A few weeks ago I observed my grandson carrying out an experiment for a science fair project. He worked diligently to prove that his hypothesis about the properties of air in hot and cold conditions was correct. He measured the air pressure of a basketball inside a freezer, at room temperature and in a sauna. By putting his theory to the test, he learned that what he had been taught was true.
Personal Progress is somewhat like doing a science project but, instead, young women experiment upon the word of God. They exercise faith by setting goals, planning and conducting value experiences and projects that are founded on principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They plant the seed of the word of God in their hearts so that they “may try the experiment of its goodness” (Alma 34:4).
Leaders and parents have witnessed remarkable miracles in the hearts, minds and lives of young women who faithfully experiment upon the word of God through Personal Progress. One missionary shared his gratitude for the blessings of Personal Progress in the life of a young woman. Annie (not her real name) met the missionaries and was inspired by their joy and happiness. She wanted to feel that way too.
For a long time Annie had been struggling to get along with other people at school and especially at home. She fell in love with the gospel because it made her feel good. After taking the lessons, Annie wanted to be baptized, but her parents would not allow it. They had let her attend Church and listen to the missionaries with the hope that it would change her behavior. They wanted to see a change in her heart and in her actions before she could be baptized. Annie’s progress was at a standstill.
But Annie had a friend in the ward, Kathy, who invited and encouraged Annie to get involved with Personal Progress. Annie began doing the value experiences and almost immediately a change began to take place. The missionaries had taught her the doctrine, but now she began to understand the tangible things she could do to live the gospel daily. She could set reasonable goals to help herself grow, and then accomplish the tasks and do the exercises to help herself reach those goals. She would read scriptures, pray, apply the doctrine, and share her experiences with leaders, with Kathy and with the missionaries.
With Personal Progress, Annie’s attitude toward her family and her life in general changed. She became happier, worked harder in school and developed peaceful, loving relationships in her home. Her parents saw the difference and gave permission for Annie to be baptized. At her baptism, Annie bore her testimony, “I know I have a lot of work to do, but I am willing to try. I always see the happiness that the elders have, and I want that.” Through Personal Progress Annie is learning how to live that happiness.
In many ways, at different levels, all young women are investigators who must experiment upon the word of God. Parents and leaders invite them to participate in Personal Progress so they may learn to apply the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in their daily lives. They set goals to pray, study the scriptures, serve others and do those things that invite the Spirit of the Lord into their lives. As they act upon the word of God, they begin to grow in faith. They begin to understand their true identity, that they have a divine nature and individual worth. They gain knowledge that will help them make righteous choices. They realize that their talents and abilities are gifts from God to help them do good works, to love and lift others, and to build the kingdom of God on the earth. As they read and study the Book of Mormon, with integrity and sincerity of heart, they learn that Jesus Christ is their Savior and Redeemer and that by the power of His atoning sacrifice they may repent. They may be cleansed, healed and lifted from burdens and the afflictions of this world. By faith they nourish the word of God, until it becomes “a tree, springing up ... unto everlasting life” (Alma 33:23).
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled parents and leaders: “Adult members of the Church should understand that Personal Progress requirements are not just lengthy lists of items to check off. They are personal goals set by each young woman to help them become worthy to receive temple ordinances, serve missions, enter into eternal marriage, and enjoy exaltation” (“Our Duty to God: The Mission of Parents and Leaders to the Rising Generation,” Ensign, May 2010).
Elder Hales emphatically urged mothers and leaders to participate in Personal Progress with their young women, that they might grow together in bonds of faith and friendship and strengthen one another along the gospel path.
Could there be a more important experiment to conduct than to prove the Lord? His promises are sure. Like Annie, if young women will nourish the word of God through faith, diligence and patience, they will learn that His gospel is good. They will come to know that the principles they have been taught are true. The gospel of Jesus Christ will become a fruit most precious, sweet, white and pure (see 1 Nephi 8:11) that will fill their souls with a fullness of joy, and even the blessings of eternity.