On Fast Sunday in April, I taught my last combined young women lesson in my current ward. I knew it would be the last one for months and so I had months to think about and prepare for this lesson. I decided I wanted to leave these beautiful young women with one thing, a knowledge that this Gospel is true happiness and that nothing else matters. If they learned and remembered one thing from Ally/Sister Hayward, I wanted it to be that. This lesson was probably more for me than for them, but isn’t that how it usually is?
I started off by asking the young women how they find joy amidst their trials/hardships. They gave some great answers: by serving others and helping relieve their burdens, by focusing on what God wants us to learn from what we’re going through, by finding something that can be a temporary distraction. I then invited them to think of a time when they found joy despite going through something difficult and that I wanted them to share later on.
The previous month (March) on Fast Sunday I bore my testimony about how I have been in a sort of wrestle with Heavenly Father lately. I feel that everything used to come so easy to me and it has been a little harder lately, but I also feel like He is trying to teach me that this Gospel is worth fighting for. An Area of Seventy, Elder Kopischke – who is also in our ward but is rarely there due to his calling, was there and later on that evening he sent me an E-mail.
That email was an answer to my prayers. I knew after receiving it and reading his talk that Heavenly Father was aware of me and my needs. I am so grateful Elder Kopischke listened to that prompting to share this with me. God is good.
I have read this talk at least 5 times now (this isn’t the full address, but was the best I could find. I’d be happy to email the whole thing if you would like it. Just use the contact tab to let me know and I’ll send it). To summarize it a little he gives three suggestions to “help you – even during the most difficult phases of life – to stay cheerful, trusting that Heavenly Father knows and loves you and that He will guide you.” Those three suggestions are: 1) hold on to divine law and absolute truth, 2) live after the manner of happiness, and 3) stand ye in holy places.
In reference to his first suggestion, he talks about how laws can be proven. I asked the young women what kind of things they struggle with and then challenged them to think of a divine law that would counteract it. They mentioned things like struggling with self-worth and anxiety. We came up with the divine law of being created in God’s image and that we are his daughters to counteract negative self-worth, and the divine law of faith to counteract anxiety. I challenge you to think of a divine law that will counteract any of your struggles too! It is quite amazing how we have the ability to prove that God and His laws are right.
In reference to his second suggestion, he mentions Lehi’s Dream/Vision of The Tree of Life. And then one of my favorite talks from General Conference was by Sister Becky Craven, and she also talked about The Tree of Life. Even before I read and heard either of these talks, though, I had been thinking about this account in the scriptures. So a few weeks before my lesson I asked three of my YW to read Lehi’s Dream and share how it applies to them in their lives today or something that stood out to them as they read it. They each did a great job and I love hearing their input. The young women are truly prepared and wise beyond their years.
“The vision of the tree of life shows us how the effects of casualness can lead us away from the covenant path. Consider that the rod of iron and the strait and narrow path, or the covenant path, led directly to the tree of life, where all the blessings provided by our Savior and His Atonement are available to the faithful. Also seen in the vision was a river of water representing the filthiness of the world. The scriptures describe that this river ‘ran along’ the path yet passed only ‘near’ the tree, not to it. The world is laden with distractions that can deceive even the elect, causing them to be casual in living their covenants—thus leading them near the tree, but not to it. If we are not careful in living our covenants with exactness, our casual efforts may eventually lead us into forbidden paths or to join with those who have already entered the great and spacious building. If not careful, we may even drown in the depths of a filthy river.” – Sister Craven
I told my sweet young women that I have felt that lately, my knees have been dragging as I’ve been holding on to the rod. I’m not just casually walking along while letting it glide through my fingers as I go, I am on my knees clinging to it struggling to put one knee in front of the other while going uphill on stony ground. BUT I’m still holding on. I refuse to let go no matter how hard it may get because I know what is waiting for me at the end – eternal life, never-ending happiness, joy beyond anything I can possibly imagine. And nothing or no one is worth losing that over.
I then asked the young women to share a time they had found joy despite something difficult like I had asked them to earlier. We had discussed focusing on blessings, trusting in God, having faith and hope.
This past conference I also loved Brook P. Hales’ talk and Kyle S. McKay’s talk.
I concluded my lesson by reading a little bit out of Sheri Dew’s book, Worth the Wrestle. She talked about how she met with Randall Wallace, a writer, and producer of movies (some of which being Pearl Harbor, We Were Soldiers, Secretariat, and Heaven Is For Real), and asked him why so many were about war. He said, “I write love stories. I want to know what a man or woman loves enough to fight for.” She then writes, “Perhaps that sentiment is the very essence of being willing to engage in the wrestle: to demonstrate to ourselves and to the Lord that we care about Him and His gospel enough to fight, to wrestle, to grow in knowledge and in faith. There are many things that are worth the wrestle.” How profound, right?! So I asked my young women, “What are you willing to fight for?” I hope and pray that this Gospel is it, and to remember the reward that awaits them if they do fight.