Youth Leaders Say 2016 Mutual Theme Invites Youth to “Act What They Know”
Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor
The 2016 Mutual theme is an invitation to the youth of the Church to “act upon what they know,” said the Church’s Young Men and Young Women general leaders.
“‘Press forward’ invites us to do something about what we believe and keep moving forward,” said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president.
She said the scripture, found in 2 Nephi 31:20, provides a road map to eternal life: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.”
The theme of pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ “is a timely message for our youth because they are exposed to so many different ideas, many of which are negative or false,” added Sister Oscarson. “This scripture encourages steadfastness, to trust the things they do know, the things they have felt and have a testimony of—to keep moving forward. It encourages faith, hope, love, and enduring to the end.”
Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president, said before the youth of the Church can press forward they must first “enter the gate” of baptism. Faith and repentance led them to this sacred ordinance.
“We are baptized … and then we continue pressing forward on the path, guided by the Holy Ghost,” he said.
Brother Owen said he often thinks of a car—which can move in forward or reverse or sit in neutral or park.
“But in the gospel of Jesus Christ there is no neutral ground,” he explained. “You are either moving forward or you are moving backwards. If you say, ‘I am going to take a break,’ you are really moving backwards.”
The theme couples with being “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27), he said. “When we get engaged, we are in drive and we are moving forward, and we then can keep pressing forward with a perfect brightness of hope, because we know we are on the right path.”
Sister Carol F. McConkie of the Young Women general presidency said Latter-day Saint youth need to understand they will have to press forward in life because they will face opposition.
She said the idea of pressing forward reminds her of an experience on a handcart trek over Rocky Ridge in Wyoming.
“I am a hiker and backpacker and I have climbed mountains, but crossing Rocky Ridge I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. The wind blew hard against us. The sand and gravel whipped against our faces. It took all our strength and determination to press forward,” she recalled.
But she thought of this scripture and what it means to press forward with steadfastness in Christ. “This pattern has been exemplified by faithful Saints before us,” she said. “We will be required to do the same.”
Even when it is difficult we press forward “because we have faith in Christ,” she added.
Pressing forward isn’t done “just because someone imposed something on us, but because we truly do have faith in Christ,” she added.
Brother Douglas D. Holmes of the Young Men general presidency said that although this verse of scripture is important, the verse that comes before it is also important: “For ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him” (2 Nephi 31:19).
“It is the word of Christ that brought you to this point,” said Brother Holmes of faithful Latter-day Saints. “What will carry you forward will be to continue to feast on the word of Christ.”
He said the word of Christ plays a “critical and essential role” in “bringing us hope, determination, commitment.”
Sister Neill F. Marriott of the Young Women general presidency said the footnotes add depth to the meaning of certain words of the verse. The footnote for the word “steadfast,” for example, includes “commitment, dedication, perseverance, steadfastness, walking with God.”
“Think of the rich understanding we can take from that one word and its footnote; plus the reader is offered 12 more specific references in the footnotes of verse 21,” she said.
Sister Marriott said the verse encompasses the whole gospel. “It anchors us to truth so that we won’t be tossed about by every wind of doctrine blowing around Latter-day Saints.”
Brother M. Joseph Brough of the Young Men general presidency said he believes many youth in the Church don’t fully understand what it means to have hope.
According to Preach My Gospel, “hope is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance,” he said. “It is believing, expecting, that something will occur. When you have hope you work through trials and difficulties, but with confidence and assurance that all things will work together for your good. Hope helps you conquer discouragement.”
Brother Brough said it is also important that youth help others press forward.
Brother Owen said he thinks of the scripture as a message from a “tender-hearted parent pleading with His child.”
“There is almost a parental urgency,” he explained. “‘I love you so much, please you must do this, you need to do this, you will be blessed if you do this. Then if you do it, here is what is going to happen. … I promise you will have eternal life.’”
Sister Oscarson said it is essential to remember that the reward for pressing forward is eternal life. “You can’t ask for anything more.”
“It is such a happy thing,” added Sister Marriott. “You are pressing forward. … It is something that will bring great joy.”