Sometimes the church releases results of internal studies which are conducted to determine what is effective and what is not effective in the effort to help our young men and women live up to church standards and make the transition into adulthood as active members. Invariably the studies reach the conclusion that parents and home life are the major determining factor. Ironically, in our efforts to emphasize the importance of home and family, we simultaneously reduce the importance of the various church youth programs.
In December, 1984, the Ensign published the results of a study entitled Key to Strong Young Men: Gospel Commitment in the Home. We know very little about the research methodology so it is hard to evaluate the validity of the conclusions, but the study found that:
. . . there were two factors which had the largest influence on whether young men desired to be morally clean, serve a mission, and marry in the temple. These were religious activity in the home (family prayer, family home evening, family scripture study), and agreement with parents on values and on goals for the future. In fact, these two things were found to have a greater influence than all other factors combined.
There is also another paragraph that should be a great comfort to tenderfoot scouts and working mothers:
Some factors have little effect on whether a young man marries in the temple or goes on a mission: the distance he lives away from the meetinghouse, the number of young people in his school who are LDS, whether his parents were converts, his father’s occupation, or whether his mother is employed. Characteristics of the ward’s activity program—whether the ward sponsors athletic teams and events, schedules “special” activities for youth, or implements Scout programs—while contributing to the general spirit of the ward, seem to have little effect in and of themselves.
How are we to understand these results, given the church’s emphasis on scouting and the importance of mothers in the home?
Another study, more recent and more rigorous, was conducted by professors at BYU. You can find the link here. This study compared the success of LDS young men and young women in living various gospel standards, such as the word of wisdom, honesty, and the law of chastity. The surveys were administered to seminary students in three different geographic areas: the West coast (Seattle and Portland), Utah valley(Provo/Orem area), and the East coast(Delaware, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.). The respondents were all enrolled in seminary, some in released time, some in early morning, and some in home study.
The results speak for themselves. LDS youth are a pretty generic bunch, and they live the gospel as well in big, wicked cities on either coast as well as they do in the Provo first ward. The fascinating question, in my opinion, is this: Why do we continue to invest such large amounts of time and money in released time and early morning seminary when the data show that home study works just as well?