Unity: 'For the power is in them'
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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to address youth in San Antonio, Texas, about their opportunity to lead out in today's world. Afterward, a few Laurels sitting on the front row ran up to me to share their experience in leading out in unity. With broad smiles they excitedly reported, "The crayon box has made a difference. It's really helped us with unity among our young women!"
They mentioned that in one of their Sunday lessons, reference was made to the talk I gave in the 2011 General Young Women's Meeting, "Remember This: Kindness Begins With Me."
In the talk, I described the experience of a counselor in a bishopric who made the comparison of his congregation to a crayon box. "While looking out over the congregation, [the counselor] saw a child with a large box of crayons filled with a variety of different hues. As he looked at the many members of his ward, he was reminded that, like the crayons, they were very similar but each person was also very unique. He remarked: 'The shade they brought to the ward and the world was all their own. … They had their individual strengths and weaknesses, personal longings, private dreams. But together, they blended into a color wheel of spiritual unity.' "
The young women gave me a brief synopsis of how they were trying to look at each member of their Young Women classes as unique individuals, bringing their own color to their Young Women "crayon box." As youth leaders, they took the responsibility to notice and help any young woman who needed to be included or seemed lost. They had a motto, "We want to be sure no one is missing from our crayon box!" Happy with their brief report, they hurriedly ran to the next session of the youth conference.
Curious about their comments, I sought out their ward Young Women leader to tell me more about these exceptional young women and the success they were having in unifying the young women in their ward. I quickly learned that this leader believed and followed this scripture: "For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves" (Doctrine and Covenants 58:28).
As a Young Women leader, you are called to serve as a guide. You help class presidencies access this "power [that] is in them" as you teach them their responsibilities and how to counsel together to strengthen individuals.
The Handbook, section 10.3.5, outlines the responsibilities of class presidencies:
They watch over and fellowship class members, especially those who are new members or less active and those who have disabilities or other special needs. They pray for them, spend time with them and become genuine friends.
They help class members establish close friendships, learn leadership skills and live the gospel.
They help each young woman know that she is welcome when she becomes a member of their class.
This wise Young Women leader understood these responsibilities and the powerful effect that young women can have on each other for good. As part of a regular leadership training meeting with class presidencies, the leader posed this question, "What do you think the young women in our ward need?" The Laurels said "Unity."
With the Laurels leading the discussion, they used effective principles of counseling together by making observations, expressing concerns and making recommendations to address the issue of unity among their young women.
OBSERVATIONS — They noted that their ward had recently experienced a reorganization and that some new Beehives had moved in and were less active. The young women observed that they didn't really feel connected; they were nice to each other, but noticed that there were times when some were on the "sidelines." The Laurels recognized that they weren't reaching out to all, especially those who were less active.
CONCERNS — Aware of their responsibility to watch over and strengthen others, they were concerned that some young women were lonely and unhappy. They were concerned that they weren't regularly attending and didn't feel included.
RECOMMENDATIONS — While guiding the girls, this effective leader asked, "What do we need to do to include them?" She reminded the young women that this was their responsibility and that her role was to facilitate and assist them in solving the problem. She asked, "What are YOU going to do?"
As they brainstormed ideas, the Laurels reminded the leaders about the "crayon box" lesson and taught the concept to the other class presidencies who were in attendance. They talked about how each girl is a unique individual and needs love.
They made a plan to personally take note of each girl. They used the word "crayon" as a code word to get the attention of the others that someone was "lost" and needed to be included. If they heard the word in a sentence, such as, "I'm looking for my scripture crayon," everyone would take note of the girl on the sidelines and someone would take action and reach out to her in a genuine effort to make her feel included.
The leader wanted the girls to reach out to each other. At first, the young women did well, but she noted that it took constant encouragement and reminders to stay with the plan. She cautioned that patience is critical and adult leaders need to resist stepping in and doing it themselves, even though it might be easier. Allowing the young women to use the "power [that] is in them" will not only bless others, but the class leaders will be greatly blessed as well. Be aware that they won't do things perfectly and sometimes we even have to let them fail — BUT if they learn from these experiences, it's progress!
Little by little, all are seeing greater unity among their young women. One girl, whose family is less active, is coming more often. Another who has some family challenges has opened-up, is smiling, laughing and participating more. An added bonus, noted by the girls, is that she doesn't sit on the back row anymore.
Many of you have just completed or are in the process of girls' camp. Camp is a great place to teach and practice leadership skills. As we visit Young Women camps, we see this great power among youth camp leaders. We see them setting positive examples to younger girls, including others, teaching, training and solving problems. Remember that this opportunity for young women to lead out can be done year round!
Young women have the ability to solve problems often better than we do. Teach them how to counsel together effectively by making observations, concerns and recommendations. Follow the example of this fine leader in San Antonio who has made leadership a year-round expectation, rather than just a once-a-year experience. In so doing we will prepare our young women to shine, become great leaders and change the world.