My calling in church is the Young Women's Personal Progress Coordinator Person Of Awesomeness And Inspiration. "Person" is a word of my own adding. It slipped out once, and it's just kind of stuck there in my title. Oh well. It sounds cool enough. The parts of the moniker following that were added by my husband as he edited this post. One of my responsibilities is encouraging participation in the Personal Progress program. I recently had the chance to do that during New Beginnings, the start of the year activity to introduce the program to new girls, and reinvigorate the girls already in the program. Our theme was "Diamonds in the Rough: Come Unto Christ and Be Perfected in Him." It was very beautiful.
I spoke a little at this activity, and during that little talk I gave some ideas on how to use Personal Progress to address concerns and problems the YW face in their lives. A friend requested that those usage ideas be typed up for her because they seemed rather useful, and then I got a request for the whole thing. I present this unto you for perhaps some ideas and inspiration.
What is the Purpose of Personal Progress?
Other than its names obvious implication- that we personally progress- what is the purpose? Towards what are we progressing? It is not just about becoming a better person- that is the happy side effect of the main goal. The main purpose of Personal Progress is to bring us to the temple. Think about the Personal Progress book, the medallion you receive upon completion of the program, the For Strength of Youth book, all of these have depictions of the temple on them. Why the temple? Because within the walls of the temple we make covenants that bring us even closer to Christ.
The theme for the youth this year is "Come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him." Can I tell you what that means to me? It means that we choose by our actions to come to Christ. We don't wait around to be miraculously transformed in a blaze of glorified lightning. It means that as we develop our faith in Christ, learn of our own divine nature and individual worth, increase our knowledge, exercise our choice and accountability, strive to do good to all, and proudly stand as a witness of integrity and virtue, as we do all of these things, we come unto our Savior Jesus Christ, and we are changed.
How? I'm going to tell you something else, and it is very important. The atonement of Jesus Christ is not just for sinners. It is also for perfecting. In Isaiah 61, it says that the Lord will give beauty for ashes. We are not perfect. We have failed attempts, but as long as we don't fail to attempt, the Savior makes up the difference when we apply the atonement in our lives. As we ask for grace, which is divine help and enabling power, to become better and achieve our goals, as we repent of our shortcomings and faults each day, as we press forward with a perfect brightness of hope, then the ashes of our failed attempts become molded, pressed, heated, and finished by the Master. Instead of being covered in ashes, we are rather encrusted in diamonds. Diamonds which reflect the light of the Savior. Diamonds are most beautiful when they reflect out the lights which come into them, illuminating them from the inside and then beautifying their surroundings with sparkles.
What are some of the ashes that we may have? I brainstormed, and jotted down a few that came to mind. I then thought about the Personal Progress program, and how that could be used to help with these ashes.
*Have you done something wrong? Do you worry that your sins and mistakes are too much to be forgiven, or do you feel like giving up since you've already messed up? I would say go do Faith #5, which is about learning about the atonement, and then applying it in your life.
*Do you ever feel insignificant, or downcast? Do you feel like you don't matter? Go and do Individual Worth #3, and learn to focus on lifting others, and in loving others, experience God's profound love for you.
*Do you find yourself wondering whether you have a testimony, or doubting or questioning a particular gospel principle? Then go and try Faith #1, proscribing praying habits, or the Virtue Value Project, which is to read the Book of Mormon, and then to take Moroni's challenge yourself and ask if these things are not true.
*Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the challenges you're facing? Does being a teenaged girl and its attendant evils of drama, boys, unkind people, and school and other responsibilities threaten to bring you down on yourself, your situation, or your abilities? I would suggest Divine Nature #2, and learn about who you really are as a daughter of God, and what that means, so that you can gain perspective on life and your current situation.
*Do you notice a lack of the Spirit in your life sometimes? Can you tell that sometimes the Spirit is there, but sometimes he isn't? Knowledge #3 would be a good experience to do, in which we learn to judge media consumption by Article of Faith 13, and seeking after things that are "virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy."
*It can take a lot of work to live and keep the standards of the gospel. Do you ever wonder if all that effort is worth it? Do you wonder if being so different from everyone else is really a good idea and what you want? I say go and do Choice & Accountability #6, and study the YW theme and what it means to stand as a witness.
These value experiences from Personal Progress help us to become perfected as we use the atonement to rise above the challenges, draw closer to Christ, and be perfected in Christ.
I'm most definitely not perfect. I've made mistakes and blunders, and I have felt like I was surrounded by and covered in ashes. I know what it is to feel inadequate, to feel like you are constantly found lacking. I know what it is to feel completely judged and out of place around your peers. My husband says I'm gorgeous now, but I assure you that there was a time in my youth that I was not the most sightly creature in the room. A most unfortunate spell. I know what it is to be hurt by people that should be watching out for you and supporting you. But I also was blessed with a wonderful family firmly rooted in the gospel, and the chance to participate in Personal Progress. I know that my efforts are not in vain. I know this because I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior, and I know that He loves me. I know that participating in Personal Progress will bring you to Christ and to the temple. I know that it will bring you great happiness as your ashes of low self-esteem, failed attempts, mistakes, and sorrows are transformed into brilliant diamonds that reflect the love and light of Christ.
Be assured that there is a greater variety of problems and answers out there. These were the ones that jumped into my mind while brainstorming. If you don't have a great familiarity with your Personal Progress book, or want to help encourage someone within the program to find an answer or solution to their questions, I would suggest that you use the index in the back of the book. You could also ask your Personal Progress Person, which could be your friendly neighborhood ME. Or you could just peruse the book yourself.