From Hawaii to Pakistan: Church leaders witness the faith of youth while ministering worldwide

President Freeman and President Lund tell true accounts that demonstrate the youth’s faith in Jesus Christ

The strength of youth and their faith in Jesus Christ has been evident to the Young Men and Young Women general presidencies as they have traveled and ministered worldwide in 2023.

One main source of inspiration has been the annual youth theme, which for the last year is found in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

The youth theme chosen for 2024 is “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ” (3 Nephi 5:13).

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“We’re finding everywhere in the Church remarkable levels of subscription around these themes, where they know them, they are ready to talk about them, and they really are using them as a pivot to center their life around,” said President Steven J. Lund, Young Men general president.

President Lund and Young Women General President Emily Belle Freeman both shared true accounts with the Church News from their recent travels of youths demonstrating their faith in the Savior.

Prayer for a temple

Latter-day Saints and their neighbors were greatly affected by deadly and devastating wildfires on the island of Maui in August. President Freeman and Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson ministered to members there in late September, the week before October general conference.

President Emily Belle Freeman stands in the center of eight young women in Lahaina, Hawaii.
Young Women General President Emily Belle Freeman spends time with young women in Lahaina, Hawaii, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. | Provided by President Emily Belle Freeman

The sister leaders spent time with members from Lahaina’s two wards who had suffered great loss from the fires. Before departing, President Freeman asked a group of young men and young women if she could pray for each of them, what would they ask for?

Among the genuine requests were prayers for courage, safety and shelter. But the last one caused many to gasp.

A boy asked if President Freeman would pray for a house of the Lord to be built in Maui.

“I’m so interested that of everything you would love prayers for, it would be for a temple in Maui,” she said. “How many of you would want people to pray for that? Every youth raised their hand.”

The young people asked if President Freeman could speak to the Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, or at least leave a note on his desk at Church headquarters. She couldn’t guarantee either one, but did promise to pray with the boy for that righteous desire.

President Emily Belle Freeman smiles as she hugs young women in Lagos, Nigeria.
Young Women General President Emily Belle Freeman smiles with a group of young women in the Egbeda Ward in Lagos, Nigeria, Nov. 12, 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

One week later, President Nelson announced a temple for Kahului, Hawaii, the first house of the Lord on Maui’s shores. Amid a chorus of animated voices in the room, the boy beamed and scooted next to his teary-eyed mother. “It worked,” he said.

“I love that that boy learned in the midst of that huge trial that his prayers were answered, and that the one place that he knew would bring him strength in Christ — the temple — was the most important thing he could be praying for,” President Freeman said. “What a remarkable experience as we get to go all over the world and learn from these youth.”

President Freeman met other youth of great faith while ministering in Africa in November.

“I loved being with the youth there who wanted to talk about scripture, and how the words of Jesus Christ are impacting their life,” she said. “That is where they are finding strength, within the scriptures they are reading.”

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FSY in Pakistan

Last summer, President Lund traveled to Pakistan where he found hundreds of 14-18-year-olds attending a For the Strength of Youth conference.

“That FSY conference felt like every FSY conference I have been to, led by Pakistani young single adults who were acting as near peer counselors and mentors to those young people,” he said. “They sang the songs, they did the dances just like everywhere. ... That was amazing.”

While at that FSY conference, President Lund said he met a young man of great faith. Ten days earlier, the youth was walking home from school near a skirmish when a bullet somehow flew through a crowd and into his leg. He fell to the ground and was later taken to a hospital.

His branch president and the Relief Society president came to see him while he was in the hospital. Trying to lighten the situation, the branch president suggested the young man postpone attending FSY conference.

The boy’s eyes opened wide with alarm. “No, I am determined to go,” he said.

A week later, the young man was on board when the bus began a 12-hour ride to the FSY conference. His branch president had learned how to administer his treatment. President Lund met him as he limped around at the conference.

“Holiness brings about discipleship, and that’s the conversation within the youth of the Church, and those conversations are evoking that kind of faith,” President Lund said.

President Lund also recently traveled to Europe, starting in Hungary and ending in the Netherland’s capital of Amsterdam, where he served as a young missionary, and spent time with youth and missionaries, he shared on Instagram.

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