For the past few days, I have been reading surveys about youths who reside in an affluent suburb of DC. Although residents of this county are overwhelmingly happy with the schools and think that the county is an excellent place to raise children, they constantly cite two problems: youth have no relationships with adults and they have no place to constructively gather together.
I was struck as I read these surveys that despite the many problems I had as a young adult, lack of relationships with adults and lack of a place to gather were never issues. Although I had few friends growing up, the Young Women’s program provided me with numerous opportunities to forge friendships with adults who were friends as well as mentors. Similarly, weekly Young Women’s activities assured me that I always had a place to go.
Occasionally, I take for granted that everyone has a community in which they can forge friendships with people of all ages and gather as a community. I take for granted that we have people who we can call upon and that a church will provide a place where single adults can meet and often find a spouse to marry. But in fact, many people grow up without adult friends, live without people to call upon, and struggle to meet people to date. When people outside of our faith learn about these programs and our community, they are almost always impressed and even envious. If they join our church, in my experience the motivating factor is always the strength of our community, not primarily the doctrine (central though it is to making an eternal community).
So even though I occasionally whine that we are not doing enough to reach out to those who don’t share our faith or culture, I am even more impressed by the effective ways in which the LDS church forges lasting and interconnected communities. Truly, it is what Mormons do best, the heart of our gospel, and, in my opinion, the most value thing that our church has to offer.