5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions
See also Teaching Helps
Elder Patrick Kearon is in the Presidency of the Seventy, and his Conference talk is excellent! Conquering personal abuse, setbacks, and trauma is the message, so many of us need. It is also a bit harder of a lesson to organize and deliver effectively. Hopefully, the lesson suggestions below are helpful for you.
You can find his 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 quotes by Patrick Kearon and in blue (unless otherwise noted).
Possible Lesson Plan
I would do zero intro stories or, at most, a quick 2-3 sentence summary. Then quotes #1, 2, 3, 5 and use quote #4 as a take-home handout. Feel free to include my comments at the end of this article for the handout if they feel useful.
Use these stories sparingly, if at all.
These are good stories, but there’s a lot of other lesson content that is critical and outstanding. Use the intro stories if you’ll have time, or skip them if you think you won’t. I copied them here for your convenience.
I would cut them entirely or briefly summarize one of them.
Remember, even though selecting highlights and axing material is sometimes painful, it pays off. A great lesson has far less content and much more discussion.
Possible lesson start: “Elder Kearon* told several survival stories – one of them is about _______.”
We are all intrigued by survival stories. We hear tales of intrepid explorers and ordinary people alike who manage to keep themselves alive against all odds and expectations, and we can’t help but ask ourselves, “Could I have done that?”
Intro Story #1
I think immediately of British explorer Ernest Shackleton and the crew of his ship HMS Endurance, shipwrecked in Antarctic ice and then stranded on a barren island for nearly two years. Shackleton’s extraordinary leadership and indomitable resolve saved the lives of his men, despite the harshest conditions.
Intro Story #2
Then I think of the crew of Apollo 13 hurtling through space to land on the moon! But disaster struck when an oxygen tank exploded, and the mission had to be aborted. Short of oxygen, the crew and mission control ingeniously improvised and brought all three astronauts safely back to earth.
Intro Story #3
I marvel at the astonishing survival of individuals and families victimized by war, imprisoned in camps, and those who become refugees who heroically and courageously keep alive the flame of hope for fellow sufferers, who impart goodness in the face of brutality, and who somehow manage to help others endure just one more day.
Quote #1 (promises to Israel)
This quote also makes a great intro. Ask fewer questions about it and move to quote #2 or your next chosen quote.
Possible start: “Elder Kearon (keer-un) reminds us of the Savior’s promises to each of us.”
Possible prep: For better retention and understanding – make sure everyone has this list in their hands, or display the list up front.
Promises to Covenant Israel
Here are just a few of the powerful and comforting promises our family found. Imagine the Lord speaking these words to you—to you who are surviving—because they are for you:
- Fear not.
- I know your sorrows, and I have come to deliver you.
- I will not leave you.
- My name is upon you, and my angels have charge over you.
- I will do wonders among you.
- Walk with me; learn of me; I will give you rest.
- I am in your midst.
- You are mine.
To Those Who Are Surviving
With those assurances very much in mind, I want to speak directly to those who feel as though there is no way out of their own survival story because of the trauma inflicted by the cruel actions of others. If this is your survival story, we weep with you. We yearn for you to overcome the confusion, shame, and fear, and we long for you, through Jesus Christ, to conquer.
Possible questions: What stands out for you today from this quote? What feels especially meaningful today and why?
Let the discussion go on as long as it is meaningful – then move on. Leave at least 20 mins for quote #2.
Quote #2 (central message)
This quote takes priority! Spend time on it.
This is a liberating message for many suffering from trauma and confusion inflicted by others, both past and present. I guarantee probably at least half your group needs this message – whether they are givers or receivers of abuse. We have a lot of troubled family lines, so abuse happens in society all around us – more than we would like to admit.
Suggested delivery: This is a serious and personal topic – people need time to warm up to it. Separate this quote into three parts but do not discuss it between the three quotes. These quotes make for a climatic, thoughtful reading. After three separate people stand up and read their part – it will set the stage for a deeper, more open discussion.
If you have experienced any kind of abuse, violence, or oppression, you may be left with the idea that these events were somehow your fault and that you deserve to carry the shame and guilt [and inferiority] you feel. You may have had thoughts such as:
- I could have prevented this.
- God doesn’t love me anymore.
- Nobody will ever love me.
- I am damaged beyond repair.
- The Savior’s Atonement applies to others but not to me.
These erroneous thoughts and feelings may have been a barrier to seeking help from family, friends, leaders, or professionals, and so you have struggled alone. If you have sought help from those you trust, you may still be wrestling with ideas of shame and even self-loathing. The impact of these events can remain for many years. You hope that one day you’ll feel better, but somehow that day has not yet come.
Go right to the next quote and save the comments for the end.
The abuse was not, is not, and never will be your fault, no matter what the abuser or anyone else may have said to the contrary. When you have been a victim of cruelty, incest, or any other perversion, you are not the one who needs to repent; you are not responsible.
You are not less worthy or less valuable or less loved as a human being, or as a daughter or son of God, because of what someone else has done to you.
Note: Unfortunately, we sometimes let our wounding and hurt inflicted by others become our identity and how we perceive ourselves, i.e., as broken, damaged goods. Or we feel inferior or less favored because we did not come from a choice, healthy family. I have learned, over the years, that very few of us can honestly claim those premium families. Things are not always as they seem. Most of us were given tremendous obstacles to limp through adulthood with and eventually conquer. I think these more challenging situations were reserved for the stronger of us – not the other way around. Which makes this next quote even more appropriate.
God does not now see, nor has He ever seen, you as someone to be despised. Whatever has happened to you, He is not ashamed of you or disappointed in you. He loves you in a way you have yet to discover. And you will discover it as you trust in His promises and as you learn to believe Him when He says you are “precious in [His] sight.”
You are not defined by these terrible things that have been done to you. You are, in glorious truth, defined by your eternally existing identity as a son or daughter of God and by your Creator’s perfect, infinite love and invitation to whole and complete healing.
We know we shouldn’t let others’ poor behavior affect us or dictate how we view ourselves – but it happens.
I remember almost a couple of decades ago when struggling through a devastating divorce (with six children under 12) – an unsympathetic bishop said some awful things about me – based on hearsay. I was crushed, and as I poured out my sobbing heart in prayer, a voice most clear said, “Do not let him define you.” That day my wonderful, 77-year-old home teacher with Parkinson’s disease (who had also been a bishop) – came by and told me how wonderful and angelic I was, what a great mother I was, and loved me and showed me great compassion with his words. He filled the room with light just by his presence. I was in complete awe. How did he know to pop in that day and deliver that message? He knew because he was a spiritual giant and an agent of Christ on this side of the veil. I will never, never forget him.
The central point is – do not let others define you. They are troubled, they are unhappy, they are conflicted, and their judgment is clouded. Often, they do not feel good about themselves. Get your identity from pure, uncompromised sources. When we consistently reach up to Christ, over time, we shed our self-perception of damaged inferiority and discover our true selves – powerful, capable, divine, gifted, and valuable.
Possible questions: What stands out for you today from Elder Kearon’s talk? What would you say to a friend who feels broken or less valuable because of their childhood and family life or marriage? What can we do to elevate our self-identity or the identity of another with a troubled past? Does this quote speak to any part of your own life journey? What would you like to share with us today? Why is it important to seek healing?
Quote #3 (Christ)
Suggestion: Read this quote without discussion right after the discussion from quote 2. If you had a lot of discussions open up from quotes number 1 and 2 and you are out of time – this makes a great closing quote, OR quote #5 makes a great closing quote. Pick either #3 or #5 and display your favorite picture of Christ.
Please know that the Savior has descended below all things, even what has happened to you. Because of that, He knows exactly what real terror and shame feel like and how it feels to be abandoned and broken. From the depths of His atoning suffering, the Savior imparts hope you thought was lost forever, strength you believed you could never possess, and healing you couldn’t imagine was possible.
Quote #4 (abuse)
Suggested delivery: Print this out as a take-home handout rather than read and discuss it in class.
Elder Kearon’s primary emphasis is to empower the survivor – I would skip this quote if you are short on time and go to #5 if you have time left. (UNLESS the Spirit tells you otherwise.)
This message is for men, women, and children alike.
There is no place for any kind of abuse—physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal—in any home, any country, or any culture. Nothing a wife, child, or husband might do or say makes them “deserve” to be beaten. No one, in any country or culture, is ever “asking for” aggression or violence from someone else in authority or by someone who is bigger and stronger.
Those who abuse and who seek to hide their grievous sins may get away with it for a time. But the Lord, who sees all, knows the deeds and the thoughts and intents of the heart. He is a God of justice, and His divine justice will be served.
verbal abuse: “also known as emotional abuse, is a range of words or behaviors used to manipulate, intimidate, and maintain power and control over someone. These include insults, humiliation and ridicule, the silent treatment, and attempts to scare, isolate, and control.” (Source: WebMD)
** For additional notes on verbal abuse – please see the end of this post.
Possible questions: Does verbal abuse sometimes get overlooked as a form of abuse? Why? Is it important to discuss verbal abuse within our families and our circles of friends?
Quote #5 (leave at His feet)
Use this as a closing quote if you have time, or ask one simple question.
Possible Visual: Display your favorite picture of Christ.
Dear friends who have been so terribly wounded—and for that matter, anyone who has borne the injustices of life—you can have a new beginning and a fresh start. In Gethsemane and on Calvary, Jesus “took upon Himself … all of the anguish and suffering ever experienced by you and me,” and He has overcome it all! With arms outstretched, the Savior offers the gift of healing to you. With courage, patience, and faithful focus on Him, before too long you can come to fully accept this gift. You can let go of your pain and leave it at His feet.
Jesus specializes in the seemingly impossible. He came here to make the impossible possible, the irredeemable redeemable, to heal the unhealable, to right the unrightable, to promise the unpromisable. And He’s really good at it. In fact, He’s perfect at it.
Possible questions: What is Elder Kearon’s message to you personally today? (For me, you are not alone, and you have someone in your corner to talk to and reach out to. Connecting to the Savior gifts me with a brightness of hope and faith in the outcome.)
Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Elder Kearon’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.
Thank you for preparing yourself, and what an extraordinary assignment this lesson is! You will bless lives and liberate at least a few souls. Have compassion for other people’s suffering and their difficult journey. After all, the Lord is building His Mt. Everests for the eternities.
If you would like some tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.” Please put the five quotes in any order that makes sense to you.
** Additional Notes on Verbal Abuse (Quote #4)
Sometimes, we give verbal abuse a pass because it is often multi-generational, and we become conditioned and de-sensitized to it.
Is this going on in your personal life?
“Verbal abuse, also known as emotional abuse, is a range of words or behaviors used to manipulate, intimidate, and maintain power and control over someone. These include insults, humiliation and ridicule, the silent treatment, and attempts to scare, isolate, and control.” (Source: WebMD)
I would include attempts to:
- cause others to second-guess themselves
- to hold heads down
- to shame or to guilt to get what you want
- attempts to assert your superior status and worth
- reinforce their sense of uselessness or their inferiority to you.
These behaviors are harmful and affect people profoundly. Those who abuse verbally and emotionally come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Men, women, and children. It is a learned behavior.
Do you need to re-think your knee-jerk responses to frustrating situations or your impulses to afflict and control easy targets? (Shawnie Cannon – Divine Code)