My youth leaders say we should follow the For the Strength of Youth booklet. Isn’t it taking away our free agency when they tell us what to do all the time?
The introduction of For the Strength of Youth answers this question in a short and easy-to-understand way. It says: “Freedom of choice is a God-given, eternal principle that carries with it moral responsibilities for the choices made. … You can avoid the burden of guilt and sin and all of the attending heartaches if you will but heed the standards provided you through the teachings of the Lord and His servants” (pp. 3–4).
The standards set out in this pamphlet are the Lord’s standards given to us through his prophet and apostles. Following the teachings of Jesus Christ will ultimately be for your good. But more than that, making these kinds of good choices can bring you happiness. You’ll still have problems and trials, but making the good choices outlined in this booklet can help you avoid getting into situations that can hurt or ruin your life.
Perhaps what you’re really asking is why do adults have to tell you what to do all the time about everything? It is natural to want to feel independent and to feel that you are in charge, even if it is just how to spend your time.
The truth is that young people often do not have enough life experience to realize that decisions have consequences and to understand what those consequences might be. Believe it or not, your parents and youth leaders remember all too vividly having had the same feelings you do when they were your age. But they have seen friends who were once so great and had so much potential make bad choices as teenagers and pay for them for years and years.
You may even hear your parents or leaders says: “I just don’t want you to have to go through what my friend went through. I love you too much.”
Believe them. They do love you. They are going to talk and talk to you, hoping that you might hear what they are saying, believe them, and be guided around a wrong decision that could have been a barrier in your road to happiness and progress. Sometimes it may sound as if they never get tired of preaching to you, but they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t care.
If you want to know the value of church leaders who care enough to teach you what our standards are, just look at acquaintances you know who don’t have the Church or any strong guides in their lives. Talk to the girl whose parents never give her a curfew. Ask the boy whose parents never seem to care where he goes. Do they feel loved? It may seem great to have so much freedom. But it isn’t really freedom. Being left alone to make all their choices without help can leave your friends feeling abandoned and unloved. They may even wish they had parents or church leaders like yours who care about what you do, where you go, and who you are with.
So the next time your leaders or parents mention Church standards, remember you always have a choice. The freedom to choose to follow the Lord’s way is completely and totally yours, and all blessings are dependent upon your obedience (see D&C 130:20–21). But the consequences of your wrong choices are also yours. One does not come without the other.
You never have to be alone in your decisions. As you follow the truth, you are promised the constant and guiding companionship of the Holy Ghost, which will bring peace and happiness instead of suffering for sins. And that can carry you through a lot of struggles caused by the wickedness of the world.
One of the important reasons for us being here on earth is to make choices and exercise our agency. The choices we make are ours. Our leaders only want to see us make choices leading to good consequences.
Greg Woodford Wangaratta Branch, Victoria, Australia
Our agency allows us to choose good or evil. Good choices lead to freedom from guilt and sin, while bad choices lead to bondage in sin until we choose to repent of them. Our youth leaders really cannot force anyone to do anything but rather advise. They want us all to be free from sin and live happier lives by guiding us to use our agency wisely.
Krissy Kidwell, 17 La Mesa, California
Our leaders realize we cannot make our decisions without knowing our options. They are merely outlining one of the many paths we can choose to follow.
Angela Armstrong, 13 Waikanae, New Zealand
Heavenly Father knows that you are strong and capable of living in these times. You need guidelines. He loves you so much that he still wants to warn you of some things before you make lifelong mistakes.
Thembisile Adelaide Noebele, 18 Katlehong, Benoni, South Africa
What good is free agency if you don’t feel good about the actions and choices you make. The Lord never would set any guidelines to take away our agency. You have to have faith in him and know he only wants the best for us.
Jennifer Bragg, 17 Fort Washakie, Wyoming
Agency is knowing right from wrong and being able to decide for yourself which to choose. It is the job of your leaders to teach you what is right. They do not take away your agency by doing this. The choices you make are your own.
Niesha Haws, 14 North Platte, Nebraska
My leader always gives us challenges at the end of every lesson, and I try to apply them to my life and use his suggestions. If you will listen to your leaders and apply their suggestions, you will find that things go much more smoothly.
Brian Shurtleff, 17 Ogden, Utah