Gathered in multiple Church buildings in southeastern Idaho, thousands of youth received counsel about making good choices, serving missions and following the Savior in a youth devotional ahead of Sunday’s Pocatello Idaho Temple dedication.
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke to the youth about the role serving a mission played in his testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ.
“If you are wondering whether or not [serving a mission] is something you should do, may I encourage you with all the strength I have, that when it is appropriate and the time is right and you have an opportunity to serve a full-time mission, that you take advantage of it,” he said.
He shared the increase in understanding and loving the Savior that he had as a missionary.
“I thought I knew and loved the Lord before I became a missionary, but I didn’t really know Him,” President Ballard said. “I learned to really love the Lord Jesus Christ and appreciate who He really is as I served as a young missionary in England.”
President Ballard mentioned missions or missionaries a dozen times as he spoke with the youth, also thanking those who have already served a mission.
“This part of the Church — Pocatello, Idaho — is a center of raising up faithful missionaries.”
Beyond serving as missionaries, President Ballard also expressed his hope for the future in meeting with the young men and young women.
“I have such great sense of confidence and peace as I look at your faces and know that the Church will be in good hands — it will be in your hands.”
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, also spoke with the youth.
Elder Andersen, who grew up in Pocatello, shared three principles from the For the Strength of Youth standards booklet that he hoped the youth would pay particular attention to.
First, he talked about the influence of the Holy Ghost, who is mentioned 22 times in the booklet.
Reading Doctrine and Covenants section 11, verse 12, Elder Andersen said, “’Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good — yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.’
“So you start learning about the Holy Ghost and trusting in that Spirit that tells you to do right…,” he said. “And as you trust it and you follow it and you do what is right, it comes more often and more powerfully.”
Second, Elder Andersen spoke about choosing good friends.
“Some friends you are able to help and some friends will help you,” he said. “This is the way it works. We lift some, others lift us … we help each other move toward covenants and promises to God.”
Third, he said, “we must build our foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Among the ways faith in the Savior is increased is reading the Book of Mormon, Elder Andersen said.
“Part of the reason we read the Book of Mormon is because it gives us that reassurance the Christ really lives, that He is resurrected.”
Elder Andersen also warned the youth against the dangers of pornography, dishonesty and stealing.
“We have to repent continually,” he said, “but there is no feeling, no satisfaction, no blessing greater than having that feeling of forgiveness from your Lord Jesus Christ.”
Sister Andersen said the words from the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants are important whenever we listen to the words of Apostles.
“’What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.’
“Think about that scripture as you contemplate what you will hear,” she invited the youth.
Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s North America Central Area, conducted the meeting and spoke with the youth, as well.
Having spoken with President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Church, and President Ballard prior to another youth meeting, Elder Nielsen shared some of what those two leaders counseled him to share with the youth.
President Nelson shared how the gospel of Jesus Christ made a difference in his operating room as a surgeon. The gospel brought calm, and the calm brought questions from his peers.
President Nelson was ready to answer those questions about the calm that attended him by answering that it came because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Then, he would ask if they wanted to know more. As Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15, “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”
President Ballard suggested that Elder Nielsen keep it simple. He provided a simple invitation for the youth, and Elder Nielsen repeated that to the youth. He invited them to find someone to share the gospel with before Christmas as a gift to the Savior.
“May we make a special effort to say our prayers every day to be put in the path of someone who needs us every day and invite them to participate in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” Elder Nielsen invited the youth.
Elder Gary B. Sabin, General Authority Seventy, shared three observations of a pencil with the youth.
First, it is what’s inside the pencil that matters. Second, a pencil works best when directed by a higher power. And third, a pencil has an eraser.
Elder Sabin reminded the youth that the Lord looks at their hearts.
“If you want to be beautiful inside and out, be pure,” he said.
He compared the holding of a pencil to write or draw with allowing God to prevail in one’s life, as President Nelson has counseled.
“We’ve probably all used a smartphone to find directions somewhere,” he said. “So when the voice says, ‘turn right,’ how many of you say, ‘No one is telling me what to do’? That would be silly.”
He added that commandments act as that phone’s GPS.
“We receive commandments to help us get back home,” he said. “If we let God prevail, the gates of hell shall not prevail.”
One of the young women in attendance, Gemma Smith from Boise, had two feelings after listening to the devotional.
“I felt very comforted,” she said. “And even though I’m in a room full of strangers, I just felt connected… It makes me feel like I’m a part of something great.”
Not coincidentally, the music playing on the organ as Smith expressed that feeling was from this year’s youth theme album called “A Great Work.”
Gavin Permann attended with his brother and sister from Rockland. He said he felt a strong connection as Elder Andersen spoke of his time as a youth.
“It helps me, especially going through high school, to keep me on the right path,” he said. “So in the future, I will make better decisions.”
Andon and Asher Krumenacker, brothers from Pocatello, both said the teachings felt personal to them and their individual situations.
Asher said, “It felt very personal, and I felt the Spirit when they were talking.”
Youth in the area helped prepare the temple site for its groundbreaking ceremony by clearing sagebrush from the 11-acre property in a matter of days. Prior to the open house, they also helped plant more than 25,000 flowering plants. After the dedication of their temple, they can put that industrious spirit into serving inside the temple.
President Ballard said he hopes the youth will do so with the Savior as their focus.
“Let Him be your hero. Let Him be your guide,” he said.