Dave Keller spends much of his life simply trying to get through the day! His greatest treasure is the gift of the Holy Ghost, although his sweetheart, Rachel, is a close second (sorry Sweetheart: HG and I have been together longer!) He is the father of 6 children and a garage that weirdly is too full to fit the family suburban. He has served in many fantastic callings in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including as a bishop, YM president, and early morning seminary teacher. He loves learning and teaching about leadership, especially when it allows him to help others connect with Jesus Christ.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, speaking in August 1978, just after the revelation that became Official Declaration 2 was released to the world, gave this wise advice:
“‘Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. “‘We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter anymore. “‘It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the … matter before the first day of June of this year (1978)’ (“All Are Alike unto God” [CES symposium on the Book of Mormon, Aug. 18, 1978], 2; LDS.org).
A Similar Paradigm Shift
In my opinion, it is not a stretch to say that the transformation in emphasis in our church, from a church centered, family supported church to a family centered, church supported church represents a similar significant paradigm shift. A significant obstacle to that transformation may be a deep-seated cultural attachment to programs, events, and activities that were excellent at supporting a church centered focus, but which may not meet the needs of families and individuals. Many leaders have been left feeling a little like perhaps how the Saints felt when Brigham Young directed them to once more leave all they knew and head off into the Rocky Mountains, destination unknown: what do I do now?
Let’s Begin With Handbook
How can leaders find that solid foundation upon which to build family-centered, church supported programs for their youth? First, touching base with existing instructions helps leaders to verify that programs, events, and activities they are considering align with the Lord’s overall purpose for His church.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized by God to assist in His work to bring to pass the salvation and exaltation of His children…In fulfilling its purpose to help individuals and families qualify for exaltation, the Church focuses on divinely appointed responsibilities. These include helping members live the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathering Israel through missionary work, caring for the poor and needy, and enabling the salvation of the dead by building temples and performing vicarious ordinances” (HB2.2, paragraphs 1&3).
If what you are considering aligns with the Lord’s purposes, you’re likely to be on a solid foundation.
Second, related, the following guidelines help leaders gain confidence that what they are considering aligns well with the Lord’s purposes:
a. “The purpose of the Young Women organization is to help each young woman be worthy to make and keep sacred covenants and receive the ordinances of the temple” (HB22.214.171.124).
b. “Young men are in a time of preparation and personal spiritual growth. Accordingly, parents and the bishopric and other Aaronic Priesthood leaders help each young man…” (HB126.96.36.199). c. “The purposes of Primary are to help children…” (HB2.11.1)
Many leaders are well acquainted, however, with these instructions, and they still feel uncertainty and hesitation. Most of the time, this one included, when the Lord gives instruction through His prophet, He commands; He doesn’t explain (see Dallin H. Oaks, Life’s Lessons Learned , 68–69). Thankfully, there is a pattern for acquiring spiritual knowledge that consistently yields good fruit to those who follow it.
Everything is Spiritual
Step one, which is not generally part of the pattern, is to recognize that all programs, events, and activities of the church are indeed spiritual. The church cannot compete with the world in a battle to entertain our youth. Entertaining youth doesn’t accomplish the Lord’s purposes. Once we align our programs with the Lord’s purposes instead of the world’s purposes, we become entitled to His help.
His Purposes Are Our Purposes
Step two is to act in faith. We must accept two fundamental truths:
- Our best effort is good enough
- Our best effort can and must improve
Whatever we are doing to love and serve God’s children pleases Him. There are not right or wrong programs, events, or activities. As we seek to make the Savior and His gospel the center of our lives, His purposes become our purposes. We express both that testimony and our personal growth through the programs, events, and activities we plan and the spirit through which we try to carry them out.
Turn to Father for Help
Step three is to turn to trusted sources for help. Foremost amongst those sources is our Father. It has been said that we speak to Him through prayer, and He speaks to us through the scriptures and the words of living prophets. As an example, consider these two scriptures and how they apply to home and family centered gospel learning and living:
“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14) “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)
Keep an Eternal Perspective
Step four is to look at things from an eternal perspective. The following questions are helpful:
- How will this activity support families and help individuals make and keep covenants with Jesus Christ?
- How does my awareness of the needs of the individuals and families my proposed event is meant to serve influence how I plan and carry it out?
- How does the success I imagine from this program sustain the Lord’s purpose for His church and restored gospel?
The Lord’s Purposes
I conclude with a final consideration, from D&C 50:17-20,22:
Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God. And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? If it be some other way it is not of God. Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
We’ll know when we’re doing it the Lord’s way, because, just as it happens when we preach the Gospel and receive that preaching the Lord’s way, we will both be edified and rejoice together. Will all programs, events, and activities achieve this outcome? Of course not. But as we seek for and do our best to carry out the Lord’s purposes, more and more will.