“For the Strengthening of Youth,” Ensign, Sept. 2000, 27
A stake in southern California learned at a standards night with parents what a help the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth can be (FSOY, item no. 34285). As families entered the stake center, young people were invited into rooms with others of their age-group. Parents were ushered into the chapel, where the stake Young Men president led the presentation. He asked the parents two questions: (1) How does the world feel about dating, sex, honesty, and music? and (2) What problems confront our youth?
After some discussion the Young Men leader distributed wallet-sized versions of For the Strength of Youth (item no. 34287) and led the parents through the 12 guidelines briefly outlined on the wallet version. The parents were open and frank; they were delighted to discover clear and forthright advice from the First Presidency in helping to raise their teenagers. Many left that night determined to spend time with younger children, preparing them for the standards they are expected to live as teenagers. Meanwhile, youth were holding a similar meeting in which they learned the power of the principles taught in For the Strength of Youth.
The pamphlet For the Strength of Youth is like the iron rod Father Lehi saw in a dream (see 1 Ne. 8:2–28). It is the word of God given through the First Presidency to the youth of the Church. Following the principles outlined there will help lead youth through the mists of darkness to the tree of life, or love of God, and to the privilege of living with our Father in Heaven and the Savior in eternity.
Parents can help youth understand the topics in For the Strength of Youth in their homes. Then bishops and other leaders become resources in helping parents teach the Lord’s standards. These teachings can be effective long before teenage years begin, but they are appropriate and encouraged at any time. All family members benefit by talking about what the family—and the Lord—expect from children of all ages. This understanding is best developed early in life, before Satan’s mists of darkness begin to crowd around.
Each section of For the Strength of Youth encourages specific behavior that, when followed, leads us forward. Reports from Young Men and Young Women leaders Churchwide show that they know young people who apply these behavioral teachings in mature ways. Here are some of those reports, which are organized under the principles taught in the pamphlet.
“Everyone needs good friends. Your circle of friends will greatly influence your thinking and behavior, just as you will theirs. When you share common values with your friends, you can strengthen and encourage each other” (FSOY, 9).
Angela* and her friends noticed a quiet young man who always sat by himself in the school cafeteria, so they decided to befriend him. Later, after friendships developed, he confessed to them that the day they first approached him he had planned to take his life. Only their reaching out to him had changed his mind.
“Be honest with yourself and others, including the Lord. Honesty with yourself brings peace and self-respect. … Lying damages your spirit. Stealing or shoplifting does the same thing, as does cheating in school” (FSOY, 9–10).
Beth handled a pretty glass bowl in a store and nicked the edge of it as she put it down. Frightened, she left the store and told her mother what had happened. When her mother asked what she thought she ought to do about it, she returned to the store, admitted her mistake to the clerk, and purchased the bowl.
“Use language to build and uplift those around you. Profane, vulgar, or crude language and inappropriate or off-color jokes are offensive to the Lord. … Never misuse the name of God or Jesus Christ” (FSOY, 10).
Sara was a trainer for the girls’ basketball team until the coach swore at the team during some tense moments in a game. Sara resigned as trainer, explaining to the coach how she felt about the bad language, and sadly left the team. Two days later the coach called her up to ask her back, promising to clean up his language.
“Whatever you read, listen to, or watch makes an impression on you. … Don’t attend or participate in any form of entertainment, including concerts, movies, and videocassettes, that is vulgar, immoral, inappropriate, suggestive, or pornographic in any way” (FSOY, 11–12).
Rachel noticed questionable art in a store window in her town and went in to speak to the manager. She tactfully explained why the art was objectionable to her. The next day the store manager changed the window display.
“On this sacred, holy day, worship the Lord, strengthen family relationships, help others, and draw close to the Lord” (FSOY, 16).
When Susan’s dance team advanced to state competition, where the finals were to be held on Sunday, she explained why she couldn’t compete on Sunday and her coach honored her wishes.
“The Lord has commanded that you keep your body, mind, and spirit healthy. … Hard drugs, wrongful use of prescription drugs, alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco products … destroy your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. … When you observe the Word of Wisdom (see D&C 89) and other good health practices, you remain free and have control over your life” (FSOY, 12–13).
Two LDS youth, Jeremy and Tricia, simply got up and left a party when they discovered, to their dismay, that others were using drugs.
“Music … can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite. However, music may be used for wicked purposes. Music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity. … Dancing … too can be misused. When you are dancing, avoid full body contact or intimate positions with your partner” (FSOY, 13–14).
Amber joined the swing dance club at her school and David joined the ballroom team and now they willingly teach other young men and women in their ward so they all can enjoy wholesome types of dancing.
“Because the way you dress sends messages about yourself to others and often influences the way you and others act, you should dress … to bring out the best in yourself and those around you” (FSOY, 8).
When Aubrey joined the Church she gave away boxes of her former clothes because she found them inappropriate. A year later, after her testimony and her understanding had grown even stronger, she gave away another box from her former wardrobe.
“Prepare now for a temple marriage. … Do not date until you are sixteen years old. … Go in groups or on double dates. … Date only those who have high standards” (FSOY, 7).
Shannon, invited on a date the week before her 16th birthday, declined. The young man who asked her out said he was sure the reason she wouldn’t go was because her parents were too strict. Shannon assured him that it was her decision, not her parents’.
“The physical relationship between a husband and a wife … is ordained of God for the procreation of children and for the expression of love within a marriage. … Because sexual intimacy is so sacred, the Lord requires self-control and purity before marriage as well as full fidelity after marriage. …
The Lord specifically forbids certain behaviors, including all sexual relations before marriage, petting, sex perversion (such as homosexuality, rape, and incest), masturbation, or preoccupation with sex in thought, speech, or action” (FSOY, 14–15).
Countless young married couples pour out their hearts with thankfulness that they remained chaste until marriage.
“Some people knowingly break God’s commandments. … Repentance is the way back. … The miracle of forgiveness is real, and true repentance is accepted by the Lord. Full repentance of some sins requires that we not only confess and resolve them with the Lord but that we also do so with the Church” (FSOY, 17–18).
One young woman wrote: “This past year I had some personal challenges. I lost track of the Spirit, and then something incredible happened. I went to my bishop. I can’t remember ever feeling so scared. But the Lord was with me in that room, seemingly holding my trembling hand. I knew I could be forgiven. It’s been a hard road, humbling, repenting, and learning to pray all over again. But He was there.”
As we understand and apply the Lord’s standards, the Holy Ghost will guide us and help us gain a testimony of the truth. The Savior speaks of the same process when He says of the Father, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17; emphasis added).
Guidance by the Holy Spirit is one of the most important truths we teach our youth. The Lord knows us and loves us, but His Spirit can be invited to be with us only through obedience. Honest, open invitation through prayer, no matter how quiet, brings help. The Spirit can help us each know what is right or wrong, and we know what is right or wrong by how we feel. “You cannot do wrong and feel right. It is impossible!” (FSOY, 4).