To all our dear brothers and sisters in the Philippines, Mabuhay!
For all of us the beginning of a new year should be a time of reflection, assessment, and goal setting. For children, youth, adults, and those reaching the later years of life, we can ask ourselves the same question: How can we improve in personal and family progress to increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man”?
As President Russell M. Nelson has recently taught our children and youth, there are four important aspects of our lives that we should focus on: intellectual, spiritual, physical, and social. This should be true of every member, regardless of age. Through the principle of Home- centered, Church-supported learning and growth, we have been given much revelatory guidance and many revealed tools to help us grow and become more like Jesus Christ.
With the new year of 2020 stretching out before us, we can see this is truly an exciting time to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Beginning January 1st, we are implementing the Children and Youth Development initiative of the Church. As an Area Presidency, we are excited to see how much this new effort will bless the lives of the rising generation as well as their families. The effort will begin with eight-year-old children and continue until the age of 18.
This marvelous new initiative will “strengthen the rising generation’s faith in Jesus Christ, and help children and youth, and their families, progress along the covenant pathway as they meet life’s challenges.”
The Children and Youth Development initiative is only one of the many revelatory tools and initiatives introduced by our prophet and President Russell M. Nelson, since he was sustained as the 17th prophet, seer and revelator in the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Let’s take a moment to consider together some of the other significant revelatory instructions the Lord has given through President Nelson:
1. A combined Melchizedek Priesthood Quorum in every ward, with a High Priests Quorum in each Stake consisting of the stake presidency, the high council, the bishops and the Patriarch.
2. A coordinated effort by the Elders Quorum, the Relief Society presidencies, and their members to further the work of salvation on both sides of the veil.
3. Changes in the Young Men’s program, recognizing the role of the Bishop and his counselors as the Young Men’s presidency in every ward. A new Young Women’s theme has been introduced, with changes in the name of the young women’s classes.
4. Taking care to use the correct, revealed name of the Church – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-in all of our conversations.
5. The Church meeting schedule on the Sabbath has been reduced to two hours. Members are encouraged to use the additional hour as part of a home-centered, Church-supported gospel learning emphasis for deepening conversion of individuals and families.
6. The “Come, Follow Me” curriculum has been introduced for use in our Church meetings, quorums and classes, and to assist families and individuals, youth and children, in a home-centered, church- supported gospel learning and conversion effort by all members.
7. Ministering by brothers and sisters has replaced home teaching and visiting teaching, with young women and young men 14 years and up participating by assignment from the Elders Quorum presidency and the Relief Society presidency as we minister to one another in a new and holier way.
8. Change in the age at which young men can be ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood, allowing 11 year old young men who will turn 12 in the following year to be ordained, and similarly allowing 11 year old young women who will turn 12 in the following year to enter the young women program and receive a limited use temple recommend.
9. Changes in the temple policies and procedures now permit young men holding the office of priest in the Aaronic priesthood to perform baptisms by proxy; young men and young women from the year they turn 12 may perform proxy baptisms and confirmations for the dead; both men and women may serve as witnesses in temple ordinances; women with children at home may serve as ordinance workers; and members who are married civilly may enter the temple for sealing as soon as they are worthy following the civil marriage, if they have been baptized for at least one year.
Here in the Philippines, we are excited by the announcements of new temples in our nation. In addition to the temples now operating in Manila and Cebu City, we have one temple under construction in Urdaneta, and four more temples in the design stage, as they await groundbreaking and construction. These are found in Alabang, Cagayan de Oro, Davao City, and Bacolod.
It is an exciting time to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! All these revelatory changes serve to prove that this is the “only true and living church upon the face of the earth,” and that the Lord Jesus Christ does lead His Church by revelation given to His prophets, seers, and revelators called to serve at this time upon the earth.
As we heed the words of the prophets and apostles, we must receive and embrace these revelations as a gift from our Father in Heaven. We must also see that changes in practice and programs do not change the fundamental doctrine and basic principles upon which our Church is organized.
As we seek to exercise faith in God the Father and in his Son Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we will obey the commandments, make, honor and renew our covenants, and establish the Kingdom of God in the Philippines. Yes, we will continue to follow the Philippines Area Plan to OBEY, COVENANT, and ESTABLISH.
My friend and 1st counselor in the Area Presidency, Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, will now share some very helpful insights about ministering which, if followed, will help you touch more lives and strengthen the wards and branches where you live. Following Elder Wakolo, our beloved second counselor in the Area Presidency, Elder Steven R. Bangerter, will also share with us some beautiful principles and instructions on how we can more effectively link the arms of Church members with the full-time missionaries to gather scattered Israel by working side by side in ministering to part-member families. Lastly, I will discuss in greater detail how we can effectively implement the Children and Youth Development program in 2020. Please remember we love you.
ELDER TANIELA B. WAKOLO
Brothers and sisters, I rejoice with you in the gospel or the Doctrine of Christ. We thank you for what you do but mostly we thank you for who you are.
Thank you, Elder Schmutz, for setting the tone and reminding us of the many wonderful changes that we as a Church have been experiencing under the leadership of President Russell M. Nelson. I testify that he is indeed a Prophet of God, and that we will be strengthened in every way as we heed his words and the words of the prophets and apostles.
One of President Nelsons counsels that has touched many hearts and changed many lives is the shift to a newer and holier way of caring for others. This took effect when ministering replaced home teaching and visiting teaching.
Some may say that we just rebranded home teaching and visiting teaching, calling it by another name. But there are major differences between the two, which I would like to point out. The greatest difference between the two is the emphasis. Home and visiting teaching were basically about making a visit to your assigned families once a month, to check up on them and deliver a short gospel message. At the end of the month, the visits would be reported, and local leaders would be able to see who had been visited and who had not been visited that month. That worked for many years.
When the Savior knew His earthly ministry was coming to a close, He did not leave a long list of administrative steps for
His followers. He left them with a simple commandment “that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Johm 13:34)
With ministering, the checkbox approach has been removed, both literally and figuratively. Rather than a simple measure of “visited/not visited,” the focus of ministering is to know how the families are doing, both temporally and spiritually. The expectation of a monthly visit to the home is replaced with the expectation that you, as their minister, will reach out to them as friends, and be in contact with them in whatever way is deemed appropriate and mutually beneficial. And as far as formal procedure goes, the yes or no reporting of a visit every month is replaced by a quarterly interview with your leaders, where you can discuss the welfare of your assigned sisters or assigned families, including any needs that they may have that leaders should be aware of.
In essence, this is a raising of the bar, with more emphasis on a Christ-like form of ministering, one by one.
If I may emphasize something. Though the formal monthly visits and the reports are retired, ministering still needs to be structured and organized. Ministering is not a collection of random acts of kindness toward everyone in your path. I am not in any way discounting the importance of little kind gestures that can melt away years of inactivity and rekindle the wavering faith in others. Instead I would like to point out that ministering should be done in an organized manner, of course by the spirit.
Sister Reyna I. Aburto of the Relief Society General Presidency explained that “The purpose of ministering isn’t to do something for a person every month. Rather, it is to do whatever it takes to help another person know that they have a true friend who will help them when they need help.” It means we establish the relationship first. The acts of service we extend will be the result of the friendship that we have already formed with those who have been assigned under our care.
Since there are no more required monthly visits with messages and no more report forms to submit, how do we measure our progress? This is done through ministering interviews which are held for the purpose of counselling, teaching, and ministering rather than simply reporting.
Conducting interviews once per quarter is the minimum,
not the maximum; or as Elder Christofferson teaches, “the floor, not the ceiling.” The priesthood quorum and Relief Society leaders can conduct interviews with ministering companionships as often as needed and in person, if possible. Having interviews by phone or video call is allowed if necessary, as long as the important matters are discussed, and the Elders Quorum and Relief Society leaders are able to express their love and appreciation for the ministering brothers and sisters while giving them counsel and direction.
Questions about the assigned family or person should explore their spiritual and temporal well-being. Their strengths and challenges should be discussed, as well as how their strengths can bless others and how their challenges are being met. What gospel ordinances do they need to help them progress along the covenant path? What promptings have the ministering brothers and sisters received in order to help their assigned sisters or families? Seeking personal revelation on the part of the ministers is of the ultimate importance. Success is guaranteed when they act on the promptings they will receive.
Without the ministering interviews, the bishop might not receive the information he needs regarding the spiritual and temporal well-being of ward members. Interviews give leaders a chance to share the vision of ministering and give encouragement. In other words, it is ministering by the leaders to the ministering brothers and sisters. Leaders
can help companionships learn how to counsel together. If these interviews are not held, there is a real danger that we will do less to care for others rather than more.
Allow me to share with you the wonderful story of the Relief Society organization of the Carigara 2nd Ward in the Carigara Philippines Stake.
Sister Mary Jane Tumanguil was called as the ward Relief Society president last October 2019. As a presidency, they discovered that there were 221 adult sisters listed in the ward records. The first thing they did was to prayerfully clean up the record to accurately depict the actual number of sisters living in the ward boundaries. More than half were removed from the list and they were left with about 100 sisters.
The average attendance of their Relief Society class is anywhere between 10 to 15, 20 if they were lucky. Sister Tumanguil, her counselors and secretary committed to visit the sisters every week and also assigned the active sisters as ministering sister companionships. They challenged the companionships to reach out and establish friendships with the sisters they were visiting, and to document each visit with photos taken with their smart phones. They checked the photos and discussed the visits during the ministering interviews they held regularly. In fact, the ministering interview book she carries around is up to date with photos and inspirational stories of sisters.
The sisters started to respond by coming back to Church. In fact, an entire family returned to Church when the husband noticed how sincerely the ministering sisters cared for his wife. In just a matter of seven weeks, the attendance in their Relief Society class went up to 42!
I hope you are as inspired by the Relief Society sisters of the Carigara 2nd Ward as I am. Their experience shows the kind of success that awaits ministering brothers and sisters when they reach out in love and find ways to be in the lives of those they serve. As summarized by Relief Society General President Sister Jean B. Bingham: “What does ministering look like? ...It looks like becoming part of someone’s life and caring for him or her.”
As you seek to follow the example of the Carigara 2nd Ward Relief Society organization, please bear in mind the words spoken by Sister Sharon Eubank of the Relief Society General Presidency: “Service is never going to be a one size fits all, the First Presidency has directed that ministering should be led by the Spirit, flexible, and customized to the needs of the person we serve. I testify that the Lord will reveal to you how to minister in small ways, so you will feel the promptings showing you where to go and what to do.”
May we all become better ministers this 2020 as we seek to become more like our Savior. As President Russell M. Nelson said: “When we follow Jesus Christ, we act as He would act and love as He would love.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
*for the transcript of Elder Bangerter’s message, please see the Area Presidency Message in the Dateline Philippines section of the February 2020 issue of the Liahona magazine or on LDS.org.ph
ELDER EVAN A. SCHMUTZ
Most of us have heard about the Children and Youth initiative that I mentioned at the beginning of this broadcast. Many of us may have participated in the September 29th Fifth Sunday broadcast with Elder M. Russell Ballard as he introduced this new effort. Some of us might have even watched the Face To Face event with Elder Gerrit W. Gong and the Young Men, Young Women, and Primary presidents of the Church, which was broadcast last November 17, 2019.
But all of us need to know more about this wonderful initiative to assist in the development of our children and youth. The overriding vision of the Brethren for this program is simple and profound; it is an invitation for every child and youth: “To strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ and help you and your family progress along the covenant path as you meet life’s challenges.”¹
We invite everyone who is interested in the welfare and happiness of our children and young people to pay heed and learn how all of us might assist this great work of preparing the rising generation to know and love God and find happiness in this life, and eternal life in the world to come. We invite and encourage each member, especially parents and their children, to watch the Face to Face event with Elder Gong. We ask Bishops and Branch Presidents, young men and young women leaders, and the leaders of our primary children to find times and places where this event can be seen by our parents, leaders, and youth. In that broadcast, you will learn the details of how to implement this program effectively in your wards and branches.
Since this new effort will replace all existing activity and achievement programs for our children and youth, ages 8 to 18, it is necessary that all Church units in the Philippines gain a full understanding of how the new program will be implemented.
Under the prophetic guidance of President Russell M. Nelson, the main thrust of this new initiative is to help each child and youth develop in their lives by following the example of the Savior. In Luke 2:52, we learn that while in his youth Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” From this, we learn that each one of us must develop in these four aspects of our lives:
- Spiritually (favor with God)
- Socially (favor with man)
- Physically (stature)
- Intellectually (wisdom)
While this is true for the sons and daughters of God of every age, it is especially true for our children and youth as they develop into productive, happy men and women who know and follow the covenant path.
At the beginning of each new year, the bishop may visit the Primary class of the children turning eight and welcome them to Children and Youth. During the discussion, he gives each child two emblems: a ring and a picture of the temple. Each child also receives a copy of Personal Development Children’s Guidebook. This year, all children between 8 and 11 will receive their own copy of the Children’s Guidebook. Parents and members of the Primary presidency may attend this visit.
The youth will move to Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes. Young men will receive a ring from their quorum presidency and the Young women will receive a medallion from their class presidency. In addition, during an interview, the bishop will give each youth a holder for a temple recommend. Each youth also receives a copy of Personal Development Youth Guidebook.
All parents who have children between the ages of 8 and 18 should receive the Children and Youth: An Introductory Guide for Parents and Leaders.
Three keys to success in this program will be found as the youth (1) seek revelation, (2) exercise agency, and (3) build wholesome relationships.
To achieve these three keys of success, the new Children and Youth will emphasize action and activity in three areas of focus:
- Gospel learning
- Service and activities
- Personal development
Let me review some of the principles at work in these areas of action:
At home, children and youth will be encouraged to study the scriptures and the words of living prophets on their own and with their families. Come, Follow Me— For Individuals and Families is a great tool to support these efforts. At Church, children and youth will build upon what they’ve learned at home and in seminary as they study the scriptures with their class or Aaronic Priesthood quorum, using lesson materials from Come, Follow Me—For Primary; Come, Follow Me—For Sunday School; and Come, Follow Me—For Aaronic Priesthood Quorums and Young Women Classes.
Service and Activities
Children will participate in service and activities with their families. In addition, children 8 to 11 will meet regularly for Primary activities. Generally, children are organized by age-groups, and boys and girls meet separately— although they may combine for certain activities or in locations with few children. Primary activities are generally held two to four times per month. If distance and costs, time constraints, safety, and other circumstances make this schedule impractical, Primary activities may be held less frequently. At least two leaders should attend each activity. Leaders can be two women, two men, or a married couple.
Just like the children, youth will participate in service and activities with their families. In addition, youth also meet regularly—usually weekly—for Young Women activities, Aaronic Priesthood quorum activities, and combined youth activities. If distance and cost, time constraints, safety, or other circumstances make this schedule difficult, the youth may meet less often but at least monthly.
An adviser and, as needed, specialists are called for each quorum and class in addition to members of the bishopric and Young Women presidency so that at least two adult leaders are present at each activity.
Activity leaders for children and quorum and class presidencies for the youth, with the assistance of their adult leaders, plan and implement service and activities that are fun and engaging and build testimonies, strengthen families, and foster personal growth. Activities should be balanced among the four areas of growth: spiritual, social, physical, and intellectual.
In addition to regular activities, youth may also participate in:
- For the Strength of Youth (FSY) conferences.
- Youth conference or trek in the years an FSY conference is not held.
- Annual Young Women camps and Aaronic Priesthood quorum camps.
- Additional overnight camps and activities, where feasible.
Overnight camps are not held for children. However, local leaders may choose to hold day camps for Primary children participating in Children and Youth.
Goal setting is a key to personal development. Children and youth should set their own goals to grow spiritually, socially, physically, and intellectually. Parents and, where needed, leaders help the youth discover, plan, act on, and reflect on their individually selected goals. Then children discover and set new ones. Children may work on as many goals as they want, but they are encouraged to work on and complete at least two goals in each of the four aspects of personal development each year. Let’s look at the sweet example of Dinah and Deniz who are sisters attending Primary in Cebu City.
With the help of their parents, they used the Children’s Guidebook to set meaningful goals after they listed down the things they are good at and the things they want to learn or try. Dinah set reading the Book of Mormon as her goal and she monitors her progress by marking the chapters she has read in her reading chart. Denize set the goal to play the piano during their ward’s sacrament meeting. To do this, she worked closely with her piano teacher and would practice regularly on her own.
Their parents noticed how hard the girls worked and how they changed and improved. The sisters learned to appreciate how they should balance their growth in the different aspects of life as they seek to become more like Jesus Christ.
Children, supported by parents, will want to use the Children’s Guidebook to set and record goals. Youth will want
to use the Youth Guidebook or the Gospel Living app to set and record their goals. Goal ideas are available in the Guidebooks, on the Gospel Living app ,or online at childrenandyouth. ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
At the beginning of the year they turn 18, young men will receive a distinctive vial for consecrated oil in anticipation
of their ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Young women will receive a beautiful pendant that can be added to the chain of their medallion. During the year a young man or young woman turns 18, he or she (with parents if desired) should meet with the bishop to discuss his or her progress. In this setting, the bishop will present a certificate from the First Presidency, together with the Children and Youth crystal, which contains an image of the Savior. The Bishop should give these emblems of achievement to youth who are progressing in becoming more like the Savior by striving to:
- Study the scriptures and pray daily.
- Be worthy of a limited-use temple recommend.
- Participate in Sabbath meetings, quorum or class work, and seminary.
- Work on goals in each area of growth.
- Serve others in a personally significant way, which could include a service project.
Now what about some children and youth who are not Church members and yet they attend our activities? Can they participate in the Children and Youth effort? Of course. Children and youth should be involved in the work of salvation. One way they can do this is to invite their friends to participate in gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development. Leaders—including youth quorum and class presidencies— should work closely with parents of these young people who wish to participate, helping them see and understand the importance that children and youth increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
New converts, those who have not been actively participating in Children and Youth or the Church, and those who are not members of the Church may receive the emblems of achievement the year they turn 18 if they are currently focused on the patterns of discipleship outlined above.
Let us be guided by this principle shared by President Nelson: “The long-standing objective of the Church is to assist all members to increase their
faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His atonement [and] to assist them in making and keeping their covenants with God.”
This effort is meant to be adapted to individuals, so personal revelation should be sought in determining ways the program will be applied to varying personal circumstances.
We believe that by using this standard, we will receive personal revelation on how we can help the children and youth of the rising generation develop stronger faith in Jesus Christ as they progress along the covenant path and face life’s challenges.
Brothers and sisters, we are excited to hear about your success stories as you implement the Children and Youth program. Please tell us about the improvements in your ministering efforts as you put into practice meaningful ministering interviews and as you link arms with full-time missionaries when reaching out to part member families.
We also encourage you to continue reading the scriptures as a family using Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families.
Regularly hold family home evening and family prayer.
And keep the Sabbath day holy by partaking of the sacrament worthily each week.
Doing all these will help you progress along the covenant path as you help bring souls unto Christ from both sides of the veil.
That is how we will all help build the Kingdom of God in the Philippines as we OBEY, COVENANT and ESTABLISH.
I bear my humble testimony and witness to you that these revelations we have received from President Russell M. Nelson are given to us from our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ. And I testify to you that as we all embrace the instructions given to us and embrace the initiatives spoken of today, our lives will be blessed, we will draw closer to our Heavenly Father and we’ll bring our loved ones, family and friends with us in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. ◼︎
1 Introductory Guide for Children and Youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 2