By Eric Johnson
In December 2011, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints updated its 44-page booklet titled For the Strength of Youth approved by the First Presidency that is aimed “to address the issues youth face today.” A review of this booklet is available on MRM’s website here.
At the October 2022 general conference, another version of this booklet titled For the Strength of Youth: A Guide for Making Choices was announced and available in 50 different languages. It is called a “revised version” of the previous booklet. According to a “Message from the First Presidency”:
This guide will help you build a solid foundation for making choices to stay on the covenant path. It will help you prepare to make sacred covenants in the temple, prepare to serve a mission, and find joy in following Jesus Christ throughout your life. We hope you feel that you belong in the Savior’s Church and have power from Him to fulfill His purposes for you.
In his October 2022 general conference talk, Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf delivered a talk titled “Jesus Christ is the Strength of Youth” (Liahona, November 2022, 9-12) where he explained,
For over 50 years, For the Strength of Youth has been a guide for generations of Latter-day Saint youth. I always keep a copy in my pocket, and I share it with people who are curious about our standards. It has been updated and refreshed to better cope with the challenges and temptations of our day. . . . It will be a significant help for making choices in your life. Please embrace it as your own and share it with your friends. (Ellipsis mine)
Following Jesus is the ultimate purpose of the booklet, he claimed:
Jesus Christ is the strength of youth. So the purpose of For the Strength of Youth is to point you to Him. It teaches you eternal truths of His restored gospel–truths about who you are, who He is, and what you can accomplish with His strength. It teaches you how to make righteous choices based on those eternal truths. . . . For the Strength of Youth is bold in declaring the doctrine of Jesus Christ. It is bold in inviting you to make choices based on Christ’s doctrine. And it is bold in describing the blessing Jesus Christ promises those who follow His way. (Ellipsis mine)
This is a bold claim. With his stated goal in mind, let’s take a closer look at the booklet and see if it stands up to the promises made. The words of the booklet will be boldfaced. Following each paragraph, commentary from an Evangelical Christian viewpoint will be provided. Articles from the mrm.org website will be recommended, especially from our Crash Course Mormonism series.
Note: Not every single paragraph from the booklet is included in this review, but you are encouraged to look at the original booklet by visiting the church’s website listed here.
The first section is titled “Make Inspired Choices.” To see the LDS page, click here.
Part 1: Make Inspired Choices
In For the Strength of Youth, you will find the teachings of Jesus Christ and His prophets. With these truths as your guide, you can make inspired choices that will bless you now and throughout eternity.
Here is the same promise made by Uchtdorf that the reader “will find the teachings of Jesus Christ” in the pages of the booklet, although the LDS apostles adds “and His prophets.” Of course, this is most likely a reference to what Mormons consider their “living” prophets and are not necessarily the Old and New Testament prophets.
Jesus Christ is the way to eternal joy. As you use your freedom to choose to follow Jesus Christ, you are on the path that leads to eternal happiness. Make Jesus Christ your standard, your rock-solid foundation. Build your life on His teachings, and measure your choices by them.
At face value, I can agree with the teaching that “Jesus is the way to eternal joy.” But what does it mean in Mormonism to make Jesus “your standard” and “your rock-solid foundation”? And what does it mean that Mormons are supposed to build their lives on His teachings and then measure their choices by this? This review will point out how the LDS Church defines these questions and how its teachings contradict biblical truth.
The covenants you make at baptism, during the sacrament, and in the temple are the building blocks of your firm foundation in Christ. You’ll still face struggles and temptations, but Heavenly Father and the Savior will help you through them all.
Right away, the booklet wastes no time explaining the requirement it requires for its members. Latter-day Saints regularly make covenants with God at the weekly sacrament meeting as well as the temple. Their promise? They will keep God’s commandments. How many must be kept? It is regularly inferred that this means “all of them.” How often? Again, the inferred answer is “all the time.” Every Latter-day Saint understands this. While the word used here is “covenants you make,” the more accurate word that should have been used is “covenants you keep.”
Making and then keeping covenants is a popular topic with a variety of LDS leaders and in many correlated curriculum. For example, current LDS President Russell M. Nelson teaches that “obedience to the sacred covenants made in temples qualifies us for eternal life—the greatest gift of God to man” (“Prepare for the Blessings of the Temple,” Ensign Special Issue Temples, October 2010, 42).
In a church-produced book, tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith explained,
I say unto you the Lord is not bound, unless you keep the covenant. The Lord never breaks his covenant. When he makes a covenant with one of us, he will not break it. If it is going to be broken, we will break it. But when it is broken, he is under no obligation to give the blessing, and we shall not receive it. There are people who go into the house of the Lord and receive covenants which are based on faithfulness, who go out and are unfaithful, shall they not receive their reward? [DS 2:256-57.]Joseph Fielding Smith, Selections from Doctrines of Salvation, 156. Italics in original.
Eleventh President Harold B. Lee said, “By the laying on of hands we get the promise of power and authority, but it will not be ours–worlds without end–unless we keep our part of the covenant” (Stand Ye in Holy Places: Selected Sermons and Writings of President Harold B. Lee, 52). Meanwhile, twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball wrote,
Akin to many of the other sins is that of the covenant-breaker. The person baptized promises to keep all the laws and commandments of God. He has partaken of the sacrament and re-pledged his allegiance and his fidelity, promising and covenanting that he will keep all God’s laws. Numerous folks have gone to the temples and have re-covenanted that they would live all the commandments of God, keep their lives clean, devoted, worthy, and serviceable. Yet many there are who forget their covenants and break the commandments, sometimes deliberately tempting the faithful away with them.The Miracle of Forgiveness, 57.
His successor, Ezra Taft Benson, taught that mercy can only be “merited” by “keep(ing) all His commandments”:
We go to our chapels each week to worship the Lord and renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. We thereby promise to take His name upon us, to always remember Him, and keep all His commandments. Our agreement to keep all the commandments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessings and merit His mercy.The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 442.
The greatest of all the blessings of God, eternal life, will come to us only as we make covenants offered in the true Church of Jesus Christ by His authorized servants. Because of the Fall, we all need the cleansing effects of baptism and the laying on of hands to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. These ordinances must be performed by those who possess the proper priesthood authority. Then, with the help of the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost, we can keep all the covenants we make with God, especially those offered in His temples. Only in that way, and with that help, can anyone claim his or her rightful inheritance as a child of God in a family forever. To some listening to me, that may seem a nearly hopeless dream.“A Priceless Heritage of Hope,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2014, 24.
In the April 2022 general conference, Jean B. Bingham taught:
Those who have been baptized covenanted on that never-to-be-forgotten day to take Jesus Christ’s name upon them, to always remember Him, to keep His commandments, and to serve Him to the end. When we do these things, Heavenly Father promises to forgive our sins and give us the companionship of the Holy Ghost. These blessings start us on the path that, if we press forward and endure to the end, will allow us to live with Him and His Son in the celestial kingdom. Every baptized person has the promise of these privileges if she or he keeps the covenant made that special day.Covenants with God Strengthen, Protect, and Prepare Us for Eternal Glory,” Liahona (Conference Edition), May 2022, 66. Italics in original. Bold is mine.
And Seventy Adhemar Damiani taught from a general conference pulpit:
This redemption is conditioned on our having faith in His Atonement, our repenting from our sins, our keeping the covenants we make with the Lord, our obeying all His commandments, and our enduring to the end. Obeying the sacred covenants and all the commandments qualifies us to receive the remission of our sins, allowing us to live clean and pure lives in the presence of God as resurrected and exalted beings.“The Merciful Plan of the Great Creator,” Ensign, March 2004, 11-12.
Perhaps the reader thinks that I have over done my point with citations from so many leaders. But I owe it to the reader to make my point. Covenants don’t just need to be “made” in Mormonism but rather “kept.” (It’s easy to make covenants and fail; it’s impossible to make covenants and keep them, no matter how hard a person tries.)
Just to emphasize the point, here are several additional citations from correlated curriculum saying exactly the same thing:
Latter-day Saints are Abraham’s seed of the latter days. Their exaltation or eternal life depends on their obedience to the covenants they have made and kept with God.Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis – 2 Samuel, 2003, 62.
A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience.True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, 44.
Within the gospel, a covenant means a sacred agreement or mutual promise between God and a person or a group of people. In making a covenant, God promises a blessing for obedience to particular commandments. He sets the terms of His covenants, and He reveals these terms to His prophets. If we choose to obey the terms of the covenant, we receive promised blessings. If we choose not to obey, He withholds the blessings, and in some instances a penalty also is given.Gospel Principles, 2009, 81.
Receiving ordinances and keeping covenants are essential to Heavenly Father’s plan. The scriptures often refer to His people as a “covenant people.” The Lord’s blessings exceed our mortal expectations. To live in the presence of our Heavenly Father, we must receive all of the necessary ordinances and keep all of the required covenants.The Gospel and the Productive Life Student Manual Religion 150, 2004, 98.
I think it’s clear what the church expects from the membership. Why, then, does this curriculum aimed at youth not use any of these tough descriptions explaining what God demands? Obviously, it could drive some youth to want to do harm to themselves. But shouldn’t these young people be told straight up what these requirements are, just as the leaders and manuals cited above make clear? It would seem so, but if you are wanting to not upset the young people, this would have been a precarious strategy. And thus, the naïve reader is left with the idea that God will help the young person make it through the tough times, so it shouldn’t be a major concern.
In my 2022 book Introducing Christianity to Mormons, I explain the Christian position of sanctification. In addition, check out this article to learn about what a Christian’s attitude is to good works: Doesn’t the book of James say that “faith without works is dead”?
You are a beloved spirit child of God. His great plan of happiness makes it possible for you to grow spiritually and develop your divine potential. This is why He sent Jesus Christ to be your Savior.
This is a smooth transition. The strategy seems to be to get off the topic of covenants and remind the young person that he or she is “a beloved spirit child of God.” Of course, to understand what is meant by “child of God,” a person must be familiar with Mormonism’s doctrine of preexistence. I won’t take the time to discuss it here, but I recommend visiting Crash Course Mormonism to learn more.
Your Father in Heaven trusts you. He has given you great blessings, including the fulness of the gospel and sacred ordinances and covenants that bind you to Him and bring His power into your life. With those blessings comes added responsibility. He knows you can make a difference in the world, and that requires, in many cases, being different from the world. Seek your Heavenly Father’s guidance as you make choices. He will bless you with inspiration through the Holy Ghost.
This paragraph is a little more hard-hitting than the previous paragraphs, but as the citations have shown, much more is required in Mormonism than merely “being different from the world.” And I find it interesting that “your Father in Heaven trusts you.” Trusts you to do what? Keep the commandments? If I were Heavenly Father, I’d be very nervous that the majority of the LDS membership will ever be able to qualify for the celestial kingdom according to the standards set by the church’s leadership.
The purpose of For the Strength of Youth is not to give you a “yes” or “no” about every possible choice you might face. Instead, the Lord is inviting you to live in a higher and holier way—His way. This guide will teach you about His way. It explains truths He has revealed. Make these truths your guide for making choices—big choices, such as making covenants in the temple and serving a mission, as well as daily choices, such as how to treat people or how to spend your time.
Fair enough about not giving a “yes” or “no” about every possible choice a young person needs to make. But is this guide going to truly “explain truths He has revealed”? Already we have seen that “covenants” in Mormonism creates a scenario much different than Christian doctrine. After all, salvation is found by grace through faith and not by works. For more, see Covenants / Commandments.
While others can help you, your spiritual growth is personal. It’s between you and the Lord. He knows your heart, and only He can be the ultimate Judge. Do your best to improve each day, keep God’s commandments and honor your covenants, and help others come closer to the Savior.
I have a problem with the language used to communicate to young people. The booklet says to “do your best to improve each day,” and then it seems to be connected to the following items (i.e., keep God’s commandments and honor your covenants). But “trying” or “doing your best” is disallowed by Spencer W. Kimball who wrote,
Trying Is Not Sufficient. Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin . . . To “try” is weak. To “do the best I can” is not strong. We must always do better than we can. This is true in every walk of life.The Miracle of Forgiveness, 164-165. Ellipsis mine.
My criticism is that the youth who read this booklet ought to be given the straight facts. Yes, of course they need to be encouraged, but they also need full disclosure as to what keeping covenants is all about and be provided with a clear explanation of how a person will be disqualified from entering the celestial kingdom without successful obedience.
The next section is titled Jesus Christ will help you. (For the LDS page, click here.)
Part 2: Jesus Christ Will Help You
Jesus Christ is your strength. He has done everything necessary for you to have joy in this life and forever. By choosing Him and His gospel, you are choosing eternal joy.
Again, at face value, I agree with the words used, but could there be differences in the meaning.
The definition of Jesus Christ is different in Mormonism. (See this article on Jesus.) For what the word “Gospel” means compared to what is taught in the Bible, I recommend this article on The Gospel.
Even when you try to do your best to make good choices, sometimes you will make mistakes. You’ll do things you wish you hadn’t. Everyone does. When that happens, it is easy to feel discouraged or wonder if you will ever be good enough. But there is good news—wonderful, hopeful news! Because God loves you, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who took upon Himself your sins so you can repent and keep progressing.
Notice how it says “because God loves you, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who took upon Himself your sins. . . .” If there had been a period at the end of the word “sins,” then I would say this is a great explanation. But the sentence continues to say “so you can repent and keep progressing.”
This coincides with the LDS definition of grace. In biblical Christianity, grace is unmerited favor with God provided to those who place their trust in Jesus. But this is not what grace means in Mormonism. According to the LDS Church website, this “refers primarily to enabling power.” It is through grace that “the Lord also enables those who live His gospel to repent and be forgiven.” Source
Apostle David Bednar explained, “This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts” (“In the Strength of the Lord,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2004, 76-77). A correlated church curriculum explains grace as “strength and power from God that allows us to obtain eternal life and exaltation” (Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Student Guide, 2001, 106. Referring to D&C 93). As we have shown before, the ability to “obtain eternal life and exaltation” requires meticulously keeping all of God’s commandments.
Meanwhile, the LDS Bible Dictionary puts it this way:
This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts. Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the fall of Adam and also because of man’s weaknesses and shortcomings. However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the explanation, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23).697.
All the citations say pretty much the same thing, that grace is provided only after one has kept his or her end of the “bargain.” Where does this concept originate? As cited in the last citation, 2 Nephi 25: 23 in the Book of Mormon says that a person is saved by grace after all they can do. I was recently talking to someone who is halfway out of the LDS Church. She is trying to gain a more biblical perspective on grace, yet without realizing what she did, she cited this verse. I had to explain that this verse is not found in the Bible. In fact, it completely contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9, among other passages.
- See citations on obedience given by LDS leaders here.
- Here is an article on obedience in Crash Course Mormonism.
- Here is an article on grace in Crash Course Mormonism.
- For a more complete understanding of the Book of Mormon verse, visit 2 Nephi 25:23: Saved by grace “in spite of” all we can do?
Jesus Christ can strengthen you. He can help you change your desires, your thoughts, and your actions. When you are worried, afraid, or struggling in any way, He will comfort you. He will help you in all aspects of your life.
The word “can” used twice here is crucial. He “can” do these things and even “comfort you” as long as you are doing what God supposedly said is possible: keeping the commandments. First Nephi 3:7 in the Book of Mormon says
7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
If you don’t qualify for the celestial kingdom, maybe Jesus will visit you, but Heavenly Father wants nothing to do with you. The next best level of heaven is called the terrestrial kingdom. One church manual explains the level this way:
This kingdom is not as wonderful as the celestial kingdom. Even though Jesus will visit the terrestrial kingdom, those who live there will not live with our Father in Heaven, and they will not have all He has. Those who go to the terrestrial kingdom will be honorable people. Some of them will be members of the Church, and others will not. They will be those who did not accept Jesus on earth but later accepted Him in the spirit world. The people who will live there will not be part of an eternal family but will live separately, without families. Our Father in Heaven will give these people the happiness they are prepared to receive.Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, 202.
Of course, the youth are not given such a bleak picture because it naturally would be quite upsetting. But as I said, if honesty is a positive trait, giving false hope to the LDS youth should not be something that is admired.
Repentance isn’t punishment for sin; it is the way the Savior frees us from sin. To repent means to change—to turn away from sin and toward God. It means to improve and receive forgiveness. This kind of change is not a one-time event; it’s an ongoing process.
While verses linked to the standard works are found at the bottom of each chapter, these references are not included in the text itself. Two references brought up at the end of the chapter are D&C 1:32 and 58:42-43. D&C 1:31-32 is cited by Kimball as quoted in a church manual:
In his preface to modern revelation, the Lord outlined what is one of the most difficult requirements in true repentance. For some it is the hardest part of repentance, because it puts one on guard for the remainder of his life. The Lord says: “… I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.” (D&C 1:31–32. Italics added.) This scripture is most precise. First, one repents. Having gained that ground he then must live the commandments of the Lord to retain his vantage point. This is necessary to secure complete forgiveness.Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 2006, 43. Ellipsis and italics in original.
Another church manual states:
The Lord has said that He “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (D&C 1:31). The result of sin is the withdrawal of the Holy Ghost and, in eternity, being unable to dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father, for “no unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Nephi 10:21).True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, 163.
D&C 58:42-43 is cited in a church manual before stating: “Our sincere sorrow should lead us to forsake (stop) our sins. If we have stolen something, we will steal no more. If we have lied, we will lie no more. If we have committed adultery, we will stop” (Gospel Principles, 2009, 110. Parentheses in original).
Another manual states:
Abandonment of Sin. Although confession is an essential element of repentance, it is not enough. The Lord has said, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43). Maintain an unyielding, permanent resolve that you will never repeat the transgression. When you keep this commitment, you will never experience the pain of that sin again.True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, 134-135.
The next citation helps complete the picture:
D&C 58:42–43. The Lord Promises Complete Forgiveness to Those Who Truly Repent. The Lord forgives those who truly repent of their sins. This blessing comes through the Atonement of Christ, who “suffered … for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent” (D&C 19:16). The Lord promises that He will no more remember the sins of those who repent (see Ezekiel 18:21–22). Repentance, however, requires that we forsake and turn completely from our sins and confess them.Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual Religion 324 and 325, 2001, 120. Bold and ellipsis
“Repentance” might be considered an “ongoing process” as long as it is understood that this certainly must be completed before death. Alma 34:32-35 in the Book of Mormon shows this is true. President Kimball cited this verse in chapter 1 (“This Life is the Time”) of his book The Miracle of Forgiveness. He explained that work done for the dead in temples is efficacious only for those who never had a chance to hear the LDS gospel. He wrote on page 314,
Men and women who live in mortality and who have heard the gospel here have had their day, their seventy years to put their lives in harmony, to perform the ordinances, to repent and perfect their lives.
On pages 208-209 he wrote,
Eternal life hangs in the balance awaiting the works of men. This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation . . . .Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.
Repent. Turn to the Lord with the desire to improve. When you’ve done something wrong, honestly admit it before God and, as needed, to your bishop and anyone you may have harmed. Do your best to make things right.
Rejoice in the gift to do better and be better. Even when it is not easy and takes longer than you’d like, never stop trying. Keep working and trusting in the Lord. The Savior will help you every step of the way.
If it weren’t so serious, it would almost be comical. It is “not easy.” It will “take longer than you’d like.” But, “never stop trying.” Indeed, “keep working.” And “the Savior “will help you every step of the way.” But if perfection is the goal, and yet nobody can do what Spencer Kimball said must be done, how will trying or doing your best suffice?
I won’t go into the nuances of what true repentance is all about, but rather I will refer you to this article found on Crash Course Mormonism.
Jesus Christ will forgive and heal you as you repent. He will replace your guilt with peace and joy. He will remember your sins no more. In His strength, your desire to keep His commandments will increase.
Wait a minute. Jesus will remember your sins no more as long as you repent. Yet D&C 82:7 says, “And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” Consider how Kimball used this verse:
We can hardly be too forceful in reminding people that they cannot sin and be forgiven and then sin again and again and expect repeated forgiveness. The Lord anticipated the weakness of man which would return him to his transgression, and he gave this revelation in warning: And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 82:7.)The Miracle of Forgiveness, 360. See also Gospel Principles, 2009, 231.
This church manual gives a bizarre way to explain this verse:
Doctrine and Covenants 82:7. We are commanded to forsake sin.Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, 2001, 134.
If we sin again after repenting, our former sins return. (5–10 minutes) Bring several rocks to class that are all labeled with the same sin (for example, breaking the Word of Wisdom). Tell students a story about an imaginary person who commits this sin. Invent details to embellish your story. Each time the imaginary person commits the sin, pick up a rock, until you are holding several of them. Set all the rocks you are holding aside and ask: • What might setting the rocks aside represent? (Repentance.) • What happens to our sins when we repent? (The Lord forgives them.) Read Doctrine and Covenants 82:7 and look for what happens when we sin again. Ask: • How many rocks would a person need to pick up if he sins after repenting? (All that you were previously holding plus a new one.) • Why do you think our former sins return? • What does that teach you about the importance of forsaking sin? • How can knowing this doctrine help you avoid sin?
Bold in original.
Talk about a lack of comfort! I think eleventh President Harold B. Lee was even more cold-hearted when he said,
The miracle of forgiveness is available to all of those who turn from their evil doings and return no more, because the Lord has said in a revelation to us in our day: “Go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God” (D&C 82:7). Have that in mind, all of you who may be troubled with a burden of sin.Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 20. Brackets in original.
Aren’t the people belonging to this religion “troubled” with their burden? They never can have the hope that the Bible promises and a “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:6). These men appear to have little compassion for lawbreakers, yet they must be commended on their honesty and their consistency in teaching what the unique standard works say about this issue.
He will change your heart and your life. Little by little, you will grow and become more like Him. Your covenant connection with Him will bring you greater access to His power.
Once again, no mention is made about how keeping covenants is what “will bring you greater access to His power.” Such a concept is not biblical.
Questions and answers
How do I know if God has forgiven me? God promises He will forgive those who repent. When you feel comfort from the Spirit, you can know that the Savior’s atoning power is working in your life.
“Feel(ing) comfort from the Spirit is a lousy way to determine if Jesus’s “atoning power is working.” I mean, a person could even feel comfort, but could this feeling be deceptive? Jeremiah 17:9 says
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
Proverbs 14:12 adds, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Trusting in one’s feeling is not a good way to determine if Jesus’s atoning power is working. But notice the key words in the paragraph above: “God promises He will forgive those who repent.” And who are those who have truly repented? The ones who have stopped sinning, as we referenced in D&C 58:43 above. Until you have fully repented, it’s impossible to be forgiven.
It is such a vicious circle. The 1981 Mormon Missionary Discussion F says, “In order to remain forgiven we must never commit the sin again” (36). This is the consistent teaching of leaders throughout the years. For instance, Kimball said “incomplete repentance never brought complete forgiveness” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 212). He later wrote on pages 324-325,
Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works—many works—and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could he weeks, it could he years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes.
If you are a Latter-day Saint, ask yourself if you continue to sin even after you have repented. If the answer is yes, then you have not accomplished what D&C 58 is talking about. The condemnation of D&C 82 is upon your head.
Fortunately, biblical Christianity teaches that forgiveness is for the asking, by grace through faith alone. It’s not based on anything we do. Here are a couple of articles to consider:
- How can a person get into heaven?
- How can I be sure I am saved?
- Can Christians be assured of their salvation?
- Facts, Feelings, Faith
When do I need the help of the bishop to repent? Your bishop holds priesthood keys and spiritual gifts to help you repent. You can seek his help and counsel at any time. If you have made serious mistakes, such as breaking the law of chastity, meet with your bishop. He won’t condemn you. He is a representative of Jesus Christ and will help you know how to fully repent and receive the Savior’s healing and strengthening power.
Of course, there have been recorded abuse cases between bishops and their young parishioners in the past years with several LDS Church bishops–but I won’t focus on that. The idea that there are adults who are willing to help is certainly important in a church context. But instead of directing a child to the church leader, I think it would make more sense to guide them to the parents first. As a parent myself, I would rather have the first chance to help my child before an ecclesiastical leader. Someone may say, “Maybe what they need to talk about is sensitive and the child might not open up.” I get that. Still, shouldn’t the parents be first in line to provide advice? To give credit to the LDS authors, the next section includes advice to go to “parents and leaders” when they have an issue. Fair enough. I just don’t know why this order didn’t happen here.
I’m trying to repent, but I keep making the same mistakes. What should I do now? It takes time to develop good habits and break bad ones, so don’t give up. Turn toward Christ. His grace is sufficient. Try again. You are never alone in your efforts to progress. Jesus Christ is always with you.
Encouragement for the young person. Again, I get it. I just think that LDS theology does not naturally allow for such optimism. If the child goes to the bishop, a good question to ask is, “Bishop, are you still making the same mistakes?” If he says yes, the follow-up is, “So have you repented of all your sins then?” I think the honest bishop will realize that he too continues to struggle with sin, which should put complete doubt on whether or not he has truly repented and received forgiveness of his own sins. Unfortunately, it is Mormon theology that creates such a predicament.
The next section is titled “Love God, love your neighbor.” (For the LDS page, click here.)
Part 3: Love God, love your neighbor.
To help you make good choices, God gives commandments. He does this because He loves you. And the best reason to obey God’s commandments is that you love Him. Love is at the heart of God’s commandments.
Evangelical Christians also believe in keeping God’s commandments as part of the sanctification process. It is something many Latter-day Saints don’t seem to understand about my faith. And I agree, “the best reason to obey God’s commandments is that you love Him.” But is this why many Latter-day Saints attempt to keep God’s commandments?
Show love for God by keeping His commandments. For example, by keeping the Sabbath day holy, including by faithfully preparing for and partaking of the sacrament, you show God that you are willing to dedicate one day a week to Him. As you fast and pay tithes and offerings, you show God that His work is more important to you than material things. When you use the names of God and Christ with reverence, never in a vain or casual way, you show you are grateful for all They have done for you.
I have no problem with teaching that we “show love for God by keeping His commandments.” I am onboard with this notion. However, as I have shown above, Mormonism is not about merely showing love for God by keeping commandments. Rather, doing this is what a person does to gain God’s favor in order to qualify for celestial glory. I don’t think the author(s) of this curriculum are being straightforward with this paragraph.
Treat everyone as a child of God. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you can lead out in treating people of all races and religions and any other groups with love, respect, and inclusion—especially those who are sometimes victims of hurtful words and actions. Reach out to those who feel lonely, isolated, or helpless. Help them feel Heavenly Father’s love through you.
I have no problem with this, although I believe only those who are believers are truly “children of God” (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-17).
Make sure your language reflects love of God and others—whether you’re communicating in person or virtually. Say things that uplift—nothing that might be divisive, hurtful, or offensive, even as a joke. Your words can be powerful. Let them be powerful for good. Loving all of God’s children starts at home. Do your part to make your home a place where everyone can feel the Savior’s love.
Again, I completely concur.
Your relationship with God will deepen as you express your love by obeying His commandments and keeping your covenants with Him.
At face value, I agree. But we need to keep going back to what Mormonism teaches, that forgiveness of sins does not come unless one keeps God’s commandments. The Bible does not teach this.
Your relationship with others will deepen as you express your love through Christlike service. You will find joy in making the world a more loving place.
Questions and answers
How can I feel God’s love? Heavenly Father’s love is always available. Talk to Him often through prayer. Share your feelings with Him, and listen for impressions from Him. Read His words in the scriptures. Think about all that He has done for you. Spend time in places and activities where His Spirit is present.
It’s not clear what that last sentence means (“spend time in places and activities where His Spirit is present”). I doubt the author(s) means staying in a physical church building or a temple 100% of the time. Probably what is meant is don’t find yourself at places (improper parties or other inappropriate places) where temptation can be found.
Does the Lord expect me to love everyone, even those who treat me badly? The Lord expects you to love your enemies and pray for those who mistreat you. However, that does not mean you should stay in a situation that causes you emotional, physical, or spiritual harm. Set healthy boundaries to keep yourself safe. If you are being bullied or abused—or if you know this is happening to someone else—talk to a trustworthy adult.
Agreed. I think this is good advice.
When and how should I get to know members of the opposite sex? The best way to get to know others is through genuine friendship. While you are young, build good friendships with many people. In some cultures, youth get to know members of the opposite sex through wholesome group activities. For your emotional and spiritual development and safety, one-on-one activities should be postponed until you are mature—age 16 is a good guideline. Counsel with your parents and leaders. Save exclusive relationships for when you are older. Spend time with those who help you keep your commitments to Jesus Christ.
Here we have “parents” included with leaders in the advice given here, something that was missed above and thus my criticism. The advice is fine and there is no problem waiting until the age of 16 to date. Our Christian church youth group leaders would not be amiss in giving the same type of advice.
What can I do if my home is not a place of love? Your Savior knows your situation, and He loves you. Be patient, continue to keep God’s commandments, and be a good example to your family. Build relationships within your ward family. Prepare now to build your own family founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Certainly not every child reading this curriculum is coming from a home of love, so the answer to the question is appropriate.
The next section is titled “Walk in God’s Light.” (For the LDS page, click here.)
Part 4: Walk in God’s light
You make better choices when you can see things clearly. That’s why light is so important: light makes it easier to see the right path. Heavenly Father has given you access to heavenly light—the gift of the Holy Ghost—to help you see clearly what is good and bad, right and wrong.
I believe in the “gift of the Holy Ghost.” According to the Bible, the baptism of the Holy Ghost (or gift) is given when a person believes in Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit comes into the person’s life to reign forevermore. This is different than what is taught in Mormonism. First, a person receives salvation at water baptism and the laying on of hands by those with priesthood authority beginning at the age of 8. Meanwhile, Apostle L. Tom Perry explained that this “gift” only comes “to those who live worthy of it”:
I bear witness of the power and comfort the gift of the Holy Ghost is to those who live worthy of it. What a reassurance it is for us to know that we are not left alone to find the course that we must follow to merit the eternal blessings of our Father in Heaven. We do not need man-made rating systems to determine what we should read, what we should watch, what we should listen to, or how we should conduct our lives. What we do need to do is live worthy of the continued companionship of the Holy Ghost and have the courage to follow the promptings that come into our lives.“That Spirit Which Leadeth to Do Good,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1997, 70.
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie would have agreed with this assessment:
There is no greater gift that a person can earn and enjoy for himself, in mortality, than the gift of the Holy Ghost, which gift is the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead, and which gift is actually enjoyed only on condition of individual righteousness.Conference Reports, April 1953, 76.
A church manual puts it this way:
The gift of the Holy Ghost is different from the influence of the Holy Ghost. Before your baptism, you could feel the influence of the Holy Ghost from time to time, and through that influence you could receive a testimony of the truth. Now that you have the gift of the Holy Ghost, you have the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead if you keep the commandments.True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, 83.
These citations magnify the problem: the so-called “gift” of the Holy Ghost “is actually enjoyed only on condition of individual righteousness.” This is what separates Mormonism from biblical Christianity. Mormonism is a works-based religion as the gift of the Holy Ghost is only kept via keeping the commandments of God.
For more on this topic, visit Crash Course Mormonism: Forgiveness.
At baptism you enter a joyful covenant relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. In the temple, you will make additional covenants that can strengthen that relationship. Each week during the sacrament, you renew your covenants. You express your willingness to keep the commandments, and the Lord blesses you with the opportunity to have the Holy Spirit as your constant companion. It is one of His greatest gifts to you.
We have already talked about covenants and commandments. For water baptism, I recommend visiting Crash Course Mormonism: Baptism.
Make time for the Lord every day. Learn of Him. Always remember Him. Pray to your Heavenly Father. Study the holy scriptures and the words of living prophets. Then strive to live by what you learn.
“Scriptures” in Mormonese means the four standard works. For the Christian, “scripture” (singular) means the Bible only. Bible-believing Christians do not hold to the authority of these other three written “scriptures” or “the words of living prophets,” all of whom we as Christians reject as false teachers.
For more on scripture, visit Crash Course Mormonism: Scripture.
Seek that which uplifts, inspires, and invites the Spirit. As you make choices about what to watch, read, listen to, or participate in, think about how it makes you feel. Does it invite good thoughts? Stay away from anything that mocks sacred things or that is immoral. Don’t participate in anything that dulls your judgment or sensitivity to the Spirit, such as violence, alcohol, and harmful drugs. Have the courage to turn off a video or game, walk out of a movie or a dance, change your music, or turn away from anything that is not consistent with the Spirit.
Use social media to uplift. Social media can be a powerful communication tool. If you use it, focus on light, faith, and truth. Don’t compare your life to what other people seem to be experiencing. Remember that your worth comes from being a child of heavenly parents, not from social media.
Social media is a hard one to control or provide guidance, especially since I am someone who is a “Baby Boomer” and a foreigner to things electronic. When this says that “worth comes from being a child of heavenly parents,” the meaning is different for the Mormon who believes in this statement in a literal sense. Christians hold that only true believers are “children of God” and totally reject the idea of the preexistence.
Seek wholesome experiences and real and lasting relationships. Be careful that your use of technology and media does not replace spending in-person time with family and friends. Social media and other technology can take much of your time without giving a lot of value in return. Take a break from the virtual world, and connect with people in real life.
For the 21st century, this too is good advice.
You can have the Spirit with you always. The Holy Ghost will bear witness to you of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He will comfort, guide, warn, and sanctify you. He will help you recognize truth and see the good in the world.
The only way a person can have the Spirit with them always is by keeping the commandments of God continually (D&C 25:15). This is where this booklet is not being upfront and honest with its youth.
Questions and answers
How can I know if I’m feeling the Holy Ghost? Learning to be aware of the Spirit takes time, practice, and patience. He speaks to different people in different ways. Don’t overlook simple things—the peaceful feeling you get hearing someone’s testimony or the unsettled feeling you get after making a wrong choice. Search the scriptures for different ways the Spirit communicates, pray about it, and keep looking for opportunities to feel the Spirit.
So much emphasis in Mormonism is put on “feeling” the Spirit. As Bill Bright put it, we must first place our allegiance on the facts. What does the Bible teach? And what does the evidence say? The Bible says we need to “test everything” (1 Thess. 5:21) and to be professional “testers” because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). Jesus even likened these false prophets to wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).
Once we have the facts, we place faith in the evidence. (It is what we call inference to the best explanation.) We believe by faith that Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the third day (1 Cor. 15:1-5). We believe by faith that Jesus is God and is coming back again. We believe by faith that salvation comes by grace and not by works. And so on.
Finally, once we have the facts and have entrusted our faith in the evidence, feelings play a role. It is not a priority to have good feelings since feelings in and of themselves can deceive. But to somehow think that feelings should be considered the primary way for us to determine truth is a dangerous proposition.
What is pornography? Why should I avoid it? Pornography is a representation, in pictures or words, that is designed to arouse sexual feelings. Pornography comes in many forms, including videos, pictures, books, and music. It can also be messages or images sent between friends. Pornography treats things that are sacred—our physical bodies and sexual feelings—with disrespect. You may come across pornography without meaning to. Whether you come across pornography intentionally or not, turn away immediately. You may also want to talk with a parent or other trusted adult. Intentionally viewing pornography is sinful and harms your ability to feel the Spirit. It weakens your self-control and distorts the way you see yourself and others. Jesus Christ has the power to help you resist pornography and repent. Turn toward Him; turn away from darkness. Your bishop can help you receive strength and forgiveness through the Savior.
Again, much of what the authors are trying to do, such as this explanation of pornography, is admirable. It needs to be done as this is such a serious issue sidelining people of all persuasions. I have no problem with the church attempting to deal with this in such a way and think this ought to be done more in Christian churches.
Temple recommend questions
The Lord has said that all things are to be “done in cleanliness” before Him (Doctrine and Covenants 42:41). Do you strive for moral cleanliness in your thoughts and behavior? Do you obey the law of chastity?
I find it interesting that it says “do you strive…in your thoughts and behaviors?” yet no such disclaimer is made for obeying the law of chastity. Why is striving sufficient in the first but not even brought up in the second? Is it because “striving” is an admission that a person is failing to do the right thing?
Do you strive to keep the Sabbath day holy, both at home and at church; attend your meetings; prepare for and worthily partake of the sacrament; and live your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?
Here again the word “strive” is used. But is “striving” really all that God requires in all of these issues? Is “striving” enough? Of course, anyone can say they are “striving.” But is that really enough according to Mormonism. I deter to Kimball’s admonition that “trying is not sufficient” when it comes to keeping God’s commandments. According to LDS scriptures, he is exactly right.
The next section is titled “Your Body is Sacred.” (For the LDS page, click here.)
Part 5: Your Body is Sacred
Your body is an amazing gift from your Heavenly Father. He gave it to you to help you become more like Him. Having a body gives you increased power to exercise your freedom to choose. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ can help you see your body from God’s perspective. And that makes a big difference in your choices about what to do with your body and how to care for it.
Your body is in the image of God—the most glorious, majestic Being in the universe. The scriptures compare our bodies to a holy temple, a place where the Spirit can dwell. Of course, your body is not perfect now. But the experiences you’re having with your body can help you prepare to receive one day a perfect, resurrected, glorified body.
Agreed. And Christians do believe in gaining a “perfect, resurrected, glorified body” one day.
Your soul is made up of your body and your spirit. For this reason, physical health and spiritual health are closely connected. The Savior revealed the Word of Wisdom to teach principles of caring for your body—and to promise physical and spiritual blessings.
The Word of Wisdom is obviously not accepted as being divinely inspired. For more on the Word of Wisdom, visit Crash Course Mormonism: Word of Wisdom.
Sexual feelings are an important part of God’s plan to create happy marriages and eternal families. These feelings are not sinful—they are sacred. Because sexual feelings are so sacred and so powerful, God has given you His law of chastity to prepare you to use these feelings as He intends. The law of chastity states that God approves of sexual activity only between a man and a woman who are married. Many in the world ignore or even mock God’s law, but the Lord invites us to be His disciples and live a standard higher than the world’s.
Treat your body—and others’ bodies—with respect. As you make decisions about your clothing, hairstyle, and appearance, ask yourself, “Am I honoring my body as a sacred gift from God?” Heavenly Father wants us to see each other for who we really are: not just physical bodies but His beloved children with a divine destiny. Avoid styles that emphasize or draw inappropriate attention to your physical body instead of who you are as a child of God with an eternal future. Let moral cleanliness and love for God guide your choices. Seek counsel from your parents.
Ahhh, I like the last sentence especially: “Seek counsel from your parents.” Overall, no problems in this paragraph.
Do things that will strengthen your body—nothing that will hurt or damage it. Enjoy with gratitude the many good things God has provided. But remember that alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and other harmful drugs and substances are not for your body or your spirit. Even helpful substances, like prescription drugs, can be destructive if not used correctly.
Most of this is fine, but the authors are using the Word of Wisdom to bring in coffee and tea. These are nowhere close to the same as tobacco and “other harmful drugs and substances.”
Keep sex and sexual feelings sacred. They should not be the subject of jokes or entertainment. Outside of marriage between a man and a woman, it is wrong to touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body even if clothed. In your choices about what you do, look at, read, listen to, think about, post, or text, avoid anything that purposely arouses lustful emotions in others or yourself. This includes pornography in any form. If you find that situations or activities make temptations stronger, avoid them. You know what those situations and activities are. And if you aren’t sure, the Spirit, your parents, and your leaders can help you know. Show your Father in Heaven that you honor and respect the sacred power to create life.
Your respect for yourself and others will increase as you honor your body through your behavior, appearance, and dress.
The Lord has promised great treasures of knowledge to those who keep the Word of Wisdom. A healthy body, free from addiction, also increases your ability to receive personal revelation, think clearly, and serve the Lord.
But here I disagree. I’m not sure why the authors keep pointing to the Word of Wisdom, which, if looked at closely in D&C 89, is described differently than what the church promotes, including not eating meat except in times of cold or famine. This is not a practice of the church today, so why aren’t the leaders consistent with their teaching.
Questions and answers
I am attracted to people of my same sex. How do these standards apply to me? Feeling same-sex attraction is not a sin. If you have these feelings and do not pursue or act on them, you are living Heavenly Father’s sacred law of chastity. You are a beloved child of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ. Remember that the Savior understands everything you experience. Through your covenant connection with Him, you will find strength to obey God’s commandments and receive the blessings He promises. Trust Him and His gospel.
Bold for the authors to bring up this controversial topic. I agree with the advice.
I was abused, and I feel ashamed. Am I guilty of sin? Being a victim of any abuse or assault does not make you guilty of sin. Please do not feel guilt or shame. The Savior loves you. He wants to help you, heal you, and give you peace. Professional counselors, your family members, and your leaders can also help.
Again, very bold and I agree.
The next section is titled “Truth will Make You Free.” (For the LDS page, click here.)
Part 6: Truth will Make You Free
Your Heavenly Father is a God of truth. He is all-knowing. All truth comes from Him and leads to Him. You show that you value truth as you seek learning, live with integrity, and bravely stand for what you know is right—even if you have to stand alone.
L. Eldon Tanner, once a member of the First Presidency, explained, “No matter how sincere one’s belief may be in an error, it will not change the error into truth” (“A Basis for Faith in the Living God,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1978, 46). I agree.
Living with integrity means that you love truth with all your heart—more than you love personal comfort, popularity, or convenience. It means doing what is right simply because it is right.
Ahh, this is a great statement. Integrity is what you do when nobody else is looking. When related to a religion that a person has grown up in, I would say truth is more important than family, heritage, fitting in society, etc. Many people will never consider anything else because they are too much in love with the way things were when they grew up.
You have something precious to share. The gospel of Jesus Christ holds the answers to life’s questions. It is the way to peace and happiness. You may not know everything, but you know enough to help others understand and value true, eternal principles.
Of course, this is written to people who are thinking that Mormonism epitomizes “true, eternal principles.” But for me, my aim is truth, period, and knowing the true God as described in the Bible.
Always be learning. Look for opportunities to expand your mind and your skills. These opportunities can include formal education at school or vocational training as well as informal learning from sources you trust. Involve the Lord in your efforts, and He will guide you. As you learn about the world around you, learn also about the Savior, who created the world. Study His life and teachings. Make seminary, institute, and personal gospel study part of your lifelong learning.
Although they don’t have “seminary” or “institute (of religion)” available to them, Christian young people do have youth groups, Bible studies, and other ways they can learn more about their God and faith. I encourage these folks to get involved in these wholesome activities.
Honesty brings peace and self-respect. When your words and actions align with truth, you show that you can be trusted—by other people and by the Lord.
Questions and answers
Is it wrong to have questions about the Church? How can I find answers? Having questions is not a sign of weakness or lack of faith. In fact, asking questions can help build faith. The Restoration of the gospel started when 14-year-old Joseph Smith asked questions with faith. Seek answers in the scriptures, in the words of God’s prophets, from your leaders and faithful parents, and from God Himself. If answers don’t come right away, trust that you will learn line upon line. Keep living by what you already know, and keep seeking for truth.
While this says seek answers in the “scriptures,” for Christians, the Bible, first and foremost, is their authority, not the other scriptures accepted by Latter-day Saints. Of course, trusted pastors, teachers, and family members can be a help in getting answers to questions as well.
How can I stand up for what is right without offending those who have different beliefs? Start by making sure your words and actions are inspired by love for God and His children. Sharing the gospel should not be done in a spirit of contention but rather with clarity, meekness, and kindness. You can be loving toward others even if you don’t agree with their views.
“Spirit of contention” is a term I sometimes hear on the streets when someone disagrees with my perspective. The idea that I would dare try to share my faith with Latter-day Saints in a public venue is taken as hatred and contention for the LDS people.
Yet what exactly is this “spirit of contention”? After all, Jude 3 in the New Testament says we are to “contend for the faith.” Jesus, Peter, and Paul all contended for Christianity and they were not always popular, even getting arrested by the authorities for doing what was considered illegal by the Jewish and Roman authorities. So I disagree that this phrase is used in a negative way. Of course, we should share the Gospel with “clarity, meekness, and kindness,” as specifically directed by 1 Peter 3:15-16 and Ephesians 4:15. But saying that I disagree should not be taken as a hateful statement.
The next section is titled “Find Joy in Christ.” (For the LDS page, click here.)
Part 7: Find Joy in Christ
Choices matter. Choices based on gospel teachings are steps that lead you closer to your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, … that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). With each step toward Him, you will feel closer to the Spirit and your covenant relationship with God will become stronger.
We’ve talked about covenants before, but here the authors want to remind the young person of their responsibility. Christians emphasize the importance of having a relationship with God through Jesus. Eternal life is a “done deal,” as the Spirit marks the person as a child of God. As it says in Romans 8:
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
When a person becomes a Christian, then, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says old things have passed away and all things become new–a new creation in Christ! There is no trying to conjure feelings of feeling close to the Spirit. It is instead walking with the Spirit step by step.
But that doesn’t mean the path will be problem free. And since no one walks a perfectly straight line, constantly check your direction and honor God’s commandments. Keep your covenants with God, and prepare to make more. Covenants connect you to Heavenly Father and the Savior. They increase God’s power in your life and prepare you to receive eternal life.
I completely disagree. Promised covenants that a person continually fails at doing provide no connection to God according to Mormonism. Of course, we want to live lives of sanctification as a result of the new creation we have become in Jesus, but there is no striving to keep God’s commandments to somehow think that we are making our way to God. Hebrews 10:22-23 says,
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
Of all possible choices, the one that matters most is the choice to follow Jesus Christ. He is the strength of youth. His gospel is the joyful way back to your Heavenly Father.
As this is meant in the LDS definition, I disagree. But certainly the most important thing we can do is focus on following Jesus. Of this there is no doubt.
In another section, the authors include an appendix that includes “temple recommend questions for youth,” the “Young Women Theme,” the “Aaronic Priesthood Quorum Theme,” and the “Ten Commandments.” There is also an appendix for “some topics you might have questions about.” None of these require my response.
In the beginning of the review, we mentioned how Dieter F. Uchtdorf said that “For the Strength of Youth is bold in declaring the doctrine of Jesus Christ.” Much of what has been taught does declare teachings of the Bible, but other things were completely opposite of what Jesus and the apostles taught.
My main criticism with the booklet has to do with the overemphasis on making covenants and keeping commandments, especially in the first half of the book. The authors overemphasized how a young person should “strive” and Jesus would be with them to make everything alright. I’m not sure LDS scripture or the general authorities have agreed with this assessment over the past years.
Of course, much of what was written–especially issues involving sanctification–were things that an Evangelical Christian can agree with. Issues such as not falling into the wrong crowd, avoiding harmful substances, and sexual impropriety are issues that need to be addressed; I would encourage Christian churches to do the same. My one big problem is the overemphasis on the Word of Wisdom. But overall, I think the way the booklet addressed sensitive issues was appropriate and I agree with most of the advice that was offered.
I hope there will be some Latter-day Saint youth who will be willing to read this review and consider some of the things that have been written.