Posts Tagged ‘youth’

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 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 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 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.


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 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.

What Activities Do Mormons Have For Youth?

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Personal Response by Natalie

Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) have quite a few activities for youth. All activities sponsored by the Mormon Church are designed to provide youth with a fellowshipping base, or friends who are upholding the values of the Church.  Activities are also fashioned to encourage maturity and self-reliance, increase testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and teach skills while providing wholesome fun. All youth ages 12-18 belong to either of the Young Women or Young Men organizations. On Sundays during the three-hour block of meetings, youth meet for about an hour in their respective classes. There they are taught lessons about the scriptures and gospel. Within each of the organizations, there are three sub groups. For example, in the Young Women organization, 12- and 13-year-old young women meet in what is called the Beehive class, 14- and 15-year-old young women meet in the Mia Maid class, and 16- and 17-year-old young women meet in the Laurel class. Once young women are 18, they attend Relief Society with the adult women in the ward. Similarly, in the Young Men organization young men ages 12 and 13 attend the deacons’ quorum, ages 14 and 15 attend the teachers’ quorum, and ages 16 and 17 attend the priests’ quorum. Once a young man is 18, he is typically ordained to be an elder and will attend the elders quorum.

Mormon YouthOnce a week on a weekday evening, all the youth in the ward meet for about an hour or hour and a half for what is commonly called Mutual. Sometimes the girls and guys have separate activities, and sometimes they are combined. Mutual usually consists of an opening exercise (where everyone meets together at the beginning and has an opening song and prayer), a simple lesson, and an activity. Young Women often spend the activity time working on Personal Progress (see explanation of personal progress by clicking here) and young men often spend the activity time working on Scout merit badges or Duty to God. Examples of activities I have been a part of with the young women include learning how to crochet, tying quilts for newborn babies, going on a hike, learning how to cook, and playing board games. Examples of some activities that I have seen the young men do have been going on hikes, putting up American flags around the ward for holidays, and learning camping skills. About once a month the young men and young women usually have an activity together. Sometimes this activity is a service activity such as a canned food drive or making food for the local homeless shelter, and sometimes it is just something fun like going sledding or playing dodgeball.