Area Presidency Message | January 2020

Children in Light and Truth

Child working on the new Children and Youth initiative

President Russell M. Nelson has recently invited the entire Church to take greater responsibility for the development of our children and youth, through gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development. This is the Children and Youth initiative!

“Working together, parents and leaders help children and youth deepen their conversion, become worthy disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and become men and women of integrity.” (Children and Youth—an Introductory Guide for Parents and Leaders). What a wonderful opportunity we have been given to assist in the sacred duty of parents “to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another [and] to observe the commandments of God.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

Cindy and I are the happy grandparents of 16 precious grandchildren. Recently, I had an experience with our grandson, Cooper, that reminded me Jesus teaches His word to men and women, but “this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned” (Alma 32:23).

We were visiting our home during the week of General Conference. Our children and grandchildren had gathered for some “family time.” During the visit, eightyear- old Cooper stepped quietly by my side and tugged lightly on my pants until I looked down at him. “What’s up, Coopie?” Looking up to catch my eyes in his, Cooper said in a soft but serious voice, “Papa, Jesus is really true!”

Our grandson Cooper.

I was caught a little by surprise at this serious declaration of testimony from an eight-year-old boy. My heart softened as I said, “Have you had an experience with your prayers, Coopie?” He responded, “Well, yes, I have. But that is not how I know that Jesus is true.” Interested, I asked, “How do you know?” Then Cooper, my little apo, taught me the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

He said, “Well, I know that when I die, I will wake up again because of Jesus. I know that because Jesus died and was resurrected, we will all wake up and be resurrected to live forever.” As I congratulated him for being such a wise little boy, Cooper said, “But that is only the first reason I know Jesus is true.” I chuckled in my heart and asked him to tell me the second reason. With wisdom beyond his years, Cooper taught me again: “Because of Jesus, we have this earth to live on and fulfill our purpose in life.”

“What is our purpose?” Cooper looked into my eyes and said, “We should always do good, and not bad.”

Having taught me with the simplicity of his testimony concerning Jesus Christ, Cooper turned and went back to play with his cousins. As Cooper walked away, his words were ringing in my ears and I felt I could hear the teaching of his parents echoing in the words he had spoken. I also felt the warm joy of knowing our grandchildren were being “taught of the Lord” by their parents and were becoming spiritually self-reliant.


When he introduced the Children and Youth development effort, President Nelson pointed us to the pattern of how Jesus Christ grew, learned, and developed in his youth. “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:52). The Children and Youth initiative focuses on helping our children and youth develop in four aspects of their lives— Spiritual, Social, Intellectual, and Physical—just as Jesus did. The vision of this effort is to “Strengthen the rising generation’s faith in Jesus Christ, and help children, youth, and their families progress along the covenant path as they meet life’s challenges.” Every one of us can and must help care for and protect the children and youth of the Church as “an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3).

Therefore, as an Area Presidency, we ask our adult members of the Church and all our children and youth to rise up and apply this program in their lives. Parents are the first line of action in this “homecentered, Church-supported” effort. Parents have the sacred duty to “bring up your children in light and truth” (D&C 93:40). But many of our children and youth in the Church need the help of leaders, teachers, ministering brothers and sisters, grandparents, and other loved ones to assist when parents cannot provide the needed direction at home.

We ask you to obtain your copy of Children and Youth: an Introductory Guide for Parents and Leaders and learn how we can help our children develop as Jesus did.

Children and Youth: an Introductory Guide for Parents and Leaders

We want every child in the Church, from 8 to 18 years, to have his or her own guidebook. For children 8 to 11, the Church has produced a Children’s Guidebook. It is filled with simple instructions and helpful ideas on how they can discover > plan > act > and reflect on how they can develop with the help of the Holy Ghost in each of the four areas of development—spiritual, social, intellectual, and physical.

For youth 11 to 18, the Church has produced a Youth Guidebook. It is filled with helpful ideas on how our youth can develop by discovering their strengths and what they need to work on in their lives, as they seek to become truly converted unto the Lord and follow the covenant path as His disciples.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4). May we all experience this joy in our children and grandchildren. ◼︎