I am an adviser in the Young Women program in my ward congregation. A key role of an adviser is to help with Sunday lessons. It was my turn this week to prepare a lesson (that’s not really what it is with the new curriculum, Come, Follow Me — we are urged not to teach/lecture/convey information but rather to engage the youth, to facilitate so that they can be the ones to teach, share, and testify).
I’ve found that usually there is a sense of a “forward flow” when anticipating teaching/facilitating a lesson. As I prayerfully open my heart to what to focus on in class, ideas will come and sort of settle on me. This week, only one thought really settled, and it was of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s most recent General Conference talk. But that was about all I got.
But then Saturday night while I was cleaning my room, I “happened” to open one of my books to a story of one woman’s experience having a day go bad fast. She decided to take a drive and ponder and pray. She felt guided by the Spirit to simply write her thoughts. First, she captured all the negativity, worry, and fear that was plaguing her, and then she felt prompted to write some testimony-based thoughts of what she knew and believed.
The idea came to have the girls do something similar, except to flip the order of what they wrote — to implement Elder Holland’s counsel to lead out with faith.
The young women were invited to silently read Elder Holland’s words for a few minutes, and to share what stood out to them. I then handed out a piece of paper to each person. They folded their papers in half and put “Lord, I Believe” at the top of the left-hand column.
And then I invited them to write what came to mind about their testimony. I gave them simple prompts like, What principles or truths help you in your life? What does your testimony include right now? What scriptures help you when you have a hard day?
They wrote and wrote and wrote.
I was hesitant to interrupt the writing, but I wanted to bring the process full circle back to sharing after watching this video. We divided the class into three circles of three and I invited them each to share with their little group something from their list, as they felt comfortable doing so. Some young women read their whole list, others shared one or two things and talked a little about it. We ended with a little more group discussion. It was wonderful to see how personal the process of pondering was for each person, and also how hearing others’ feelings spurred more thoughts and feelings. There was value in both the quiet self-reflection and also in sharing and testifying to one another. And I felt like the Lord had guided us to a simple tool that could be used on hard days or during hard times.
Elder Holland says,
In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. (Emphasis in original)
I was so grateful for the ideas that came with regard to this lesson, because right after church, my daughter was sad about something that had happened today at church. We are working hard in our home right now to help make sure that the children feel safe sharing their feelings, whatever they may be, so I wanted to listen attentively to her pain. But the thought came to invite my daughter to try this exercise, making it clear that the second column could be used to then write down her concerns and struggles, too.
She wrote and wrote.
She wrote four columns worth (two half pages, front and back) declaring her beliefs.
I hesitated to ask later if she’d be willing to share some of her list, because I didn’t want to enter her sacred space uninvited. But I did want her to feel that I cared and was willing to listen.
We curled up on my bed as she read me her list. And I wept at the power of her testimony. When I asked her about one of the most tender things she’d written — one of those things she’s desiring to believe but doesn’t quite feel it yet — she said that it wasn’t until she spoke the truth out loud that the truth settled more into her heart.
I’m grateful to Elder Holland for his simple, powerful teaching to let our faith lead out. I’m grateful for the Spirit who led me to use this talk. I’m grateful for the young women who are willing to engage and share and testify. And I’m grateful for the blessings that are flowing into my home because of this new curriculum. I encourage parents to tap into this amazing resource, including the training videos. Our children have much to teach us. We just need to find opportunities to invite them to do so.
Michelle, this was a heartfelt beautiful post. I feel you were so inspired and I think the format for the lesson was awesome. Of course, this talk was one of my favorite. You are such a blessings to these Young Women. It is also awesome that you had such a sweet experience with your daughter.
Blessings for this one!