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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : How were your teenage years in the church? » How were your teenage years in the church?

How were your teenage years in the church?

Susan M - July 24, 2007

I didn’t join the church until I was 18, so I never got to attend YW. My kids are teenagers now and unfortunately, they’re a lot like their parents—total misfits. My daughter’s always made an effort to go to her meetings and be involved. But she has very few friends at church, most of the kids don’t seem to be very friendly to her. My sons tend to avoid a lot of the activities because it’s just not stuff they’re interested in.

I used to try to force them to go but now I just kind of shrug and say whatever. Part of the problem is that most of the kids in our area have all grown up together, they live really close to each other, they see each other outside of church all the time. My kids are the outsiders. We don’t live near the other kids. They haven’t all been in classes together since nursery. Etc. And I think another part of the problem is just that kids are cliquey and snobby, it’s part of being a teenager. Which is really sad, because life after high school is nothing like that. I try to tell my kids all the time that high school is not like real life. Kind of hard to convince them, though, when it’s the only life they know!

So my kids all have non-LDS friends and I’m ok with that. I’m just wondering what others’ experiences have been like, being teenagers in the church.

(And sorry if this brings up a lot of bad memories!)

46 Comments »

  1. This has been a problem with both of my boys. Another thing that has made it worse has been two ward boundary changes in the past 5 years, which meant that even when they started to adjust, they ended up having to start all over. My youngest son has the additional problem that the kids his age are pretty badly behaved, and so not only does he sit there with no friends, but the class is a waste of time. I’ve talked to to the boys’ leaders, and said that while I understand they can’t manufacter friendships, they could insist on decent behavior. My old bishop got very defensive about it, and said that I couldn’t expect them all to be perfect, but my new bishop knew about the problems and is trying to work on them. Unfortunately, I can’t see my son going back to church in this ward. We used to force him to go, but finally decided that it wasn’t doing any good, and was hurting our relationship with him.

    Comment by Paula — July 24, 2007 @ 11:53 am

  2. As a teenager, I was a bit of the odd one out. I was the “good kid” and found myself getting along much better with the teachers then with my classmates. Oh, I was on friendly terms with the other kids, but I was outside of all of the clicks, even through I’d known many of the other kids since birth. Most of my friends were non-Mormons, and I was okay with that. I had a strong Mormon family, and a lot of good LDS adults to look up to. In fact, most of my family was like that in our teen years. We all turned out just fine

    Comment by Misty — July 24, 2007 @ 1:23 pm

  3. I don’t have any teenagers of my own, but I’ve been teaching the 12 and 13 year olds in Sunday school for a couple of years now. Our ward has been having a bit of a problem getting teens to go to their classes. They wanted to be with their friends, or they didn’t like a specific teacher or class dynamic. At first, the Sunday School Presidency tried to enforce that the kids go to their correct classes. It didn’t work. They’d skip class all together. Over the past couple years though, the SSP loosened up their rules and let the kids go to the other classes as long as the teachers and parents were okay with that. The kids don’t skip as much anymore. With teenagers, I think that a lighter hand, in general, might work better.

    Comment by Misty — July 24, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  4. Thankfully, I was never a teen in the church either. Hearing them described, even imagining being at girl’s camp, and mutual nights makes me sick. I’d absolutely not have gone. no offense to the church- I’ve got a pretty severe reaction against girl scout camp and all sorts of silly social “bonding” events and useless classes I encountered throughout my life.

    hopefully my kids will like that stuff, or abstain without any social or ecclesiastical backlash. I kinda worry about boys who don’t like scouts, and how it’s so entwined with the YM program. but my guy is 4, I know nothing about how that actually is.

    Comment by cchrissyy — July 24, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

  5. I liked church when I was a teenager. I loved Girls Camp, though the leaders spent several weeks begging me to go the first year. I didn’t want to because I’d had a horrible experience the previous summer at a school camp, and I figured Girls Camp would be the same. I finally caved to the leaders’ begging (I was the only girl in the ward not going, and they really, REALLY wanted everyone to go), and had a great time, to my absolute surprise. Didn’t miss it the rest of the years in YW. I was very non-social, shy, and, frankly, an outcast who was bullied mercilessly at school, but the girls in my ward were very kind and welcoming to me, and I adored most of my YW leaders. Sunday School was usually sort of blah, and I sometimes ditched the class I was supposed to be in to go to another one, but I didn’t loath it.

    My ward split three times when I was a teenager, and the split when I was 14 was devastating because it ended up taking out almost all of the friends I’d made the past two years. It took almost a year before I had friends in the ward again, but it was Girls Camp where that connection finally occurred. Ward splits are hardest on teenagers.

    Comment by Tanya Spackman — July 24, 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  6. I guess I’m the odd one because my teen years in the Church were pretty good.

    That’s not to say I didn’t have my share of crappy moments. When we moved from one ward to another in our stake when I was 14, two of the girls in my new ward made fun of me, excluded me, and were just plain mean. I tried not to let it bother me, and after a week at girls’ camp, both girls came up to me, apologized, and we’ve been friends ever since. Not sure what I did, but my sparkling personality must have shone through…haha!

    I loved YW’s and went every week. Sometimes I didn’t want to, but my mom was the YW Pres. and she got me to help her pick up some inactive girls on our way to the church; I was kind of set up to be the “example”. But I don’t resent it at all. If anything, my mom truly taught me about love and friendship, no matter what the situation.

    I also LOVED girl’s camp. I’m waiting for the day they put me in as a leader so I can go again.

    I guess I just don’t have much advice for you. I don’t want it to sound like I was all perfectly happy as a teenager, but honestly, when it came to Church activities, I was usually the one planning, and if not, the first one there. It’s just how I was (and am, I guess…).

    Comment by Cheryl — July 24, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

  7. Oh! I did have one other anecdote: When I was in the 14/15 year old SS class, we had 5 teachers that year. Yep, we scared them all away. I’m not proud of it, but we actually had a teacher that wanted us to do homework (more than reading our scriptures) each week. Blah. Anyway, they finally put in this newlywed couple that would have SS parties at their place and it was awesome. We were much better behaved after that. :)

    Comment by Cheryl — July 24, 2007 @ 4:05 pm

  8. Cheryl, you reminded me of my own experience scaring away teachers. When I was in the 12/13-year-old class, we went through three or four teachers in just a few months. We were really obnoxious, absolutely refusing to listen and being, well, snotty 12-year-olds. There were about 15 of us in the class, so we fed off each other and were just horrible. Finally, when the latest teacher asked to be released, the bishop came and gave us a lecture. I wish I remembered what he said, but whatever it was, it worked. We felt appropriately guilty (well, I felt guilty; admittedly I don’t know what the others felt) and were much better behaved for the next teacher, who lasted the rest of the year.

    Comment by Tanya Spackman — July 24, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

  9. The first half of my teenage years were spent in the Book of Mormon belt and were horrible. Friendships were formed at school and the walls of exclusion didn’t come down at church. Add to that that I didn’t want to conform with the community mores, so I became rebellious against anything religious. For the later half of my adolescence, I moved to a Golden Land were being religious was nonconformist in this new secular atmosphere. With some good guidance from caring church leaders, I leaned that direction. I found that friendships were formed at church and carried over to the school ground.

    Comment by jose — July 24, 2007 @ 4:32 pm

  10. When I was a teenager, we used to chase off SS teachers. UNTIL, one older brother came in and told us to quit treating his wife so badly. We repented.

    We always readily accepted new teens and went out of our way to make them feel welcome. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case when we moved into this ward. One of our daughters was ostracized by the other kids. My wife asked another sister if her daughter could friendly toward our daughter. She said that she didn’t force her kids to be friends with anyone. Then when my daughter was a senior in High School and a cheerleader, etc. This same sister approached my wife and explained that her daughter wanted to be popular and would our daughter please include her in her circle. We used it as a learning experience for this sister and her daughter by using her own words to answer her question. Not very Christian, but we got tired of these people bending the rules to suit their needs. There is a big difference between wanting to have a friend and wanting to be popular.

    The YM organization in this ward was like the Lord of the Flies. My son didn’t want anything to do with the other youth. My son was violently hit in Priesthood opening exercises one day. I came off the stand and took the kid to his mother. I told her what he had done and he told her that I was lying and that he didn’t do it. She said that she believed him. I told her that if it happened again I would press charges. Little sociopath.

    The ward is much better now, but it’s taken years to straighten things out.

    If I move again, I am definately going to ward shop.

    Comment by Floyd the Wonderdog — July 24, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

  11. I joined the church when I was almost 13 years old, and I was in a ward full of lifetime members. When I went to YW, the girls were nice, but most of them were only there because their parents made them go. They didn’t really want to be there, and so they mocked me for being converted to the gospel.
    It all changed when I started high school. Because the school boundaries and the stake boundaries were not the same, I was going to school with people in the other stake. I chose to go to seminary in the other stake as well, because it was closer to my school. The students there were kinder to me, and I began to get some friends in the church. The kids in my ward were still mean to me, but I didn’t let it bother me because I knew that the church is true, and I wasn’t going to let anyone deprive me of the gospel.
    By the time I was 17, I was fed up with the YW program, so I started going to Relief Society, where I was welcomed with open arms.

    Comment by Keri — July 24, 2007 @ 4:49 pm

  12. I lived in the same ward pretty much all of my life, until I moved out of course. At one point that ward went from having 22 YW to having 6; we’d had some restructuring that the older people in the ward still complain about. I remember years where I felt like the odd-man out and the low one on the totem pole; I also remember years where I was the oldest girl and the de facto leader. The friends I made that changed my life I made at Girls’ Camp — just about the only Stake Activity we had — and in my high school, where I was the only LDS kid. I would have liked to have had more friends who were LDS and also to have had more chances to hang out with the LDS friends that I did have; on the other hand, with the way things worked out, church was never about my friends. It worked for me.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — July 24, 2007 @ 5:22 pm

  13. I had a great experience with Church youth programs until I turned about 16 and all the best YW/YM leaders moved out of the ward. The leaders made all the difference – and I’m grateful for their positive influence on my life during those awkward and potentially dangerous teenage years. My experience was unique, however, since I was the only one my age in YW. I got lots of individual attention, and didn’t have to contend too much with cliquishness at Church.

    If I were a better person, I’d get involved with the Church youth programs. Teenagers need lots of love and encouragement, but not many people (including me) want to put up with their teenage angst and their petty rebellions against authority. God bless all the great YM/YW workers out there who do such an important (and thankless) job.

    Comment by ECS — July 24, 2007 @ 5:41 pm

  14. I felt picked on during high school by my peers at church.

    Now that I’ve gotten some distance from it, I’ve realized that the truth was that I was the one pushing them away, lashing out at imaginary offenses, and generally acting like a little turd.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 24, 2007 @ 5:53 pm

  15. lashing out at imaginary offenses, and generally acting like a little turd.

    Glad you’ve grown out of this, Seth :)

    Comment by ECS — July 24, 2007 @ 6:12 pm

  16. Three perspectives:

    1. My own youth. I had a great time in the church as a teenager, which in large measure is probably why I’m still active today. We sort of had a demographic anomaly and had more kids our age than our Branch, then Ward, normally would have provided. We were all good friends and weren’t cliquich. My absolute favorite was the annual youth conference.

    2. My kids. My daughter really didn’t mesh very well with church. She had one really good friend at Church, but mostly she just didn’t relate to the other girls, and she just had a more intellectual perspective on things (probably my genes ). Her sophomore year, Seminary was at this woman’s house with her twin daughters, and the woman would just read the scriptures every day. No discussion, no commentary, she just read out loud. She refused to go anymore, and pretty much went inactive at that point. My son had an easier relationship with church and was active until he went away to school, but then he basically dropped out. Virtually all of his friends were non-LDS; our youth program was so small they finally dissolved our ward over it. I honestly think lacking any critical mass of youth was a serious impediment to my children’s relationship with the church.

    3. Teaching the youth. I had always had a great relationship with the youth. I had often substitute taught, and I don’t teach the same old boring stuff, so the kids always loved it. So in my last ward I was called to teach the 14-18 year olds (a combined class, with five kids total). I was excited at first. But it turned out to be a disaster. Unlike the kids I had taught before, these particular kids had zero intellectual curiousity. It was brutal. I was actually relieved when they dissolved the ward, since that was my way out of that black hole of a calling.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — July 24, 2007 @ 7:10 pm

  17. My teen years in the church were pretty miserable. I think there are a few key reasons why.

    1. The ward I grew up in had relatively few teens my age. There was only one young man in the ward who was born the same year as I was, and no young women. The boy didn’t attend church regularly, but the ward was pretty rigid about making everyone born the same year attend the same class. Most Sundays I was alone with the Sunday School teacher.

    2. Mismatched church/school boundaries meant that the few members at my school were in a different ward. The majority of youth in the ward went to the same high school though, so they saw each other everyday, whereas they only saw me for a couple of hours two days.

    3. I don’t play basketball. Unfortunately for out ward, the scouting program was pretty severely crippled when the church decided to split up the Deacons, Teachers, and Priests into Scouts, Varsity, and Explorers. There weren’t enough young men to support one unit, yet we had three. As a result of having ineffective scouting programs, youth activity night became basketball practice night.

    I could go on.

    Comment by marcus — July 24, 2007 @ 8:12 pm

  18. As a convert of less than I year, I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed the experience. But I wouldn’t say that it was ever because of the social aspects that the activities ever offered, because I don’t attend most of them.

    I take my faith very seriously, and I keep to myself by choice. I’m the quiet prude that, I’m sure, perplexes everyone else my age because I take pleasure in the things they find perfunctory. I would honestly prefer to discuss scriptures and have lessons about the gospel in a candid, relaxed atmosphere than play basketball, or even go to a dance. And it’s not because I don’t like physical activity. I just prefer to be left alone to my thoughts. And if I have to be with other people, I would prefer to be discussing ideas. I love to think. And I’m just fine with that.

    I fear sometimes that I come across as shy, or even pretentious to the other youth in my branch. I think as time goes on, they understand me more and more, which really makes it easier to be myself. And that, I think, is the most anybody can ask for at the age of seventeen.

    Comment by Paradox — July 24, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

  19. Perhaps I have selective memory but I have very few negative memories of church in my youth. The youth program in my ward was ridiculous (in the good way). Our youth temple trips (to Seattle) had something like 75-100 kids going. I remember my priest quorum had 22 priests, 21 of which went on missions. I remember one year our ward had three (young mens) basketball teams (and always two softball teams). Regular mutual activities (sometimes basketball, but not always), regular stake and multi-stake dances, youth conference every year, temple trips, senior temple trip, firesides, high adventures, everything. I honestly can’t imagine a youth program being better organized and executed than that ward at that time. (and this was all in Spokane, Washington…not Utah!) A big part of that was Russell Arben Fox’s dad who was my bishop at the time. Simply incredible man.

    Contrast that to our current ward where we’re struggling to hold on to the 5-6 youth that come to church. Ugh.

    Comment by Rusty — July 24, 2007 @ 9:50 pm

  20. It was hell. Bullying, sexual harassment, physical threats–being ignored and excluded was a good day. Thank God I had nonmormon friends at school.

    Comment by Johnna Benson — July 24, 2007 @ 10:34 pm

  21. Oh, and if any tiny part of that happened to my daughter in the youth program now, I’d pull her out.

    Comment by Johnna Benson — July 24, 2007 @ 10:35 pm

  22. Some of my best friends were members I grew up with from primary and some of my best friends were gentiles I grew up with from grade school. The only time I felt like an outsider at church was during ward basketball season (I suck(ed)), but sheesh, who expects other teenagers to be more sensitive to others’ unspoken needs than their knuckle-headed parents?

    Comment by Peter LLC — July 25, 2007 @ 4:38 am

  23. I had very positive experiences in the ward I was growing up in – but it was also a very special ward, maybe even a very special stake. We were in NY rather than in Utah and I think being “diaspora Mormons” (if I can call it that) was helpful in some ways – but it also had something to do with the quality of people in the ward and stake. It can’t always be like that.

    I noticed when my family moved to NJ that activities (dances, etc.) at the stake level weren’t very well attended. The ward I was in was pretty good – but the stake activities atmosphere left something to be desired.

    Comment by danithew — July 25, 2007 @ 6:18 am

  24. I joined the church at twelve and due to my Dad’s work we moved around a lot. I always was in very small transient wards and ended up in the High Wycombe Ward in England. We were few in number but very bonded together. I cannot remember any of my teachers or any of the youth activities, I just remember always hanging out and doing stuff together. And now some 20 years later we are all pretty much active and in touch with each other on a regular basis. I think having small numbers, but not too small, really helped.

    As for teaching youth I love it, but then I worked a number of years as a recreational therapist for delinquent youth in lock-up, so I have a lot of experience getting along with the young people :-) I have been a youth SS teacher and the YMP in my day.

    Only bad experiences to most people looking in (though it still makes me laugh) was I was removed from seminary and had to attend in a different ward. You make one joke about the paternity of the teacher’s pregnancy and you are labeled for life. Also there was the time the entire young men’s abstained from sustaining the YMP during Ward Conference.

    Comment by TStevens — July 25, 2007 @ 7:23 am

  25. I had no problems with my teenage years in the Church. They pretty much mirrored my experience in high school. I had friends, but didn’t hang out with everyone. And I flirted with the girls.

    Comment by Kim Siever — July 25, 2007 @ 7:58 am

  26. I should also mention that out of the three wards I attended during those years, none of them spent youth nights just playing basketball. We learned good Scouting skills, and I loved camping.

    Comment by Kim Siever — July 25, 2007 @ 8:00 am

  27. All of my “best” friends during middle school and high school were non members, and I don’t remember my parents making a big deal about it. I know they were concerned when I decided to do home-study seminary so I could take an extra school class at 6:30am (instead of early morning seminary), but they didn’t stop me. They were worried that I’d miss out on some church friendships (they were right), but I actually enjoyed the “challenge” of self-directed seminary work. (I knew what seminary would be like—early every day Sunday School with the same kids goofing off.)

    The girls in my ward were cliquey and I didn’t fit into any of their groups and the ringleaders let me know, but I loved my leaders and didn’t ever put up too big of a fight about going. I think for me the key was having good friends, whether or not they were members.

    Comment by JennyW — July 25, 2007 @ 8:57 am

  28. Totally excellent. I loved Scouting and at our small-town high school I felt like a stand-out being one of only a handful of Mormons. It helped to have a JW girlfriend and a bunch of Baptist Temple jock and NFL (National Forensic League dweeb) friends. Compared to them, my Mormon life felt downright cosmopolitan.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — July 25, 2007 @ 9:13 am

  29. We had several real jerks in our ward. It made church and activities frequently annoying, and occasionally violent. The leaders seemed oblivious though I for one told them to their faces what was happening.

    One happy memory is when an older boy was constantly picking on my younger brother. Finally my brother asked him, “Do you want to just fight and have this over with?” This was exactly what the jerk wanted. Five seconds after agreeing to fight he was on the ground having been kicked in the nuts three times. My brother was a brown belt at the time and idiot was oblivious. My brother didn’t kick him hard enough though as this kid later raped a girl. But right up until that point I saw no sign of youth leaders doing anything to intervene. If anything the family was placed on a pedestal because the parents and grandparents were “such good scouters.”

    Comment by a random John — July 25, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  30. I hated growing up in the church as a teenager. I was the only one who attended who was my age–all the other boys were older, so of course as the youngest and smallest I got picked on whenever I went. Luckily, I went through Mutual before the three-hour block, and my parents both taught night school on Mutual night. I didn’t go if I didn’t want to, and more often than not, I didn’t want to.

    Looking back, it was my LDS friends at school who kept me active at that time. If I had had to rely on the ward I grew up in, I never would have gone.

    Comment by CS Eric — July 25, 2007 @ 11:55 am

  31. I’ve had many moments that still haunt my memories where I was a bit of a jerk. I think probably most have these. But I distinctly remember a corn boil ward activity where everyone starting throwing burrs at each other. A young semi-active girl got a bunch in her hair. She never came back to church. Being 9 years old doesn’t justify this. There should have been more adult supervision. The problem is that kids just can’t really understand the wider consequences of their actions. Further a kind of “mob mentality” can beset even small groups of kids.

    The problem is that in most wards just getting folks to take callings is quite the undertaking. Often those call feel quite overwhelmed at the best of times. All these issues are problems due to our being a Church run by the members. I think some also arise due to the way ward boundaries are created. (Less of an issue in places where the church is strong) Folks who might be a little more stable and competent sometimes tend to congregate in one ward where other wards are made up of groups where finding really good teachers is harder. Throw in the mission field where often you have members with little background in church or teaching and things get difficult.

    The issue of “cliques” is hard since, in my experience, folks (especially teenagers who are often very insecure) tend to identify cliques where there aren’t any. Add in shyness and far too many of us just don’t reach out to new members. It’s even harder for teenagers.

    We all recall the talks where someone was saved by some charismatic youth who brings someone else under their wing. The problem is that most teenagers aren’t like that. Most are shy, socially awkward, insecure and so forth. It sort of goes with the territory. And most think everyone else has it together when they don’t. As you get older you realize it wasn’t true. But the problem is in a ward setting where socialization makes so much difference this reality of life has terrible consequences. (As so many examples in the above comments illustrate)

    What’s the solution? I don’t know. Gifted youth leaders and teachers helps. But it’s perhaps a tad unrealistic to expect that even most of the time.

    Comment by Clark — July 25, 2007 @ 1:15 pm

  32. Eric, through most of primary I was the only active kid my age. The members of record were mostly girls. I remember spending more time in Merry Miss (or whatever they call it now) simply because my teacher was quasi-active and I was the only guy; plus all the young girls were inactive. Of course I did learn to crochet…

    Comment by Clark — July 25, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  33. I lived in the same ward most of my life. I loved going to church because I loved my teachers. I had more adult friends than teenage ones until around 10th grade.
    There were a couple of times I told myself I was never going back to church because such and such a kid was a rotten jerk. But I always did. I was definitely the odd one out though.
    I gave all the right answers in class. The other kids felt I was a goody goody.
    I was painfully shy. They thought I was a snob
    I preferred reading and daydreaming by myself to playing with peers. They thought I was weird.
    Oh well. Glad that stage of life is over.

    The way kids and teenagers naturally are is one reason I don’t want to raise my kids in Utah. I thought it was just Mormon’s who were jerks because I only grew up around them. Then I moved to Baltimore and realized jerks can be found everywhere. I don’t want my kids to have the same blurred vision in trying to separate average meanness, from the gospel.

    Comment by summershine — July 25, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

  34. I grew up in a tiny little “Mormon” town in Idaho, about 100 miles north of Salt Lake City. My family is almost totally inactive now but we attended church together when I was a small boy. Then, one by one, my family members dropped out of church activity including my mom, my brother and my sister and then after we moved to a different ward, my father and I stopped attending. That was when I was about 14 years old. After total inactivity for about a year, a couple of guys I knew at school who lived in my ward, invited me back to church and saved my life. I didn’t realize it at the time but their willingness to come and get me has made the difference in my happiness and I owe so much to them.

    On the other hand, it seemed kind of natural for me to try to push the envelope, and in some cases rip up the envelope, of acceptable behavior for a Mormon youth. And so it seemed I couldn’t do enough bad things on Saturday night that it would keep me from showing up for church on Sunday morning. A truly hypocritical postion on my part but the truth, nevertheless. Finally it was the influence of the girl who would eventually become my wife that finally set me straight.

    My own sons have grown up primarily on the east coast and have had friends in and outside the church. There were a variety of experiences for them, some good and some bad, but they have survived reasonably well.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 26, 2007 @ 5:21 am

  35. Girls camp: the only redeeming feature of YW (from my point of view).

    It’s kinda hard to ditch your assigned sunday school class when yours is the only class (small branches are like that).

    I think that teen years at church are especially painful for girls who are smart and shy. The leaders (who often are quite talented at the social aspect of life but have little intellectual firepower, as that is who can identify with *most* teens) are stumped by that kind of girl.

    For all my adult life, I’ve never had a calling in YW. Maybe when my daughter is older? (I hope…)

    Comment by Coffinberry — July 26, 2007 @ 7:51 am

  36. ps. Relief Society isn’t better, pretty much more of the same.

    Comment by Coffinberry — July 26, 2007 @ 7:52 am

  37. I don’t remember any of my five children being picked on at church. However, four out of five of them have found difficulties (to varying degrees) with relating to many of their church peers. We have observed a certain sameness in interests, dress, etc. amongst the general teen membeship. My kids don’t fit the mold. I have always been one to encourage individuality. As long as they are not innapropriate, I like them to look and be themselves. Sometimes, I wonder if I have made a mistake, as not conforming seems to occasionally put them at odds. My problem is that I simply can’t imagine doing it differently and still feeling good about it.

    All in all, I think it is more important to help them develop testimonies of the Gospel apart from what goes on at church. I try and teach them that is the priority. Of course, I guess that goes without saying, lol. I’d like to be able to de-emphasize worrying about church social politics. I like most people whether or not they are just like me. I want my kids to be open to diversity and give others a chance. Right now, my children are all at varying levels of testimony and commitment. The ones who struggle, do so mainly due to social reasons of not fitting into what they consider the “Mormon mold”. The one’s who are most strong churchwise , managed to find a way to cling to the gospel principles despite disatisfaction with certain social elements.

    I joined the church right out of high school and so I never had the opportunity to be involved with primary or mutual. I felt like I missed out. I think it is one of those situations where you want what you’ve never had, because even in the young adult program, I experienced a great deal of culture shock that was really hard to adjust to.

    Comment by AJ — July 26, 2007 @ 8:55 am

  38. That was one of the really postitive things about Mormonism, it definitely improved my relationship with my father and made us both respect one another more.

    Comment by Stan Fan aka Che Dali — July 26, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  39. Sorry Stan Fan, trolls are edited to say what I want them to say.

    Comment by Rusty — July 26, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

  40. I’m glad it wasn’t me who had to have a joke explained to me.

    It’s OK, some people should stay mormon. I seriously don’t want to push my TBM MIL any more than I have to to get her to back off of me and my kids. (DW is plenty capable of handling her Mother). I don’t want her losing her support system because I know without it her life would come tumbling down and she’d be a total wreck and I don’t want to be responsible for picking up the pieces.

    Comment by Stan Fan aka Che Dali — July 26, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

  41. I was a teenager in the church, but was the only Mormon in my High School, and almost the only Mormon teenager in our branch. I guess I don’t know how it would have been having LDS friends, but all my High School friends just thought I was a Buddhist or something and left me alone about religion.

    I loved girls camp, if only because I was reminded that I wasn’t the only teenager in the universe that believed what I did.

    Interesting thread to happen upon!

    Comment by Justine — July 28, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

  42. I grew up in New England, where the church is pretty small, and in my particular ward, we really didn’t have much of a YM or YW program. There were about 6 active YW in the ward at any given time, and I was pretty much the only one active in YM’s. All of us went to different high schools, so the church world was completely separate from the school world–thank goodness! I didn’t have much in common with my peers, since most of them were from the inner city or hung out with the inner city crowd, but I didn’t have any enemies. My parents were the seminary teachers. I guess I just didn’t experience the whole angsty teenage Mormon cliquishness thing, and I’m pretty happy that I didn’t.

    However, reading about others’ experiences makes me wonder if I should move out of Utah when I want to raise my future family. There are other reasons that make me think that I don’t want to raise a family in the church in Utah, but these especially make me wonder about it.

    Comment by onelowerlight — July 28, 2007 @ 5:42 pm

  43. I don’t know that Utah has anything to do with it. I was a teenager in Utah. I had wonderful experiences in the YW program. Camp was great, the leaders were attentive and loving, and the other girls were friendly. My two younger brothers also had wonderful experiences. My two younger sisters, who grew up in the same ward, had a different experience. Their leaders were harsh and uncaring, and the other girls were mean. One of my sisters, now in her early forties, still cries when she speaks of those experiences.

    I now live in the southeastern USA. My oldest son, who is now an adult, was verbally abused by his peers. When we complained to leaders we were told, “Boys will be boys” and “this would not be happening if your family was more popular”. Now my younger son is in YM in the same ward. He has a great set of LDS friends. He is treated well. Both boys are scouters, enjoy the Gospel, dress well, and are attractive. Of course it should not matter if they did not have those qualities. The rules about what is “cool” are determined by the personalities in that age group and what behaviors the adult leaders and parents will allow.

    I don’t think it is where you live, but the caliber of adults in leadership. Mean people begat mean children. Unless you have leadership that is willing to stand up to the bullies you will have individuals in and out of the church like my sister and son who will look back at their church youth experiences with sadness.

    Comment by JA Benson — July 28, 2007 @ 7:06 pm

  44. I had some great experiences and some not so great ones.

    I lived in two different wards during my teen years – moved when I was just past 15. Both wards had youth groups where the kids were pretty much all friends and all actively attending activities and meetings. That was good. We had a lot of good times together and did many stereotypical Mormon kid activities – sledding parties, movie parties, large group Prom dates, etc. (Neither ward was in Utah; one was in Pennsylvania and one in Alaska.) We also did fairly big fundraising activities to pay for temple trips, Girls’ Camp and Youth Conference. I look back and feel amazed at the amount of time and energy our leaders gave to the YW program with all that stuff.

    A problem was that many of the boys in one location were not actually living Church standards. We were still friends, but some of these boys seemed to occupy a different world, morally. It got weird to take the sacrament when you knew the priests had been partying/breaking the WofW. I think it did teach me, indirectly, not to rely to much on the worthiness of the priesthood bearer or leader, but to focus on the meaning and importance of the ordinance.

    The strangest experience was with a girl who announced to all the rest of us that one of the others in the group was lesbian. This was the ’80s, and not in Greenwich Village or San Francisco … none of us knew how to react. I know we distanced ourselves from that girl, and I think I will feel bad about that for the rest of my life. In retrospect I believe the announcement was a smokescreen; the girl who told us the “secret” is now openly lesbian.

    Comment by Ana — July 31, 2007 @ 3:54 pm

  45. Re: And I think another part of the problem is just that kids are cliquey and snobby, it’s part of being a teenager. Which is really sad, because life after high school is nothing like that. I try to tell my kids all the time that high school is not like real life. Kind of hard to convince them, though, when it’s the only life they know!

    This is so true, and I think it’s important to understand one’s LDS church youth experiences in this context. I have some fantastic memories from girls’ camp and other youth activities and some corresponding horrible memories from the same events, and so much of the difference between the good and the ugly was a question of on-the-job training for relationships and dealing with people. (Of course high school and youth groups have a small-town cliquey atmosphere that you mostly get to shed later, but the basic social skills remain the same.)

    I remember my LDS teen experiences quite vividly and have written some (fictional) stories based on them (Young Women’s and Youth Conference) which I think capture some fairly common experiences in trying to fit in.

    Comment by C. L. Hanson — August 3, 2007 @ 5:40 am

  46. Sorry if I am breaking some kind of Internet etiquette by posting a few weeks after the last person, but I was brought over here by BCC. I wanted to respond to #4, the one about Scouting.

    My boyfriend doesn’t like outdoorsy, camping/fishing things all that much, and thought scouting was rather torturous. I can confidently say that I see no connection between the gospel and scouting whatsoever, and might even discourage my future sons from attending: more time to spend learning an instrument, playing a sport, reading, spending time with the family, or whatever other worthwhile thing they happen to enjoy. Merit badges on rope knots do not classify as “useful” in my book. (Although, I will admit, some of the rock climbing or rafting expeditions look pretty fun: however, arbitrary requirements about getting your Eagle and driving, etc., seem ridiculous.)

    Personal Progress, esp. after it changed, is mostly a pain in the neck and did nothing to bring harmony into my home. The suggestions are good, on the whole, but it’s the checklist nature of it which made it hard to juggle as a busy teenager.

    I went to most the YW activities, but as a Laurel, esp., with school and dance and seminary, I didn’t bother going to the fluff ones, like movie night or let’s try on wedding dresses (no joke). My YW’s president, in response to my assertion that I couldn’t come the following week (probably had an AP exam that Thursday morning or some such), said something like, “You should get your priorties straight.” Are you kidding me? I thought. I was the only girl my age who was active (as in going to all my Sabbath meetings regularly), I rarely missed early-morning seminary and was on the Council my senior year, I read the scriptures daily, I was one of the few who didn’t experiment with drugs, etc., and here she was harping on me that I wasn’t going to watch Never Been Kissed? I’m not trying to make a laundry list of my perceived righteousness, just point out that I really did try to be a good Mormon kid, and that going to the dumb activities was more important to my president than actual Church activity. I would be the only person over 15 when we went on temple trips.

    I’m sad to see a similar thing happen to my younger brother now that he is in Young Men’s. He has already read the entire Bible at 13 (!), he is respectful and smart and talented and accomplished and you can tell he already has a testimony of the gospel, and yet his leaders get on his case if he chooses not to play basketball for the umpteenth time and watch TV with is family. Meanwhile, the guys his age do nothing but play video games and generally mess around.

    cchrissy, you said, “I kinda worry about boys who don’t like scouts, and how it’s so entwined with the YM program.” Well, my boyfriend is one of them, and your son could very well face that problem. I think that Young Men’s should be completely separate from it. Couldn’t they work on the Duty to God program? It seems more connected to the Gospel.

    Parents and Youth Leaders, don’t harass the good kids in your family/ward if they choose to play in a soccer game, study for a test, or taking a dance class instead of tying a quilt or learning first aid (again). Their testimonies won’t be shattered, I promise.

    As to the original question posed, my experiences were actually, on the whole, positive. The best Church experience for me growing up was Seminary: it helped me figure out what was important to me, personally, and afforded me opportunities for leadership with great kids. (I didn’t go to school with anyone from my neighborhood.) Seminary seemed a lot more solid than a lot of the other fluff they throw together, at least in my experience.

    Comment by Portia — August 20, 2007 @ 11:30 pm

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