Relief Society Lesson 10: Fortifying Ourselves Against Evil Influences

(I am a high school teacher by profession, so I’ve written up this lesson plan for Lesson 10 as I would write up a lesson plan at school. )

Rationale (background info for yourself):
In this chapter, President Kimball spends some time discussing Satan. However, I’ll be focusing on the latter half of the lesson (avoiding temptation) since there is more room for practical applications in that section.

Engage and Connect (the lesson starter):
Ask the class:
What are your daily temptations? What are the sorts of rather mundane, little things that you struggle with? Start the ball rolling by telling stories about how you have to consciously try to refrain from snapping at your kids, or how you struggle with doing your fair share of housework, or how you sometimes aren’t as kind to your spouse as you’d like to be…

Write responses on one side of the board. Thank participants and comment about how we all struggle with being as good as we think we need to be.

Instruction and Discussion:

I. Satan is Real (this first section can be omitted if time is an issue)

In this lesson, Spencer Kimball talks about how Satan is real and will use any means to try to destroy us. He tells us, “Satan is very much a personal, individual spirit being…. His desires to seal each of us his are no less ardent in wickedness than our Father’s are in righteousness to attract us to his own eternal kingdom.” P. 104.

As I was reading this chapter and reflecting on my temptations, weaknesses and, it was interesting for me to realize that I don’t tend to attribute my sins and struggles to Satan. I’d love to know how some of you regard Satan. Do you see him as an active force in your life, or do you tend to attribute your own shortcomings to yourself and your own personal weaknesses? What are the benefits of those different approaches to thinking about temptation?

II. Right decisions now can help us withstand temptations later
Clearly, (motion towards the chalkboard) as we established at the beginning of the lesson, we’re all subject to temptations. President Kimball gives this advice on one method that might help us to avoid sinning.

He says. ““Right decisions are easiest to make when we make them well in advance, having ultimate objectives in mind; this saves a lot of anguish at the fork [in the road], when we’re tired and sorely tempted. “ p. 109

He goes on to say ““Develop discipline of self so that, more and more, you do not have to decide and redecide what you will do when you are confronted with the same temptation time and time again. You only need to decide some things once!” p. 109

I think this is really good advice. I think it does help to make a lot of decisions beforehand. But it also strikes me that there are some things that might be difficult to decide years in advance.

Can anyone share an experience in which they made a decision far in advance, and that helped them in a difficult moment?

Can someone else share an experience where it was difficult to make a decision about righteous living far in advance? Why was it so difficult?

(You should talk to a few women earlier in the week and ask them to prepare to stand and discuss these experiences. If I were doing this lesson, I would ask my unmarried friend Annie to talk about how she had decided early on to marry in the temple and raise children, but how this has proved a difficult and painful thing to decide years in advance, as an opportunity to marry has not presented itself. I would ask her to share her feelings about this and talk about what things she wishes she had decided when she was young, rather than marrying in the temple.)

III. Don’t yield to small temptations
President Kimball talks a lot about how small sins lead to greater sins. He says: “Serious sin enters into our lives as we yield first to little temptations. “ p. 106

Have you noticed this in your life? Or have you had a different experience with giving in to small temptations? (indicate the struggles written on the blackboard)

How do we reconcile this ‘don’t give in a little’ idea with the knowledge that we’re all sinners and that none of us can be perfect in this life?

Emphasize and particularly acknowledge comments that talk about repentance, forgiveness, Jesus, and God’s grace.

IV. Finding Peace in a Troubled World (another optional section)
President Kimball states on p. 110:
“There may be some who have a general feeling of uneasiness because of world conditions and lengthening shadows of evil, but the Lord said… “Peace I leave with you… Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27.

I love those quotes from John. They are beautiful. But sometimes, when I think of the torture, the cruelty, the killing, the starvation in the world, I am nearly overwhelmed with sadness and almost paralyzed by despair. How do you as individuals prevent your hearts from being troubled by the awfulness and evil in the world? How do you prevent your spirit being weighed down by the suffering that takes place around us?

Emphasize and reinforce comments that talk about pro-active choosing and supporting good causes, following our consciences, working in the world to foster peace and goodness and kindness. Beforehand, you may want to ask a couple of women who are extremely involved in the community if they might say a few words about pro-actively serving and working for good.

To close, I want to come back to this struggle we talked about earlier: our personal quest to lead sinless lives, when we are just not capable of eliminating all our weaknesses in this life. Chieko Okazaki beautifully discusses this paradox in her book Aloha.

Have someone read the following:
“The gospel teaches us to strive for perfection, but we’re not expected to reach perfection today or tomorrow. The reason I love the gospel is that it’s a system for real people with real problems and real challenges and real conflicts and real joy. Our happiness doesn’t come because we have somehow managed to eliminate all problems, transgressions, and imperfections from our lives; our happiness comes to us mingled with those problems and imperfections” P. 171.

End with final thoughts. I think it’s important to not take sin lightly, but it’s important to recognize that there is repentance, there is forgiveness. There is Jesus and our Heavenly parents to strengthen us and fortify us when we’re weighed down by adversity and temptation. There is always the chance of a better choice tomorrow.

Songs: Be Still My Soul 124 Where Can I Turn For Peace? 129

Additional quotes:
“How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.” Barry Lopez

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditi
onal love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Please let me know if you find this lesson plan helpful! And please bring up any other discussion questions or quotes you think would be good.

Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.


  1. Thank you Caroline. This is a long lesson and I’ve been struggling with what to cover and what to leave out. So I appreciate your efforts in preparing this lesson. Towards the end you quoted Cheiko Okazaki about the gospel being a system for real people with real problems and real challenges. This made me think of the PBS doc, The Mormons. Among other things it addressed the sins and short commings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Elder Packer. We tend to idolize those in positions of authority in our church. However they are real people, who are not somehow exempt from Satan and his influence. This lesson is a reminder that we are “all” prone to Satan and his powers to sway us, and that we can never relax, we must stay diligent in our efforts to weather the storms and trials of life.

  2. I just wanted to thank you so much for offering these lessons each week. I am a first time RS teacher in a Young Single Adult ward and i really struggle. Your lessons are insightful and offer great ideas for engaging the sisters and promoting discussion. Thank you very much! You are turning me into a real RS teacher!

  3. Anonymous,
    Yes, this was a hard lesson. The Satan focus was a challenge for me. I think you bring up another great angle – human fallibility of every human, even leaders. That could lead to a great discussion.

    Kate, I’m so glad you find this helpful. I’m actually not a RS teacher (dang it – wish I were!), and I spent quite a few hours coming up with this, so it makes me feel good to know that others are able to use this.

  4. Confession: I create the lesson schedule for this blog, and I put Caroline on this lesson on purpose — cause *I* didn’t want to take it on (yea, yeah I know it’s just yin and yang, but I like the love/Jesus lessons better than the evil/Satan lessons)!

    You proved me right, Caroline — this is a terrific set of lesson suggestions. THANK YOU!!

  5. Caroline, thank you for your thoughts and the lesson outline. Since the priesthood quorums use the same lesson book, some of your thoughts will be present in my priesthood meeting this coming Sunday.

  6. Deborah, I would have done the same in your position 🙂 Glad you liked the suggestions.

    Mark IV, thanks for letting me know that this was of use to you. I love knowing that this is helpful.

  7. Thank you Caroline,

    Even here in the European missionfield (I am a Belgian), your insights and questions are thoughtprovoking. I teach RS in a ward with over 34 different nationalities. So the RS lessons are always a multifaceted experience. Thank you for the time and effort you put in preparing these great outlines.
    By the way, I love reading Exponent II. You girls rock!

  8. You have saved my life tonight! I’ve been so inspiration-less on this lesson, but that’s probably due to my lack of attention to it. I have a much better idea of where to go with this now, I only wish I had thought to look on the net sooner than 12 hours before class time!


  9. Caroline, I wish our teacher had used your lesson suggestions. We started out with how wicked the world was, and didn’t stray much from there. Everyone wanted to talk about the most extreme situations that makes the world so much worse than when they were young. That and homosexuality. Ugh. It never turned to any sort of personal applications, as in, what are my temptations and how can I overcome them.

  10. Michelle,
    Yikes, that sounds like a hard R.S. to sit through. I feared that a lesson like this could easily get turned into an us vs. them thing, and I just don’t find those lessons inspiring.

  11. Have you reviewed Lesson 11 yet? I’m set to teach it and I’m not feeling very inspired. I taught the forgiveness lesson and used alot of ideas from you. I’ll keep watching for it. Thank you for keeping me on my toes.

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