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Monday, June 17, 2013

Holding Your Ground (with Pie)

by Shawn Tucker (bio)

In my work as an Institute teacher, I feel like I get to watch brave young people on the frontlines. They come to class with many serious concerns. An example of this is when they are genuinely troubled by all of the red and pink equal signs on Facebook, causing them to wonder if they should be in favor of them, be threatened by them, or pretend they are not there. (If you are not aware, the sign is two pink lines that form on equal sign on a red background, and it is sign of support for gay marriage.) I have the privilege of talking with them about their concerns and exploring how their faith can help them address those concerns.

Elder Holland's recent conference talk Lord, I Believe included this very useful quote: "In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited." As we discuss how faith can help us address concerns, fears, doubts, and troubling times, we talk about holding the ground that has already been won. I find Holland's military imagery very interesting. Students do feel like this is a conflict, a pitched battle. But to talk about holding the ground they have won, I like to talk about pie.

I love pie, and I will admit that they are disappointed when I mention pie and then draw a circle on the board. They soon see that we are making a pie chart. Here's how we do it: I ask them about key parts of their beliefs or their testimony. Many mention a faith that we have a loving Heavenly Father who sent a Savior for us. They mention the power of the Holy Ghost to witness of this truth to them. I put that under the idea of The Godhead. That is so important that they give it a very big part of the pie. Some students mention a strong central belief in how God speaks to us through the scriptures, so that gets a piece. Others mention how obedience has proven to be reliable and powerful. Some students talk about the abiding faith that they have in ordinances and sacraments, or in living prophets or eternal families. We put these up and make a chart.

And then I ask them about their concerns: gay marriage, racism and sexism in the church, historical issues, and others. Where do these things figure in? They usually get a piece, but it is usually rather small. I believe that these issues are important, and should not be eliminated, but the pie chart allows them to see them in a larger context. This chart should not trivialize those concerns; it should place them in a larger context. It allows them to see their concerns in the context of the ground that they have already won. I also encourage them to think about the battles that they have fought for the faith that is so valuable to them. I point out how that faith is battle-tested. And the pie illustrates how that faith has been valuable in a way that might instill hope in them in addressing new concerns or in new battles.

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