President Monson Gives 5 Ways Youth Leaders Can Make a Difference in the Lives of Those They Teach

In a time and age when the youth of the Church are tempted like never before, President Monson shares five simple but profound ways the leaders of the LDS youth can make a difference. The following is an excerpt from President Monson's book, Be Your Best Self.

To leaders of youth I say: Never has the cause of youth so needed you and your faith, you and your self-confidence, you and your hope, you and your heart.

Listen to the headlines of our daily newspapers:






Day after day, week after week, such headlines dominate the scene. Nor may we assume that our own precious youth are safe from such sins. Many for whom we have responsibility are caught in the current of popular opinion. Some are torn by the tide of turbulent times. Yet others are drawn down and drowned in the whirlpool of sin.

This need not be. We have the program. We have the people. We have the power. Let us, each one, respond willingly to the challenge of his individual calling. Let us heed the cry for help. Let us answer the call of duty.

Leadership is more than a word when we remember that the power to lead is also the power to mislead, and the power to mislead is the power to destroy.

Our mission is more than meetings. Our service is to save souls. May I suggest five helpful guidelines:

1. Take time to think. 

Ours is the responsibility to know the program, to know our youth, to understand their dreams, to plan proper objectives, and to determine a course whereby such may be achieved. This requires thought. Take time to think.

2. Make room for faith. 

The prophet Isaiah declared that man's ways are not God's ways. (Isaiah 55:8). The programs designed by men and placed into operation by well-intentioned persons in every community of our land simply will not suffice. For "except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." (Psalm 127:1). Do we have the wisdom to take the Lord as our partner? He speaks to you and to me: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him." (Revelation 3:20).

Some years ago one of my responsibilities in a stake presidency was to assist in the direction of youth activities. Our Young Women's president was among the finest and most capable in all of the Church. Yet, after five successful years in her calling, discouragement crept into her life. As we were in a transient area, the constant turnover of officers and teachers began to take its toll. A release from service was requested.

Before effecting the change, I felt impressed to visit at her home. It was a summer evening. She and her husband suggested the many reasons why a change would be desirable. Then came the impression to pray. Together we knelt beside the sofa and talked to God. This was not a short prayer. This was communion with the Almighty.

As we arose from our knees, eyes were moist, words would not come; but heart spoke to heart. This leader continued for many more years in her calling. She served with distinction, with devotion. We had remembered to make room for faith.

3. Stand firm for truth. 

The shifting sands of popular opinion, the power of the peer group, in all too many instances become an irresistible magnet drawing downward to destruction the precious sons and daughters of God. Our leaders of youth become the stable force, the port of safety in the storm-tossed seas, the watchman on the tower, even the guide at the crossroads. Youth looks to us. How do we stand? May we answer:

Firm as the mountains around us,
Stalwart and brave we stand
On the rock our fathers planted
For us in this goodly land—
—even "the rock of honor and virtue,
Of faith in the living God." (Ruth May Fox).

Let us remember that we cannot be wrong by doing right, and we cannot be right by doing wrong. A simple formula, yet a profound truth. Youth needs fewer critics and more models. Stand firm for truth.

4. Reach out to help. 

The three-act play, the roadshow, the game of basketball, the Scout encampment, the youth conference provide such opportunities. At a typical youth conference, the closing session was a testimony meeting. I made personal note of the comments made by representative youth. One young lady, in bearing her testimony, said, "I want to be like my bishop's wife." A young man declared, "This conference has been the most fun I've ever had. Never have I seen so many Mormon girls."

In a more serious vein, a young man of priest age revealed: "This gospel has brought to me real joy. Last year I baptized my father. This month he will ordain me an elder."

Many testified: "Before I came to this conference I could only say that I felt the gospel was true. After attending the conference, I am able to bear my testimony that I know the gospel is true."

Was the planning, the worry, the expense, the challenge of the youth conference worth it? For our answer we turn to the word of God: "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." (D&C 18:10.) Reach out to help.

5. Provide place for prayer. 

In the frantic pace of life today, provide place for prayer. Our task is larger than ourselves. We need God's divine help. I testify that His help is but a prayer away.

Some time ago I attended the annual meetings of the Boy Scouts of America. I took with me several copies of the New Era, that I might share, with officials of Scouting, this excellent publication. As I opened the package, I found that my secretary, for no accountable reason, had given me two extra copies of an issue that featured temple marriage. I left the two copies in the hotel room, and, as planned, distributed the other copies.

On the final day of the conference, I had no desire to attend the scheduled luncheon but felt compelled to return to my room. As I entered, the telephone was ringing. The caller introduced herself as Sister Knotts. She asked if I could provide a blessing for her ten-year-old daughter. I agreed readily, and she indicated that she, her daughter, her husband, and her son would come immediately to my hotel room. As I waited, I prayed for help. The applause of the convention was replaced by the peace of prayer.

Then came the knock at the door and the privilege of meeting a choice Latter-day Saint family. Ten-year-old Deanna walked with the aid of crutches. Cancer had required the amputation of her left leg. Her clothing was clean, her countenance was radiant, her trust in God unwavering. A blessing was provided. Mother and son knelt by the side of the bed, while the father and I placed our hands on tiny Deanna. We were directed by the Spirit of God. We were humbled by its power.

I felt the tears course down my cheeks and tumble upon my hands as they rested on the head of that beautiful child of God. I spoke of eternal ordinances and family exaltation. The Lord prompted me to urge this family to enter the Holy Temple of God. At the conclusion of the blessing I learned that such a temple visit was planned for that very summer. Questions pertaining to the temple were asked. I heard no heavenly voices, nor did I see a vision. Yet there came to me a certain statement, "Refer to the New Era." I looked toward the dresser, and there were the two copies of the temple issue of the New Era. One was given to Deanna; one was provided her parents. Each was reviewed and read.

The Knotts family said farewell, and once again the room was still. A prayer of gratitude came easily. Once more the resolve to provide place for prayer.

Today when I think of Deanna I recall the words of Longfellow. They apply to her and to every young man and every young woman whom we serve:

How beautiful is youth; how bright it gleams,
With its illusions, aspirations, dreams.
Book of beginnings, story without end;
Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend.

May God help us, each one, as we

—Take time to think;

—Make room for faith;

—Stand firm for truth;

—Reach out to help;

—Provide place for prayer.

Lead image from lds.org

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One of the great purposes of our existence on earth is to perfect ourselves, to learn to become more like God. The Savior's admonition “Be ye therefore perfect” was not limited in time or scope; it applies to his disciples in every age, including this last dispensation.

Be Your Best Self can help in the constant struggle for perfection. Adapted from the powerful discourses of President Thomas S. Monson, this book is divided into three sections: Ask in Faith, Be Thou an Example, and Called to the Work. Pertinent advice and faith-promoting stories in each of these vital areas combine to create a valuable blueprint for self-improvement.

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