Two vignettes illustrating what is arguably our best shot to keep our youth actively engaged in the faith:
I. There is a family in the ward that is preparing their house for sale in preparation for a move. The dad, who spoke in sacrament today and told this story, was out of town when a huge delivery of soil and peat moss arrived and, coincidentally, the basement flooded. He finally made it home from the airport pretty late last Wednesday night, just as a large group of youth from the church were leaving. They were chattering, excited, and couldn’t wait to show him their handiwork, both with the basement and the lawn. These kids did a great job, and were deservedly proud.
The next morning when the dad went outside he was met by the (non-LDS) woman who lives across the street, who greeted him with an excited “You missed the teenagers!” She recounted in awe the swarm of teenagers that came, and like bees in a beehive went to work doing what had to be done, working as a well-oiled machine. This woman was in awe at what she was seeing, and had never seen anything else quite like it, and she was effusive in her praise of these young people.
II. I am involved in local Public Affairs, and yesterday I received an e-mail reporting on the Church’s involvement in helping to clean up from massive tornadoes that came through the area recently. Coincidentally, this event also took place last Wednesday. The Rockford (IL) Stake coordinated these efforts. They had 250 (!) people show up, which was far larger a group than was anticipated. They divided among four projects. Attached to the email was a cache of pictures, and I looked through some of them. I immediately noticed two things: (i) a preponderance of the participants seemed to be young people, and (ii) these kids were smiling and happy and seemed to thoroughly enjoy this opportunity to help those who needed it.
The confluence of these two events made an impression on me, and so in GD today I opined that if we are really interested in keeping our young people as engaged Saints committed to the faith into adulthood, we need to involve them in these kinds of service opportunities. Lessons will fade away over time, but doing good for others in this kind of a direct way is something these young people will remember vividly for the rest of their lives.