John Bytheway discussed the meaning of “Let no man despise thy youth” at his Thursday evening address to BYU Campus Education Week youth participants on Aug. 21.
Bytheway wondered for years about the meaning of the Bible verse 1 Timothy 4:12, which says, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
He explained it doesn’t mean young people should act well so people won’t say later, “Man I knew you when you were a teenager and I despised thy youth.” Bytheway used a copy of the Parallel Bible, a book that compares eight distinct translations of the Bible side-by-side, to come to a conclusion.
“The point is, don’t worry about your age; worry about your duty,” Bytheway said.
He shared the story of 17-year-old William F. Cahoon, who received a calling to be home teacher to Joseph Smith and his family. Cahoon carried out his task, asking the Prophet questions like, “Brother Joseph, are you trying to live your religion?”
“I think it would be impressive if the Aaronic Priesthood young man who home teaches me would look right at me and say, ‘Bishop Bytheway, are you having family prayer? Are you teaching your children the scriptures and teaching them to pray?'” Bytheway said. “You don’t worry about your age; you worry about your duty.”
He shared more instances of young people being examples of the believers, including 1991 Miss Utah, Elizabeth Johnson, when Miss America Pageant organizers questioned her refusal to swear and her wearing a CTR ring. He talked about his father’s fellow sailors on the U.S.S. Saratoga that dragged him out of his bed and made him attend church with them. These friends were influential in his father later joining the church.
Bytheway finished his address by inviting participants to be like his father’s friends in the navy, the type of friends who lead people to Christ.