November Young Women Lesson Plan: What does it mean to be self-reliant?

I really enjoyed thinking about this lesson because it is so empowering to women, especially to young woman. The September 2013 Visiting Teaching message was on self-reliance, and might be good for teachers to review before delving into the lesson material for Young Women. As well, it is a great way to take stock of oneself and see if we, as teachers, are as self-reliant as we could be to set a proper example for the Young Women. The online resource has a number of conference talks and references that I did not take the time to review before doing this lesson plan. However, David A. Bednar’s talk this past conference has an emphasis on being a full tithe payer. As a newer talk, it is not among the suggested resources in the lesson outline. I like his talk as a launching point because it ties in the spiritual side of being temporally responsible. I personally found the skill of budgeting for tithing helped me as a youth and then as an adult in being able to create and work with a budget, aiding my spiritual and temporal self-reliance.  Even should you choose to not reference this talk, I think it is important to keep the concept of tithing in mind as you address this topic.


To begin, the online lesson outline has a great activity that I think suits as a launching point for the lesson. It states:


Write the word “Dependent” on the left side of the board and the word “Self-reliant” on the right side. Ask the young women to define both words. Ask them to list ways they are dependent on others and ways they are self-reliant. Why does the Lord want us to grow to be self-reliant?

I like this idea- but I think I would divide the board into four sections: the first two sections, I would write: Spiritually Dependant and Spiritually Self-Reliant, and Temporarily Dependant and Temporally Self-Reliant. Like this, and fill it in as the lesson progresses:chart


Address the fact that right now, they are likely temporarily depending on their parents for a place to live, many are also reliant on the government to provide “free,” or at least tax-payer funded educations. I would also address baptism; prior to baptism, we were wholly spiritually dependant on out parents. Ask the Young Women why the church policy is to be a minimum of 8 years old before baptism. Ask if they find this is a good or bad thing. Is even 8 too young? Why or why not?

Remind them that by the age of 18, most of them will be more independent than ever; they could be working to pay for a mission when they turn 19, they could be attending University or studying for careers. They might live in their own apartments or dormitories for the first time.

Have them think about what they want to be in the next 10 years (In another 10 years, some or all of the young women in the lesson you teach could be returned missionaries, with university degrees who are married with children). In thinking of this, ask them to respond to the words on the board in thinking about what they see themselves doing in another 10 years. I would remind them of this treasured quote that a friend said once to me:

“…One of the reasons women have evidence that we are blessed is because God gave us enough common sense to know that we need a back-up plan…”

– Heather Weller.

This is not intended to spite the Young Women in the lesson, or to crush their dreams, it is intended to teach them that self-reliance is about just that: knowing what we hope and dream about might not happen at the time, in the order, or in a manner we hope. Recognising this, remaining true to the faith, and being dedicated to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the heart of being self-reliant because we are not dependant on what other things are going on around us. As Barbara Thompson taught:

When I left high school, my goals were to attend college for at least a couple of years, get married to a handsome man, and have four perfect, beautiful children (two boys and two girls). My husband was to have a large income so I wouldn’t need to work, and then I planned to do Church and community service. Thankfully, one of my goals was to be an active and faithful member of the Church.

Well, as you may know, many of my goals were not realized in the way I had hoped. I finished college, served a mission, got a job, continued on with my schooling to earn a master’s degree, and continued working in my profession for many years. (I thought marriage was sure to happen 13 years ago when I opened a fortune cookie and read, “You will be married in less than a year.”) But there was no handsome man, no marriage, and no children. Nothing had gone as I had planned except for one thing. I tried to be an active and faithful member of the Church. For this I am most grateful. It has made all the difference in my life.


Being self-reliant is the best way we can be prepared for whatever plan our Heavenly Parents have in store for us.  Let’s discuss how we can do this:


Spiritual Self-Reliance

What are the definitions of spiritual self-reliance? What is it to be spiritually dependant? Address the fact that right now, they may feel more encouraged to attend church because of friends or family influence. woman-alone-in-churchHow can they develop the desire to attend even if friends and family are not there to attend church with you? I remember one time, as a new out-of-state student, I walked alone to a stake conference at a university stake meeting in Utah. On my way, a car pulled over and the girls inside offered me a ride; they were not in my ward and I did not know them, but they were kind enough to give me a lift. I was so excited! New friends! people to talk to! My roomates were inactive, so I was so pleased. When we arrived at the chapel, however, they quickly disappeared to sit with their own friends. I was not invited. I ended up being extra early and sitting alone, which made me feel very awkward. As I sat there, my joy at being given a ride transitioned into lonely pain. But then I noticed something. I was not the only one sitting alone. Yes, some people had come early to save seats for friends. But others were there early to partake of the spirit. When I breathed, and decided that I was at church to partake of the spirit, which at that moment did not include making friends, my testimony developed.  The memory of this being dumped by people I just met still pains me, but in the decade to follow, sitting alone at church became very regular for me. In this, it was a blessing that I was able to identify that I attended church for me, even when I sat alone, I need not feel lonely because I had the spirit.


How is sitting alone at church a manifestation of commitment to Jesus Christ? Is this an example of spiritual dependence or self-reliance? Are you prepared to attend church alone if necessary? How can you prepare for this?


Read this quote from Daughters in My Kingdom:

Every generation has noble, charitable, faithful, holy women. Although few of these women will have their names recorded in history, their Heavenly Father knows them well. And this, as Eliza R. Snow said, is all that ultimately matters: “There are many of the sisters whose labors are not known beyond their own dwellings and perhaps not appreciated there, but what difference does that make? If your labors are acceptable to God, however simple the duties, if faithfully performed, you should never be discouraged.”


How does performing acts of service manifest spiritual self-reliance, even when we do them for people outside of the church, or at times when no one can see us? How can we develop this spiritual self-reliance so it is natural to us?

Temporal Self-Reliance

What are the definitions of temporal self-reliance? What is it to be temporally dependant? Do you think it can be negative to be temporally dependant on others? For me, when my husband was laid off from his job, I found we had a surge of the spirit abiding with us as friends and family found out the situation. But as the weeks went on, there was some spiritual downturn. It started when a woman at church asked me for money; she did not know my husband had lost his job, nor had she even asked how I was doing- she just saw me, laid her problems at my feet and asked for money, presuming I was in a comfortable financial position. I tasted the bitterness of resentment at that moment—why was she targeting me? (she always had) why did this time burn me, rather than fill me with compassion (I was in financial trouble myself)? In considering these items, I saw that the resentment had removed the spirit from me; my state of temporal dependence- now void of employment, had the extra effect of shaking my spiritual self-reliance.

In this, I became aware of the connection between temporal and spiritual self-reliance. My saving grace was my husband’s employability (he had another job in a matter of weeks), but also that I was also educated and able to work (I was working part-time at the time, but could readily gone full time). Because of our position in being employable, and I had a small but steady income, our spiritual self-reliance was not threatened because of our temporal position.

How can economic (temporal) dependance or temporal suffering effect spirituality? Discuss this for a moment. Can it also increase spirituality (by being forced to be humble). Is it better the be humble before so we can feel the spirit in the time of transition in our lives? Mention this article about the state of Tennessee being the most dangerous in the US. The FBI article links this danger to low education and high poverty rates. Do you think you might be in a better position to avoid being a target of crime (or even involved in crime) when you are both temporally and spiritually self-reliant?

How important is it for us to gain an education? How important is it for us to engage in hard work so we can pay a full tithe, avoid poverty and provide for ourselves, our families, and even others?

Consider this: this reported study showed that spending time worrying about paying bills or getting the next meal can leave less mental capacity for other tasks; in a nutshell- it appeared that money worries contributed to a decrease in an individual’s IQ.  (This does not mean that poverty-ridden people are dumb, it means that the stress of finances can distract us so we do not think as clearly or make wise choices.) How does the worry of money effect you? Can it interfear with scripture study? Can it even lead to more poor-decision-making? Does this mean people of lower income are less spiritually inclined NO. BE CLEAR ABOUT THIS IF YOU ADDRESS THIS.  Be sure to read Matthew 19:24. Discuss how stress -even about school exams– can make you perform worse than if you were able to relax about the exam. Discuss some stress management techniques if this is an issue for the Young Women in your group. Remind them that self-reliance can lead to a less stressful life (not stress free!) because they are ready for the challenges that come with life.

In consideration of this, there is a strong argument for being coming temporally self-reliant; temporal self-reliance can help bring the spirit and help us think more clearly and feel more relaxed. Consider this:

Honest Work is soul satisfying. I thirst to meet the creative challenges of my work now, just as I anticipate that same drive to meet the creative challenges of my own home and family, when my life plays into that stage. I find the most important challenge is to keep growing and learning and progressing, vision fixed to the example of the Saviour in all I do. To settle for anything less would be sleeping on the job. – Kathleen Lubeck, “I Love My Work,” Ensign, July 1980.170px-We_Can_Do_It!

How do you think you can become temporarily self-reliant? Do you know of a woman in your ward who is the primary provider for her family? How is she doing the Lord’s work by providing for her family? What benefits is her family gaining because she is employed?

Discuss a basic history of “Rosie the Riveter” (audio files here of the 1942 song): Rosie became an icon of womanhood in the 1940’s during world war II. Because so many men were off to the war, the women took what were traditionally men’s jobs and helped in the war effort. As a social icon, the image of Rosie is said to have encouraged women to find work outside of their fathers’, brothers’ or husbands’ military pay, which in turn bettered their economic capacity and aided in the war effort. How can working to ensure your family is provided for– whether it is in knowing how to manage a household budget or being employed–  lead to a Christlike lifestyle?


I would close with the manual:

Ask the young women to share what they learned today. Do they understand self-reliance well enough to explain it to someone else? What feelings or impressions do they have? Do they have any additional questions? Would it be worthwhile to spend more time on this doctrine?


What are your thoughts on this lesson? How can you teach Young Women to develop the skill of self-reliance?


Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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3 Responses

  1. Em says:

    Thanks so much for this, I love the way that you approached it. I feel like this is such empowering doctrine and sometimes is presented in a way that seems like it is denigrating the dependent in our society, instead of urging and celebrating growing towards self-reliance. Thanks!!

  2. Beth says:

    Interesting piece. I have built a business around teaching women self reliance as homeowners. It is cheeky and fun but profoundly empowering too. I want to help women be Smart, Capable, Confident as homeowners as beyond.
    I share my personal story with my followers to empower them. Being dependent stinks!
    Thanks for showcasing the need for self responsibility.

  1. October 20, 2013

    […] 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 […]

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