Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Shield of Faith – Why Mormon Youth Are Happy and Successful

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

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

LDS TeenIn 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

Christian TeensCorrie 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.

ILDS Seminaryt 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.

Mormon youth teaching gospel principlesThe 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.

Being Alone and the Despair of Loneliness

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Charlotte Brontë, a British novelist whose novels have become standards of English literature, is quoted as having said, “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” There are perhaps many people in the world today who could echo Brontë’s sentiments concerning being lonely. Whether they are rich, poor, married, widowed, divorced, or single, there are those who seem to be hopelessly and eternally trapped in an abyss called loneliness.

Heinrich Karl Bukowski, a German-born, American poet, novelist and short story writer, once described loneliness in the world as being “so great that you can see it in the slow movement of the hands of a clock.” And T.S. Eliot, “one of the twentieth century’s major poets,” said,

Any decent society must generate a feeling of community. Community offsets loneliness. It gives people a vitally necessary sense of belonging. Yet today the institutions on which community depends are crumbling in all the techno-societies. The result is a spreading plague of loneliness. (more…)

Mormons Are Still Going to Church–Why?

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Religion is falling out of vogue. We’ve all heard it. Though people may identify with Christianity on a census form, in reality they are not  particularly interested in religion anymore. People don’t attend church with regularity. But, what about  Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)? They still attend Church services on a regular basis.

Why? And how does The Church of Jesus Christ manage to grow and stay strong in a world that continually diminishes the importance and role of religion? The answer is simple: Mormons keep the message of the gospel at the forefront of their lives.

Doctrine Never Changes

mormon-jesus-christ4The message of The Church of Jesus Christ is simple: Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and when we commit ourselves to Him, we find lasting peace, qualify for saving ordinances, and will eventually live with God and our families forever. The core doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ remain constant, and if there is a change in church operations or policy, it comes directly from general church leadership. (more…)

Mormon Church: Contradictory Beliefs?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

As a sophomore studying physics at Brigham Young University, I have a different view on the world than a lot of youth my age. Many people wonder how I can reconcile such strong religious beliefs with such secular logical theory. But I have a strong testimony of both. To me faith fortifies the logical, and my secular knowledge of physics and the mechanics of the universe broadens my understanding of God. If I was limited to only one or the other, I would in fact find myself confined and restricted in understanding.

mormon education

Learning more about the world around us can help increase our faith in God.

For example, throughout scripture God commonly uses the concept of light as His preferred metaphor for Himself. To many this would merely be an accepted condition and they would move on to read the rest of the verse, but to me, as I study light in my physics classes at BYU, I understand the great meaning that can be drawn from this name alone. For example, light is used to not only expel darkness and bring warmth, but it is also the byproduct of electrons bumping up an energy level and thus emitting a photon.

This can be compared to God’s presence becoming more and more evident in our life as we ascend to higher spiritual levels. In addition, light is the only material that is truly constant in the universe—being the basis of all the equations and theories that we have,—just as God is the only true and unchangeable constant in the universe, the only constant upon which if we build we can never ever fall. And finally, light is the only material that is both a particle and a wave, and whose behavior varies upon whether or not we are observing it (double-slit experiment). A single photon will inexplicably behave as a wave if unobserved, but once placed under the scrutiny of the human eye it will behave as it should, or rather as a particle. Similarly, God does not always act the way we expect, seeing as we are observing a celestial and infinite subject through finite mortal eyes, as He says “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8). (more…)

Mormon Church: Our Power Over Our Destinies

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Hey there, my name is Stuart and I’m a college student here at BYU. I’m hoping to someday become a surgeon, but I still have a lot of school left ahead. I’m nearly 22 and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (mistakenly called The Mormon Church). We’re known that way for a book of scripture called the Book of Mormon, which is very much like the Bible in that it teaches of Christ and was written by prophets, but it is different because it was written by ancient prophets in America. One of the first of these was a man named Nephi, a very righteous man who lived roughly around 600 BC. He took great care to teach his people the law and the commandments and of the Savior who was to come. To do this, many times he read to them words of previous prophets and helped them understand and apply them. That is also the way we should use scripture, trying to make it personal. One of his favorite prophets to quote was Isaiah. Nephi dedicates several chapters to sharing some of Isaiah’s teaching that he used. This last week I read some of those chapters and some things jumped out at me, especially in chapter 24 of 2 Nephi. In this chapter Nephi is quoting what we know today as Isaiah 14 and it speaks about the devil. Usually that’s something people frown upon, thinking that it’s not even good to talk about him, but in reality it depends on what’s being said and why. Isaiah in this part is taunting the devil and at the same time teaching us a valuable lesson. He speaks of the last days, how the Lord will be victorious and reward His covenant people. He speaks of how the world will rejoice, that it will break forth in singing at the downfall of the tyrant. The next verses have always caused me to ponder, they read: (more…)

Mormon Church: “Ye Must Pray Always”

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

I’m in my second month as a freshman here at Brigham Young University and I couldn’t be more grateful for my required Book of Mormon class. The fact that twice a week I get to learn more about scriptures in an academic setting always amazes me! Both our class lectures and my out-of-class readings help me keep my priorities straight and remind me of my Heavenly Father’s love. This last week I was especially touched by a passage spoken by the ancient American prophet Nephi as he was nearing the end of his life. This is found in 2 Nephi 32:9.

“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”

Mormon Prayer

The Lord wants us to come to Him so He can help us make decisions.

Nephi is reminding those who read his words of a powerful principle. If we are trying to do something “unto the Lord” it is imperative that we pray to Heavenly Father about it. This way He will be able to make our experience something that will enable us to obtain our goal of eternal life. Perhaps the strongest word employed by the prophet Nephi is anything. There should not be anything that we are doing which is not “unto the Lord,” and thus if we take the proper steps there should not be anything in our lives which is not being consecrated by the Lord for our eternal welfare. School, work, relationships, service—these are all facets of our lives where we can obtain incredible support from our Heavenly Father. (more…)

Mormon Church: Serving Others

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”) are firm believers in helping the poor and needy. We believe that it is what Christ would do, and so we should follow His example by helping others. We learn principles like this from the Book of Mormon, a book of holy scriptures similar to the Bible, because it talks about it in there. The Book of Mormon is about the God’s people who lived on the American continent. The Book of Mormon tells and preaches of Christ; Christ even appears to the people in that land after He was resurrected.

One of the more prominent parts of the Book of Mormon that talks of helping the poor among us is from the book of Jacob. Jacob was a prophet among the nation of the Nephites (the “father” of their nation was Nephi, who left Jerusalem in the year 600 BC, 13 years before the city was destroyed by the Babylonians) who was commanded to tell the people to repent of their ways and return to God. One of the sins that the Nephites were struggling with was pride. Many of them believe that because they had more money and riches compared to others, that they were better than the poor. Jacob tells them that this is a false assumption, and that everyone is equal to each other. He tells them that if they do seek for riches, that the riches should be used “for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and afflicted” (Jacob 2:19).

Mormon Tithing

By paying tithing and fast offerings Church members help provide for the Church’s needs and for the poor and needy.

As members of the Church today we try to do this. One of the ways we do this is a “fast offering” fund. A fast offering fund is where members of the Church, or anyone who wants to participate, donate money to the cause of helping others that are going through financial struggles. By doing this, those who need the money will receive it. What is amazing is 100% of the money donated is given to the cause of those in need. Now-a-days, many charities only give a portion of the money donated to the actual cause. With our Fast Offerings, 100%, and no less, goes to those who need it. We also have what is called tithing, where members give 10% of all their income to the effort to help build our Church. It is used to build more church buildings, and things of that nature. None of the money donated ever is given to our clergymen; they do not have salaries at all. They do not get paid a penny for all the time and effort they put into helping out the Church. (more…)

Mormon Church: “See Ye for the Kingdom of God”

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Everyone has priorities in his/her life. For some, it is getting ahead in business, even if it means harming others to get there. For others, it is putting food on the table for their families before following their own dream career. Some priorities are good; others can be not so good. However, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”, I have recognized a pattern throughout my life. Whenever I take a minute to set aside pressing matters like school work, jobs, or social events, and focus on putting God first, everything else seems to work out better.

Mormon Missionaries

When we put spiritual things first, we will find that we will still have enough time to make everything work.

As a new freshman in college, I often feel the stress of assignments and tests. Quite often, I think of skipping church activities or not fulfilling my church responsibilities to the fullest. I notice that when I skip these things, I can get the work done, but I will be easily distracted and the quality of the work will be less than satisfactory. When I do take the time to put spiritual matters first, I find myself more focused and motivated when I come back to do my work. Things usually work out for the better when I set aside a little time to put church before everything else in my life.

Jacob, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, also spoke to his people on this same matter. Jacob’s people were becoming wicked and prideful in their riches and success. They did not realize that God was the reason for their success, so they boasted of their own greatness and thought that they were better than less wealthy people. Jacob taught them a great lesson. In Jacob 2:18-19, he said, “before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good.” (more…)

Mormon Church: Seeking the Kingdom of God

Monday, December 10th, 2012

I read a great scripture in my Book of Mormon class at BYU. It is found in the Book of Mormon (a book revered as scripture by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”), Jacob 2:18-19. In verse 18 it says that “before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.” Then in verse 19 it says that “after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall receive riches…” When I think of riches my first thoughts think of money and treasures of gold and diamonds and all luxurious material things, but when I read it in this context I think of our Savior and how being able to live with Him in the Celestial Kingdom, or heaven, and to be able to become like Him are the true riches.

mormon Service

We can find the kingdom of God through serving and being friends to others.

In the world that we live in, we are bombarded with material things and it’s so easy for them to become our obsessions. I finally got an iPhone at the beginning of this year, and now the iPhone 5 has just come out. It’s so easy for me to want the new version but the same thing goes with every other gadget out there, and with cars and clothes and all the new trends that come out every season. What do I do? Do I buy all new ‘everything I own’ just because what I have is out of season? Well, of course not, but sometimes with what’s in the media, on TV, in the magazines, on the internet, and so on, I can feel like I have to keep up with what’s new because that is what’s cool, but what I have to remind myself and ask myself is, what is cool to the Lord? What does the Lord want me to do? He wants me to serve my fellow men. In verse 19 it also says that if ye seek for riches for the intent to do good like clothe the naked, feed the hungry, administer to the sick and so forth then ye shall obtain riches. One word that sticks out to me in this verse is “intent.” Here I am, a student at BYU, and basically my main intention of going to school is to be able to get a good job where I can receive a good income. The next question I ask myself is why do I want a good income? Is it because I want to be rich and to be able to buy nice expensive things? Well, this is where I can apply my intentions, and my intentions are so that I can be independent and I can be able to help provide for my family and give back to society. Our intentions are so important, and although it’s great for all of us to want to be successful, we should also remember that the Lord wants us to be successful too, but in accordance with His plan. An important part of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us is service. By losing ourselves in His work we will be able to save our souls. I know that no matter what our financial circumstances may be, if we always put the Lord first we will obtain riches, and even if they’re not physical, the spiritual riches will be blessings that no money can buy. (more…)

Mormon Church: What the Lord Would Have Us Do

Monday, December 10th, 2012

As a student at BYU I have the chance to take religion classes.  Currently I am enrolled in a Book of Mormon (a book revered as scripture by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church” by friends of other faiths) class.  We are studying from the book of Jacob and we came across this verse in chapter 4, “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice.”  After reading this verse the class had a discussion about how we pray.  Oftentimes when we pray we are asking the Lord for specific blessings, at a specific time from the Lord.  We feel as if we have specific needs from the Lord, and we know that He can help us.  This is true; He can help us when we come to Him seeking answers to our problems.

Mormon Prayer

Prayer is a time for us to learn what the Lord wants us to do as well as a time to ask Him to do things for us.

In class we discussed how maybe we should take a different approach.  Maybe instead of asking the Lord to answer our prayers and help us achieve our goals, we should ask Him to help us know what He would have us do.  This connects to the above scripture.  When we have problems, we should counsel the Lord and tell Him how to solve our problems.  We also should approach Him and ask Him what He wants us to do. Instead of asking Him to help us achieve a certain goal or result we would like to achieve, we should be asking Him what He wants us to do with our lives.  This attitude will help us achieve more and grow faster than trying to figure life out on our own.

Like the scripture states, the Lord counsels in wisdom and justice.  He is always watching out for us, and He knows exactly what we’re going through and how to help us.  God has created worlds, and has infinite knowledge.  Who better could we be dependent on?  From before the creation God had a plan for each and every one of us.  He knew exactly what challenges we would face and how to help us. (more…)