What Can Mormonism Offer to Young People

Hi all,

I’m honored to have been invited by Steve Evans to guest blog now and then. I’m relatively new to the world of blogging, so forgive any gaffes on my part. By way of a brief introduction, I’m the managing editor of Sunstone magazine and the symposium coordinator. I’m also editor of Danish Apostle: The Diaries of Anthon H. Lund, coming this summer from Signature Books.

Compared to many in the world of independent Mormonism (ie, Sunstone, Dialogue, Mormon History Association, Association for Mormon Letters, etc.), I’m a relative youngster at 27. I am struck by how many of my friends are leaving Mormonism. It’s as if there is no middle ground for young people right now. They’re either in the Church – in without any questions, fears, doubts, concerns or worries. Or they’re out – out without any interest in trying to hang on or in trying to find value in the faith of their parents. They aren’t angry as they leave, so far as I can tell. There isn’t a sense of “I’ve been lied to!” or anything close to it.

Rather, they seem bored stiff by Mormonism. And eventually, they seem to wake up one day and realize there really isn’t any good reason (in their minds) to continue to put their trust in authority figures who tell them that Mormonism is God’s Church. They’ve been told their whole life that it’s a sin to not go to church, that it’s a sin to drink or smoke, and that if they aren’t part of Mormonism, there may not be salvation for them. Then, they realize their own personal experience doesn’t bear these claims out, or that they have no reason to inherently trust the voices that have been telling them this. So they drift away.

My question is, does Mormonism have something to offer young people? By that I mean, does it have something to offer beyond the belief that it is God’s church? In other words, if a young person isn’t convinced that Mormonism is God’s kingdom on earth, if they might be questioning or doubting, do they have any reason to stay?

By way of partly answering my own question, I believe Mormonism has much to offer people my own age. Faith is a very important component of life, and I worry that so many people seem to be losing it. But I believe there are certain things that need to happen before retention among young people will increase. First and foremost, we must begin to trust journeying more in the Church. As it is, if someone begins a journey of self-discovery or walks down a path where they question their beliefs, we see that as something to rescue them from, not something to encourage as part of life’s learning process.

What else can be done? Am I alone in believing that young people leaving Mormonism has reached near-critical levels? What value can we offer young people in Mormonism in the here and now (rather than simply saying that if they endure to the end – which can be a gloomy outlook – they’ll be with God in the next life)?

John Hatch

Comments

  1. “The Church should not be a solution to our problems”

    I’ve got to disagree. The Church isn’t like a career services dept. or other organization, it’s there to help people feel good about themselves and develop personally. It doesn’t claim to be strictly a place with potential benefits, although those are certainly there. The problem is that not all people are as self-motivated or outgoing as you seem to be, and I don’t think that Jesus requires us to be so in order to be a happy part of the community.

  2. Actually, no, I haven’t personally observed many young people drifting away from the church. If anything, I have been surprised by how few have questioned. (The fact that I went to BYU is probably a large factor.)

    Furthermore, at least in some places, I think that singles wards, despite all their faults, provide a large and varied social network, compared to what an average young single person would otherwise have available to them.

    I strongly agree with the “no middle ground” idea. I think middle ground can be very hard to find in the church today, and I have the vague impression that this has been an increasing trend. Personally, I don’t much like the trend…I’m a proponent of “big tent” mormonism.

  3. Actually, Steve, it was ETB quoting SWK. I think that advice has softened somewhat–President Hinckley, I think, sees the benefits of an education as more important than earlier leaders did. Probably because it *is* more important now than it was in 1963 (which is when then Elder Kimball made the pronouncement, reprinted in seminary manuals and quoted in ETB’s talk that the proper order was mission, marriage, family, education.)

  4. Are we talking about an allegedly increasing number of young people that are leaving the Church? (I am skeptical of this). Or are we talking about the “no middle ground” phenomenon that John raised. I think the latter issue is more interesting.

    The fact that many of John’s friends are leaving may say more about the kind of people John hangs out with than it does anything about Mormon “youth” generally. And I don’t say that as an insult; the truth is, I myself have an inordinate number of friends who have struggles with the Church, or who have left it too. But that’s not surprising, given the types of people I associate with. I don’t think I can extrapolate from my specific experience and infer any general trends.

    I’m not sure why the “middle ground” appears to be shrinking, but I agree that it has. I once visited and spent 2+ hours with a well-known professor at the Y, discussing various Church-related concerns that I had. He remarked that he used to have a dozen students a year come to him and have similar discussions, while now he has only about 1 per year.

    I don’t know what to make of it, but I’m quite sure it’s a diabolic conspiracy of some sort…. :)

    Aaron B

  5. As a young (under 30), single mormon, I know exactly what John is talking about. And the answer most certainly is NOT more dances, God help us!, nor more singles’ wards*–I wish they’d be abolished.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I know exactly what the problem is. Being young and single=invisible church member. There are no lessons in relief society that relate to my life. I enjoy sacrament talks but sometimes they too seem to be coming from a foreign planet. Many people at church are patronizing and sympathetic for my singleness. Which translates into, “we’re so sorry for your life and existence. It’s too bad you don’t know the FULL joys of the gospel.”

    It’s very disheartening to go to church and sit by yourself when you are surrounded by families. It is very hard to feel like it matters if you go to church or not. It’s very hard to get yourself out of bed in the morning to go to church by yourself, only to sit by yourself, then to come home and spend the sabbath by yourself. The gospel was not designed to be practiced solo. I have no family prayers, no family scripture reading and it is sooo easy to just stop doing the little things like scripture reading. It’s so much easier to stay in bed then drag yourself to church where you are made to feel like a stranger looking in through a window at all the happy people. And the constant family, family, family talk makes me zone out and wish I had stayed home. It sometimes makes me feel resentful as well.

    Singles, I don’t think this is an age thing, are outsiders to the church and gospel. Heck, we’re automatically barred from exaltation because we can’t get ourselves married! Imagine what that does to someone’s motivation when it’s a huge struggle just to go to church?

    Another big problem is that church is in the a.m. on Sunday. Seriously, if church was in the afternoon, more young’uns would be there. Young people go out on Saturday night til the wee hours of the morn. Try going to 10 am church when you got home at 5 a.m., especially when there is no one there to help wake you up and you know that church will probably make you feel sad.

    I have a strong testimony but if I don’t have a calling that makes me go to church, I stop going.

    John mentioned that some may feel betrayed when life doesn’t turn out the way they were told it would. I think many feel betrayed that they are not experiencing a fullness of joy and the happiness that those around them seem to.

    *I think singles wards perpetuate the ‘oddity’ of singleton by institutionalizing the alienation. Some people love them but those of us who don’t are often left in the cold as far as finding strength and comfort at church.

  6. Dave, can you give me an example of what you’re talking about in your last paragraph? Not just of what the “right side of the field” means, but also how the shifts of BYU culture vs. LDS culture differ.

  7. Dave, I’ve offered you the hand of BCC fellowship on many occasions, only to be spurned…

    You’re right though that “the Church” is a nebulous term. I think we can safely define it as something larger than a dispenser of ordinances, though, can’t we?

  8. Dave, thanks for getting back to me and clarifying. I agree entirely with what you’re saying. I’d like to try and specify ways in which the Church is trying to be more inclusive, though (that’s me, always accentuating the positive!)

  9. Dave: Is the Church and/or BYU moving to the right? Or simply society going further left & the Church and/or BYU staying in mostly the same place?

    I think the LDS Church offers young folks, whether teens or 20 somethings alot. Values, principles to live by that bless your life, social structure & activities, guys & girls that are interested in more than just how quickly they can get down your pants [well, for the most part :) ], etc.

    Putting John & Aaron’s comments together, perhaps my generation is simply being lazy…and rather than doing research, reading & asking faithful more knowledgeable folks what is up…they just follow their friends to S. Utah. Could be worse…at least they can appreciate the beauty of God’s (& their’s) creation.

  10. Ed, you’re right that we can’t draw any real conclusions without better data. But we can still talk about the general issue having made an assumption (albeit a large one) about the trend, can’t we?

    I’ve observed what John’s talking about too, if that helps to bolster things at all.

    Why would our church be “far more concerned with increasing convert retention in places like Latin America?” It’s something I’ve heard before but I admit I find the priorities confusing.

  11. er… thanks for the backup, lyle.

  12. Forget Ann Arbor then. It was the same way in Oxford, England.

    Every ward offers vast networking and social opportunities.

    Those aren’t the only ones, nor are they the most important, but they are reasons why it is so exciting to be a young latter-day saint.

  13. From where I sit, I have not noticed what you are talking about. I personally think the social network of young LDS people is huge and important, and ever growing.

    Take the situation here at the University of Michigan as an example. Every year we get more young LDS graduate students (many with families) who are excited to be in the Church and who make the Church an exciting place to be.

    If anything there are ever more, rather than less, young LDS folks around here.

    And these aren’t the blind follower sort either- they are free thinkers who have come out here for Ph.Ds and professional degrees. They are faithful Latter-day Saints.

    As far as what value can we offer young people- well, other than the obvious which has already been said (eventual exaltation, etc.), here are a couple of suggestions:

    1. Networking opportunities galore! Here at the UM I am excited to be one of the many future professors, doctors, lawyers, and other academics and professionals who will one day be the leaders of their fields. What a great opportunity to have them all in my ward!

    2. Social connections: So many people come here and get very lonely because they have no social structure to plug into. We have never had that problem no matter where we have gone because of the Church (and it helps that we are outgoing people, I suppose). In Oxford, England, for example, we were immediately accepted into a warm fellowship with other YOUNG LDS graduate students there.

    From where I sit, there are a myriad of reasons why young people should want to stay in the Church. It is a very very exciting place to be. “Mormonism” is far from boring- I mean, look at these bloggernacle websites! Lots of cool stuff to discuss and ponder. Very stimulating.

  14. I agree that it’s an interesting topic, (and a good post). But I think the real topic will end up being “how could the church appeal to my friends more,” since we just don’t have enough information to say much beyond that.

    The reason I guess that convert retention is a bigger priority is just because of my guess about the numbers of people involved. If there has been any change in retention of young LDS Americans, I doubt it’s more than a couple of percent. On the other hand, the Church has recently dissolved over 1/3 of the stakes in Chile. Convert retention seems like both a larger and a more solvable problem. (As I said, this is only my guess.)

  15. I feel like an alien at church now as a married mother of three and also when I was single. It’s a pretty universal feeling to imagine NO ONE GETS ME AND EVERYONE IS OUT TO GET ME.
    The lessons are geared to married people? Well, I can’t stand the spin they get. We are taking a marriage class which of course starts out with the bloody PROCLAMATION…oh goody.
    I’ve got a husband who does the cooking but the examples in the stupid manual make it sound like Mormons should be living Leave It to Beaver style arrangements. Is it some kind of gender bending perversion for the wives to mow the lawns and the men to cook? For example on page 4, I’ve brought it up before, but Boyd K. says GRANDPAS DON’T BAKE PIES…is this divine revelation? Does it say somewhere in the handbook that women are supposed to clean the toilets and bake the pies? I wish we could keep this kind of personal culturally engrained bias out of our manuals and classes. Young people might enjoy the classes more if we stick to the truth.

  16. I object to Steve’s claim that the Bloggernacle is not Mormonism. I hang out on these sites, and even helped put one or two of them together. I am Mormon. Most of the people who hang out on these sites are Mormon. How is this not Mormonism? This seems like gratuitous self-alienation by irrational definitional fiat. (aka GSAIDF)

  17. I think Ann is on the right track, but I think there’s an important distinction to be made.

    I am perfectly comfortable knowing that the disbelieving feel alienated, that they feel the church offers them nothing. Fine. Good. The church should not try to hang on to people who think the church is not true. What could we do to make them feel more welcome– declare that we don’t think the church is true either, and that’s okay? No, sir. Not acceptable.

    On the other hand, we should definitely hang on to and look after those who aren’t sure, but who are willing to plant the seed of faith (Alma 32). It saddens me that there are any who are sincere seekers of truth who do not feel welcome. I agree that it would be good to reach out to these folks more, and I would be happy to hear how I as an individual church member can do so.

    But to deny the truthfulness of this church in order to make comfortable those who have concluded that it’s false? Forget about it. They’re wrong. And even if we all agreed with them, they would still be wrong. And the church would still be true.

  18. I think another piece of the problem is the Church’s recent obsession with THE FAMILY. The fact is that the age of marriage in the U.S. and in the church is getting steadily later, and we spend all of our teens’ time in church indoctrinating them about the joys of family. If they don’t marry immediately post-high-school or post-mission (and fewer and fewer of them do), it’s hard to see what the church has to offer since we’re so busy preaching family. I think it would help enormously if we actually preached the gospel of Christ to teens more often, and then gave them more opportunities to practice it by offering real and significant service in the community. That sort of thing can be addictive, and could give kids the vision of a Christ-centered Mormon life that might carry them through their twenties until they marry (or for longer, if they don’t marry).

  19. Catherine says:

    I’m 29. I read LDS-themed blogs because I miss BYU and being around lots of other people who share common beliefs and educational levels. When I’ve felt most alienated or alone in my life has been when there haven’t been very many other people around who are like me (in or out of singles wards). That’s not something the Church as an institution can or should fix. Usually, the solution for me has been to put myself in environments where I can increase my chances of finding some kindred spirits to hang out with.
    Through the last decade, the Church as the Kingdom of God has helped me build personal spirituality and avoid temptations during lonely single times, out of which I’ve now come and found a good husband to love. Family life is the greatest (when both are following the commandments) and there’s nothing wrong with focusing on families. Is the Church at fault for helping me keep marriage as a primary goal in a world that doesn’t esteem it so highly anymore? I think not. We definitely need to be more sensitive to the feelings of those who are not yet married, but that doesn’t change the fact that a happy marriage & family life is the ideal state to reach for.
    You know, it IS often hard to be LDS when you’re getting older and still single – but then it’s often hard to be LDS. Maybe singles just don’t have the social networks and family interdependencies to keep them in the Church during spiritual low times like married people and teenagers do. In which case, the answer is to MARRY EVERYONE OFF! Right on, SWK!

  20. I’m reading the lengthy comments on this thread, trying to place people, as everyone seems to have a different “vision” of what that Church should be doing.

    John thinks the Church should offer something to young singles, but it apparently doesn’t offer much.

    Steve E thinks “the Church isn’t like a career services dept. or other organization, it’s there to help people feel good about themselves and develop personally.”

    Jordan thinks “the Church should not be a solution to our problems- the Church is not supposed to be an exciting place in and of itself.”

    One problem is that the Church is considerably more than just a church. It’s a church, a corporation, an investment behemoth, a media presence, a publisher of correlated religious materials, and a social club, all at the same time.

    Before describing what the Church should be doing for ______ (fill in with your class of interest), I think we need to define the range of this very rich term “the Church” that is relevant for the question at hand.

    Gee, if I could post here I would probably start a new thread with this idea. I’ll just have to settle for an extended comment.

  21. It does not say that anywhere in the handbook Lynne.

    I am sorry you feel like an alien at church. But tell me this- why do you care HOW people treat you? Just be happy and be yourself- let them judge their way out of “celestial glory”.

  22. John, a FANTASTIC first blog — you make it look easy.

    A difficult topic, though, because an easy answer to your question is, “shouldn’t being God’s church be enough?” It’s obviously not enough if as many younger people are leaving the church as you say. But what can the church do? More dances? Hipper Sacrament Meetings? I’m perhaps a little glib but I guess I have my doubts about how we can bring our worship to a level accessible by younger crowds without sinking to the hip, modern church product that so many baptist churches are putting out.

    Part of the problem may be the inaccessibility of a church that seems largely a geritocracy. It is tough, I’ll admit, to see the general authorities as anything other than grandfatherly figures, and at times it’s difficult to picture them as mouthpieces for God. We could remedy that by emphasizing local leaders, or by causing the leadership of the church to include younger general authorities, but I’m not sure those are steps our church will likely consider.

  23. John, the personality types question deserves its own thread–I think it’s HUGE. I remember many years ago on Mormon-l (yeah, I’m THAT old), people got to comparing their Myers-Briggs profiles, and they were really similar. I suspect that in a typical (U.S.) ward, you would find certain personality traits massively overrepresented, and that the leadership ranks of the church would also skew towards certain types. Of course, one has to talk completely ex ano about this sort of thing, since there’s no good data. But that’s what blogging’s for!

    Jordan, you can’t generalize from your experience–Ann Arbor is a uniquely wonderful place. As soon as someone converts the folks who run Zingerman’s, the whole city’s going to be translated :)

  24. John, your personality types question is extremely interesting, but first with regards to what the church can provide younger people today, I think that what’s needed is for us to recall the citation, ‘a religion that cannot save temporally does not have power to save spiritually.’ I’d propose that we no longer simply apply this to the Bishop’s storehouse, but also to saving people socially and interpersonally.

    In many respects our doctrines set us apart from the world. Shouldn’t the process of setting us apart create social bonds between us, and enable us to better understand each other’s needs? For some reason, along this path of salvation we’re forgetting that our bonds are to each other as much as to God.

  25. Jordan, did I make it sound like I care?
    I meant to say I’m used to it and the republicans can’t drive me out of the church, I believe in it too much.

  26. Jordan, I think perhaps you reflect the ideal in this regard. From what I’ve seen, though, you’re in the minority. Can I ask, what has led you to develop these ties? Was it your own personal initiative, was it the personal initiative of others, or was it the Church itself?

    I ask because I’m curious to see how the Church as an institution can help us form a better community. That might help with some of the alienation that John and Jen (and I) feel.

  27. Jordan, in all fairness, “Mormonism” didn’t produce all these bloggernacle websites. We did. And we did so because we felt something was missing from our current church experience…. so that’s got to mean something, doesn’t it?

  28. Jordan, most of us here are older than you…. 29 is still a young’un, my friend! Which shows, again, the perversion in our culture.

  29. K — thanks, you’re right to point out the SWK origin (though I wonder as to the practical impact of ETB’s repetition).

    President Hinckley has reached out to the younger members more than any other prophet I can recall. I’m glad that you mentioned his education focus — along with reductions of consumer debt, those are two big messages directed at younger people. So we may be speaking too rashly when we talk of this impassable gulf separating young & old…

  30. Lot’s of people are leaving. Lot’s are staying in, too.

    I find it impossible to even think about an issue like this without some better data. All I have is the small, highly skewed sample of people that I know. Do you have some reason to believe that “young people leaving Mormonism has reached near-critical levels” other than just a personal impression?

    My guess is that the church leaders are far more concerned with increasing convert retention in places like Latin America than in the problem you talk about.

  31. Lynne, is it OK if I cross-stitch that and hang it on my wall :)?

  32. My experience with alienation: I am a young (25) married student and for the past four years I have been a primary worker. I think many wards with student populations stick the students in the “worker” positions because they know they won’t be around for long. (Which is true—I have attended three wards in the last four years). I feel a bit alienated from the gospel doctrine discussions and relief society discussions.

    But, I feel Mormonism has provided ways for me to supplement this void. A J. Reuben Clark Legal Society just started up this year at my school. That has been a great source for friends and networking. Also, the bloggernacle has allowed me to participate in gospel discussions (and these discussions are *far* more interesting than your typical gospel doctrine Sunday school lesson :-)

    So, personally, I feel the Church can offer young people plenty, but sometimes you have to search beyond the Sunday meeting schedule.

  33. My impression is BYU is much more assertive in identifying “middle ground” faculty members than they were thirty years ago (e.g., the yearly temple recommend requirement). Likewise, I think they try to identify and exclude “middle ground” students (e.g., the seminary factor on applications). The Church as a whole is trying (unsuccessfully, I think) to move in the other direction, to become more inclusive.

    BYU is a separate institution with some autonomy, but it is utterly dependent on the good will of the Big 15. As a result, I think it develops a concentrated, exaggerated form of LDS culture (e.g., prohibiting Coke on campus, the dress code) to make sure it can pass any LDS litmus test. Having a GA run the place ratcheted up the process, I think.

  34. naaa. And yes at the same time. It is whatever you want it to be (within certain limits- I have my doubts, for example, that it will ever be a haven for drugs, unless of course the drugs are anti-depressants…)

  35. Nate, that’s a perfectly fair objection, one that obviously uses a definition of “mormonism” different from my own. I admit that I was drawing the term narrowly for my purpose, to mean the actions of the Church and its official entities. That’s not entirely irrational, but I confess there are other definitions available, some perhaps preferable.

    This definitional question may be part of John’s difficulties — if we take a definition like mine, then “mormonism” does much less for younger people than under a more global use of the term.

    It’s not GSAIDF, just plain-old GSADF.

  36. OK- forget the small bit at the end there about the websites then. I didn’t know you had established these to fill the void in your religious experience- I just thought they were for fun.

    There are still many reasons why it is so exciting to be a young Latter-day Saint. But maybe I don’t qualify anymore- after all I will turn 30 on my next birthday.

  37. OOps- I pressed enter by accident.

    The church as I see it causes people a lot of guilt- most people I know don’t feel good about themselves because of the Church, they feel bad about themselves because of the Church.

    We need to take proactive measures to MAKE ourselves feel happy in whatever setting we are. “Jesus” never said that we are required to do this, but do we have to be required to do something that will make us less miserable? Besides, we are supposed to be “agents unto [our]selves”, whatever that means.

  38. Part of the reason there’s “no middle ground” may be due to our efforts in pushing families, as Kristine points out. After all, once we identify children as the most important thing we can do, it puts definite pressure younger members of the church to get going with them children a.s.a.p. Worse, it pressures people to get married and have kids before they are financially/emotionally prepared (although on this point ETB directly contradicts me, I believe).

    Ed, I don’t think we’re necessarily just talking about singles wards, though I will admit that it seems those wards are much more fulfilling than in times past. What place is there, for example, for a childless couple (like me and Sumer)?

  39. Probably a lot of it was my own initiative to be honest. But isn’t that what eventually has to drive all of us in EVERY institution?

    I personally believe that NO institution can really help people much- the help comes from what we personally are willing to do for ourselves.

    I cite as an example many of the law students at my school who expect the Career Services Office to find them a job, then suddenly act surprised and betrayed when they discover that THEY are the masters of their own careers, and that THEY should have been networking all along rather than sitting around.

    It is the same in the Church. Sure, it is nice when the Church itself tries to provide a better community, but I believe that it is up to us- each individual- to reap all of the benefits the Church has to offer and even create them if we think they don’t exist.

    Here is what I do. If I am lonely- I talk to someone. If I feel isolated- I talk to someone. I usually find that the people sitting next to me are just as lonely and/or isolated as I feel. Then I’m not isolated anymore! I also throw myself into whatever calling comes my way- it helps me not to feel isolated.

    The Church should not be a solution to our problems- the Church is not supposed to be an exciting place in and of itself. I thought that was obvious, which is why I haven’t mentioned it. There is much potential in the church, but that is all it is- potential. It is up to us to harvest this potential and make it real.

    My experience is that the Church is whatever we personally make it to be. As is every institution that I belong to- Law School, work, family, etc. All of it is driven 100% by my own initiative.

    By pointing out the social and networking opportunities, I was explaining one way that I make Church exciting for myself. Other people may have other ways of doing this, or they may just sit around and complain about how boring life is. But I choose the former- especially when I feel bored or unfulfilled.

  40. So ed, this isn’t something you’ve personally observed?

    Frankly, the topic of “how could the church appeal to my friends more” is pretty interesting. It speaks volumes about the current makeup of the church, as well as contemporary attitudes about religion. You’ve got to admit that John is right — in terms of providing a social structure, our church is fairly unsuccessful with regards to younger people (not talking about “the youth”). If you don’t have kids, if you’re not “settled down,” our church doesn’t have much to do with you.

    Our religion does of course have much to offer all ages in terms of its basic function: saving souls. But the interpersonal and social network is definitely lacking, and I think that’s part of what John’s getting at.

  41. Steve really has a point. I echo the alienation feeling.

    There seems to be a long list of folks that are alienated for one reason or another. Mine is Divorce. Disfellowshipment seems to be another. Jen mentions being single…which is part of what the Divorce crowd has to deal with too.

  42. Steve,

    I have always held the bonds to other members in high regard. These bonds are indeed what is exciting about the Church!

  43. Thanks for the comments, all. It is interesting that the issue of people leaving the Church is largely anecdotal – it’s tough to exactly measure who is leaving and why. But I truly believe many are.

    I think Jen has hit on much of the same feeling that I have. I don’t think young people expect a “hipper” sacrament meeting or PowerPoint Sunday school lessons. But I think a lot are asking (albeit unknowingly) what the Church offers them in the here and now. For a 20-something year old, death and eternity seem a long way off. I teach Gospel Doctrine in my ward. There’s one woman in the class that I just cannot relate to in any way, shape, or form. She seems nice enough and is certainly a sincere believer. But every one of her comments focus on how hard life is, how miserable it can be, how we Latter-day Saints are still persecuted by the world, and so on. She seems to find tremendous comfort in the ability to “endure to the end” and the promises that lie beyond in LDS theology and doctrine. I want to welcome all perspectives and comments, but I confess she kinda drives me nuts! I want to look at her and ask her if the Church does anything for her right now. For me, there has to be more going on than just being told I’ll get to go to heaven if I do what I’m supposed to. I get so much more out of Mormonism, and so I’m just wondering why (it seems) many young people don’t.

    This also begs the question, how much of church activity is simply about personality types, and not about the righteous vs. everyone else. It’s the people in Church that get to frame the discourse and define what “active” and “righteous” means. What I’m trying to say is, are the people who stay in Mormonism just a certain personality type – they feel comforted by hearing much of the same thing each and every Sunday, they feel lifted up by their beliefs, they are inspired reading the Ensign each month, when they’re in the temple they truly believe they are in the house of God, etc. Are those who leave another personality type – they can’t believe there’s yet another lesson on the Word of Wisdom, they don’t understand how anyone can get much of anything out of the Ensign, and when they sit in the temple, it looks like just another well-furnished building? Or is it really an issue of those who stay active are doing what God wants, and those who fall away are not?

  44. Thanks once again for the backup, L-dude.

  45. The church is here to make us “feel good” about ourselves? What church do you go to?

  46. To quote from the original post, John asks, “If a young person isn’t convinced that Mormonism is God’s kingdom on earth, if they might be questioning or doubting, do they have any reason to stay?”

    Of course not! The only thing Mormonism offers that can’t be found in any other church is the claim of being Christ’s True Church, the One and Only Church with Which God is Well Pleased.

    The only way to make it worth staying to become convinced.

  47. Welcome, John. Big week for guest bloggers in the Mo-Blog.

    It occurs to me that twenty years ago, young “believing doubters” would become Sunstone subscribers and struggle with their doubts, trying to resolve things in their own mind and in light of their own experience. Now they just strap mountain bikes on top their Jetta and head for Southern Utah for the weekend. So you probably have more than a passing interest in the whole issue.

    Good question. One simple thing the Church can do is form singles wards. Presently, it is local leaders who decide whether and how to do this, and they flip-flop every few years in most stakes. Plus they kick people out who turn 30 and aren’t married–wow, isn’t that a powerful message. Social death occurs at 30.

    I think the Church has made a concerted effort to eliminate the middle ground. The steady shift in BYU’s institutional culture is more visible than the parallel shift in general LDS culture. They’d argue it’s still a big tent, but IMHO they keep moving it farther and farther to the right side of the field.

  48. Well, Steve, I must admit that I was being a tad sarcastic.

    I was cynically trying to explain away my apparent lack of knowledge for what young LDS people need.

  49. What Mormonism Offers to All People: 1)The Church offers the most satisfying explanation for our existence.
    2)Real spiritual experiences happen to those of us who are open to them.

    For these two things, I’ll put up with pious pukes and ridiculous rules. The agony of being a Mormon and putting up with Mormons is part of the test.

  50. yeah…steve’s got a point; except that it seems like all the bloggernacle sites want to talk about church or mormon stuff, so…we are all fixated for one reason or another…

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