As disciples of Jesus Christ, it is our responsibility to assist the Lord in His divine work “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). The youth of the Church have been invited by a prophet of God to participate in the work of salvation and exaltation, and we know they are eager to accept this invitation. But, what exactly is this work?
The General Handbook gives us clear direction on this matter. “As we come unto Christ and help others do the same, we participate in God’s work of salvation and exaltation” (General Handbook, 1.2).
It’s that simple. “This work is motivated by the two great commandments to love God and to love our neighbors and focuses on four divinely appointed responsibilities. … Living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Caring for those in need. Inviting all to receive the gospel. Uniting families for eternity” (General Handbook, 1.2).
When there is work to be done, having the correct tools makes all the difference. We can learn from a master gardener who carefully tends the soil and plants in order to achieve a bountiful harvest. She knows the importance of water, fertilizer, sunlight and aeration for strengthening roots. Tools are used to remove weeds and promote the best conditions for optimum growth.
In the same way, the Children and Youth program is a tool to help us as we seek to accomplish the great work we have been given and to prepare, nurture and engage young souls as they grow spiritually, socially, intellectually and physically (Luke 2:52). This is done through gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development. We want to help our youth choose to be deeply rooted, strong, resilient and firm in their commitment to Jesus Christ. We must give them the room to grow toward “the Son” without smothering them.
Julia Boone from Washington, Utah, is a young mother of five children. Three and a half years ago she lost her husband in a tragic car accident. Julia said she didn’t know for sure how she could continue on with a strong gospel focus in the home without her Nathan, but she quickly learned that “Heavenly Father fills in the cracks.”
Along with help from extended family and those around them, her greatest strength from the Lord came through her two oldest daughters, Brooklyn, 15, and Courtney, 13. Brooklyn said that losing her father was incredibly hard for her, but she has learned for herself that because of the Savior’s Atonement, she will see her Papa again. Courtney, a natural nurturer, considers her family as her best friends and is so grateful she has grown up in a family brought close together by the gospel.
Being involved in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation, using the Children and Youth program as a tool, this exemplary family is finding joy.
Service and Activities: Both daughters have planned meaningful service and activities both in their family and in their classes as they serve in their Young Women class presidencies. These have added to the unity they feel and have been a blessing to them and those who they have served.
Gospel Learning: As a family, nightly scripture reading from the Children’s Book of Mormon Stories has been a blessing. With their younger siblings, it has become a way to make the scripture stories come alive. In the mornings they discuss “Come, Follow Me” lessons. These lessons have helped them gain new insight and perspectives from the Book of Mormon.
Personal Development: Goal setting is a family affair. The girls help with the cooking and baking, and the whole family gets involved in taking meals to others. The girls help their mother reinforce the rules of their home. Both girls are attending a new school, and Courtney is excited to reach out and make new friends. They are grateful that the program allows their family to seek revelation and personalize the gospel just for them. Because their mother memorized the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” both girls were excited to accept the challenge from their bishop to memorize, “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World.”
Too often as parents and leaders, in our zealousness to follow a new program, we want to accessorize it. In this way, it often becomes so cumbersome and regimented that we overlook the purpose for which it was intended — “to come unto Christ and receive His gospel deeper in our hearts” (Brother Douglas Holmes, “Deep in Our Heart”, Ensign, May 2020, p.24).
The Children and Youth program is intended to help our youth be intentional as they seek and act upon personal revelation and strive to become more like their Savior, Jesus Christ. It is simply a call from a prophet of God to live the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives and our homes.
For those valiant youth who find themselves on the covenant path alone, or those who have wandered off, or those who have not yet found the path, loving youth and adult leaders and others can play an important role in their progress along that path. We need what they have to offer. We must love them, pray for them and seek personal revelation from the Master Gardner Himself on what we can do to lift and include them.
Our Savior oversees and guides His work, and as parents and leaders, we assist in His work with divinely inspired tools in preparing our valiant youth to carry on the work of salvation and exaltation.
Julia, Brooklyn and Courtney have captured the essence of the Children and Youth program — they simply live the gospel of Jesus Christ and by so doing care for others, unite their family, and invite others to come unto Christ because of their righteous examples. May each of us follow the example of our youth and stand ready to move this work forward to prepare the world for the promised Second Coming of Jesus Christ.