Anxiously engaged in a good cause
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During the past months, leaders of young women have used the 2010 Mutual Theme from Joshua 1:9, "Be strong and of a good courage," to focus and give emphasis to youth activities including camps, Mutual events, pioneer treks, youth conferences and firesides. This Mutual theme has been a blessing to all the youth and given them courage to make righteous decisions and to share the gospel with their friends and family members.
To some it has been a lifeline as they have faced trials, temptations, health challenges and loss of friends and loved ones. To others it has given them the strength and courage to repent and change and come back into activity or to join the Church.
Leaders all over the world have planned and worked together with parents and priesthood leaders to bless and strengthen the youth. And it has happened! As a Young Women general presidency, we are most grateful to each and every one who has sacrificed to help our youth have experiences that will enable them to stay firm in their resolve to remain strong in their faith and steadfast to stand as witnesses at all times and in all things and in all places. Thank you!
Now we move forward with this resolve in our hearts into another year. The theme for the youth in 2011 is taken from the 13th Article of Faith.
During the coming year, youth can build on their resolve to remain strong and courageous. It will not be enough to ask the youth not to participate in worldly things. We as their parents and leaders must help them seek after the good and be able to identify those things that are "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy." Perhaps we could say, "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we [want to provide the youth] these things."
Our beloved Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, has said that he loves to see the youth engaged in activities that uplift them, help them develop their talents, and develop wholesome relationships with others. These things strengthen faith and families. He has said, "I am an advocate for such events. They enable our youth to participate in something they truly find unforgettable. The friendships they form and the memories they make will be theirs forever" (President Thomas S. Monson, "Welcome to Conference," Ensign, November 2008, p. 6).
President Monson shared his experience as a youth when he participated in a roadshow in which he had the role of an Eskimo. His sister Marjorie had the lead in the show, but on the day of the event, Marjorie got laryngitis. He related that all the Eskimos went into the Scout room and prayed for Marjorie. The prayer was answered, and the show went on. But what happened inside the heart of a young boy was more important than the performance. Young Thomas Monson knew that prayers are answered and Heavenly Father hears and listens. His testimony and faith were strengthened.
We never know when the Spirit will teach and touch our youth, but we can provide activities where the likelihood of this happening is increased.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, "Do everything you can to create or to provide the circumstances for a spiritual experience in the lives of our Aaronic Priesthood young men and the young women of the Church as well. Nothing we do for them in our various programs will matter as much as that, and I promise you it is what they will remember and treasure the most" ("Bishops and the Aaronic Priesthood," Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, June 2004, p. 19).
Recently several stakes throughout the Church have held cultural events, dance festivals and large multi-stake youth conferences and events. In every case, the youth involved said it was the best experience they have had in young women. They loved the preparation and the participation. And what about the parents? One father remarked after attending one of the events: "What parent would not want their daughter to participate in something wholesome and good? Something that builds relationships with other righteous youth, that fosters faith and testimony, and that builds skills. These kinds of activities invite youth to 'arise.' "
And indeed they do and they invite each of us to do the same — to live up to the best that is in us, to set standards for entertainment and for the things we spend our time doing.
As we turn our attention to seeking after those things that are virtuous, lovely and of good report, and praiseworthy, it is my hope that we will not only personally seek after the best but also provide these things for our youth. And we don't have to do all the work ourselves. Youth can become anxiously engaged in the planning and execution of the activities. They can develop their talents and skills, practice relationship skills, move out of their comfort zones, and do things that they could do in no other setting. For a while the activities may not be perfect, but then again, they might be better than if we did them ourselves! Use activities to help youth learn how to lift others, love, learn and lead.
"Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great" (Doctrine and Covenants 64:33).
That work is our young women. That work is the future mothers of a generation. And that work not only will strengthen individuals, it also will strengthen families now and in the future.
Purpose of activities
Youth activities can be planned to fulfill gospel purposes. The following list contains just a few of these purposes:
Strengthen testimonies of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel.
Understand identity as daughters of God.
Recognize the Spirit and follow the promptings.
Strengthen youth and families.
Remain worthy by living the standards and keeping baptismal covenants.
Learn from the example of exemplary adult leaders.
Prepare for future roles by developing talents and skills.
Develop and prepare future leaders.
Create missionary experiences and opportunities.