Sunday, February 19, 2012

For the Betterment of Youth: Trust

Happy Sabbath!

So, as it turns out, the First Presidency put out a new edition of For the Strength of Youth, and even though so far I have only read a few of the sections, I like it SO MUCH BETTER than the previous editions. So I want to talk about how awesome it is versus the old versions, particularly the 2001 edition, starting at the beginning.

As with almost every single anything put out by the Church ever, they each start with a message from the First Presidency. I feel like the tone from the 2001 version is geared much more towards Primary (and as I read the CTR Primary manual all the time, I have a pretty good idea of what’s geared towards Primary) whereas the 2012 version is actually addressed to young adults who can figure things out by themselves.

Wait, I forget what I was supposed to choose!

The focus of the 2001 message (at least to me) is incomprehensible, every paragraph addresses something slightly different, all the while trying to emphasize God’s love and does kind of a lousy job of setting a united tone for the manual. The first paragraph kind of attempts to push responsibility on the youth, pointing out that our temptations today are “the greatest” compared to past days (GAs really like to push that, don’t they?) and this is just the beginning of their mortal journey.

The second paragraph, I am almost sure had to be pulled from the CTR manual, which I use to teach 6 year old kids. The third paragraph finally gets to the promise given in the first paragraph of 2012, but in such a way that I feel like it should only ever by read aloud by a Primary President. Oh! And they actually brought up the temple. Doesn’t sound too important though, despite the fact that they chose the Salt Lake temple to be the front cover. (Cover stories are supposed to be the draw, right?)

For the Strength of Youth: Let's Talk About this Later

Finally, it starts to sound like they’re addressing youth in the final paragraph, where they take the time to remind us that the Second Coming is our primary responsibility. While I do not protest, I don’t think reminding youth who are freaking out about their upcoming dates (or lack thereof; they’re never happy) need to focus so much on the end of the world as we know it.

Here is the breakdown of the 2001 message, presented to you in bullet points.
1. Your mortal journey has already started. Joy!
2. The Lord gave us commandments and prophets!
3. If you choose the right, you’ll have the Holy Ghost!
4. Get ready for the Second Coming!

We're pretty sure it's not very much like The Walking Dead.

2012 on the other hand, while it starts with almost the exact same sentence (now they’re “dear” instead of “beloved”), has a much more united message, immediately reminding the youth that we are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father and even though times are hard, they promise that as we keep the covenants we make and remember the standards with which we have been presented, we can increase in the Spirit, our faith, testimony, and happiness.

Next, the temple is presented as a goal to work towards, pointing out that keeping the standards will help (not make) the youth remain worthy to get there. Marriage, temple work, and covenant-making.

You can actually make it!

The third paragraph I absolutely love.
Our Father in Heaven has placed great trust in you. He has a work for you to do. Seek His guidance in prayer, and counsel with your parents and leaders. The decisions you make now will set the course for much of what will follow during your mortal life and throughout eternity. (Emphasis added)
Wait, what?! We’re actually telling the youth now that they are trustworthy?! That guidance, counsel, and your own decisions affect your own life?! I love this whole thing. I want everyone I know to believe this is how life actually is. “Our Father in Heaven has placed great trust in you.” I’ve gotta get that in subway art form.

Finally, rather than fear-mongering, they finish they way that every missionary is taught to finish up any principle taught: with testimony. They hope the youth will remain steadfast and trust the Savior, and that they will be an influence for good in the world. Sure, they still bring up the Second Coming, but more as an afterthought than the nail in the coffin.

It's more like this. Hope you like hoops. And Nike.

Summary in bullet points:
1. You can do it!
2. The temple is a goal to strive for, as well as eventual marriage.
3. We trust you.
4. Be valiant, God lives!

I’m trying to avoid all my favorite fake Mormon swears right now to emphasize how much hope this gives me for the future of our youth. Mother Father! Okay, it’s out of my system.

Going forward, I’m excited to address the addition of the Work and Self-Reliance section, as well as the differences in the other sections. Maybe eventually, YM and YW leaders will even learn to trust their youth instead of being their Nazis, but that’s a discussion for Dress and Appearance.