For our 5th Sunday Combined Priesthood/Relief Society lesson this month, we were privileged to have President Brown from the Stake Presidency come and speak with us. His lesson and comments were about how we can prepare our youth to become better missionaries and better all-around future leaders in the church. Other than the 9 principles discussed in the scriptures and Preach My Gospel (Faith, Hope, Charity and Love, Virtue, Knowledge, Patience, Humility, Diligence, and Obedience), he specifically addressed four additional areas for our youth to strengthen that were told to the Stake Presidency by our previous mission president, President Murray. Whether we are parents of youth, leaders of youth, or cheerleaders of youth, we each play a part in preparing our Young Men and Young Women to become upstanding members and leaders in the church. These four areas can have practical application in their lives for years before they are old enough to serve missions, and if we concentrate on these things early on, our youth will be even better prepared to serve.
1) Work - Our youth need to be taught that work is not always fun. President Murray mentioned that there were many times that missionaries got into the mission field and were surprised by how much work there was to do, and that it wasn't just having fun all day. Tracting, teaching, and searching for new investigators from 9:30 am until 9:30 pm isn't easy, and when we teach our youth to work hard (both at home and in the workplace) before their missions, they will be better prepared when the time comes to jump right into the work there is to do.
2) Worthiness - almost all of the missionaries that go into the field will have faced many temptations in their lives, and there are always some missionaries that begin their missions with some worthiness issues that take time away from their service while they are trying to resolve them at the time. President Brown commented that a great deal of those issues stem from problems with pornography. We discussed some ways as a class on how we can better help our youth to battle these issues, which are so widespread in the world today. Some of these ideas were to: talk openly with our children about the prevalence and content of pornography and how they can try to combat it, limit and watch over technology centers and availability, get to know your children's friends and let them know your standards, and teach your children that they will need to choose for them selves to stay away from these negative influences (because it will be their choices that make the difference).
3) Independence - Helping our youth to learn to think and act for themselves is an important part of their preparation for being an adult. As leaders and parents, we can teach our children to take care of themselves and their needs (laundry, cleaning, personal hygiene), and we can also help them to learn to be proactive and to be able to converse with other adults. Doing everything for youth is only going to be a hindrance on them when they get in the real world and are not able to do the things that they are suddenly required to be doing.
4) Teaching with the Spirit - There are still youth who do not correctly recognize what the spirit is when they feel it. First, we must make sure that our youth understand that they have had spiritual experiences during Sacrament meeting, YM/YW lessons, Youth Conference, Trek, Seminary, and many other times in their lives. Once they learn that they do indeed feel the spirit, they need to be able to begin to teach with it. We need to give our youth more opportunities to bear testimony, teach in Family Home Evenings, and teach and share messages in church settings so that they are familiar with it and will be able to implement that in their lives as missionaries and with anyone interested in the church.
Between all of us -- leaders, parents, and cheerleaders -- let's help our youth by giving them the skills and experience they need to get a head start in the world.