Ready and willing
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In a recent sacrament meeting talk, a ward Young Men president recalled having taught the lesson in the ward’s priests quorum not long before.
At the outset of the lesson, he posed the question: “Why is Jesus Christ important in your life?”
After a pause, one of the priests responded. The Young Men president recorded his response on the white board in front of the class.
As he was doing so, another young man replied, then another and yet another.
Soon, the responses were coming so rapidly and the teacher was so busy writing them down that he did not have time to turn around and recognize the respondents.
Eventually, when he did turn around and look at the class, he realized that all but one of the 11 in the room had answered in some way the question that was put to them. As he was making that calculation in his mind, the remaining priest responded without being asked.
“We then went one by one, and I had them tell me more about why they stated what they did,” the Young Men president recalled. “Each young man was able to add more details into why he made the comment.
“What struck me was the fact that they all commented without being prodded to do so — it was quite unique based on past experience with the same group. They are all willing to comment usually, but on this day it was without being asked.”
The Young Men president reflected, “Here was a group of 11 young men, 16-18 years old, who were individually able to identify with the Savior in a personal way. I thought that was powerful and a testimony to me of the capacity of our youth and their relationship with the Savior.”
The experience is consistent with what leaders of youth are observing today in many parts of the Church: that the young people of today are willing and prepared to receive the privileges and responsibilities that are in store for them as sons and daughters of God and inheritors of the promises of Abraham.
This, of course, comes at a time when we can see with stark clarity the fulfillment of some of the dire prophecies of the last days.
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves,” the apostle Paul foresaw, “covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
“Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
In news reports, we occasionally see disturbing accounts about the percentage of younger people today who are rejecting traditional values of morality and family and for whom such rejection leads them to forsake their religious faith.
But in the midst of disturbing prophecies and discouraging signs of the times, we see cause for hope and optimism such as the above incident related by the Young Men president.
Through the prophet Joel, the Lord revealed, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28).
The opening sentence of Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Tale of Two Cities could apply as well today as in times past: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
We need not succumb to a perceived winter of despair, though, as we observe the growth and maturity among our valiant youth of today. As we observe them receiving spiritual gifts, having spiritual experiences, building faith in Jesus Christ and developing testimonies of His gospel, we recall this prophecy, and are prompted to echo the words of the apostle John, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).
We saw that a year and a half ago with the eager and joyful response of young men and young women in the Church to the announcement by President Thomas S. Monson of lowering in ages of eligibility for missionary service. We see it in the sustained response reflected in today’s greatly expanded missionary force and the dramatic increase in the number of missions of the Church throughout the world.
We see it in the response of our youth to recent innovations in Church curriculum that are designed to accomplish the purpose of helping them become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As expressed in the guidebook Teaching the Gospel in the Savior’s Way:
“Ultimately, youth are converted by diligently living the gospel each day — praying, studying the scriptures, keeping the commandments, fulfilling priesthood and other duties, attending the temple, serving their families and others and sharing the gospel. As they do these things, their desires, attitudes, and actions begin to align with Heavenly Father’s will. They become happy and confident, and they delight ‘to act ... and not to be acted upon’ (2 Nephi 2:26). They strive to obey the promptings of the Holy Ghost, resist temptation, and ‘do many [good] things of their own free will’ (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27). They become ‘saint[s] through the atonement of Christ’?” (Mosiah 3:19).
We can be confident that, given the opportunity, encouragement and support they need, our young will fulfill the full measure of their divine potential as God’s noble sons and daughters. May we bear that in mind as parents, teachers and leaders.