New Church youth program encourages personal spiritual growth

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Young women in Ohio cook together. The Church’s new program for children and youth encourages personal development through gospel learning, service and activities and personal development. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will discontinue its Personal Progress, Boy Scouts and Duty to God programs starting January 2020 in favor of a new youth program that focuses on helping youth set their own goals and develop faith in Christ.

Wards were given booklets and shown a video with information about the program on Sept. 29. Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will hold a Q&A to help Latter-day Saints understand the new program on Nov. 17.

Several interviewed parents and leaders expressed positive reactions to the program.

“I think it’s going to be a great transition into becoming a more family-organized, family-focused, church-supported curriculum,” Trish Johnson, a mother and youth leader, said.

In a press release dated Sept. 29, President Russell M. Nelson gave an overview of the program and described what church leaders can gain from it.

“We are inviting you to counsel with the Lord about how you can grow in a balanced way,” he said.

Instead of a scripted program like Personal Progress and Duty to God, the new program will not give specifics on which activities and projects youth do. Instead, that will be left up to youth and their parents.  

Ohio youth serve in their community together. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

“It’s individualized. You set your goals and work at your own pace,” said Ann Hartshorn, whose daughter, husband and granddaughter were part of a pilot ward for the new program in Pleasant Grove.

Youth are encouraged to base their goals off three areas of focus, which are service and activities, personal development and growing through gospel learning.

A look inside a booklet for the Church’s children and youth program. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Under each of these sections, youth are guided to set spiritual, physical, social and intellectual goals to increase their conversion in Christ.

“We are asking each of our children and youth to consider how they want to grow in these same four areas,” Young Men General President Stephen W. Owen said in the press release.

Darla Baker, a Utah Valley mom with now-grown kids, said the new program will require more effort from the youth.

“They’re going to have to step up,” she said.

The new program also asks parents to participate more with their children.

Young men in Ohio learn how to make a film together. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Trish Johnson, a mother of three teenagers, said she is excited about the change.

“I feel like it gives me a chance to not have to choose between what my kids are doing and what the Church is offering. I get to correlate them all, and I am thrilled with that,” she said.

Former programs like Personal Progress included 10-hour projects, but the new program will help youth capitalize and apply the gospel to the activities they are already involved in.

“I think most of the youth are busy doing stuff already; they love dance or they love football. You take those little things and encourage a little bit of improvement on it,” Johnson said. “I think it just fits right into their lives, and I think they’ll see it as, ‘Okay here’s a way to better myself.'”

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