4 Programs that Help LDS Youth (and Can Help Your Youth) Stand Out

I've had the opportunity to work with youth inside and outside the LDS church in a number of different capacities throughout my life. During those times, I've often been approached by other leaders/counselors who have said things like “there’s something different about LDS youth” or “your youth are just so good.” While I absolutely do not claim that LDS youth have a monopoly on goodness, I think there is something to my friends’ observations. What is it that makes LDS youth stand out? In the end, I believe it stems from a firm knowledge of God’s plan for them and a strong conviction to live the principles of the restored gospel. Although the basis for most of this learning starts in the home, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a number of programs that support parents and help LDS youth put those principles into practice.

Here I outline just four of the programs that LDS youth take part in all around the world. The best thing about these programs is that they are not exclusive to members of the church! If you’re interested in learning more, just ask an LDS neighbor or contact the missionaries in your area to see how you or your youth can get involved.

1. Early Morning Seminary 

To most of the Christian world, the word “seminary” refers to a theological college that prepares individuals to become priests, ministers, or rabbis.[i] But for members of the LDS church, it refers to a daily religion class where youth come together to learn from the scriptures. Seminary classes consist of lessons from a well-developed curriculum taught by trained instructors for all youth from the time they enter high school until they graduate. Perhaps most impressive to those first hearing about the class, in most parts of the world the class is held before school, so youth wake up as early as 4 or 5am to participate. But a majority of those who participate will tell you the forgone sleep is well worth it, since it gives them the spiritual boost they need to carry them through the day and stand up to the challenges of our troubled world.

2. YM & YW Organizations 

The Young Men (YM) and Young Women (YW) organizations are worldwide organizations for youth from 12 to 18 years old, divided into classes based on sex and age group. Youth meet together in these classes each Sunday, where they are not only encouraged to prepare beforehand to discuss a given topic, but are often also given the assignment to lead discussion or teach the lesson to their peers. The organization also allows youth to take on leadership roles by acting as class presidents, counselors, or secretaries, with the responsibility to make goals, plan activities and service projects, and watch over and care for each other, among other things. In addition, as part of the organization, youth have the opportunity to plan and participate in weekly activity nights (referred to as mutual), where they build important relationships to help support each other and further develop skills such as leadership and teamwork.

3. Duty to God (for Young Men) 

Duty to God is a special program within the YM organization designed to help young men build spiritual strength and fulfill their priesthood duties. It involves a number of activities and exercises organized into a three-stage process allowing young men to “learn about a gospel principle or priesthood duty, act on what they learned, and then share their thoughts and feelings with parents, Church leaders, or their quorum.”[ii] Areas of development range from spiritually-based subjects such as prayer and scripture study or serving others to more temporal issues such as physical and emotional health or education. Each area involves a project that the young man develops and then executes with the help of parents and leaders. After completing the various activities, young men are awarded a medal to recognize their efforts and progress. More than the recognition, though, the program is inherently about helping young men become men of God. Of the program, President Henry B. Eyring said, “It is a powerful tool. It will strengthen the testimonies of young men and their relationship with God. It will help them learn and want to fulfill their priesthood duties. It will strengthen their relationships with their parents, among quorum members, and with their leaders.”[iii]

4. Personal Progress (for Young Women) 

Personal Progress is a special program within the YW organization designed to help young women form personal “habits of prayer, scripture study, obedience to the commandments, and service to others…[that] will strengthen [their] faith in and testimony of Jesus Christ…and also allow [them] to recognize and develop [their] unique gifts.” [iv] The program is centered around eight values that young women are encouraged to learn and live—faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, integrity, and virtue. Like Duty to God, Personal Progress involves a number of projects that the young woman develops and, once completed, she is awarded a medallion to recognize her efforts. But again, beyond the simple recognition, the program is about helping young women “cultivate feminine attributes, strengthen [their] testimony, and reach [their] divine potential”.[v]

[i] Seminary; http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/seminary?s=t
[ii] New Duty to God Program Announced; https://www.lds.org/liahona/2010/05/new-duty-to-god-program-announced?lang=eng
[iii] Henry B. Eyring, “Help Them on their Way Home”, April 2010 General Conference; https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/help-them-on-their-way-home?lang=eng&query=personal+progress
[iv] Welcome to Personal Progress; https://www.lds.org/young-women/personal-progress/welcome-to-personal-progress?lang=eng
[v] Welcome to Personal Progress; https://www.lds.org/young-women/personal-progress/welcome-to-personal-progress?lang=eng

Joseph Harrison is a proud new father and the husband of an incredible and accomplished wife. He has a bachelor's degree in business administration and worked for several years in management consulting before coming to Texas A&M, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in strategic management. He also has experience working with youth as a tutor and personal mentor. His passions include his family, serving others, teaching, and college football.

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