The pamphlet For the Strength of Youth, published in 1990, is addressed to young Latter-day Saints. But its guidelines, appropriate for any member facing the challenges of living in today’s world, have an impact on both parents and youth leaders. The Ensign asked Elder Jack H. Goaslind of the Seventy, Young Men General President, and Sister Ardeth G. Kapp, Young Women General President, to share their perspectives on the pamphlet’s significance.
Ensign: Looking at For the Strength of Youth as a whole, one notices that its topics cover a very broad range of activities. As an overview, what is the purpose of the twelve standards that have been printed in this pamphlet?
Elder Goaslind: In the section titled “Why Standards?” the First Presidency states: “Standards are rules or guidelines given to help you measure your conduct. Why has the Lord given standards? He wants all his children to return to live with him one day. … Standards help you know how well you are preparing to live with your Father in Heaven. … By comparing your behavior and thoughts with your Father’s standards, you are in a better position to govern yourselves and make the right choices.”
That’s a kind and loving way for the First Presidency to help young members understand that these standards explain what the Lord expects of them today, when they’re getting so many different and confusing perspectives from the world.
President Kapp: As Church leaders have talked with youth throughout the Church, they have found a need to identify standards. Youth want to know the Lord’s boundaries. They want to know the principles to live by today.
I think the guidelines in this pamphlet should be seen as something like direction from a loving parent. I hope that every time young members open this pamphlet, they will go to the third page and read, “Your Father in Heaven is mindful of you. He has given you commandments to guide you, to discipline you. He has also given you your agency—freedom of choice.” Those words could help them to understand the principle of life involved here, the love of their Father, and their great potential.
Ensign: The Church has always taught principles similar to these standards, hasn’t it?
Elder Goaslind: In the world our youth are growing up in, it’s easy, with all the media influences, for them to get a feeling that maybe the Lord has changed or softened on this or that. It’s easy for youth to think that maybe what was wrong when Mom and Dad were growing up isn’t wrong now, because there’s so much of the wrong going on. Youth are exposed to so much evil today. I think this pamphlet is an attempt to let them know that the Lord’s standards are the same now as they were when Mom and Dad were growing up, even though conditions were different in the days of Mom and Dad.
Ensign: Does the pamphlet say all that needs to be said on these standards?
President Kapp: Careful attention was given to how much to say in the pamphlet. Basically, the pamphlet identifies topics that need to be discussed in more detail—with parents, with advisers, with priesthood leaders.
The title For the Strength of Youth is not new. It was previously published in 1965, under the direction of the First Presidency. But because of the trend toward immorality and other ills in society, and also because of the expansion of the Church into new geographical areas over the years, a more comprehensive, more explicit statement of Church standards was needed.
Ensign: In some ways, the booklet seems to be as much for parents as it is for youth.
Elder Goaslind: Yes! It’s titled For the Strength of Youth, but I think it’s also a pamphlet for the strength of parents. In the scriptures we are told that parents must “teach their children … to walk uprightly before the Lord.” (D&C 68:28.) This pamphlet gives parents some guidelines and some standards they can share with their own children that are totally in harmony with the teachings of the prophets and the scriptures.
It also serves as a guideline for bishops and branch presidents in their interviews with youth. It’s great for Sunday bishops’ discussions with the youth, when they can just sit down and talk about these standards.
I would certainly hope that the pamphlet would be used in family home evenings when parents are teaching their children. I would hope that it could be used when a father is interviewing a son or a daughter.
One of our great fears is that after a big splash in introducing the pamphlet, it could sit on the shelf and gather dust. Whenever I talk to youth, I ask them to hold up the little wallet-sized version, if they have it with them. I tell them how they can use it. What a wonderful thing it would be if once a week every young person could get that pamphlet out and have a self-interview, assessing attitudes and actions by saying, “These are things I’ve been asked to do as a Latter-day Saint. Do I comply with these standards? What do I need to do to change my life, to improve it?”
I’d hope they would say, “These are things that will bring happiness into my life, and not sorrow.”
Incidentally, I have a similar set of standards on a small card that I’ve carried in my wallet for years. Periodically, I pull the card out and review them to see how I’m doing. I think this kind of review could be beneficial for any member of the Church.
President Kapp: The purpose of standards is to bless lives, according to the principle of agency. When agency exists, responsibility exists. When guidelines are given, people can make choices based on information they can trust. Right choices lead to happiness.
Unfortunately, some young people succumb to social pressure and cross over the boundaries that are set. But, if the standard is clearly understood, when young people who have wandered from the path want to return, they know exactly what the standards are and what their goals should be.
If youth could realize that these guidelines are really coming from the prophet—that they are what the Lord would have them know today—I think they would understand that the direction provided in the pamphlet is meant to be a protection and a blessing to them.
It’s very important that we have a document stating a single standard of moral conduct for both young men and young women. It helps them to be supportive of one another when they know that they’re both expected to live by the same standard.
Ensign: Is For the Strength of Youth going to be available to youth and their parents and leaders who speak languages other than English?
President Kapp: It’s available in eighteen languages. A total of more than one and one-half million pamphlets have been distributed to youth throughout the Church. Local Church leaders have been instructed to distribute the pamphlets to each young person (ages 12–18) in their wards or branches, and to the parents of all youth. In addition, young men and young women graduating from Primary are to receive the pamphlets as they enter the Young Men or Young Women program.
Elder Goaslind: Both the Young Men and the Young Women organizations are looking at other ideas to help strengthen the use of this pamphlet. This is not a one-time thing.
Speakers at the regional representatives’ seminar in April 1991 emphasized teaching the standards printed in this booklet. At each of the Church’s regional and area training meetings held during May and June, one of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve or one of the members of the Quorums of the Seventy and regional representatives talked about the booklet and discussed ways to teach the standards it contains. Every stake president in the Church is called into those training meetings.
It has also been recommended that the pamphlet go to all college-age LDS students, in addition to youth of high school age.
Ensign: What have you heard about the pamphlet’s reception among youth?
President Kapp: One of the reports I received was from a woman whose husband is a stake leader in northern Utah. Their daughter, in discussing a particular standard, said to her, “But, Mom, everyone else is doing it!” The mother answered, “Well, why don’t you go check your little booklet, and you decide.” And the daughter came back and said, “I can’t do that thing.” So the pamphlet helps teach youth the importance of personal decision-making.
Elder Goaslind: If you’re a parent, what do you do when you’ve got a daughter who is fifteen and wants to go out on a date? Without being harsh or unkind, you can say, “Here’s what the First Presidency says. May we talk about it?” I’d love to have had that pamphlet as a reference when my children were growing up.
Ensign: Are there some practical things that parents and leaders can do to help youth learn how to live these standards?
Elder Goaslind: It’s hard to teach people anything until they know you love them. That’s why it’s so critically important that parents maintain the love and respect of their children by following the pattern our Heavenly Father has set. That pattern is suggested by this counsel in the Doctrine and Covenants, intended for the instruction of priesthood bearers but equally applicable to parents:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood [or parenthood], only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
“By kindness, and pure knowledge, …
Class and quorum advisers have to show that kind of love, too. It’s essential for these leaders to dedicate enough time to the youth so that a young person can relate to them and be willing to share problems.
Ensign: Are there things youth can do to help each other learn to live these standards?
President Kapp: There’s a dimension of youth leadership that can have a powerful impact. It’s important to involve quorum presidencies and class presidencies in ways that help them feel some responsibility for encouraging moral conduct among the youth in their wards or branches. Youth presidencies’ influence in encouraging their peers to live the standards may be more significant than the influence of parents or adult leaders. Youth presidencies are a source of power and strength that I think we as adults sometimes underestimate. We think that when they get older, they will be called into the service of building the kingdom, but they can be in that service right now, and it is through service that they mature.
Elder Goaslind: Sometimes I think we assume that young people know how to act as a presidency when in fact they generally need to be taught. By teaching them how to work with their peers, an adviser can make a big difference in many lives.
President Kapp: Leaders can also help by teaching youth how to plan their activities. Initially, the young people ask themselves, “What shall we do? What shall we eat? What shall we wear?” But when we as leaders ask them, “What do you really want to have happen in your class?” the response is, “We want everyone to be part of the group. We want everyone who isn’t coming to come. We want to gain a feeling of love for one another.” Youth respond from the standpoint of their own natural caring when they’re asked the right question. I think leaders need to help youth focus not so much on the activity—“What can we do?”—but on what they want to have happen as a result of that activity. Then young leaders begin to look at ways to magnify their callings and bring the desired blessings.
Elder Goaslind: Both leaders and youth need to learn to look at the resources in the ward or branch. I’m convinced that in every unit in the Church, there’s somebody who can touch the heart and soul of another member and bring about an activation. Also, part of teaching young people is to help youth see what they can do. When they know that adults are interested in their ideas, it’s amazing what great ideas they will come up with.
President Kapp: In each ward or branch council, there is someone to represent every individual—child, youth, and adult. And every individual in the ward or branch has some resource—time, or talent, or willingness to help—that could serve someone else’s need. When those individual needs and individual resources are properly matched up through prayerful planning in the ward or branch council meeting, marvelous things can take place.
For example, in one ward, the daughter of a widow who was confined to a wheelchair was having trouble pushing her mother up the hill to church. A young woman in the ward who was seriously involved with drugs—and uninvolved in the Church—was asked to help. In the process of pushing the wheelchair, she began attending Church meetings again. And the widow, who felt she was too old to be of worth to anyone, was asked to go into Primary and sit by a little boy who was having serious emotional difficulties. In taking care of him, she found value, and his behavior changed.
Ensign: When it comes down to the vital level of the home, many parents wonder what resources are available to help them teach their children to live gospel standards. Where can they turn?
President Kapp: The Church publications—the New Era and the Ensign—are constantly providing material that can be useful with youth—and the magazines’ yearly indexes (printed in the December issues) list many valuable articles that have been printed that year. Also, there are a number of Church audiovisual presentations that could be helpful, and many of those are available through ward or branch libraries. Lessons in the Family Home Evening Resource Book help teach standards. For the Strength of Youth is very compatible with the section in The Parents’ Guide on teaching morality. It also is compatible with the section titled “The Standards of Personal Worthiness” (see p. 9) in the Young Women Personal Progress booklet.
All of these are fine supplemental resources. But parents should rely regularly on the standard works, the counsel given by our leaders in conference addresses, and the help of the Holy Ghost, sought in prayer.
Ensign: What do you hope to see occur in the Church as a result of For the Strength of Youth?
President Kapp: The bottom line, I think, is that we want youth to have total freedom, which comes through obedience, rather than enslavement, which comes through disobedience. I think it’s remarkable to see the incredible goodness of youth today, the moral courage they can exhibit, and the powerful example they are in many situations when they are willing to stand up and be counted.
Elder Goaslind: The best thing we could have happen in the lives of young people is to have them want to do the right things because of their individual testimonies of the Savior. We know that living these standards will help them gain the kind of testimonies they need.
I hope youth know that everything leaders do at the general Church level, everything bishops and advisers and leaders try to do at the ward and stake level, and everything their loving parents try to do is in their best interests. We all love them. I always fear that youth will see these standards as something to restrict them, when it’s exactly the opposite. Living the standards of the Church restricts youth or turns youth from making wrong choices, yet these same standards will, in the long run, give them the freedom they want and the happiness they seek in life.
Beginning with next month’s issue, the Ensign will be publishing a series of articles aimed at helping parents know how to better teach the standards in For the Strength of Youth.