My very first year of seminary I had an amazing teacher. We’re talking the rockstar of all CES employees. This guy had the seminary spirit in bucketloads. I sat there every day, with a bunch of other 7th graders, totally captivated with what he was teaching us. But even out of all those lessons, this is the one that has stuck with me – so much so, that I still perform this little task two times each year in preparation for General Conference.
When we entered class that day there were 2 paperclips on every single desk. He asked us each to pick up the paperclip and to hold it on our hands. Now a paperclip is an ordinary object. Yes, you can find them in different sizes and colors – they even come in different shapes sometimes – but a paperclip still does the same essential thing. It provides a way to hold something, usually papers, together.
We then talked about revelation. The differences between personal revelation or revelation that is for a collective group (i.e. families, wards, stakes, the Church as a whole) and who has authority to receive what type of revelation and when. Revelation, is a pretty cool thing. If you think about it, we can all hear the exact same thing, and then get a message that is specific to us. Personal revelation can be reassuring, sustaining, comfort us in times of need, and “hold us together” when times are tough.
He then passed out slips of papers and asked us to write down a few things that had been on our minds. A gospel principle we wanted to understand better, a problem we were struggling with, a relationship that needed strengthening, something we wanted to improve in our lives, etc. After a few minutes he asked us to circle the three that were the most important to us and then to fold our paper, slide one paperclip onto the edge and tuck it into our scriptures. The second paperclip we were to hook onto the zipper of our backpack (you could just as easily put it on your keys) so that we’d see it often.
He drew the following parallels:
- We are like paperclips. We come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, but we’re made of the same stuff – we’re flesh and Spirit and made in the likeness of our Father.
- Revelation comes in various ways, one being the upcoming General Conference. The speakers are just like us, they share their testimonies and experiences as influenced by the Spirit with the hopes that we’ll hear what we need to hear from our Heavenly Father.
- Personal revelation can sustain us through times of trial and help “hold us together” just like a paperclip does to a stack of papers.
- Those things that are on your mind are written in your heart and on that slip of paper. That paperclip is holding them for now, but you’ll need to seek personal revelation on what to do regarding those things.
And issued the following challenge:
As we head into General Conference, I hope that each of you is mindfully thinking about what you want to learn and what answers you are seeking. I hope that you’ll remember a paperclip. That you’ll see them often ( of course we would – he had passed out paperclips to 6 classes of 30 students apiece that day and we had them on our backpacks). Aand every time you see a paperclip, I want you to do the following things in preparation for the messages given in General Conference:
- Pray for your heart to be opened to the words Heavenly Father wants you to hear.
- Pray for those who will speak to have the Spirit with them.
- Pray for a specific question(s) you are needing answers to.
He then challenged us to keep our paper-clipped slip of paper closed, but near us while we listened to General Conference. He asked that we jot down in a notebook anything that stuck out to us as we listened to the speakers. And then, when the sessions were over, he asked that we open our slip of paper and compare what we had written on our list with the notes we had taken.
I took his challenge. It was hard not to. I saw paperclips everywhere for the next several days and without fail the 3 items we should be praying for popped into my head. The results of the challenge were amazing. I had specifics in my notes that addressed every concern written on that piece of paper with the paperclip and many other students expressed the same thing in testimony meeting we had during class on the Monday following General Conference. Even now, every time I see a paperclip I remember, “pray for your heart to be open, pray for those who will speak, pray for a specific question you need an answer to”.
Are you willing to take the challenge? Because I can’t hand out paperclips, I thought I’d make a cute printable that you could use to write down your list of questions or use as a handout if you’re giving the paperclip challenge to your Young Women group or the women you visit teach. The files are black and white so you can simply print them out or make copies onto colored paper.