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Key to Strong Young Men: Gospel Commitment in the Home

The young men in the Church most likely to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, go on missions, and marry in the temple come from homes where they were born in the covenant or later sealed to their parents.

And whether young men take these critical steps in life depends far more on the amount and kind of religious practice and observance they have had with parents in the home, their agreement with their parents’ religious values, and their own private religious experiences than it does on participation in any particular programs as they grow up.

These are findings from two studies done for the Church’s Priesthood Executive Committee by the Correlation Department’s Evaluation Division. In the first study, researchers gathered data through records of ten thousand Latter-day Saint men in the United States and Canada; in the second study, they surveyed a random sample of young men from fifty-four stakes within the United States, as well as their parents and some of their priesthood leaders.

The report on their research was written under the assumption “that there are certain outcomes in the lives of young men which are highly desirable. These outcomes include being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood, the obtaining of the temple endowment, serving a full-time mission, and being sealed in the temple.”

Thus, the purpose of the research was not simply to get a picture of the activity of young men in the Church, but also to help determine why those desired outcomes do or do not occur.

In studying membership records, researchers were attempting to determine what factors in a young man’s history in the Church might indicate his future course. Their findings offered strong confirmation of the effect of parental commitment to the gospel on the actions of their sons.

“Our information indicates that young men born in the covenant (or later sealed to their parents—and the sooner they are sealed the better) are three times more likely to be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood and married in the temple, five times more likely to go on missions and receive their endowments, and one-third as likely to marry outside the Church. It becomes clear that in order to help our young men (or young women), we must help their parents,” the report said.

In the second study, using questionnaires that preserved respondents’ anonymity, researchers asked young men about their religious activity. Then they combined these answers with responses from the parents and leaders to get a clearer picture of how young men’s experiences were affecting their lives. They found there were two factors which had the largest influence on whether young men desired to be morally clean, serve a mission, and marry in the temple. These were religious activity in the home (family prayer, family home evening, family scripture study), and agreement with parents on values and on goals for the future. In fact, these two things were found to have a greater influence than all other factors combined.

For that reason, the report advised, “Our efforts for young men must more directly recognize the role and prerogatives of their parents.” But, it adds, “Urging parents from the pulpit to spend more time with their children and also giving announcements on activities which will take children away from the parents is a double message which is often frustrating for conscientious parents to hear.”

A third factor which has a significant impact on what young men do with their lives is the contact they have with their priesthood adviser—whether they trust, admire, and feel close to him. When this kind of contact exists, and where he is a strong role model (active in the Church, married in the temple, a returned missionary, for example), then other variables such as his age, occupation, and training seem to have little or no effect on his influence with them. As a young man becomes older and home influence begins to diminish, the association between the young man and his priesthood adviser becomes the best predictor of both private religious behavior and religious experience; and these two distinctive factors were found to be the best indicators of whether he will go on a mission.

“It is not the position that is important, but the person,” the report said. A worthy, outstanding Melchizedek Priesthood holder may not be “fully effective” as an Aaronic Priesthood adviser if he does not have that relationship of trust with the boys. (The report notes additionally that while the influence of the bishop also increases as the boys grow older, the adviser still has more influence with them—probably because of the larger amount of time he is involved with them.)

The associations that advisers are able to establish with young men “are far more important than the content and implementation of the current young men’s programs,” the report noted.

Advisers can help with another important factor affecting the young men, the “estrangement/ integration” factor. This is the degree to which the young man feels he belongs, or fits into the group. “One of the surprising things about this factor,” the report said, “was that it was more a function of [his] association with his adviser … than it was of his peer group.”

Some factors have little effect on whether a young man marries in the temple or goes on a mission: the distance he lives away from the meetinghouse, the number of young people in his school who are LDS, whether his parents were converts, his father’s occupation, or whether his mother is employed. Characteristics of the ward’s activity program—whether the ward sponsors athletic teams and events, schedules “special” activities for youth, or implements Scout programs—while contributing to the general spirit of the ward, seem to have little effect in and of themselves.

If proper attention is not paid to home religious observance, parent-child agreement, leader-youth relationships, and the estrangement/integration factor, the report advised, “we can spend tremendous amounts of time, money, and energy without producing the results we seek in the lives of individual boys.”

One of the results that needs to be achieved in a young man’s life, the report points out, is consistent private religious behavior—personal prayer and scripture study, for example. Like most adolescents who are growing in maturity and learning to apply principles and practices in their lives, the survey shows that “many of the young men who are described as ‘active’ do not engage in private forms of religious activity and are spiritually undernourished. There is a prevalent, but often deceptive sense among local leaders that ‘all is well’ when they see youth participating in meetings and activities.” Though young men may attend and participate consistently, their private religious behavior is a far more reliable indicator of whether they will go on a mission or marry in the temple.

“Like the measure of private religious behavior, the religious experience factor (a sense of closeness to God and of the companionship of the Holy Ghost) … is a more potent factor in the decision to establish missionary and temple goals than program involvement or the frequency of meeting attendance,” the report continued. “Religious belief (in God, life after death, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s first vision, etc.) was quite high, but like public religious behavior was not sufficient, in and of itself, to carry a young man through the critical years of missionary service and into the mission field.”

A majority of the young men surveyed—approximately 60 percent—said they planned to be active in the Church and to be married in the temple, and approximately half of them said they planned to go on missions. Some 32 percent of the young men in the United States and Canada actually go on missions, and 35 percent receive their temple endowments by age twenty-five.

Often it is apparent years before mission age that a mission and Church activity are not a boy’s goals, as his progress in the priesthood slows or stops. Of one hundred boys baptized in the United States and Canada, the report said, seventy-six will be ordained deacons, sixty-five will be ordained teachers, and fifty-eight will be ordained priests.

The survey which provided part of the data for the report also measured the attitudes of Latter-day Saint young men toward a variety of behaviors that would be detrimental to spiritual progress.

LDS young men are much more likely than others their age to say they feel smoking, drinking, marijuana use, and illicit sexual activity are wrong, and they report much less involvement with these things than do other young men their age. (The comparisons are based on national surveys taken in the United States.)

Researchers pointed out that peers were more likely to influence young men in negative areas than in any of the positive outcomes covered in their survey. “This is consistent with findings from other studies which show that negative peer influences are more powerful than positive peer influences. We can’t count on peer groups for large amounts of positive impact, but we can plan on delinquent peers having a negative impact.”

“Although the reported level of deviant activity is higher at school, it is the extent of deviance among one’s friends in the ward that seems to have the strongest influence on one’s own deviant activity. Peers can provide somewhat of a buffer against sin and delinquency, but to depend on peer groups to carry the major burden of developing and applying gospel values would be a mistake,” the report said.

Percent of Young Men Who Receive Their Endowments before age 26(click to view larger)

Percent of Young Men Who Receive Their Endowments before age 26, United States and Canada 1940–1981 Percent of Young Men Who Go on Missions before Age 26, United States and Canada 1940–1981

Aaronic Priesthood Transitions(click to view larger)

Aaronic Priesthood Transitions—U.S. and Canada

Impact of Leader Qualities and Characteristics on Young Men

Low Impact

High Impact

Age

Trusted

Education

Admired

Occupation

Respected

Training

Caring

Tenure

Confidant

Scout Experience

 

Good Planner

 

Good Organizer

 

Program Implementor

 

Reasons Given by Young Men for Their Good Association with Aaronic Priesthood Adviser

We have fun together.

We joke and kid around.

We have a lot in common.

We feel the same way about most things.

I’m quite a bit like him.

I resemble him in many ways.

I want to be like him.

I respect and admire him.

I feel close to him.

I feel he really understands me.

We have serious personal discussions.

We share spiritual experiences.

It helps me just to talk to him when I’m upset about something.

I feel I can turn to him with my personal problems.

If I had an important decision to make, I’d probably ask for his advice.

If something good happened to me, I’d want to tell him about it right away.

[photo] A young man’s agreement with parental values is a key factor in choices he will make about a mission and temple marriage.

Dallas Temple Dedication Opens New Era for Southwestern Saints

“Texas is filled with other buildings that are larger and far more expensive than this temple. But this is the most significant of all in the Lone Star State. Nowhere else can the power and authority of reaching beyond the veil of death be exercised.”

Those words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, were greeted with joy by the nearly 1,100 Saints gathered in the Dallas Temple October 19 for the first of twenty-three dedicatory services.

Those who perform endowments and baptisms for the dead in the temple offer “a wonderful service, to do for others what they are powerless to do for themselves,” President Hinckley said. “Without these temples, [our Heavenly Father’s] work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of all mankind could not be accomplished.”

In the dedicatory prayer on the temple, President Hinckley expressed gratitude to our Eternal Father for his Beloved Son, whose sacrifice made possible the plan of salvation, then continued:

“We thank thee, Father, for this glorious season in the history of the earth, this dispensation of the fulness of times when thou hast restored the gifts, blessings, and authority of all prior dispensations.”

He expressed thanks for the growth of the Lord’s work throughout the earth, and for the “vision of thy prophet of our day in declaring that a temple should be built here.” Then he dedicated the sacred edifice.

“May this beautiful temple, standing in this community, become a declaration to all who shall look upon it of the faith of thy Saints in the revealed things of eternity, and may they be led to respect that which is sacred unto us, thy people,” he said.

“Prosper thy work in this part of thy vineyard. May the dedication of this temple mark the beginning of a new and glorious day for thy Church in this area. May the voices of evil be stilled. May the declaration of thy truth be strengthened. May many hearts be opened to thine everlasting gospel as it is proclaimed by thy faithful servants.”

President Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve told those attending the cornerstone-laying ceremony that the temple will be a “beacon to members and non-members. It will be an inspiration not only to the Saints, but to many others as well.”

Promising that blessings will come to the temple district because of this new, glorious building, President Benson said it would be a constant visible symbol that God “has not left man to grope in darkness.”

“Temples are places of personal revelation,” he explained. “There have been times when I have been weighed down by a problem or a difficulty and have gone to the house of the Lord with a prayer in my heart for answers. Those answers have always come in clear and unmistakable ways.”

Stressing the importance of teaching children about the blessings of eternal marriage, he said during the cornerstone ceremony before the dedication, “Prepare them now. Teach them in your homes. Talk about it in your prayers. Tell them it is a commandment of God and an expectation of your household.”

He spoke of the temple as an ever-present reminder that God intends families to be eternal. He encouraged parents to point to the temple and tell their children that it was there they were married for eternity. “Teach them that temples are the only place on earth where certain ordinances may be performed.” He suggested that parents might explain to their children the feelings they had as they made those covenants over the altar.”

Several other General Authorities attended the first dedicatory service. These included: Elder Thomas S. Monson and Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve; Elder Dean L. Larsen of the presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy; Elder Robert D. Hales, Elder Rex D. Pinegar, and Elder Rex C. Reeve, Sr., of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

Other General Authorities who attended later dedicatory sessions were Elder David B. Haight and Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve; Elder Carlos E. Asay and Elder G. Homer Durham of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy; and Elder Theodore M. Burton, Elder Hartman Rector, Jr., Elder George P. Lee, and Elder James M. Paramore, all of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

During the five days following the opening dedicatory services, thousands came from throughout the temple district to participate in the services.

Nearly 120,000 members of the Church in most of Texas, all of Oklahoma, and parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Missouri will be served by the 18,000-square-foot structure, the thirtieth operating temple in the Church.

Twenty-one months prior to the dedication, in January 1983, visiting General Authorities and local Church officers had stood in abnormal, freezing temperatures to witness the groundbreaking ceremonies. The prayer given at that groundbreaking ceremony petitioned the Lord that any animosity in the area toward the Saints or the building of the temple might soften and the day soon come that people would speak in praise of the beautiful structure.

During the twenty-day open house in September, more than 88,000 visitors stood in scorching sun, and sometimes pelting rain, for as long as two hours to tour the temple and then view the Texas Dallas Mission’s brief presentation in the ancillary building. Approximately 56 percent of the visitors were nonmembers encouraged to attend either by personal invitation from members or by the widespread media attention given the open house.

Many who toured the temple were impressed. “I really seemed to feel the presence of God,” said one visitor. “This was a very special experience.” Another asked that the “Mormon ministry” in the area continue forever. Others commented on the peace and reverence they felt.

Within a week of the final public tour, a baptism took place, the fruit of a visit on the second day of the open house. “I was initially drawn to the temple because of its architectural beauty,” said convert Janet Del Corso. As she toured it, though, the temporal aspects dwindled, and “eternal truths became the highlight of my visit.”

Since that baptism, three others have occurred, and ten more investigators have asked to enter the waters of baptism, reports Texas Dallas Mission President Grant Barton. He noted that in some areas of the mission, referral teaching has increased by 200 percent as a result of the open house.

President Barton said another important aspect of the open house was that it corrected many misconceptions about the Church, improving relations with members of the community and with local clergymen who had opposed building of the temple.

Susan Cobb is a member of the Plano Second Ward, Plano Texas Stake, and assistant public communications director in the Dallas Texas Region.

Policies and Announcements

The First Presidency has sent the following letter to stake, ward, mission, district, and branch leaders.

We continue to receive numerous telephone calls and letters at the general headquarters of the Church about intimate personal matters involving church members. This has caused us to ask again that you advise the members of your respective units that they should contact their local leaders about these matters. These local leaders are, by reason of their ordination and setting apart, entitled to a heavenly endowment of the discernment and inspiration necessary to enable them to give the advice that one in trouble needs. If a bishop or branch president needs assistance, he may go to the stake or mission president, who may, in turn, seek counsel from his regional representative or Area President.

We, therefore, urge all members who have problems or questions that trouble them to consult their bishops or branch presidents freely and fully and receive from them the assistance they need.

It is also noted that occasionally members of the Church make specific requests of the Church President, his counselors, or other General Authorities. These requests include personal letters of commendation for some specific achievement (Eagle Scout, graduations, etc.), favorite recipes, autographs for scriptures, cancelled postage stamps from foreign countries, and manuscripts sent to a General Authority for his endorsement or review. Sometimes seminary and auxiliary teachers encourage students to write to General Authorities with questions or requests. Such requests place an undue burden on the brethren and should not be made.