The onset of 2009 brings an opportunity for young people of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to renew their commitment to their faith while participating in a program of instruction, song and dance that reviews the activities of 2008. The program also introduces their theme as Mormon youth for the new year: “Be thou an example of the believers” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the general presidents of the Church’s Young Women and Young Men organizations (Elaine S. Dalton and Charles W. Dahlquist) and more than 500 Mormon young people participated in the cast of A Brand New Year: A Celebration for Latter-day Saint Youth, a three-segment program prepared as a New Year’s Eve activity for tens of thousands of youth across the United States and Canada. The event, originally staged in the Salt Lake City Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was filmed and distributed to Church leaders with guidelines on local implementation throughout the coming year.
“This event is specifically geared to the youth,” explained Jon Collier, a cast member from Holladay, Utah. “The music has a different purpose; it’s engaging but not really trying to imitate the world’s way, but still make it a fun way for kids to be in the Church and live the gospel.”
That singular message, the importance of standing for what is right despite the influences of others, anchored the words of Elder Holland. The apostle related the story of the teenage French heroine Joan of Arc as an illustration of one individual willing to make choices based on personal beliefs.
Collier felt the impact of Elder Holland’s words. “His talk was very powerful. It made me think of standing for what we believe in any circumstance, no matter how hard it is. I want to be an example of the believers, even when it’s hard. I will try to be a better person.”
Throughout the programs, Dahlquist and Dalton taught various gospel principles in small group discussions. Missionary efforts were highlighted by a group of young people from an Ohio ward who shared the conversion story of a new teenage member. The Young Men president thoughtfully instructed the audience on the occasional need to make changes in life; the Young Women leader suggested a three-part commitment: daily scripture reading, prayer and smiles.
Based on the teenage standards handbook For the Strength of Youth and the counsel from Church leaders, the young people were invited to make commitments for the upcoming year.
Marissa Smith, cast member from Lindon, Utah, observed: “I learned so much from this experience. It’s great to know that everyone can start fresh and get a new start. It’s so cool to know that you are never too far into things that you can’t back out and start over you always have that opportunity because you are never alone in the gospel. You’ll always have a friend.”
Music from the production can be downloaded from a new youth Web site, www.abrandnewyear.lds.org. Video clips, testimonies, behind-the-scenes footage and other materials will also be posted as a reminder to the young people of their 2009 commitments.