What do you think of when you read the word “theme?” A Theme Park? A slogan or mantra? An over-arching idea? It has lots of uses. If you are old (like me) then you might have written “themes” in school, which now would be called something else, like ‘essays.’
When I was young we learned the Scout Oath and law that we would memorize and repeat at Scouting activities.
“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” (link)
In the wards I have belonged to and served the youth, we had a tradition of reciting D&C Section 4 in each Quorum class: The “Behold, the field is white already to harvest…” section.
Meanwhile, the girls in in the Church would recite their theme. It has evolved often, with the latest iteration being from 2019:
I am a beloved daughter of heavenly parents, with a divine nature and eternal destiny.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I strive to become like Him. I seek and act upon personal revelation and minister to others in His holy name.
I will stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places.
As I strive to qualify for exaltation, I cherish the gift of repentance and seek to improve each day. With faith, I will strengthen my home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, and receive the ordinances and blessings of the holy temple. (link)
I’ve known the Scout Oath most of my life, but now that Scouting is not part of the Church program anymore, I never hear it.
I have actually known the entire Young Womens theme for a long time. When I was Bishop, we would have ‘Bishop’s Night’ at Girls Camp. Before I went for the first time, a friend kindly warned me that I had better know the theme, because there will be some sort of contest which could prove embarrassing if I didn’t prepare. Thanks to that warning, my EC and I memorized it while driving to camp. I nailed it, and didn’t shame the ward.
In 2019 they changed up the Young Women theme and added an Aaronic Priesthood theme. I knew nothing about this, because I was in Primary and oblivious. Both groups recite their respective themes at the beginning of their Sunday classes.
I have been busily memorizing the theme because I am attending my first Aaronic Priesthood Quorum meeting after about a twelve year hiatus. The same day that I wrote my post about not having a calling was the day I was sustained as a Teacher’s Quorum “Specialist.” (Which I think is code for ‘designated old guy.’)
Here is the Aaronic Priesthood theme – note the similarities and the differences with the Young Women theme:
I am a beloved son of God, and He has a work for me to do.
With all my heart, might, mind, and strength, I will love God, keep my covenants, and use His priesthood to serve others, beginning in my own home.
As I strive to serve, exercise faith, repent, and improve each day, I will qualify to receive temple blessings and the enduring joy of the gospel.
I will prepare to become a diligent missionary, loyal husband, and loving father by being a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
I will help prepare the world for the Savior’s return by inviting all to come unto Christ and receive the blessings of His Atonement.
It is excellent. I think that themes, mission statements, mantras, etc. are hugely important to maintaining focus in our lives. They help us define ourselves in context of the world. Starting with the declaration that we are children of God. The progression through the themes represent progression and priorities through the lives of our youth, and we adults, too. I also appreciate the the expectation to serve a mission is baked into the 4th paragraph of the AP theme. Too often I hear the idea of serving a mission as “something you can do if you want to,” rather than the reality that God expects all worthy young men, who are able, to serve.
Another nice thing about youth themes such as these is that they lend focus to the planning of activities. We encourage the youth to take the lead in planning what to do – the theme is a filter you can hold up to help them see if the suggested activity belongs. For example, part of the time I was in Young Mens, it seemed all we ever did was play basketball. What a wasted opportunity!
Nowadays, if a Teacher’s Quorum wants to play basketball every week, they would be hard-pressed to justify shooting hoops more than once every few months for physical fitness. Why? Because the theme helps us know what we are supposed to be focused on.
It falls in line with the “four areas of growth” that the Church has encouraged youth to schedule and focus on: Spiritual, Physical, Social, Intellectual. (Based on Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”)
If you have young men and/or young women, I recommend working with them to memorize the themes. That’s what I’m busy doing today.
A quick plug for the Articles of Faith. My wife and I dug out our Merry Miss and Blazer banners from forever ago. I still remember most of the Articles of Faith because I wanted to earn each and every button on that banner.
Memorizing Articles of Faith, themes, The Family Proclamation, The Living Christ and scriptures can benefit us, as explained by Elder Richard G. Scott:
“Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship. It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change.” (link)
The world is getting crazier. Anything we can do to simplify and solidify our spiritual focus is a good thing. I’m grateful for the themes our youth are expected to learn and follow, as well as the other revealed insights that could benefit all of us – if we take the time to learn them.
Note about the picture: It is from an Aaronic Priesthood encampment back in 2006. This boys are long since grown and mostly married – but they are still “my boys.”