5 Highlights for “Beauty for Ashes: The Healing Path of Forgiveness” by Kristin M. Yee

by | Oct 29, 2022

painted bouquet of flowers

5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions

See also Teaching Helps

Putting this lesson plan together was harder than some of the others. I had to re-adjust the material several times before it felt right.

Sister Yee’s talk is mostly stellar. No wonder it was requested so many times on the poll for favorite General Conference talks!

Quick FYI: I’ve inserted several comments about the talk – I felt they were warranted.

You can find Sister Yee’s full talk here. Unless you opt to spend a lot of time on a particular quote, try to pick around 2 questions per quote. Choose the questions that resonate the most with you and make a meaningful discussion for your group of personalities. These highlights and questions fit right in with Lesson Template 1 or Template 2. You can also check out several other General Conference Talks with 5 Highlights.

All blue quotes by Kristin M. Yee (unless otherwise noted).

Possible Quote Sequence

  • First, don’t expect to cover them all. The primary objective is a discussion that deepens understanding and testimonies.
  • I would probably do 3, 4, 5, 1, and 2 in that order.

Quote #1 (vengeful heart)

Forgiveness is a tricky topic when the wounds are deep, and the trauma is fresh. Everyone talks about forgiveness, but not how you can make that transformation happen in your heart.

“…the Savior—in an incomprehensible way—[took] upon Him our sins and the sins of those who have hurt or offended us. In Gethsemane and on the cross, He claimed these sins. He made a way for us to let go of a vengeful heart. That “way” is through forgiving—which can be one of the most difficult things we ever do and one of the most divine things we ever experience. On the path of forgiveness, Jesus Christ’s atoning power can flow into our lives and begin to heal the deep crevasses of the heart and soul.

Quick comment: I like Sister Yee’s definition of forgiveness: “let go of a vengeful heart.” That’s a great visual. Forgiveness is not a people problem nor a sense-of-justice problem; it’s a heart problem. Once we refocus there – it facilitates forgiveness. We finally pinpoint where all the hurt/canker hangs out and recycles itself.

The heart is SO POWERFUL – working with our hearts matters. For an interesting read about the heart, see “Was Your Heart Designed to Think on Its Own?

“President Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Savior offers us the ability to forgive:

“Through His infinite Atonement, you can forgive those who have hurt you and who may never accept responsibility for their cruelty to you.

“It is usually easy to forgive one who sincerely and humbly seeks your forgiveness. But the Savior will grant you the ability to forgive anyone who has mistreated you in any way. Then their hurtful acts can no longer canker your soul.”

How do you actually completely and fully forgive? If you would like to study this topic more, please see “When Forgiveness is Hard.

Possible discussion questions: By a show of hands, have you ever found yourself in a situation that was hard to forgive? Why is it important to forgive someone even if they will never apologize? If you have managed to forgive in a difficult situation – how did you do it? What does it feel like to forgive? (excellent, airy, light – like setting down a huge burden). How often do we need to forgive someone consciously? (Pretty much every day – just like we need forgiveness every day.)

Quote #2 (warring heart)

Sister Yee shares a personal experience with forgiveness.

I have personally witnessed the miracle of Christ healing my warring heart. With permission of my father, I share that I grew up in a home where I didn’t always feel safe because of emotional and verbal mistreatment. In my youth and young adult years, I resented my father and had anger in my heart from that hurt.

Over the years and in my efforts to find peace and healing on the path of forgiveness, I came to realize in a profound way that the same Son of God who atoned for my sins is the same Redeemer who will also save those who have deeply hurt me. I could not truly believe the first truth without believing the second.

These following verses might help with this quote. I especially love the instructions to “let it go” in verse 11:

10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
11 And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.
(D&C 64:10-11)

Forgiveness does not mean you’re excusing their actions or even letting them off the hook. All mean-spiritedness, cruelty, and hurting others have a hook. Instead, you’re sending them down the road for the Lord to remedy. Which enables your soul to escape and clear out space for your peace. Furthermore, you hope and trust that God will work it out with them fairly and with mercy in the same way you hope He will work things out with you.

Possible discussion questions: Can you relate to Sister Yee’s experience in your own life, either in a big way or a much smaller way? Does forgiveness change the other person’s responsibility to repent? (No) What stands out from these quotes – what has special meaning for you today?

Quote #3 (kindness for cruelty)

This is a profound, extraordinary piece of piercing light we all need to be reminded of. Whether the issue is great or small, whether it is within our homes, our marriages, our parenting, or those on the outside – we can choose to be masterful when others are weak. It’s one of the greatest triumphs of life.

On the path of forgiveness and healing lies a choice not to perpetuate unhealthy patterns or relationships in our families or elsewhere. To all within our influence, we can offer kindness for cruelty, love for hate, gentleness for abrasiveness, safety for distress, and peace for contention.

To give what you have been denied is a powerful part of divine healing possible through faith in Jesus Christ. To live in such a way that you give, as Isaiah has said, beauty for the ashes of your life is an act of faith that follows the supreme example of a Savior who suffered all that He might succor all.

This is a marvelous quote, however, I feel strongly about adding a candid, person-to-person comment here.

Author’s Note

Sister Yee is especially right in a majority of situations. We can do better in the way we respond to people, and in doing so, we will find healing. To give kindness, love, gentleness, safety, and peace to as many others as possible, as many times as possible, is a direct path to a happier existence.

Nonetheless, it is not 100% applicable to every situation. I hear this same recited “love everyone like Christ” Sunday School answer often. Typically, by those who have never endured severe, abusive, or life-threatening situations. As an abuse survivor, I know kumbayah, blanket statements like this can be spiritually and physically harmful when misapplied.

Sister Yee was right when she said, “Please know that forgiving someone does not mean putting yourself in a position where you will continue to be hurt. “We can work toward forgiving someone and still feel prompted by the Spirit to stay away from them.”

Abuse always calls for us to stand firm and stand for what is right. Seek help even if getting help feels scary. The solution often means finding the exit door. Defending ourselves and our loved ones from extensive harm, when called upon, is always the better path.

With those who inflict true emotional or physical harm, we can emulate the Savior who would either remain silent or refuse to engage when it was directed at Him – or He removed Himself from the situation. He spoke out sternly against mistreating and taking advantage of the poor, the child, and the widow. To love like Christ is to choose the appropriate response, which is charity 99% of the time, and firmer responses 1% of the time.

For most situations that are not as threatening, Sister Yee’s counsel is perfect. We can choose self-mastery and be civil and kind when we cross paths with problematic personalities. We do not have to engage on their level. If you deal with an especially antagonistic human, you might want to cultivate the art of “Not Picking It Up.” It’s a valuable people skill I’m sometimes lucky enough to remember when it is needed.

Please see “4 Peace-making Responses for Difficult Situations” – scroll to the end of the article.

Possible discussion questions: Have you ever handled a difficult situation with an unkind person and felt you succeeded in being charitable? What did you do that helped? Remember the last time someone was cruel, hateful, abrasive, distressing, or contentious – do we have choices in those situations? Why is it easier to respond with the same tone rather than with peace and kindness? How can we have better responses? How do gifts of kindness heal us (both to give and receive)?

Quote #4 (ashes)

Joseph of Egypt is one of my all-time favorite Bible stories. Joseph’s story is remarkable. Since Sister Kristin M. Yee hits on the highlights beautifully, I would read this quote instead of summarizing it.

Joseph of Egypt lived a life with ashes. He was hated by his brethren, betrayed, sold into slavery, wrongly imprisoned, and forgotten by someone who had promised to help. Yet he trusted in the Lord. “The Lord was with Joseph” and consecrated his trials to his own blessing and growth—and to the saving of his family and all Egypt.

When Joseph met his brothers as a great leader in Egypt, his forgiveness and refined perspective were manifest in the gracious words he spoke:

“Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. …

“So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.”

Through the Savior, Joseph’s life became “beauty for ashes.”

Kevin J Worthen, president of BYU, has said that God “can make good come … not just from our successes but also from our failures and the failures of others that cause us pain. God is that good and that powerful.”

women sitting by the sea at dusk

Possible Questions: What stands out for you from Joseph’s story? What happens when we turn our life and our trust over to God? (Increased confidence and peace – even in hard times.) Have you ever looked back and realized a tragedy or a big disappointment became a strength or a blessing? Does anyone mind sharing today? Do you believe President Worthen when he says God is that good and powerful? Why do you think that?

Quote #5 (personal Messiah)

Possible engagement tool: Say something like, “In just a few sentences, Sister Yee shares an impressive list of descriptions about Jesus Christ.” As you listen, see which attribute is significant for you today:

In Jeremiah [29:11] we read, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace.”

Jesus Christ is your personal Messiah, your loving Redeemer and Savior, who knows the pleadings of your heart. He desires your healing and happiness. He loves you. He weeps with you in your sorrows and rejoices to make you whole. May we take heart and take His loving hand that is ever extended as we walk the healing path of forgiveness…

Sister Yee’s quote reminds me of a statement by the apostle James E. Faust.

Jesus Christ
How do we establish a connection to the Savior that is real and felt?

Possible activity idea: “Let’s write a few of Sister Yee’s descriptions of Christ on the board.” (Accept all reasonable answers – they do not have to use exact words or get them all.)

  • your personal Messiah
  • your loving Redeemer
  • knows the pleadings of your heart
  • desires your healing and happiness
  • loves you
  • weeps with you
  • rejoices to make you whole
  • loving hand ever extended

Possible discussion questions: Which was your favorite attribute and why? What does the phrase “your personal Messiah” mean to you? (it implies He belongs personally to you or is very close by.) Sister Yee describes forgiveness as a “healing path.” How would you explain this definition to a friend? In what ways can you “take Christ’s hand”?

Summary

Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Sister Yee’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.

Final Comment

This is a challenging topic, but a heart-lifing one. We need our hearts lifted! You will be blessed and loved for preparing and getting ready to lead this discussion. May you find peace in your life and change an outcome or a habit from this day forward.

Put the quotes in any order that makes sense to you. If you would like tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.

Side Note and Corrections

Abigail Story

This is a frank comment – I found the Abigail story woefully short of the mark. First of all, Abigail was in survivor/beggar mode, and the comparison of her to the Savior’s graciousness didn’t connect the dots for me. So I’ve skipped it in the lesson plan.

Doctrinal Clarification:

This section is not for the Sunday lesson – it will not make a good discussion. This is for your use if it helps.

It is not uncommon for church members (even prominent ones) to confuse the different roles of the Godhead. For sure, I’ve done it most of my adult member life.

So, Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ? Understanding to whom the scriptures refer for any specific verse is essential to spiritual growth and greater enlightenment. It takes a bit of practice to know who “God” or “Lord” refers to, but it is worth the effort.

Earlier in the talk, Sister Yee expounds on scripture from Jeremiah 29:11 and switches out Jehovah (Jesus) for Heavenly Father. I didn’t include that bit in the lesson plan.

To quickly clarify, 95% of the time (or better), “Lord” refers to Jesus Christ; Jehovah refers to Jesus Christ. God frequently refers to Heavenly Father unless it’s in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, 98% of any references to Deity are about Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ.

  • Old Testament – 98% of the time or better, God or Lord or Jehovah refers to Jesus Christ
  • New Testament – God usually means Heavenly Father and Lord almost always means Jesus Christ. When God refers to Jesus Christ, it is usually spelled out for you in the verses before or after.
  • Doctrine and Covenants – Most references to Deity are about Jesus Christ (95% or better), but usually super easy to tell by reading the chapter heading or a few verses before/after.
  • Book of Mormon – God usually refers to Heavenly Father and Lord almost always refers to Jesus Christ. When God refers to Jesus Christ, it is usually spelled out like the New Testament.
  • Pearl of Great Price – This one is trickier – because they are used more interchangeably than the other Standard Works – so use the local verses around God/Lord to be your guide. However, it is Jesus Christ more often than the Father.

Outside of the Old Testament, “God” can also mean the Godhead (about 5% of the time). For example:

And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God [Godhead], in a state of happiness which hath no end. (Mormon 7:7)

Lord can mean Heavenly Father, but those occurrences are rare.

Best way to know? You can almost always tell by reading a few verses before or after the verse in question OR by reading the chapter heading.

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