Wednesday, December 14, 2011

For the Strength of Youth

I'll be honest, I haven't read "For the Strength of Youth" in ages, but I just found out that the Church has published an updated edition. It's great to reread it, and of course my first thought was "what changed?" so I pulled out my old copy. Obviously, none of the principles and standards are different, but I noticed some tweaks here and there that specifically address more modern issues or probably clarify the intent of our leaders. (New text in purple)

In the Dress and Appearance section, same text here: Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him. Love it. But this little change is really powerful: If you are not sure what is appropriate to wear, study the words of the prophets, pray for guidance, and ask your parents or leaders for help. Isn't it wonderful that even teens are expected to seek out personal revelation and study out principles for themselves?

From the Dating section (and this isn't new, but I love the emphasis on each gender's responsibility!): Remember that a young man and a young woman on a date are responsible to protect each other’s honor and virtue. Also, the first line of that section makes me giggle considering the increased emphasis on not "hanging out" lately: A date is a planned activity...

Music and Dancing--this little section is pretty interesting: When listening to music, be courteous to those around you. Keep your music at a reasonable volume, and remove your earphones when others are talking to you or want you to be part of their activities. Remember that the Spirit speaks with a still, small voice. If you listen to music constantly, you may not have the quiet time you need for thinking, feeling, and receiving spiritual guidance. I find it so interesting that something as seemingly benign as the volume of your music deserves being addressed by the Church. It makes you think about the very real influence--for good or for bad--of music. And check this out: Be careful that your use of social media does not replace spending time with your family and friends.

Not surprising at all is the explicit mention of pornography: Serious sins, such as sexual transgression or use of pornography, need to be confessed to your bishop. It's incredible just how rampant the spread of pornography is now. I've heard some numbers that show essentially 100% of men have been exposed to pornography at some point in their lives. It's a beast we simply can't afford to ignore or brush under the rug. Porn gets a whole paragraph of its own in the Entertainment and Media section, which I think helps people to realize just how destructive it can be: It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and can damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love.

Now this isn't new by any means (although slightly reworded), but I was touched to reread this section: Victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sin and do not need to repent. If you have been a victim of abuse, know that you are innocent and that God loves you. Talk to your parents or another trusted adult, and seek your bishop’s counsel immediately. They can support you spiritually and assist you in getting the protection and help you need. The process of healing may take time. Trust in the Savior. He will heal you and give you peace. I'm so glad it's made abundantly clear how much the Lord loves us, and that we can find help and healing from our leaders.

And there's a whole new section on Work and Self-Reliance: how appropriate! Set high goals for yourself, and be willing to work hard to achieve them. Develop self-discipline, and be dependable. Do your best in your Church callings, schoolwork, employment, and other worthwhile pursuits.

Anyway, there's plenty more but I haven't been through the whole thing yet. I think this is such a wonderful tool for youth, teachers, parents, and really just people of all ages--these standards apply to all of us. I'm so glad we have such inspired counsel.

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