With the Saints: 2B or not 2B

Once upon a time, when people joined the church, they had to sell their homes, leave the farm, or close up shop, and move across the country, or half way across the world, to be with the saints. At the time it was the only real way to participate in this great church. No sacrifice seemed to large to make. Sacrificing all your possesions and possibly your life was worth the risk for the possibility of being with the saints.

It seems that the saints have always been meant to gather. Now we gather to our own stakes and wards and quorums. We seem to be meant to live the gospel together, as a community of saints.

Behold, it is my will, that all they who call upon my name, and worship me according to my everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places. D&C 101:22

I grew up in a place where everyone was a member of the church. Pretty near literally. I was only aware of one individual in the entire high school I went to who was not a member. I had a few great friends who always tried to live the standards of the church. During these years I had little to no negative peer pressure. This is not to say we didn’t have fun – we did. You really don’t need to break commandments in order to have fun. I recently went to a 20 year high school reunion, and I was pleased to see that all of my close friends were there. We all went on honorable missions, we all got married in the temple, we all graduated from college, we are all active in the church, we are all good husbands and fathers. Not bad.

I now live in Michigan, where mormons are scarse. My oldest son is 13. He is facing a future where he may be one of two or three members of the church in his high school. His experience may be much different from mine. I know that there are good kids who are not mormons, and man-o-man am I grateful for them. But the chances of him getting some significant negative peer pressure seem greater to me in our current location than if he grew up in a place like my home town. And a youth feeling like they are alone in keeping certain standards appears tough to do.

There are a few other families in my current ward who are in the same boat I am. And we do not agree on this issue. They seem to feel that it would be easier for a teenager to live the standards of the church if they were one of a very few members in the town. They may say that peer pressure is easier to take if it comes from outside the church than inside. How do you stand up to a kid who wants you to drink some alcohol, if the kid is the son of a bishop for example? That’s son of a bishop.

For me, I would choose to be with the saints. If I could find a decent mechanical engineering job in the mountain west I would take it. On the other hand, I’m not sure I would want to work for a company that would have me as an employee. 🙂

So what do you think? Are kids more likely to grow up living church standards with lots of LDS youth around, or few LDS youth? Will your family be stronger one place or another? With the saints — to be or not to be?


15 Responses to “With the Saints: 2B or not 2B”

  1. 1 Ryan March 9, 2006 at 9:04 am

    I don’t speak from experience so maybe someone can substantiate, but I have heard that some pretty messed up stuff goes on in the most mormoniest of mormon-villes.

    As Brother Brigham used to say, “There are a lot more more mormons than there are saints”

  2. 2 Ariel March 9, 2006 at 10:09 am

    I once heard an adult convert say: “I can’t stand it when people say ‘I’m the only member at my high school. It’s so hard to keep my values when I’m the only one.’ There are kids from other churches, or even no church at all, who share your values. There are kids who share most of your beliefs. I was one of them, and so were my friends. It might be difficult to be the only LDS person, but don’t insult others by saying that you have higher values.”

    I think it’s better for kids to live in a place where there is a small population of mormons, actually. It helps them see the good in other traditions, and helps them realized exactly where we differ from those traditions.

  3. 3 Anonymous March 9, 2006 at 11:01 am

    I grew up in an area where there were not so many mormons in my high school. I always thiught it was hard because there were only so few of us attending there, but then I moved to Utah, where there are Mormons everywhere. In my opinion and through my experience, it is so much easier to keep to your standards where there are a few poeple with the same standards as you. It almost seemed like when you’re the minority, it actually means something to be a Mormon.

  4. 4 Anonymous March 9, 2006 at 11:02 am

    Sorry, didn’t finish.

    Anyways, you’d think that it would be so much easier to live in Utah, where you’re surrounded by people with the same standards as you….the only problem is they don’t keep them.

  5. 5 Eric March 9, 2006 at 11:29 am

    Thank you for your comments. After reading them I remembered an Ensign article that I had read a few years ago that I wish I would have linked to in my original post. it can be found here.

    This article gives behavioral statistics of LDS youth versus non-LDS youth.

  6. 6 Eric March 9, 2006 at 11:37 am

    After a quick review of the statistics it seems to matter more that you are LDS than where you live.

    Are there reasons to believe the statistics are bogus? Seems like a large difference. But I am surprised by the second chart which appears to show what I said above, it matters more that you have LDS standards that whether or not those around you have them.

    I certainly did not make this post to say that there are no good people outside the church, such a stance would be ridiculous. I’m mainly talking about increasing the chances of our kids living the standards.

  7. 7 The Narrator March 9, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    I’d say that a good chunk of who well youth deal with this issue lands squarely on the shoulders of the parents. Proper patience, love and understanding from the parents can tip the scales toward better behavior in either situation. my 2¢

  8. 8 Eric March 9, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    Hey narrator. Thanks for the $0.02. How’s it going out there?

    You’re certainly right about parents being a key part. I think that shows in the statistics of the chart in the Ensign article I linked to. Kids being taught the standards of the church seems to lead to about the same results (statistically) regardless of where you live.

    Has anyone else checked out the stats on the article? Any surprises? Wow, what a pull that was (if I do say so myself:)).

  9. 9 JTF March 9, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    I feel like it is easier to be a strong Latter-day Saint where ever there are less Latter-day Saints around.

    Then again, the desire to be a strong Latter-day Saint is inherently personal and should theoretically be present no matter where you grow up, be it around Mormons or not, if you desire to seek truth and light.

  10. 10 Eric March 10, 2006 at 5:39 am

    Thanks for your thought JTF.

    So, am I the only one who had the impression that there is a ‘strength in numbers’ associated with being around the saints? Why bother with things like Home teaching, church, seminary, missionary work, friendshipping, etc. if we are not being a positive influence on each other?

    I admit I am a bit surprised that the statistics seem to show that if you have youth who know the standards of the church that it doesn’t seem to matter where they are. Perhaps our youth are more resilient than we give them credit for.

    But again, why gather with the saints at all if it doesn’t help? Why not totally isolate yourselves?

    Of, course these questions are somewhat rhetorical. I believe that there is good that can come from having a good fellowship with the saints. Perhaps it is better to have smaller groups of saints spread out all over, than to have a huge majority of saints in one spot.

  11. 11 Ryan March 10, 2006 at 7:51 am

    I still thinking you’re using the term saints and members interchangeably and although Brigham was likely intending to be funny when he made his comment, that doesn’t make it inaccurate.

    So you are right in one sense. Gathering with “the saints” is great. Gathering with “members of the church”…ehhh…not necessarily so special.

  12. 12 Eric March 10, 2006 at 10:22 am

    Yes Ryan. There will be a range of behaviors in any large group.

    Part of this comes down to choices. If you live in an area with lots of members you can choose to be friends with youth saints, youth members, or non-members.

    For my sons now, if you want to be friends with youth saints, to bad. There are none. If you want to be friends with youth members, to bad, there are non. If he wants friends he must choose from among the non-members.

  13. 13 Anonymous March 14, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    I grew up in a pretty Mormon populated area… maybe 60-70% and I have always believed that it helped me to grow up in that area. I believed this even though my best friend in High School was not Mormon. However, I have since moved away from the areas that are seriously populated with Mormons and it has actually helped me grow closer to the church and improve my desire to be a better person. Now I do not honestly know whether I think I would have been better off growing up away from a strong Mormon population or close to one. At this point I think that the most important factor is parental guidance.

  14. 14 RoAnn March 17, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    I grew up where there were very few LDS, and even though I went through a brief “atheist” phase as a teenager, I kept the Church standards probably because they made sense as my parents taught them and lived them. I was definitely influenced intellectually by my non-believing peers (although they never pressured me to smoke, drink, etc.), but I soon gained a testimony and remained a believer thereafter. My younger brother and sister stayed faithful, but many of their peers in our ward strayed, and eventually left the Church entirely. In some cases the influence of loosely committed parents may well have been a determining factor, but in others it seemed that non-member peer pressure took its toll.

    In raising our family, we lived in and out of Utah, and our children reacted in various ways to being “on their own” or “part of the majority.” Some grew stronger through having different beliefs and standards than their peers; some struggled in that scenario. Some thrived on being with mostly LDS teenagers, and some definitely didn’t. As has been mentioned, there are all kinds of “Mormons,” and you often can’t be sure whether the particular group your children are associating with is one that will support, or subvert, your family/Church teachings and standards.

    It you are living where you feel you should, or where you have to, I guess you just do your best as parents, and spending a lot of time praying!

  15. 15 Eric March 19, 2006 at 5:05 am

    anonymous and roann:

    Thank you very much for your comments on this. Posting this and reading all the comments have helped to shape my opinion on this. It seems clear that teaching your children the standards, and living them yourself, is the most important factor in all of this.

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