You’re sitting in your bishop’s office for your birthday interview, and you’ve already talked about how things are at home and in school. Now your bishop asks how your Personal Progress is going. Are you (a) excited to tell him about the experiences and projects you’ve worked on this year, (b) embarrassed because you haven’t worked on it that much lately, or (c) blushing because you don’t even know where your Personal Progress book is?
If you answered b or c, you might be like some young women. You want to work on your Personal Progress. You keep meaning to work on it. But somehow you just haven’t figured out how to transform your “I know I should be doing this” guilt into “I’m really glad I’m doing this” commitment.
If this describes you, maybe you haven’t yet discovered how meaningful Personal Progress can be in your life—now and in the future—or how it can fit in with all the other things you already have going in your life. Here are a few of the best reasons to really love Personal Progress.
President Gordon B. Hinckley once described the young women of the Church as his best hope for the world:
“When you save a girl, you save generations. She will grow in strength and righteousness. She will marry in the house of the Lord. She will teach her children the ways of truth. … I see this as the one bright shining hope in a world that is marching toward self-destruction” (“Standing Strong and Immovable,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2004, 20).
Could it be that Personal Progress is one reason young women have such tremendous power to make a difference in their homes, among their friends, in their communities—and, ultimately, in the world?
Think about it mathematically. It takes at least 70 hours to complete just the value project requirements for your Young Women medallion, and there are about 435,000 young women in the Church today. If each one completed the Personal Progress program, they would collectively spend more than 30 million hours doing good in their homes and communities. That’s roughly a total of 1.25 million days or about 3,400 years. How could this army of young women serving and doing good not make the world a much brighter, better place? And how much poorer would the world be without them?
But many of the biggest miracles in this powerful program are the most personal. During her sophomore year, Mary Mulvey found herself being pulled further and further away from church and family. “My life was going in a very bad direction,” she recalls. Then she was called into the Laurel presidency in her ward. Her adviser asked her to help get other girls involved with Personal Progress, so Mary started working on it herself. “I started with some of the easier experiences,” Mary explains. “For two weeks, I tried being nicer to my older sister, and that really changed our relationship.” Next she set goals to clean up her language and improve the way she dressed. “Everything I did helped change my overall attitude. I was changing all the little things that had pulled me away in the first place.”
Soon Mary felt worthy to receive her patriarchal blessing, another huge help in her life—especially when she lost her old group of friends and had to start over socially at school. “Personal Progress was life changing,” Mary reflects. “It redefined who I am and helped me see where I need to go in my life.” As her last value project, Mary set a goal to go to the temple regularly to do baptisms for the dead. Today people in her ward often tell Mary that she now has a visibly brighter countenance. It all started when she started her Personal Progress.
If you’re like most young women, you may feel like you have a lot to keep up with. When you’re not studying for a test or writing a paper, you might be working at an after-school job, going to a sports practice, or doing chores at home. With all these things going on, it might be easy to think you’re too busy to do some really valuable things—such as playing the piano for nursing home residents or making a memory quilt for your grandmother. Personal Progress helps you make time for things that will be important to you long after a test score or a soccer game have faded into insignificance. It also gives you a chance to try something new. And it teaches you the habit of striving for goodness.
It’s hard to imagine how Alexis Thompson’s life could be much busier. She juggles a demanding academic load with frequent duty babysitting her two-year-old sister. And she is a dedicated musician who belongs to her high school orchestra, jazz band, chamber orchestra, and barbershop chorus, as well as a local youth symphony. So where does she find time for Personal Progress? Alexis uses time every Sunday to plan out what goals she will work on for the week. She also takes advantage of summer vacation to focus on Personal Progress.
For one of her value projects, Alexis used a talent she already knew she had, singing in her ward choir. For another, she branched out, volunteering to help in a special-needs seminary class. “This has been an incredible experience,” says Alexis. “It’s amazing to see the love and the testimony of the kids in the class.” It’s an experience she might not have made time for without Personal Progress.
Personal Progress also teaches you to integrate spiritual goals into your everyday life. Sister Julie Beck, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, explains: “The busiest girls use Personal Progress as a tool to accomplish what they most want to do. It brings your temporal and spiritual pursuits together. It shows you that what you do on the volleyball team or the chess club has a direct relationship with who you are as a daughter of God.”
Have you ever wondered why the Young Women medallion and the cover of your Personal Progress book depict the temple? The First Presidency has said: “We want the young people of the Church to be valiant and righteous servants of God, dedicated to living each day so they can go to the temple and receive God’s greatest blessings for them. Therefore, we have chosen the temple as the symbol for the youth of the Church” (Guidebook for Parents and Leaders of Youth , 1; emphasis added).
But how does Personal Progress lead you to the temple? Sister Beck explains: “The way to prepare to make temple covenants is to remember and keep the commitments you’ve already made. Personal Progress is a temple preparation course.”
Ilnara Peixoto Marinho of Fortaleza, Brazil, had been sealed to her family in the temple. But for a long time the family had not been as active in church as they once were. Then one Sunday morning, Ilnara’s Young Women president showed up at her home, along with Sister Beck, who was in town and wanted to visit some young women. When Sister Beck asked Ilnara about her Personal Progress, Ilnara had to admit she had never worked on it at all. Then Sister Beck gave her a challenge. If she would find her book, finish one of the short experiences, and bring it to the fireside that night, Sister Beck would sign it off for her.
That day, Ilnara not only started working on Personal Progress; she also started helping turn her family’s life around. She began attending church. Then she and her sister began going with their mother. When Ilnara’s dad finally joined them, he was called to be in the bishopric. The whole family returned to the temple together. And it all started with Personal Progress.
What do you dream of doing? Who do you dream of becoming? Fulfilling those dreams can start today when you choose one small Personal Progress goal. Then choose another, and another, and another. Over time, you’ll grow in the direction of your dreams.
Even after you’ve earned your Young Womanhood Recognition, you can still use Personal Progress to maintain your spiritual focus and keep reaching for your dreams. The members of the Young Women general presidency do exactly that. Sister Susan Tanner set a goal to do one temple endowment for each year of her life. Sister Julie Beck is reading the Book of Mormon in Portuguese. And Sister Elaine Dalton reached her dream of running a marathon. “It took mornings of getting up when my body wanted to sleep,” Sister Dalton recalls. “But as I crossed the finish line, I was happy. And I decided that this is what Personal Progress is really all about—being focused on good things, becoming a better person, feeling the Spirit, and being happy!”
What dreams will Personal Progress help you achieve?