Simply saying that the newly called Young Men general presidency is beginning its duties “at a moment like no other” surely qualifies as understatement.
For one, Young Men General President Steven J. Lund and his counselors, Brother Ahmad S. Corbitt and Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, are helping to champion and further implement the five-month-old Children and Youth program designed to help young Latter-day Saints around the world to realize their vast individual potential and joy.
And, of course, the new presidency was recently called in the midst of a frightening, disruptive global pandemic, being sustained during April 2020 general conference.
Many of the traditional ways that Aaronic Priesthood holders worship and fellowship have come to an abrupt halt. Along with their counterparts in the Young Women and Primary general presidencies, their daily prayers and concerns are for the well-being of young Latter-day Saints in a growing international Church.
Still settling into their new callings, President Lund, Brother Corbitt and Brother Wilcox recently sat down, virtually, with the Church News for a question-and-answer session about the historic challenges and opportunities facing the young men of the Church, from Albania to Zimbabwe. (Some responses have been edited for length.)
1. What excites you most about this recent opportunity to serve together as a Young Men general presidency?
President Lund: We are in a time of change and transition.
The new Children and Youth program offers us a time of invention and creation where we’re trying to figure out how to meet each other’s needs and help our young people discover the Savior and have a relationship with Him.
It’s always exciting to be part of invention. Creation is a noble endeavor — and we’re creating something that hasn’t existed in the Church.
It’s fun to be in the middle of that.
Brother Corbitt: I am excited to work with these two men of God. There’s a unity that exists, even this early in our presidency, which I love. That is something that the Lord can use for His purposes for the next few years.
Brother Wilcox: We’re seeing more interaction between the organizations. There are a lot of groups in the Church that have responsibility for the youth: seminary, Sunday School, Young Men, Young Women and Primary. I see a lot more “linking of arms” as we try to go forward together.
2. President Lund has taught that being a successful member of the Kingdom of God is not complicated. What can the young men of the Church do to keep it simple and enjoy personal success in the Lord’s Kingdom?
Brother Corbitt: Follow the prophet. We learn that principle from Primary, and it’s easy to understand.
Make the prophet’s priorities your priorities. When President Russell M. Nelson asks you to do something, do it in faith, knowing and trusting that it is what your Heavenly Father wants you to do to be happy and successful.
Brother Wilcox: Being a member of the Church is not complicated — but life is complicated. What we need to do [as youth leaders] is help young people connect the dots. Life is complicated, but living the gospel is the solution. Life is complicated, but drawing closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is the solution.
When young people learn to connect those dots, they realize that living the gospel makes life less complicated.
President Lund: The gospel is pretty simple — and when we do the basic things of the gospel, our lives get a lot better and a lot easier.
President M. Russell Ballard talks about “The Old Ship Zion.” That ship wasn’t built to be moored to a safe dock inside a harbor. It was meant to go to sea where the waves crash and the thunder roars and where things are difficult.
For life to be as simple as we can make it, we need to batten down the hatches, throw up our defenses and make sure we’re not standing on a slippery deck. Reading the scriptures, going to Church and saying our prayers will secure us, because the wind is always blowing.
But we also need to raise a sail and set our rudder so that our lives can come to mean something. As we become part of the Lord’s battalion, … our lives acquire purpose that helps us cut through those waves and makes us happier and safer than we would be otherwise.
3. The new Children and Youth program is anchored to principles found in Luke 2:52. How can the young men follow the Savior’s example and “increase in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” at a time when traditional quorum gatherings are being disrupted by the ongoing pandemic?
Brother Wilcox: The beauty of the Children and Youth program is that it’s not tied to quorum meetings or gatherings. It’s not tied to someone helping you through a checklist. It’s something that can happen individually. Young people can be moving forward — even if they’re not meeting in traditional ways.
Before this virus hit, they were given the tools to continue to progress, even during this time of disruption.
President Lund: The challenge that the youth face is really not all that different than the challenge we all face: We are trying to get through life with the toolbox that we’ve been able to develop so far. Every new stage of life requires new tools.
One of the beauties of the Children and Youth program is that it stretches the youth to focus on all four areas of their lives [spiritual, social, physical, intellectual] and do things that may not come naturally to them.
If the youth are going to meet the full promise of their lives, they need to develop in all of those areas, just like the Savior.
Brother Corbitt: The Lord, in all ages, has sought to simplify things for His children — especially His covenant people.
Anciently, when Israel was bitten by poisonous snakes, the Lord said to just look forward unto Christ. The way was simple. In our day, we have been bitten by this contagion — and yet the Lord has again simplified the way just in time for us to apply what we know.
As leaders and youth follow the Children and Youth program and its simplified nature, they can increase spiritually, physically, intellectually and socially. Luke 2:52 can be fulfilled in the lives of our youth.
4. The Aaronic Priesthood Quorum Theme begins with the declaration: “I am a beloved son of God, and He has a work for me to do.” How can a young man in the Church discover “the work” that God intends for him?
President Lund: The first thing you do is never say no to a priesthood assignment. If you do that, you will find purpose — and Heavenly Father will find ways to bring out your own skills and abilities in helping to lift others.
Second, look to your patriarchal blessing. We all need them. They describe who we are and they attach us to the family of God. Our patriarchal blessings speak, in spiritual language, to the missions of our lives.
Brother Wilcox: One thing I have my university students do is write down 10 heroes. … When you look at heroes, and who your heroes are, you begin realizing the things that you admire in those people and the things that they do that you can do in your own life.
Looking to heroes and identifying goals are both important things in finding your own work and allowing the Lord to reveal to you your purposes.
5. How do you plan to work with your colleagues in the Young Women general presidency to collectively strengthen the youth of the Church?
Brother Corbitt: We feel the same unity with the Young Women general presidency that we feel within our own presidency, and also with the Primary general presidency. We all want to see what we can do to facilitate the success of God’s children — from childhood to adulthood.
The more unified we are in working with women and men of God, all called by the Lord’s anointed, the more successful we will all be.
President Lund: There is a hailstorm out there, and we’re all going to run through it together.
There is so much that our young people, male and female, are going to face in common. They need each other to lean upon and draw strength from.
There’s great value in collaboration between the young men and the young women. The best asset that most young men in the Church have are the young women in their wards. And the strongest asset those young women have are the young men they work with.
We need to nurture their combined strength.