By Young Men general presidency and board
The Prophet Joseph Smith captured our true feelings when he declared: “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 255-56).
This may seem like a creative way to introduce the importance of planning and calendaring for teacher and priest activities, but in reality it has everything to do with it. We are pursuing a path that keeps our focus on what matters most, and in so doing the Spirit guides the process.
Planning and calendaring are not just about activities, social interaction, service or camping. It is about people, their needs, their experiences and their commitment to fulfill their divine roles as sons of a loving Father in Heaven. It is about pursuing the path that leads us back to His presence.
Purposeful and balanced activities
Because we are doing His work through purposeful activities and lessons, we don’t just plan activities and afterwards try to find a purpose, but we plan with this larger objective in mind. We are not just filling calendars with things to do for the year, we are planning for experiences that change lives.
Let’s build upon this principle as stated by M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “A key to happiness lies in understanding what destinations truly matter — and then spending our time, effort, and attention on the things that constitute a sure way to arrive there” (“Return and Receive,” April 2017 general conference).
Likewise, activities that don’t work toward a God-given purpose will have little or no influence upon those who plan, execute and participate in the activities. Developing well-balanced activities focusing on the spiritual, social, physical and intellectual well-being of our youth will guide us to those things that matter most (Luke 2:52). Activities that focus on priesthood duties and service will help build gospel-centered relationships and bring us closer to Christ. As we pray to understand the needs of our quorum members and their families, Heavenly Father will inspire our planning and calendaring in a manner that it becomes a revelatory experience.
With this inspiration, we will see more clearly how and why an annual calendar is so important. Planning on an annual basis will help us support our young men and their families, build meaningful relationships and skills and focus on those who need special attention and involvement. This will increase our ability to involve parents and families and allow them to be well-informed. This type of planning will both increase the quality of our activities and lighten the time commitment required to prepare for weekly activities.
We must ensure that teachers and priests quorum presidencies — under the direction of the bishopric — lead the planning and execution of activities. Help them to involve other quorum members in the planning so that the interests and needs of the teachers and priests are considered. The youth will benefit from this type of approach as they experience direction from the Lord through prayer, inspiration, focusing on others and then leading out in the planning and executing of activities. Our young men are craving to be part of something bigger than themselves. Doing so will require patience, training and an increase of love on the part of adult leaders, and it will work.
Be sure to study the principles and guidelines as found on ymactivities.lds.org. Read the the First Presidency letter, learn from the frequently asked questions and utilize the Activities Ideas. In addition, understand the principles taught by the Young Men general presidency: Be with them, connect them with Heaven and let them lead.
Please remember the primary focus of the new activity program is “building young men with strong testimonies in the Lord Jesus Christ, helping them magnify their priesthood duties, and preparing them to fulfill their divine roles as righteous husbands and fathers.” We are confident that as you use the Young Men 14-18 activities guidelines and other provided materials, counsel together, identify local needs and resources, and develop an annual activity calendar, you will achieve this goal.
So let’s get going. “Organize yourselves and prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118-120).