Lesson 24: Turning Weaknesses and Trials into Strengths

"Lesson 24: Turning Weaknesses and Trials into Strengths," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, (1996)


Objective

Class members will recognize that with the help of the Lord personal weaknesses and trials can become sources for strength.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Obtain copies of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants for each class member.

  2. 2.

    At least two or three days before class read through the class activity, “Turning Trials and Weaknesses into Strengths.” Bring to class several heavy items with a simple note attached to each that reads: “Personal Trials and Weaknesses.” Items might include: a small sack of grain, dirt, or sand; large rocks; large, heavy books; or heavy tools. Allow yourself sufficient time to collect needed items and to prepare the note to go with each item. Assign one or two class members ahead of time who will hold the items before the class. If necessary, provide an old, but clean, piece of fabric or sheet to protect the participants’ clothes.

Suggested Lesson Development

Introduction

Chalkboard and discussion

  • What is a trial? (Something that tests strength of character, faith, or principles.)

  • What is a weakness? (A defect, a failing.)

  • What are some of the trials and weaknesses you face daily? (Let class members respond. List their answers on the chalkboard.)

Review

We have been studying the life of Heber J. Grant. What were some of the trials and weaknesses he faced?

  1. 1.

    When Heber was an infant, his father died.

  2. 2.

    Heber was physically “scrawny” and small.

  3. 3.

    He was not blessed with a lot of natural ability in sports—baseball, for example.

  4. 4.

    He could not carry a tune.

  5. 5.

    His penmanship was poor.

  6. 6.

    It was difficult for Heber to speak in public.

  7. 7.

    He and his mother struggled financially when he was a boy.

Discussion

  • When we left the pre-earth life to gain a body and to prove ourselves, was it just by chance that we were given weaknesses and trials? (No.)

Scripture discussion

Read together Ether 12:27.

Our Father in Heaven sent us to this earth to be tried and tested. We agreed to accept trials and weaknesses and the challenges they bring with them. Our Father in Heaven knows we can be strengthened by them.

We Progress As We Turn Our Weaknesses and Trials into Strengths

How we react to trials and weaknesses can either further our progression as sons and daughters of God or interfere with it. Heber J. Grant was an example of one who, despite doubts and weaknesses and trials, relied on the Lord and overcame and grew from the difficulties he met.

Example

Heber J. Grant at first felt overwhelmed by his call to the Apostleship. He was only twenty-five years old at the time President John Taylor issued the call to him.

For six months after he was sustained an Apostle, from October 1882 to February 1883, President Grant felt he was unable to do the work of the Lord the way he felt the Savior wanted him to. Overpowering feelings of spiritual weakness and character imperfections plagued him. He said of the situation:

“There are two spirits striving with us always, one telling us to continue our labor for good, and one telling us that with the faults and failings of our nature we are unworthy. I can truthfully say that from October, 1882, until February, 1883, that spirit followed me day and night, telling me that I was unworthy to be an apostle of the Church, and that I ought to resign. When I would testify of my knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of mankind, it seemed as though a voice would say to me: ‘You lie! You lie! You have never seen Him’” (Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1969], pp. 194–95; see also Presidents of the Church [Religion 345 student manual], p. 177).

In the spring of 1883, however, Heber J. Grant was traveling on the Navajo Indian reservation with a number of other leaders. The road veered to the left, but a well-beaten path led straight ahead. He asked if there would be any danger in him going ahead, alone, on the path that wound through an immense gully and connected with the main road on the other side. Finding out it was safe enough, he said to the others, “‘I want to be all alone. Go ahead’” (Gospel Standards, p. 195; see also Presidents of the Church [Religion 345 student manual], p. 178).

President Grant related the experience which followed. Read his account:

“As I was riding along to meet them [his group] on the other side, I seemed to see, and I seemed to hear, what to me is one of the most real things in all my life, I seemed to see a Council in Heaven. I seemed to hear the words that were spoken. I listened to the discussion with a great deal of interest. The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles had not been able to agree on two men to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. There had been a vacancy of one for two years, and a vacancy of two for one year, and the Conference had adjourned without the vacancies being filled. In this Council [which he seemed to see] the Savior was present, my father was there, and the Prophet Joseph Smith was there. They discussed the question that a mistake had been made in not filling those two vacancies and that in all probability it would be another six months before the Quorum would be completed, and they discussed as to whom they wanted to occupy those positions, and decided that the way to remedy the mistake that had been made in not filling these vacancies was to send a revelation. It was given to me that the Prophet Joseph Smith and my father mentioned me and requested that I be called to that position. I sat there and wept for joy. It was given to me that I had done nothing to entitle me to that exalted position, except that I had lived a clean, sweet life. It was given to me that because of my father having practically sacrificed his life in what was known as the great Reformation, so to speak, of the people in early days, having been practically a martyr, that the Prophet Joseph and my father desired me to have that position, and it was because of their faithful labors that I was called, and not because of anything I had done of myself or any great thing that I had accomplished. It was also given to me that that was all these men, the Prophet and my father, could do for me; from that day it depended upon me and upon me alone as to whether I made a success of my life or a failure. …

“No man could have been more unhappy than I was from October 1882, until February, 1883, but from that day I have never been bothered, night or day, with the idea that I was not worthy to stand as an Apostle, and I have not been worried since the last words uttered by Joseph F. Smith to me: ‘The Lord bless you, my boy, the Lord bless you; you have got a great responsibility. Always remember this is the Lord’s work and not man’s. The Lord is greater than any man. He knows whom He wants to lead His Church, and never makes any mistake. The Lord bless you’” (Heber J. Grant, in Conference Report, Apr., 1941, p. 5; see also Gospel Standards, pp. 195–96 and Presidents of the Church [Religion 345 student manual], p. 178).

Turning Trials and Weaknesses into Strengths

Activity and discussion

Often we feel overwhelmed from the challenges of personal trials and weaknesses. Feelings of depression and lack of self-worth burden our thoughts and actions. The Lord will help us during these times if we are willing to help ourselves.

Have the assigned class members stand in front of the class.

  • Referring to the list of weaknesses already on the chalkboard, ask again the following question: What are some of the trials and weaknesses that face young people today? (As the class members identify these and express their feelings, begin handing the heavy items, one at a time, to the class members in front. When you have used all of the heavy items, and weighted down the class members sufficiently, ask them the following questions.)

  • How does it feel to be weighted down? (Weak, tired, humble, and so on.)

  • How would carrying around these heavy items interfere with where you went and what you did? (Let the class members respond.)

  • How can this activity relate to our carrying around personal weaknesses and trials? (As mentioned before, we can feel burdened and weighted down with the trials and weaknesses we are given.)

  • Where can we go for help? (Our Heavenly Father is aware and cares for each of us and the struggles we are going through. He is there to help. He can help us overcome our weaknesses and trials, can remove burdens. [Help the class members put the items down and then have them return to their seats.])

Scripture discussion

Read and discuss together as a class Mosiah 24:10–16.

  • Amid our trials and weaknesses and the burdens we feel they cause us, how can we ease the burdens and deal with the feelings? (Refer to the things we learn from Mosiah 24:10–16.)

We learn that—

  1. 1.

    The thoughts of the people’s hearts were toward God (see verse 12).

  2. 2.

    With faith they were able to get through trials (see verse 14).

  3. 3.

    They had faith that the Lord would help them and they bore their afflictions with patience (verse 15).

As we confront trials and weaknesses, our victory and reward will come as we seek the companionship of our Savior. For he has promised: “… for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27). The Savior also tells us, just as he told the Prophet Joseph Smith while he was in the Liberty jail: “… know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).

Testimony and Challenge

Bear your testimony and challenge the class members to go to the Lord, in faith, for help with their trials and weaknesses. He will keep his promise of making weak things become strengths in our lives.