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Diane Gubler: What ice skating taught me about the role of youth in the work of salvation and exaltation

‘In many ways, ... class presidency members are like ice-skaters. Sometimes they fall, other times they rely on a guiding hand, but always, they surprise me with their ability to help in God’s work,’ Diane Gubler writes

Recently, we took our youth ice skating. With wobbly knees and outstretched arms, they took to the ice, many of them for the first time. Most of them fell down — repeatedly. Some held hands or linked arms for balance. Others only needed to watch a more experienced skater for a while before venturing off on their own. By the end of the night everyone had improved, and smiles and laughter prevailed.

In my calling, I get to work with and train our newly called 11- to 13-year-old Young Women class presidency members. In many ways, they are like ice skaters. Sometimes they fall, other times they rely on a guiding hand, but always they surprise me with their ability to help in God’s work as demonstrated in the following experiences:

Called of God

At one point during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, we sustained a new class presidency, but because of pandemic restrictions, their setting apart did not take place for several weeks. When they were finally set apart, I witnessed a powerful change in those young women. Up to that point they had been trying to do God’s work without receiving His authority. But having priesthood authority and power specific to their callings instantly changed the way they took charge, planned and ministered.

Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon has taught, “In the simplicity and frequency of a setting apart, we may miss the significance of this priesthood ordinance — an ordinance that quite literally sets us apart from the world and designates us for the Lord’s work” (Church News, “President Bonnie H. Cordon: Leading with power, promise and holiness”).

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This year, fortunately, our new class presidency had a different experience. Minutes after being sustained, they were set apart, and the new class president asked: “When can we meet? I have so many ideas.” 

She had already experienced revelation when selecting her counselors, so like a seasoned ice skater, she recognized the Spirit giving her ideas relevant to her calling and — now armed with priesthood authority — was ready to get to work. 

Ministering

One week after being set apart, this new class presidency and I met for some training. Using the Church’s orientation guide for new class and quorum presidencies, I taught about ministering and encouraged them to pray for and think about ways that they could minister to their class members.

“Let’s give them a spa day,” one of them enthusiastically suggested. Everyone excitedly agreed.

Soon, my training meeting was hijacked as plans for homemade spa treatments, manicures and face masks took over the conversation. That day, this group of ice skaters didn’t need any help from me.

The planning continued via text, and the very next day, completely independent of leaders, this class presidency hosted a spa day for two of their class members. They tenderly served and got to know them better. With all that talk of manicures and foot soaks, I couldn’t help thinking of Christ washing the feet of His disciples and His gentle reminder, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). 

Counseling Together

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has explained that the work of salvation and exaltation is meant to be carried out by more than just the presidencies of each organization, but it rather should include the entire quorum or class.

One of the ways we accomplish this is to counsel together as a Young Women class about questions related to the work of salvation and exaltation. This part of Sunday lessons in our ward has sometimes been met with awkward silence or polite but stilted answers instead of the robust counseling and flow of inspiration that we would like.

A few weeks ago, a new Young Women class presidency counselor had her first turn leading the council. Like a new ice skater, she seemed unsure about the assignment, so I offered to lend a hand. She asked a question, she listened to the answer, and then I suggested a follow-up question for her to ask.

Soon someone mentioned a young woman from our class whose great-grandmother had just passed away. This time, the class presidency counselor knew what question to ask without any prompting from me: “What can we do to help?”

Ideas flowed, and the Spirit accompanied every suggestion. The young women settled on a plan to “heart-attack” the girl’s door that week, and I left the room that day thinking, “This is what a council looks like.”

All things through Christ

After our ice skating activity, I said to one of our first-timers, “That was a hard thing you just did.”

“I know,” she replied, “It felt amazing.” 

It does feel amazing when we accomplish something hard, and our Young Women classes and presidencies have been asked to do some hard things. They lead out in planning and executing activities and Sunday meetings, receive revelation and minister to others. And they do all this while balancing other worthwhile commitments and activities.

These efforts can also be hard for the adult leaders. Being an adult leader to youth involves not only attending meetings but teaching how to plan for and conduct meetings. It involves not only ministering but teaching how to minister. We don’t just fulfill assignments, we teach how to extend, accept and fulfill assignments. Being an adult leader to youth is no easy task. 

As any parent who has ever tried to teach a child how to load the dishwasher knows, sometimes it is just easier to do it yourself. But what these youth have been asked to do is no household chore. It is a calling from God. The youth theme for this year reminds us that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Let us not deprive our youth of experiencing the truth of this scripture firsthand by doing their callings for them. The youth at our ice skating activity did not learn to skate by standing on the side and watching their leaders skate. With a little bit — or sometimes a lot — of guidance, they can do hard things through Christ. And it feels amazing.

— Diane Gubler is second counselor in the Young Women presidency, Canyon View 1st Ward, Orem Utah Canyon View Stake.

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