The gospel: insulation against isolation

"The fear of isolation," said Janette C. Hales, Young Women general president, "is probably one of the greatest fears for people of all ages - that fear of being left out or left alone."

Youth, she explained, can be especially vulnerable to feeling alone. But they can feel "connected" to others and to the Spirit and develop faith in the Savior and in themselves by reaching out and living righteously.Pres. Hales and her counselors, Virginia H. Pearce and Patricia P. Pinegar, recently discussed with the Church News how feelings of being alone affect the lives of youth.

As young people mature, the Young Women general presidency explained, they spend more time at school and in school activities. They spend less time in their home environment than they did as little children. Instead of working with and being reassured by parents and family, they are working with teachers and peers. They want to do well and be accepted, but this can cause new challenges. They may be exposed to values or standards they do not want to adopt.

"What we want young women to learn," Pres. Hales explained, "is to know how to initiate behavior that helps them cope with their environment without compromising their standard of righteousness."

During an upcoming satellite telecast, on March 26, the Young Women general presidency will discuss how being "young women of faith" can help these young people cope with their unique challenges.

"With all that young people are exposed to in the world," Pres. Hales noted, "I think we're past the point of just telling them what to do. They must learn to take responsibility for righteous behavior. They need to be able to evaluate consequences based on their own understanding of right and wrong, and what they want their lives to be like. They can feel secure if they develop faith in our Savior and trust our Heavenly Father's promise to them."

The Young Women general presidency noted that feelings of isolation are interrelated with fear and that these feelings tend to occur more often during transitional times in the lives of young people. These times can include moving from one location to another, and family crisis, such as death or divorce of parents and loved ones.

In addition to transitions in life, young people at certain ages may be more vulnerable to feeling alone. For instance, said Sister Pinegar, age 15 is "just before you gain freedom to drive and to date."

These transitions, said Pres. Hales, "put young people in periods of vulnerability because of changing relationships."

"When young people feel fearful or alone, they may make unwise choices. Thus, sin results. What follows are guilt, a loss of positive self-image and more feelings of isolation. A negative cycle may then occur."

The Young Women general presidency said that the desire to be closer to others is a common human condition. "We'll always have some feelings of anxiety or disappointment because of imperfections. I believe we have a yearning for that perfect environment where we existed with our Heavenly Father," Pres. Hales said. "By our faith, we can do all in our power to create that kind of environment. That faith, along with patience and understanding, helps us feel closer to others."

Pres. Hales and her counselors suggested several ways to increase faith in the Savior and in oneself, and to reach out to others. These suggestions are:

Seek positive friendships and associations.

"One of the things that happens when you reach beyond yourself," said Sister Pearce, "is suddenly you see yourself as someone who makes things happen. There's something so positive about that. We say, `I can make an impact in the world. I can change a friendship.'"

Seek opportunities to serve.

"As we mature spiritually," Pres. Hales said, "we overcome our inclinations to think of ourselves. We do that by being aware of others' needs, not just our own. As soon as we start doing that, we feel that important harmony with our Heavenly Father. We feel close to the Savior when we learn how to love the way He loves us."

Seek the Spirit through regular scripture study and prayer.

Pres. Hales explained that scripture study and prayer are keys to increasing one's faith. "Youth, with their heartbreaks, tell me that when they read the scriptures, they feel a peaceful feeling. Being in harmony with Heavenly Father is the most important thing in the world."

Keep the commandments.

Pres. Hales referred to the sacrament prayers in the Book of Mormon, in Moro. 4:3; and 5:2, where it reads that by keeping the commandments, partakers of the sacrament are promised to always "have his Spirit to be with them." (See also D&C 20:77,79.)

Understand and use the Young Women Personal Progress program.

Sister Pineger said the Personal Progress program offers young women "tools" to developing faith and overcoming isolation. "A young woman can be taught that Personal Progress can help her when she's feeling lonely," she explained.

In speaking of Personal Progress, Pres. Hales said: "I'd like young women to see that this program involves a process; it's not just goal setting. it's giving young women experiences that will help them receive promised blessings."

And consequences of good choices are that a young woman will "have more of the feeling of the Spirit, feel self-acceptance and respond to divine nature," she continued. "Then your inclination is to reach out more; then you've started a positive cycle."

As young women strive to establish this positive cycle in their lives, they will need support from parents and local Church leaders, said the Young Women general presidency.

Sister Pearce explained that the whole mission of the Savior was to "bring us back and to give us the ability to be connected to the Father again."

And, Pres. Hales added, "Faith is what makes that possible."

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