In a recent interview with Kurt Francom on Leading Saints, Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake Presidency, Joe Staples, Davis Smith, and Alan Matheson share their experiences teaching the youth in their stake about the gospel topics essays, as well as members struggling with their faith.

As a stake presidency, they were feeling a need to do all they could to be a support and resource of knowledge and faith to the youth in their stake. In their efforts to find the best direction to lean, they learned of morningsides that another stake had done using the gospel topics essays as a source of their lessons.

Thus, they decided to start having morningsides with the high school seniors about 5 months prior to their graduation. This gave them an opportunity to talk openly about tougher questions and taught they discussed the gospel essays.

A Simple Approach

First, they held a fireside for the seniors and their parents prior to starting the morningsides. Then the parents knew what was being covered with their youth.

Of course, when you feed them, they will come. Initially, they had the morningsides as a breakfast at the stake president’s home. Later, during Covid, they dropped off chocolate milk and a bagel the night before to encourage them to attend the next day.

A binder was created for each senior that had a printed copy of each essay so that they could prepare in advance and have somewhere to take notes.

Then once a month, at 7:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning, the seniors are invited to attend the morningside that had been arrange especially for them. The stake presidency gave a lesson on 2 of the gospel topics essays each week. This help better prepare the youth for questions that they would inevitably face when they are out in the world or on a mission.

A Safe Place to Learn

The morningside provide the youth with a safe place to learn, with leaders they trusted and respected. It gave them the opportunity to learn about some of the topics in the Church that may sometimes cause members to go “sideways” when they hear these topics later in life and are surprised that they had never learned these things.

As topics are taught, questions are asked and it’s amazing to see what ideas and thoughts the youth come up with. This is an ideal environment conducive to asking questions and receiving inspired answers.

Keep in mind, these items are not normally talked about in Sunday School, Relief Society or elders quorum. Yet if they are discussed in seminary, with the stake presidency and then at home it is an ideal foundation for the future.

It’s so important to recognize that these are questions our youth will be faced with at some point in their life and this is the perfect, safe, venue where they can have open and candid discussions.

Not only is this a great experience in general, but it also had an added side benefit: the leaders had the chance to go to each of the seniors’ homes, and it became very personal for all of those involved.

The Role of Faith

We need to remember that Church history can withstand scrutiny. It is so much easier to understand it in a context of the historical setting of that day. Yet we also need to have faith in the primary truths of the gospel, and we may not have all the answers right now.

We have a responsibility to our youth, and all members, to give them these resources to prepare for what is ahead in the final chapters of the earth.

Resources for Learning

As leaders we need to help others by studying ways to minister and help our flock with their faith challenges. We don’t want our members to be “silent sufferers” who may be struggling with issues within the church. Thus, we need to do all we can to learn and prepare ourselves, then teach the leaders within our organizations.

There are many great resources to help us learn and help them. One book noted during the interview was Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question, by David Ostler. In his book, David found that there are three things people are looking for in religion:

  1. To be able to trust that leaders care about them and are honest with them
  2. That they feel a sense of belonging
  3. Finding meaning in what is taught in church and what we face in the world.

As we better understand the value of each of these key elements, we can better minister to our flock.

Seekers Wanted

Another podcast related to the topic of faith challenges that is well worth listening to is a great interview Kurt had with Anthony Sweat, a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. In the interview they discussed the power of knowing how to seek answers in a faith-filled and meaningful way.

In Anthony’s book, “Seekers Wanted”, you will discover that is ideal for preparing yourself to help those who struggle. Additionally, it is a great resource for those who may have some questions about church history or topics and desire to seek knowledge in wise and inspired way.

He guides the reader through ways to evaluate the reliability of a historical LDS sources; understanding the four types of doctrine to consider when weighing in on different issues and more.

What Is Needed from You?

These are just a few thoughts on ways that we can be a source of hope, peace, and inspiration to those we may lead, minster to, or support in general. We invite you to take a moment and consider what unique steps you may feel prompted to take in being a resource for those God has placed in your path to lead, lift, and love.

Beth Young is the written content manager at Leading Saints. She is a convert of 43 years; served a mission in North Carolina; has been married for 34 years to her sweetheart, Bob; has five children and two grandchildren. She raised her family in Texas for 25 years where she served in various capacities in church and in her community. She now lives in Utah and loves writing, teaching and inspiring others to make changes to their physical, mental and spiritual health.

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