“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” states that “disability, death, or other [family] circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed” (Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129). When difficult circumstances arise, the gospel of Jesus Christ affords perspective and strength to make necessary adjustments.
“Strengthening the Family: Adapting to Circumstances,” Ensign, Dec. 2005, 34–35.
Begin class by explaining that Church leaders generally teach us how to achieve and maintain the ideal—including the ideal marriage and family. In some instances, however, life circumstances prevent us from achieving that ideal. Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Through the restored gospel we learn there is an ideal family. It is a family composed of a righteous Melchizedek Priesthood bearer with a righteous wife sealed to him and children born in the covenant or sealed to them. With a mother in the home in an environment of love and service, the parents teach their children, through example and precept, the ways of the Lord and His truths. They fulfill their divinely appointed roles mentioned in the family proclamation. Their children mature by living teachings instilled from birth. They develop characteristics of obedience, integrity, love of God, and faith in His holy plan” (“First Things First,” Ensign, May 2001, 7).
What are some events or circumstances that may prevent us, at least for a time, from achieving an ideal family situation? (Answers might include the following: death, disability, divorce, inability to have children, loss of employment, and parents working multiple jobs.)
Invite students to search the seventh paragraph of the family proclamation, looking for what Heavenly Father expects us to do if our family situation is not ideal:
“Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129).
Then read the following statement and ask students to look for the types of adaptations that families may need to make when challenges arise:
“In an ideal world all adults would be happily married, all marriages would be blessed with children, and all family members would be healthy, obedient, and supportive of each other. But life is rarely ideal. Each individual experiences adversity, and no family’s mortal sojourn is consistently trouble free. …
“Disease, disability, death, divorce, and other disruptive factors can create challenges. In such situations, ‘individual adaptation’ of roles may be necessary. A father may need to take on additional household and nurturing responsibilities, or a mother who has been a full-time homemaker may need to enter the workforce. Even children may need to accept new responsibilities.
“When unsettling events occur, the extended family may also need to assist. Support may range from providing financial assistance to donating time to tend children, help with chores, or care for an ill or disabled family member. The degree of extended-family involvement depends on the situation and the family’s needs” (“Strengthening the Family: Adapting to Circumstances,” Ensign, Dec. 2005, 34–35).
What are some adaptations that families or individuals may need to make when challenges arise?
What are some things you have seen families or individuals do to adapt and remain strong when facing difficult or disruptive circumstances?
When have you seen extended family members offer help and assistance when needed?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy. Ask the class to listen for what Elder Bateman says can help families who face difficult circumstances.
“Trials and tribulations take many forms: the death of a loved one, a marriage that is different than expected, no marriage, a divorce, a child born with a disability, no children, losing a job, parents who make mistakes, a wayward son or daughter, ill health. The list is endless. Why did God make allowances in His plan for disappointment, pain, suffering, and death? …
“An understanding of the plan of salvation, of premortality, earth life, and life after death provides perspective” (“Living a Christ-Centered Life,” Ensign, Jan. 1999, 13).
How does an understanding of God’s plan prepare families to face challenges? (Write the following principle on the board: Understanding the Lord’s plan allows families to face earthly challenges with increased faith and an eternal perspective.)
How can a gospel perspective give us greater courage to make adaptations or even assume new responsibilities in our families when necessary?
Ask students if they can think of any families in the scriptures who faced challenges and received divine help to overcome or endure those challenges. Remind students of the families of Lehi and Ishmael, who journeyed through the desolate wilderness after they left Jerusalem. Invite students to think about some of the challenges these families might have faced on their journey toward the promised land and then share their thoughts with the class.
Invite a few students to take turns reading from 1 Nephi 16:34–39 and 17:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to listen for examples of how different members of Lehi and Ishmael’s family responded to the challenges they faced.
Why do you think some members of Lehi’s and Ishmael’s families were able to persevere with faith and trust in God, while others murmured because of their difficulties?
In what ways have you seen a knowledge and testimony of the gospel bless families experiencing challenges?
As prompted by the Spirit and the needs of your students, you might share the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Throughout your life on earth, seek diligently to fulfill the fundamental purposes of this life through the ideal family. While you may not have yet reached that ideal, do all you can through obedience and faith in the Lord to consistently draw as close to it as you are able. Let nothing dissuade you from that objective. … Never do anything that would make you unworthy of it. If you have lost the vision of eternal marriage, rekindle it. If your dream requires patience, give it” (“First Things First,” 7).
Remind students of the Book of Mormon account in which Alma and his people fled from the army of King Noah and established a righteous city. After living in peaceful circumstances for a time, Alma and his people were discovered by a Lamanite army, who placed them in bondage. As Alma and his people exercised faith and patience, the Lord eased their burdens and eventually delivered them from bondage.
Invite a few students to take turns reading Mosiah 24:8–16 aloud. Ask the class to visualize how the difficulties identified in these verses might have affected the families of Alma and his people. (Note that visualizing is a scripture study skill that can make scriptural accounts more real and vivid to readers.) Also ask the class to also look for what Alma and his people did to cope with their difficulties.
Having visualized the events of these verses, how do you think families were affected by their circumstances?
What did Alma’s people do to obtain the Lord’s help? (Although students may identify several important principles, emphasize the following: When we exercise faith and patience in our afflictions and call upon God, He can strengthen us to bear our burdens with greater ease.)
How do you think the Lord strengthened them so that “they could bear up their burdens with ease”?
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement, in which Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks about the account of the people of Alma:
“What was changed in this episode? It was not the burden that changed; the challenges and difficulties of persecution were not immediately removed from the people. But Alma and his followers were strengthened, and their increased capacity and strength made the burdens they bore lighter. These good people were empowered through the Atonement to act as agents and impact their circumstances. And ‘in the strength of the Lord’ Alma and his people were then directed to safety in the land of Zarahemla” (“The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Ensign, Apr. 2012, 44).
Why is it important to recognize that the Lord doesn’t always remove the burdens of individuals and families, take away our challenges, or enable us to experience ideal circumstances?
In what ways can our knowledge of Jesus Christ and His Atonement empower us to act in faith when we are confronted with difficult family circumstances?
To help answer this question, display the following statement by Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy, and ask a student to read it aloud:
“Our hope in the Atonement empowers us with eternal perspective. Such perspective allows us to look beyond the here and now on into the promise of the eternities” (“Hope,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 54).
Write the following scripture references on the board. Invite students to study these passages and identify promises made to those who faithfully endure trials:
How could remembering these promises help families who are facing challenges?
As you conclude, invite students to think of a time when, despite difficulties, their families felt strengthened by faith in God or were blessed because of their knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Invite any students who feel impressed to do so to share appropriate experiences with the class. Encourage students to write their testimonies of how God can bless and strengthen families in a personal journal.