I thought I had it hard being a teenager in California and Washington. Being Mormon was not the most popular religious choice in the neighborhood I grew up in, added to the fact that I was an awkward teen even if you took my religious beliefs out of the equation. So I can’t even imagine what my little life would have been like if my “friends” had access to a Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other social media outlets that we use today.
Growing up in the “mission field”, I think most of us imagined it would be wonderful to have the opportunity to attend school with kids that shared our faith. We fantasized about the glorious sisterhood/brotherhood that must’ve existed in the place we believed to be Zion. We always felt that we were missing out on something by not living in Utah. I guess we thought living in the beehive state would have made us better Mormons.
Not to long ago I had a conversation with a teenager that I’ve known for a few years. He is also a Christian and even though we don’t belong to the same denomination I have a lot of respect for what he believes and I know he has respect for me and my beliefs. Because of my profession I have developed personal relationships with a lot of parents and teenagers in my community; and for some reason they trust me…umm maybe not the parents so much, but the kids (not my kids, because those jokers only talk to me when they need something) share all types of stories with me. We talk about school, I tease them about dating, we talk about life, laughter, pains, sorrows, fear. You name it, kids talk about it. Surprisingly they even talk about religion with me, as did this particular young man. He was familiar with our churches 2013 youth theme “Stand Ye In Holy Places”. He expressed his frustration with his Mormon friends and them not being very serious about the theme or their responsibility to represent the church. He said “They just seem to blow it off like it’s no big deal”. So, he wanted to know what it meant to me to stand in holy places, and how he could address it with his friends.
My first response was “Dude do I look like the youth or a youth leader to you?” After we both finished laughing. I explained to him as best I could what that meant to me and how it translated to him as far as his religious beliefs. I also explained to him that sometimes when there is a large population of Christians of the same denomination it can be a little more difficult to stand up for what you believe because everyone around you has the same beliefs as you. And let me tell you that if their is a loop hole in anything that people deem restrictive they will find it! For example college students running off getting married then having it annulled. I explained to him that it might be a risk to him but the best way for him to reach his friends was to call them on what they were doing. I wanted to show him the LDS Church’s website so he could reference a few things (thank Gaw’d for smart phones and the internet) I noticed that the youth theme was actually “Stand Ye In Holy Places and Be Not Moved” that’s a little bit of a game changer. It’s one thing to stand in a holy place, it’s a whole other thing to stand in a holy place and not move. Feeling like I had already said wayyy to much to this kid about my church without his parents being present, I redirected the questions back to him. We had a very refreshing discussion about what standing in a holy place without being moved meant to him. He shared with me his religious beliefs, why he believed his church was the truth for him. I like wise shared my beliefs with him.
Like I said earlier, I can’t pretend to know or even understand what today’s youth have to deal with. I know its stressful and scary for them and as a parent of teens its just as scary for us. Because we don’t know how to help our kids navigate their way through this new world with the World Wide Web. We didn’t grow up with access to the world via internet and the world didn’t have access to us. My friends or enemies actually had to talk to my parents to gain access to me. They had to knock on the door and usually my parents answered. They would call my house and my mother or father answered our home phone. My parents wouldn’t even allow me to have a pager (yep I’m that old). I have such an appreciation for the young men and women that I attend church with and an even greater appreciation for young men and women who even though they don’t worship the way I worship are great examples to my children and the children around them.
In light of my recent conversation and with pioneer day approaching I’ve been somewhat nostalgic and maybe even a little home-sick. As a youth I know I stood in holy places and I was not moved! In the circle that I ran in I was usually the only Mormon. In my youth I was the “holy places”, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have my weakness. It just means that I was aware that my friends watched me. I was very aware of the fact that I represented my church, I was the representation of my religion. My friends didn’t know who the prophet was, they didn’t know the missionaries, they thought they knew based off of what they looked like but if you were a “clean cut” White dude on a bicycle, your name was Elder and you were Mormon, even if you weren’t.
I didn’t know it at the time but being the “only” was the best thing that could have happened to me. Being the “only” made me a better Mormon, being the “only” strengthened my testimony. Being the “only” prepared me to live where I live today and not only stand in holy places, it prepared me to Stand In Holy Places and regardless to what anyone around me is doing I WILL NOT BE MOVED. I know that God has a plan for me, and I WILL NOT BE MOVED! My stake recently participated in youth trek, there was some stories that my children (2 daughters participated) relayed to me that made feel disappointed. However, they shared several stories with me that made me feel proud. Proud as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Proud as a parent and proud to be a member of a community where teenagers are thoughtful, caring, and willing to help each other when they can. I believe that our youth are doing the best they can. I hope that as parents, leaders and a community we are doing our best to BE that anchor keeping our youth UNMOVED and helping them STAND in holy places.