By David W. Smith
In the October 2022 general conference, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf announced an updated version of the youth standards guidebook For the Strength of Youth: A Guide for Making Choices. Elder Uchtdorf explained that the booklet “has been updated and refreshed to better cope with the challenges and temptations of our day.”
With the purpose of pointing youth to Christ, this new version is focused on “teach[ing] you eternal truths of His restored gospel” and “how to make righteous choices based on those eternal truths. . . . It focuses on values, principles, and doctrine instead of every specific behavior.” 
Have the Standards Been Relaxed?
Because the updated guidebook lacks many of the behavior-specific instructions of the previous version, some people feel that the new guidebook allows youth to do many things they were previously prohibited from doing. Or in other words, they feel the standards are “being relaxed” or “being weakened.”
For example, one young man approached his father and “said his friends told him that Elder Uchtdorf announced in conference that now tattoos are OK,” and so this young man wanted to get one.  This young man thought the standards had been relaxed because the guidebook no longer contained a specific prohibition against tattoos.
However, a lack of behavior-specific instructions does not mean the standards have been relaxed. In fact, the opposite is true: the standards have been enhanced. Young Men General President Steven J. Lund addressed the idea of relaxing standards and responded, “It’s never really been that way, has it? When we speak of a higher and holier way, that calls for us to be more vigilant about making sure that we’re complying to what Heavenly Father would have us do.” 
President Lund further explained:
We’re moving to a higher and holier way, where the guidance that we receive from the brethren, from the Church, from each other, is less prescriptive and more spiritually-based. We’re being asked to, you know, not look to somebody else to decide what our standard should be, but recognizing the weight of membership and the weight of holiness that belongs to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will by itself prescribe how we behave and how we are, how we dress and how we comport ourselves.
Sister Michelle D. Craig of the Young Women General Presidency affirmed this: “I think it’s important to know that it’s not a relaxing of standards . . . But now we hope that they’re very intentional about getting on their knees and praying to find out, ‘What does this look like in my life?’” 
Instead of having more relaxed standards, the new guidebook requires a more diligent form of discipleship.
Principles and Doctrines
Returning to the experience of the young man: his father invited him to listen to Elder Uchtdorf’s talk (the young man hadn’t watched that session of conference) and read the updated guidebook. After doing so, the son approached his father again:
I [the father] asked, ‘Did Elder Uchtdorf announce that tattoos are OK?’ He [the son] said, ‘No. In fact, he said, The Lord is not saying, “Do whatever you want.”’ I asked, ‘Does the guide say tattoos are OK?’ He said, ‘It says we are supposed to honor the sacredness of our bodies, even when that means being different from the world. It says that we must make wise decisions — especially when they can have lasting effects on our bodies. But, Dad, it doesn’t say we can’t.’
I responded: ‘It doesn’t say we can’t rob a bank either but that doesn’t make it a smart choice. What does your discipleship call on you to do? You know how I feel about it. Maybe it is time to ask how Heavenly Father feels about it?’
At this point the experience ends, and the son may or may not have decided to get a tattoo. But “the point is not what these particular youth decided. Rather, it is to emphasize how these parents used questions to guide the youth toward values, principles and doctrines. Most importantly, they asked their children to seek personal revelation.” And that is the model we should follow for ourselves and when helping others choose how to apply the standards.
President Russell M. Nelson exhorted: “Set a standard for the rest of the world. . . . Embrace being different. The booklet entitled ‘For the Strength of Youth’ should be your standard. It is the standard that the Lord expects all His youth to uphold.” 
Role of Parents and Other Adults
So what should parents and other adults do? They first provide counsel and wisdom to youth. The new guidebook encourages youth to “be wise and faithful, and seek counsel from your parents and leaders.” 
The guidebook also reminds youth that “having questions is not a sign of weakness or lack of 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.”  So parents and others shouldn’t discourage questions or accuse youth of being faithless when asking honest questions. (Of course, there is a difference between faithful questions and faithless questions, or put another way, “the term question is not synonymous with the term doubt.”) 
Parents and others can also ask questions to youth to prompt spiritual seeking. The Young Women General Presidency reminded us that “our desire is to see them [the youth] turn to their Father in Heaven for answers and learn ways to strengthen their individual relationship with Him.”  As adults ask questions like “What do you already know about the topic or question?” and “How did Jesus Christ live the truth/principle?”, the youth will be inspired to find answers from divine sources.
The Young Women General Presidency also reminded us, “It is important during this process that we are not too quick to give our own responses to their questions.” In fact, the most important thing parents and leaders can do is not give the answers but rather help youth recognize when the Spirit is giving the answers. One young woman noted, “So what can leaders do? They can maybe help us learn what it’s like for you when you feel the Holy Ghost. Talk to us about that and tell us specific stories about it. . . . I think the whole point of ‘For Strength of Youth’ is to learn this lesson so we can make choices based on what the Holy Ghost is telling us.” 
One way parents and leaders can help youth recognize the Spirit is to ask “a few simple questions like, ‘What did you learn from that choice? Would you do anything different next time? Did it bring you closer to Jesus Christ or take you further away from Him?’” These types of questions “are essential in helping them continue to process what is happening for them. The Holy Ghost can help them see things ‘as they really are’ (Jacob 4:13) when they pause to take a moment and review what they are learning and experiencing.” 
Hope of Israel
So instead of providing long lists of things to do and things not to do, the updated guidebook teaches the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and invites youth to seek revelation about how to act on that doctrine. The result will be a generation of members who have more experience than any previous generation in studying Christ’s restored doctrine and seeking revelation for their lives. And that will be sorely needed, as President Russell M. Nelson warned in his April 2018 general conference address on revelation: “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” 
We see that this updated guidebook is focused on helping youth “take unto [them] the whole armour of God, that [they] may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:13). The final piece of the armor is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). And so we arrive at the imagery in the beloved hymn “Hope of Israel”:
Hope of Israel, rise in might
With the sword of truth and right, . . .
Onward, onward, youth of Zion;
Thy reward the victor’s crown. 
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Jesus Christ Is the Strength of Youth,” October 2022 general conference.
 Young Men and Young Women General Presidencies, “Young Men and Young Women general leaders: Changing how we talk with youth about standards,” The Church News, 26 October 2022.
 In Sarah Jane Weaver, “Episode 106: The Young Men general presidency on how the new ‘For the Strength of the Youth’ guide helps youth choose Christ,” The Church News, 18 October 2022.
 In Sydney Walker, “‘Parents, we need to be all in,’ Young Women general presidency says of new ‘For the Strength of Youth’ guide,” The Church News, 5 February 2023.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Hope of Israel,” worldwide youth devotional, 3 June 2018; as cited in Walker, “Parents, we need to be all in.”
 “Your body is sacred,” For the Strength of Youth: A Guide for Making Choices.
 “Truth will make you free,” For the Strength of Youth: A Guide for Making Choices.
 “Answering Gospel Questions,” Gospel Topics in Gospel Library. See also Adam Kotter, “When Doubts and Questions Arise,” Ensign, March 2015.
 Young Women General Presidency and advisory council, “Young Women general presidency: Using the ‘For the Strength of Youth’ guide to increase discipleship,” The Church News, 10 February 2023.
 In Walker, “Parents, we need to be all in.”
 Young Women General Presidency, “Using the ‘For the Strength of Youth’ guide to increase discipleship.”
 Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” April 2018 general conference.
 “Hope of Israel,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985), no. 259.
David W. Smith has volunteered with FAIR since August 2019. He has had an article published in BYU Studies, and he presented at the Joseph Smith Papers Conference in 2019. He has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in public administration, both from Brigham Young University.
Marcia Harward says
When we follow Christ’s example we learn to pray more as He prayed with full purpose of heart , to act with faith, and also be warned of dangers.
Living the Word of Wisdom will keep our bodies free from drugs, harmful substances – even choosing healthier foods.
We will ask with intent to Do Good- to improve our lives and give service as we do