Priesthood holders have been invited to labor with their fathers and other men of the Melchizedek Priesthood, our young women can be called upon to provide service and minister to the needs of ward members with their mothers or other exemplary sisters. They are capable, eager, and willing to do so much more than merely attend church on Sundays!” [Italics added for emphasis.]
As a mental health professional, I would advise against purporting that serving others can solve or mitigate mental health issues like depression and anxiety, particularly in the context of a patriarchal religious institution that doesn’t provide young women with equal opportunities for service in their faith community. Use caution when using the following quote, or simply use the italicized section below: “To you, the young women of the Church, your teenage years can be busy and often challenging. We have noticed that many more of you are struggling with issues of self-worth, anxiety, high levels of stress, and perhaps even depression. Turning your thoughts outward, instead of dwelling on your own problems, may not resolve all of these issues, but service can often lighten your burdens and make your challenges seem less hard. One of the best ways to increase feelings of self-worth is to show, through our concern and service to others, that we have much of worth to contribute.” [Italics added]
Conclude the lesson with this quote from President Oscarson and if so moved, bear your testimony of its truthfulness:
“[O]ur young women are amazing. They have talents, unlimited enthusiasm, and energy, and they are compassionate and caring. They want to be of service. They need to know they are valued and essential in the work of salvation.”