Take a Stand

by Shanna Ghaznavi

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These kids realize it’s no coincidence that the words “stand” and “standard” are related.

Small and simple things are the building blocks of the eternities. Just as large skyscrapers are the result of thousands of many smaller pieces being put together in the right order, our lives are constructed on a day-by-day, decision-by-decision basis.

The Lord reminds us: “Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.

“Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days” (D&C 64:33–34).

The youth of the Anoka and Minneapolis stakes in Minnesota are working hard at building more righteous lives and building up the Church through their righteousness. They use the standards of the Church as their building blocks.

The youth had a recent joint youth conference titled “Standing for Something,” named after the title of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s book. Using For the Strength of Youth as a guide, the Anoka and Minneapolis youth served, participated in workshops, and bore their testimonies. They agree that although the standards of the Church are good and important, it’s not always easy to live them. But they also agree that the more they obey those standards, the easier it is to have high standards and to form a solid foundation on which to build the rest of their lives. So the youth of these stakes decided to take a stand for some simple, but important, standards.

Stand in holy places

The recent dedication of the St. Paul Minnesota Temple has made the youth in Minnesota want to be more prepared to go there. Melissa Miller, a Laurel, went to the dedication and saw the sealing room while she was there. “Actually seeing the room was great,” she says. “Having a temple in the area makes a temple marriage seem more realistic.”

Trent Oelkers, a priest from the Medicine Lake Ward, took time to ponder while he waited outside the temple for his sister to receive her endowments before her mission. “When I’m near it, I think about spiritual things more than I regularly would,” he says.

Before the temple was built in Minnesota, the youth had to take an eight-hour bus ride to Chicago to perform baptisms for the dead. “The temple finishes the three-fold mission of the Church here in Minnesota,” Trent says. “It probably means more missionary work in the end. A lot of people are more missionary focused now.” He also agrees that getting married in the temple is on the top of the priority list for most of the youth.

Stand your ground

As part of preparing for the temple, the youth strive to keep the standards of the Church. They know there are both good and bad influences in their lives, but ultimately the choice is theirs. Isaac Patinio, of the Hutchinson Branch, says it like this: “When you’re all alone and everyone wants you to go do something inappropriate, you have a choice. Are you going to be like Joseph Smith, or are you going to say, ‘Just this one time’?”

Michael Garfield, a priest in the Plymouth Ward, stood his ground last summer when his soccer team was about to go into the state tournament. His coach wanted him to return the next season, but that would mean Sunday matches. The state tournament was also on Sunday. Michael had told his coach he could not play on Sundays already, and he was about to explain to him the importance of the Sabbath day. But before he could explain, one of his nonmember teammates, whom Michael had explained the Sabbath to before, jumped in and told the coach about the importance of the Sabbath day. “My coach understood better because he heard it from someone else,” Michael says. He was glad he had explained to his friend the sacredness of the Sabbath.

Michael has decided not to continue playing on the soccer team because of all the Sunday games. Keeping the Sabbath holy and having family time is more important to him, he says.

Stand at the door and knock

Other Minnesota youth are busy setting a good example, too. Maggie Albaugh, a Laurel in the Anoka stake, stepped outside her comfort zone when she taught a girl in her class to pray. Katie was one of the more popular girls in her school, and Maggie didn’t know her very well. “She’d never prayed and was never into religion,” Maggie says.

The sudden death of one of their friends brought them, and their whole class, closer together. Katie stopped Maggie in the halls of their school, knowing of her LDS standards, to ask her questions about life and death. “The only advice I could give her was the simple advice to pray,” Maggie says. “I just felt that, as Mormon youth, prayer helps us through a lot of things and a lot of people don’t have the same understanding of prayer. It is a gift that was given to us to communicate with our Heavenly Father.”

So Katie prayed, and at a memorial service for their friend, she shared with her class the comfort she had received through prayer.

Succor those who stand in need

Brushing up on their service skills meant the youth hauled woodchip-filled wheelbarrows, wielded paintbrushes, and picked up trash at a park near their stake center. They toted their trash bags to a nearby school to beautify it as well. Some of the youth also went to a rest home and played games with and sang to the residents.

Jane Wilson, a Laurel, really enjoyed serving in her stake. She says, “It’s kind of hard to choose the right with all the bad influences around you.” But you can tell when you’re doing what you should because of “the joy you feel when you’re doing what’s right.”

Stand blameless

But if they do make mistakes, the Minnesota youth know they can repent. “We need to repent if we want to get into the celestial kingdom,” says Tony Maresh, a priest from the Elm Creek Ward. Tony believes in the power of repentance, but he says too many people think they are not good enough to pray and ask forgiveness. “You are good enough,” he says. You are never too unworthy to repent.

Matt Bezzant learned about repentance during a service project at a nursery school. He would let the children clean the walls of the nursery as well as they could with the tools he gave them, and then he would come along afterwards to help them make the wall clean all the way. Cleaning the walls was like repentance, he said. “You do all you can to clean the wall, and God gives you the tools for that; then He does the rest.”

Stand for something

The standards in For the Strength of Youth are important to the Minnesota youth because if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything, they say, quoting President Hinckley’s book. “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. God’s commandments (standards) are constant, unwavering, and dependable” (For the Strength of Youth, 6).

They are trying to use the standards to build righteous lives dedicated to God, and they are doing it piece by piece, choice by choice, living each standard that makes up the whole gospel of Jesus Christ. The Minnesota youth are “laying the foundation of a great work” by their small acts of obedience.

Photography by Shanna Ghaznavi

These kids know that what they choose to do now will help determine the outcome of their lives, so they choose to serve—in the temple, in the community, wherever needed.

Above all, they are choosing to stand together and to stand their ground.