I’ve recently been reflecting on the significance of three events that happened regarding the youth over the past few months.
- On September 12, 2012, the First Presidency issued a letter to priesthood leaders announcing a new method for teaching youth in Aaronic Priesthood, Young Women, and youth Sunday School classes. The new method follows the pattern of teaching established by the Savior and focuses on a deeper understanding and conversion to basic doctrinal principles. The announcement letter stated that the “focus is on strengthening and building faith, conversion and testimony, using the most current teachings of the General Authorities and General Auxiliary Presidencies.” The First Presidency stated, “We are confident the new curriculum will bless youth in their efforts to become fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
- On October 7, 2012, President Monson opened the October General Conference by announcing that men may now begin serving full-time missions at age 18 and women at 19. (Also see FAQ About Lowered Ages for Missionaries and Sister Missionaries to Serve Full-time LDS Missions in Record Numbers.)
- On October 8, 2012, the First Presidency issued a letter to all members of the Church encouraging us to do our own family history work and take family names to the temple. “When members of the Church find the names of their ancestors and take those names to the temple for ordinance work, the temple experience can be greatly enriched,” they wrote. But notice the emphasis they placed on encouraging youth to do family history and temple work: “We especially encourage youth and young single adults to use for temple work their own family names or the names of ancestors of their ward and stake members. Priesthood leaders should assure that young people and their families learn the doctrine of turning their hearts to their fathers and the blessings of temple attendance.”
The Church Handbook 2 (chapter 2, section 2) states that the Church focuses on four divinely-appointed responsibilities: “helping members live the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathering Israel through missionary work, caring for the poor and needy, and enabling the salvation of the dead by building temples and performing vicarious ordinances.”
Consider how the three events above can help in these divinely-appointed responsibilities.
Consider how the new method for teaching youth will help youth better learn and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. It will also help prepare them for missionary service at a younger age. The new curriculum is just now being implemented, but I’d say that in six months we’ll begin to see a difference in the youth’s ability to learn and then teach as they begin to serve missions at a younger age.
With the lower age limits for missionary service, the MTC and missions have a dramatic increase in the number of missionaries. And they are able to train the increased number, partly because a year ago the Church began using an expanded training program that continues MTC training into the first 12 weeks in the mission field. That was not done in anticipation of the missionary age change, but it is now helping cope with the increased number of missionaries. See the article “Response to Mormon Missionary Age Announcement Remains Enthusiastic and Unprecedented.”
Elder William R. Walker, Executive Director of the Temple Department, said “We have had a cultural phenomenon over the last few years where the youth of the Church have gone to the temple to do baptisms for the dead like never before.” The First Presidency authorized the youth to have their own limited-use recommend–an individual recommend rather than a group recommend. Now they are being asked to feel the responsibility for researching family history information and doing baptisms for their ancestors–which previously was emphasized mostly with adults. When the youth are anxiously engaged in temple work and understand the doctrine and the rationale, they are not just engaged in an activity, but they will be better prepared spiritually to receive their own endowment at an earlier age prior to filling a mission.
The articles “‘It was the Lord’s Hand’” and “Roundtable: ‘Hastening the Work’” explain the Lord’s hand in coordinating all these things to come together to hasten His work. It wasn’t coincidence, and it wasn’t the work of staff or General Authorities that orchestrated all this to come together at the same time.
These changes inspire me with a sense of urgency for me (and my children and grandchildren) to be about the Lord’s work.
In the roundtable discussion, Elder Paul V. Johnson said “The Lord knows what the future is and…this is just one of the many things He is doing to advance that kingdom, to help it roll forth.”
Today’s youth are amazing. Just watch the videos I posted yesterday and listen to the testimonies from the youth.