When President Steven J. Lund and his counselors, Brother Ahmad S. Corbitt and Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, were called to the Young Men general presidency in April 2020, they were looking forward to being “front-row witnesses” to the rolling out of the new Children and Youth program.
Then, “the program was swallowed up by a global pandemic,” President Lund told BYU Women’s Conference participants on Thursday, April 29. Their simple assignment to “change the culture of the Church,” nonetheless, remained.
After 100 years of mothers “driving kids to merit badge counselors” and “pushing their sons out the door for campouts,” the shift away from Scouting was designed to prepare youth for a different world, he said.
President Lund and his counselors realized this shift wouldn’t be successful unless the women of the Church fully embraced the Children and Youth program.
Relying on the words and experiences of mothers, President Lund shared six reasons why he and other Church leaders have faith in the Children and Youth program — “in hopes that you will gain your own testimony of it and share it with each other.”
1. It is a powerful tool for home-centered Church
President Lund said the general women leaders played a “central role” in crafting the simple structure of the Children and Youth program and its three areas of focus: gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development.
Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham has taught that parents and extended families are key to the success of this effort. “A parent’s most important role is to help their children to connect with heaven, to develop the gospel-based value system that will help anchor them through the challenges in their life,” she said.
2. It provides structure for families to use as they strive toward home-centered personal development
President Lund shared a video clip of President Joy D. Jones, former Primary general president, telling a story of a child setting a goal to read the Book of Mormon and the impact it had on the child’s family. The Children and Youth program focuses families on the covenant path, he said.
The happiest individuals, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon said, “are those who engage socially and spiritually in ways which positively build others while also building themselves.”
3. It is a program designed for these unique times
President Russell M. Nelson told the youth in June 2018 that they were sent to earth at this precise time — “the most crucial time in the history of the world” — to help gather Israel. “This is the mission for which you were sent to earth,” he said.
President Nelson did not call the youth to the Lord’s youth battalion, President Lund noted. “He invited them. For them, it is a choice.”
President Nelson did not say they were the greatest generation, but they have the capacity to be so. “That, too, is a choice,” said President Lund, adding that these choices to join the Lord’s battalion “will largely find place, if at all, in the Children and Youth program.”
4. It provides a place for men and women to teach and prepare children for the tasks of gathering and defending Zion
Without faithful mothers and fathers who refused to violate their covenants, there would have been no sons of Helaman, President Lund said. “In our day, it is you and I who were born to prepare them, to wrap their wounds and to fit their hands to the task of Zion.”
The war in heaven did not end in heaven, he said. “It is continuing here and now, and the youth of the Church are in need of the same defenses and weapons that defeated evil before the world was”
5. ‘Your young people need you to support Children and Youth because they actually need you’
Relationships with mothers, fathers, friends, neighbors, bishops, advisers, and quorum and class presidencies “can be the most important faith factor in a young person’s life,” President Lund said.
President Lund cited findings from a multiyear Church longevity study in which active young adults told researchers it was their positive relationships with active leaders who helped them develop a relationship with the Savior and their Father in Heaven — even more than Sunday School or activities.
These “critically important relationships” can grow in the Children and Youth program — in midweek service and activities, seminary, Sunday School, and quorum and class meetings, President Lund said. With the Spirit, such trust and relationships can happen anywhere.
6. It builds faith in Christ by putting youth and children on the road He travels
“Children and Youth is the Church’s leadership training program,” President Lund said.
And it provides support to emotional health, he said, referencing G. Sheldon Martin, a licensed mental health counselor, who said that Children and Youth is a pattern for mental and emotional wellness because of the consistent emphasis on growth in a variety of areas.
Youth will face hard days, President Lund said, which “makes it all the more imperative that they learn from you that ‘he will take upon him their infirmities … that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people’ (Alma 7:12).
“The Children and Youth program will further introduce your sons and daughters to that truth as it introduces them to Him.”