13 February 2017

Encouraging Faith Experiments

Last week we had an event at church called New Beginnings for the Young Women aged 12-18, as well as those little ladies who would be turning 12 in the coming year. During this event, current Young Women members introduced what the program entails for anyone who might not be familiar with what we do. For our congregation, there happens to be only one girl turning 12 this year, but that's still worth throwing a party.

Right now, my calling in church is with the Young Women, so I played a role in choosing the theme of our New Beginnings night. As I pondered the 2017 annual mutual theme, I was reading a talk given in our last worldwide General Conference by Elder David A. Bednar where he spoke about coming to know the Savior by experimenting on His teachings. This idea struck me as exactly what our Young Women needed this year, in addition to asking questions, encouraging the girls to take steps to find answers and discover for themselves what they believe. Experiment on His Teachings became our theme, and we loved running with it. The front table was covered everything science-y that the Young Women's leaders could find in our homes - a caliper, a microscope, test tubes, a mortar and pestle, books, etc. At the end of the event, I talked with the Young Women about the components of an experiment, and how they can find faith experiments in their Personal Progress books. We also sent them home with a seed kit, so the girls could watch their plant grow as they consider how they can nourish and grow their testimonies of Jesus Christ.

After the activity was over, rather than venturing out to consume the offered refreshments, the Young Women gathered around the front table and started to experiment with measuring devices and liquids in test tubes. For many reasons, it makes my heart happy that they find joy in learning and science. As the girls were mixing colored water to get their desired shade, one of the mom's came up to me and shared that she had once read a magazine article or BYU devotional address that had discussed how to properly set-up a faith experiment, or the idea that an experiment's conclusion is dependent on how the test was devised and measured. Though this parent couldn't remember all the details, I was intrigued.

The next morning I went to BYU Speeches, where they have an archive of devotional and symposium talks, and did a quick search for "experiment". I can't say for sure that this speech by Jennifer Nielson was the same one previously read by that parent, but I loved Sister Nielson's research examples and connection to our life trials.

"I learned that experiments help us gain truth, that we can become stronger from struggles, that meaningful results require a lot of time and effort, and that working with others is essential. I believe that life experiences, which we might also call experiments, are meant to enable us to grow and become Christlike...
Even if [our trial] is a hard experience, we can choose to see it as an opportunity to live and experiment...
A person with the growth mind-set sees mistakes and failures as data points that can be used... to update prior knowledge in order to improve."
 -Jennifer Nielson
Passing this on to you, as I feel that this speech is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in self-concept, or anyone wishing to conduct their own faith experiments.