The youth of the Church have the opportunity to “be part of something big, something grand, something majestic,” said President Russell M. Nelson, during a special youth devotional on June 3.
It will happen as they enlist in the Lord’s battalion to help gather Israel through taking a weeklong break from social media, sacrificing their time, repenting, praying and standing out from the world.
Speaking with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, during a special devotional held in the downtown Conference Center and broadcast around the world to the Latter-day Saint youth, President Nelson posed an important question:
“Would you like to be a big part of the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on the earth today?” President Nelson asked. “Would you like to gather Israel during these precious latter days? Would you, who are the elect, be willing to help find the elect who have not heard the message of the restored gospel?”
The historic address marks the second time a prophet has spoken to youth during a special meeting in the Conference Center. President Gordon B. Hinckley addressed youth and young single adults during a meeting held Nov. 12, 2000.
“My dear extraordinary youth, you were sent to earth at this precise time — this most crucial time in the history of the world — to help gather Israel,” he said. “There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that. … This is the mission for which you were sent to earth.”
President Nelson said the gathering of Israel ultimately means “offering the gospel of Jesus Christ to God’s children on both sides of the veil, children who have neither made crucial covenants with God nor received their essential ordinances.”
Recognizing that participating in the gathering of Israel often requires sacrifice, change, time and energy, the prophet encouraged the youth to join the “finest team” for “this final phase.”
“Those noble spirits — those finest players, those heroes — are you!” he said. “I testify that the gathering is now, and it is real.”
President Nelson said that he is preparing for the day when he will be required to give an accounting to the Lord about his stewardship as God’s prophet, and he did not want to report at that time that he was not more clear or bold with the youth about their part in the gathering of Israel.
“So now, I am inviting every young woman and every young man between the ages of 12 and 18 in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to enlist in the youth battalion of the Lord to help gather Israel.”
President Nelson offered five things for youth to do — that will change them and help change the world — as they enlist in the Lord’s youth battalion to gather Israel.
1. Disengage from a constant reliance on social media.
President Nelson invited the youth of the Church to hold a seven-day fast from social media to decrease its worldly influence upon them.
“I acknowledge that there are positives about social media,” President Nelson said. “But if you are paying more attention to feeds from social media than you are to the whisperings of the Spirit, then you are putting yourself at spiritual risk, as well as the risk of experiencing intense loneliness and depression.”
The prophet warned of the “false reality” often portrayed online, where every post includes a person’s most fun, adventurous and exciting pictures, which creates the erroneous impression that everyone else has a fun, adventurous and exciting life.
“Much of what appears in your various social media feeds is distorted, if not fake,” he said. “So, give yourself a seven-day break from fake.”
2. Make a weekly sacrifice of time to the Lord, for three weeks in a row.
“Let Him know that you want to be part of His youth battalion — more than you want anything else,” he said. “For three weeks give up something you like to do and use that time to help gather Israel. Anytime you do anything that helps anyone — on either side of the veil — take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel. It is as simple as that.”
3. Do a thorough life assessment with the Lord, perhaps with parents and a bishop, to ensure an individual is firmly planted on the covenant path.
“If you have wandered off, or if there are some things you need to let go of to help your mind and heart be more pure, today is the perfect time to change,” he said. “If you aren’t sure how to repent, talk with your bishop or your parents or both. They will help you experience the joy that true repentance always brings.”
The prophet urged youth to “not stay off the covenant path one more minute. Please come back through true repentance now. We need you with us in the youth battalion of the Lord. It just won’t be the same without you.”
4. Pray daily that all of God’s children might receive the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“You and I are living to see, and will continue to see, Israel gathered with great power. And you can be part of the power behind that gathering.”
5. Stand out and be different from the world.
“You and I know that you are to be a light to the world,” he said. “Therefore, the Lord needs you to look like, sound like, act like and dress like a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Yes, you are living in the world, but you have very different standards from the world to help you avoid the stain of the world.”
With the Holy Ghost as a companion, youth are able to see through the “celebrity culture that has smitten our society.”
“And if you are sometimes called ‘weird,’ wear that distinction as a badge of honor and be happy that your light is shining brightly in this ever-darkening world.”
President Nelson encouraged youth to set a standard for the rest of the world and embrace being different. The For the Strength of Youth booklet includes those standards and is a guide to follow.
“I plead with you to study this booklet again,” he said. “Prayerfully read it like you’ve never read it before. Mark it up. Talk about the standards with your friends. Decide how you can live these standards, your standards, with even more exactness.”
In addition, President Nelson invited the youth to “pray about who needs this booklet. You will be guided. And it will be exciting. …
“My beloved young brothers and sisters, you are among the best the Lord has ever sent to this world. … I invite you to stand with the youth from all around the world and experience the thrill of being a member of the Lord’s youth battalion.”
During her remarks, Sister Nelson asked the youth to not compare their life with another’s life.
“It’s time to stop comparing ourselves with others,” she said. “It’s time to put away those erroneous views of ourselves and others. The truth is, we are not as hopelessly flawed as we may think, and others are not as perfect as they may appear; all except, of course, our Savior Jesus Christ.”
The only thing that really matters is that individuals do what Heavenly Father asks them to do, while keeping their covenants.
Sister Nelson shared five things each person would experience in this life — a mortal body, the chance to be tested, the choice to follow Jesus Christ, the gift of repentance and the charge to find and fulfill a mortal mission.
“We have opportunities to fulfill our mortal missions,” Sister Nelson said. “But we don’t have to. No one will make us. We have our agency to choose how we spend our time and energy, our talents and resources.”
Alexus Melgoza, 12, said Sister Nelson’s talk about comparing was relatable.
“I sometimes look at others and they seem better,” she said. “But it was a good reminder to not compare myself with others.”
Some of the youth attending said accepting the prophet’s challenge to refrain from social media for seven days will be difficult.
“Everyone is busy, so it will be helpful to take that time out of our day,” said Ame Tuha, 16.
Chase Fredrickson, 16, responded to President Nelson’s invitation to read from the Book of Mormon every day to prepare for the devotional.
“It helped me be prepared to know what Heavenly Father wanted me to know,” he said. “I like how he said we need to stand out and be different — we can be a light.”