Optional: listen to the podcast or read the article below. The podcast can be helpful as a first step in your lesson prep.
Podcast also available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Buzzsprout, TuneIn, Alexa, and Stitcher
5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions
See also Teaching Helps
This is an exceptional, touching, and bold talk given by a lesser-known general authority, Scott D. Whiting. He currently serves as the 1st Counselor in the North America West Area and as an Assistant Executive Director in the Temple Department. His talk addresses self-mastery on a rich, deep level.
Elder Whiting’s complete talk can be found 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 which resonate the most with you and which you feel will 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 quotes by Scott D. Whiting and in blue unless otherwise noted.
Quote #1 (what if?)
This talk’s opening is laser-guided to most of our hearts and spoken in natural, realistic language. I knew I was going to love Elder Whiting’s address as soon as he started talking. See if he resonates with you?
To even the careful student of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Savior’s admonition to be “even as I am” is daunting and seemingly unattainable. Perhaps you are like me—all too aware of your faults and failings, so you may find it mentally more comfortable to walk a path with no upward incline and little growth. “Surely, this teaching is unrealistic and hyperbole,” we rationalize as we comfortably choose the course of least resistance, thereby burning fewer calories of needed change.
Okay, I’m listening…
But what if becoming “even as [He is]” is not figurative, even in our mortal condition? What if it is, to some degree, attainable in this life and, indeed, a prerequisite to being with Him again? What if “even as I am” is exactly and precisely what is meant by the Savior? Then what? What level of effort would we be willing to give to invite His miraculous power into our lives so that we can change our very nature?
Possible discussion questions: Elder Whiting brings up a pivotal point – how seriously should we take the Savior’s guidance of “even as I am”? Have you ever heard or reasoned it’s more a commandment for the next life because you have too far to go? Which do you believe this commandment is for, this life or the next life? Why? Do you think Jesus would work with you if you were willing to try?
Quote #2 (think about it)
Elder Whiting’s insights and reasoning are powerful. What opens up in your mind about your life and circumstances as you listen to him?
In fact, all are under the directive to become like Him, just as Jesus Christ became like the Father. As we progress, we become more complete, finished, and fully developed. Such teaching is not based on any one sect’s doctrines but comes directly from the Master Himself. It is through this lens that lives should be lived, communications considered, and relationships fostered. Truly, there is no other way to heal the wounds of broken relationships or of a fractured society than for each of us to more fully emulate the Prince of Peace.
Let’s consider how to begin a thoughtful, deliberate, and intentional pursuit of becoming as He is by gaining the very attributes of Jesus Christ.
Possible discussion questions: As you contemplate some possible ways to become more like the Savior, what comes up for you? Elder Whiting names 2 areas of our life that could use more Christ-like qualities: communications and relationships. What are some Christ-like attributes we could develop or improve to communicate better and enhance our relationships?
Possible Whiteboard or poster activity: Divide into 2 columns. At the top of each column, put “negative” and “positive,” respectively (or a “-” and a “+” sign or a down arrow and then an up arrow or any words you want to use). Ask the class to name some negative behaviors and their positive counterpart. [For example, yelling and calm (or civil tones or “time out”). Impatient and patient, lazy and helpful, self-absorbed and attentive/thoughtful, disrespectful/condescending and respectful, rudeness and tenderness, loud and soft, etc.]
Cultivate the art of the soft answer. It will bless your homes, it will bless your lives.Gordon B. Hinckley.
Possible follow-up discussion: How can we get the extra help we need to improve in these areas? (Some ideas: increase spiritual willpower through prayer, music, and scripture reading. Ask Heavenly Father specifically for help in these areas. Study communication and relationship topics and consciously work on them. Measure progress with goal charts, journals, or phone apps.)
Quote #3 (Mount Fuji)
This real-life analogy helps the task of becoming like Jesus Christ seem more doable. I loved his short story:
A few years ago, my wife and I stood at the trailhead of Japan’s highest mountain, Mount Fuji. As we began our ascent we looked up to the far-distant summit and wondered if we could get there.
As we progressed, fatigue, sore muscles, and the effects of altitude set in. Mentally, it became important for us to focus on just the next step. We would say, “I may not soon make it to the top, but I can do this next step right now.” Over time the daunting task ultimately became achievable—step by step.
Perhaps this story is compelling because I can put myself in this picture – you know, that moment in time where all you can do is take the next step. And yet…each step forward counts. Eventually, we get there. Finally, the rougher, steep climbs come to an end, and we look back and say, “wow, I survived that”!
Elder Whiting goes on to name two essential starting points: honesty with ourselves (about ourselves) and repentance.
As a result, it is vital that we also ask our loving Heavenly Father what we are in need of and where we should focus our efforts. He has a perfect view of us and will lovingly show us our weakness. Perhaps you will learn that you need greater patience, humility, charity, love, hope, diligence, or obedience, to name a few.
Once you have made an honest assessment and resolved to start the hike up the mountain, you will need to repent. President Russell M. Nelson lovingly taught: “When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves.
Possible discussion starters: How is the Mount Fuji experience helpful to you? Does it relate to your life? What does President Nelson mean when he says repent = change? Elder Whiting names a list of starting points to work on; which one resonates the most with you today? (patience, humility, charity, love, hope, diligence, or obedience) What are some other areas of improvement which crossed your mind today? How would you work on it? What are a few ideas of action steps to help us improve (fill in the blank) that (so and so brought up)?
Quote #4 (rising tide)
This is a great follow-up to Quote #3, especially if a group discussion included specific attributes and possible action steps.
Now that you have resolved to change and repent and have sought guidance through praying, pondering honestly, and possibly counseling with others, you will need to select an attribute that will keenly become your focus. You will need to commit to exerting meaningful effort. These attributes won’t come cheaply and suddenly, but through His grace they will come incrementally while endeavoring.
By focusing deeply on one needed attribute, as you progress in obtaining that attribute, other attributes begin to accrue to you. Can someone who is focusing deeply on charity not increase in love and humility? Can someone who is focusing on obedience not gain greater diligence and hope? Your significant efforts to gain one attribute become the tide that raises all boats in the harbor.
I positively love the rising tide analogy. Probably because I’ve noticed the same in my own life. When I tackle one weakness or build a better habit, other things seem to get better as well.
Possible discussion questions: Have you ever noticed other areas of your life getting better when you work on improving a specific area? Why is prayer an essential part of the effort to upgrade ourselves? What tools can help us keep up a serious commitment to change? What have you tried in the past that has worked? By a show of hands, who has something in mind right now, something to make better in your life? Who would like to share?
Quote #5 (good enough)
This is a lovely quote to close with if there is time. My favorite statement is, “you are good enough,” and might I add, “you know enough.” Let those bring confidence and peace to your efforts and upward climb.
Now a brief word of caution. The commandment to be like Him is not intended to make you feel guilty, unworthy, or unloved. Our entire mortal experience is about progression, trying, failing, and succeeding. As much as my wife and I may have wished that we could close our eyes and magically transport ourselves to the summit, that is not what life is about.
You are good enough, you are loved, but that does not mean that you are yet complete. There is work to be done in this life and the next. Only with His divine help can we all progress toward becoming like Him.
This is a perfect talk for the coming year, 2021. As we seek to renew and to rise from the ashes of 2020 – it’s an invitation to spread our wings a bit and become even better. Remember, God called you to lead this lesson for a reason. Have faith in what you feel drawn to teach. Thank you for taking the time to prepare yourself! You are blessing the Kingdom of God with your outstanding efforts.