Mar 12, 2017
So yesterday. Out of nowhere (i.e. a prompting from the Spirit) I felt impressed to check the teaching schedule for the laurel class (16-18 year old girls at church) to see who was teaching today. Turns out it was me. (Thanks, Spirit.) Usually I have that schedule entered into my phone with reminders and stuff so it doesn’t sneak up on me like that, but I hadn’t entered any of the March-June schedule yet, which is what landed me in a bit of last-minute lesson planning. I was pretty worn out from all the cleaning we did yesterday, so I planned the lesson this morning.
The theme for this month is on the Atonement and the topic of this specific lesson was “What does it mean to have faith in Jesus Christ?” I started reading the lesson materials, fully prepared to follow along with whatever it said, but out of nowhere (a.k.a. a prompting from the Spirit) I felt impressed to watch this video from Elder Holland and include it in the lesson. I watched the video (and cried, as always) and tried to think of how to tie it into the lesson as I continued to read the rest of the material. But I hadn’t gotten very much further into my reading when I then remembered something else from Elder Holland.
What first came to mind was something I remember him saying in this conversations radio show where Sheri L. Dew is interviewing Elder Holland and his incredible wife. The thing I remembered him saying was something about how the commandment to “be of good cheer” was perhaps the most frequently broken commandment. I couldn’t find a manuscript of the interview to read to find the quote, so instead I googled “Jeffrey R. Holland be of good cheer” and it lead me to this talk from him, which is one of my favorites. It’s called “The Tongue of Angels” and he talks a lot about how powerful our words are and how we ought to say things that are kind and uplifting and build up the people around us instead of tearing them down. This is the quote I love so much that I shared with the girls during our lesson today:
I love what Elder Orson F. Whitney once said: “The spirit of the gospel is optimistic; it trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience.” We should honor the Savior’s declaration to “be of good cheer.” (Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than almost any other!) Speak hopefully. Speak encouragingly, including about yourself. Try not to complain and moan incessantly. As someone once said, “Even in the golden age of civilization someone undoubtedly grumbled that everything looked too yellow.”
I have often thought that Nephi’s being bound with cords and beaten by rods must have been more tolerable to him than listening to Laman and Lemuel’s constant murmuring. Surely he must have said at least once, “Hit me one more time. I can still hear you.” Yes, life has its problems, and yes, there are negative things to face, but please accept one of Elder Holland’s maxims for living—no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse.
Once again, I felt impressed to share this with the girls, but I was having a hard time figuring out how I was going to tie it back in to having faith in Christ.
In fact, right then and there in the middle of planning the lesson, I even bowed my head and prayed, telling Heavenly Father that I felt impressed to share these things, but didn’t know if that was really what I was supposed to do or if it was just nerves from last-minute planning. I told Him I’d go ahead and do what I felt I was supposed to and share those things, but if He wanted me to do something else to let me know.
Well, after I prayed I still felt right about sharing these seemingly random videos and quotes, so I plowed forward and planned the lesson around those things. When I was done I had time for a quick shower and then we headed off to church.
When I started teaching the lesson I told the girls about the things I had felt and the impressions I’d had about what to share. I told them openly about the prayer I’d said and then went on to share the things I had been prompted to. The lesson ended up being mostly focused on how having faith in Christ meant trusting him and being hopeful, even in crummy circumstances. It was one of those lessons where I ended up doing most of the talking and so it was hard for me as a teacher to gauge how much of an impact, if any, it’d had on the girls. But the Spirit was there and I knew it didn’t really matter if they thought I was a great teacher or not, so I didn’t worry about it and just hoped that they had each been able to get something out of it.
And then, not thirty minutes after church had ended, I got a text from one of the girls. She said that it wasn’t just last-minute planning nerves, that the things we had talked about in class were exactly what she had needed to hear. She even asked for me to send her some of the quotes and videos so she could share them with a friend. And in texting one of the other girls about something else, she too had said that the lesson today was exactly what she needed to hear.
It doesn’t really matter for me if the lesson was good or bad, but I was grateful to know that it was indeed the Spirit who had directed my thoughts to those things that weren’t spelled out in the lesson. It really wasn’t even my lesson at all. But it was beautiful for me to see not only the way the Lord had been able to work through me on behalf of these sweet girls, but also to then get to have them bear their testimonies to me in their text messages back to me. To have them recognize the Spirit and the hand of the Lord in their lives and on their behalf and then turn around and say that they knew what it was and were grateful for it. What an incredible thing.
When I was first called to be the laurel advisor in our ward I had assumed I’d hold the calling for a year or more and, in that case, have a variety of girls come into and out of the class. There were specific things about this particular group of girls (haha, like getting these shy girls to talk!) that I had thought would be a temporary, passing thing. But now, knowing that we’ll be moving into a new ward in just a couple months, it’s been especially touching to me to recognize that I wasn’t called to be the laurel advisor for all the girls in our ward who will turn 16 this year, but just for this very small, very specific group of girls. To recognize that there are things I’ve needed to learn from them and things they might need to learn from me. That Heavenly Father placed us in each other’s paths for this short, but important period of time. It’s made me think a lot more about the experiences we have together like the lesson today. It’s also made me think a lot more about who these girls are and who their Heavenly Father knows they will become. Every time I’m with them I have this kind of feeling, like I’m sitting with women who don’t yet know they’ll be leaders someday. I’m sure going to miss being with them every week when we move and I hope we’ll be able to keep in contact so I can see who it is they grow up to be.
It also makes me wonder just how often my own young women leaders saw that in me and my classmates when we were teenagers. At the time you don’t really realize what the Lord has in store for you. But I wonder how many lessons my leaders taught that were just as tailored to me and my own needs as this lesson today was tailor made for the girls sitting in front of me. Knowing the kind of women my leaders were and how close they were to the Spirit, I have no doubt there were many, many lessons like that.
It’s incredible–incredibly empowering and incredibly humbling–just how much the Lord has in store for us and wants us to succeed.