Teenagers today need, far more than peer socialization, the influence and guidance of righteous adults. They need good adult role models who can show them the way to live, and they need adults who pray for them, watch over them, and guide them. While parents have the primary responsibility for this, other adults can also provide protection from the world for these teens through their examples and encouragement. Following are several stories President Thomas S. Monson, the Mormon prophet, has told about adults who worked hard to influence a teenager’s life.
An Inspired Teacher
Note: A Laurel is a sixteen or seventeen year old girl. Mormons call adults by the title of Brother or Sister to remind us we are all brothers and sisters as God’s children.
Consider Sister Hansen, the faithful teacher of a Laurel class of lovely young girls in a small mission branch in Canada. How she prayed for inspiration that she might teach well the precious girls in her class. Particularly did she pray for Julie, one who had been subjected to great stress and temptation to leave the pathway of truth and follow the detour of sin. Through the constant persuasions of her classmates at school, Julie had agreed to follow such a detour. The plan was designed: she would attend opening exercises of Mutual, even the first portion of the class, that she might appear on the roll as being present; and then there would be the sound of an automobile horn to announce to her that her girl friend and their dates, who were older and far more experienced than Julie, were at hand and the night of the carefully arranged escapade of sin would begin. Then she would be one of the inner circle.
Before calling the roll that night, this humble, loving teacher announced to the class that a shipment from Church headquarters had arrived at her home that very day. She had opened the packages and found copies of a pamphlet by Elder Mark E. Petersen. Its subject, chastity. Sister Hansen said: “I feel impressed to leave for another week our lesson scheduled for tonight and want rather to review with you the inspiration of this pamphlet. We will each read a paragraph or two aloud, that all might participate.” Sister Hansen looked at each of her precious girls and then said, “Julie, will you begin?” Julie looked at the clock—just two minutes before the scheduled rendezvous. She began to read; her heart was touched, her conscience awakened, her determination renewed. She scarcely heard the repeated sound of the automobile horn. She remained throughout the class. The temptation to detour from God’s approved way had been averted. Satan had been frustrated. A soul had been saved. A prayer had been answered.
Thomas S. Monson, “The Lighthouse of the Lord,” New Era, Jul 1980, 16
A Teacher’s Faith
This, then, is every leader’s duty, responsibility, opportunity: to guide, to build, to inspire our youth. Over and over again we hear the frantic phrase of frustration: “How can I reach our youth?” One whose teacher succeeded in this quest wrote:
“During my junior and senior high school years, illness kept me from school and church almost half the time. When I could attend, I couldn’t participate in any activities. Since I couldn’t make friends or enter into their lives very well under these circumstances, I was a ‘loner.’
“Only once did I try to break the pattern—by entering a stake speech contest. I was the only one who entered from our ward, so without hearing my talk, the ward executives sent me to the stake contest, where I was a miserable failure. I decided then and there to stay within my shell and not get hurt again.
“But my class teacher decided differently. For the first time, I had a teacher who was not willing to let me sit silent in my corner. She was given the chairmanship of a program for the stake Young Women banquet and immediately assigned to me the job of being toastmistress, deciding the theme and suggesting topics for the responses. I told her I couldn’t do it. ‘Yes, you can,’ she assured me time after time, ‘because I’ll help you every step of the way.
“I loved her so much I was willing to try for her although in my heart I knew I’d fail. First, she and I talked over possible themes. When we met with a committee of girls, however, she made me tell them my ideas. She claimed no part in them. I wrote out my continuity, and with her careful and loving suggestions, rewrote it many times until I could see that it was good.
“ ‘But,’ I told her, ‘I can’t stand up before three hundred girls and give it. I’ll make a poor impression, and I’m not pretty or attractive, and I’ll spoil the whole evening. With an arm around me, she said, ‘That’s utter nonsense; you’ll be the star of the evening.’
“So she heard me say my part many times, once even taking me to the Empire Room of the Hotel Utah to rehearse it. She had arranged to have a microphone there so I could experience the actual setting. Then she asked to see the dress I would wear. She brought a corsage for me that night that not only matched the dress, but also lifted my spirits. She had her hairdresser do my hair in a way that would be more becoming to me.
“But best of all, she knelt with me just before the event and explained to the Lord that I was a lovely girl who had worked hard and that I needed his help to do a good job. How could I fail with his and her love so surrounding me?
“And so my wonderful teacher, through love and personal work and sacrifice, started me on the road to normal associations with young people and to activity in the Church.”
What a lovely tribute to a devoted teacher!
Thomas S. Monson, “Building Bridges,” New Era, Nov 1985, 63