So many people, youth and adults included, have reported church-sponsored activities and classes that are not only directly in conflict with the mission of the church, but, at times descend into idolatry, lewd conduct, and sexual innuendo. While I have some issues with the youth programs, I have never seen that in any of the wards I have lived in.
The problem is, the people are so immersed in our society’s culture of pornography that they cannot understand what a “wholesome recreational activity” is, nor can they understand the doctrine of the church. It is quotes like this one that makes you want to smack her. I'm pretty sure I can understand what a wholesome recreational activity looks like, thank you.
There are many speakers who have a following, and make their living off of speaking to the youth. This would be known as priestcraft. I just can't accuse John Bytheway of priestcraft. Sorry. There is some "emotional manipulation" going on, I suppose, when any professional speaker speaks. However, that doesn't make it bad. I remember a Michael Mclain (sp) fireside I went to as a youth and I cried and he had us sing the last song together and sure, you could call that emotionally manipulative. However, the message was a good one and doctrinally sound and if we did get all emotional and want to be better--that was a good thing in this case.
And I resent her wandering around referring to things as "priestcraft." I am sure she thinks the "Who Is Your Hero?" series is priestcraft, but I love it. My children love it. It connects the gospel to my children's own lives in a meaningful way. If the man didn't accept payment for his labors he wouldn't have time to create those books because he would be too busy earning money a different way. I think people should be paid for employing their talents. That is just one example. Most of what is sold at Deseret Book is worthy of nothing more than adding fuel to a large bonfire (Anita Stansfield anyone?) but I still don't think the writers of the junk are committing priestcraft by creating the junk (except, perhaps, Anita Stansfield :)).
Youth Conference: She has some good points with this one. The budgets are huge. When I was a YW we went river rafting for one youth conference. It was AWESOME, but now as an adult I can appreciate the price tag.
The events themselves are usually tacky, shallow, and emotionally manipulative…not to mention doctrinally incorrect. This is in reference to youth conference. In my experience as a youth, the youth conferences I attended were fun, but not really valuable. We had the testimony meetings and whatnot, but mostly the girls worried about looking good for the boys, much candy was inhaled, and nothing really spiritual was learned. However, I know that when my parents lived in NoDak, they put a ton of effort into their youth conferences because the youth who attended were spread over three states. They always attended the temple, there was always a speaker (more priestcraft) and it wasn't just about the socializing. So while not every youth conference is perfect, I still think it can be used effectively to build up the youth and help strengthen testimony.
Too many youth have cried in Nauvoo and thought they had a testimony. The leaders think the same way. This is a sticky issue. Yes, people can cry because the whole ambiance supports crying. However, feeling the Spirit usually is an emotional thing. Just because women are crying when they bear their testimony doesn't mean they don't have a testimony. Crying does not equal a testimony but it does not mean that you are not feeling the Spirit. My goodness I'm being convoluted--I just think you cannot judge whether one is sincere or not. Plus, I'd rather a youth have a less than sincere attempted spiritual experience than another "let's paint each other's nails" activity.
A testimony is most likely to be forged in the everyday activities and teachings of a family, not at The Event. In many ways, the youth program when operated in this fashion is actually attempting to take the place of the family, not support it. I agree--testimony is most likely to grow at home. However, I don't see the connection between her first true idea and her second assertion. I don't see the youth programs trying to take the place of the family. I see them trying to do whatever they can to keep our youth engaged with the gospel.
There was a time when my son was “supposed” to go on a retreat to a vacation cabin several hours away. Okay, the story she told that started with the sentence I just posted where she didn't send her son on a church outing really bothered me. 1) Why was there an activity planned just for the presidencies? Shouldn't activities that involve that much $ involve more boys? And if they are going to plan that activity, it should have been 95% about learning how to be effective presidencies, which did not sound like the case.
2) Why do we have to work so hard to "sell" our activities to the youth. The leaders shouldn't have to bribe our youth with great food and fun, fun, fun all the time. I'm not saying activities shouldn't be fun, but we are pandering to the lowest common denominator all the time and reinforcing the idea that "youth won't come if it isn't fun." Really? When was the last time someone tried??
3) HOW DO WE FIX THIS?? How do we focus on the essentials while still keeping attendance high? It comes back to parents. The parents who really believe the gospel have their children at the activities. The ones who are really laid back about the whole thing might not. So how to do advance the valiant ones without losing the ones who are along for the ride?
Not only are we personally seeing youth fall away from the church, there is an even bigger problem. We are seeing youth who go to the activities, participate in programs, go to the Events, go on temple trips, make straight A’s, look great, do service, and do not have the fire of the covenant burning within them. Here's where I a going to be slightly more alarmist than Marilyn. I think that this quote by Misfit is 100% correct. Why aren't they being converted? Is it the fault of the family? Is it wasted time in youth programs? Is it the natural effect of moral relativism in the rest of the world? Has it always been like this and I just wasn't paying attention? How do we provide enough opportunities for our youth to feel the Spirit that they learn to recognize it?
In order to reclaim the youth, there must be a willingness to put “away the strange gods from among [us] and serve the Lord.” Then will His soul be grieved for us, and He will then deliver us. Here's where you are going to call me crazy. Ahem. This is NOT something I would say in church--just so you know. I think the second coming is going to be within my children's lifetimes, or in my grandchildren's time at the very latest. *Awkward silence.* Okay, okay, I get it. I am not some crazy loon predicting because I think I know anything. I just can't imagine the world getting much more wicked and I can't imagine the people in the church getting much more polarized. There have always been those in the church that walked their own line, but now it is ridiculous.
For example, clothing companies started by Mormons for Mormons that do not have ANY MODEST clothes in their whole establishment despite that being their justification for existing. Coarse language everywhere you turn. The Twilight phenom. The rise in pornography use amongst those who have attended the temple. The push to accept homosexuality. Etc., etc.
Back to youth programs. What are the leaders of the youth doing to offset the worldly influences? Is it enough to paint each other's nails? Is it enough to do one service project a year? And if it isn't (and I don't think it is) then how can we change it without writing off the kids who will truly only come if it is "fun."
Okay, I sound hysterical. My hysterics come from my deep maternal insecurities. What am I doing as a mother to help my children develop testimonies turns into an agonized, "Help me here--it takes a village!!!" Instead of receiving that support I am explaining to my children why the speaker's clothes are not modest and why no, it is definitely not okay to say that, and why are they having a party in primary on the Sabbath????
Maybe I'm paranoid and too focused on minutia?
Regardless of my own issues, I think we need to step up our programs to keep our youth.