Posts Tagged ‘Mormon faith’

The Sad Reality of Youth Who are Bullied at Church

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Bullying can be defined in many different ways. A standard dictionary definition of the word “bully” is “the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.” Synonyms for the verb “bully” include: persecute, oppress, tyrannize, browbeat, harass, torment, and intimidate.

It is interesting to note that the United Kingdom has no legal definition of bullying, while some states in the United States have strict laws governing the bullying of others. Normally when the subject is discussed its reference is to incidents that occur among students in schools. Unfortunately, the school campus is not the only place where bullying occurs. It may also occur among youth in the Church.

Made to Feel as an Outcast among Peers

School bully, child being bullied in playgroundBullying, which can be classified into four different types – verbal, social, physical, and cyber – is a serious problem, especially among youth. It can range from simple one-on-one bullying to more complex bullying in which the primary bully may have another person or persons to assist in his or her bullying activities.

According to the stopbullying.gov website, in order for behavior to be considered bullying it must be aggressive and include:

  • An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others.
  • Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

The “targets” or “victims” of bullying are often made to feel inferior to their peers. They are often the recipients of unwarranted threats (including cyber threats), the subject of malicious rumors, the objects of physical or verbal abuse (to include inappropriate sexual comments), and deliberately excluded from certain groups.

When a Supposed Safe Haven No Longer Feels Safe

Girl being bullied at ChurchMost people think of church as a safe place where children can be protected from the wiles of the world. In the minds of most people, church is the last place where they would expect anyone to be the victim of bullying, but yet it does happen.

In an LDS Living Magazine article dated 28 August 2014 titled “The Sad Truth about Bullying at Church,” Kelsey Berteaux recounts the episode of a young teenage girl who was contemplating suicide by jumping off the roof of her home because she was being bullied by the youth in her ward. In the article, Judy Wells, the mother of the young teenage girl, recalls the events that led up to her daughter wanting to commit suicide, “The girls took her journal and read it when she left it on her chair to go to the library to get a Book of Mormon. Then, when she came in, they were quoting it.” She further stated that this was only one of a hundred things those young men and young women did. She continued,

When she [her daughter] went and sat down next to some girls, the girls would get up and create a new row and leave her sitting all alone. They invented fake physical relationships she could have had with boys and teased her about them, leaving notes about it on classroom whiteboards for others to find. They even harassed her outside of church, calling her to borrow equipment for a party she wasn’t invited to, and later, calling again to say how glad they were that she wasn’t at the gathering with them.

Fortunately, Wells was able to talk her daughter down from the roof, but she found herself at a loss as to what the next steps should be in trying to help her distraught daughter.

Children and the Damaging Effects of Bullying

Boy being bullied at schoolKids can bully others, be bullied themselves, or witness someone else being bullied. Often kids who are involved in a bullying situation play multiple roles – they may themselves be the targets of bullying by others, or they may witness other innocent kids being bullied.

According to the stopbullying.gov website:

The roles kids play in bullying are not limited to those who bully others and those who are bullied. Some researchers talk about the “circle of bullying” to define both those directly involved in bullying and those who actively or passively assist the behavior or defend against it.

Even if a child is not directly involved in bullying, they may be contributing to the behavior. Witnessing the behavior may also affect the child, so it is important for them to learn what they should do when they see bullying happen.

Most kids play more than one role in bullying over time. In some cases, they may be directly involved in bullying as the one bullying others or being bullied and in others they may witness bullying and play an assisting or defending role. Every situation is different. Some kids are both bullied and bully others. It is important to note the multiple roles kids play, because…

  • Those who are both bullied and bully others may be at more risk for negative outcomes, such as depression or suicidal ideation.
  • It highlights the need to engage all kids in prevention efforts, not just those who are known to be directly involved

Addressing the Issue of Bullying in the Church

Wells eventually had her daughter attend a different ward in a different stake in an effort to keep her away from the youth who were bullying her. Unfortunately, every parent who has a son or daughter who is the victim of bullying at Church is not able to attend a different ward or stake.

The LDS Living.com article lists some ways that experts suggest can be used to recognize, prevent, and correct bullying in a church environment:

Clark Burbidge, author of the youth help series Giants in the Land, commented that “due to the more positive, value-based, and supportive overall environment of a church setting, bullying can play out in more subtle ways. We can see it in exclusive or cliquish behavior. These can also include hurtful or devaluing statements.”

The article also suggests that another form of bullying in the Church is often found in pranks that are played on unsuspecting youth during various youth activities. Judy Wells, now an advocate against bullying, made the following observation:

They’ve got to have fun out there, right? There has to be some sort of an outlet. Locking a girl in a latrine at girl’s camp, that’s okay. It’s kind of funny. She’s stuck in a smelly latrine and can’t get out until somebody comes and lets her out. But, she says, “It’s not funny.” How someone experiences a “harmless” prank can emotionally affect them for the rest of their life.

Burbidge further suggests that the process of deterring bullying behavior begins in the home. Parents have an obligation to teach their children right from wrong, and bullying other children should be at the forefront of those things that are taught as being wrong behavior. He suggests that bullying behavior can be cut off at the pass if families are doing their part to create a loving, faith-filled, family environment in the home.

Licensed family therapist, Dr. Jonathan Swinton, recommends that on the ward level, bullying can be deterred by “celebrating diversity and differences, not being judgmental, and feeling love for all of God’s children.” He further commented:

The more people appreciate the doctrines that God ‘hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth’ (Acts 17:26), and that he ‘denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … and all are alike unto God’ (2 Nephi 26:33), the behavior will more easily follow.

Just teaching kids to be nice will not be sufficient if they don’t really view everyone as their brothers and sisters. If they really do understand that it is their brother or sister they are doing this to, they can better show love for anyone that is different.

Wells further contends that Bishops and other Church leaders need to become actively engaged in resolving bullying issues that may occur in their wards or branches. She states that leaders should immediately alert parents of any child who is involved in a bullying situation so that they are aware of their child’s behavior towards others during church activities.

Burbidge further commented that leaders should respond to these types of situations “in a way that both supports and protects the person targeted, as well as responds in a loving but correcting way to the person responsible for the bullying. This can include counseling with both parties and their parents to provide the positive reinforcement and guidance so that alternative behaviors may be developed and replace the destructive ones.”

Every member can have an active role in ensuring that this type of behavior does not occur in his or her ward or branch by practicing charity – the pure love of Christ – towards their brothers and sisters. Every effort should be made to make everyone feel comfortable, welcome, and a part of the Church family. Each member should make the effort to be the first to offer the outstretched hand of friendship. A person may be appear different because of race, culture, or language, and they may not be known by name, but yet, they are known to us as brother and sister. When these practices are put in place, there will be no more strangers in Zion, and such adverse behaviors as bullying will cease to exist.

 

How to Survive Post-Mission Depression

Friday, August 15th, 2014

In a recent article, this author wrote about what a missionary can expect after the mission is complete and he or she returns home. In that article, it was brought out that while serving a mission a missionary leaves behind the cares of the world, and the primary focus is on teaching the gospel to the people in his or her assigned area.

Although there are challenges in the mission field, none of those challenges perhaps remotely compare to the trials that a missionary faces upon returning to “normal” day-to-day living. There are some who even find themselves slipping into what may be referred to as Post-Mission Depression or PMD.

Recognizing the Symptoms and Learning How to Cope

A standard dictionary definition of depression states that it is the “severe despondency and dejection, typically felt over a period of time and accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.”

Depressed Young ManAny type of depression, regardless of how mild or severe, can have adverse effects on a person’s life. The reality is that depression does not show partiality by only affecting a select group of people, and it is not something that a person, not even a person who has just returned from laboring in the Lord’s vineyard, can easily “snap out of.” Depression is a serious physical and emotional condition that could possibly lead to damaging one’s spiritual, social, and mental well-being if not treated.

Giles Andreae, a British artist, poet and greeting card writer, is quoted as having said, “Here is the tragedy: when you are the victim of depression, not only do you feel utterly helpless and abandoned by the world, you also know that very few people can understand, or even begin to believe, that life can be this painful.” There are many missionaries, who after serving a faithful mission for The Church of Jesus Christ, understand Andreae’s sentiments all too well.

So what are the warning signs or symptoms of Post-Mission Depression? In his article on the Mission Home.com website dated 11 August 2014, Logan Hill notes the following:

The symptoms of PMD may include, but are not limited to, random bouts of crying for no reason, a broken heart, the urge to help people or teach the gospel all the time but being unable to do so, not finding joy or satisfaction in doing day-to-day or menial tasks or activities you love, feeling guilty for just sitting around or wasting time, among other symptoms which are commonly found in returned missionaries with PMD.

The Prophet Jeremiah asked the pointed question, “”Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22).  As Hill points out in his article, the “balm in Gilead” that is normally offered to returned missionaries suffering from Post-Mission Depression is to spend time going out teaching with the local missionaries, perform service for others, or read and study the scriptures. These things however, may only appear to be a short-term cure, as Hill points out that the common response is, “It’s just not the same.” Hill further notes that the only real “cure” for PMD is time. He continues:

That, and putting into practice what you’ve been teaching for the last two years by living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Using the Atonement daily is the only hope in treating Post Mission Depression. The first week or so after the missionary is released, the patient will most likely remain in a surreal state of shock. After that is when PMD really begins to kick in, however within three to four weeks, symptoms will start to fade away. If the medicine is used correctly and in the recommended doses, PMD can be cured within a relatively brief period of time.

Counsel and Guidance from an Apostle of the Lord

Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in answering a recently returned missionary’s question, gave specific direction as seen in the video below:

Mother Teresa’s words of wisdom echo Elder Bednar’s response. She said, ‘Be faithful in the small things because it is in them that your strength lies.“ And Helaman, in the Book of Mormon, gave this counsel to his sons which is wise counsel for not only for returned missionaries who may be suffering from PMD, but for all to heed:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall (Helaman 5:12).

Latter-day Saints Singles Wards – Perfecting the Saints

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Why does there appear to be a vast number of 20-somethings who are leaving religious institutions of all faiths? Christian author Naomi Schaefer Riley addresses this important question in her new book Got Religion? She answers the question from an optimistic viewpoint as she discusses ways some religious communities are actively engaged in helping to make sure that number of 20-somethings who are exiting remains at a minimum.

How Religious Communities Can Help Perfect the Saints

Jana Riess in her Religion News Service (RNS) article dated 18 July 2014 points out that Riley cites three important key elements that the most successful religious communities incorporate in order to help retain their number of 20-somethings:

  • They provide stability during a period of transience. .
  • They give them important things to do to make the religious community work.
  • They help them form spiritual habits to last a lifetime.

Mormon Single WardsAn entire chapter in Riley’s book is devoted to discussing how Mormon singles wards are providing crucial help in all three of these areas. The following guidelines as set forth in section 16 of Handbook 2: Administering the Church (instructions for leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) which is titled “Single Members” supports what she says in the chapter:

Men and women who have not married or who are divorced or widowed make up a significant portion of Church membership. Priesthood and auxiliary leaders reach out to these members and include them in the work of the Church. Worthy single members should be given opportunities to hold leadership and teaching positions, including positions in Elders Quorum presidencies, High Priests Group leaderships, and auxiliary presidencies.

Leaders support single members by helping them draw near to the Lord, strengthen their testimonies, and take responsibility for their own spiritual, social, and temporal well-being.

In ministering to single members, leaders seek to strengthen family life, not compete with it or detract from it. They teach and testify of the importance of marriage and parenthood. Even when young single adults are not living with their parents, Church leaders encourage them to honor and nourish their relationships with their parents. Leaders also support single parents in their efforts to teach and nurture their children.

Important Questions That Warrant an Answer

In a follow-up conversation with author Naomi Schaefer Riley, Riess was able to ask some pointed questions regarding the mass exodus that religious institutions of many faiths are currently experiencing. She specifically focused on the chapter in Riley’s book about Mormon singles wards and asked questions about Mormon dating and marriage, leadership opportunities, and the pros and cons of the singles ward system. What follows are a few of those questions and answers.

Question: How has the overall trend toward later marriage affected Mormons in their 20s and 30s?

It looks like the Mormon age of marriage is starting to creep up as well.

During the 1990s, the General Social Survey found an average age of Mormon first marriage of 21.6. In a survey I conducted in 2010 for my book on interfaith marriage, it was up to 23.

This age may not seem high yet, but if the Mormon population follows the trend of the rest of the American population (albeit at a slower pace), it could have a significant effect on rates of religious observance and retention across generational lines. In that survey I found also found the later the age of marriage the more likely people were to marry someone of a different religion.

Young Single Adult LeadershipQuestion: You make the point that religions that don’t provide leadership opportunities to young adults are doomed. The success stories are religious traditions that are enlisting 20-somethings into service. How does Mormonism fit into that?

As we are living longer, healthier lives, some church members start to get a little territorial, staying in the same volunteer position for years or even decades. Young adults who show up often feel as if their presence is superfluous.

This is one of the things that really impressed me about Young Single Adult wards. The LDS church was willing to say to 20-somethings, “Even though your parents may treat you like children because you’re not married, not done with school, don’t have full-time employment, etc., we, the church, are going to treat you like grownups — putting you in charge of collecting tithes, religious education and a variety of other important functions.”

The church came to what I think is the correct conclusion — if you treat 20-somethings like adults, they will act like adults.

Question: You talk about the poignant transition when YSAs age out, Logan’s Run style, after age 30. What are the pros and cons of such a system?

I think the pros are that these young people are able to take more responsibility and that the services and messages of religious leaders can be more closely tailored to their needs.

I think the cons are that the ward itself has a very transitional feel. People are constantly moving in and out. Whether they age out or get married, it can feel very impermanent. Which is how a lot of 20-somethings feel already. Every time you force a young adult to make a transition, you risk losing him or her and so adding another step to this process can be risky.

Riley also praised the multi-generational experience that Young Single Adults (YSA) get in The Church of Jesus Christ. She notes that such an experience helps to keep them grounded and helps them to realize that the world does not revolve around them and their needs alone. She also notes that this has been a recurring problem with such Christian programs as Campus Crusade. She further commented, “I think the Mormon Church avoids some of the problems that could come with an YSA arrangement because many of the young people are still living close to large extended families. So they get the multi-generational experience outside of church.”

Where Two or Three are gathered – The LDS Church in Hong Kong

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called the “Mormon” Church by the media and others) realize the importance of meeting together to worship the Lord. They also realize that worship is not restricted to Sunday, although that is the usual day of worship in most parts of the world, but they are admonished to not forsake the “assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). The Savior Himself taught, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). And so, there are some places in the world where Church services may be conducted more frequently.

The Church of Jesus Christ in Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong China Mormon TempleIn Hong Kong, Church meetings are held every day of the week in order to accommodate the domestic helpers who only get one day a week off, and that day may vary from week to week.

Melissa Inouye of the University of Hong Kong stated that there is a missionary couple specifically called to conduct daily church meetings for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for whoever comes. Inouye also made mention of the fact that the missionary couple’s Preparation Day (P-day) is actually on Sunday.

Bridging the Differences between Schedules and Cultures

Hong Kong China District Humanitarian AidOn 27 March 2014, in Berkeley, California, in her presentation at the Global Crossroads: Mormonism and Asia in the Twenty-First Century Conference, Staci Ford, also of the University of Hong Kong, discussed the “Gathering and Grafting in the Hong Kong International District” in greater detail.

In introducing the voice of a domestic helper by the name of Marissa Carino Estipona, Ford commented, “With over 1,000 domestic helpers, our district is the most gender imbalanced of its type in the church. We are a predominantly matriarchal society at church.” Estipona recalled being asked by a woman in Church if the long hours that she worked as a domestic helper away from her family in order to support and sustain them was worth it, and replying that everything was worth it for the sake of her family.

During her presentation Ford also quoted Benjamin Tai, the International Hong Kong District Leader, as saying,

In my view, the purpose of church boundaries is not to cause grief, heartache and headache for members of those in leadership callings. I am just very glad that anyone is willing to come and spend three-plus hours of his or her day off with us. My only desire is to make sure that for those that come, we are organized appropriately so that they can get the most out of their time and that spiritual growth is fostered.

 

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…)

A Mormon Apostle Speaks at Harvard

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Speaks at Harvard Law SchoolThe Mormon Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland spoke on March 20, 2012 to students of the Harvard University Law School as part of the school’s annual “Mormonism 101″ series. Elder Holland (Mormon leaders are traditionally addressed by the title, “Elder”) explained about the history and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often called “Mormons.” He then engaged in a question-and-answer session with members of the audience. Elder Holland’s remarks helped shed some light on the Church, which has received a lot of media attention lately due to the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney.

Elder Holland began his remarks by congratulating the students on their openness to discussions of religious belief. “In the western world religion has historically been the basis of civil society as we have known it, and if I am not mistaken, men and women of the law are committed to the best—that is, the most just—civil society possible,” Elder Holland pointed out. “So thank you for taking religion seriously. You will not only be better attorneys but you will be closer to the truth in your own personal lives.” (more…)