One evening, when our children were all in their teens, I had the following conversation with one of our daughters: “Mom, I really don’t want to go to Mutual tonight. I don’t get anything out of it!”
We were living in a ward with a great youth program, and I was tempted to jump in and defend the value of Mutual activity night. Instead, it was one of those rare moments when I was inspired with just the right answer at just the right moment.
I found myself saying to her, “What makes you think you go to Mutual to get something out of it? Maybe you need to go to Mutual because someone there needs something only you can give.”
In my idealized memory of this event, she attended Mutual with a different attitude. Even if that is a slightly romanticized ending, I learned something important from that tidbit of inspiration, which has stuck with me through the years.
Of course, we attend our Church meetings because we all need to renew covenants, be fed spiritually and receive strength from one another. Most adults also attend Church because it is an opportunity to serve our fellow Saints and the Lord. I wonder how many opportunities I missed when I was in the midst of raising our children to teach them the importance of attending Church with the attitude of finding someone to serve.
We live in a time when our youth live hectic lives that are consumed with school, sports, lessons, activities and other interests. If we are not careful, it is easy for them to begin to feel that the whole world revolves around their needs and their busy schedules.
The youth Mutual activities provide a wonderful opportunity each week for our youth to interact with their peers in a fun and less-formal setting. There is great value in that for many reasons. It is an ideal time for them to extend a loving hand of fellowship to those in their classes and quorums who might be struggling to find their place in Church and help them feel a part of the group. The relaxed atmosphere is a perfect setting for fellowshipping the less active and for introducing nonmembers to the Church. It fosters an ideal atmosphere for forming meaningful relationships with peers and adult leaders. It is a place for young men and young women to learn how to socially interact appropriately with one another.
There is a wonderful new website online at lds.org/youth/activities that will help our youth and their leaders plan more meaningful and purposeful Mutual activities. It has over 165 ideas for worthwhile activities in ten different categories. One feature on this site allows classes to spread word of their activity through email or ward calendar options. Another feature is the planning tool that walks class and quorum presidencies through a planning process to help them plan their activities with a specific purpose or individual in mind. This is where real ministering can begin to take place and where our youth have an opportunity to reach out to their peers who are struggling and lonely.
Imagine how meaningful Mutual would be if parents and youth leaders were working together to share their observations with one another. Parents could share with youth leaders what they were teaching and working on in the home so Mutual activities could be planned in a way that would support home learning. Teachers could share what the youth are learning in their classes so parents can reinforce those principles in the home. Mutual would then be doing what the auxiliaries of the Church are intended to do, which is to support family-centered learning.
Mutual activities can also play an important role in the personal conversion process of our youth. The activities website is linked to the youth Sunday lessons, to Personal Progress and to the Duty to God program for Young Men. Activities can be planned to support the gospel principles they are learning in their homes and classes on Sunday.
For example, after a Sunday lesson on the importance of temple ordinances, an activity might be planned where a family history consultant could come to Mutual and teach the youth how to research and find their own family names to take to the temple for baptisms. An activity where the youth are divided into pairs and role-play answering gospel questions that a school friend might ask could be the follow-up for a lesson on sharing the gospel with non-LDS friends.
An important element of the Come, Follow Me youth curriculum is that they have an opportunity to live and put into practice during the week what they have learned in their lessons and at home. Mutual activities can help provide that practical application where the youth put the gospel into action.
The activities website is not just for Mutual; it is a wonderfully rich resource of ideas for family home evening activities, young single adult activities, as well as date night ideas and other group activities. Because there is a sharing tool on this site, new ideas are being added regularly. Imagine the possibilities!
As we use this wonderful new online resource and encourage the youth to participate in Mutual, they will have the opportunity to not only participate in fun and worthwhile activities, but we as parents can also help them see how activities can be a means of making a difference in the lives of others. As they see Mutual as an opportunity to reach out, find the friend who needs a listening ear or hand of fellowship, we teach them to view those around them with a more Christlike love.
They will learn leadership skills as they plan activities with a purpose. They will also have the opportunity to put the gospel principles they learn at home and on Sundays into action. Mutual activities will never be the same.