Teenagers

I have a problem. A big one actually. It looks like this:
"Who gets inoculated? Teenagers? Right. Just select a teenager you think is a good candidate for a dose of historical inoculation and try to get them to read Story of the Latter-day Saints or Rough Stone Rolling. Go ahead, give the teenager in your family a copy of American Moses or By the Hand of Mormon for Christmas and see if they actually read it. History just doesn't click for teenagers. They are too busy being teenagers: high school, homework, youth programs, incessant socializing, college and mission plans. No wonder they don't read books. . .
When? Seminary is too early: they're not really listening."
Innoculation is a term that was discussed at the Sunstone Symposium, where all the big-name bloggers on the Bloggernacle talk about the Church and blogging. Sounds innocent enough, right? Until you see assumptions like the one provided floating around. And, of course, I have to set the record straight, because that's what bloggers do.

I love the way the Church treats teenagers on paper. Youth Conferences, Seminary, EFY, Young Women's and Young Men's, and even seminary. These programs are all designed to give teenagers a fighting chance to be the righteous people that our Heavenly Father wants us so desperately to be so we all go Home one day. And as I remember the churches that I've been to in the past, and the utter lack of youth-oriented anything, it almost hurts me to say this:

Too many youth leaders and every-day Saints do not realize how much they don't pay attention to who we really are and what we really need.

Who says teenagers don't like history? Who says we don't read, or think about our place in the Church? Who says we all have to be self-absorbed know-nothings that view the Church as the most boring and perfunctory thing on the planet?

That's not who we are!

I'm sure those teenagers exist somewhere, but they're by no means the majority! (And I for one don't blame them for feeling as snubbed as they do.) But I'm fortunate in that I go to branch where the youth are few in numbers (less than 20 even when we combine), but we all genuinely care about the gospel.

I've been to youth conference and EFY. All of the teenagers I met there were all sincerely interested in the work of this Church, and becoming better Saints. And you know what I wonder? How many of these youth have comments, like the one above, tossed around about them? How many teenagers let false assumptions about the Youth of Zion roll off our backs because we know what Jesus would do?

As a teenage convert, I have never struggled with whether or not the Church is true. What I have struggled with is my ability to live up to the high standards I've set for myself within the Church. Other youth that I have met have asked me what being the only one in my house is like for me. I've never know exactly what to say. I've been working on it, and this is what I've come up with:




A very delicate and precarious balancing act; a tight-rope walker with just as much to lose from falling as an acrobat does; my life. It's exhilarating at times, knowing that my strength and talent, my grip on the Iron Rod, and the poise from my Heavenly Father is what keeps me stable. It's exhilarating to know that each day I become stronger because of the way I live.

But at the same time, it doesn't take a lot to make the rope sway, and it's both frightening and lonely in such a high place. Being the enigma on the high wire is exciting, but there are days when enigma crosses that fragile line into the territory of the freak show. Some days, as stated in Footloose, I'm so high up I have to look down to see Heaven.

But there are also days when I consider throwing myself from the wire for want of a little peace and anonymity. And I must say, knowing what the adults of the Church really think about us teenagers doesn't help the fragile operation.
I know I'm not the first teenager to live this life, and I know I won't be the last. And I'm not complaining as much as I am revealing the truth about my situation in response to false misconceptions about the youth. And you know what? I'm GLAD I was given the circumstances I was dealt. Being born into the Church doesn't look like it's any easier than what I deal with. At the end of the day, those born into the Church usually have their families to turn to, or at least the assurance that time will not sweep them away because they've had years of practice of, at the very least, laying low.

But I couldn't imagine going through the same lessons year after year since BEFORE the age of 8. I imagine it would get very old very quickly. My heart goes out to any member that struggles to find any kind of identity among all that repetition. I can only pray that they know how much their Father in Heaven loves them, and that the leaders are doing the best they can with what they know. And I'm all for meeting halfway for now. What I don't like is the prospect of staying at halfway point.

Having said all of that, it really sets me off when adults in the Church make light of the dedication that the Youth of Zion have for their Church. We tolerate a lot out of the goodness of our hearts, you know.

We tolerate the fact that the lessons are boring to some, and yet completely new and foreign to others.

We tolerate that every single one of those lessons even begins and ends with same apology! ("I know you already know all this, but. . .")

We tolerate the fact that seminary starts at 6 in the morning in some parts of the country. (*cough cough* Here!)

We tolerate the fact that the adults in the Church assume that we care so much about our social lives that we couldn't possibly be concerned enough about Church history to own Rough Stone Rolling.

You're talking to someone who bought Rough Stone Rolling at EFY because it looked interesting, and because I have such a personal connection to the plight of the Prophet Joseph Smith. You're talking to someone that does home seminary with a manual and its redundant questions because 1.) I'm not allowed to go to the seminary at 6 in the morning, and 2.) Deseret Book's shipping of anything better is a catastrophic disappointment to anyone who doesn't live on the west coast.

You're talking to someone who was cornered in a discussion about Church history at my public high school, in the middle of a test by a teacher who knew better. You're talking to someone that bothered to go out of her way to LEARN the Church's history because nobody was teaching it, and I was tired of being one-upped by anti-Mormons all the time; especially because I KNOW this Church is true! You're talking to someone who has basically sacrificed any kind of relationship with my family because of my loyalty to the Church; the hardest sacrifice of all.

There's nothing I wouldn't do for my God, and by extension, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Is it fair, then, that teenagers are so looked down upon. My life is just ONE example of the numberless LDS teens out there that care just as much as I do. I know all of this ME-talk has to be unattractive, but quite frankly, so is everything I'm calling attention to!

And we can either sit here and point fingers at each other, wishing that things were different; or we can change them! If the lessons have been in circulation too long, and they're missing both sides of the coin (that is, converts and otherwise,) then re-write them! Certainly there's a better option for seminary than 6 AM! And if this Church is true (which it is) then why are we so insistent upon tucking all of our rich and powerful history away in shoebox somewhere?! Let's give those anti-Mormons something to talk about!

Make no mistake; I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love the leaders who work so hard to make it the best it can be. I even love the person who made the comments that I'm objecting to so strongly. Only by acknowledging what we need to change will help us change at all. And things may not be ideal in the Church, but we really shouldn't forget how good we have it. If my biggest problem is that I can't get replacement scriptures in under 6 months, then I'm doing all right. But, if nothing else, I implore any and all of my readers with any respect for anything I've said to rethink what they say about and to teenagers; I promise you, there is more going on behind our sadistic little smiles than we lead people to believe, especially the longing to be faithful members of a Church we help to build.

And all I'm saying is that if you're asking "shall the Youth of Zion falter?" then I assure you, then answer is "HECK NO!"

Comments

  1. As a father of six, including four teenagers, I applaud this post. It bugs me just as much when I hear comments like the one you quote.

    FWIW, I have a DEEP and abiding testimony of the Restoration of BOTH the Gospel AND the Church. Having said that, from years in the Church as a child, youth, parent and local administrator I think the one area that is the weakest in the Church is how we too often accept the world's view of teenagers as "just" big kids.

    Our sons hold the Priesthood of God, and our daughters will experience that in a very powerful way in the temple soon, so we need to see and threat them as the young adults they are.

    BTW, I was only half joking on the other blog when I said I'd like to introduce you to my son. :-)

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  2. Joke taken in stride;)

    What I'm excited about is that one of my close friends is the new laurel president. Any ideas that I have for changes, I know I can take to her. And I know that I can keep the contention out of my voice for all of 5 minutes, I might even win over some of the YW leaders too. LOL.

    But really, they're wodnerful people. I just wish they knew how they came across to people sometimes. And I guess the only way they're ever going to know is if I tell them.

    And thanks to you and other adults who remember what it was like being a teenager. Y'all are the bridges between two generations on either side of a river, whose current means of communication is throwing rocks at each other. I pray we realize what we're doing, and seek healthy changes of heart:)

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  3. Just remember that 99.99% of the adults' hearts are in the right place and that they are serving without compensation. That always helps me endure my frustration when I run into this type of issue.

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