Shall the youth of Zion falter
In defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth,
Shall we shrink or shun the fight? No
– Hymns (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) #254
For three generations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlets to help youth defend truth and right and assail spiritual enemies. The booklets were revised and published every decade or so as the subtitle says as “a guide for making good choices.”
I enjoyed looking back at some of the earlier versions to see how things have changed — or for that matter, stayed the same.
Although the Strength of Youth pamphlet never formally listed Do’s and Don’t’s, a quick perusing often left one with that feeling.
I got a little chuckle out of the 1965 version that read, “If one concentrates on good posture, many dances can be danced in a manner which will meet LDS standards. Some examples of these dances are the waltz, fox trout, rhumba, cha-cha, samba, swing, and most of the folk dances. Members of the Church should be good dancers and not contortionists.”
Hmmmmm. I wonder how many of today’s youth have ever seen a waltz or folk dance.
In the 1965 pamphlet, the sub-topics were dress, manners, dating, dancing, and clean living. The only mention of the Savior was in the name of the Church. In essence, the Lord’s standards remain the same; however, addressing today’s issues are clearer with the Savior’s love front and center.
Elder Dieter Uchtdorf sent a clear message to our youth and all members of the Church in the October general conference when introducing the newest “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet: “To be very clear, the best guide you can possibly have for making choices is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the strength of youth.”
He pointed out that the booklet does not make decisions for the youth. “It doesn’t give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ about every choice you might ever face. It focuses on values, principles, and doctrine instead of specific behavior.”
For example, instead of lists of yes, no, maybe so, it reads, “The Lord’s standard is for you to honor the sacredness of your body, even when that means being different from the world.”
While direction is general, I love that it addresses same-sex attraction, being a victim of abuse, and questions of doubt about the gospel.
I found it interesting that the following were not even mentioned in the most recent version: beards, R-rated, bikinis, or hemline.
Instead, the First Presidency lovingly emphasizes finding joy in following the Savior.
Elder Uchtdorf noted, “I suppose the guide could give you long lists of clothes you shouldn’t wear, words you shouldn’t say, and movies you shouldn’t watch. But would that really be helpful in a global church? Would such an approach truly prepare you for a lifetime of Christlike living?”
I agree with Elder Uchtdorf that the youth respond better when we follow Joseph Smith’s advice to “…teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves.”
The current version of “For the Strength of Youth” is available online in 50 different languages as well as in print.
I hope the youth of the Church — as well as parents, teachers, and leaders — embrace looking to the Savior in all our thoughts and practices.
Charlie Roberts is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Stansbury Park.