A journalism teacher taught her students to write useful articles by answering these questions: Who? What? Why? When? How?
Such questions can bring parents and youth leaders right to what matters most in the lives of young women and young men. Keeping our young women and young men in mind, let us allow the Holy Ghost to lead our thoughts as we ask ourselves these pointed questions. While answering these questions, we become inspired, effective parents and leaders, enabled to teach by the Spirit and open hearts to personal revelation about what matters most.
Who? Who are they? They are beloved spirit children of heavenly parents. We leaders and parents know the youth have divine natures and are the powerful generation reserved to face the challenges of the latter-days. When we gather with them in classes or activities, do we recognize these powerful, divine traits? Do we see them as their Father in Heaven sees them?
If we do sense their divinity and importance, we need to teach them and show them what we see. These youth need to feel their importance to God and realize their God-given potential now. Your teachings and testimonies are necessary for them to reach this potential. They need to arise to the promise of their baptismal covenant and their places in the kingdom of God on earth. They are the beloved, essential workers of truth. This — and much more — is who they are.
What? What is their purpose here in this earthly stage of their existence? Simply put, they are to grow by experience and choice to become faithful, obedient, and covenant-keeping members of the Lord’s church. Because of the covenants they’ve made, their primary responsibilities are to create families and work to bring all of Heavenly Father’s children back to Him, sealed by authorized priesthood power into families. The family is central to the Father’s plan of creation. This central responsibility is a mandate from God and will be fulfilled if the youth learn true doctrine and make righteous choices based upon it. Teachers and parents must continually teach and testify of these truths because the adversary will do everything possible to distract God’s children from this central responsibility.
Do the young women of the Church understand that Heavenly Father created them to be His faithful daughters, as well as mothers in Zion? While it is true that some of Father’s spirit daughters and sons must wait until another sphere of existence to become parents, they will all have that opportunity if they desire it. In the mean time they can nurture and strengthen the human family all about them. The selfless service required of a parent can be learned even if parenthood is denied while on earth. Parents and leaders have a weighty responsibility to teach the eternal truths of the scriptures, prophets and the Family Proclamation, given under inspiration to apostles and prophets more than 20 years ago.
Why? Why does God give the command to cleave unto your spouse, multiply and replenish the earth and be sealed as a family for eternity? Many volumes of deep thought and faith have been written on this subject. We are designed to live as families because the greatest good, the greatest joy and the greatest growth toward godhood will come when we are worthily sealed together in the temple and then keep our covenants as individuals and in our families.
The Father gives commandments, the plan of salvation and the opportunity for exaltation for our ultimate happiness and fulfillment. This is God’s way and “His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles”). I believe the Book of Mormon gives us this broad view: Obedience and faith bring happiness. “[M]en are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).
When? When do we teach, inspire, lead and lift the youth? The all-encompassing answer is “Always!” The more specific answer will be tailored to each parent and leader as they pray intently to know when the youth need to hear what the leaders have to offer and what Heavenly Father prompts leaders and parents to teach. There will be unexpected moments for testifying, not just in a class. A prompting will come to visit a young woman in her home, at her soccer game or in the Church hall. The real answer to “When?” is “Be ready always.”
How? The answer is simple: by the Spirit. Encounters with teenagers can be meaningful because they are in a sensitive, seeking, growing phase. Sensitive, loving parents and leaders will walk by faith in the Father’s guidance as they try to reach out to those they lead. Such reaching out ought to be based in consistent scripture study and preparation to give love and understanding.
An aware leader will sense the needs of his or her flock and be guided to minister to those needs. The Holy Ghost knows what is needed and the called leader and the parent have the right to divine guidance. Our job is to let the Holy Spirit guide.
We must listen for the promptings of the Spirit as we step forward to answer the questions pertaining to our youth of: Who? What? Why? When? How? As we do this, essential answers will come to bless the givers and receivers alike.