Lesson 50: Valuing and Encouraging People with Disabilities

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, (1993), 196–99


Objective

Each young man will accept his responsibility to help people with disabilities feel accepted, learn the gospel, participate successfully, and serve others.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Scriptures for each young man.

    2. b.

      A pencil for each young man.

  2. 2.

    Prepare a copy of the word Disabilities in large block letters for each young man.

  3. 3.

    If the Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2 (53277) is available in your area, you may want to show segment 13, “Appreciating the Handicapped.”

Suggested Lesson Development

Understanding Disabilities

Activity and discussion

Pass out the copies of the word Disabilities.

Challenge the young men to trace the letters of Disabilities with the hand they do not normally use, accurately but as fast as they can. They should find the process slow and difficult. Give them a time limit. Prod them to hurry. Compliment those who work well. Put pressure on those who are behind. Call time.

  • How do you feel when you are working under pressure on an assignment that is beyond your capabilities?

This is how a person with a learning disability often feels in classrooms at church and school.

All around us are people with disabilities—some physical, some mental, some emotional. Some disabilities require the use of braces, wheelchairs, or hearing aids. Such items are visible signs of the disability. Many other signs of disability aren’t so obvious. Our actions and attitudes make a difference to people with disabilities. We usually can’t solve their problems, yet how we treat them can help or hurt them.

Showing Christlike Compassion

Scripture and discussion

Have a young man read 3 Nephi 17:7–10.

  • What was Jesus’ attitude toward people with disabilities?

  • How can we develop this same attitude?

Activity

Show segment 13, “Appreciating the Handicapped,” on Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2 (53277).

Teacher presentation

We should have compassion for people with disabilities. Most of us will have an illness or an accident or a long-term disability sometime in our life. We will probably feel like Ken, a biology student who lost his sight. He said: “I can do most things that others can, but I need different tools and different approaches. Help me find the tools and the methods. Don’t do things for me, but help me use my abilities.”

Scripture and discussion

Have a young man read John 13:34–35.

  • What must we do if we are truly Christ’s disciples? (Love one another.)

  • How can we show this love in our associations with people who have disabilities? (We can learn to understand and accept people who are different from ourselves and to look for their abilities.)

  • What can we do to show people with disabilities that we accept them and care about them? (Look them in the eye, smile, and communicate with them as we would any other person.)

Examples

A girl who walks with supporting braces observed, “When I walk down the halls, people pass me without making eye contact. It is as if they are saying, ‘I can’t fix what’s wrong with you, so I will pretend you and your problem are not there.’”

  • What could we do instead of avoiding such people?

A boy who is intellectually impaired said, “Everyone talks over my head, finding out from my parents or my friends how I feel and what I like. Why don’t they speak to me, when I’m standing right there, instead of asking, ‘Does Jerry want this?’”

  • How could we treat such a person differently?

A young man who is deaf said, “People greet me then rush on. I’d feel really good if someone would start a conversation. If a person faces toward me directly and speaks clearly and doesn’t cover his mouth, I can read lips really well. And I can give a response you can understand. Talking with each other, that’s how friendship begins.”

  • How could we communicate better with such a person?

Use language that is personal and positive because it focuses on the person as an individual, not on the disability or what he can’t do.

Chalkboard and discussion

Explain that some people use negative, harmful terms when they talk about disabilities. Write the following words on the chalkboard, and discuss how each phrase avoids embarrassing or hurting the person who is disabled.

  • Person who uses a wheelchair

  • Person who uses crutches, a brace, or a walker

  • Person with mental illness or with an emotional disability

  • Person with an intellectual impairment

  • Person who is deaf or hearing impaired

  • Person who has a language disorder

In addition we should not use phrases that imply that people who do not have disabilities are “normal”; we should simply call them people who are not disabled.

When we are sensitive to the feelings of disabled persons, we begin to see them as children of our Heavenly Father who have the same needs that we do.

Serving People with Disabilities

Story and discussion

When we serve people with disabilities, we show our love for the Savior and our desire to be like him. Elder J. Richard Clarke told of some Aaronic Priesthood holders who followed the Savior’s example and learned to love and serve a young man with disabilities:

“John … Anderson was a remarkable young man who courageously battled muscular dystrophy. … He [had to use] a wheelchair during his Aaronic Priesthood years. …

“John’s influence upon his [priests] quorum was profound, and yet he never played a football game, nor went camping with them, nor danced, nor did any of the usual teen activities. It was his faith and commitment to the Church that touched his quorum members. And something else—John provided his quorum with an opportunity to serve with love.

“When John was a deacon, he wanted to pass the sacrament. One boy was assigned to push his wheelchair while John held the tray in his lap. It seemed awkward at first, but soon others were anxious to help him perform his priesthood duty.

“By the time John was ordained a priest, he was very weak and could not kneel to bless the sacrament. His quorum found a solution. They placed his wheelchair next to the sacrament table. One would break the bread, then kneel for him, by the wheelchair, and hold a microphone while John pronounced those sacred words. To do this for their brother soon became an honor for each one in the quorum.

“They enthusiastically followed his leadership as first assistant in the priests quorum. Because John was unable to realize his dream of becoming an Eagle Scout, the priests raised money to buy a special achievement plaque which was given to him in sacrament meeting. It read: ‘Presented to John Anderson for outstanding service to your quorum and for being a great example to us all.’

“Over the years, the young men in John’s quorum enjoyed many fun activities, but none had greater impact or taught them more about magnifying their priesthood callings and loving each other than this choice experience they shared with their friend John” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, pp. 56–57; or Ensign, May 1991, p. 42).

  • How did this young man’s quorum members serve him?

  • What can we do as Aaronic Priesthood holders to serve people who have disabilities?

Write the young men’s responses on the chalkboard. Emphasize the following points:

  1. 1.

    Be their friends. Welcome people with disabilities as equals, sit by them, listen to them, and treat them with respect.

  2. 2.

    Be a good example in priesthood meeting to help young men with behavior problems learn how to participate properly in priesthood meeting.

  3. 3.

    Ignore inappropriate behavior. Pay attention to the lesson and priesthood adviser rather than to the disturbance.

  4. 4.

    Compliment them when they contribute in a positive way.

The adviser should teach the young men how to serve each member with disabilities. To do this, the young men must plan effectively and be willing to share.

Helping People with Disabilities Serve Others

Much of living the gospel of Jesus Christ is learning to serve one another. We should help members with disabilities serve others to the full extent of their abilities.

Story

Read the following story about Elder Jo Folkett, who served diligently despite physical disabilities:

“[When Jo Folkett was fourteen he suffered] a blood clot in his spine. Only one in a million people ever suffers from this problem. Usually they are middle-aged and end up mentally retarded due to brain damage or even die.

“Jo survived, perfectly [healthy] except for his legs. …

“Later, during a class discussion on missions … his yearning for service came sharply into focus. The teacher, not wanting him to feel left out or embarrassed by the emphasis on serving missions, made the comment, ‘Of course, Jo is excused. He won’t be able to go in a wheelchair.’

“‘That really fired me up,’ exclaims Elder Folkett. ‘My immediate reaction was “Oh yes I will!”’ Soon after, Jo received his patriarchal blessing, which confirmed his decision, stating he would serve and proselyte.

“[At age nineteen Jo left] for the England Manchester Mission. …

“[He’s] found advantages to serving in a wheelchair. ‘I must be the only missionary to get through two years in one pair of shoes,’ he jokes. ‘These cost me 13 pounds (about $25 U.S.) at Leicester market and they’re good as new!’ …

“Jo has seen [blessings come] many times on his mission. Take the day he met Kevin Smith. …

“Kevin had become interested in the Church through … a young Latter-day Saint girl … and had requested a copy of the Book of Mormon. … Jo and his companion volunteered to deliver the scriptures.

“‘At that point I wasn’t sufficiently interested in the Church to have missionaries in my home,’ says Kevin, who has [had to use] a wheelchair for the past 16 years. ‘I had a stereotyped image of Mormon elders—tall, fresh young American lads straight out of college, clothed in sharp suits, with toothpaste-[advertisement] smiles. I probably wouldn’t have opened the door if they’d looked like that. But here were two down-to-earth people, one just as surprised as myself at the sight of a wheelchair.’

“‘Kevin is such a cool guy,’ exclaims Elder Folkett, who was surprised to find his investigator in a wheelchair. ‘Even before we got to his house the first time I felt good about things that would happen.’

“Elder Folkett and Kevin hit it off from the moment they met, and Jo baptized Kevin not long after that first discussion. …

“There’s a sparkle to [Elder Folkett’s] testimony that knows no handicap, travelling beyond boundaries, turning barriers into blessings” (Anne C. Bradshaw, “A Mobile Work and a Wonder,” New Era, Mar. 1991, pp. 28–32).

  • How was Elder Folkett able to bless people’s lives as a missionary? (He served honorably, proclaiming the gospel just as any other missionary would.)

  • How do we feel when we have a chance to serve the Lord and others successfully?

  • How can we help people with disabilities serve and feel the same satisfaction that we do? (We should help them prepare for service as we would anyone else.)

Conclusion

Challenge

Challenge the young men to understand people with disabilities, assist them in learning the gospel, help them to participate in quorum lessons and activities, encourage them, and help them serve others. Bear testimony of the blessings such an effort will bring.