Why Do I Need the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
The lesson plan focuses on the Fall, which is certainly a valid approach. However, my plan isn’t going to focus on that for two reasons. 1) I find the story of the Fall to be problematic and difficult to teach in a way that doesn’t make womanhood look bad. 2) I think the purpose of the lesson is to teach young women why they need the Atonement, right now, today.
Part I: Redemption from Sin
Create a series of hypotheticals (examples listed below) and invite the girls to take some time to think about what the long-term effects in life might be for those situations. Girls could discuss in pairs, write in a lesson journal, or prepare to lead the rest of the class in a discussion of their hypothetical.
In this hypothetical world there is no way to undo something you do, to repent, to say you’re sorry. The mistake defines you forever.
- You cheated on a math test in sixth grade. You were confused and looked at your neighbor’s paper. Later you wish you hadn’t done it. You should have just tried your best. The teacher doesn’t catch you, but since God knows, now you’re someone who cheats on academic work forever. It says so on every resumé, every application, it says so on your shirt so everyone you meet knows you are a cheater. How might that affect your life?
- Consider: College applications and admissions, being allowed to participate in special programs, study abroad, jobs, raising your own children, being hired or promoted. Be specific.
- At school someone tells you that a popular girl has slept with several members of the football team. The girl drives you nuts, she always acts so holier-than-thou and self-righteous and now you know…. You decide to tell your friends because she rubs them the wrong way too. And you tell some of your guy friends because they should know that she might have an STD, you heard, and they should be careful about dating her. You think it’s true, so it isn’t gossip, right? The girl ends up being homeschooled for the rest of the year because going to school is so hard. Did it really matter if it was true or not? You realize you shouldn’t have participated, and it would have been better to stick up for her and ask people to stop talking behind her back. But it’s too late. Her reputation is trashed and she can’t wait to leave the state for college and never see any of you again.
- Meanwhile, you are now permanently a gossip, because you can’t undo anything you’ve done. Every resumé, job application, dating site etc. includes the information that you spread rumors and hurt other people’s reputations.
- How might this affect your life? Dating, mission, marriage, jobs, children, friendships. Be specific.
- You get in a fight with your brother about something dumb, but it escalates. He hits you so you shove him back. He says something hurtful and you yell “I wish you didn’t exist! I hate you!” Twenty minutes later your temper has cooled. You didn’t mean it – your brother is really fun and you love shooting hoops together. He forgives you, but it’s now a mark on your soul forever. You are someone who is physically and verbally abusive who makes death threats. This information will be on every job application, mission application, dating site etc. It will be on every shirt you wear so people will know that this is who you are as a person. How will being permanently this person affect your life? Be specific.
Discuss as a class how being able to change and reinvent yourself has benefitted their lives already. Invite them to consider, and hopefully share, something they’ve done in the past they’re grateful doesn’t define who they are. Start with your own personal story.
The video in the lesson called “Why We Need a Savior” posits a series of questions – what if we could never take back something we said or did? It then shifts to talking about turning to the light and the Savior. Watching this video may provide a good segue to the next section.
Part II: Strength to Overcome
Invite class members to read the following quote and scriptures:
We can find strength and comfort in this life by accepting His will and knowing that He wants to bless us. We can find the strength to face any challenge, to overcome temptations, and to understand and endure our difficult circumstances.Elder Gonzalez “The Savior’s Touch”
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
For we know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do.2 Nephi 25:23
What do you think “infirmities” means? How are “pains, sicknesses…infirmities” different from sin? What weaknesses do you have you need help to overcome? What do you think “all we can do” means? Is it the same for everyone? How might the Savior make up the rest when we have done all we can?
Invite class members to think about and share possible situations when the Savior can compensate for our inadequacies. Here are two possibilities, but it might be strongest if you share from your own experience.
Example: Perhaps giving a talk is very scary for you and you know you’ll stare at the paper and talk too fast and you don’t know if you have anything worthwhile to say. (Everyone feels that way!) But if you prayerfully prepare your talk in advance, practice saying it and do your best, then the Savior makes up the rest – the Spirit will speak to the congregation and people will hear what they need to hear regardless of whether you are a professional public speaker.
Example: You have a friend who is struggling with an eating disorder. You do the best that you can to be supportive. You share your concerns with your family and your friend’s. But eating disorders are big problems, and for all your efforts you can’t seem to help your friend heal. You have done all you can do, and the Savior knows that. You feel peace knowing that your efforts are enough and know that the Savior is mindful of your friend and will help.
Part III. Hope for a better world
Invite class members to reflect on someone they have lost – either to death, or moving away.
- If they know no one who has left, ask them to think of someone they love and would miss.
- You could also invite them to reflect on the devastation of the recent pandemic, and the spiritual effect that has had on those left on earth.
- As time or situation allows, ask them to talk about that loved one. What made that person special? What is something you miss doing with that person?
- Note – if someone in the family is dying, or has recently died, this approach may be too painful. Keep it classy.
Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with a surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of [all people], which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.(Ether 12:4)
You could also invite them to study the scriptures noted in the “supporting resources” that relate to resurrection:
2 Nephi 9:6-16; Alma 42:6-9 (Jesus Christ saves us from death and hell)
2 Nephi 2:5-10; Helaman 14:15-17 (Only through Jesus Christ can we return to God)
What do you imagine your reunion with that special person might be like? What will you want to tell them about the time you’ve been apart? What are you hoping to do with that person on the other side? How do you feel thinking about being with loved ones again?
Great resource! I think in this time of covid bringing all sort of infirmities to the surface, that mental and trauma could be included in the list of infirmities in part two.
As for teaching the fall, please reconsider teaching it. I believe our YW deserve a head-on frank discussion of this event because the message that currently circulates in church and societal culture is that Eve is inferior is a message I want refuted for my daughters and all women. Here is a resource that is a place to start to give a different perspective on the story in the Garden of Eden; scroll to the very end to read a thought provoking comment. https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/eve-bible
Thank you for sharing! I guess I should be clearer – it isn’t that I think we shouldn’t deal with the Fall. It’s that I don’t feel able to do it well. Since this is supposed to help people with lesson planning I didn’t want to make a hash of it. So thank you for sharing a resource that can help people tackle it!