In the last post, I explained that a recent study showed Mormon teens and teens who attend black churches were more committed to their religions than other teens. In this series of articles, we’re looking at what the author says churches need to do for their teens and how the Mormons do that.
The first of the four items the author, Kenda Creasy Dean says is that teenagers need to know exactly what their religion expects from them and they need to be taught this by their parents and by their church community.
Teenagers in the survey mostly believed the purpose of life was to feel good about yourself and to be happy. The author suggests this feel-good doctrine isn’t what the Bible teaches and it isn’t enough to make teens committed to their religions.
In the last article, I mentioned Mormon teens attend a religion class every day. This class is one thing the author thinks the Mormons are doing right. By the time a teenager spends three hours in church on Sunday, forty minutes or so in a weekday religion class, and a few hours on weekends and one weeknight a month, they have a pretty good idea of what their religion teaches them
But the church meetings are only meant to help the parents out. It’s the parents, in a Mormon family, that have the main responsibility for teaching religion to their children. How do they do this?
Mormon families get together one night a week for Family Home Evening. They don’t generally invite friends or anyone else—it’s just a special time for the family. If you live in a busy family with parents who are always in a hurry, you might be able to appreciate how special it makes kids and teens feel when their parents put aside everything else one night a week, just for them. The evening is a combination of fun and learning. They usually have a prayer, a song, and family business. Then they have a lesson followed by games and treats. Everyone helps plan and carry out the evening, with each family member having a job. The jobs are usually rotated, so one week you might be teaching the lesson (yes, you’d get to teach your parents things and they’d have to listen as long as you followed the rules) and the next you might be baking the cookies for refreshments. Other weeks you might lead the music, conduct the meeting, or say the prayer.
The lesson is on some part of the family’s religious beliefs. Since even kids are teaching these lessons, everyone gets a chance to learn from everyone else. Parents get a chance at every lesson to explain what they believe and how they feel—but so do the kids. This way the parents understand what the kids believe and can help them correct or strengthen their beliefs as needed. There are a lot of opinions you could collect about almost anything, but as you grow up, you’ll find your parents’ opinions matter the most.
Mormon parents also pray with their children. Mormon teens were 79 percent more likely to pray with their parents more often than just meal time. Mormons do pray at meals, but they also have both family and personal prayers every morning and every evening. They pray before family home evening, before leaving on vacation, when people are sick or worried, or any other time they feel a prayer is needed.
So, what all this shows is that the Mormons give their teenagers a lot of chances to find out what their religion believes. They give them the same information they give adults. The teens aren’t treated like they aren’t smart enough to understand the hard stuff. They’re taught the hard stuff.
Now that we know how Mormon teens learn what is expected from them, let’s find out what Mormons actually expect their teens to know and do.