Young President Young

by Annalisa DePaul

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    Being elders quorum president is a challenging and rewarding calling—especially at age 18.

    It was a dark and stormy night.

    Well, okay, maybe it was a sunny afternoon.

    Whenever it was, somebody sneaked up outside the window of James B. Young’s dormitory room on the Ricks College campus. They pulled out a roll of masking tape. Then cautiously, they formed letters—backwards—on the window, so that when Jamie opened the curtains in the morning, he would read the words the right way. This was their message:

    “We Love U.”

    It was just the latest in a series of happy events since the 18-year-old from Sierra Vista, Arizona, was called as president of the 19th quorum of elders. Consider, for example, some other things that are happening in the ward:

    —There’s been an all-out campaign to end swearing in the men’s dorms.

    —Home teaching has increased significantly. It’s not a chore. It’s something the elders actually enjoy.

    —There’s an organized group of dorm residents that meets regularly to study the scriptures.

    —Many prospective elders are committing themselves to serve full-time missions.

    —There’s been a concentrated effort to improve Church attendance (which had dropped when the meeting time switched to 8:30 A.M.).

    —The sisters in the ward have noticed an increase in concern and spirituality among the elders.

    —And a lot of people who wondered if anybody cared have discovered that somebody does.

    Now, Jamie isn’t the first 18-year-old to become an elders quorum president at Ricks—he’s the third for the 19th Ward, maybe the fifth for the entire campus. And it would hardly be fair to say that the happy atmosphere in the 19th Ward is solely his doing.

    But Jamie’s efforts have provided a catalyst.

    “We’ve tried to start by just showing genuine interest in people,” he explains. “It makes a difference if your home teacher comes by more than once a month, if he checks up on you, invites you to dorm prayers, asks you to shoot a few baskets, and joins you for scripture study. It’s been neat to see the way that brotherhood has come to the quorum.”

    The quorum consists of 56 men in two dormitories on campus. But as president of the elders, Jamie also has a responsibility for 93 coeds who live in separate facilities.

    “We go door to door at the girls’ dorms, checking to make sure they’re all getting home teachers, seeing if there are any problems we can help with, just saying hello,” Jamie says. “Again, it’s part of letting everyone in the ward know that we’re all brothers and sisters.”

    Walk across campus with Jamie, and you’ll find it’s hard to carry on a conversation—you’re interrupted constantly by people saying hello, taking a minute to tell the elders quorum president that a roommate’s sick, or yelling through a crowd of people, “Hey, Jamie, I got my mission call! To Florida! Can you believe it?”

    “I like people,” Jamie says. “Wherever I’ve been, I’ve always wanted to get to know everybody.”

    But there’s something more to him than that.

    “I like to help others to be happy,” he continues. “I find happiness when I feel the Spirit working with me to make others happy too.”

    So that’s it. Anything else?

    “With the calling as president, I’ve felt a great sense of responsibility for the well-being of the ward. I pray that people will be able to come to me with their problems, and that the Lord will help us find a way to work things out.”

    Jamie does seem to have a talent for unifying and motivating people. And perhaps that’s only natural. His great-great-great-grandfather was President Brigham Young (yes, the Brigham Young), a man who knew a few things about unifying and motivating. In fact, Jamie’s middle name is Brigham.

    Jamie has also learned a lot about working with people from his father, army chaplain George B. Young, and his mother, Nancy.

    “I grew up as the oldest of six children in a strong home, where my parents always taught me what standards we should have, and taught me the gospel. But they never forced me. They let me know how they felt about it and encouraged me to do what’s right.”

    Jamie has also had a lot of experience for someone so young. Because his father is in the military, the family has lived not only in Arizona, but in Georgia, Michigan, Utah, Texas, New Jersey, and Korea as well. That has given Jamie a chance to see the Church in a lot of settings. And last summer, when he went to visit his father in Korea, it gave him the opportunity for a particularly memorable experience.

    “The mission president asked me to serve an eight-day minimission. I got to go to a zone conference, participate in discussions, watch the elders bless the sick, bear my testimony in sacrament meeting, and meet the mission president. But best of all, I got to baptize a Korean investigator! After a week like that, it was hard to leave.”

    It was an experience that kindled the missionary zeal in James Young, an excitement he tries to foster in the quorum he leads.

    “We’ve got to go!” he says with quiet intensity. “And we’ve got to go prepared.”

    Jamie has also learned about unity and motivation from his academic pursuits. As a musical theater major, he knows the value of teamwork and cooperation.

    “In a play, everyone from the stage crew to the main character has to do his part for a performance to succeed. It’s a lot the same in a quorum or a ward. Everyone has a part to do, and others count on you to do it. If one of you wins, everybody wins,” he says.

    “A student ward is different from many other wards, because there’s only one priesthood body. We still perform many of the functions of the Aaronic Priesthood, like blessing and passing the sacrament each week. But with the bishop and his counselors, we are the priesthood of the ward. So it’s very important that we understand our responsibility.”

    All of which brings us back to the masked message taped on Jamie’s window one dark and stormy night.

    “We Love U,” it said.

    If James Brigham Young has anything to say about it, that may well become the official nickname for Ricks College.

    Photography by Richard M. Romney

    Jamie has no choice but to plan some meetings and activities back-to-back. Whether he’s studying with his roommate Pat Ruhr, holding elders quorum presidency meetings, home teaching, or attending ward council meetings, he tries to find time for everything.

    Jamie has found that you can fit into more than one niche at college. Not only is he elders quorum president, but he’s active in the campus theater, and manages to lead a healthy social and academic life as well.