To his young charge, Timothy, the apostle Paul gave counsel that applies as well to youth and young adults today as it did in New Testament times.
"Let no man despise thy youth," Paul admonished, "but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation
that is, conduct or behaviorT, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.". . . Give attendance to reading [that is, scripture and gospel study], to exhortation, to doctrine.
"Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of . . . hands." (1 Tim. 4:12-14.)
Viewed in today's context, this scripture seems to be admonishing young people to keep themselves pure and worthy, to fulfill their Church callings diligently, to use their spiritual gifts wisely in service to God and His children.
In all ages, Heavenly Father has entrusted weighty responsibilities to young men and women. That is especially so today, as is clearly exemplified by D&C 20:46-59, which specifies the duties of Aaronic Priesthood holders.
Spiritual gifts in fulfilling the Lord's errand are not limited to men, or even to adults. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma taught: "And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times which confound the wise and the learned." (Alma 32:23.)
As a youth, Jesus provided a perfect example for young people. Already by age 12, He was manifesting a determination to be about His Father's business. (See Luke 2:49.) Young people seeking to prepare themselves for effective service to God and others can draw inspiration from the verse that says, "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." (Luke 2:52.)
The scriptures and Church history are replete with accounts of young people of ordinary means and circumstances who have acquitted themselves valiantly by trusting in the Lord and following His direction. (See Prov. 3:5-6.)
Here are a few noteworthy examples:
Joseph Smith, at age 14, cultivated the sobriety and spirituality necessary for him to receive a visitation from God the Father and Jesus Christ, the event that opened the dispensation of the fullness of times. (See Joseph Smith - History 1:7-20.) Though subject to "the weakness of youth and the foibles of human nature," he nevertheless made himself worthy to receive a subsequent visitation from the resurrected Moroni, who consigned to him the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. (See Joseph Smith - History 1:27-54.)
Mary, in her youth, received the sacred privilege of being the mortal mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. In sublime humility, she responded to the angel's message, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38.)
Daniel exhibited faith, obedience, courage and spirituality in refusing to eat the "king's meat" from fear of defilement (see Dan. 1:8-16), in being an instrument for revelation from God by interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar (see Dan. 2), and in continuing to pray, suffering the consequence of being thrown into a den of lions (see Dan. 6).
Ruth likely was young when she gave up her former life to unite with the fold of Israel and serve the true God. The depth of her commitment and loyalty was demonstrated when, as a widow, she said to her mother-in-law: "Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God." (Ruth 1:16.)
Samuel was a child when he first heard the voice of the Lord. "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth," he responded, heeding Eli's counsel. (See 1 Sam. 3:9-10.) He received prophecy on that occasion and grew to be a great prophet in Israel.
Nephi, though "exceedingly young" had faith and a desire to know the mysteries of God. He prayed, and, as a result, the Lord softened his heart so he could believe his father's words, in contrast to the rebellion of his brothers. (See 1 Ne. 2:16.) This testimony was the foundation for later courageous deeds and leadership.
The "sons of Helaman," or "stripling warriors" were sons of Lamanites who had been converted to Christ. Their parents had covenanted never again to shed blood, and thus could not take part in defense against the Lamanites. But the sons were not bound by the covenant, and were led into battle by Helaman. "They were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all - they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted." (Alma 53:20.) Because of their faith in the things their mothers taught them, their lives were preserved.
Mormon was only 10 when Ammaron, perceiving him to be a sober and perceptive child, called him to later preserve and abridge the Nephite record that has been revealed and translated today as the Book of Mormon.
`For the Strength of Youth': realizing divine potential
- "Everywhere I go, I have the opportunity to see wonderful young people. We as leaders are aware of the enormous challenges facing youth today, but we are also proud of the great strength and potential that so many of them are developing. A powerful reinforcement for good in their young lives is the Church's pamphlet, `For the Strength of Youth.' It clearly defines the Lord's standards that help youth and their families draw closer to Him." - Elder Jack H Goaslind, Young Men general president
- "Nothing is so reassuring and motivating as the good feeling that comes after a responsible choice has been made. The First Presidency states in the booklet
For the Strength of Youth':You cannot do wrong and feel right. It is impossible!' Wise choices keep us free to realize our divine potential." - Janette Hales Beckham, Young Women general president