Young Men General President Answers Questions about New Missionary Policy and Preparation
By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
On October 6, 2012, President Thomas S. Monson announced in general conference that young men throughout the Church could begin full-time missionary service at the age of 18. Following that historic announcement, the Church News posed a series of questions about the new policy to Brother David L. Beck, Young Men general president.
Church News: Brother Beck, what was your reaction when you heard President Monson's announcement that young men would be able to begin missionary service at 18?
Brother Beck: I was grateful for an inspired prophet who has confidence in our young men and has opened the door for worthy and prepared young men to experience the incomparable experiences and blessings of being a full-time missionary sooner in their lives.
Church News: How will these changes bless the lives of our young elders?
Brother Beck: I believe we will see many more young men prepare for and serve missions. After their missions, they will be more mature and better prepared to make some of the most important decisions of their life and to pursue their education, career, and courtship.
Church News: Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve said prospective missionaries should not begin their service before they are ready spiritually and temporally. How can a young man approaching the age of 18 know he is ready to serve?
Brother Beck: Oftentimes, a young man may have some doubts about his readiness to serve a mission. He can rely on the advice of righteous parents and spiritual advisers to go forward in faith to serve a mission. Ultimately, his bishop and stake president will help him determine his readiness as he responds to their interview questions and guidance.
Church News: In the past, most young men have enjoyed a period of preparation between their high school graduation and full-time missionary service. Now many 18-year-old males will choose to serve immediately after finishing high school. How can they best prepare for that immediate change?
Brother Beck: They can best prepare by being consistent in their faithful obedience to gospel principles, in honoring the Aaronic Priesthood they bear, and in focusing on and obtaining the blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the temple endowment. They should strive to always be worthy of a temple recommend throughout their youth. They should be anxiously engaged in fulfilling their priesthood and family duties and in becoming self-reliant.
Church News: How can young men—and their advisers and parents—best utilize the Duty to God program to prepare for fast-approaching missionary service?
Brother Beck: All should feel an urgency today in seeing that young men consistently fulfill their duty to God. Those young men who develop the discipline of being faithful and magnifying their priesthood calling early in their priesthood service and who sustain it throughout their Aaronic Priesthood years will be well prepared for a full-time mission. The disciplines of the priesthood are the disciplines of a mission. The Duty to God resource is a very effective tool in developing those disciplines. Parents, advisers, and leaders who experience the Duty to God program for themselves are best able to help young men take full advantage of this resource. It can and should be used in the home in family home evening lessons and activities, father interviews, scripture study, informal conversations, family projects, and service. In the Church, it should be a regular part of weekly quorum meetings and activities, sacrament meeting talks, leader interviews, devotionals, standards nights, youth conferences, missionary preparation classes, and seminary.
Church News: Elder Nelson has challenged new missionaries to be able to teach effectively “from the first day onward.” What are some things Aaronic Priesthood holders can do to become effective teachers of the gospel?
Brother Beck: Personal scripture study and prayer help a young man develop faith in, an understanding and testimony of, and love for the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are fundamental in becoming an effective teacher of the gospel.
The Duty to God resource can help young men tremendously. Everything in Duty to God is based on a pattern of Learn, Act, Share. Young men are asked in Duty to God to learn gospel standards and doctrines—including the doctrines taught in Preach My Gospel. They are asked to make plans to act upon what they have learned and to live worthily. They are to develop doctrinal outlines and teach the doctrines. They are to share the gospel and their testimony often at home, church, and other settings throughout their Aaronic Priesthood years.
Seminary and Sunday School are important to help young men understand doctrines and know how to teach them.
As priests, they can attend missionary preparation classes and develop a deep understanding of and proficiency in teaching the doctrines found in chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel.
Church News: How can the new learning resources for youth, which will be implemented next year, help prospective missionaries presently serving in quorums for deacons, teachers, and priests?
Brother Beck: The learning resources follow the Savior's pattern of assisting individuals in the conversion process. They encourage active participation in quorum meetings and Sunday School classes and to act upon what they have learned. Young men will have many opportunities to teach the fundamental doctrines of the gospel and share spiritual experiences and testimony in these settings.
Sunday School will teach learning and teaching skills and provide opportunities to practice those skills.
Learning outlines for quorum meetings include a lesson devoted entirely to Duty to God each month in addition to including Duty to God activities in the other weeks of the month. Preach My Gospel is referenced in the learning outlines.
Church News: Any other thoughts regarding the new age policy for prospective male missionaries?
Brother Beck: Heavenly Father loves the youth of the Church. He has trusted and relied upon youth to do His sacred and important work throughout the history of the world. The new policy on the age for full-time missionary service is another evidence of His love for and trust in the youth of the Church.
As the young men respond to worthily prepare for and serve at an even younger age, He will bless them now and forever.
We need every young man of the Church who is able to respond positively and resolutely to the call of our beloved prophet to serve a full-time mission. The stirring hymn “Rise Up, O Men of God” calls for the young men to do that:
Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of Kings.
Rise up, O men of God,
In one united throng.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.
Rise up, O men of God!
Tread where his feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!
— Hymns, no. 324