Youths’ Experiences with New Curriculum Show Ongoing Conversion
By Brother Russell T. Osguthorpe, Sunday School general president
While speaking at a youth fireside recently, I invited three young men and three young women to come to the podium and answer a few questions about Come, Follow Me, the new learning resource for youth. Here’s how they responded:
Brother Osguthorpe: “You’ve been experiencing the new youth curriculum for the past three weeks. How is it different from what you’ve experienced before?”
Young man: “It’s a lot more, you know, about us and our lives and what we’re doing right now.”
Young woman: “We’ve been talking about the Godhead, and it’s like [Heavenly Father is] more real. I can really talk to Him, and He can help me in my life.”
Young man: “In class we used to talk about stories in the manual. Now we talk about our own lives and how the doctrine we’re learning applies to us.”
Brother Osguthorpe: “You’re studying the Godhead in both Sunday School and in your Aaronic Priesthood quorum and Young Women class. So are the lessons in Sunday School just the same as the Young Men–Young Women lessons?”
Young man: “No. They’re really not the same at all. At first, when I heard we were going to be studying the Godhead for the whole month of January, I thought, ‘Man, that’s a long time for one topic.’ But it hasn’t been that way at all. What we do in Sunday School just prepares us for what we do in our quorum meeting.”
Young woman: “Yeah, I agree. Sunday School and Young Women are both on the Godhead, but they kind of fit together. It’s not just the same lesson twice.”
Whether the young person is attending a Young Women class, an Aaronic Priesthood quorum meeting, or a Sunday School class, the central purpose is the same: ongoing deep conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But each auxiliary also has a unique focus.
For example, in youth Sunday School classes, “special emphasis is given to helping youth develop skills and confidence to become Christlike learners and teachers” (Teaching the Gospel in the Savior’s Way: A Guide to Come, Follow Me: Learning Resources for Youth, 13). In youth Sunday School classes, young people develop their abilities to learn and teach the gospel. They become more skilled at searching the scriptures and the words of modern prophets. They learn how to listen to each other, how to respond to gospel questions, and how to share their witness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Someone might then ask, “So does this mean that you just turn the class over to the youth—that the teacher doesn’t really have to teach anymore?” Again, my answer is, “No, that’s not what it means.” I recently attended a Sunday School class for 12-year-olds. I noticed that the class members had personal journals. When the teacher asked that I share something, I asked, “So what do you write in your journals?” One young man opened his journal and began reading about how he felt the Spirit of the Lord while performing baptisms for the dead. As he was reading this brief excerpt, he was, in essence, bearing testimony of temple work.
In a youth Sunday School class with 17-year-olds, the teacher asked, “Since Brother Osguthorpe is here, why don’t you tell him what you like about the new youth curriculum.” One young man said, “The thing I like best is that we hear each other’s testimonies.” Then he looked around the room at each of the 12 class members in attendance and continued, “Yeah, I’ve heard everyone here share their testimony. It helps me feel that we’re all pulling for each other.”
What happens in youth Sunday School classes can affect what happens in the home as well. A mother recently shared the following observation:
“[I] loved what happened after Church today. The youth started a new way of learning in Sunday School where they take ownership of the learning. At the dinner table before we ate, we all bore our testimonies of how we feel about the Savior. As the two boys told how they felt about the Godhead, the room was filled with the Holy Spirit. [It was the] sweetest moment! Tonight I’m so grateful for the new youth program.”
Each week in youth Sunday School classes, teachers are encouraged to ask class members to share what they are learning in their homes, their personal gospel study, seminary, and their Aaronic Priesthood or Young Women classes. This gives each class member an opportunity to relate gospel learning to their own unique life circumstances. In this way, youth get the gospel down deep in their heart. They are learning much more than a gospel topic; they are learning how to come closer to our Father in Heaven.
As young people become more committed gospel learners and teachers, they are preparing themselves for missionary work and parenthood. I recently saw a priest conduct the sharing time in Primary. It was obvious that this young man had prepared himself spiritually, just as Come, Follow Me encourages all teachers to prepare. He began by reading a brief story about a Primary-age boy sharing the gospel with a fellow passenger on a train by explaining the Articles of Faith, one by one. After he read the brief account, he divided the approximately 50 children into 13 groups—one for each article of faith. He explained, “Now I want you to be like this boy on the train and pretend you’re teaching someone about the gospel. This group has the first article of faith, this group has number two, etc.” Each group of children then practiced with each other their assigned article of faith and then recited it to the whole group and explained its meaning. The young man ended by bearing his testimony of missionary work and the power of the Articles of Faith in helping others understand our beliefs.
Come, Follow Me is not simply a collection of new lesson outlines for the youth of the Church; it is a new way of thinking about the whole purpose of why we come together on Sunday and how our time together can affect our lives the rest of the week. One young man said it this way: “It’s not just a Sunday thing anymore. We learn something in class, and then we do things during the week, and when we come back to class, we tell what happened.”
Come, Follow Me is an aid for youth and teachers to learn and teach in the Savior’s way. As we search the scriptures and the words of modern prophets, we, as learners, teachers, and parents, commit ourselves to live what we are learning. The Lord strengthens us so that we can face the challenges of our everyday lives and so that we can prepare to serve Him in new ways in the future.