Lesson 19: Make Peer Pressure a Positive Experience

"Lesson 19: Make Peer Pressure a Positive Experience," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, (1996)


Objective

Class members will see that peer pressure can be both a negative and a positive experience, and they will choose to follow the positive influences that help them to return to Heavenly Father.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Obtain a compass and a small magnet if possible (local Scouting units or a class member may have these items). If a magnet is difficult to obtain, a small piece of metal with a high iron content may be substituted, such as a small wrench or large nail, etc. (Chrome or stainless steel objects will not do.)

  2. 2.

    Obtain a piece of paper and pencil for each class member.

  3. 3.

    Each class member should have a copy of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

Suggested Lesson Development

Introduction

Object lesson

Hold a compass up before the class and ask the following questions:

  • What is this?

  • What does it do?

  • How is it used?

Because a compass always points in one direction (magnetic north), it can be valuable in helping us know where we are and what direction we must go. (Have one class member, perhaps one who is a Scout, hold the compass while the rest of the class comes forward to observe the direction the compass needle points. Then, disturb the direction the needle points by moving a small magnet or piece of metal around the edges of the compass. Have the class members return to their seats.)

  • How could this demonstration relate to our lives? (Our lives are like the needle of the compass. Some things may pull us off course or influence the direction we are pointing. If we remain true to our course, however, and the influence we follow is good, our lives can be made much better.)

Peer Pressure Is an Important Behavior Influence

Scripture discussion

Have the class read Alma 37:38–41.

At the time they were in the wilderness, when Laman, Lemuel, and others were unfaithful, the spindles on the ball would not work properly. However, when the people were faithful, the spindles led them in the correct direction. Proper influence is very important if we want to go in the right direction.

Activity and discussion

Provide each class member with a pencil and a piece of paper and ask them to list, in order of importance, people or things that influence their lives. (Begin with the most influential as 1 and the least influential as 10.)

  • What are some of the things and people who influence you? (Allow varied answers.)

  • Who do you feel would be more likely to have your best interests in mind? (Answers should include: parents, family, religious and youth leaders, etc.)

  • Which influences are most likely to put their own interests first? (Peers, advertising, television, etc.)

This activity will vary with each individual class. Try to show that it is important what influences us. Also, emphasize how important it is for them to influence their friends and families to go in the right direction.

The Lord is very concerned that we go in the right direction. He loves us and wants us to be wise and careful in the influences with which we surround ourselves.

Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church, said: (read the following, explaining as necessary)

“Our amusements should be characterized by their wholesome social environments. We should have proper regard to the character of those with whom we associate in places of amusement; and we should be governed by a high sense of responsibility to our parents, to our friends and to the Church. We should know that the pleasures which we enjoy are such as have upon them the stamp of divine approval. They should be endorsed by our parents and by our religious associates, and by those true principles which should always regulate our [association] with one another in Church membership. Amusements which, in themselves, and in commendable social surroundings, may be proper and wholesome, should be avoided unless associates are unquestionable and the places are reputable and are conducted under proper restraints” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 320).

Friends and Peers Can Be a Negative Influence

Stories and discussion

Elder Robert D. Hales, while speaking at Brigham Young University, gave two illustrations that show how the wrong kind of friends or peers can influence us:

“There’s a marvelous lesson to be taught by those who live in the islands. When they catch crabs, they place them in a small, flat basket. If you place one crab in the basket, it crawls right out. If you place two crabs in the basket, every time one crab starts to crawl out, it is pulled back in by the other crab. …

“I would hope that we could understand another lesson I learned … from my uncle. It was about coyotes and sheep. It’s very clever. Mother and father coyote send those little coyote pups out to play and frolic. And the little lambs who are secure in the fold look over there and say, ‘Boy, doesn’t that look like a lot of fun?’ And they leave to go play with the coyote pups. Then the adult coyotes come down and kill them” (“This Is the Way; and There Is None Other Way,” in Brigham Young University 1981–82 Fireside and Devotional Speeches [1982], p. 67).

  • How do these stories apply to your lives? (After a brief discussion, ask the class to ask themselves if these stories tell them something about any of their friends.)

Thought questions

Ask yourselves: Am I pulling my friends down? Are my friends pulling me down?

Think to yourself about any situation you know in which someone followed the wrong kind of friend or group. Think about how often these situations ended in sadness, tragedy, or suffering. The point here is to ponder, think about, not gossip. (Be careful not to allow names or experiences to be mentioned that are known by the class and which could harm others or cause the class to judge others. You may be able to use very effectively a situation or story with which class members are personally aware but which would not harm anyone in retelling.)

Think of how much suffering could be eliminated if we learned to influence our friends in the right direction, to be courageous in the face of temptations.

Have a class member read aloud the words of President Spencer W. Kimball while he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“Oh, if our young people could learn this basic lesson to always keep good company, to never be found with those who tend to lower our standards! Let every youth select associates who will keep him on tiptoes, trying to reach the heights attained. Let him never choose associates who encourage him to relax in carelessness” (Love versus Lust, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, 5 Jan. 1965], p. 8).

Friends and Peers Can Be a Positive Influence

Anecdote

The influence of friends or peers need not be negative. Read the following anecdote:

“In a cemetery a little white stone marked the grave of a small girl. On the stone was chiseled these words: ‘A child of whom her playmates said, “It was easier to be good when she was with us”’” (File Favorites, comp. Albert Zobell, Jr. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968], p. 62).

Definitions and activity

Elder Hales gave a simple and meaningful definition of a friend: “What is the definition of a friend? Friends are people who make it easier to live the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Robert D. Hales, “This Is the Way; and There Is None Other Way,” in Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, 1981–82, p. 67).

Read Elder Marvin J. Ashton’s definition of a friend: “A friend in the true sense is not a person who passively nods approval of our conduct or ignores improper behavior. A friend is a person who cares” (Marvin J. Ashton, “It’s No Fun Being Poor,” Ensign, Sept. 1982, p. 73).

Refer back to your original list of influences and place a check mark by the influences that fit the definitions of a true friend.

It takes courage to be a friend, especially when others are going in the wrong direction. Sometimes youth, even at church, are unkind to each other, especially those not in their immediate group. Some become hurt when they are excluded because they do not belong to the Church. We all need to be true friends—kind to all—particularly to any who feel they don’t belong, to those who are thoughtlessly excluded, and to those who are not members of the Church.

The Lord Has Provided a Place to Find Positive Peer Pressure

Scripture discussion

Have someone read aloud Mosiah 18:7–10.

  • What qualities named in this scripture are the qualities of a true friend? (Accept varied answers.)

  • Of all places in the world, where should we be able to find such friendships? (At Church; some might say on missions or in the temples.)

President David O. McKay taught that friendship is one of the major reasons the Lord established his Church. He also warned us of the results if we choose to ignore the opportunities for friendships and influence in the Church and seek friends and influence elsewhere. He said:

“Among life’s sweetest blessings is fellowship with men and women whose ideals and aspirations are high and noble. Next to a sense of kinship with God comes the helpfulness, encouragement, and inspiration of friends. Friendship is a sacred possession. As air, water and sunshine to flowers, trees, and verdure, so smiles, sympathy and love of friends to the daily life of man. ‘To live, laugh, love one’s friends, and be loved by them is to bask in the sunshine of life.’ One of the principal reasons which the Lord had for establishing His Church is to give all persons high and low, rich and poor, strong and feeble an opportunity to associate with their fellow men in an atmosphere of uplifting, religious fellowship. This may be found in Priesthood quorums, Auxiliaries, Sacrament meetings. He who neglects these opportunities, who fails to take advantage of them, to that extent starves his own soul” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1940, p. 116).

  • Who should be our greatest influences? (Heavenly Father, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost.)

Heavenly Father, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost Are Our Best Influences

Scripture discussion

Have John 15:13 read aloud.

  • How much does the Savior show us here that he loves us? (His love was great enough to lay down his life.)

  • Who should be the greatest influence in our lives? (The Savior.)

The Savior promised that if we follow him—become his true friends—then we shall have an inheritance with him—eternal life (see D&C 93:45).

Testimony and Challenge

We have been studying the lives of modern-day prophets. We have seen how they are men who were careful to choose positive influences in their lives. In doing so, they magnified their talents and best qualities, were blessed by the Lord, and have become positive influences in the lives of many of Heavenly Father’s children.

Bear your testimony that there is safety and happiness in choosing positive influences, especially in following the Savior and his prophets.

Challenge the class to seek positive influences, to become positive influences in the lives of their friends and family, to shun negative influences. Challenge them to be kind to all people, especially those who seem to be having problems. President McKay spoke of those who might be starving their own souls, but some “starve” through conditions they can’t control.

Thought questions

Answer these questions to yourself:

  • Would you refuse or not try to help someone you saw each day who was starving from lack of food?

  • Do you see each day, but not recognize, someone whose soul is starving from lack of friendship?