by Tamara Leatham Bailey
Most of you have gotten “citizenship” grades on your report card at one time or another, but you probably haven’t given much thought to what being a good citizen actually means. It’s a lot more than not talking in class and sharing with your neighbor. An “upstanding citizen” is one who stands up from the couch, goes out, and shovels the walk or mows the lawn. It’s someone who stands up for friends by volunteering for a community cause once a week, rather than going to the movies.
The Lord commanded the sons of Mosiah to “show forth good examples” to the Lamanites (Alma 17:11). We too need to set examples in our own communities. Your community can be your neighborhood, your school, or your country. Here are just a few ways to influence those communities for your own good.
As a Citizen of Your Neighborhood:
Respect the property of others. Homes, clothing, sidewalks, yes, even flowers and mailboxes that belong to others should be respected.
Attend a city council meeting to find out what issues they are currently considering. Many community issues affect youth. Your input is important.
Apply gospel standards to community issues. Ask yourself how Christ might handle a particular matter.
Read your local newspapers to keep current on the issues. Listen to radio or television news as well.
Volunteer your services in the community. Hospitals, day care facilities, nursing homes, and literacy programs are some places that often need help.
Discuss community concerns with your family. You might want to bring them up at family home evening or at the dinner table.
Look for ways to clean and beautify your neighborhood. This could be as large as a Laurel or Eagle project, or as small as cleaning up litter when you see it.
Watch out for younger children. Let them know they have an older friend they can trust in case of danger from strangers. Learn the names of the children in your neighborhood, and protect them whenever you have the opportunity.
Learn first aid and CPR. You never know when it might come in handy.
Pay attention to local elections and get involved. Even if you’re too young to vote, you can still be a tremendous help by volunteering to assist the candidates of your choice.
As a Citizen of Your School:
Vote! Even in school elections, it’s important that your opinion be counted.
Consider running in a school election, or joining a club or service group. Your example can have tremendous influence, even if you don’t win an election.
Let your friends know how you feel about drugs, alcohol, crime, cheating, etc. These things cause serious damage to communities. If there are support groups in your school that advocate abstinence, get involved.
Show respect for school property, and for the property of others.
As a Citizen of Your Country:
Obey the laws of the land. That includes paying attention to speed limits and curfews.
Learn about your country’s history. Participate in traditions and holidays. Learn about both historical and current leaders.
Learn all the words in your national anthem, and make sure you know what is meant by them.
If you or your parents have the opportunity to vote for your country’s leaders, discuss these elections with your parents. Learn how your parents determine who they will vote for, and make some educated decisions of your own.
Keep up on current events. Read newspapers, magazines, and listen to or watch broadcast news to stay informed about where your country and its leaders stand.
All those Scouting activities really paid off for 14-year-old Jared Stokes of the Peachtree City Ward, Jonesboro Georgia Stake. The obstacle courses and athletic competitions gave him the experience it took to win the “Radical Outdoor Challenge,” Entertainment and Sports Programming Network’s (ESPN) outdoor game show. Jared reigns as grand champion.
Several times Jared wore his BYU hat on national television, so everyone would know what school and religion he supported. He had to participate in activities like scaling a rock wall, walking across a tight wire over swampy cold water with swamp water being sprayed on him, BMX bike racing, swimming, canoeing, and marksmanship, to name just a few of the events.
But Jared hasn’t let all this attention go to his head. He’s still an active seminary student, teacher, and Eagle Scout candidate. He hopes his athletic feats will set a positive example of what good, clean living can do for you.
What’s it like in old Nauvoo? Melanie Dewitt, a Beehive in the Pekin Ward, Peoria Illinois Stake, can tell you. She’s actively involved in the City of Joseph Pageant held there each year.
But that’s not all she’s involved in. She was recently recognized for her academics by the United States Achievement Academy. She also plays the harp, french horn, drums, and piano, skills she often uses to help in her Young Women program. To fund all these activities, she gives music lessons and has a paper route.
Nearly 400 young people from three stakes in Ohio recently made their way through an Ohio 4-H camp, leaving fresh paint and new structures as they went.
“These young people from the Mormon church have completed in one day what it would normally take a year-and-a-half to do,” said camp director Conn Drake.
Teams of youth installed insulation, hung drywall, and painted several buildings. They also constructed a large picnic shelter, refurbished a miniature golf course, built 25 picnic tables, ten park benches, nesting boxes, birdhouses, and wooden signs. Trails were improved and created, and they built a baseball diamond complete with backstop.
Priests in the Wymondley Ward, Auckland Tamaki Stake in New Zealand, found out that if you want to grow full-fledged missionaries in 19 years, it helps to nourish them with missionary experiences like the one they had recently.
While acting, living, and dressing as full-time missionaries do, each priest had the opportunity to practice teaching the first discussion to a member family pretending to be nonmembers. Everyone loved it!
“This activity has helped me realize the importance of preparing physically, mentally, and spiritually for a mission,” said Junior Asiata. “You should go on a mission because you have a desire to go and with an eye single to the Lord.”
No one involved will ever forget the day the youth of the Phoenix 41st Ward, Prescott Arizona Stake, and the youth of the Caborca Mexico District got together for a conference.
“At first it was really weird because everything was done in Spanish and we had to have translators,” said David Larson, a teacher from Arizona. “But after a while, everyone was mixing and the youth found out that we are really the same in the Church.”
The conference included activities, workshops, and dances, but the high point was the service project. Armed with supplies, the youth cleaned, painted, and refurbished the town plaza. Many people passed by as the work was going on, and the youth told them about the Church and its values.
By the end of the conference, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind why it had been themed “Forward Together.”
The Word of Wisdom is what keeps their heads above water, claim Kristian and Gemma Russell of the Tamworth Ward, Lichfield England Stake. This brother and sister are both champion swimmers.
Fourteen-year-old Kristian is the seventh-fastest backstroker in the country for his age. He also won 11 of 11 events at the annual stake swimming gala.
His sister Gemma is following in his wake. At 12, she’s only been seriously swimming for two years, yet she managed to win 10 of 11 events at the same stake activity. She swims for the Kingsbury Aquatic Swimming Club in Warwickshire.
Both Russells are glad they can do one of the things they love best, competitive swimming, at church activities, as well as at school.
The young women of the Selsdon Ward, London Wandsworth Stake, helped many Bosnians survive last winter by organizing a project to put together packs for the refugees.
The girls asked ward members, friends, and even merchants to contribute items like toiletries, candles, matches, baby bottles, nappies, and nonperishable food. A humanitarian organization told the girls exactly what was needed.
The girls then spent two nights sorting and packing contributions and adding personalized notes. All together, 45 boxes were packed and delivered to the local ambulance station, which was responsible for having the items transported. The people at the station were impressed with the size of the contribution, and the young women couldn’t have been happier about it.
There’s a certain surfer in southern California who’s giving the sport a loftier reputation. His name is Jimmy Zimmerman, and it’s well known that this surf team captain is an active priest in the Huntington Beach Fourth Ward.
Jimmy’s coach, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, said that “Zimmerman symbolizes surfing’s future. He’s popular, intelligent, and he’s a young man who doesn’t drink alcohol or smoke.”
Jimmy manages to fit in surf practice every morning at 6:15, after early-morning seminary. But that doesn’t make him too tired to get top grades in honors classes, be elected Homecoming king, and to teach the gospel to his friends. He recently had the privilege of baptizing one of them.