Face to face with Church leaders

The Lord “loves every one of you, person by person, one by one,” Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told the youth of the Church during a worldwide Mutual Face to Face event held Jan. 20.

“The leaders of this Church are no strangers to your issues and your concerns and to your challenges,” Elder Rasband said. “We have children, we have grandchildren, we are often meeting with youth all over the world and we’re praying for you. We are praying for you in the most sacred places and we love you.”

Thousands of youth from around the world gathered in homes and church buildings to interact with Church leaders and other youth via the Internet during the Church’s fifth Face to Face event.

The live event — broadcast in 11 languages and hosted by two youth — originated from the recently renovated Church History Museum in downtown Salt Lake City and followed a question-and-answer format. Young women and young men watching live from various locations around the world were able to ask questions — submitted prior to the event and during the event — through social media channels.

Featured in the discussion were Elder Rasband, Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president, and Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president.

Leaders candidly answered questions from the youth and used the opportunity to talk about this year’s Mutual theme, “Press Forward with Steadfastness in Christ.”

Live, digital video streams of two classes — one from Argentina and one from New Zealand — were projected on the wall as a backdrop for the event, allowing youth in those areas to participate in the program.

Elder Rasband called the hundreds of youth who submitted questions “courageous” and “bold” as they covered a variety of topics and focused primarily on challenges facing youth today. Because not all of the questions could be answered in the hour-long event, Elder Rasband challenged youth to find someone — a trusted friend, parent, grandparent, teacher, bishopric member or an adviser — they can go to for answers.

“Every question is important,” said Elder Rasband.

He invited listeners to continue asking questions, adding that the participants of the evening’s events and a team they assembled would continue answer as many questions as they can for the next few weeks.

Elder Rasband was asked about his feelings at the time of his call to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Youth asked him how they can accept callings, especially when they are experiencing fear.

Elder Rasband shared his own experience, reminding youth that callings come from the Lord, Jesus Christ, and although an assignment may seem terrifying in the beginning, it is through looking to the Mutual theme and “pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ” that individuals will be able to fulfill the things asked of them.

A young woman from Wisconsin said she suffers from low self-esteem and often feels out of place. She wonders how she can see herself as God sees her. Sister Oscarson encouraged her to turn to the “real source” to “find our real value,” rather than turning to social media sites for validation.

“We are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us,” she said. It is important to really understand one’s individual worth and to “remember who we are and to think about the fact that we are cherished and He has a plan for us. He didn’t send us here to fail.”

Many youth asked about how they can stay strong among friends with different standards.

“I remember going through this,” Brother Owen said. “When I was 14 years old my friends started drinking and smoking.”

Sharing a story of summertime when he was 14, Brother Owen spoke of walking down a road with four of his friends. He remembers his friends started to make poor decisions and began to make fun of him for not joining in those activities. Brother Owen said he began to feel uncomfortable and moved to the other side of the road, walking alone while his friends walked together in a group. When they reached an intersection, he turned left and his group of friends turned right.

Upon returning home, the young man quickly went to bed. When he woke up in the morning he knew he had made the right decision, yet he still felt very alone.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

His mother noticed something was bothering him and asked what was going on. He shared with her what had happened. She called the mother of another boy his age — one that was making good decisions — and made arrangements for the boys to spend time together. That young man became a good friend.

Brother Owen recognized that as alone as he felt walking down that road as a teenager, the decision he made to turn left instead of right has made a huge difference in his life.

When asked about standing up for what is right without offending non-LDS friends, Sister Oscarson shared her experience as a teen.

“I was the only LDS girl in my high school and I think what helped me answer questions and be different, was just to own it — to be joyful in my beliefs and be proud of what I was,” she said. “That goes a long way to having other people to accept it. If you own who you are and stand up to that cheerfully, people tend to accept that and respect that.”

One girl said that at Church she feels uplifted, inspired and full of confidence, but during the week it is hard to keep those feelings.

Elder Rasband reminded listeners that at baptism they are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, and as they partake of the sacrament they are “given a promise that we will always have His spirit to be with us.”

Although trials and challenges will come, it is through being worthy of and relying on the Spirit that individuals will be able to get through the hard times.

“How do you nourish your spirits?” the apostle asked. “Take time to read your scriptures — doesn’t have to be a lot, but it has to be done.”

He also encouraged the youth to go to their Heavenly Father in prayer. “Scripture study and prayer give you a tremendous defense,” he said.

When faced with fear, Elder Rasband told listeners to rely on the holy places “we can count on” — their home, wards and stakes (and branches), and the house of the Lord.

When asked how to prepare for a mission, Brother Owen shared a few tips.

“Become a missionary before you go on a mission,” he said. “Prepare and become a missionary now, in your youth.”

In addition to sharing the gospel, Brother Owen said it is important to learn how to talk to people, as well as listen to what they have to say.

“Get rid of the cell phones every once in a while,” Brother Owen said. He encouraged the young people to get a job and to learn how to work for someone other than a family member. “You might get fired,” he warned, but it is through work that they can learn responsibility and how to work through difficulties.

Elder Rasband added that it is important to “learn to love the Savior before you go on your mission. Then you will desire in your heart to serve Him with all of your heart, might, mind and strength.”

When asked about how to help family members have a desire to come to Church, Sister Oscarson reminded the youth that “people have their agency,” and although people can’t force others to do something, they can set a good example, serve others, be patient and love as Christ would love.

“We can’t change how others act, but we can be peaceable followers of Christ,” Sister Oscarson said.

“Never give up and love them,” Brother Owen added. “I think it is so important that we have an eternal family. Gives us a long view.”

Sister Oscarson told listeners, when they are faced with personal challenges, to “realize life is going to have ups and downs, and it is going to be difficult. Stay steadfast and hold to the values and beliefs. It takes faith to keep walking. … Things are going to be hard sometimes and things are going to be great sometimes, so we press forward in faith.”

When asked about maintaining balance between church, school and other activities, Elder Rasband encouraged listeners to start their day by asking Heavenly Father to help them balance their different demands.

Recognize it is a lifelong pursuit, Elder Rasband said. “You will be amazed how Heavenly Father will help you through the Holy Ghost.”

Brother Owen added that Christ has to be the foundation of everything. That when someone is spiritually out of tune everything else gets out of balance.

“I want you to know that President Monson, his counselors, the Twelve Apostles and the leaders of this Church, love you immensely,” said Elder Rasband. “I can only imagine the love that Heavenly Father and our Savior have for you is so great, and so complete.”

To participate in the online conversation use the hashtag #LDSface2face or visit lds.org to watch the event.

[email protected] @marianne_holman