Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for a Teenager (Part One)

When my oldest daughter turned 12, I made her a special book. (You can read about it here .) – She will be turning 16 in a little over a year, and I’ve decided to start making another book for her. This time, it will be about the Book of Mormon. (In case you’re wondering, I made a book for her when she was 14. I’ll probably post it on here soon).

The Title Page
The Title Page

So, I just started this. I’m using one of my favorite – sketchbooks (although the one I’m using is hardbound rather than wirebound).

Why am I doing this? Is it because I’m crazy? No. I’ve thought a lot about how to teach my children the gospel. I’ve thought about lecturing them – and lectures weren’t particularly helpful in my life. I mean I honestly don’t remember if my parents lectured me. I know that they said stuff to me, but I zoned out very easily as a teenager.

I don’t particularly like lecturing my teens right now, either. It feels boring and pointless. But how do we teach our kids the gospel? How do I teach them the things that I know and understand and what them to know and understand?

In this quest, I’ve been inspired by the words of Nephi:

“And we talk of Christ we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” – 2 Nephi 25:26, emphasis added.

I feel like writing what I want to teach my children is an effective way (for me) to preach to them without seeming preachy! I can write lectures, make them cute and heartfelt, and instead of zoning out – my kids will treasure these lectures. That’s the idea, anyway. It’s not sneaky. I’m just being as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove. 🙂

So – this is a Book about the Book of Mormon. I’ve divided it as follows:

  • Title Page
  • Timeline of the Book of Mormon
  • Explanation of the Small and Large Plates and their Authors
  • 1 Nephi
  • 2 Nephi
  • Jacob
  • Enos
  • Jarom
  • Omni
  • Words of Mormon
  • Mosiah
  • Alma
  • Helaman
  • 3 Nephi
  • 4 Nephi
  • Mormon
  • Ether
  • Moroni
  • So – pretty straight forward.

    Title Page

    On this page, I just wrote that the Book of Mormon is another Testament of Jesus Christ. I wrote my hope for her – that she will continue to read the Book of Mormon in her life. I also told her about this book that I’m making for her:

    “This book is a gift to you from me. It’s kind of a “commentary” on the Book of Mormon. I’ve been inspired by Nephi’s words, ‘And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.’ (2 Nephi 25:26).

    I want you to know – not only do I want you to know the Book of Mormon for yourself, but I also want you to know my testimony of it.

    I hope that this book will be a blessing to you now and for years to come. Love, Mom.

    ***
    So – that’s the beginning of this fun ride. I anticipate that it will take me a little over a year to finish this book. It will require a lot of work and effort, but I’m sure that it will be worth it. Maybe you have a child who could use something like this? Try writing your testimonies and lessons you have learned in the Book of Mormon. I’d love to see what you come up with if you do it, too.

FHE Tip – Let the kids teach

Family Home Evening can be a challenge. And I’ll admit, that my oldest child is ten, so I don’t have tons of experience. However, in our home, our kids love family home evening. I’m not telling this to you to brag, but maybe to share an insight that has worked really well in our home.

We let the kids teach.

My opinion is – if kids can give a talk in church, then they can probably teach Family Home Evening. So, even our three year old gets a chance to pick out a subject and then teach the lesson.

Letting young children teach

Sasquatch prepares for FHE.

With young kids, you obviously will find yourself helping them teach the lesson. If you have a three or four year old, then the lessons they give may be more or less a primary talk. But that’s okay! Help them write a talk. Find pictures for them to display as they give their lesson. And then, help them give it (whisper in their ear!). And that’s it. The lesson will be short, but you will have a lesson where your three-year-old actually enjoys himself/herself and participates.

Letting the young children helps to set a pattern for Family Home Evening. They will also love the special attention you pay to them.

Letting Elementary age children teach

Tiger teaches FHE.

As the kids get a little older, they still require a lot of coaching, but you can help teach them to give lessons rather than talks. Again, this will be a little bit of work for you, but don’t dictate what should be taught. Think of offering ideas – like games, crafts, or stories to help emphasize the lesson. Then the kids can figure out what they want to do.

When planning, let your child be “in charge”. Help them out by giving good advice. If you are patient and smart about it, then you will be able to work on the lesson together and have a really good time.

Another great thing about letting children this age teach is that you can have the chance to teach them these principles of the gospel – one-on-one. Typically a child can’t teach a lesson right off the bat. You may have to teach the principle to them before they are then able to teach the rest of the family. Taking time to help my children learn the gospel principles before teaching FHE has been some of the best time I’ve spent with my kids. It can be a lot of fun, and it is sometimes even more rewarding than Family Home Evening, itself!

Letting older elementary age children teach
My kids are starting to get older, and as they do, I let them do more and more on their own. There are times when my daughters teach the entire lesson themselves. Often, I will need to remind them that they have the lesson, and I will ask them if they understand what it means.

As they’ve gotten older, I have hesitated planning so much of the lesson for them. If they don’t understand a concept, I encourage them to look it up in the topical guide, or online at lds.org. I may help them find a story from the Friend, but then I have them read it (on their own), and then tell me what it was about. Instead of giving them ideas for the lesson, I try to ask questions that will help them to think of their own ideas.

And this totally works! As my children are getting older, they are getting better at planning the entire lesson and activity on their own. If not completely on their own, then I only need to say one thing or idea, and they will be able to use that as a springboard for an entire lesson.

Letting youth/teenagers teach
I don’t have any advice on this because I haven’t yet experienced teenagers. I suppose that I will continue on the path I’m on – allowing them to present the lesson as they choose.

Letting Adults teach
My husband and I also take turns teaching Family Home Evening. We take turns with the rest of the family, and we don’t teach any more or less than any of the other family members do.

***
One of my favorite things about letting everyone have a chance to teach is seeing how much the children have grown because of their own lessons.

When I teach a lesson, I always learn so much more than I’m able to teach. I figure, why not let my kids have this experience. They may not teach everyone else, but they will learn themselves. I’m hoping if they remember anything about Family Home Evening, then they remember the lessons that they taught. If they only pay attention to the lessons they teach, then I can rest assured that they are paying attention at least once every 5 weeks.

Little by little, over time, they will have taught hundreds of lessons. I think that these will stick with them more than anything I say.

Another advantage of having every family member teach is that we are exposed to many styles. Each of our lessons are very different – in style and presentation. I love this! We never get bored. The kids aren’t having too many 3-year-old talks, or craft activities. They aren’t playing cards every week. They aren’t listening to dad’s speeches. And I’m not planning some insane-over-the-top lesson every week. We get something different each week. I’ve noticed that, in this variety, all of the needs of our family are met.

So…give it a try – let other people teach. It can be scary, giving up power, but I know that it can be super-rewarding.

A Pattern to Effective Gospel Teaching (Mosiah 4:1-3)

I have been thinking about gospel learning and teaching a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about how the gospel has been presented to me and how I’m sharing the gospel with those I must teach (like my children, etc).

I have to admit, I’m not always very receptive when the message of the gospel is given in a gloomy-lectur-y way. I wish I could say that I was always better at being receptive even if the message is given in a way that seems to rub me wrong. But it takes me a lot of journal-writing and prayer to sift through a message that seems full of doom and criticism to finally get through to the Spirit of what was being taught.

I have been thinking about this because I know that those who give these messages don’t mean to give them in a dooms-day way. I think that they mean to be motivating the listener to understand the need for obedience and the gospel. I also know that as a teacher – and especially as a teacher of children and youth – I think that I need to make sure my approach is hopeful without being “sugar-coated.”

Today, I came across the following scripture, and learned the pattern that I’ve been searching for! (yay for scriptures!)
Pattern for God-like Gospel teaching

  1. Make sure that your teaching is done with the Spirit and with purpose – King Benjamin delivers a message to the People – as prompted by the Spirit. He begins his address to the people

    “And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.” – Mosiah 2:9

    – at this point, the people know exactly why King Benjamin is addressing them. I admit that this may not always be necessary…I mean, if you are teaching a class, the students already know why you are speaking to them. However, remembering your purpose will always help you to keep the Spirit when teaching.

  2. Take the time to relate to the people you are teaching. – King Benjamin is such a great example of this. Even though he is the king, he recognizes, genuinely, that he is no different than many of them. His assignment may be different, but his value and status as a Son of God is the same as the value of any other man or woman. He shares:

    “I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man.

    But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me. – Mosiah 2:10-11

    As I think about why King Benjamin would express this so explicitly, I think that it is because his admission – helps to let the message of the gospel go to the People undistilled. He is as reliant on the mercy of the Savior and the blessing of God, even as king, as any of the other people. How on earth can the people be expected to recognize their own “nothingness” if King Benjamin doesn’t do so.

    When we preach the gospel, we need to remember that our talks or lessons are to be given – not in a prideful or hierarchical way, but we should be giving these messages as humble servants of God.

  3. Be receptive to the Spirit – understand the message that you need to give. King Benjamin continues in His address, bearing testimony of the Savior, and delivering a message directly from God.

    “For the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto thy people, that they may also be filled with joy.” – Mosiah 3:4

    While we may not see an angel and get express instruction on teaching people, we may still have this responsibility or charge. For example, as a mother, I am responsible for teaching my children the gospel – I need to declare the gospel so that my children can be filled with joy. Additionally, I have been called and set apart as a leader to the Young Women. It is my duty to declare this message to them – as prompted by the Holy Ghost. And, if I’m living worthy of the Spirit, then the Holy Ghost will direct me. I have many opportunities to teach -through formal assignment, precept, and example. And the message we teach is the Lord’s. It is His gospel. His good news.

  4. Let the Spirit do the work. Sometimes this takes a lot of faith, but we need to let the Spirit do the work of delivering the message we give to the hearts of the listeners. After King Benjamin gives the first part of His address, the Spirit begins to work on the listeners. They begin to understand their weakness. They begin to understand that they are natural men – enemies to God. They realize that they need the Savior. Their reaction is recorded as follows:

    “And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.

    And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. – Mosiah 4:1-2

    – the people “fear” the Lord – or, in other words, they “reverence” Him. They begin to understand their dependence on Him, but they also feel the Love and mercy that He has for them.

    I have experienced this. The amazing thing about the gospel and Jesus Christ is, when we feel the humility that God would have us feel, it isn’t degrading. We recognize our weakness, we recognize His blessing and mercy to us, and we are filled with overwhelming humility – Wow! He really loves me. I will share one experience:
    When I was single, I was praying a lot. I wanted to be married. I wasn’t desperate to be married. I wouldn’t marry just anyone. But being a single mother to two children was extremely difficult. There was too much to do. There were lonely nights. There was pain and grief.

    Over time, I started to date this guy. Things started off well, but they ended quite sourly. I didn’t always conduct myself in a way that was worthy of the companionship of the Spirit. Dating after you’ve been married can be pretty…difficult.

    Anyways, I repented, and moved forward. I broke up with that dude. I realigned myself with the Lord with a fervent promise to fight to have the Spirit every single day.

    Life went on.

    Not long afterwards, I met another dude – “homey.” And he was a blessing like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I love my children. I love my family. But I’ve never felt love and companionship like I did as I started getting to know and courting Homey. It was completely amazing. We started making plans to get married, and I knew, through the blessing of meeting Homey, that the Lord was approving my repentance, my life, and my dedication to Him.

    I had a meeting with my Bishop, and he asked me to look at this picture of the Savior.As I looked, he asked me if I had a testimony of The Savior; If I knew that Christ loved me.

    I will never forget that moment. As I looked at the picture, I felt like the woman, who washed Christ’s feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. My sins, which were many, were forgiven (see Luke 7:47).

    I knew that the blessing that I was experiencing – meeting Homey, and ultimately marrying him were miracles. I knew that Christ had made every good thing in my life possible. I knew I was nothing without Him. I knew that even though I wanted to do what was right, I was weak and imperfect. I knew that I needed the Lord. It was the Spirit that taught me this truth. The Bishop may have helped be the vehicle to this message, but he couldn’t “force me” into learning it. He patiently let the Spirit do His work.

    When we let the Spirit teach, it always goes a lot better. King Benjamin didn’t manipulate the people. He didn’t spell out what they needed to do, specifically, to put off the natural man. He didn’t tell them how to dress, what time to show up to church, or what they should study for FHE. He taught them correct principles: Be meek, Be submissive, Be patient, and Be full of love. The Spirit brought this message to the hearts of the listeners and instructed how each of them could apply the principles taught personally.

    Because they had this experience with the Spirit, their love and reverence for the Lord grew. They understood their need for Him. Because the Spirit was teaching them, King Benjamin could give a general address that would effect each listener personally If we follow this pattern when we teach, then our children and those we are called to serve will also receive specific tutelage from the Master Teacher through His Spirit.

  5. Remember that this is Good News! Gospel teaching doesn’t stop at the recognition for us needing the Savior. In fact, the most important step comes last! Gospel teaching is complete when we convey the message of hope and joy.

    The people of King Benjamin, after hearing the words of King Benjamin and covenanting to come unto Christ have the following experience:

    “And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” – Mosiah 4:1-3

    The people were filled with peace and joy. These are the fruits of the Spirit! They did not leave this situation dwelling on their nothingness. They didn’t feel hopeless, miserable, or good-for-nothing. They weren’t consumed with guilt. They understood that they fell short, but they also truly understood the role of the Savior in their lives – that He would perfect them.

    This had also happened in my life. Because of the blessings of the Savior, I was filled with peace and hope. I was also blessed with a physical blessing. I knew that Jesus Christ loved me, His atonement was accessible, and I felt so much joy. Courting Homey was one of the happiest times of my life. The Lord, through His mercy, worked a miracle in me and my life.

    This is the kind of result we should strive for when we are teaching the gospel. Those who are faithful that hear the message should be filled with hope and vigor. They will recognize their need for the Savior, but won’t dwell on their shortcomings. Instead, they will dwell on the hope of our Savior – on His mercy and atonement. They will know that, despite their nothingness, God will turn them into something. While we can’t force a person to come unto Christ, I think that we should dwell on the hope of the gospel, rather than our natural state and imperfection. It is important for us to understand our need for a Savior, but the fact that perfection is possible through the atonement is the hopeful message that really motivates us to choose the Right. The gospel message is good news: glad tidings. When we teach, we cannot forget this part!

  6. Super long post, I know…but I hope it is helpful to someone (other than me).

What Am I Teaching? (Enos 1:1-3)

Recently, the following has been a really favorite scripture of mine:

” 1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—

2 And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.

3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.” = Enos 1:1-3

I love this scripture block because we get an insight on how to be an effective and great parent. Kind of – I guess. Here, Enos tells us that Jacob was just, and that he taught his son in his language and in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

I just realized, I’ve written about this before. But, it is still relevant in my life, as I’m still a parent!

The thing about Jacob and Enos, Jacob’s teaching was effective enough to have an impact on Enos. While Enos is on his own, Jacob’s words sunk deep into Enos’s heart – causing Enos’s soul to hunger. Consequently, Enos “wrestled before God.” This brought upon a change of heart and commitment to the Lord. We can see that Jacob’s teaching and parenting had a big impact, positively, on Enos.

So – here’s the thing, it makes me ask, What am I teaching my children? What do I want to be teaching my children?

There are times when I’m teaching my children things that aren’t great. I teach them (through example) to eat too many sweets. I may also be teaching them to be impatient. There are times, when I teach them to be a slob! Anyways – these things are important to know, but I don’t want to dwell on them.

I want to think about what I am teaching them.

  • I am teaching them how to pray.
  • I am teaching them how to read the scriptures. I hope that they will also learn to love them.
  • I am teaching them to serve the Lord.
  • I am teaching them that motherhood is important.
  • I am teaching them that Christ is our Savior.
  • I am teaching them that they are beloved daughters (and a beloved son!) of God.

I hope to teach them so much more, too. I hope to teach them to be creative, kind, happy, active. I hope to teach them to be curious, hard-working, compassionate, and balanced. I hope to teach them that they have power within them – to be the kind of people that Heavenly Father sees. I hope they learn to stay true to themselves while true to the Lord.

I hope that they will learn how to be truly happy.

What are you teaching your children, or those children that you influence?

Preparing and Teaching a Young Women’s Lesson

I’ve been thinking about the Young Women’s lessons for a while (I’ve been serving with the Young women for nearly 2 years…). I think that a lot of people have the same complaints about the Young Women’s lessons. The manual is a bit outdated, so the lessons can be a challenge to teach.

If you are feeling challenged, I hope that the following will help you in preparing your Young Women’s Lessons.

1. Have a good foundation. By this, I mean, pray every day. Read your scriptures every day. You don’t need to have a lesson plan in mind when doing so, but work on gaining your own spiritual knowledge. We have been taught:

” 21 Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.” – Doctrine and Covenants 11:21

We cannot possibly teach others the gospel if we do not have a deep, abiding knowledge or testimony ourselves. And if we don’t have a deep knowledge, we must begin working on it. The Lord will compensate for our weakness, but only if we go to Him. We do this through our own daily scripture study and prayer.

I will give a quick example. Last year, I had to teach lesson 29 (Exaltation) from Manual 2. As I read through the lesson, I found that this was exactly what I had been studying in my personal study. I felt like I should relate some scriptures to the lesson that weren’t necessarily included in the lesson manual. You can see the lesson I gave here. Even though the way it is presented differs from the layout given in the Manual, the Young women still understood the principles that were to be taught. The lesson went very well. The Spirit was strong. I knew that had I not been studying my scriptures on my own, I wouldn’t have been guided in the way to teach this lesson as effectively.

Strive for personal worthiness and preparation before worrying about your lessons!

2. Read through the suggested lesson plan prayerfully. Read through the lesson outline, and pray to be directed. Do this before you actually sit down and hash out the lesson. Often, I do this a week before I actually plan out my lesson – with a prayer that I will be directed throughout the week – in my life and personal scripture study – to notice the things that will be helpful for the lesson.

I don’t go too in-depth at this point. I have four kids. Life is busy. I don’t usually sit and think of a hand-out I want to make. I just read the lesson plan and pray that I can receive general inspiration. Usually, throughout the week either things will stick out to me that I’ll “file away” mentally, or if I think of a good object lesson/handout the idea will come to me during the week.

Keep in mind to pray for the needs of the young women you teach. Be specific. The Lord will guide you.

3. Prepare the Lesson. Now you are finally ready to prepare the lesson. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind.

  • Avoid printing the entire lesson and giving it straight from the book/print-out. I’m not saying that the lessons are un-inspired, but I think that this is a pretty un-inspired way to give a lesson. As a youth, it was easy to spot when a teacher was reading straight from the manual…BOR-ING! Also, when you are reading straight from the manual, it can be harder to hear the nuanced whisperings of the Spirit. Sometimes we rely on the words, discussions, and points of the lesson plan more than we rely on the spirit. If you avoid printing it out and reading from it directly, you will be less likely to use it as a crutch.
  • Notice the Objective in the lesson. This is the overarching principle to be taught in the lesson. In Lesson 2-29, the Objective is: Each young woman will desire to receive exaltation. So, with this being the objective, you now know what your purpose is. You aren’t teaching a lesson on exaltation. You are teaching a lesson that will inspire young women to desire exaltation. These are two vastly different things! When I’m preparing a lesson, I open a word document, and type, in bold, the objective of the Lesson. As you prepare your lesson, be sure that everything you do and say fulfills this purpose.
  • For now, ignore the intro/preparation, and look for the “subheads” – I know that this may sound a little crazy, but hold off on starting with the introduction. Instead, plan the meat of your lesson first. To do this, look for the “subheads”. These are the little phrases that divide up the lesson. For example, in Lesson 2-29, the subheads are “All those born on earth receive immortality, but only the obedient receive exaltation.”, “We must receive ordinances and make covenants”, and “Exaltation is worth all our efforts.”. As you begin planning your lesson, you now know 1) the objective and 2) a suggested development for this objective. You can better shape your lesson if you really understand these points.
  • Plan the “meat” of your lesson. At this point, you may read through the specific material in the lesson again. Because you are more familiar with the objective of the lesson and the ways to develop it, you are not going to be obssessing about the stories and discussion that is included. Also, you haven’t planned the intro, so you aren’t busying yourself, yet, on the suggested minutia of the lesson. This helps as you plan. You can then look to the suggested materials through a better lens – thinking about your young women, specifically, and the purpose of the lesson.
    • For example, when I read through Lesson 2-29, I noticed that the subheads didn’t mention something that really mattered – especially when you consider that the objective of the lesson is for the Young Women to desire eternal life. I also knew my young women, and I knew that they would notice this ommission, too…Why? Why? Exaltation? What is keeping us from receiving exaltation? In this lesson, there is an assumption being made: that the Young Women already know that they can have immortality without exaltation.

      You may find that your young women do know this, but I wanted to be sure that we were all on track. As I said earlier, I had been reading the Book of Mormon in personal study, and as I was planning this lesson I was inspired by the way Lehi and Alma had taught their sons this very lesson. Lehi taught Jacob a lot about the fall of Adam – and the resulting need for an atonement.

      As the Lesson Manual proceeds, it goes on – saying we need to make covenants in order to receive exaltation. Which is true. But I felt like the young women would learn this true principle better on their own, if I give them the sad state of man after the fall (and before the atonement), than if I just stood up at the front of class and said, “we need to receive ordinances and make covenants.” In other words, I gave them the answer to “why” before giving them the answer to “what”. Because I took this approach, the Young Women, themselves came upon the conclusion that the lesson outlined. The Lesson plan in the manual wasn’t bad, but I knew my young women. I have a young woman who asks questions. Deep questions. She wants to know. I knew that I couldn’t just “fluff” this up. Besides, I believe the youth would rather have the substance of the gospel rather than some sugary-sweet version of it. So…I was prompted to take a more direct, doctrinal route in teaching this lesson. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this if I hadn’t been reading my scriptures. I also wasn’t overly-worried about the minutia of the lesson because I was honing in on the points of the lesson, and incorporating the ideas as they fit, rather than trying to make my young women and lesson fit the manual.

  • Stick to the scriptures. In the introduction of each young women’s manual, There is a quote by Elder M. Russell Ballard –

    Teachers would be well advised to study carefully the scriptures and their manuals before reaching out for supplemental materials. Far too many teachers seem to stray from the approved curriculum materials without fully reviewing them. If teachers feel a need to use some good supplemental resources beyond the scriptures and manuals in presenting a lesson, they should first consider the use of the Church magazines” M. Russell Ballard (emphasis added)

    You don’t need to go find crazy examples or stories elsewhere. Look first to the scriptures.

    I have found that the lesson manuals can be pretty skimpy as far as scriptural examples go, so this can be tough, but try to think of ways to incorporate scripture stories in the lessons. I find that the scriptural examples and study is better, usually, than the stories in the manual. The young women love going to the scriptures. There is power in the scriptures. The Spirit can speak to the hearts of the young women through the scriptures.

    • As a quick example. A while ago, I taught a lesson on Optimism (Lesson 2-41). The lesson included only One verse as scripture reference. The rest of the lesson was stories and quotes from prophets in the seventies…Yet, the principle of optimism is a good one, and the Lord counsels us to be cheerful. I decided that this lesson would be better taught and received by using two examples from the scriptures: The people of Limhi and the people of Alma (while in bondage to the Lamanites). You can see the full lesson plan here. The young women were in the scriptures learning the importance of optimism. We also discussed a lot from Elder Wirthlin’s talk, “Come What May and Love It.” This lesson plan was okay, but with a little bit of tweaking, our lesson went from okay to really great. We didn’t need any fancy stories. We just needed the scriptures.
  • After your lesson plan is well formed, think of an appropriate introduction or “attention getter” – It is easier to think of the introduction when you really know what you’re teaching. You may find that you want an introduction that is woven throughout the lesson. You may think of using an object lesson for an introduction. You may even realize you don’t really need a complicated introduction. Do this part near the end of planning, so that it really goes well.

    Many of the introductions in the manual are just fine, but only need a little tweaking – to make them more current or relevant.

    • For example: In lesson 2-34 (Hold Fast to the Lord’s Standards), the lesson is introduced with a story of someone surviving a tsunami. I was struck by the quote given by Spencer W. Kimball, but I only gave the final part of his quote. Instead of giving his account of Tsunami survivors, I found some stories of those who survived the tsunami in Sri Lanka and Indonesia back in 2006. I knew that this Tsunami happened in our collective recent memory. The young women saw the pictures of the survivors, I showed pictures of destruction, and they were immediately drawn in. I’m sure that the story given in the lesson would have been okay, but I felt that a more recent, relevant example would be more effective, and it was. The idea behind the example didn’t change, and I finished the intro using President Kimball’s words, as quoted in the Lesson manual.
  • Make a conclusion and testify. Always end your lesson with your own testimony. In fact, bear your testimony often, throughout the lesson, but end with your testimony. Be solid. Be a conduit of the Sprit. If you bear your testimony with the Spirit, then the young women will have the choice to receive it with the Spirit.

4. Present Your Lesson – Present your lesson with confidence, yet with reliance on the Spirit. Be close to the Spirit while teaching. You may find that you planned a lesson, and then give something that isn’t anything like what you planned. Maybe you will have a young woman who is investigating the church come – this kind of situation can drastically change the course of a planned lesson. Don’t let circumstances frustrate you. Instead, be confident in your preparation and, above all, confident in the Lord. He will guide you if you will let Him.

  • Don’t be afraid to “veer” off, but also stay on course. Sometimes young women will ask questions that seem to be off topic. If the Spirit guides your discussion to a topic that seems to be tangential, follow it. If a tangent occurs, but doesn’t seem to be the direction that the Spirit is inclined to take, then carefully lead your class back to where the Spirit is guiding. There is no solid answer to this problem because each case may be different. Spiritual preparation is necessary for times like these.
  • Also, while presenting your lesson, bear your testimony often. You may not formally say, “I bear my testimony that [this] is true.” But you may find ways to bear testimony – either through sharing personal experiences or other forms of communication. Again, be close to the Spirit, he may remind you of a personal experience you can share with the young women – that is appropriate – and will help them to learn the principle being taught.
  • Don’t give “personal experiences” for the sake of telling personal experiences. Follow the Spirit. Sometimes too many personal experiences can be a distraction. Make sure that you share your own personal insights with care.
  • Wait. When you ask a question – wait for the answer. Remember, you have prepared this lesson, and you are in the frame of mind to answer your questions. Your young women are hearing the questions for the first time, and if you are asking a question that requires some serious thought, then wait. If the Young Women seem stumped, then avoid answering the question yourself, and, instead, rephrase the question. If you are asking a “no-brainer” question, then you may preface it, “I know that this may seem like a dumb question, but [ask the question].” Make sure that your obvious/no-brainer questions are going somewhere. Maybe there is a follow up question. Maybe you have a point.
    • For example, I asked the young women how we can receive inspiration from God and the Holy Ghost. This is a dumb question. They know – prayer, scripture study. Standard seminary answers. And I wanted the seminary answers. After they gave me the standard answers, we discussed Jesus Christ – what he did in the Garden of Gethsemane to bear the pain of the atonement – he Prayed! We also discussed Jesus Christ – what he did to overcome the temptations of Satan in the wilderness – he quoted scripture! We discussed that – if prayer and scripture study worked for the Savior, then it would work for us. A “dumb” question became meaningful…
  • Thank your participants. Validate comments made by Young women. They want acceptance. They look up to you. Validation will encourage more dialogue.

I hope that this helps in preparing your lessons. Let me know if there are any more tips that could be included! What do you do to teach your lessons?

Young Women’s Lesson 2-34: Hold Fast to the Lord’s Standards

First of all, the lesson plan from the manual can be found here.

As usual, in preparing this lesson, there was a lot that I liked from the manual, but I also felt that we’d need to spend a little bit more time in the scriptures. I wanted to make sure that the lesson was relevant. So, I made my own variation of the lesson, and you can find it here.

When preparing this lesson, I was first struck by the quote given by Spencer W. Kimball. We have had a few devastating tsunamis throughout the world recently, and I thought that the young women would really relate to this idea.

Of course, as I was studying the lesson, I felt like I wanted to find a few examples from more recent events – just because I knew that the Young Women would already be familiar with the tsunami in general. So, I searched a little bit, and found two really good examples. (I also included a picture of some of the tsunami devastation, which was a good visual for the girls…it is insane to think of the destructive power it had).

The examples were very effective, and here are a few things that I loved about each example-

The first example – is about a man who held on tight to a large beam – it was firmly planted just like the trees that Spencer W. Kimball mentions. So – this man did hold fast in order to save his life. Sometimes, we cannot control the spiritual elements which we are in. So, we need to know how to survive them. This story helped to apply such a principle.

The second example I found was about a tribal people that lived in Indonesia – the Moken People (also referred to as Sea Gypsies). These people understood all of the signs well before the tsunami struck the land, and all of them were able to escape any of the devastating effects of the tidal wave. I loved that this also teaches a lesson – we can be close to the Lord, and know in advance how to avoid some “spiritual tsunamis.”

As I told each story, the young women were very captivated. It was a good way to start the lesson.

I kept with the basic outline of the lesson given in the manual. After introducing the topic, we moved to The Adversary tries to keep us from following the Lord’s Standards. I thought that this portion of the lesson was important, but I also felt I needed to present it in a way that would not turn off the young women.

I guess what I’m saying is, we talk a lot about how Satan is bad. He’s trying to destroy us. Sometimes, I feel like, as leaders, we can sound like a broken record. We can sound a little “old-fashioned.”

I don’t mind being old fashioned, but I also don’t want the young women to tune me out. Even though I know that Satan is real, and he is trying to destroy us, I wanted to express this to the young women in a very genuine way.

So, I spent a few minutes letting them know that I didn’t want to “scare” them into keeping the commandments.

After this discussion – about me not fear-mongering, yet that doesn’t change the fact that Satan is real, and he is really trying to destroy each of us, I presented an example from the scriptures. We spent a lot of time going over the story of Amalickiah and Lehonti. I feel like this did a good job of teaching how Satan “leads with a flaxen cord” – through the cunning example of Amalickiah.

During this discussion, the young women were completely engaged, and even began commenting on Lehonti (“Why is he agreeing with Amalickiah! Doesn’t he know that he’s evil?!”). We were becoming pressed for time, so I found myself doing a mix of paraphrasing and also having the young women read directly from the scriptures.

I didn’t have enough time to do all that I planned (eg: I didn’t read the quote included by Sister Dalton), but I did make sure to take the time to tie it all together. We brought up how we could make sure we don’t get consumed by the tricks of the adversary. We discussed how we could make sure we were safe from the tidal wave of sin that we seem to be in.

Anyway – I hope that this helps if you are preparing a lesson for your class. If you do find these blogs helpful, let me know. I’d love to get any input if you have it.

September 2010 Visiting Teaching Message

Our Responsibility to Nurture the Rising Generation
Click above link to see full text of the Visiting Teaching Message

I love this message. I think that it’s because I’m a mom. That’s part of it, I’m sure. I always love any message that speaks to my role and duty as a mother. It is good to be reminded how important this is.

I like this also because it isn’t inclusive to mothers. There are many of us who help to nurture the rising generation in many ways – whether or not we have children in our homes. Many of us serve in primaries or serve in Young Women’s organizations. Many of us are aunts, sisters, or grandparents. We all have a duty to the rising generation.

What Can I Do?
1 – I can help my sisters use, The Family: A Proclamation to the World by discussing it with them – we can talk about some of the passages in the proclamation and discuss the principles outlined. We can ask how this proclamation has already affected their families. We can also challenge them to read the proclamation on their own, and see how they can integrate it into their families.

I also think that it is important to actually use this proclamation in our own families before we are preaching to other people about it. I have an especially strong testimony of the following passage:

“Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities”

A while ago, I typed this section up, printed it, and hung it up on our refrigerator. It was a good reminder for me – as to what I needed to do in my family in order to be “successful.”

In this passage, there is no mention of toys, money, or “accomplishments” as measuring the success of a family. Instead, we need to focus on faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome activities. I love the balance given in this list. And there is nothing I could think of adding. I can see that if I implement all of these qualities into what I’m doing as a mother, then I will have a better family and marriage.

When we read of the Stripling warriors, we learn that they were true in all things that they were entrusted, and that they, “were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before Him.” Even though their parents didn’t have the family proclamation, I have a feeling that they were taught the principles of faith, prayer, and repentance.

Helaman also tells the following about the stripling warriors:

“Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.” Alma 56:47

Obviously, they were taught of respect, love and compassion. I cannot imagine any young person being so courageous against death and so focused on the liberty of their fathers without having a compassionate, respectful, and loving heart. Our hearts don’t get that way through magic. And we see that the warriors’ hearts weren’t magically made this way. This verse mentions that they had been taught by their mothers. This makes me reflect on what kind of mother I’m being…

We can use the principles listed in the family proclamation to strengthen our home and marriage. It’s really simple, and has great results. 🙂

2I can nurture the rising generation by looking outward. I have a family. I have children. I need to spend more time listening to them and loving them. I need to strengthen my own resolve and testimony so that I have something I can actually teach them!

I can also do more to magnify my own callings. I’m currently serving in the Young Women’s. I have a great opportunity to do what I can to strengthen them. I feel like I can apply some of the principles given in the family proclamation. I can help serve them by being faithful and encouraging them to develop faith. I can pray for them. I can utilize repentance and forgiveness in my own life, as I try to overcome the weakness and mistakes I have – even as I do my calling. I can also be an example of this by being forgiving. It is impossible to teach love if my heart is full of guilt or anger. I can be a better youth leader by respecting the young women, the YW president, bishop, etc. Obviously, love and compassion will play a part in my ability to nurture the young women. I can work hard to be organized and useful. And finally, we have the opportunity to have weekly activities. I can participate. I can help make sure they are wholesome. I can apply the principles taught in the family proclamation to my service as a Young Women’s leader.

***
I do really care about the rising generation. I don’t know when Christ will come, but I know that the world seems to be getting to be a more difficult place to raise little kids. There are many distractions. There are many temptations. But I don’t want to forget the great blessing it is to live now. We have more operating temples now than at any other time. This is such a strength to our families – and not just our families that have passed on! The promise of Elijah is that the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. (See Malachi 4:6.) When we attend the temple, our hearts are all turned to one another – both looking back at our ancestry, and forward to our posterity. We are then armed with the Spirit and a better ability to nurture and provide for our children.

I’m grateful to live in these latter-days. And I’m grateful to have the opportunity to raise children now.