"We have confidence in the youth of the Church and love and respect them for who they are. They are tempted from every side, but they are faithful and strong," said Elder M. Russell Ballard as he commented on guidebooks that were recently introduced by the First Presidency. Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, said that the guidebooks "will give the youth added strength and courage. The guidebooks teach gospel standards and will help the youth do their duty."
The guidebooks were introduced to general and local Church leaders in the United States and Canada in a letter from the First Presidency dated Sept. 28, 2001. The letter announced a program, "Aaronic Priesthood: Fulfilling Our Duty to God," for which have been introduced three guidebooks, one each for deacons, teachers and priests, that explain the program and outline the steps to earning the Duty to God Award.
In that same letter, the First Presidency announced a new simplified Young Women Personal Progress book, which is designed to help girls prepare for the Young Womanhood Recognition, and a revised For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. These materials were updated "to help youth develop greater faith and courage in today's world," the First Presidency wrote. An additional publication, Guidebook for Parents and Leaders of Youth, was also announced. That guidebook is designed to help parents and leaders strengthen the youth of the Church.
"We desire all young men to strive to earn the Eagle Scout and Duty to God Awards," the First Presidency stated in the letter. "We desire all young women to strive to earn the Young Womanhood Recognition. As youth work on these goals, they will develop skills and attributes that will lead them to the temple and prepare them for a lifetime of service to their families and the Lord."
Elder Ballard said, "In years to come, as young men advance in the Aaronic Priesthood and are ordained elders, I see them coming to their elders quorum president with their certificates in hand saying, 'I'm ready to serve the Lord,' " Elder Ballard said. Young men who have achieved this new Duty to God Award will be better prepared than ever to go to the temple, serve missions, marry in the temple and become good husbands and fathers. They will be better prepared to serve their families, their Church and their community.
"Young women who earn their Young Womanhood Recognition Award will be better prepared to serve in the Relief Society. It will help them prepare for their future roles as a faithful woman, wife, mother and leader in God's kingdom.
"We want every young man to enter the elders quorum with his Duty to God Award. We want every young woman to enter Relief Society with her Young Womanhood Recognition.
"There is nothing more important than helping our children and youth learn the teachings of the Savior and remain faithful. We are grateful for the leadership of parents, bishoprics, and other youth leaders. Their good example and consistent support in assisting our young men and young women are essential."
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve said, "It is important the youth know who they are sons and daughters of God. It is important that they know what they are trying to achieve in life that is, to return back into the presence of their Heavenly Father with their families. Because the youth are so blessed, it is also important that they learn and do their duty to God."
The new programs can be a valuable tool in the development of young men and women, Elder Hales said.
"Some of the great blessings of the Duty to God and Personal Progress programs are that as the youth of the Church, they will have a clear understanding of who they are, they will be accountable for their actions, they will take responsibility for the conduct of their lives, and they will be able to set goals so that they might achieve what they were sent to earth to achieve. Our plea is that each young man and each young woman will strive to do his or her very best."
Mothers, fathers and youth leaders have been given a sacred duty.
"I hope the parents and leaders will understand that the young men and young women for whom they have responsibility have been prepared to come to earth at this particular time for a sacred and glorious purpose. I hope the parents and leaders will do what they need to do to help the youth accomplish that purpose," Elder Hales said.
"During the preparatory period of their lives it is so important that young men and young women cultivate spiritual growth, physical growth, education, personal development, career preparation, citizenship, and social skills. These qualities are all part of their duty to God and will help them in the decisions that lie ahead for the next decades of their lives," Elder Hales added.