A Handout and lesson plan from the talk
"Faith, Fortitude, Fulfillment:
A Message to LDS Single Parents"
by David S. Baxter
from the 2012 April LDS General Conference
1. First start out by asking everyone what are some of the main messages of our church. Write them down on the board. Hopefully someone will mention that families can be together forever. Mention the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” Circle it on the board. Then ask, what if our family is broken? Does this message still apply? For some, this message may be difficult.
Read quote #1
Although you may at times have asked, why me? it is through the hardships of life that we grow toward godhood as our character is shaped in the crucible of affliction, as the events of life take place while God respects the agency of man. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell commented, we cannot do all the sums or make it all add up because “we do not have all the numbers.”
2. Mention that about 1/3 of our LDS households have single parents. Explain a little how Elder Baxter was raised by a single mother and how he witnessed the hardships she experienced. How can single parent families participate in a family centered church? What kind of feelings might they be dealing with? How can the message of families can be together forever help in their homes?
3. Have someone read this quote #2 from the February 2012 visiting teaching message:
Barbara Thompson, now second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, was in the Salt Lake Tabernacle when President Hinckley first read the proclamation. “That was a great occasion,” she remembers. “I felt the significance of the message. I also found myself thinking, ‘This is a great guide for parents. It is also a big responsibility for parents.’ I thought for a moment that it really didn’t pertain too much to me since I wasn’t married and didn’t have any children. But almost as quickly I thought, ‘But it does pertain to me. I am a member of a family. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a niece, and a granddaughter. I do have responsibilities—and blessings—because I am a member of a family. Even if I were the only living member of my family, I am still a member of God’s family, and I have a responsibility to help strengthen other families.’”
Fortunately, we are not left alone in our efforts. “The greatest help,” says Sister Thompson, “we will have in strengthening families is to know and follow the doctrines of Christ and rely on Him to help us.”2 http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/02/guardians-of-the-hearth?lang=eng
Discuss how we are all part of a family, whatever our circumstances.
4. Why are we addressing this as a ward, instead of a special class just for single parents? Why do we all need to hear this message? Have someone read quote #3:
Whatever your circumstances or the reasons for them, how wonderful you are. Day to day you face the struggles of life, doing the work that was always meant for two but doing it largely alone. You have to be father as well as mother. You run your household, watch over your family, sometimes struggle to make ends meet, and miraculously you even find the wherewithal to serve in the Church in significant ways. You nurture your children. You cry and pray with them and for them. You want the very best for them but fret every night that your best may never be good enough.
Discuss how we can be of help to these struggling families.
5. Have someone read quote # 4.
My message is for the single parents in the Church, the majority of whom are single mothers—you valiant women who, through the varying circumstances of life, find yourselves raising children and running a home on your own. Perhaps you have been widowed or divorced. You may be coping with the challenges of single parenthood as a result of having taken a wrong turn outside of marriage, but you are now living within the framework of the gospel, having turned your life around. Bless you for avoiding the type of companionship that would come at the expense of virtue and discipleship. That would be far too high a price to pay.
Point out the highlighted area. What would be the reason for this statement? Could it be to help those in this circumstance to forgive themselves? How about those who might be judging the past actions of someone who may have made some bad choices? As President Uchtdorf has told us "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you!"
6. Have someone read quote #5:
This is not exactly what you hoped or planned, prayed for or expected, when you started out years ago. Your journey through life has had bumps, detours, twists, and turns, mostly as the result of life in a fallen world that is meant to be a place of proving and testing.
Meanwhile, you are striving to raise your children in righteousness and truth, knowing that while you cannot change the past, you can shape the future. Along the way you will obtain compensatory blessings, even if they are not immediately apparent.
With God’s help, you need not fear for the future. Your children will grow up and call you blessed, and every single one of their many achievements will stand as a tribute to you.
Please never feel that you are in some kind of second-tier subcategory of Church membership, somehow less entitled to the Lord’s blessings than others. In the kingdom of God there are no second-class citizens.
Discuss the highlighted area. Do we view these circumstances as being "second-tier"?
7. Have someone read quote #6:
We hope that when you attend meetings and see seemingly complete and happy families or hear someone speak of family ideals, you will feel glad to be part of a church that does focus on families and teaches of their central role in Heavenly Father’s plan for the happiness of His children; that in the midst of world calamity and moral decay, we have the doctrine, authority, ordinances, and covenants that do hold out the best hope for the world, including for the future happiness of your children and the families they will create.
What can we do to promote the message of family in a positive light with all the pressures of the world? Discuss.
8. Have someone read quote #7 (if time):
In the general Relief Society meeting of September 2006, President Gordon B. Hinckley related an experience shared by a divorced single mother of seven children then ranging in ages from 7 to 16. She had gone across the street to deliver something to a neighbor. She said:
“As I turned around to walk back home, I could see my house lighted up. I could hear echoes of my children as I had walked out of the door a few minutes earlier. They were saying: ‘Mom, what are we going to have for dinner?’ ‘Can you take me to the library?’ ‘I have to get some poster paper tonight.’ Tired and weary, I looked at that house and saw the light on in each of the rooms. I thought of all of those children who were home waiting for me to come and meet their needs. My burdens felt heavier than I could bear.
“I remember looking through tears toward the sky, and I said, ‘Dear Father, I just can’t do it tonight. I’m too tired. I can’t face it. I can’t go home and take care of all those children alone. Could I just come to You and stay with You for just one night? …’
“I didn’t really hear the words of reply, but I heard them in my mind. The answer was: ‘No, little one, you can’t come to me now. … But I can come to you.’”2
9. Have someone read quote #8 (or maybe read it to them):
Although you often feel alone, in truth you are never totally on your own. As you move forward in patience and in faith, Providence will move with you; heaven will bestow its needful blessings.
Your perspective and view of life will change when, rather than being cast down, you look up.
Many of you have already discovered the great, transforming truth that when you live to lift the burdens of others, your own burdens become lighter. Although circumstances may not have changed, your attitude has. You are able to face your own trials with greater acceptance, a more understanding heart, and deeper gratitude for what you have, rather than pining for what you yet lack.
You have discovered that when we extend lines of hopeful credit to those whose life accounts seem empty, our own coffers of consolation are enriched and made full; our cup truly “runneth over” (Psalm 23:5).
Through righteous living, you and your children may one day enjoy the blessings of being part of a complete, eternal family.
Reread the highlighted areas. What is the remedy that Elder Baxter suggests to solve our loneliness or depression? Do we know of people who have been a good example of this? Discuss.
10. Read quote #9:
“Ask yourself, 'How did God bless me today?' If you do that long enough and with faith, you will find yourself remembering blessings. And sometimes, you will have gifts brought to your mind which you failed to notice during the day, but which you will then know were a touch of God’s hand in your life.” –Henry B. Eyring
Discuss how remembering our blessings helps us to cope with our trials.
11. Discuss how we can all benefit from today's message. Pass out handout and read quote #10:
Single parents, I testify that as you do your very best in the most difficult of human challenges, heaven will smile upon you. Truly you are not alone. Let the redemptive, loving power of Jesus Christ brighten your life now and fill you with the hope of eternal promise. Take courage. Have faith and hope. Consider the present with fortitude and look to the future with confidence. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Here is a handout:
When I taught this lesson I saved this handout as a jpg and had it printed as a picture instead of printing it out on my computer. Then I printed out enough for the Relief Society and encouraged the sisters to take extra for those who might benefit from the message. I also printed out a large version to use for my lesson.