Twenty-five young men and women in Sandy, Utah, rehearse a play encouraging morality—singing, laughing, sometimes weeping.
A bishop in Carmel, Indiana, powerfully shares his testimony of chastity with a group of ward youth at a fireside in the chapel; all eyes are intent on his face.
In New Orleans, Louisiana, a young man and his bishop carefully read together from the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth during a bishop’s interview.
Throughout the Church, leaders of youth are implementing plans to help young men and young women honor their baptismal covenants and be worthy of temple covenants and missionary service. These actions are the direct result of special meetings held in conjunction with each stake conference during the last half of 1993.
“Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go” (Prov. 22:6)
Each stake meeting has followed a plan designed by Church leaders. First, the stake Young Women president presented the First Presidency message in For the Strength of Youth, pages 3 to 5. Then a General Authority, regional representative, or stake or district president gave a talk explaining the doctrinal foundation for the law of chastity and showing a condensed version of the videotape Morality for Youth. This leader then directed a discussion wherein youth leaders compiled suggestions for helping youth honor their covenants. Local priesthood leaders also read from the 4 March 1993 letter from the First Presidency that stated that “full-time missionary service is not a right, but a privilege … for those who prepare themselves … spiritually, physically, emotionally, and morally.” The bishops were then asked to help the youth in their wards meet the Lord’s standards of worthiness for missionary service.
The Lord’s Standard
The meeting format allowed each stake to apply the teaching of chastity to their own youth in terms of each ward’s and each youth’s specific needs. For example, the membership of the twelve wards and branches of the New Orleans Louisiana Stake come from a wide variety of circumstances. This stake covers geographically almost the entire city of New Orleans and several suburban areas. It also includes a branch made up of the families of fishermen and offshore oil workers who live in small towns in a fifty-mile area near the Gulf of Mexico. Though each unit taught their youth the Lord’s standards for moral worthiness, their approaches differed in detail.
The leaders returned from their training meeting and taught what they had learned. “The bishops taught the same standard in every ward or branch—the Lord’s standard—and it did not vary on the basis of economics, ethnicity, or geography,” says stake president David L. Clawson. “But moral standards are challenged in different ways in inner-city areas than they are in suburbia. Our bishops are now meeting one-on-one with each of their youth in their regular youth interviews and reviewing the standards in For the Strength of Youth—in specific, not general, terms. Now the bishops know specific ways to help their youth.”
These teachings have been accepted in a spirit of love. Parents have been grateful for the Church’s renewed commitment to morality and interest in protecting the youth. Youth are pleased at the Church’s initiative in helping them prepare for missions, temple marriage, and happiness in general.
Firesides, Service Projects, and Videotapes
The experience of the New Orleans Louisiana Stake has been repeated throughout the Church as stake after stake addresses the challenge of chastity, encouraging their youth to honor baptismal covenants and prepare for temple covenants.
“Our youth are exposed to so much that is degrading,” says President Michael Ellis of the Indianapolis Indiana North Stake. “We encourage parents to teach standards of morality to their children in the home before children are confronted with the standards of the world. Then they can compare the world’s standards with the gospel instead of comparing the gospel with the world. Also, we let the parents know we are here to help them do their job.”
President Elmer George, counselor in the Albany New York Stake, said that because “our stake covers a large area and contains sixteen wards and branches, for convenience, we made a copy of the Morality for Youth videotape for the sixteen units so they could show it to their youth as part of our teaching effort.”
The San Antonio Texas Stake has added another dimension to their teaching: “We are constantly involved in service projects in our stake,” says President Frank Dittmar. “After our meeting, our stake joined with two other stakes to help the maternity ward in the county hospital. Many women who come there to have their babies have little or no income. Our Relief Society and Young Women are helping prepare kits containing diapers, formula, and other baby items for these mothers with new babies. We are also making baby quilts and gathering used clothing. Working with these mothers and babies has helped our young women to appreciate the value of a stable marriage and to understand the responsibility and commitment involved in becoming a parent.”
President David Sutton of the Springfield Massachusetts Stake says, “At our annual stake youth standards night, adults from the Gardner Ward presented an inspirational musical program and slide show based on chastity. The Spirit was strong when we finished. I know it encouraged many of our young people to remain strongly committed to being morally clean.”
For the Strength of Youth
Unity among leaders Churchwide in teaching chastity will result in youth with a stronger commitment to morality. Elder Jack H Goaslind of the Seventy, Young Men general president, says, “The Church’s emphasis on living morally clean lives and honoring sacred covenants is a blessing to families and individuals. Even though we find temptations in our day, obedience to the gospel truths will ensure peace of mind.”
Janette C. Hales, Young Women general president, agrees: “The work our youth do as they go from being dependent children to becoming righteous adults is a mighty work. The help of living parents and leaders is essential to that sacred process. Success comes when young people build a strong identity with the gospel and accept our Heavenly Father’s standard of morality as their own personal standard.”
President Howard W. Hunter, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, has said, “We must teach our members and remind them continually, especially our youth, of their divine nature and of God’s love and expectations for each of his children. Knowing they are children of our Heavenly Father and [that they] have come from his presence into this life with the expectation that they will live worthy to return to his presence will help fortify them against sin and temptation.” (Letter to General Authorities, regional representatives, and mission, stake, and district presidents, 16 Apr. 1993.)
Scriptures. Search them for statements by the Lord and his prophets on topics such as covenants, sexual purity, and honesty. Youth could give reports in family home evening or Sunday classes.
For the Strength of Youth. Use this pamphlet (no. 34285) frequently. All youth, parents, and leaders of youth are asked to carry the wallet-size summary card (no. 34287) with them.
Morality for Youth. The principles in this 1983 videotape (see Come unto Me, no. 53146) provide an excellent basis for discussion.
Personal interviews. Fathers can interview their children regularly, teaching and encouraging them to live lives of integrity and sexual purity. Bishoprics should do the same in their regular interviews with youth.
A Parent’s Guide. This Church publication (no. 31125) is an excellent guide to help parents with their responsibility of teaching children about human sexuality and moral cleanliness.
Family Home Evening. This is the opportunity for parents or children to give lessons on the importance of honoring covenants, sexual purity, honesty, and living worthy of temple covenants and missionary service. The Family Home Evening Resource Book (no. 31106) contains excellent information on these subjects.
Modern Prophets on Morality
President Ezra Taft Benson: “Decide now to be chaste. The decision to be chaste and virtuous need only be made once. Make that decision now, and let it be so firm and with such deep commitment that it can never be shaken. … We must also fill our lives with righteousness. We must engage in activities that bring spiritual power.” (New Era, Jan. 1988, pp. 6–7.)
President Spencer W. Kimball: “My beloved youth, he is not your friend who would rob you of your virtue. She does not love you if she tempts you or yields to you. Such is your enemy. To require the yielding to passion, and gratification, yet to profess love, is to lie; for we never exploit one whom we love.” (Conference Report, Sydney Australia Area Conference, 1976, p. 54.)
President Harold B. Lee: “To some it may seem old-fashioned to speak of virtue and chastity, honesty, morality, faith, character, but these are the qualities which have built great men and women and point the way by which one may find happiness. … These are the qualities which are the anchors to our lives.” (Stand Ye in Holy Places, Selected Sermons and Writings of President Harold B. Lee, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976, pp. 3–4.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith: “Chastity is a vital doctrine of the Church and is a standard which we are taught cannot be violated without dire consequences.” (Take Heed to Yourselves! Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971, p. 6.)
President Heber J. Grant: “How glorious and near to the angels is youth that is clean; this youth has joy unspeakable here and eternal happiness hereafter. Sexual purity is youth’s most precious possession; it is the foundation of all righteousness.” (Improvement Era, May 1942, p. 273.)