But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. - Alma 32:27
Young women of the Church are being counseled by the Young Women general presidency to experiment upon the word - the word of God as found in the scriptures.
To help youth study and apply the scriptures in their lives, a Young Women Worldwide Celebration, focusing on studying the scriptures, is being held throughout 1995 and will culminate Nov. 18 with ward and stake activities throughout the Church.
According to a letter to priesthood leaders from President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Council of the Twelve: "The celebration is called `Experiment upon the Word.' It focuses on scripture study, and each leader and young woman will be encouraged to study the scriptures regularly during 1995."
President Packer continued, "The Lord is pleased when His daughters discover for themselves the power of His promises and learn to `enjoy the words of eternal life in this world.' " (Moses 6:59.)
The scriptural basis for the celebration is found in Alma 32:26-43, according to the "Experiment upon the Word" guidelines. The guidelines explain: "This experience will give every young woman the opportunity to experiment upon the word of God, as described in Alma 32, and to study the scriptures throughout the year."
There are three parts to this celebration, according to the guidelines: an invitation to the individual to study the scriptures, group activities that support the scripture study, and a culminating program held in each unit throughout the world.
"The activities planned for each part are designed to help all young women develop a love for the scriptures and a desire to feast upon the words of Christ throughout their lives."
The guidelines explain the three parts of the yearlong celebration as follows:
- Individual: Giving Place for the Seed. (Alma 32:28.) "We recommend that young women develop a habit of daily scripture study and record or share their feelings as they read. All who are willing to participate in this experiment are invited to sign their names on a sheet of paper, which the Young Women leaders will share with their priesthood leaders."
- Group: Nourishing the Tree. (Alma 32:37.) "Throughout the year, young women should plan and participate in group activities that will nourish their individual commitments to study the scriptures. Such activities could include firesides, group reading, reading programs, journal keeping, camp projects, preparations for the final worldwide celebration event, special activities during Sunday meetings, and sharing of testimonies.
"Sometime during 1995, each ward or stake might plant a tree or other plant to represent the cycle of planting, nourishing, and enjoying the fruits of experimenting upon the word."
- Worldwide: Feasting upon the Fruit. (Alma 32:42.) "On 18 November 1995, young women throughout the world, their parents, Young Women leaders, and priesthood leaders are invited to participate in a program to celebrate the fruits of experimenting upon the word. This program will be the culmination of the yearlong focus on the scriptures, centering on what has happened in the lives of the young women as a result of reading and applying the word of God.
"The program should include opening and closing prayers, appropriate music, and other opportunities for feasting upon the fruits of scripture reading. Talks or testimonies about personal experiences and favorite scriptures, art or musical presentations, or plays based on the scriptures might be used. This program can be as simple as local needs and circumstances dictate."
The guidelines explain that the worldwide celebration may be held on a ward or stake level. The ward or stake Young Women presidency organizes the events under the direction of local priesthood leaders. Specialists may be appointed where needed.
To discuss the 1995 Young Women Worldwide Celebration and its potential impact in the lives of young women, the Young Women general presidency met with the Church News. Janette C. Hales, Young Women general president, and her counselors, Virginia H. Pearce and Bonnie D. Parkin, spoke of the importance of regular, personal scripture study and how it can help young people build faith, receive comfort and develop discernment.
"I feel the 32nd chapter of Alma was written for young women," Pres. Hales said. "It's a tremendous resource. Alma compares faith to a seed and tells us that if we will make place for that seed in our hearts and nourish it, then it will begin to grow. It's a wonderful thing for young women to understand the concept of making a place in their hearts for the words of our Heavenly Father.
"If they study and nourish that seed, young women will discover the promises of the 32nd chapter of Alma. These promises are wonderful in terms of what happens to their faith when they do that."
Pres. Hales explained that "experimenting upon the word" is a key for young women during the transitional years of 12 through 18. "We see this as a time of conversion for them," she added, "a time when they build their own faith. Little children usually base a lot of their beliefs - although they are pure in their thinking - on what they are taught by others. But as faith starts to grow in a person, it requires a commitment, some study."
Referring to and quoting Alma 31:5, Sister Pearce added: "Alma taught about the power of the word. `And now, as the preaching (Isn't reading the words of the prophets a way of listening to their preaching?) of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just - yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened to them - therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.'
"We all have a continuing need for more faith," she continued, "but there is some confusion about what we can do to increase our confidence in the Lord and His plan. Reading the scriptures is a simple and straightforward way to feel the Lord's love for us and feel an increase in our faith."
In speaking of how the scriptures can provide comfort, Sister Pearce referred to Alma 32:6: "Alma was overjoyed when he saw the afflictions of the people, because their afflictions had humbled them,
and they were in a preparation to hear the word.' (Alma 32:6.) Adolescence, by its very nature is full ofafflictions.' When young people use the difficulties of their lives to humble them and turn to the scriptures for comfort and help, miracles will happen."
Sister Parkin related the example of a young woman who "was struggling with trials in her life. She's a little older now, but this was when she was in high school. She said, `I remember reading Mosiah 4, verse 9
which counsels readers that `man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend'T. This was the only thing that held me together through high school.' "
Continuing, Sister Parkin admonished that if young women study the scriptures and "stay with it for awhile, they will find an increase of faith, and I think they'll also receive answers to problems, and they'll have a desire to do right. It's a little at a time. It's a daily process."
Through this daily process can come the spirit of discernment, said the general presidency. Pres. Hales quoted from Moses 1 where it is recorded that God appeared to Moses, then afterward Satan came tempting the prophet.
"I can judge between thee and God," Pres. Hales quoted Moses as saying in verse 15. "Everyone has that ability," she continued. "I think that was part of Moses's work and is part of our work - to develop discernment. The scriptures are one of the greatest blessing we have in terms of developing discernment."
However, Pres. Hales cautioned young women to be patient as they study the scriptures. "We have kind of a quick-fix mentality where we think we get results quickly. It takes time until we start to get the insights from the scriptures, but we can't get them until we start. We have to begin where we are."
Parents, ward members and Church leaders can help and support young people with their goals, Pres. Hales counseled. "It's really important for this age group that they have support, encouragement and reinforcement."
Sister Parkin added that family home evening is a great setting for familiarizing young people with the scriptures. "I have a testimony of family home evening and the difference it can make."
Regardless of the setting - whether it be individually, as a family or as a Young Women group - Pres. Hales admonished, "We've got to experiment upon the word."