A Contextual Analysis of the 1965 and 2001 Editions of the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet

Jared A. Jepson, “A Contextual Analysis of the 1965 and 2001 Editions of the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet,” in Selections from the Religious Education Student Symposium, 2004 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004), 15–30.

A Contextual Analysis of the 1965 and 2001 Editions of the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet

Jared A. Jepson

Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would probably be surprised to learn that the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, an outline of standards and expectations for the Church’s youth, has been in publication for over thirty-six years. The first edition rolled off the press in 1965, and the eighth and most recent edition was published in 2001. In the mean time, the social environment in which youth are being raised has undergone a significant moral decline; thus, the counsel from the Church’s leadership has obviously needed to change as well. By conducting a contextual analysis of the first and lastest editions of For the Strength of Youth, it becomes clear that the focus of the Church leadership’s counsel to its youth has experienced a major shift. The pamphlet’s aim has moved from being a code of ethical conduct, focused on teaching youth how to conduct themselves in public, to being a handbook of moral doctrines and principles, focused on teaching youth how to conduct themselves before God. In other words, the first edition was concerned with how the youth looked in the public eye, whereas the latest edition is concerned with how they look before the all-seeing eye of the Father. While this paper does not include a study of all eight editions, an examination of the “bookend” editions clearly shows the shift in purpose that the pamphlet has undergone over the past three and a half decades.

In an effort to identify and analyze the shift in teaching emphasis, several tables, charts, and graphs have been prepared (see appendixes A–D). The following items were considered for comparison between the two editions: the cover and title, the First Presidency message, the topics addressed, and the total number and types of statements made.

The Cover And Title

Both covers of the 1965 and 2001 editions are very telling with regard to the heart of their messages. The cover of the 1965 edition was adorned with a pen-and-ink drawing of the faces of eight smiling youths who surround the title of the pamphlet, framed in light teal blue–colored shading (see figure 1). The youthful faces evoke a sense of innocence and purity that we hope filled their adolescent lives. The artwork draws the reader’s eye into the center of the pamphlet where the title is displayed, but only in part. The full title, “For the Strength of Youth . . . LDS Standards,” is continued on the following page. The cover adequately portrays the edition’s intended message that it desired to help strengthen the youth of its day; however, it did not give any indication as to how it proposed to do that.

Fig. 1. 1965 cover Fig. 2. 2001 cover

Contrast that with the message of the 2001 edition’s cover and title. The new cover clearly shows the refinement process the pamphlet has undergone over the course of thirty-six years and eight editions. Rather than having pictures of youth, which tend to lock an edition into a certain era, the 2001 edition features the east spires of the Salt Lake Temple (see figure 2). Effectually, the goal of becoming a temple covenant member of the Lord’s kingdom is set up front for today’s youth to aspire to.

Likewise, the title of this edition also reflects a shift in the pamphlet’s purpose. To the main title is attached a new subtitle, Fulfilling Our Duty to God. As important as our youth’s conduct in public is to their well-being, life’s true objective is to help them secure a place in the Lord’s everlasting kingdom. Furthermore, the 2001 cover promotes a sense that the standards taught in this edition are the Lord’s and that He will strengthen the youth to overcome their challenges as they fulfill their duty to Him.

The First Presidency’s Message

In 1965 the First Presidency of the Church was composed of the prophet, David O. McKay, and his two counselors, Hugh B. Brown and N. Eldon Tanner. Their message formed the preface of the pamphlet, giving the reader a brief history of how it came about. They described the finished product as “an excellent treatise on Latter-day Saint standards.” In addition, the First Presidency included their formal endorsement of its contents since the pamphlet was not prepared by them, but rather by several different groups of people: “the general officers of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Associations, together with the Brigham Young University and the Church School System and a large group of representative youth of the Church.” While it was intended to be directed to the youth, it is clear from the preface that the First Presidency hoped “that all members of the Church, not only the youth, [would] familiarize themselves with [it]”; thus, the preface appeared to be a formal introduction addressed to the general Church membership. At the end of the preface, the First Presidency affixed their signatures.

On the other hand, the message from the First Presidency in the 2001 edition reads more like a personal letter addressed to the “beloved young men and women” of the Church. In its four paragraphs, the youth are addressed with the pronouns “you” and “your” twenty-six times. Unlike the 1965 edition, which includes how the pamphlet came about, this edition strictly emphasizes to the youth why it came about: “Your Heavenly Father wants your life to be joyful and to lead you back into His presence....Because the Lord loves you, He has given you commandments and the words of prophets to guide you on your journey. Some of the most important guidelines for your life are found in this pamphlet.” The message ends with eight promises given to those who will faithfully follow the counsel contained in the pamphlet and then is typed-signed “The First Presidency.”

Topics Addressed

The 1965 edition of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, including The First Presidency’s message and an introductory paragraph entitled LDS Standards, addressed a total of nine topics in the following order:

• The First Presidency’s Message

• LDS Standards

• Dress

• “Grubbies,” Curlers, Hair Fashions

• Good Grooming

• Propriety in All Things

• Dating

• Acceptable Dancing

• Clean Living

Notably, the topics chosen for this first edition focused primarily on outward behavior—topics that would help “every member of the Church to uphold this image [the image of maintaining the highest moral standards] in every way” before the world.

The 2001 edition increases the total number of topics addressed to twenty-one, twelve more than the 1965 edition. In addition, the 2001 edition has a table of contents, which makes locating a subject much easier. The list of topics are:

• Message from the First Presidency

• Agency and Accountability

• Gratitude

• Education

• Family

• Friends

• Dress and Appearance

• Entertainment and the Media

• Music and Dancing

• Language

• Dating

• Sexual Purity

• Repentance

• Honesty

• Sabbath Day Observance

• Tithes and Offerings

• Physical Health

• Service to Others

• Go Forward with Faith

• The Living Christ

• The Family: A Proclamation to the World

The widened range of topics can easily be divided into categories that address the major aspects of life: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. One can see in this format an effort on the part of Church leaders to pattern their instruction after the Savior’s life, even His adolescent life: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Furthermore, the topics added seem to attend to the inward or private behavior of an individual—something the 1965 edition lacked.

To further strengthen the idea that the principles within the 2001 edition are the Lord’s standards, every topic begins with a quoted scripture and ends with at least one additional scripture reference. In one case, the beginning quote is from President Hinckley and in two other cases it comes from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Ten scripture references are from the Book of Mormon, nine from the Doctrine and Covenants, nine from the New Testament, five from the Old Testament, and one from the Pearl of Great Price. In all, there are thirty-nine references to the words of scripture and latter-day prophets, compared to zero in the 1965 edition.

Number and Types of Statements

This study allowed for any sentence within the pamphlet to contain one or more different types of statements, but it did not allow for any one statement to be categorized as two or more different types. The following guidelines qualify the statements under five different categories: (1) prophetic promises, (2) prophetic warnings, (3) instructional dos, (4) instructional don’ts, and (5) declarative statements.

First, prophetic promises are statements that identify how some action or some thing will effect youth in a positive way. Most of the time these statements are conditional. For example, “As you keep these standards and live by the truths in the scriptures, you will be able to do your life’s work with greater wisdom and skill and bear trials with greater courage.” Second, prophetic warnings are statements that identify results effecting youth in a negative way: “[Pornography] can lead you to sexual transgression and even criminal behavior.” Third, instructional dos are statements of instruction or counsel regarding what actions youth should be doing. For example, “Swim suits . . . should be worn only for swimming.” Instructional don’ts instruct youth about what they should avoid doing: “There should be no dating before the age of sixteen.” Finally, declarative statements are general statements that declare, define, or clarify Church doctrines, principles, policies, or viewpoints. For example, “Service to others is one of the most important charac- teristics of a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

The 1965 edition of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet contained the fol- lowing number of each type of statement (see table 1): prophetic promises, 22; prophetic warnings, 1; in- structional dos, 106; instruc- tional don’ts, 72; and declarative statements, 84. This equaled a total of 285 statements. The average number of statements per topic equaled 31.67. The total number of pages in this edition was 16, of which only 13 contained measurable statements.

 

Table 1. 1965 Totals

 

STATEMENT

#

Prophetic promises

22

Prophetic warnings or cautions

1

Instructional dos

106

Instructional don’ts

72

Declarative statements

84

Total statements

285

Artwork

7

Scriptures cited

0

Total topics

9

Total pages with statements

13

Total pages

16

The total number of each type of statement in the 2001 edition, as well as the amount of change from the 1965 edition are as follows (see table 2 on the following page): prophetic promises, 107 (+85); prophetic warnings or cautions, 57 (+56); instructional dos, 188 (+82); instructional don’ts, 57 (–15); and declarative statements, 159 (+75). The total number of statements increased to 568 (+283), while the average number of statements per topic decreased to 29.89 (–1.78). The 2001 edition has a total of 44 pages with statements on 38 of them. However, for this study only 36 pages were looked at, which was 23 pages more than the 1965 For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.

With such a high ratio of instructional statements to prophetic statements, 7.75 : 1, the 1965 edition feels to modern readers like one long list of ethical conduct for almost every plausible public scenario they might face. Nevertheless, leaders of the day endorsed it and felt that it gave adequate guidance to their youth.

 

Table 2. 1965 & 2001 Totals

 

STATEMENT # BY YEAR:

1965

2001

Prophetic promises

22

107

Prophetic warnings or cautions

1

57

Instructional dos

106

188

Instructional don’ts

72

57

Declarative statements

84

159

Total statements

285

568

Artwork

7

21

Scriptures cited

0

39

Total topics

9

19

Total pages with statements

13

36

Total pages

16

44

Today’s youth would not respond well to such a series of dos and don’ts. This is due in part to the change in how current Church leaders teach the youth. Their teachings are much more principle centered, allowing the youth the opportunity to more freely exercise their agency. The 2001 pamphlet reflects that change with an improved instructional to prophetic statement ratio, 1.5 : 1.

Other ratios show the shift in teaching emphasis of the Church’s leadership. The number of “do” statements to promises and the number of “don’ts” to warnings each improved significantly from the 1965 to the 2001 edition; from 4.83 : 1 to 1.75 : 1 and from 72 : 1 to 1 : 1 respectively. This accentuates the point that in the 2001 edition the purpose of the instructional and declarative statements are to direct the youths’ focus to the promises or warnings the Lord has given them: whereas in the 1965 edition, the instructional statements smothered the other statements.

To further demonstrate that the emphasis of the pamphlet has changed over time, I examined how frequently each edition makes any reference to a member of the Godhead. The 965 edition made reference to a member of the Godhead only six times! In contrast, the 2001 edition refers to Deity seven times in the first two pages alone and 121 times overall. Consequently, the 1965 edition only made reference to God once every 47.5 statements, while the 2001 edition references the Godhead once in every 4.7 statements.

The 1965 edition was a good beginning but clearly was unable to stand on its own for very long since it was so strongly tied to the ethics of its time. Thirty-eight years later, some of the instructional dos and don’ts of this edition can become a source of humor. For example: “A ‘real lady’ does not go out in public, to the market, or to shops with her hair in curlers.” “It is not polite to run in and out of motel or hotel rooms late at night, making a disturbance which keeps other guests awake.” “Members of the Church should be good dancers and not contortionists.”

The 2001 edition shows that the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is no longer merely to be a written code of ethics identifying extensive lists of what does or does not constitute good manners; instead, the pamphlet is focused upon the eternal principles of right and wrong with their attendant consequences. In a sense, the first edition of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet was like the law of Moses, with its series of rigid performances designed to point the children of Israel to the Messiah. However, oftentimes, the spirit of the law was lost in the performances of the letter of the law. The 2001 edition, like the law of Christ, seems to free the modern-day children of Israel to understand the spirit of the law first, allowing them in turn to apply it to their own lives. Since true principles transcend time, place, and culture, the 2001 edition to the youth will remain applicable for a greater period of time.

Conclusion

Despite all the changes that have occurred between the first and last editions of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, a few things have remained constant. First, the Church’s leadership has always been aware of the present-day challenges of its youth and has been eager to provide counsel to help them overcome those challenges. Second, each edition illustrates the responsibility of Church leaders to declare, instruct, promise, and warn the youth concerning the times in which they live. Third, the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have an abiding love for their youth and a deep interest in their general welfare.

The moral fiber of our society has been weakened during the past thirty-six years. In 1965, the counterculture of sex, drugs, and unaccountability was still, after all, the counterculture; today it has flooded the mainstream of our society, threatening to drown out moral standards of any kind. Thus, the Church’s leadership has responded to the rising floodwaters of filth by changing its teaching style to one that is clearly principle oriented. If today’s youth are to be able to withstand the torrent of immorality that the world is bent on raining down upon them, they will need to be strengthened by adhering to the principles and precepts of God taught by living prophets, seers, and revelators, who have clearly thrown them a timely lifeline—a lifeline that is found in the most current edition of the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.

Notes

1. For the Strength of Youth . . . LDS Standards (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1965), 3.

2. For the Strength of Youth . . . LDS Standards, 3.

3. For the Strength of Youth . . . LDS Standards, 3.

4. For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2001), 2.

5. For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty, 2.

6. The title of this topic was mistakenly omitted in the first edition but replaced in the subsequent five editions.

7. For the Strength of Youth . . . LDS Standards, 5.

8. The contents of the last two topics were not analyzed as a part of this study.

9. For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty, 2.

10. For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty, 19.

11. For the Strength of Youth . . . LDS Standards, 7.

12. For the Strength of Youth . . . LDS Standards, 12.

13. For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty, 38.

14. The other three pages contained the title page, a drawing of some youth, and a blank page.

15. The other six pages were the table of contents page, two art pieces of Christ, and three pictures of youth.

16. For the Strength of Youth . . . LDS Standards, 8.

17. For the Strength of Youth . . . LDS, 11.

18. For the Strength of Youth . . . LDS, 15.

 

Appendix A. Table of Topics

 

FOR THE STRENGTH OF YOUTH PAMPHLET

Edition

1965

1966–69

1972

1990

2001

First presidency message / preface

X

X

X

X*

X

Why standard?

X

X

X

X

 

Dress

X

X

X

X†

X†

Ill-fitting clothes, curlers, hair fashions

X†

X

X

 

 

Good grooming

X

X

X

 

 

Propriety in all things

X

X

X

 

 

Dating

X

X

X

X

X

Acceptable dancing

X

X

X

X†

X†

Clean living

X

X

X

 

 

Literature, TV, entertainment

 

X

X

X†

X†

Friends

 

 

 

X†

X

Music and dancing

 

 

 

X

X

Language

 

 

 

X

X

Sexual purity

 

 

 

X

X

Repentance

 

 

 

X

X

Honesty

 

 

 

X

X

Sabbath day observance

 

 

 

X†

X

Physical health

 

 

 

X†

X

Spiritual help

 

 

 

X

 

Service to others

 

 

 

X

X

Agency and accountability

 

 

 

 

X

Gratitude

 

 

 

 

X

Education

 

 

 

 

X

Family

 

 

 

 

X

Tithes and offerings

 

 

 

 

X

Go forward with faith

 

 

 

 

X

The Living Christ

 

 

 

 

X

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

 

 

 

 

X

Pocket version

no

no

no

yes

yes

Relation to YM/YW program

Some

Some

None

Some

Strong

*Had a separate preface from the First Presidency Message

†Had different name for the topic

 

Appendix B. Statistical Analysis Tables

 

BY #

1965

1966–69

1972

1990

2001

Prophetic promises

22

25

28

73

107

Prophetic warnings or cautions

1

3

3

57

57

Instructional dos

106

133

137

103

188

Instructional don’ts

72

82

65

53

57

Declarative statements

84

108

130

157

159

Total statements

285

351

363

443

568

Artwork

7

6

16

1

21

Scriptures cited

0

1

3

14

39

Total topics

9

10

10

16

19

Total pages with statements

13

15

15

18

36

Total pages

16

16

16

19

44

 

RATIOS

1965

1966–69

1972

1990

2001

Promises to warnings

22*

8.33

9.33

1.29

1.88

Dos to don’ts

1.5

1.63

2.11

2

3.29

Dos/don’ts to promises/warnings

7.75

7.67

6.5

1.2

1.5

Dos to promises

4.83

5.33

4.89

1.4

1.75

Don’ts to warnings

72

27.33

21.67

1

1

*All numbers represent an n:1 ratio

AVERAGES PER TOPIC

1965

1966–69

1972

1990

2001

Art per topic

0.8

0.6

1.6

0.1

1.1

Scriptures per topic

0

0.1

0.3

0.9

2.1

Promises per topic

2.4

2.5

2.8

4.6

5.6

Warnings per topic

0.1

0.3

0.3

3.6

3

Dos per topic

11.8

13.3

13.7

6.4

9.9

Don’ts per topic

8.00

8.2

6.5

3.3

3

Declarations per topic

9.3

10.8

13

9.8

8.4

Statements per topic

31.7

35.1

36.3

27.7

29.9

AVERAGES PER PAGE

1965

1966–69

1972

1990

2001

Art per page

0.5

0.4

1.1

0.1

0.6

Scripture per page

0

0.1

0.2

0.8

1.1

Promises per page

1.7

1.7

1.9

4.1

3

Warnings per page

0.1

0.2

0.2

3.2

1.6

Dos per page

8.2

8.9

9.1

5.7

5.2

Don’ts per page

5.5

5.5

4.3

2.9

1.6

Declarations per page

6.5

7.2

8.7

8.7

4.4

Statements per page

21.9

23.4

24.2

24.6

15.8

Appendix C. Graphs


 

Appendix D: Charts

 

Appendix E: Covers

1965–69 cover 1972 cover

1990 cover 2001 cover