The File on Cindy
Cindy was a bright, hyperactive girl of fourteen who began, on occasion, to be quite emotional. It became increasingly hard for her to make and keep friends. She had a hard time getting along with others in school. She became unfriendly and hostile toward her parents. She started avoiding people and worried at great length about little day-to-day situations. She said she wanted to get out of the rat race. Her parents were fearful that she was experimenting with drugs.
The File on Jerry
To everyone around him, Jerry was a normal, happy, well-adjusted Latter-day Saint youth.
That is, he was until he turned sixteen. Then he began having troubles. He couldn’t get along with his parents. To his teachers and old friends, it seemed that Jerry had decided to abandon them. He developed the reputation of being a loner. His grades deteriorated and he quit going to church.
As time went on, Jerry ran away from home twice for short periods. The police found it necessary to question him about a burglary.
The cases of Jerry and Cindy are true. They don’t know each other, but they do have something in common: Both of them are young Latter-day Saints who were having troubles. But today they are secure about themselves. Jerry has found new confidence in himself, which makes him feel good about his home life and school activities. He is planning on a mission. Cindy has developed a warm relationship with her family and even enjoys talking to her parents. In fact, she has helped some of her friends with their problems.
There is one other thing that Jerry and Cindy have in common. Both were helped tremendously in overcoming their problems by meeting with their bishops, who in turn through the stake president brought into the setting some professionals from the Church’s Social Services Department.
Herein lies the major reason behind this article: Most Latter-day Saint youth don’t know that the Church has given to each bishop and branch president the opportunity, when needed, to draw upon qualified and trained professional persons to help them solve problems.
Let’s face it—this message needs to be publicized.
The Social Services Department’s prime role is to assist bishops and branch presidents, stake, mission, and district presidents throughout the Church in finding qualified Latter-day Saint experts who can help you in your time of need.
Primarily, these experts help in solving serious personal problems. Many times you and your bishop or branch president can discover the solution to your problem; but if extra help is needed, it is available. The Church recognizes that many Church members have problems. Some of these problems, such as drug abuse or family conflict, may require competent, specialized help if they are to be solved effectively.
There are other matters also that may require specialized counsel:
—the unwed parent
—sex and morals
—problems involving violation of law
—school drop-out problems
And on and on goes the list.
The point is this: If you have a problem, the bishop has far more resources, including professionals, to back him up in helping you than most youth realize. The whole Social Services program is truly made to order for our times.
An Interview with the Managing Director of the Social Services Program
To get firsthand information about the Social Services program, the New Era asked Elder Marvin J. Ashton, managing director of the department, to identify and then to answer questions that would help New Era readers understand the help that is available. Here are Elder Ashton’s responses:
Q—How can I get help If I need It?
A—Your home teachers can initiate the procedure by making your bishop (or branch president) aware of your problem, or you may prefer to discuss the problem directly with your bishop. Your bishop may encourage you to let him help you, or he may feel that your problem is serious enough to require specialized help. This help probably will be available through a ward or stake social services task committee. But if your problem requires help that people in your area cannot provide, your bishop and stake president will confer with representatives of the Church Social Services agency, who will provide direct professional help.
Q—Let’s suppose that I’m a young girl and in trouble with a boy. I’m pregnant and too embarrassed to go to my bishop. Can you help me?
A—Shame, embarrassment, and guilt about being pregnant out of wedlock can make it extremely difficult for you to face your bishop. We want you or any young woman faced with this type of problem to feel that she may come directly to a Church Social Services agency. There you will be treated with kindness, respect, and love by our staff of trained social workers. You may receive the specialized help needed, such as medical attention, casework counseling, substitute family care, and placement of your baby if you decide to place the child for adoption. When you are ready and if you want spiritual counseling, we will encourage you to contact your bishop. Careful attention is given to protect confidences so that only those you want to know about your pregnancy are involved in helping you. If you live where there is no Church agency, you may still contact us through your bishop or directly by letter or phone at 10 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111; phone (801) 364-2511, ext. 2848.
Q—What if I’m in trouble with the juvenile authorities and need help? Can you help me?
A—Generally, courts in all states and countries prefer to have a youth placed on probation rather than send him to a correctional institution. The prevailing philosophy of the courts is to find a means for treating a troubled youth rather than punishing him. This means that your family or bishop could petition the court for you to be placed under the services of the Church’s agency. If the judge feels that you can be helped through the services offered by your bishop, the court will make such an order. These services include individual counseling, group treatment, foster care, family counseling, or other appropriate help.
Q—I’ve been thinking of suicide. Where can I go for help?
A—The way to start is to go right to a reliable, mature friend, hopefully your parents or bishop. Hold on to them for strength and wisdom. Tell them your real feelings. Struggle with yourself to overcome these feelings. Then take confidence from the scripture found in First Corinthians 10:13: “… but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)
If the frustrations and pressures persist and you can’t find the answers to relieve your confusion and anxiety, your bishop will probably direct you to the professional help that he has available.
Q—I plan to move from my small community to a large metropolitan area for employment. Can you help me in any way?
A—When you move from your present home ward or branch to a new ward or branch, a card with information about you and your destination will be sent to a Social Services office by your present bishop or branch president. Our Youth Away from Home program, utilizing volunteers, provides your new bishop with a fellowshiping reminder that you are now living in his ward. If you have trouble finding housing in your new community, your new bishop or his ward workers can give assistance and ideas about suitable housing. Limited counseling, where appropriate, is available to those who need it. All young, single people living away from home for employment purposes need to know that they are not alone but have a friend in their bishop and the resources he can mobilize.
Q—Can you help me or my friends get off drugs?
A—Yes. That’s a bold statement, but if you or your friends are sincerely interested in getting off the drug habit, we can help you through the many resources we have available. Your family and Church leaders can be of considerable help, and certainly the Social Services Department can and will assist you and your friends in solving this serious problem. A plan of treatment can be established that might include individual therapy, group treatment, family therapy, or hospitalization. You will be involved in the decision-making process and will work with trained and interested people who will help you help yourself. Your personal commitment and desire to rid yourself of drugs is the final answer to your problem.
Q—What Church leaders have the responsibility for direction of your program?
A—I was called in September 1969 to act as managing director for the Social Services program. The First Presidency at that time directed that President Spencer W. Kimball, Acting President of the Council of the Twelve, Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Council of the Twelve, Presiding Bishop John H. Vandenberg, and Sister Belle S. Spafford, president of the Relief Society, form an advisory committee, with Elder Marion G. Romney of the Council of the Twelve as chairman. This committee provides me with help in guiding the program.
Q—Do you have any overall advice to give to a young person who is in trouble?
A—The most complete yet simple answer lies in the statement by the Savior: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32.) If you learn about yourself, about life, and about the gospel, you can literally free yourself from the grip of unhealthful or bad habits. The basic philosophy of the Church is aimed at helping an individual achieve social, emotional, and spiritual maturity through wise use of this free agency.
Finally, it is important for youth to know that everyone at one time or another has problems. Some problems solve themselves; others require help. Often the person can solve the problem himself; or his parents, his church leaders, his teachers, or his counselors may be able to help him to overcome these personal difficulties. A few situations, however, demand the attention of one or more persons who have been trained or are in a position to deal with special problems. These people can more easily help youth like Jerry and Cindy to see and discover themselves anew. This is the whole intent of this remarkable program, which stands ready to help your bishop help you if and whenever a special need arises. As the scriptures and remarks by our living prophets indicate, your bishop really is a good man to know.