What a teeter totter and training wheels have to do with letting the youth take charge

Young single adult members of Young Women general advisory council join BYU Women’s Conference panel about youth taking the lead

When Sister Jordan Murray of the Young Women general advisory council was around 14 years old, her ward split, and she felt left behind and sad. The bishop called a 70-year-old woman to be the new ward’s Young Women president, with Sister Murray’s mom as one of the counselors.

As Sister Murray sat at her home complaining about the upcoming girls’ camp and how the other ward would have more fun, her mother asked her what would make camp fun for her.

Sister Murray flippantly replied, “a teeter totter.”

When she got to camp, she was shocked to see her new Young Women president standing by a yellow and blue teeter totter. The piece of children’s playground equipment soon became a gathering point for the girls — and Sister Murray grew to love her new Young Women leaders during that camp.

“I am grateful for leaders who rallied and supported us. It showed me how they saw me individually and cared about me.”

A red seesaw or teeter totter with blue handles in a grassy field.
A red seesaw or teeter totter with blue handles in a grassy field. | andrea crisante

Sister Murray shared this story while on a BYU Women’s Conference panel on May 2 with five other members of the Young Women general advisory council. Sister Murray and Sister Rachel Larsen, Sister Camille Buckley, Sister Haylie Chase and Sister Lía Vidal are are all young single adults on the council. The panel was moderated by council member Sister Ruth Jones Todd.

They discussed ways local Young Women leaders can help the youth of their wards take the lead in the work of salvation and exaltation and gathering Israel.

This all starts with helping the young women truly see their value and their divine nature and helping them know their worth, explained Sister Buckley.

“In the children and youth guide, when it talks about the role of leaders … there are a few action words [such as] to prepare, minister, guide, encourage, get to know — I love these words,” Sister Buckley said.

She said the greatest blessing of her years in the Young Women program were her leaders who got to know her and encouraged her when she felt insecure.

“I started to believe in myself because they did,” Sister Buckley said.

A Young Women class meets together.
A Young Women class meets together. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Sister Chase shared how one of her Young Women leaders — Sister Bueno — attended sporting events, sent notes and text messages and kept on writing to the girls when they left for college or went on missions.

When Sister Chase graduated from Brigham Young University last month, Sister Bueno was there and found her in the crowd.

“That for me is the essence of being a lifelong leader,” Sister Chase said. “She is still there for me and she is still showing up.”

Sister Vidal read from Acts 3, which she said the council members use when they train local Young Women leaders. Peter and John see the lame man in the temple, “fastening their eyes on him,” she said.

In the same way, Young Women leaders can look at the youth and see them for their potential — encourage them to get up, get past hard moments — but also walk with them and show them who they can be eternally.

A training wheels analogy

Sister Todd said ward Young Women leaders are asked to let the youth lead, but they may not know exactly how to do that.

“We can’t just give them a bike and say, ‘go ride’ if they never have before,” she said.

Sister Murray said teaching a youth to lead is similar to teaching someone to ride a bike — starting with training wheels and someone in the front and maybe also in the back. Then the child gets a little older and a little better, “but you are right there helping.” As a child starts to ride on their own, “you are jogging beside them … There are so many phases in mentoring and bringing someone along with you,” she said.

A child rides a purple bike with training wheels as seen from behind.
A child rides a purple bike with training wheels as seen from behind. | Panchenko Dmytro

The panel talked about how adult youth leaders are called and set apart and have the tools they need to be leaders to the girls.

In Doctrine and Covenants 25, the Lord tells Emma Smith she is “an elect lady.” Sister Vidal said adult leaders are elect as well and can model what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus Christ for the youth.

And the youth are the next generation of leaders in the Church, said Sister Chase. “They need to be grounded in the gospel and their testimonies of Jesus Christ.”

Sister Larsen pointed out that as the youth are given more opportunities to lead, they can learn from successes and failures: “Failure doesn’t define them but helps them grow.”

Finding and recognizing different talents and skill sets is a key part of the process as well — a leader might be better at organizing while a young woman is better at finding girls to invite, Sister Murray said. “Be grateful that you can work together.”

Above all, Sister Buckley encouraged youth leaders to remember that they were called for a reason and that they have the power to empower the youth.

“You can help them see their worth as daughters of God.”

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