A unexpected youth activity taught a group of young men and women the power of positive words and is now reaching beyond the small group to thousands.
Tim Johnson, art director at KSL Television, was one of the leaders in charge of the combined teen activity for the Pleasant Grove Utah Mount Mahogany Stake 4th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just days before the event. The self-proclaimed "video geek" said the idea to do a music video based on a Christian song came to him "clear as a bell."
"This is what you get when you call a guy with five daughters to the Young Men's," he said. "He has no clue what he’s doing and he just says, 'Hey let’s make a music video.' And it just turned into something a lot bigger, larger than life. I've never had a video project in 23 years fall into place as well as this did. To me it was just like, man, there’s something a lot bigger ... that’s helping this thing pull together."
The teachers quorum and leaders organized an activity based around the song "Words" from Christian rock band Hawk Nelson. The lyrics read, "Words can build us up. Words can break us down. Start a fire in our hearts or put it out."
Inspired by this message, the young men wrote words and phrases about each young woman while the girls were in another room. They then had each girl come into the room to be surprised with the positive words from the boys. The girl's reactions were more enthusiastic than Johnson or the young men had anticipated.
"From that very first reaction we thought, 'Oh boy this is, that was pretty cool,'" Johnson said. "I don’t necessarily know what we were expecting per se, but it was different. There was something just in the air that you could feel that said, 'Yeah, this is what can happen when you treat people the way that they need to be treated.'"
The girls enjoyed their experience so much, they all stayed in the room to watch as the rest of the girls came in and read the kind words written about them.
"By and large, it was amazing," Johnson said. "... And it has nothing to do with me, and it has everything to do with, 'Wow, I didn't know my peers looked at me like that.'"
The girls' reactions were edited and shared through a YouTube video posted March 21, which now has thousands of views.
Johnson said that while the young men and young women learned a lesson, the leaders and parents did too. He said one message viewers could take away from the video is to address everything in a way that builds others up instead of tearing them down.
"To group it all into one, just don’t be afraid to compliment someone," he said.
Alison Moore is a writer for the Faith and Family sections at DeseretNews.com. She is studying journalism and editing at Brigham Young University.
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @alison_kathleen