Mormon Kids Are More Committed To Their Faith Than Christian Kids.
Out of all religious groups, Mormon teens show the highest levels of religious understanding, intensity, and consistency between their religious beliefs and how they practice and live out their faith. They are the least likely to engage in high-risk behavior and were consistently the most positive, healthy, hopeful, and self-aware teenagers according to “Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church” (Oxford 2010).
That makes me jealous. They should have been saying that about our kids, but they weren’t. What do Mormon parents know and do that Christian parents don’t?
“[Protestant] parents who show, by their words or their actions, that the tenets and practices of their faith are vague, unimportant, or only tenuously related to daily life, produce teenagers whose faith is vague, marginal, and unlikely to shape their actions and plans in any significant way. Parents who ask little of their children in terms of faith formation, but a great deal in terms of, say, getting into a good college, make a statement about priorities which their children trust and follow.
Churches, youth ministries, and similar groups that trade “sending young people out” for “roping young people in” wind up with teens who think church is fine, a good place to be—“nice.” And who then leave church to act just like all of their friends.
Much is Required from Mormon Kids
Mormons, by contrast, challenge their teenagers and require a lot of time, study, and leadership from them. Mormon parents rise at dawn to go over their church’s history and doctrine with their children. More than half of the Mormon youth in the study had given a presentation in church in the past six months. Frequently they shared public testimony and felt that they were given some degree of decision-making power within their community.
I (Becky) have a friend who was a Mormon for eighteen years before giving her heart to the Lord. She had no children of her own, but was a nanny for many years with a Mormon family. I asked her to try to remember the kinds of things they did to raise their children in the faith. Here is her response; I’ve highlighted things I felt were significant in the raising of their children:
When a son is born to them, parents immediately begin saving money to finance the boy’s mission when he is age 18. (Becky: This is intentional, long-range planning for the spiritual future of their children)
At age 12, the boys go through a special training and interviewing process and then receive the Aaronic Priesthood. (Becky: A spiritual rite of passage.) They believe this is the priesthood authority John the Baptist had to prepare the way of Jesus Christ. It is the lesser of two priesthoods given to LDS men. The higher one is the Melchizedek Priesthood which, if the boy is faithful and true, he will receive when he is 18 and preparing to go on a mission. Holding the Aaronic priesthood the boy advances as he learns and ages from deacon to teacher and at age 16 to priest. They prepare, bless and pass the Sacrament (Communion) every Sunday. Everyone watches them and is proud of them. They grow under continuous attention and leadership of the men of the church.
Parents Are Expected to Train at Home
Each family receives a manual and as often as possible have a weekly “Family Home Evening.” An evening of every week in the church calendar is set aside for it. NOTHING else can be scheduled. Family Home Evening is always to be enjoyable. They eat a special supper, play games, have a lesson, discussion and a prayer time and everyone in the family has a part to play in it. (Becky: This is very similar to the Jewish Shabbat that Orthodox Jews have weekly with their children.)
Also, the men of the ward with the Melchizedek priesthood are each assigned a partner and they have the responsibility of visiting a few assigned families of the ward once a month. They are to see how the family is doing, if there are any needs, give a lesson (the lessons are the same all over the world) and pray with the family. They are called Home Teachers and it was always a wonderful thing when they came.
Also, each of the high schools in Utah had an LDS seminary across the street. If the parents gave permission, the students were released to attend a daily class on Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine and Covenants (One of their books of doctrine)/Church history, or the Book of Mormon.
Each Stake of the LDS church has a Patriarch who is usually an old man who has had the priesthood for many years. When they are old enough to understand the importance and significance, each Mormon young person is encouraged to fast and pray and then go to the patriarch to receive their “Patriarchal Blessing.” Normally it outlines the course of their life by mentioning marriage, children, a mission and whatever the man feels impressed to say. They take these very seriously and carefully keep the transcribed copy in a safe place.
The ward is a close knit bunch and all feel included and very much like family. New people are immediately loved and incorporated into the family. It is truly amazing. The kids have Sunday School classes on Sunday morning and Primary (18 months to age 12) on Wednesday. Primary is to teach them the “Gospel of Jesus Christ and how to live it.” The girls have separate classes from the boys and are more domestically oriented. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are incorporated into the boys program. Most of the parents teach or help out with these programs, and again it all feels very “family.”
The kids sit in church with their parents…even the babies. The mothers are very creative in keeping toddlers from getting too noisy. Since there is no paid clergy, the members themselves do the speaking. There were usually a couple shorter talks by women and young people and then a longer one. Each person is usually asked to speak at least twice a year so fear of public speaking is quickly overcome.
The first Sunday of every month is a Fast and Testimony meeting. Each is to fast beginning on Saturday so the meeting is at the end of the fast. The money that would have been spent for food is giving in the fast offering which is used for anyone fallen on hard times. (They have a fantastic welfare system and are exemplary in taking care of their own people.) In the testimony meeting whoever wants to can stand up and tell something that has happened showing the goodness of God or telling something good about someone or something they are thankful for. Young and old take part.
I would say the main reason the kids stay true to the faith is as a result of the perspective they are taught is not a self-centered one. They certainly have a good world view in their missionary efforts and hard work ethic. But the most amazing thing is not their “world view” way of thinking, but their “eternal view” way of thinking. Right or wrong, they are looking at this life as if they are just passing through and are focused on the eternal. I would think that would keep anyone in the faith.
Final thoughts from the Barna Research Group:
They [Mormons] shape their plans for the immediate future around strong cultural pressures toward mission trips and marriage. In our research, we find clear evidence that many parents and churches have expectations of young people that are much too low or much too driven by cultural ideas of success.
Often we misread youth involvement in church as growth in faith. However, teen attraction to the newest flash-bang-wow at church may be a misleading indicator of success.
Teenagers’ excitement about church, their willingness to attend, and the friends and social connections they make at church are not the same thing as spiritual growth. We must not equate youth attendance at programs with discipleship.
(Kinnaman, David (2011-04-01). You Lost Me (Kindle Locations 2061-2076). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.)
Hey, Christian parent, when was the last time you got up at dawn to teach your kids how important your faith is and what your doctrinal beliefs are? Or are you still depending on that “osmosis” thing to kick into effect—they’ll “get it” because they live in my house and I take them to church on Sundays? How’s it working for you?
I, personally, am very challenged by this information.
I knew this would be a controversial topic. After I [Becky] published this article, I received an email from a Christian pastor who lives in Utah. He was greatly annoyed with me for what I wrote because his perspective is much different because of living in a Mormon state. Below is his email because I think it’s worth seeing. But outside of his comments on the suicide rates among Mormon young people, (which I knew nothing about when writing this article, and none of the sources I quoted mentioned it) I have no way of substantiating his comments about their tactics and techniques through verifiable surveys and research.
What I wrote above comes from such research by the Princeton professor and published via the Oxford Press with footnotes of documentation. I would also note that my friend who used to be Mormon did not mention any of the things he does, but I will now ask her. If she saw it in the one family she lived with for years, I would think it would have come up in her reminiscing. Having said that, please do not think I am trying to defend or brag on the Mormons, as it gives me no pleasure to brag on a religious culture that is at odds with my own faith. But I am constantly looking for information that can help the Christian community do better at raising their children to be dedicated followers of Christ. Sadly, the scripture bears truth when it says, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” Luke 16:8.
Here’s what the pastor wrote:
Your recent article on Mormonism was very interesting as a pastor in Utah. I think that while there are shiny stats, this article doesn’t even look at the truth. Mormonism has the Highest suicide rate in the United States. Utah has the worst teen suicide rate in US, double that of the number 2 state. Their drop out rate after mission is worse than the Christian 70% in college. They use guilt, shame and bullying to get students to do what they want. They get students to obey, but with evil methods. Your article demonstrates a level of legalism and ignorance that is just breathtaking. The goal of ministry is not devotion to missions, history and theology but to the gospel. They get theirs by destroying people.
~ Pastor J. M. P.
Pastor J.M.P. also wrote: “When we as Christians have worse stats, that’s because we don’t base our ministry off of shame, guilt, peer pressure, and outright bullying.”
Some might argue that point, too, Pastor, as critics of Christianity accuse us of that all the time. One of the big complaints of this generation of youth against the church is that we use guilt and shame to coerce them. I can tell you from first hand experience that my critics accuse me of that constantly after watching the movie Jesus Camp! But that’s a different subject.
For a number of years now I have read one disappointing book and article after the next that points out credible surveys and research from well-respected organizations in the body of Christ, that the Christian community at large has had a dismal track record in raising their children to be passionate followers of our God. As a children’s minister for over twenty years, I have made it my mission to see that change.
Does the LDS Church’s high expectations for young people contribute to depression and suicide?
Youth Suicide is an Epidemic in Utah
For Further Study
DVD or MP3 by Becky Fischer “What Christian Parents Can Learn from Mormons, Muslims, and Jews”
Parents Tool Box by Kids in Ministry International
A Partial List of Books from Christian Sources Documenting the Spiritual Condition of Today’s Christian Children and Youth:
- Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions by George Barna, The Barna Group
- The Last Christian Generation by Josh McDowell
- Battle Cry for a Generation by Ron Luce
- Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna, The Barna Group
- Almost Gone by Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis
- Almost Christian by Kendra Creasy Dean
- A Weed in the Church by Scott Brown
- Family Driven Faith by Voddie Bachmann
- You Lost Me by David Kinnaman
- Real Teens by George Barna,
- UnChristian by David Kinnaman
- Will Our Children Have Faith by John H. Westerhoff
- Redefining Children’s Ministry in the 21st Century by Becky Fischer
Kids in Ministry International
PO Box 549 * 111 Collins Avenue
Mandan, ND 58554