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President Cordon reflects on 5 years of momentous growth for the youth of the Church

As her calling tenure comes to a close, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon shares some of the inspired changes she has witnessed

Soon after President Bonnie H. Cordon was called to be Young Women general president in early 2018, President Russell M. Nelson spoke to the youth in a worldwide broadcast.

“He was very pointed,” President Cordon reflected. “He said, ‘You have the capacity to be smarter and wiser and have more impact on the world than any previous generation.’”

In her five years in this calling, she has witnessed youth answer the Prophet’s invitations to join the youth battalion, gather Israel, know their true identity as children of God and be lifelong disciples of Christ

President Russell M. Nelson sits with Sister Wendy Nelson during the June 2018 Worldwide Youth Devotional
President Russell M. Nelson sits with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, during the Worldwide Youth Devotional at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, June 3, 2018. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

She has also seen many changes in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are preparing the youth to be leaders and live a higher, holier way through Jesus Christ. 

“You can see that they have been uniquely prepared before coming here,” President Cordon said in an interview for this week’s episode of the Church News podcast. “The power of these youth is really what the Prophet has said — their capacity to change the world is great.”

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Answering the Prophet’s invitations

President Cordon shared on the podcast more about the story she told in April 2023 general conference of a young woman named Maddy, who took her younger siblings to Church with her when their parents stopped attending.

When Maddy told her mom that she wanted to serve a mission, she invited her mom to attend the temple with her. Her mother did go to the temple with her — and so did her father.

President Cordon also spoke of a young woman in Mongolia who started leaving the house at 4 a.m. to walk to seminary. When her mother found out, she said she didn’t have to sneak out; she would take her.

A young woman she met in the Democratic Republic of the Congo brought many family names to the temple to do baptisms. “She wasn’t very big, but she stood there and said, ‘I am not leaving the font until I have done all the names of those ancestors I brought.’” 

Young Women general president Sister Bonnie H. Cordon speaks with a devotional attendee after speaking at Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center on Feb. 4, 2020.
Young Women general president Sister Bonnie H. Cordon speaks with a devotional attendee after speaking at Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center on Feb. 4, 2020. | Alyssa Lyman, BYU photo

Youth also are taking the lead in ward youth councils and inviting their friends to camps and For the Strength of Youth conferences.

“The draw they have to make this world a Christ-centered world just empowers me when I see them be so intentional,” she said.

In President Nelson’s worldwide broadcast in May 2022, he shared three identities that matter most — child of God, child of the covenant, disciple of Christ.

President Cordon said the young men and young women are taking this to heart. “Our youth are realizing, ‘I am much more with those three identities than any other label or identifier that the world has given me.’”

In April 2022 general conference, President Nelson invited the youth to serve missions. And missionary applications have increased every single month since then.

“They answered the call,” President Cordon said. “This is why I think — [as] the Prophet said — they do have the capacity to change the world. And it will, and it is happening. You can just feel it as you spend any time sitting next to these young people. They can teach us so much.”

President Bonnie H. Cordon, Sister Michelle D. Craig and Sister Becky Craven, hold hands in general conference.
President Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president, and her counselors, Sister Michelle D. Craig and Sister Rebecca L. Craven, hold hands after the announcement of their upcoming release during the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 1, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Changes for the youth of the Church in 5 years

During April 2018 general conference, ministering was unveiled to replace home and visiting teaching. And youth could be assigned as a ministering companion.

When home-centered, Church-supported gospel study was announced in October 2018, adjustments included having Young Women and Young Men meetings every other Sunday. 

In December 2018, changes were announced for Primary progression, young men priesthood ordination and youth temple recommends.

Seminary changed to align with “Come, Follow Me,” beginning in 2019 and continued further alignment in 2021.

September 2019 brought more information about the new Children and Youth program to begin the following January. In October 2019, a new Young Women theme was presented, and class name and structure changes were announced.

President Cordon said the new Young Women theme was inspired by the Lord: “The doctrine of Christ is embedded in the theme,” she said.

A young women class counsels together.
A young women class counsels together. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Also in October 2019, the announcement came that women, youth and children could serve as witnesses of sealing and baptismal ordinances.

President Cordon said this shows “how important the youth are in doing the work and being part of the leading out in this work. It’s changed things, and they feel it.”

Also during President Cordon’s time in the Young Women general presidency, the Church introduced new biennial For the Strength of Youth conferences for the U.S. and Canada in 2022. FSY conferences had been held internationally for more than 15 years, and more followed throughout the world in 2023.

She said on Mondays, some of the young people are not sure about why they are at FSY. But by Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, “they don’t want to leave,” President Cordon said. “What you’re seeing is young people coming together and really understanding what it means to be a disciple of Christ.” 

She also sees that with Young Women camps, which continue each year and which the older young women are a part of planning as youth camp leaders. 

“All of the opportunities they have to connect with the Lord now is so remarkable. It is so much more focused on coming to know the Savior.” 

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Then, in October 2022, a new “For the Strength of Youth” guide based on principles was released.

President Cordon says those principles will help the youth over and over again. “They’ll be known for not what they can and can’t do, but their devotion to Jesus Christ,” she said.

Youth of the Herriman Utah Pioneer Stake hold copies of the revised “For the Strength of Youth” guide.
Youth of the Herriman Utah Pioneer Stake hold copies of the revised “For the Strength of Youth” guide. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced the release of the new guide during his October 2022 general conference talk. The Herriman Utah Pioneer Stake was one of the early adopter stakes of the new guide. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

More connected, engaged youth

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected the youth, President Cordon said. But it also provided opportunities for them — like having sacrament meetings and gospel study with their families.

“I think many of them realized they could have a voice in their family, that they could actually teach and be part of it,” she said.

As the new Children and Youth program was supposed to begin in 2020, everything in the world stopped. But the pause helped see where the strengths of the program were. 

“One of the huge strengths were class and quorum presidencies, to really understand that those young people need to lead out understanding, what is setting someone apart — that you actually are giving delegated priesthood authority and having them be part of the ward youth council,” President Cordon said.

The pandemic has inspired a new understanding of how to use technology in the work of the gospel.

“You see [youth] in this social media space. You see them connecting now in FSY and realizing, ‘I can lead out,’” President Cordon said. “You also see ‘Preach My Gospel,’ the second version, which is really written to our digital native generation. And it helps them to be able to articulate ‘what I believe.’” 

President Cordon said lifelong discipleship takes a lifetime. “But these young women and these young men across the globe really have a big leap forward in helping all of us and themselves to know that Jesus is the Christ.”

President Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president, speaks at the 2021 BYU Women’s Conference on April 29, 2021, at the BYU Marriott Center in Provo, Utah.
President Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president, speaks at the 2021 BYU Women’s Conference on April 29, 2021, at the BYU Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. | Screenshot from BYU broadcast
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