President Russell M. Nelson shared a special message for children and youth at the beginning of a Face to Face event on Sunday evening:
“Today, you will learn how to make the most of every opportunity to foster your gospel learning. You will grow a little each day through service and activities. You will be amazed to see your own personal development.”
That progress, President Nelson said, “is achieved because of your definitive decision to follow Jesus Christ.”
“Keep the Savior at the center of your plans. Always ask yourself and prayerfully ask your Father in Heaven, ‘What can I do to become more like Jesus Christ?’ As you do this each day, miracles will happen,” he said.
During the Face to Face event, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and general officers explained key elements of the new Children and Youth program using questions submitted online from around the world.
More changes impacting children and youth worldwide were also announced — including a new theme and camp guide for young men, a new Primary song and new recognition elements. Leaders also offered an overview of the Gospel Living mobile app designed to help youth live the gospel.
Elder Gong was joined by Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president; Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president; and Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president. The Face to Face event was broadcast from the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City and included several videos to emphasize the three components of the new program: service and activities, personal development and gospel learning.
“Built around a gospel core, this is our single Church effort for all our youth and children everywhere,” said Elder Gong of the new program, noting that it has been prepared with great love and inspiration. “It focuses on you discovering and becoming your best divine self through activities and service, learning and growth.”
He continued, “Our great desire is for you to strengthen faith in Jesus Christ and help you and your family progress along the covenant path as you meet life’s challenges.”
Service and activities
After discussing the principles of faith, agency and personal revelation, Elder Gong and the general officers addressed questions about activities. “Real service and purposeful activities are at the heart of Children and Youth,” Elder Gong said.
The new program will give many opportunities to gather as families, as Primary children, and as young men and young women, Brother Owen said. “We also want you to have fun. A main purpose of activities is to enjoy our time together. This will help you build relationships that can last a lifetime.”
The Children and Youth website includes more than 100 activities and service ideas for families, children and youth — with more to come. Service ideas can also come from JustServe.org or the JustServe app.
Speaking to children and Primary leaders, Sister Jones said, “Activity Days are now called Primary activities, and they are for girls and for boys. … We hope you hold Primary activities two to four times per month if that’s possible and practical.”
Primary activities should be led by at least two women, two men or a married couple. While boys and girls will generally meet separately, they may combine for some activities, she said.
For the youth, quorum and class presidencies are responsible for selecting and planning activities, Sister Cordon said. Young Women classes and Young Men quorums should continue to hold activities weekly where possible and hold combined activities regularly.
Camping and outdoor activities will continue to play an important role for youth. Young Women camp will continue to be held annually, and young men may hold one multi-day camp and three to six other overnight activities per year. Similar to the camp guide for Young Women, a new camp guide for Aaronic Priesthood quorums is now available, Brother Owen said.
Beginning in May 2020, youth turning 14 and older in the U.S. and Canada will have the opportunity to attend the For the Strength of Youth conferences — a five-day experience that has already seen much success internationally. Young single adults are invited to serve as FSY counselors.
“In the year youth attend FSY, their stakes will not hold stake youth conferences or trek. We do encourage holding stake or ward camps every year, where possible,” Brother Owen explained. The stake schedule for FSY conferences can be found under the FSY section on the Children and Youth website.
After the discussion on FSY, David Archuleta joined the event to perform the 2020 youth theme song and video based on the Book of Mormon verse 1 Nephi 3:7. Archuleta shared a personal experience about setting a goal when he was 12 years old to read the Book of Mormon.
In response to questions about setting and tracking goals as part of the new program, Elder Gong introduced personal development guidebooks for children and youth. The guidebook outlines a process to “Discover, Plan, Act and Reflect.”
“Set personal goals that challenge and stretch you,” Elder Gong said. “Discover new talents, interests and skills. Prepare to show personal achievement and receive meaningful recognition.”
Sister Jones encouraged children to start setting one goal per year in each area of growth (spiritual, social, intellectual and physical) beginning the year they turn 8.
Young men and young women are encouraged to set at least two goals per year in each area of growth. “But we are not going to prescribe what your goals should be,” Sister Cordon said, “or how many you should work on at once.” Goals can be short-term or long-term.
“Leaders and parents, keep in mind that you help children and youth best when you support their efforts instead of tracking them. Some goals, after all, are private,” Sister Jones added.
Elder Gong demonstrated some of the features of the new Gospel Living app, the digital asset to the new program, to show how technology, when properly used, can help youth live the gospel.
The Gospel Living app allows youth to track goals, view upcoming activities, journal thoughts and photos, listen to music, watch videos and share messages with family, class or quorum members and leaders. The first version of the app will be available for download in January.
The recognition elements of the new program were also introduced. Similar to the torch necklace young women currently receive upon turning age 12, the new program will include the following emblems of belonging:
- Children turning 4 will continue to receive a green CTR ring.
- Children turning 8 will receive a picture of the temple and a ring with a CTR shield surrounding a temple symbol.
- Youth turning 12 will receive a temple recommend holder.
- Young men turning 12 will receive a ring that points them to the temple.
- Young women turning 12 will receive a medallion and gemstone necklace.
- Young men turning 18 will receive an oil vial.
- Young women turning 18 will receive a pendant to add to their necklace.
When youth strive to meet personal goals and basic gospel expectations, they can earn two additional emblems shortly before completing time in Aaronic Priesthood quorums or Young Women: a certificate signed by the First Presidency and a Christus in a crystal arch.
“Please remember, personal gospel growth is not a set of requirements that you check off,” Elder Gong said. “Setting righteous personal goals and establishing disciplined and inspired patterns will bless your whole life.”
New Children and Youth logos feature a symbol of a temple and the words “Strive to Be” — an invitation to become more like Christ. Leaders asked youth worldwide to share on social media what they are doing to grow more like Christ using the hashtag #StrivetoBe. The Church youth Instagram account is now called “StrivetoBe.”
Service, activities and goals will become more meaningful when connected to gospel truths, Sister Cordon said.
Sister Jones explained how the Church’s curriculum program, “Come, Follow Me” is foundational to gospel learning for children and youth as they receive spiritual impressions about how they can grow.
The recent adjustment to youth curriculum to align with “Come, Follow Me” at home, in seminary, in Primary and in Sunday School further supports the new program, Brother Owen added.
Sister Cordon invited the young women around the world to stand and recite the new Young Women theme announced during the October general conference.
Brother Owen then invited the young men to stand and recite the new Aaronic Priesthood quorum theme:
“We hope you will begin reciting this theme when you gather in Sunday quorum meetings,” Brother Owen said. “We also hope you will carefully study its meaning and commit to live by its teachings and principles.”
Elder Gong pointed out that both themes focus on “acting and becoming — ministering, serving, bearing witness of Jesus Christ, and doing our best each day.”
The final question during the Face to Face event concerned the flexibility of the new program and how to adapt it to local circumstances and unique family situations. No matter the family situation and no matter the size or location of a ward or branch, the principles of the new program can work. “We invite you to seek the Spirit of the Lord and adapt the Children and Youth program to your local needs,” Brother Owen said.
To close the broadcast, Elder Gong quoted President Nelson’s reminder to parents of their essential role: “Please build strong relationships with your children and youth. … No one can have a greater influence on their success than you.”
Elder Gong added, “Parents and leaders, please remember our Church curriculum, program and organization work together. As elders quorums and Relief Societies take greater responsibility for the work of salvation, bishops, you can properly focus on each youth.”
Families then sang the new Primary song, “I Will Walk with Jesus,” which invites all to walk the covenant path with the Savior.
Broadcast in 18 languages to more than 140 countries, this event was the Church’s largest Face to Face to date. Wards and branches will receive the personal development guidebooks by January 2020 and the emblems of achievement and belonging by mid-2020.
All resources mentioned during the Face to Face event and more information about the Children and Youth program can be found on ChildrenandYouth.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.