Monday, October 27, 2014

Young Women in Excellence: You are a Star

Young Women in Excellence. Oooh boy. 

As Personal Progress leader, I was told this was my big night. Having no idea what was required and having little memory of Young Women in Excellence's from my time in Young Women, I turned to Pintrest where I came across the idea of doing an oscar night theme. Obviously, this was appealing to me. I ran it by the other Young Women leaders and they loved it. Our theme was: You are a Star; A Light in the Darkness. 

The idea was that our Young Women are Stars. We sent them a Hollywood-esque invitation and I even typed out a letter to each of our "nominees" (The girls getting Personal Progress ribbons) in the style of the Academy Awards. I sent a similar letter to the girls who were not getting ribbons, asking them to be our presenters. The Laurel Class president was our Host, and a Young Women who had already completed her Personal Progress was our main presenter. 

Set up: 

We had a red carpet lined with lights running down the middle aisle.

One of the Young Women leaders is a professional photographer and took a glamour shot of each Young Women a few Sundays prior. She and another leader then painted frames gold and set up this beautiful display: 

 On the chalkboards we hung formal dresses. The girls were asked to come in formals and they looked amazing!

 We made a "walk of Fame' star for each Young Woman

We had balloons with long gold ribbons and stars dangling from the ceiling.

I wanted to feature the beehives in some way, since most of them were too new to be getting ribbons. I asked them to do a poster to display at the event. if they did it, it counted toward a Personal Progress experience. 

The program was very simple: song (Lead, Kindly Light) , prayer, I gave a talk (2 minutes and twelve seconds long!) the Young Women president gave a short talk, and then was watched the most AMAZING video made by our camp leader. She used pictures and videos of the girls over the last year to make this incredible video which we projected on the giant screen, and wired into the building's audio so we had surround sound. 

After the video was the awards:

Each "category" was whatever combination of ribbons the Young Woman happened to be getting. For example, we had a a category for Divine Nature and Integrity, and another one for Faith, Good Works and Virtue. That way each girl only came up once. It also made it more dramatic. 

Our main presenter had a script which I made out of the mottos for each of the values. For example she would say: "The Divine Nature and Integrity Award exemplifies a daughter of Heavenly Father who is striving to develop her divine qualities by having the moral courage to make her actions consistent with her knowledge of right and wrong." and the other presenter would then say "And the award goes to..." open the envelope and read the name.  The girl would come up the red carpet, accept her ribbons, then give a two minute "acceptance speech" where she talked breifly about her value projects and bore her testimony. 

And the award goes to...
Her acceptance speech:

We then had a slideshow of the girl getting her Young WoamnHood Recognition Award, then the Bishop gave a talk and presented the medallion to her. She then gave a wonderful testimony, we had a closing song (Teach Me to Walk in the Light) and prayer and done! Total time: 45 minutes! Hooray! 

For refreshments, we had a cake:

This was our handout for each of the Young Women to take home. The bag is filled with StarBursts, of course. 

The best part was the beginning: I had announced our "Red Carpet Event" would be at 6:30, with the actual event starting at 7:00. I did this in hopes that everyone would arrive a few minutes before 7:00, instead of several minutes after. 

Well, it worked! Most of the girls had arrived by 6:45! Once a girl arrived, she was ushered onto the red carpet where her parents and our professional photographer snapped several photos while she posed and smiled in her formal dress. 

After the pictures, I would rush in and ask if I could ask her some questions. I had someone video tape all the "interviews" and basically I acted like those reporters on the Red Carpet. I had prepared a few questions for each girl; questions about their value projects, their most recent personal progress experience and the role they would be playing that night, and finished each interview with "Tell us about what you are wearing." 

I was surprised how much the girls got into this. Each girl treated the interview very seriously, acting as if they really were a star on the red carpet. It was awesome. I'm not sure what I'll do with all the footage, but I have it! 

Here is my talk, which is mostly straight out of the Personal Progress book. 

We are here to celebrate the young women’s participation in Personal Progress over the last year. The requirements for personal progress are: 
Attend sacrament meeting regularly 
 Live the standards in For the Strength of Youth. 
Attend seminary if of seminary age. 
 Read the Book of Mormon regularly. 
Keep a personal journal. 
Have a testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. 
And complete the value experiences and value project for each of the eight values. 

So why do all this? Participating in Personal Progress teaches you to make commitments, carry them out, and report your progress to a parent or leader. The patterns you establish as you work on Personal Progress—such as prayer, scripture study, service, and journal keeping—will become personal daily habits. These habits will strengthen your testimony and help you learn and improve throughout your life. It will teach you how to receive personal revelation, which you need to reach your potential in life. It may not seem like a life changing decision to do Faith experience #1, but every time you make that choice to say your personal prayer, you are shining a little brighter. Each scripture verse you read imparts upon you the spirit and light of Christ. Every act of service you perform, no matter how small, is you acting as Christ would act. These little things all add up to who you are, and you are a star. You are a beloved daughter of Heavenly Father, prepared to come to the earth at this particular time for a sacred and glorious purpose. You have a noble responsibility to use your strength and influence for good. 

 In John 8:12 our Savior says: I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. 

 The Personal Progress program is designed around Jesus Christ. Working on our Personal Progress means walking in the light. The longer we walk in the light, the more that light becomes a part of us, until we are the ones shining, the ones radiating the light of Christ wherever we go. We will reach our divine potential and shine with the light of life. We will be stars.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

No. No! That's Not True! That's Impossible!

October means it's time for our annual How To Host A Murder Dinner Party! This year we picked Roman Ruins. All the episodes are fun, but this one was great. We had wonderful friends, good food, we even solved the murder!

Most of the male costumes required Togas. Because a huge part of a Roman slave's job was to dress the men in Togas because it is so very complicated, and none of us own any Roman slaves, the toga costumes were mostly a draped sheet over a T-shirt. They looked just fine.

During one of the later rounds, it came out that a certain character's father was not actually his father. A few accusations were thrown around, and then it was realized that the real father was played by another character. That character turned to his son and with an outstretched hand announced: "I am your father!  Join me, and together, we can rule the empire as father and son!" At which point he threw off his toga to reveal his Darth Vader T-shirt.

It was just too perfect. He had no idea the script would play out that way, it's just he is a huge Star Wars fan and most of his T-shirts happen to be Star Wars. The one he picked to go under his toga was his Darth Vader one, because the color matched his toga. It was not planned, but it was oh, so perfect.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In the Kingdom of God the Real You is More Precious Than Rubies. - Elder Holland

I was in charge of the Young Women (Church group of ages 12-18 girls) activity this week. I've never been in charge of a church youth activity before. It was scary. I knew I wanted to do something about body image, but I didn't know what. I spent about three months preparing for this activity. 

First, this is why I did what I did: Our society is sick. Our society does not view a woman as a person, and that is so ingrained in us that even women don't see each other as people. We don't even see ourselves as a person.  An example: boys are taught to use their bodies. Girls are taught to "improve" their bodies. That was what I wanted to change.

In our culture women are trained to believe that it's socially inappropriate to love their own bodies. We're taught, instead, to bond with each other over our hatred of our bodies. It reads like a script: A friend starts complaining about "feeling fat," we tell her she isn't fat, and then find some part of our own body to complain about.

Similarly, when we're complimented on our looks, we're taught to "be modest" and say "Oh, this old thing?!" or "Oh, no, I really wish I had your..."

This means, as women, we spend a lot of time with other women picking apart our bodies, piece by piece. We may compliment each other, but we don't compliment ourselves. When was the last time you said something positive about your body out loud? When was the last time you thought something positive about your body?

What a problem! Turning to the church, I found answers ! I found three talks, one by Elder Holland, one by Sister Tanner, and the new talk given at Women's conference by Sister Marriot. With that, and inspiration from this blog, I did this:

First, I emailed the mother's of the Young Women, told them we would be having an activity about the body, said gave them this quote: "A mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem." Naomi Wolf

I then asked them this:  With that in mind, I'm asking you to do one thing  1) Within hearing of your daughters, say something like "I love my body" or "my body is amazing" or something to that effect.

The girls arrived at a leader's house and sat in a circle in the backyard around an unlit fire-pit. Each girl was given a clipboard that had a blank piece of paper, and an envelope. They were instructed to write their name on the envelop:

They were then told to pass their clipboard to the girl on their right. Now, each girl held someone else's paper. On that paper, they were told to write something they liked about that person's body. (Shrieks, giggles, questions about clarification. This is a CHURCH activity after all). After one minute, they passed the clipboard to their right, and did it again. After four or five passes, they were told that when they finished writing, they were to take the piece of paper, fold it up, put it in the envelope and seal it. Once they turned over the envelope they saw this:
When all the envelopes were sealed, they handed the envelope back to the person whose name was on it. At this point, a leader lit a match and stuck it in the fire-pit, which was ready to burst into a bonfire. 

While she was doing that, I said this: 
 In your hands you hold what others think of your body; Other’s opinion on what is solely yours. Burn them. Throw them into the fire. (and they did!) 

It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all what anyone else thinks about your body. Your body is God’s sacred creation. He made it as a gift for you, not for anyone else. When it comes to your body, there are only two opinions that matter at all: Yours, and God’s. All other opinions should be burned. Burned out of your speech and burned out of your thoughts. 

I then gave a short talk. I pulled heavily from Sister Tanner's talk from above. 
In the premortal realm we learned that the body was part of God’s great plan of happiness for us. We “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) to be part of this plan. You, (insert names of a few of the girls) shouted for joy when you learned you would receive that body. 

 Why were we so excited? We understood eternal truths about our bodies. We knew that our bodies would be in the image of God. We knew that our bodies would house our spirits. Joseph Smith taught: “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body.” 

Satan learned these same eternal truths about the body. His punishment is that he does not have one. Therefore he tries to do everything he can to get us to abuse or misuse our precious gift. He has filled the world with lies and deceptions about the body. He seduces women to despise their bodies. He entices the world to regard the body merely as an object. 

The attention we give to our outward appearance can become an obsession for some. Sometimes there is a selfish excess of exercising, dieting, makeovers, and spending money on the latest fashions (see Alma 1:27). Susan Tanner says: I am troubled by the practice of extreme makeovers. Happiness comes from accepting the bodies we have been given as divine gifts and enhancing our natural attributes, not from remaking our bodies after the image of the world. The Lord wants us to be made over—but in His image, not in the image of the world, by receiving His image in our countenances (see Alma 5:14, 19). 

(1 Cor. 3:16–17). “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? What would happen if we truly treated our bodies as temples? I want you all to think about how the world would be different if we all treated our bodies as the Temples they truly are. Would we make fun of another’s body? Would we starve our bodies? Would we look in the mirror and pick out things we don’t like about our bodies? I don’t think so. I think the result would be a dramatic increase in kindness, both to ourselves and others. There would be a great increase in observing and understanding of the Word of Wisdom, and a similar decrease in the problems of dieting and abuse. \

Now, I want you to take another piece of paper, and once again write your name at the top. I want you to think back to when you shouted for joy in the premortal life. I want you to think about God making a body just for you, a wonderful and unique gift made special just for you. On your piece of paper, I want you to write down five things you like about your own body. 

The paper I handed them had a quote from For The Strength Of The Youth on the bottom:"Your body is God’s sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way." 

I was really worried the girls would struggle with this part. I had decided beforehand to be firm, and insist they could write five things.  

I had done this activity with the Young Women leaders a few weeks earlier. They gave a lot of feedback. We decided that after the girls were done writing, every leader would stand up and say one thing they loved about their bodiy and why. This part was amazing! We have some incredible leaders and they really did a good job of showing that it's ok to say good things about your own body! After they were done, I said one thing I loved about my body and why, and then announced that each girl would, in turn, stand up and read her list. She needed to say five things she loves about her body and why. 

I was expecting more opposition, but because the leaders had done such a great job showing how to do it, there was very little protest. A lot of the girls had kept writing while the leaders were talking, being reminded of other things they liked about their body, or realizing that they had permission to lie a certain feature, or to write down a certain feature. There were only two girls that struggled, which blew me away. I thought most of them would struggle (probably because I struggled with this so much). 

When they were done, I gave them a handout that had this quote: 
Placed around the world, temples have their own unique look and design on the outside, but inside they all contain the same eternal light, purpose, and truth. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 we read, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” We too as daughters of God have been placed all around the world, like temples, and we each have our own unique look and outward design, like temples. We also have a spiritual light within us, like temples. This spiritual light is a reflection of the Savior’s light. Others will be attracted to this brightness. - Neil F Marriot 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Meet The Mormons

I suggest a trip to the movies this weekend:

Net Proceeds from the movie are donated to the Red Cross.

Here is more information about the movie,

Let's all go see it!