Stephen Mansfield, a well-known author on religion, has written an unusual article for Huffington Post about the Mormonizing of America. In it, he traces the history of Mormon acceptance in American society and then examines what causes so many Mormons to become successful.
He notes that people who mistakenly refer to Mormons as a cult fail to notice that the values Mormons teach are merely the traditional values of the country, the ones that helped make it successful.
“Plant Mormonism in any country on earth and pretty much the same results will occur. If successful, it will produce deeply moral individuals who serve a religious vision centered upon achievement in this life. They will aggressively pursue the most advanced education possible, understand their lives in terms of overcoming obstacles, and eagerly serve the surrounding society. The family will be of supernatural importance to them, as will planning and investing for future generations. They will be devoted to community, store and save as a hedge against future hardship, and they will esteem work as a religious calling. They will submit to civil government and hope to take positions within it. They will have advantages in this. Their beliefs and their lives in all-encompassing community will condition them to thrive in administrative systems and hierarchies–a critical key to success in the modern world. Ever oriented to a corporate life and destiny, they will prize belonging and unity over individuality and conflict every time.”
Mormons—a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—believe that the most important place to change a nation or a world is in the home. Government, teachers, and youth group leaders—even churches—should only support parents in their primary responsibility of raising and shaping children. To that end, Mormon parents devote an amount of time to their families and that time has an impact. No matter how busy they are, they work to gather in the mornings for family prayer and scripture study. In the evenings, they will pray as a family again. Once a week, they close the doors of their homes to the outside world and hold family home evening. During the next few hours, usually on a Monday evening, they study their faith, make family plans, work out challenges, play games and enjoy singing together. It’s an old-fashioned idea that has enviable results. Mormon teens are less likely to leave their faith than other religious teens, and even to keep it as adults. They are more family-centered and less likely to use drugs, smoke, drink, or become pregnant outside of marriage. Because they know what their parents expect of them and have a close relationship with their parents, they are more likely to honor the standards of their parents.
In addition, they are told they must never just take another person’s word for the truthfulness of their faith. Only God can give them an answer they can’t question, and so they are taught, beginning as young children, to ask God. This gives them a personal testimony of their beliefs that transcends family tradition.
Mormons learn the value of hard work and develop leadership skills early on. Mormon teens lead their own youth programs under a gentle shadow leadership by adults. A unique system of callings, in which Mormons are asked to undertake volunteer positions in their church teach them to serve and broaden their skills. These callings are changed often and are assigned, rather than chosen, which means Mormons often find themselves outside their comfort zone. That, in turn, helps them learn new skills and to discover they can do and be more than they thought possible. Many take the skills learned at church and apply them in their employment or in government or community service. A culture of goal setting helps them become everything they can be. Children eight and older belong to activity groups in which they are taught to set goals and then formulate a plan for carrying those goals out. By the time they are teens, they are creating, planning, and leading ten-hour service projects each year.
Mormonism creates a unique culture because it begins with the teaching that we are children of God and therefore can be anything, do anything—we are special. God created us out of love and we have that love to strengthen us as we go through life. He created us to succeed—and Mormons don’t like to let God down, so they work hard to be the best of whatever they decide to be.
Read Mansfield’s article on the Mormonizing of America.
Every year since the rankings began, Brigham Young University has been named the most stone-cold sober university in the United States by Princeton Review. This is their sixteenth year of being the most alcohol-free school in the country and the world has taken note that the students celebrate their placement on that list. They are proud that they don’t need alcohol to have fun. They are creative and smart enough to know how to have fun that won’t lead to humiliation, headaches, or other challenges that come from entertainment that involves getting drunk. When they wake up in the morning they remember exactly what they did and know they were in control of their behavior. This allows them to avoid ruining their futures (or even dying) because of stupid choices made under the influence of alcohol.
A lot of teens, and even adults, think they can’t have fun unless they are drunk. When you work hard to value yourself and to know who you really are, you can have fun without being drunk or immoral at all. Old-fashioned fun is inexpensive and, in the long run, has more benefits. Mormon teens (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the church is officially known) learn at a young age how to have fun in simple events as well as complex ones they aren’t afraid to let their parents know about.
Can You Have Fun Without Drinking?
When I was in college, a friend admitted he didn’t understand how I could have any fun given the rules under which I lived as a Mormon. Although I hadn’t been Mormon very long, I’d always avoided alcohol and enjoyed old-fashioned fun. I mentioned having gone on a hayride in which everyone sang to music played by other students who knew how to play the guitar. He didn’t think that sounded like fun, but I pointed out to him that my entertainment that weekend hadn’t left me hung over and suffering the next day as his did. I woke up the next morning and went right on to my next fun activity. (more…)
Why Are So Many Mormons Good Leaders?
Mormonism—an informal term some people use to describe the beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—is garnering some attention for its members who exhibit leadership skills in politics, business, and other aspects of everyday life. Many have speculated, often incorrectly, as to why that might be.
Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) have extensive training in leadership, which gives many of them skills which they may choose to also help them in the business world. Some Mormons become very comfortable speaking in front of groups, an essential skill for leaders of all kinds. For many, this skill begins in childhood, as they have the opportunity to give brief “sermons,” which they call “talks,” in their Sunday school classes. They also have the opportunity, from a young age, to offer public prayers or to recite scripture verses in a yearly children’s program. Their talks last about two and a half minutes and, at the younger ages, usually involve a parent or leader helping them.
Leadership Skills at a Young Age
From the age of twelve, Mormons may be asked to give brief sermons in the regular Sunday worship service. Mormons have a lay church, which means everyone pitches in to do what needs to be done. The bishop, who is a lay pastor who serves an average of 5 years and who is not paid, does not give the weekly sermon. Instead, two to four members of the congregation are asked to speak each week. Teenagers speak for about five minutes and adults for ten to twenty minutes, depending on the number of speakers. Even the children speak once a year when they do their special program, although for many, it is only a sentence or two. (more…)
I became a “Mormon girl” (a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which church is often inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church”) just after my seventeenth birthday. I had spent a lot of time observing the Mormon girls I knew so I could figure out how to be like them. Some things were obvious, although it took time to understand just why they did them.
For instance, the girls dressed modestly. They were fashionable and many were popular. One was prom queen and one was the captain of the drill team. They didn’t look stodgy or old-fashioned or out of touch at all. Their clothes were cute, but modest. I learned that both Mormon boys and girls were taught to be modest to show respect for themselves and for their Heavenly Father. God created them in His own image. Their bodies were gifts from Him. Those two facts motivated them to be respectful of that gift by not using it to gain inappropriate attention.
Mormon Girls Set High Standards
I also noticed that Mormon girls had standards and they lived up to them—even when no one was watching. That was particularly interesting to me. Most of the girls had thought it over, prayed about it, and decided they wanted to live to a high moral standard. One eighteen-year-old who taught my daughter the summer after her graduation told her students that she had been homecoming queen and the head cheerleader and had never once found it necessary to lower her standards in order to be popular. She wanted to be liked for who she really was, not someone who did whatever it took to be popular—even if it made her feel awful inside. Instead, she kept her standards and was popular while feeling great about herself. (more…)
Brigham Young University, which is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will host a rare exhibit of religious art in November 2013. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is often inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church.”) BYU is located in Provo, Utah, and the exhibit will be held at the Museum of Art. It is called, “Sacred Gifts: The Religious Arts of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann and Franz Schwartz.” It is the first time many of these pieces have come to the United States and some have never been publicly exhibited anywhere for several hundred years.
Some of the paintings are altar works from European churches. This makes it particularly difficult to obtain them, but the museum offered these churches glicée prints the same size in return to display in the altar works’ absence and have also offered to clean and restore the paintings before the showing. The churches will receive their works in better condition than they sent them out, and at no cost.
Paintings From Frederiksborg Castle
Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark is loaning eight paintings from the Life of Christ by Carl Bloch. They have never previously loaned out the works and do not intend to ever loan them again, making this the only opportunity Americans will have to see them without traveling abroad. (more…)