General Youth Leaders Say 2017 Mutual Theme Challenges Youth to “Ask”
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
- Divine promises found in James 1:5–6 remain relevant for young people today.
- The key word is “ask.”
- Parents and leaders can help youth feel the Spirit and learn to seek their answers from righteous sources.
“If our youth will follow the pattern of Joseph Smith and go to the scriptures and ask of God, they will receive answers.” —Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” —James 1:5–6
For Latter-day Saints, these two verses in the New Testament are among the most familiar and beloved words of scripture. It was young Joseph Smith—desiring answers at a turbulent moment in his life—who accepted James's challenge, fell to his knees, and faithfully asked which of all the churches was true.
As promised, God gave Joseph Smith the wisdom he desired—and the restoration of Christ’s Church was set in motion.
While the divine promises found in James 1:5–6 were essential to the 14-year-old Joseph Smith in 1820, they remain every bit as relevant for young people today. Those two verses have been selected as the 2017 Mutual theme. The theme's key word: Ask.
The Young Women General Presidency—Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Sister Carol F. McConkie, and Sister Neill F. Marriott—along with their colleagues in the Young Men General Presidency—Brother Stephen W. Owen, Brother Douglas D. Holmes, and Brother M. Joseph Brough—hope youth throughout the Church follow young Joseph's example and, with faith, ask God for wisdom.
Sister Oscarson noted that James 1:5–6 is spiritually rich on many levels. First, it teaches personal revelation is available to young people when they are facing difficult questions. And second, it is an inspired connection to the Prophet Joseph Smith. “That scripture played a large part in the Restoration of the gospel,” she said.
James 1:5–6 was written nearly two thousand years ago—but the words are timeless, declared Brother Owen.
“If our youth will follow the pattern of Joseph Smith and go to the scriptures and ask of God, they will receive answers,” he said. “Never before is [this pattern] more needed than in our day.”
Brother Holmes marvels at the sacred generosity found in James 1:5–6. The verses teach a divine truism found across scripture: Ask and you shall receive.
“God is, in His own way, begging for His children to connect with Him.”
Young people are being bombarded with mixed messages from social media and their peers, said Sister McConkie. But young Joseph Smith stands as a timeless example of how to look beyond distractions and seek truth from God.
“Joseph asked in faith with the full intent that he would follow whatever answer he received,” she said.
The Young Women General Presidency: from left, Sister Carol F. McConkie, First Counselor; Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, President; and Sister Neill F. Marriott, Second Counselor.
The words of James 1:5–6 are a silencing remedy to the noise of the day. “The mists of darkness we see today is Satan creating distractions so people cannot really connect with heaven,” warned Brother Holmes.
Sister Marriott added that today's young people hear conflicting voices telling them how they should dress and act, who they should date, and what sort of language they should use. Heavenly Father is anxious to offer clarity, truth, and wisdom.
“If our youth will follow Joseph Smith's pattern in moments of real need and go to the Lord and ask, He will answer,” she said.
The youth can benefit greatly from the testimonies of others. But ultimately, young people cannot rely on “borrowed light,” said Brother Brough. They need to learn directly from their Heavenly Father.
“They need to ask questions,” he said. “They need to ask the true source for their answers.”
Young people in the Church worldwide are facing great opposition, observed Sister Oscarson. But they can know wisdom, peace, and comfort when they learn to “ask of God.”
“That will be a skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Joseph Smith was deeply impacted by what he read in James 1:5–6. The prophet of the Restoration exercised the faith he needed to ask God for life-defining answers. If the youth of today's Church can find that same degree of faith, “they will receive answers,” said Brother Owen.
Brother Brough challenged youth to ponder on what matters most in their lives and in the eternities. Then, like Joseph Smith, ask God for guidance and wisdom.
“If a young man knows that God knows and understands him, then he can really begin to develop and draw closer to his Heavenly Father,” added Brother Owen.
The Young Men General Presidency: from left, Brother Douglas D. Holmes, First Counselor; Brother Stephen W. Owen, President; and Brother M. Joseph Brough, Second Counselor.
As a teenager, Sister McConkie faced challenges that left her with questions about the gospel and her relationship with God. Like young Joseph, she prayerfully asked for wisdom and answers.
“The thought came to my mind, ‘Read the Book of Mormon,’” she said. “I went home, opened up the Book of Mormon, and the answers started to come. I felt peace.”
God is anxious to hear His children pray about “what hurts their heart and what is causing them anguish,” added Sister Marriott. “Heavenly Father is there and He is listening.”
Young Joseph Smith enjoyed the love and support of his family as he sought divine guidance. Today's parents, siblings, priesthood leaders, quorum advisers, and wise friends can play key roles in helping young people put the words of James 1:5–6 into practice.
“We need to create settings and opportunities for our youth to feel the Spirit,” said Brother Owen.
Make time for young people and let them see they are a precious priority, added Brother Brough. They will know they are loved.
“And continually pray as a family in your home,” said Sister McConkie.
Family prayer, added Sister Marriott, can bless young people when they see it happening consistently within the walls of their own home.
“And we need to be there to talk to them,” counseled Sister Oscarson. “Find out what questions they have and help direct them in the right way. Teach them to look to the Lord and their leaders before turning to the internet.”
Never forget the power of example, said Brother Holmes. Don't tell young people to ask of God—show them how to ask of God.
“Share your own experiences in connecting to heaven,” he said.
The Church has created a 2017 Mutual theme web pageon ChurchofJesusChrist.org in nine languages where visitors can access videos and images and download the 2017 Mutual theme album of songs that reinforce the message.