5 Highlights for “Worthiness Is Not Flawlessness” by Brad Wilcox

by | Oct 23, 2021

brad wilcox speaking at podium

5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions

See also Teaching Helps

Time to dust off the cobwebs and shake out the rugs of our soul! Brad Wilcox (Bradley R. Wilcox) is one of the most remarkable youth motivational speakers of our time. His timeless message is ‘pick yourself back up and believe in the gospel’s process designed for you by Jesus Christ.’ This conference talk was a reminder I needed and makes a great class discussion.

You may find his complete 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 Bradley R. Wilcox and in blue (unless otherwise noted).

Quote #1 (refill the tank)

This is a short introductory quote. I would spend less time on this quote and more on others, but be sure to emphasize the basics -> repentance is a continual process, and the sacrament is an essential part of that process.

Some mistakenly receive the message that repentance is a one-time event. God’s message is that, as President Russell M. Nelson has taught, “Repentance … is a process.” Repentance may take time and repeated effort, so forsaking sin and having “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” are lifetime pursuits.

Life is like a cross-country road trip. We can’t reach our destination on one tank of gas. We must refill the tank over and over. Taking the sacrament is like pulling into the gas station. As we repent and renew our covenants, we pledge our willingness to keep the commandments, and God and Christ bless us with the Holy Spirit. In short, we promise to press forward on our journey, and God and Christ promise to refill the tank.

Possible discussion questions: What do you feel are the main points of this quote? What stands out for you? How do you feel about the sacrament ordinance? Is it essential to take the sacrament every week? What kinds of prayers and thoughts might we have during the sacrament (specifically for this lesson – personal inventory is critical – planning how to tackle bad habits or start good ones is a worthy prayer during the sacrament)

Quote #2 (not flawlessness)

The central message is we are a work-in-progress, and as long as we are honestly trying, we are moving in the right direction. I’m so grateful for this reminder as I work through my bad habits and flaws (a lifetime pursuit).

Some mistakenly receive the message that they are not worthy to participate fully in the gospel because they are not completely free of bad habits. God’s message is that worthiness is not flawlessness. Worthiness is being honest and trying. We must be honest with God, priesthood leaders, and others who love us, and we must strive to keep God’s commandments and never give up just because we slip up. Elder Bruce C. Hafen said that developing a Christlike character “requires patience and persistence more than it requires flawlessness.” The Lord has said the gifts of the Spirit are “given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do.”

Perfectionism, a definition from Psychology Today: “…they are most focused on avoiding failure, resulting in a negative orientation. They don’t believe in unconditional love, expecting others’ affection and approval to be dependent on a flawless performance.”

Possible discussion questions: Do we sometimes struggle with the idea of perfectionism among our attempts at gospel living or within our family life? What does Elder Wilcox mean when he says, “God’s message is that worthiness is not flawlessness”? How can we be patient and persistent with ourselves and others? What gifts of the Spirit help us in our progress? (peace, confidence, well-being, strength, cleansing, inspiration, personal revelation)

Quote #3 (a tasteful, beneficial pornography story)

Do not shy away from tackling the topic of pornography. It is a big problem for a good number of people in your class, either directly or indirectly. How fortunate that this story and quotes are super helpful and tastefully approach a sensitive topic instead of being preachy.

Be sure to invite someone else to read this story (even better if they have time to study it). Invite your class to engage with the story and to listen for what worked out well in this tough situation and why?

One young man I’ll call Damon wrote: “Growing up, I struggled with pornography. I always felt so ashamed that I could not get things right.” Each time Damon slipped, the pain of regret became so intense, he harshly judged himself to be unworthy of any kind of grace, forgiveness, or additional chances from God. He said: “I decided I just deserved to feel terrible all the time. I figured God probably hated me because I wasn’t willing to work harder and get on top of this once and for all. I would go a week and sometimes even a month, but then I would relapse and think, ‘I’ll never be good enough, so what’s the use of even trying?’”

At one such low moment, Damon said to his priesthood leader: “Maybe I should just stop coming to church. I’m sick of being a hypocrite.”

His leader responded: “You’re not a hypocrite because you have a bad habit you are trying to break. You are a hypocrite if you hide it, lie about it, or try to convince yourself the Church has the problem for maintaining such high standards. Being honest about your actions and taking steps to move forward is not being a hypocrite. It is being a disciple.” This leader quoted Elder Richard G. Scott, who taught: “The Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. … When the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy.”

That perspective gave Damon hope. He realized God was not up there saying, “Damon blew it again.” Instead, He was probably saying, “Look how far Damon has come.” This young man finally stopped looking down in shame or looking sideways for excuses and rationalizations. He looked up for divine help, and he found it.

Damon said: “The only time I had turned to God in the past was to ask for forgiveness, but now I also asked for grace—His ‘enabling power. I had never done that before. These days I spend a lot less time hating myself for what I have done and a lot more time loving Jesus for what He has done.”

Considering how long Damon had struggled, it was unhelpful and unrealistic for parents and leaders assisting him to say “never again” too quickly or to arbitrarily set some standard of abstinence to be considered “worthy.” Instead, they started with small, reachable goals. They got rid of the all-or-nothing expectations and focused on incremental growth, which allowed Damon to build on a series of successes instead of failures. He, like the enslaved people of Limhi, learned he could “prosper by degrees.”

Elder Christofferson sums it up beautifully:

“To deal with something [very] big, we may need to work at it in small, daily bites. … Incorporating new and wholesome habits into our character or overcoming bad habits or addictions [most] often means an effort today followed by another tomorrow and then another, perhaps for many days, even months and years. … But we can do it because we can appeal to God … for the help we need each day.”

Possible discussion questions: What gems of wisdom did you pick up from this story? (great blackboard list – have someone else participate by writing the responses on the board while you lead the discussion) How can these same principles be applied to other challenges? What does this quote mean to you? — “The Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. … When the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy. (Richard G. Scott)”

Quote #4 (pandemic challenges)

Open this quote with a question that will help your group be more engaged with the discussion: By a show of hands, who has been affected by the pandemic?

Brad Wilcox took the time to mention one particular challenge that a lot of us may have experienced:

Now, brothers and sisters, the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy for anyone, but the isolation associated with quarantine restrictions has made life especially difficult for those struggling with bad habits. Remember change is possible, repentance is a process, and worthiness is not flawlessness. Most important, remember that God and Christ are willing to help us right here and now.

Possible questions: What kinds of challenges have you noticed? (me…my bathroom scale ran away) Who has felt more isolated and/or pessimistic? What are some bright spots you have found amid the challenges? (One of my sons reactivated because of home church). Who feels they need to re-align their habits or mindset? Does anyone mind sharing an example? (Be ready with one of your own if no one volunteers – your self-disclosure will often liberate others to speak up) Can Christ help with us those challenges?

Quote #5 (with Them)

This is a great message for youth and anyone else. Sometimes the concept of a loving Heavenly Father and an earnest Savior are hard to perceive when our earthly relationships are disappointing or abusive. Ours is a special journey and facilitates deep, powerful understandings of life. It is worth fighting for that testimony of a personable, loving God.

So many have been hurt by broken and strained relationships that it is difficult for them to believe in God’s compassion and long-suffering. They struggle to see God as He is—a loving Father who meets us in our need and knows how to “give good things to them that ask him.” His grace is not just a prize for the worthy. It is the “divine assistance” He gives that helps us become worthy. It is not just a reward for the righteous. It is the “endowment of strength” He gives that helps us become righteous. We are not just walking toward God and Christ. We are walking with Them.

Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about the repentance process.

Final Comment

This lesson sets the stage for some much-needed discussion. Have faith in what you feel drawn to teach and emphasize – you were asked to give this lesson for a reason. Arrange the quotes in any order that makes sense to you—God speed.

Note: If you would like some tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.

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1 Comment

  1. Maxwell

    My friend, Riley Jeffs, and I had to opportunity to interview Brad Wilcox earlier this year on our podcast—The Repentance Podcast—and were thrilled to see him use our interview as the basis of his conference talk. There were a lot of additional insights that he shared in our interview that didn’t make it into his conference talk so, if you enjoyed his talk, we think you’ll enjoy our podcast episode with him: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5soZZ0yb2Laqb26m3QzR3b?si=BCU1D5CbQzuUKPcw7NJ7jw

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