Mutual Benefits

By Christa Skousen

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What is Mutual for? The benefits are numerous: friendship, gospel instruction, learning to lead, service, and fun.

“On your mark, get set …”

Before Young Women president Malinda Anderson can even finish her sentence, 30 teens from the Rush Valley Ward in Eagle Mountain, Utah, burst out of the meetinghouse double doors. Sprinting from house to house, they go right to work loading dishwashers, sweeping porches, and vacuuming out cars, in what seem like random, chaotic blurs.

What could possibly spur this kind of enthusiasm? A service “scavenger hunt” is what Sister Anderson calls it. The youth are divided into teams to see who can help ward members with safe, uncomplicated household chores—in exchange for food items—in the shortest amount of time. The food items collected will eventually be donated to anonymous needy families within the ward.

Service projects like this and other Mutual activities serve as a backbone for the youth program here in Eagle Mountain. It is a newer town southwest of Salt Lake City, so almost everyone feels like “the new kid.”

Mutual helps these teens—and Latter-day Saint teens everywhere—develop friendships and testimonies. Mutual is an important place to gather together during the week and feel the Spirit. It is a time to rest from the cares of the world and enjoy the company of other youth.

A Time to Gather

Every day you face all sorts of pressures and temptations. Does it ever feel like you’re the only one? Charles W. Dahlquist II, Young Men general president, says combating that feeling is one reason why Mutual can be a blessing. “In gathering with those who have similar values, we are reassured that we are not alone,” he said in an interview with the New Era.

There are many examples in the scriptures where Saints gather together to strengthen each other. Mutual can provide such a refuge. When you gather with other youth and leaders, you will also find many righteous role models.

Susan W. Tanner, Young Women general president, and her counselors, Elaine Dalton and Mary Cook, also shared their feelings about Mutual with the New Era. Sister Tanner said gathering to strengthen each other is one of the chief purposes of Mutual. “The youth of the Church need to be together, and they need to feel of each other’s goodness and wholesomeness. They need to be in places where they can feel the Spirit.”

Mutual allows youth to gather together during the week in a somewhat less formal setting. There isn’t a lesson manual to follow. Leaders determine the needs of the youth in their specific areas and plan accordingly. Do you have questions about a gospel principle? Would you like a little help in preparing for college? Talk to your leaders about what you would like to do. Together you can make Mutual an enriching experience.

Polished and Prepared

Youth are also encouraged to help plan, carry out, and lead Mutual activities. This can be great preparation for the future, especially for those who will serve full-time missions. Brother Dahlquist remembers a leader in Idaho who said that youth need “to learn leadership skills where they plan activities, participate, support, and serve.”

Mutual is a place to develop such leadership skills and other talents. In fact, Brother Dahlquist considers it one of the best places to develop these skills outside your own home. At different activities you will find tools that will better prepare you for your future, whether that be college, a mission, marriage, or all of the above.

You will also strengthen basic communication skills. Sister Cook, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, stressed the need for these skills. She explained, “I think Mutual was important in my day, but I think it is even more important now since there is less direct social interaction going on.”

Technology is gradually replacing in-person interaction. One night, Sister Cook sat down with some of her grandchildren, and they brought up this subject. They admitted how often they escape speaking, or being kind, or showing manners since they think they can say what they need to simply through text messaging.

Mutual is a fun way to learn good communication skills and develop self-reliance. It might seem like a simple activity—teaching a new dance, learning CPR, or giving service—but you will learn skills that will help you through life.

Sister Dalton, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, said she still uses skills she learned while attending Mutual. “I was polished, tutored, and prepared. I learned things I couldn’t have learned in any other setting that have made a difference in my life now.”

Go, and Bring a Friend

Sister Tanner remembered one Tuesday night a few years ago when she was eating dinner with some of her teenagers. One of them said, “Oh, I don’t think I will go to Mutual tonight. They’re not doing anything interesting.” Sister Tanner responded, “You need the Church, but the Church needs you too.”

“I think youth need to understand the impact they can have on other youth,” Sister Cook added. “When you show up in the right spirit, you can contribute to a Beehive, you can help that little Beehive.” One of our responsibilities as Latter-day Saints is to help build the kingdom. We shouldn’t always go to a lesson or an activity thinking about what we can get out of it, but rather what we can give to it.”

Mutual can also be an opportunity to participate in missionary work. It is a great place to invite less-active members or friends of other faiths to feel the Spirit in a casual, less intimidating setting.

Brother Dahlquist told the story of a priesthood leader he met in Uruguay. After talking with him for a minute, Brother Dahlquist discovered that this man went through a period of inactivity in his youth. When Brother Dahlquist asked what happened, this man said, “When I was 12, I received a visit from a deacons quorum president and his counselor, and they invited me to come play soccer at Mutual. And so I went, and I brought some friends for moral support. My friends and I outnumbered the quorum that was there, but we had a great time. After the activity, the quorum president came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you come on Sunday? We’d love to have you.’ The rest is history. I went on a mission. I married in the temple, and I am now serving in the stake presidency.”

Mutual is a wonderful place to fellowship other youth and get them involved. As President Hinckley said, everyone needs a friend, an opportunity to serve, and to be nourished by the good word of God. This is all present at Mutual. Just like the young man in Uruguay, you will see the positive results—however long-term they may be—that can come as a result of attending Mutual.

Photographs by Christa Skousen, except as noted

The youth in the Rush Valley Ward found that Mutual activities are a good way for a newly formed ward to bond in friendship.