Three Sisters, by Dieter F. Uchtdorf
This is one of my favorite talks. I always enjoy Elder Uchtdorf’s talks the most, because he can unravel complex things in a way that’s simple and makes sense. It’s very helpful that he always uses a story to apply the lesson to the audience.
Elder Uchtdorf gives the story of the three sisters. The three sisters represent all of us. We all have some of each emotion in us (sad, mad, glad), and we can improve ourselves and become more like the glad sister. I’ve organized this lesson plan in a way that encourages discussion among members. I’ve provided quotes, discussion questions, and a few examples from the scriptures.
Discussion in groups
Divide the class into three groups. Give each group a quote about one of the sisters to read and discuss together. After the discussion, have a spokesperson from each group present the findings to the class.
Group 1: Sad sister- the victim
“The first sister saw herself as a victim—as someone who was acted upon.1 It seemed like one thing after another kept happening to her that made her miserable. With this approach to life, she was giving others control over how she felt and behaved. When we do this, we are driven about by every wind of opinion—and in this day of ever-present social media, those winds blow at hurricane intensity.”
How did her sadness affect her outlook on life?
Why did she consider herself a victim?
How did she give others control over how she felt and acted?
“What is the opposite of hope? Despair, of course, but despair comes when we feel powerless to influence events and when the sources of meaning in our life disappear. Despair is a kind of disorientation so profound that we lose contact with the sources of life itself. To choose hope is to choose life. To choose hope is to choose love.”
-Chieko Okazaki (“Raised in Hope,” October 1996 General Conference)
What can the sad sister do to find hope?
Group 2: Mad sister- the hater
Ideas of things to discuss:
Why does the mad sister blame others?
How does her anger affect her outlook?
Have you ever felt like you weren’t enough? How does comparing yourself to others affect you?
What can we do to stop comparing ourselves to others? How can we better accept ourselves the way we are?
There is plenty that can be discussed in the part about the mad sister, but I decided to focus on intentions and assumptions.
“She didn’t think of herself as a mean person. To the contrary, she felt that she was only sticking up for herself. Everyone else, she believed, was motivated by selfishness, pettiness, and hate. She, on the other hand, was motivated by good intentions—justice, integrity, and love.”
“Unfortunately, the mad sister’s line of thinking is all too common. This was noted in a recent study that explored conflict between rival groups. As part of the study, researchers interviewed Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East, and Republicans and Democrats in the United States. They discovered that “each side felt their own group [was] motivated by love more than hate, but when asked why their rival group [was] involved in the conflict, [they] pointed to hate as [the other] group’s motivating factor.”
“When someone opposes or disagrees with us, it’s tempting to assume that there must be something wrong with them. And from there it’s a small step to attach the worst of motives to their words and actions.”
How do we keep ourselves from assuming other people’s motivations, especially those who disagree with us?
“Yes, you have a choice. The Lord has given you control of your life by giving you a choice. Let me repeat that. The Lord has given you control of your life. I’m not saying that nothing bad will ever happen to you. You will not always be able to control what others may say or do, but you can control how you will react to them. Temptation, illness, accidents, and tragedy are part of this life. There will be some tough days in your lives—very tough days. But when you follow God’s plan, you can know what to do, and that’s when you are in control. You can decide whether or not you are going to be happy by making choices that will lead you close to your Heavenly Father and away from Satan. You can decide what you will say and do.”
–Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary General President “I Will Follow God’s Plan for Me,” October 1988 General Conference
What can the mad sister do to find happiness?
Group 3: Glad sister- the disciple
“Then there was the third sister. Unlike her sad and mad sisters, she was—well, glad. And it wasn’t because she was smarter or more beautiful or more capable than her sisters. No, people sometimes avoided or ignored her too. They sometimes made fun of what she was wearing or the things she was saying. They sometimes said mean things about her. But she did not allow any of that to bother her too much.”
“She lived joyfully not because her circumstances were joyful but because she was joyful.”
How can we be happy despite our circumstances? Do you think that those who have better circumstances are always happier? Why or why not?
“It will not be easy. It will require the very best that you have—all your intelligence, creativity, faith, integrity, strength, determination, and love.”
“There may be many things about life that are beyond your control. But in the end, you have the power to choose both your destination and many of your experiences along the way. It is not so much your abilities but your choices that make the difference in life.”
How do you maintain happiness when things are out of your control?
I recommend using examples from our present day, but if not, you can use examples of women from the scriptures, such as Sariah or Ruth.
“Sariah, the wife of Lehi, had the wrenching experience of leaving their home and their possessions to travel in the wilderness. We are not told of the trials she may have experienced; but going on foot, living in tents, and cooking over an open fire could have been devastating after their comfortable life in Jerusalem. We do read of her anguished waiting when she feared her beloved sons had perished in their return to obtain the plates. (See 1 Ne. 5:2.) But in spite of troubles, she did love and serve her family. With the return of her sons, she knew of a certainty that the Lord had commanded her husband to flee into the wilderness, and in their safe return she found the assurance that the Lord was with them. (See 1 Ne. 5:8.) Their circumstances did not change; they still slept in tents. But she had joy and comfort in the knowledge that the Lord was guiding them. In that light she could carry on and meet further difficulties as they came.”
-Barbara B. Smith “Application of Welfare Principles in the Home: A Key to Many Family Problems”
“Ruth was compassionate, even though the circumstances of her life were bitter. Bitter experiences come into the lives of all of us. Without the bitter, we cannot know the sweet…
“Ruth knew this opposition. She was just a young woman when her husband died and left her alone without child. It was a bitter time, and yet there was the sweetness of her relationship with her mother-in-law and the strength of her faith in the God of Israel. Both had come into her life because of her marriage.
“Ruth gleaned from the fields to sustain herself and Naomi. But more than what she gleaned from the fields were the experiences that came as she worked to thresh out the wheat from the chaff. At the end of her day she had great blessings because of her effort. This is the challenge we all face in our own lives. We too must glean from life’s circumstances and experiences that which will give us growth and faith and peace of mind.”
Barbara B. Smith “The Bond of Charity”
All of us feel sad, angry, or happy at times. What’s the difference between just feeling sad/mad or being the sad/mad sister?
“Are we expected to be cheerful as we do our daily work? Well, maybe not every minute of every day. Certainly we are sad and even angry at times. But we can make a decision to refrain from wallowing in our sadness or anger.”
Virginia H. Pearce, First Counselor, Young Women General Presidency
“Keep Walking, and Give Time a Chance,” April 1997 General Conference
If there is more time, you can have someone read one or more of the following quotes and then discuss it as a group.
“God’s plan is a plan of ultimate joy for each of us. His principles suffice in any situation. But each one of us, young and old, must rise to her challenges in her own way. Each one of us must reach for her own joy.”
Elaine A. Cannon, “Reach for Joy,”
“…Difficulties have the potential to bleach the bones of faith and exhaust the strength of individuals and families. One of the Lord’s purposes in organizing the sisters into a discipleship was to provide relief that would lift them above ‘all that hinders the joy and progress of woman.’ ”
“It does not take much living to find out that life almost never turns out the way you planned it. Adversity and affliction come to everyone. Do you know anyone who would not like to change something about themselves or their circumstances? And yet I am sure you know many who go forward with faith. You are drawn to those people, inspired by them, and even strengthened by their examples.”
Mary Ellen Smoot, “Developing Inner Strength”