A few months after becoming a Mormon at age seventeen, I wrote in my journal, “I’ve figured out why the Mormon kids never get into trouble. They don’t have time.”
My new life as a Mormon had me very busy. I’d always been a shy kid, more comfortable in a corner with a book than out in the middle of the action, but being a Mormon got me out of my corner. Not that I didn’t still read a lot or enjoy my time alone, but I found myself with a lot of new friends and a lot of new things to do.
As you’ve been reading this series of articles on how to find out what church to join, you might have wondered what your life would be like. There would probably be a lot of changes, both to your schedule and to your lifestyle, but how much depends on how you were living before you became a Mormon. My schedule changed, but my beliefs were already a lot like those of the Mormons, so a lot of that sort of thing didn’t change.
Let’s start with the schedule. Mormon teens are really, really busy. You’ve read about some of the things they do already, but let’s review them. First, you would be going to church on Sunday. Mormons take church attendance really seriously, believing it is a commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy and to attend church. It’s important to study the gospel, take the sacrament (communion) and to be around others who share your beliefs. Church is three hours on Sunday. It includes a basic worship service and then two classes. For teens, these classes are Sunday School and Mutual. Sunday School classes have both boys and girls in them and if there are enough teens, they divide by age. Here, they study one book of scripture a year—Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants/Church History. After four years, they start over.
The second class is called Mutual. The class for girls is known as Young Women’s and the class for boys is called Young Men’s. These are also divided by age if there are enough teens. In this class, teens learn how to apply the gospel to their everyday lives. After all, you’re not just a Mormon on Sundays. You’re expected to live the way God asks you to every day, but it can be tricky sometimes to figure out how to make it all work out in everyday life.
The rest of the Sabbath Day would be spent doing spiritual things. You might read your scriptures, work on the church’s youth awards (more on that later), visit your grandparents, write in your journal, or scrapbook your favorite pictures so you can remember your teen years. Whatever you choose to do will help bring you closer to God. You won’t shop, go to parties, or do other lightweight things. You’ll have all week to do those.
Now for the rest of the week. Mormon teens live pretty normal lives. They wear fashionable clothes, go to school, hang out with friends, enjoy parties…it’s just that they do it with standards. The standards might seem challenging at first but after a while they seem natural and you start to realize your life is much better without the things you can no longer do. It’s the kind of life that lets you feel peaceful and focused on things that really matter. It’s a life that is focused on the future while still being fun today.
Mormon teens go to whatever school they choose. The Mormons don’t have their own schools (except for a few in other countries) until college. This means Mormon kids go to public school or private school or they homeschool. It’s up to their families.
Mormons are big fans of getting a good education, so Mormon kids are taught to work hard at their schooling, however they get it. This will help them get good jobs and a good job gives them more choices in life. They learn that life, even in the teen years, is about setting priorities. When we focus on setting up for a great life later, we might spend a little more time working than other teens, but when they’re struggling with the results of their bad choices, we’ll be enjoying the rewards of our good ones.
So, being focused on good choices, Mormon teens try to avoid unhealthy choices if they’re living their religion. They don’t drink or smoke—not even when they’re adults—and they don’t take illegal drugs. They don’t watch immoral movies or television programs and they don’t listen to music with immoral lyrics. Once they start looking around, they realize that still leaves them with a lot of great choices for entertainment. It can become something of a game to see how many great moral things there are to do in the world and sometimes, when they can’t find what they want, they make their own moral fun. Many teens are surprised to find out that what they thought was corny is really a lot of fun, especially when they’re doing it with friends who know how to have good clean fun.
During the week, Mormon teens attend a weeknight activity just for teenagers. They have fun activities that also help them live the gospel—service projects, fun game nights, activities that teach something through a fun activity…They get a chance to spend time with kids who have their values and practice having fun in a safe way. The boys belong to the Boy Scouts of America and the girls have their own program. While the boys are earning their Scout badges, the girls are also completing goals and earning awards.
They also attend an early morning class (or during school hours in Utah) called seminary. It’s a class held on school days that teach the scriptures in a more in-depth way than a Sunday School class can. Teens find it a good way to start their day because it reminds them of how to live during the school day and it’s also a good way to meet the other Mormon kids in their school.
The important parts of being a Mormon teen though don’t involve the meetings and activities, the weekend dances and parties, or the other fun things Mormons do. It is about knowing for sure that God loves you and is watching over you. It’s being reassured that you are living the life He planned for you and that even though life can be pretty hard, it will all be worth it in the end. A Mormon teen with a testimony doesn’t wrestle with what is right or wrong. She knows, and if she isn’t sure, she knows how to pray and to ask God to guide her. This brings a peacefulness that can make the challenging teen years really special. It brings them the safety of knowing they won’t make terrible mistakes that will affect their entire lives.
Really, the best way to find out what it would be like if you were a Mormon teen is to make friends with a Mormon teen who has a testimony and really tries to live her religion. Watch how she lives and how it impacts her life. Ask her to tell you. Then think about whether you’d like to have what she has.