Research and studies show that teens who are active in their religions – in particular, Mormon teens – are less prone to get in trouble, because they live their lives according to gospel principles, which help them to avoid the snares of worldly temptations. As a result, they are also more likely to live healthier, happier lives.
Mormon Teens are Living Testimonies of Their Faith
In the Oxford book Soul Searching, and its follow-up volume Souls in Transition, sociologist Christian Smith, based on his research about the religious behavior and attitudes of American teenagers, revealed that “although American youth profess belief at a high level (in God, the afterlife, and the Bible), their level of religious practice does not typically match what they say they believe.” Using that research as a foundation, Princeton Theological Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean, one of the researchers in the National Study of Youth and Religion, drew some interesting conclusions. In the book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, Dean shares the following observations:
If teenagers don’t have a firm grasp of core Christian doctrines and instead worship at what she calls “the Church of Benign Whatever-ism” — or don’t worship at all — it’s because youth pastors and other leaders have watered down the message, she claims. Teenagers in Protestant churches get the idea that they’re supposed to feel good about themselves, but that little is expected of them; Christianity is designed to make them “nice,” but it’s not supposed to form them as disciples. . . .The problem [is] that Protestant teens are being taught a brand of Christianity that is a mile wide and an inch deep.
In the chapter in the book titled “Mormon Envy,” Dean, who admits that she has deep theological disagreements with Mormonism, cites the religious group as one that is doing right by its teenagers. She states,
From a sociological perspective, Mormonism is succeeding in creating young adults who firmly understand what they believe and why their faith needs to have a claim on their behavior. She says that Mormonism is giving teens the four things they need in order to have a growing adult faith: 1) they are sufficiently catechized in beliefs by their own parents and by a spiritual community that expresses consistent expectations, 2) they acquire a personal testimony, 3) they have concrete religious goals and a sense of vocation, and 4) they have hope for the future.
In short, Mormon teens are taught from the early days of their youth that their faith is not just a Sunday religion, but rather they are to be living testimonies to the world as they strive to walk in the footsteps of the Great Exemplar, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are reminded of the Apostle Paul’s counsel to his young son in the gospel, Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). They are further admonished from the scriptures:
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
Religious Teens: The Evidence of Their Faith
Corrie Ten Boom, the author of The Hiding Place is quoted as having said, “Faith is like a radar that sees through the fog.” In the vernacular of today’s teens, faith is that guiding light that helps them to navigate safely through the dense fog of obscurity caused by the temptations of the world. Their faith is evidenced as they learn to stand in holy places and not be moved (see Doctrine and Covenants 87:8). Daily prayer and scripture study help to fortify their faith as they are reminded to “be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
A recent study from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which represented over 14,000 American youth, revealed that religious youth with intact families are less likely to:
- get into fights
- use hard drugs
- have ever committed a theft of $50 or more
- have ever shoplifted
- have ever run away
- have ever been drunk
- have been expelled or suspended from school
- engage in physical intimacy
Additionally, the study indicated that religious teens also have higher GPAs in high school.
Another study indicated that teens who put the religious principles that they are taught into practice will:
- achieve a higher level of marital happiness and stability
- develop greater educational aspirations
- contribute more generously to their community
- live longer and healthier lives
- display higher levels of self-control and self esteem
All of this is not meant to convey the idea that teens who govern their lives by religious principles will necessarily go through life on a bed of roses, but rather when the thorns from the rose bushes begin to prick them from time to time, they will be better equipped to cope with the pain. As someone has wisely stated, “Faith makes things possible, not easy.”
What Sets Latter-day Saint Teens Apart from Teens in Main Stream Protestantism?
In her book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church, Princeton Theological Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean asserts:
In Mormonism, there’s a great emphasis on personal testimony. More than half of LDS teens (53%) reported giving a talk or presentation in church in the last six months, compared to one in seven Southern Baptist youths and one in twenty-five Catholics. Mormon teens also exercise leadership, which Dean says is a crucial part of faith formation; 48% reported attending a church meeting where they were called upon to make a decision that would be binding on a group. These practices aren’t just window dressing, according to Dean; they pave the way for other crucial faith-forming events, such as missionary service.
In Mormonism, children prepare for missions and the temple; start fasting with the community every month at age eight; are expected to pay tithing just like adults; give up time on weekends to clean the church building and do service projects; and actually track these things in personal progress journals. They work toward Eagle Scout status or being a Young Woman of Excellence.
In Mormonism, Dean says, teens talk confidently about the purpose of this life (which they understand as being tested and growing spiritually so they might return to their Heavenly Parents after death). In Protestantism, she says, there has been an erosion of eschatological hope.
It is interesting to note that the studies and research that have been conducted emphasize the fact that while many religious youth are devoted to their faith, they are uneducated in their doctrine, and therefore, they have no knowledge or understanding of what they believe. Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, are taught the principles and doctrines of their faith from an early age, and as they mature in their faith, their testimony of what they believe is strengthened, thus enabling them to confidently explain their doctrine. That Mormon youth have milestone ordinances and responsibilities to attain to leads them on along a marked path to gospel fluency and commitment.
The National Study of Youth and Religion points out “Mormon youth were off the charts in terms of their articulacy and understanding of their faith.” In his article “Why Mormons Do a Better Youth Ministry than We Do,” Greg Stier from christianpost.com explains, “Mormonism pushes their kids harder and takes them deeper and farther than even the most ardent of evangelical youth ministries would ever dare.” He continues, ““Mormons expect a lot out of their teenagers. We don’t. Mormons ordain their young men into the ministry at the age of twelve. We don’t. Mormons require their teens to attend seminary every day of high school. We don’t. Maybe that’s why Mormons give more, work harder and are exploding as a religion.”
What Can Parents Do to Help Their Youth Remain Strong and Grow in the Faith?
President Harold B. Lee taught, “”The most important . . . work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes.” Therefore, parents have an awesome responsibility to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They are to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). They can best do this by:
- being a good example for their children to follow
- holding regular family home evening, family prayer, and scripture study
- teaching practical applications of gospel principles
- providing settings for potential spiritual experiences
- encouraging children to come to know for themselves
Youth today face many challenges and temptations from the effects of peer pressure to the influence of social media. In order to live happy, healthy, productive, and successful lives, they must remain true to their faith, and adhere to the religious principles that they have been taught as they journey through life.
There has been something placed upon my heart. When you are a parent you want the best for your children. You do your best to teach them good morals and standards so that they can live a life that is pleasing to their Heavenly Father. You hope that what you teach them in the days of their youth will carry with them into their adult years. Sometimes, however, it may not seem as though the gospel lessons that you taught while doing your best to raise them in a Godly home with structure, morals, and standards has any positive influence in their lives. And so, as a parent you feel devastated and ask yourself, “Why would my son or daughter choose the path that they are on when I spent so much time teaching them the right way to go?” You find yourself in despair over the matter and soon begin to feel as though you have in some way failed in your duty as a parent.
There is a verse found in Proverbs 22:6 which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”This verse not only applies to parents in raising their children, but it also applies to each of us as members of the Church because we are all children of God. The Church teaches us Godly principles to live by as we follow Jesus Christ’s commandments and are faithful to the covenants that we have made. When we are disobedient to God’s commandments and deny the covenants that we have made, we deny ourselves great blessings from the Lord. I am a witness of this as I have been a wayward member of the Church, and have found myself being disobedient to God’s commandments and not living the covenants that I have made. I cannot rationalize or prove the things that I have done as being right because they are not. God gave us commandments and covenants for a reason, and if we choose to live contrary to those things which we know are true, we can find ourselves falling into an empty pit of nothingness.
Because I know in my heart that the Church is true, I have repented and have come back to it, all the while experiencing the joy of knowing that my waywardness has been forgiven.
Karlyn Kay Stebbins
January 31, 2015
Karlyn Kay Stebbins’ Biography:
Karlyn Kay Stebbins is a guest writer for Morsels Of Bread. She is an addictions counselor and works in a drug rehabilitation center. She has a double major in Sociology and Psychology, and a minor in Communications. She is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been baptized on 26 March 2011. Her hobbies are reading and writing. She also enjoys spending time with her son and his friends. She is also the Founder of The Conqueror Foundation and has a blog called “Reflection Pays” where she shares her insights.
1. “I can’t _______”
As Latter-day Saints there are some things we shouldn’t eat, or do, or watch. But that’s the thing. We shouldn’t. It’s not that we can’t. We are choosing a higher path. Saying “I can’t drink alcohol but if I weren’t Mormon I totally would” shows little faith in the revelations God has given us. Consider saying “I choose not to _______.” Because in reality, that’s exactly what it is.
2. “The Bible has mistakes”
We believe The Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, so yes, in a sense we do believe it went through wrong hands. But that doesn’t mean we should vocalize that to our friends and family not of our faith. It could turn them off to the idea of learning additional teachings of the restored gospel. The Bible is a beautiful word of God that has…
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As I went through college I heard this saying all the time: “Before you date you should be happy being alone.” In other words, you shouldn’t rely on another person to make you happy.
But aren’t we wired with that desire to love and be loved? Aren’t we commanded to cling to our spouse and no one else?
It’s easier said than done, but there are ways to be happy and single. Here are 8 of those ways.
1. Remember your value
You are not of any less value in the sight of God if you are unmarried or not dating. You are a son or daughter of God who loves you irrespective of your current circumstances. You have divine heritage and as such you ought to look upon yourself as a king or queen as you rightly are.
2. Be happy
It is a choice to be happy. Our circumstances vary dramatically…
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Ken Niumatalolo was promoted to Head Football Coach at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, on 8 December 2007 by Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. As the head football coach, he has received the distinguished honor of being the second person of Polynesian descent to be named head coach of a NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) college football program. He also has the distinct honor of being the first Samoan collegiate head coach on any level. On 23 January 2014, he was inducted into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Niumatalolo recently agreed to serve as the Baltimore Area Council’s honorary recruitment chair. On 2 August 2014, at Navy’s Football Media Day, each new Cub Scout and the Scout who recruited him in the Baltimore Area Council had an opportunity to meet Coach Niumatalolo and had their pictures taken with the team. In addition, each Scout received a patch (pictured here) which was designed by the Niumatalolo family.
To do this we needed the Naval Academy’s approval, as well as the approval of the NCAA. This means other football coaches can do the same thing if their schools allow them. The NCAA said yes to this idea as long as the Coach (in this case Coach Ken) or the project don’t go after Boy Scout/Venture-age youth. That would be a violation of NCAA rules.
Niumatalolo and his wife, Barbara, are volunteers in the Baltimore Area Council. Their oldest son, Va’a, a 2011 graduate of Broadneck High School in Annapolis, Maryland, and now a freshman at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah where he plays the position of Linebacker for the BYU Cougars, is an Eagle Scout. Their youngest son, Ali’i, is presently a junior at Broadneck High School and plays the position of Middle Linebacker for the Broadneck Bruins varsity football team. He is a Life Scout working towards earning his Eagle.
Ken and Barbara also have a daughter, Alexcia, the oldest sibling, who played the position of Starting Defender for the Maryland Terrapins during her college career at the University of Maryland. She was recognized as a Division 1 Athlete.
Coach Niumatalolo is a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his family are members of the Broadneck Ward of the Annapolis Maryland Stake. He begins each day by reading and studying the scriptures in the Book of Mormon. His life is based on faith and principles of the gospel, and he firmly believes that putting the Lord first and listening to the voice of the Spirit are the real keys to success. It is that faith and those principles of the gospel which govern his own life that have helped him, as the patriarch of his home, to keep his family well grounded. He attributes devotion to family, church service, and living the gospel as playing a major role in his being able to handle the stress and rigors of being a college football coach for almost two decades.
Coach Niumatalolo will be featured in the new feature-length film produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called “Meet the Mormons” which will premiere in select theaters on 10 October 2014.
Please take a moment to read the article at About Mormons.org written by this author which is titled “Ken Niumatalolo – Putting the Game in Proper Perspective.”