“Come, Follow Me,” A Gift from our Prophets

October 14, 2012

I’m excited! What a wonder the Lord’s church is! What a gift our leaders have given us!

Some time ago it occurred to me to make a mental audit of the priesthood among my grandchildren. In spite of the best efforts of their parents, the picture was bleak. The oldest of our grandsons had refused missions, and more seemed headed in that direction. I was shocked; I had never expected this.

My husband and I were young when we married, and completely ignorant of the Plan of Happiness. Then we joined the church and started on an upward path in full commitment to a gospel that challenged us. We also went from not being interested in having children to joyfully welcoming all the children the Lord would send us, then from being just the two of us to a posterity of 44. We had moved slowly, steadily forward for nearly half a century, and I had unconsciously assumed the trajectory would continue. The realization that “forward” wasn’t necessarily happening left me feeling ambushed, sabotaged.

Our family is not alone; this has been happening throughout the church and in other churches as well. So many youth have been lost! But now everything has changed by a plan so simple and logical and so obviously inspired that we are stunned. As thrilled as I was by the announcement itself, I was completely overwhelmed by the level of excitement I’m seeing in my grandchildren and their friends, and by the stories of young men and lining up at their bishops doors and Institute teachers joking that they won’t have a job next year. This must be somewhat like the calling up of the Sons of Helaman, yet very different because the Youth of Zion are mustering under happier circumstances.

Now, a year or two since my “audit,” we have grandchildren who are celebrating. I didn’t expect that! In the spring a granddaughter will be going, and another will be putting in her papers a year from now. They both have brothers who will leave while they are gone, and more plan to follow.

Beyond the boost in missionary work and the personal benefits to these young missionaries, here’s what else I see happening:

1. Teenage — the curse of extended childhood — will change. There will be more purpose in the lives of our youth, more maturity. In my inventory, I didn’t even count the girls, but one granddaughter said she has no problem with a mission at 19 and marriage after. She always wanted to serve but thought she would probably marry first. A nebulous goal is now a fixed one. She also mentioned that the pressure of dating would be greatly lessened. Hurray! The young men can now think high-school-to-mission without the distractions, a fixed goal for them as well. One young man who is barely sixteen said he could see he has some maturing to do. The whole culture will change for the youth of the Church.

2. As we all become more serious about those high school years, the high school education may be forced to change, especially in heavier Mormon populations. What mission-focused student will want to put up with the current school situation, either the immorality or the poor coursework? I can’t wait to see what happens.

I recently attended an Innovations in Education conference hosted by Utah Parents for Choice in Education. The conference was mostly about the cutting edge of technology in the classroom with somewhat about “blended” school options (using brick-and-mortar schools concurrent with public on-line charters). The ideas of these innovative people may not mesh well with our nation’s present march toward Common Core (the nationalization of education in the hands of social planners). This innovative work is being done to improve the public schools, so I will remain cautious, but I do think whatever they achieve will benefit us all. I assume some folks at BYUI know about all this because one of the presenters, Michael Horn, co-authored Disrupting Class with Clayton Christensen, and Clayton Christensen co-authored The Innovative University with Henry J. Eyring, an administrator at BYUI. It’s got to be The Lord’s work!

Meanwhile, the BYUI Pathway program, which allows students to complete the first two college years at home, is in place in locations around the world. There is now a post-thirty program, which my daughter is in and loves. She works mostly on-line, then meets with other students at the Institute once a week where they take turns making presentations. Will the next Pathway step be an early college program for our high school youth?

3. The educational delivery method in the Church has been changing, and I’ve been writing about these changes for the past few years as we’ve been taught by Elder Holland, Elder Jay Jensen, Elder Bednar, and the current and previous Sunday School presidencies. When I watched some of the new training links on the Church website and saw a teacher say, “I am more of a facilitator to help [students] actively learn,” I thought about the homeschoolers and hoped our readers are already doing this. We are the best laboratory for practicing “acting as free agents rather than being acted upon as objects.” If we aren’t mastering this method, we should be.

We have been given an exciting new youth curriculum, Come, Follow Me, which “is designed to help youth leaders pattern their teaching after the Savior’s methods, with the goal of helping youth become more converted to the gospel.” It is a “living, breathing resource—because it is Internet-based, it can regularly be updated with the latest words of the Brethren.” Sunday School President Russell Osguthorpe said, “These new learning resources will help us all learn and teach in the Savior’s way, in our homes and in our classrooms.” The Church is not doing this FOR us; we all do this together. It is a very different learning culture.

Public schooling families who embrace the new youth curriculum – and the new mindset — may decide to find agency-driven academic options as well, even if they don’t think of themselves as homeschoolers. Thus our motto: Every Home a School.

4. Another more subtle change we might see in coming years is that new marriages will begin on a stronger foundation. Our three oldest daughters married young. One mentioned already that a mission would have better prepared her. Our three youngest daughters, like so many these days, have married later. They were all endowed several years before their marriages. (Actually the youngest isn’t quite married yet but will be in December.) In the two sealing sessions of long-endowed, temple-attending adults, I felt a huge difference — a depth, maybe, or a maturity. Maybe it was because of the bride’s comfort in the temple. Whatever, we may soon see the maturity without sacrificing so many of the child-bearing years, and over time we may see more strong marriages and the raising of more strong children. We may see a whole culture shift.

A word of caution: We can expect this new church program to result in miraculous changes only if we follow the whole plan. The sending out of younger missionaries is not the program; the program is the preparation of young priesthood and sister missionaries through better teaching and stronger conversions. The program, in my opinion, will only work if the body of the church accepts the teaching aspects of it. Then we will all become much more than we now are. So let’s be leaders in this movement.

When the Savior taught, the learner’s agency was paramount. He showed us not only what to teach but also how to teach. He focused on the needs of the learner. He helped individuals discover truth for themselves. He always listened to their questions. – Elder Russell T. Osguthorpe

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