There is a new book out getting a lot of attention because it talks about a study done on teenagers and religion. It showed that fewer teens are attending church and when they do, they aren’t very committed to their religions. They go on Sunday and then forget about it the rest of the week. The author noted two groups of teens, those who attend the Mormon church, and those who attend black churches, are far more committed to their religions. Her book sets out to help other Christian churches figure out how to create more committed teenagers.
So what makes the Mormon kids different?
The author, Princeton Theological Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean lists four things that make Mormon teens different from other teenagers. In the next few posts, we’ll be looking at what those four are and why they matter to you, as a teenager of any religion.
First, let’s do a quick overview of what religious life is like for a Mormon teenager. Then you’ll understand better the things we’re going to be talking about.
Did you know Mormon teens go to church for three hours every Sunday? First they have a worship service. Then they have two classes. One is Sunday School, where they learn about the scriptures. This is a class with both boys and girls in it, usually divided by age—two ages in each class. The other is Young Men’s or Young Women’s. As the names suggest, these are divided by gender as well as by age. In this class, the teenagers learn how to apply the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus to their real lives and they learn to prepare for adulthood.
But that’s not all. They also show up one night a week for more. This meeting is usually an activity. They get hands-on practice doing the kinds of things they learned about in their Sunday classes. They make crafts, learn cooking and sewing, work on goals and earn awards.
Think that’s a lot of church? The high school students also take a religion class five days a week during the school year. Outside of Utah, it is held before school and that often means the kids have to get up before daylight to get to a class held at six or earlier in the morning. This is a pretty serious class, a lot like a school class. They learn about a book of scripture, such as the New Testament, for an entire year, in-depth. They have homework, too—reading and memorizing scriptures, for instance. At the end of the year, there is often a contest to see who can find scriptures the fastest and best understand what they mean.
Then there are the weekend fun and service outings. A Mormon teen might attend a free dance, help clean up a park, or go on a pioneer-re-enactment. In the summer, there is usually a week of camp.
But those are just the church things. There are also religious things happening at home—family prayer, family scripture study, and family night. We’ll learn more about those later.
When I was first starting to visit the Mormon church as a teenager, I wrote in my journal, “I’ve figured out why Mormon kids never get into trouble. They don’t have time!”
Now, let’s go on to the next post and find out if all this activity really matters.