How Youth Leaders Picked 2020 Youth Theme, and Why It’s Important for Today’s Youth

Contributed By Aubrey Eyre, Church News staff writer

  • 27 August 2019

From left, Brother Douglas B. Holmes, Brother Stephen W. Owen, and Brother M. Joseph Brough of the Young Men General Presidency join Sister Becky Craven and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon of the Young Women General Presidency on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City to discuss what the 2020 Youth Theme means and how it connects to the forthcoming Children and Youth program. Photo by Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • Counseling and inspiration are key elements in choosing a Youth Theme each year.
  • The theme and the new Children and Youth program emphasize individual agency and trusting in the Lord.

“Faith leads to action. . . . So [the youth theme], to me, is teaching the doctrine of Christ: to ‘go and do,’ to act and be guided by the Spirit, because it involves the Holy Ghost.” —Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President

Note: The following is a transcript of an interview with the Young Women and Young Men General Presidencies discussing the 2020 Youth Theme, “Go and Do,” which is centered on the scripture 1 Nephi 3:7. (Sister Michelle D. Craig of the Young Women General Presidency was traveling and did not participate in the interview.) The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: How do you decide on a theme?


Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President: “We’ve been in here for four years, and we’ve worked with [the Young Women presidency members] for a couple of years now, and it’s been interesting to see how this kind of starts. We do this every year. We come together. We counsel with each other. We usually have some proposed scriptures, and then after counseling together, we go back to our presidencies and ponder. We let the Spirit guide us, and then we come back. It’s been amazing to me—and I think to all of us that have been involved in this—to see how the Spirit comes in and resonates for us what we’re supposed to do. I had no idea that that’s how the themes were created before I came to this calling. But it really starts with a counseling session with the presidencies thinking, ‘What are the needs of the youth?’ And when we finally come to a decision on a proposed theme, we then present it, and that gets taken up through approval.”

Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President: “We felt very strongly about this theme. With the new Children and Youth program changes that are coming in January, there were some questions on this theme. But as we went back to the revelation that we received from the Lord, it was clear this theme will complement what’s happening and give an increased focus to ‘go and do.’ We can see how inspired the theme is and how concerned the Lord is with the details of the youth’s lives.”

Q: Why is counseling an important part of the process?


Sister Cordon: “The nice thing about counseling is it really is a revelatory experience. Revelation is sprinkled among us when we start to think about how this happens. One person throws out one thing, but it does go through a rough revelatory process through all the counseling.”

Sister Bonnie H. Cordon (right) and Sister Becky Craven of the Young Women General Presidency discuss what the 2020 Youth Theme means and how it connects to the forthcoming Children and Youth program on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City. Photo by Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News.

Brother M. Joseph Brough, Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency: “The interesting thing is that every time we’ve done it, at the end we feel unanimity. Everybody feels it. It’s not four out of six; it’s not five out of six. It is six out of six.”

Logo for the 2020 Youth Theme.

Brother Douglas D. Holmes, First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency: “Between the six of us, we’ve been all around the world, and, I think for all of us, we always walk away amazed at the strength, the testimony, and the depth of insight and understanding that the youth have in their commitment to the gospel. But we also see the reality of their struggles in modern culture, and while they’re different around the world, the world has become a lot smaller in our electronic age. They are, in some ways, also facing very similar challenges. So that perspective, when we come together, really helps to keep us focused on the youth.”

Q: What do you hope the theme will teach the youth?


Brother Owen: “In a lot of settings, I will ask [the youth] if they know what the doctrine of Christ is. And I never see hands go up. I don’t see anybody really answering that. But if I asked them if they know the fourth article of faith, they all know it. So I think this theme is about trying to get our youth to not just have something memorized but to be able to go deeper into it so that they understand its meaning. Faith leads to action. . . . So this, to me, is teaching the doctrine of Christ: to ‘go and do,’ to act and be guided by the Spirit, because it involves the Holy Ghost. That’s kind of our hope. I really think that this should help our youth, if they think about it enough, to realize that the doctrine of Christ is not just faith; it’s not just the Holy Ghost; it’s not just repentance. They all work together for this upward climb.”

From left, Brother Stephen W. Owen, Brother Douglas B. Holmes, and Brother M. Joseph Brough of the Young Men General Presidency on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City to discuss what the 2020 Youth Theme means and how it connects to the forthcoming Children and Youth program. Photo by Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News.

Sister Becky Craven, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency:  “The theme and the new Children and Youth program—they go hand in hand, so that will be the focus of all of our training next year.”

Sister Cordon: “It’s really about trusting the Lord and that He has a plan. ‘I will go and do.’ If you stop and think about everything that this theme has in it, it gives you the whole pattern of what you need to do as you go forward. And as the Children and Youth program comes out, I think we will realize the same pattern of the doctrine of Christ and trusting in the Lord.”

Brother Holmes: “The other aspect of the Children and Youth program that [the theme] reinforces is individual agency and choice. Nephi steps forward and says, ‘I’m making a choice of what I’m going to do.’ It’s also an affirmation of revelation—whether it came through a prophet, his father in this case, or whether it came through the Holy Ghost to him personally.”

From left, Brother Stephen W. Owen, Brother Douglas B. Holmes, and Brother M. Joseph Brough of the Young Men General Presidency on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City to discuss what the 2020 Youth Theme means and how it connects to the forthcoming Children and Youth program. Photo by Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News.

Sister Craven: “I think this also teaches to their baptismal covenants. ‘I will go and do the things that I have covenanted to do. I will go and I will serve, I will keep the commandments, and I will seek revelation to know what Heavenly Father’s specific plan is for me.’”

Brother Brough: “I think a lot of our international youth—our youth are all over the world—they feel alone. But there’s a lot of hope in this message. Our youth may say, ‘OK, if I go and do, is the result really going to be what I hope it is?’ And the answer is yes, it is. It’s in the Lord’s time, but it’s coming.”

Sister Cordon: “I love that. [Nephi] knew enough, and the youth know enough. Even though you think you might need to know more, you know enough, and the Lord will bless you with what you need step by step as you just show that faith to ‘go and do.’”

Sister Craven: “It’s not confidence in yourself. It’s confidence that comes when you start to trust the Holy Ghost. You really do begin to get confidence in the direction of the Holy Ghost.”

Sister Becky Craven of the Young Women General Presidency on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City to discuss what the 2020 Youth Theme means and how it connects to the forthcoming Children and Youth program. Photo by Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News.

Q: What do you want the youth to know?


Brother Holmes: “God knows our very individual circumstances, and if we are true to Him, He will always deliver us.”

Sister Craven: “We’re asked to go and do because Heavenly Father loves us. Everything that we’re asked to do is governed by the fact that He loves us. He asks us to do things for our own growth and for our own benefit so that we can become more like Him and like our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Brother Owen: “God asks us to be obedient because He loves us. He loves us so much. He wants to see us become like Him.”

Sister Cordon: “They are loved. Each one of those young people out there are loved, and the Lord has great confidence in them.”

From left, Brother Stephen W. Owen, Brother Douglas B. Holmes, and Brother M. Joseph Brough of the Young Men General Presidency join Sister Becky Craven and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon of the Young Women General Presidency on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City to discuss what the 2020 Youth Theme means and how it connects to the forthcoming Children and Youth program. Photo by Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News.

From left, Brother Stephen W. Owen and Brother Douglas B. Holmes of the Young Men General Presidency on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City to discuss what the 2020 Youth Theme means and how it connects to the forthcoming Children and Youth program. Photo by Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News.