Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world were introduced today to the vision and basic principles of the faith’s new program for children and youth in a broadcast shown during the second half of worship services. Six Church leaders, including President Russell M. Nelson, spoke in the pre-recorded 48-minute video.
The new program will be implemented on January 1, 2020.
“This effort has been designed especially for you and your generation,” President Nelson tells youth in the video’s introduction. “Over the years, the Church has provided a variety of efforts to help children and youth. We would not be where we are today without them. Now the time has come for a new approach, designed to help today’s children and youth throughout the world. Instead of giving you many specific assignments, we are inviting you to counsel with the Lord about how you can grow in a balanced way. It will be rewarding and fun. But it will also take some effort on your part. You will need to seek personal revelation. You will need to choose for yourself how to act on it. Sometimes the Spirit may prompt you to do things that are difficult. I think you are up to the challenge. You can do hard things.”
The vision of the program, as outlined by President Nelson in a brief booklet that will soon be available for parents and leaders, is to “[s]trengthen the rising generation’s faith in Jesus Christ, and help children, youth and their families progress along the covenant path as they meet life’s challenges.”
In Pursuit of Spiritual, Physical, Social and Intellectual Growth
A foundational scripture for the new program comes from the New Testament verse that provides a glimpse of the young Jesus of Nazareth: “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).
“In other words, Jesus grew spiritually, physically, socially and intellectually,” says Brother Owen, the faith’s Young Men general president. “We are asking each of our children and youth to consider how they want to grow in these same four areas.”
Such growth is most likely to come, Sister Bingham says, when supported by the loving encouragement of a child’s parents and extended family.
“Parents and extended families are key to the success of this effort,” Sister Bingham says. “A parent’s most important role is to help their children to connect with heaven and develop the gospel-based value system that will help anchor them through the challenges in their life. We know that parents often know their child best. They know how to help their child. They know how to help them identify their strengths and their interests and their talents, as well as opportunities for growth.”
Videos shown during the broadcast feature youth and families in areas where the new program has been tested.
Ten-year-old Fernanda from Curitiba, Brazil, set a goal to bake a cake with her father.
“I am bursting with joy because I can do something that I like,” Fernanda says. “Every time I set these goals, I will always be growing as a person. And I’m also developing a talent that can help me with other things. The Lord wants me to develop.”
Joshua, a teenager in Ohio, shared his love of filmmaking with others in his class at church. The group decided to make a movie together.
“The great thing about the initiative,” Joshua says, “is that it allows youth to focus on their own goals and on the goals of others. Everyone can help lift each other up. And so you’re learning teamwork, and you’re sharing and teaching while also having fun. And that’s going to help you feel like you’re part of the quorum.”
The Planias of the Philippines have six children. Because of the new program, the parents have helped the children set goals, and the children have encouraged the parents to be better as well. Because mom and dad both work, their family struggles to make time for a regular evening together. At the children’s urging, they set a goal to have family nights.
“The children really urged us to have this regular family home evening,” Mrs. Plania says. “So we really set that as our family goal.”
“Our main goal is to become like our Savior, Jesus Christ,” Mr. Plania says.
Sister Bingham shares important advice for local Church leaders who have youth whose family circumstances don’t include supportive parents and family.
Some youth, she says, “will need the extra care and attention from their Church leaders that you can provide. You provide that guidance and encourage these youth and children to grow through their shared gospel study, help them participate in the service and activities, and lovingly minister to them as they set their goals and accomplish them.”
Nurturing Growth Through Gospel Learning, Service and Activities, and Personal Development
The Church leaders also review how spiritual, physical, social and intellectual growth will be nurtured in this new program through gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development.
The Church’s Come, Follow Me study resources for adults, youth and children will continue to be used around the world to help all Latter-day Saints become better acquainted with scripture and deepen their faith in Jesus Christ.
“In gospel-learning settings, many of our children and youth will be inspired in ways they want to grow,” says Sister Jones, Primary general president. “This can happen in Primary, it can happen in Sunday School, Aaronic Priesthood quorums, Young Women [classes], seminary and in individual and family scripture study.”
Service and Activities
Service and activities — such as community service, camping and youth conferences — will continue to play a vital role in the development of Latter-day Saint youth. Young women and young men will be encouraged to plan and lead service and activities that help them grow in the aforementioned four areas. Community service opportunities available at JustServe.org are an important option for leaders and youth to consider as they plan.
In the video, the group also discusses the expansion of the For the Strength of Youth (FSY) program to selected stakes in the United States and Canada, which was announced this past July. In 2020, more young men and young women ages 14 and up will experience the FSY program, designed to help strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ.
“There is strength in gathering together, and relationships are a key. We love to be together,” Brother Owen says. “We want our young men and our young women to continue to have meaningful, high-adventure activities. We want them to have fun.”
Sister Jones says the local Primary organizations will hold (where possible) separate bimonthly activities for boys and girls, beginning in the year a child turns 8 years old. Boys previously involved in Cub Scouts will participate in Primary activities in 2020. The Church will publish Primary activity ideas and suggestions in November 2019.
Children and youth are encouraged to prayerfully choose which areas of life they want to develop. Then, with the help of their families, friends and Church leaders, they will do their best to come closer to being the person God created them to be
“We will see our successes. We will experience failures. But through all of it, we will realize who we are and how important it is to come close to our Heavenly Father through our Savior Jesus Christ,” says Sister Cordon.
Several leaders speak to the program’s universal values and principles. Though designed for youth, nobody is too old to grow.
“I know that as families and individuals take this into their family life [in a way] that means something to each individual, it is going to help each one of us progress,” Sister Bingham says. “I think parents will probably be excited to even try this themselves.”
“Everyone, no matter what their age, can strengthen their faith in the Savior Jesus Christ,” adds Sister Jones.
An Adaptable Program for a Global Faith
Because individuals, cultures and circumstances vary greatly around the world, this new program has a principles-based design to give it the flexibility to adapt to every circumstance and need.
“The principles remain the same: To help each child and youth progress along the covenant path and meet the challenges of their life with faith in Jesus Christ,” Sister Bingham says.
The video concludes with an invitation from President Ballard for local leaders to consider how to best adapt this new program to meet the needs of their congregations. He also reminds children and youth to remember their eternal identity and consider his deep conviction of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
“My dear young friends, don’t ever forget who you are. You are children of Heavenly Father,” President Ballard says. “He loves you. He wants the very best for each of you. You can rely on your parents and leaders to help strengthen your testimony through this home-centered, Church-supported program. . . . Jesus Christ is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world. He loves us. He has given His life for us. His Atonement means everything to us. We all want to try to grow day by day to become more like Him.”
Parents, teachers, youth and children will receive booklets with information about the new program at church during the second hour of worship services on Sunday, September 29, 2019. More information about this new program will be presented at a November 17 Q&A with Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.