by Deb in Utah

Purpose of Lesson:  To identify the "monkeys" that we carry around that hold us back from living to our fullest potential.

Prior to the lesson, I purchased a coconut, cut a hole in the top...large enough for my hand to fit in but not large enough to pull it out when in a fist, cleaned out the inside of the coconut and then screwed it down to a heavy board.  This will be used for the visual object lesson.  You will also need 10 peanuts still in their shells.

Before this lesson I purchased 12 mini stuffed animal monkeys.  Long before the meeting, I attached the monkeys to the bottom of 12 random chairs in the Relief Society room with strong tape. 

As the women were entering the room, I greeted them at the door with 4 monkeys attached to my shoulders, back and head.  Another large monkey I had displayed on the table.

You know the old saying, “Get that monkey off your back!!”? We all, at one time or another, find a little critter on our back. Our monkeys can be very comforting, they can give us the excuse we need (or think we need) when there is something difficult needing to be done. They are great companions as they just hang there and travel anywhere we go. We get so use to them that they become a part of us and we do not notice them back there. They weigh us down by hanging on to our backs but they are a lot less heavy than the experiences we may have to face if they were not there to take the blame.

I have several monkeys that scamper all over my head and back. I carry them everywhere I go and sometimes I lose one or two but eventually I allow another one to jump on board. Usually that happens when my life becomes a little zoo-like and I do not take the quiet time it requires to see who it is that is traveling with me and drop some of those monkeys off. Right now I have become quite comfortable and dependent on a few of my monkeys.

Let me introduce you to Would-of, Should-of and Could-of. Aren’t they cute. When I look back on my day, my week, or even my life they are always there to remind me what I should-of done, what I could-of said and what I would-of become if only I had....... They are so good at it that every day I feel guilty about something that I didn’t do. What a waste of time. The guilt gives me the excuses to beat myself up inside. It makes me feel that I am not deserving of my family, my friends and even my Heavenly Father. I have come to recognize this path.....and I know who pushes me down it...SATAN. When I find myself heading down that path I know that it is time to quietly pick up the pieces, call up my Father in Heaven, have a good Father/Daughter chat and get myself back on track. And as far as my cute little monkeys, I know children call me General Mom. I try to fix everything for I know that my little critters will ALWAYS be with me. I have come to terms with that. What I am working very hard on is trying to not let them influence me that much. They can travel with me.....and some days they can even speak up....but I will try every day to rid myself of the guilt that they stir up.

What is holding you back from obtaining the destiny that your Father has in mind for you? What little monkey do you have riding on your back that gives you excuses to not attend your meetings, to not pray in public, to not magnify your callings, to not be a missionary to that inactive or nonmember friend? Are you holding a grudge, being unforgiving or just tired of running faster than you are capable? Are you desperately holding on to something that holds you back from reaching the “full measure of your creation”?

I have with me a coconut. Did you know that in Africa, the natives have a unique, effective way to capture monkeys. They cut a hole in a coconut large enough for the monkey to put his paw in. Then they anchor the coconut to the ground with some peanuts in it. When the natives leave, the monkeys, smelling those delicious peanuts, approach the coconuts, see the peanuts in them, put their paws in to grasp the nuts, and attempt to remove the nuts...but find that the hole too small for their doubled-up fists. The natives return with gunny sacks and pick up the monkeys....clawing, biting, screaming......but they won’t drop the peanuts to save their lives.

And so it often seems to be with us, having such a firm grasp on things of the world—that which is telestial—that no amount of urging and no degree of emergency can persuade us to let go in favor of that which is celestial. Satan gets us in his grip easily. He does it slyly, using his little monkeys. He makes us comfortable with our shortcomings.....but our Father in Heaven had other plans for us. Satan has in some instances, succeeded in changing the course that was divinely planned for us and we have let him.

My great, great grandparents were baptized in England and wanted to be with the saints in America. They loaded all they owned, furniture, supplies, even gold and silver on to a ship and as they were going back for the final supplies the ship left without them. They were guaranteed that when they arrived in America on the next ship, that their possessions would be waiting for them. When they did arrive they found that their possessions had been sold and they were left desolate.  My  grandparents had to stay in New York, find employment and wait until they had enough money to make the journey west. This story does not have the “enduring to the end” happy ending. Because of this experience my grandfather allowed a monkey to jump on his back. This monkey grew very large and eventually gave birth to little monkeys that very sneakily jumped on the backs of all of his children. My grandfather and his family migrated to Utah to what is known as West Canyon...out past Lehi. He eventually became very bitter about what happened with his possessions. This ultimately carried on to his children who developed a poor opinion of the Church. Many of the children were baptized LDS but carried around that bitterness monkey. After all, it gave them the excuses they needed when anything difficult came into their lives. Those monkeys on the children grew so large that eventually not one brother or sister would speak to each other. They blamed each other for all their problems and the family was divided. The sad part of this story is that the little monkey that rode on my Great Great Grandfather did not die with him. A few of his posterity have inherited that monkey that holds tight to their backs. They also, use bitterness and hatred for an excuse to their unhappiness in this life.

I would like you to ponder that the monkeys on our backs are not just our own little critters but could likely become the monkey’s on our family’s backs. They can multiply and hop from person to person. We have the power......we are Daughters of rid ourselves of what is standing in our way to reach our goals....our Father’s goals for us.

When I was about 10 years old, we had a family reunion at Silver Lake Flats. We started on the hike to Silver Lake from the flats early in the morning. Somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn and we were stuck on a steep mountain side hiking right through a rock slide area. Many small rocks would make us slip and slide. My mother was very angry at my father....after all she had told him earlier that it was the wrong way but his pride said he knew the way.  I was the oldest of the 8 children that were hiking with them.  Here we were, hiking on a very dangerous slide area with small children.  I was very scared and started to cry.  I sat down on the rocks and did not want to move because every time I took a step the rocks would slide and the mountain was so steep.  As my father gathered us together and urged us on..... we were already midpoint and it was less dangerous to go forward than turn 8 year old cousin spoke up with a very courageous voice and said “Where there’s a Will, There’s a Way!!!!” My father stopped, hugged her and then gave a prayer in our behalf that we would all be safe. Then all of us chanting together “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”, made it safely to the other side. When the monkey on my back becomes burdensome I remember that saying and know in my heart that if there is anything that I am willing to change and that will benefit me eternally.....My Father in Heaven will help me find the way.

President Hinckley spoke to us sisters at a General Relief Society Meeting and gave us this charge: “If anyone can change the dismal situation into which we are sliding, it is you. Rise up, O women of Zion, rise to the great challenge which faces you.” He spoke to me and to you.

Sisters, make certain that you are not caught in the coconut trap having such a great love of or longing for the tasty peanuts that you might sacrifice some of your spiritual life for things that in the long run might not really be very important. Make sure that you can control that monkey on your back......If you feel that you cannot possibly rid yourself of it at least try to control what it stirs inside you. There is an urgency in the voices of our leaders to get our houses in order....that means our internal houses. It is a time to prepare for our Savior and we have been tutored in Heaven for this time and place in history. Know that you are a Daughter of God, a divine calling has been bestowed on you and because of this divinity you have the power to succeed. Just remember......When there’s a will, there’s a way!!!!!

Underneath 12 chairs, there are 12 monkeys.  For those of you who have received these monkeys, I challenge you to bear your testimony of who you are and God's plan for you.  If you can not do it here....bear testimony to your family.  If you are having a struggle with your testimony, I challenge you to identify that monkey that is holding you back from reaching your full potential and do all you can to either rid yourself of it or learn to live with your monkey.