I’m currently serving as a Young Women adviser in my ward. When the new Children and Youth program was first announced, I was both nervous and excited. How different would this be from Personal Progress, Duty to God, Activity Days, or Scouts? Would our youth feel like this was one more thing they had to add to their busy schedules, or would this new program easily integrate into their current extracurricular activities? Would it be flexible for our small youth program?
The Face to Face with Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles last year helped answer a lot of those questions. The Children and Youth booklets were also helpful, but I was really looking forward to the features in the new Gospel Living app.
I consider myself (and most of our girls) to be pretty early adopters of technology—all of our young women have cell phones—so when the new Gospel Living app launched, I was excited to share it with them. I hoped they’d be excited, too.
First off, this app is amazing! I wish there had been something like this when I was their age. The three main sections include:
- • A Discover feed, where new and uplifting Church content like videos, articles, music, and quotes are added daily.
- • The My Life section where you can add personal goals, set daily, weekly, or monthly reminders, and record personal impressions.
- • The Circles messaging feature which allows you to send in-app messages to members of your class, quorum, or presidency.
You can customize the "Discover" feed based on your interests. I’ve already gone into my settings in the app and edited my own preferences, and I hope the youth in our ward will do the same. We have such varied interests among the youth in our ward—some are musical, others love sports—and they have a variety of personal concerns and gospel questions.
I recently asked our young women what topics they would like to talk about in future classes or activities, and I was blown away by the maturity of their responses. I love that the feed preferences include gospel topics many of our youth are already asking about like emotional health, Mother in Heaven, same-sex attraction, temple garments, peer pressure, and the Second Coming. The topics also cater to their social and academic interests with options like sportsmanship, mathematics, hiking, games, cooking, music, friendship, and so many more.
I’ve also been impressed by the new content that is added to the feed every day. The “Scripture of the Day” integrates Come, Follow Me into your daily life, and the videos and music in the Discover feed uplift and bring the Spirit. Additionally, the personal #StriveToBe stories show from a youth's perspective what it's like being a Latter-day Saint and helps others know they are not alone.
The end of almost every feed post has a “micro-invitation,” a suggested small act to help children and youth strive to be more like the Savior. I love that these prompts dig deep and allow the youth to apply to their lives what they’ve just read or watched on the app. Some of these “micro-invitations” even have an “Adopt This Goal” button that takes you straight to a new goal page where you can set a spiritual, social, physical, or intellectual goal for yourself. I’m all about simplicity, and I think that’s a great way for the youth to take immediate action on a spiritual impression or insight they have received.
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In the "My Life" section, you can track personal goals, set up daily reminders, and jot down spiritual impressions. My entire life is on my cell phone, so I love getting a reminder to read my scriptures, pray for a family member, and study Come, Follow Me. It also helps me stay on top of my social, physical, or intellectual activities like working out, meditating, or practicing Russian each day.
My husband and I can add family goals and reminders to the app that involve each other, too. I can see this being a tremendous resource for families with teenagers as a way to discuss gospel topics, track family goals, and dig into that week’s Come, Follow Me lesson.
One feature that I have been the most excited about but haven't been able to fully utilize with our Young Women is the "Circles" messaging.
When we first asked the girls to download the app, none of them knew their Church account username or password and couldn’t log in to join our ward’s Circles. We’ve had several indexing and family history activities over the years, so I know these girls each have a log in. But since these young women don’t need regular access to the Tools app, the ward directory, or the ability to pay tithing online like so many of us adults do, I think their log in information just isn’t top of mind. So, while the idea of being able to send the youth messages through the Gospel Living app is awesome, we haven’t been able to implement that yet. I’m currently working with our bishopric to get the membership record numbers for each of our young women so we can test out the messaging feature.
Gospel Living without Logging In
Regardless of whether the youth are logged in or not, the Discover feed content, the ability to add goals and write down spiritual impressions, and the ability to set up push notification reminders in the "My Life" section are still available.
My husband ran into a similar issue with the Young Men. Many of his deacons don’t have cell phones, or if they do have phones, they don’t have smart phones. However, the Discover feed content is still available to them at churchofjesuschrist.org/youth/childrenandyouth/discover. This could be useful to them as they think about their own goals and plan lessons and activities.
One feature I do wish for in a future version of the Gospel Living app is the ability to search the Discover feed by types of content. Right now, you can filter the Discover feed by content type, so youth can just watch videos or listen to music if they want to. Once there’s more content on the feed, it would be great if they could search for a single topic, like “running” or "missionary preparation."
I also hope that, in the future, more Discover feed content adds the “Adopt This Goal” feature to the “micro-invitations” that are at the bottom of articles and videos. The youth in our ward are amazing, and prompting them to take immediate action from the inspiration they receive with a big blue button is an easy win.
From one who was nervous about how our youth would be able to integrate the new Children and Youth program into their daily lives, I think this app can help them (and really all of us) achieve goals, discover uplifting and inspiring content, and find simple ways to become more like Christ.