This year — following announcements by the First Presidency that lower the age a missionary can begin service and that ask youth to take part in family history research and take a greater role in their Sunday instruction — the Church News has dedicated this issue to the youth of the Church who have been "called to action."
In the opening moments of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference on Oct. 6, President Thomas S. Monson announced that men may now begin serving missions at age 18 and women at 19.
"I am pleased to announce that effective immediately, all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the opportunity of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of the age of 19," said President Monson in his remarks.
"As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service, we have also given consideration to the age at which young women might serve. Today I'm pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21."
The announcement followed a Sept. 12, 2012, letter to priesthood leaders from the First Presidency explaining that a new youth curriculum for Young Men, Young Women and youth Sunday School classes would be implemented in January 2013. The new "Learning Resources for Youth" will replace existing manuals and is designed to follow a pattern of teaching established by the Savior. "The new curriculum integrates basic gospel doctrines, as well as principles for teaching in the Savior's way," said the First Presidency in the letter announcing the change. "The focus is on strengthening and building faith, conversion and testimony, using the most current teachings of the General Authorities and General Auxiliary Presidencies. ... We are confident the new curriculum will bless youth in their efforts to become fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ."
And, in the days following general conference, the First Presidency again issued a challenge to the youth of the Church. The Oct. 8, 2012, letter encouraged youth to do their own family history work and take family names to the temple. "When members of the Church find the names of their ancestors and take those names to the temple for ordinance work, the temple experience can be greatly enriched," they wrote. "We especially encourage youth and young single adults to use for temple work their own family names."
The Church News staff dedicated this issue to the purposes of the Church found in Handbook 2 and how, when applied to youth, they will help them "arise and shine forth" (Doctrine and Covenants 115:5). A roundtable discussion put the recent announcements — and how they apply to the purposes of the Church and youth — in perspective. Additional articles include the following topics as they relate to Latter-day Saint youth:
"Helping members live the gospel of Jesus Christ."
"Gathering Israel through missionary work."
"Caring for the poor and needy."
"Enabling the salvation of the dead by building temples and performing vicarious ordinances."
In addition, articles on this topic by Brother David L. Beck, Young Men general president, and Sister Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president, will appear in next week's edition of the Church News.
Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy said the amazing thing about general conference — where the changes to missionary age, youth curriculum and family history and temple work for youth were discussed — was the unified way in which the announcements came together to show the Lord is preparing the youth to hasten His work. "It was obvious it was the Lord's hand," he said. "And it was obvious that He has something He wants to do. ... He is saying 'Lets get to work and let's build the kingdom.'"