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Moving From Joseph Smith to Jesus: How To Talk To Youth Group Students About Mormonism

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In my previous church context the local Mormon youth group was killing it.  They had a strong youth program with solid students.  They had a well-established community and displayed remarkable character.  I was confused why a few of our students were so drawn to Mormonism and why the Mormon youth group was so effective.  I decided to do some research so I could figure out why the Mormon community was so attractive.  I was determined to find out why Mormons did better youth ministry than the Christians.

This is what I found in my sociological Mormon youth group research:

–  Mormon students really knew how to be inclusive, communal and still knew how to have fun without alcohol

–  Mormon students didn’t really know what the Mormon doctrine was really really about

–  Mormon students tended to confuse the Christian students about Jesus and the Bible

–  Mormon students exhibited a lot of great behaviors and were extremely nice

–  Some of my Christian students were ok with dating Mormon students

–  Mormon students were not afraid to share their faith

–  Mormon students were relentlessly inviting any type of student to their activities

–  All Mormon students we interacted with in our town had two parents who deeply cared, loved, and supported them

I concluded that the Mormon students were demonstrating more of Christ’s character than our youth group community was demonstrating.  This was a painful reality to admit, but it made sense to me.  If you have an accepting, loving group of people who practice what they preach, more people will want to be a part of it.  No hypocrisy, strong inclusive community, and character were the key ingredients that made the Mormon youth group so effective.  

So I went back to the drawing board and started planning a strategy for how our youth group was going to address, equip and educate our youth group students about Mormonism.  Here was the strategy I came up with:

 (1)  I would constantly be communicating and demonstrating the high value of respect towards the book of Mormon and Mormonism.  I intentionally wanted to show my students that we were not judging the Mormons, rather we were learning from them and respecting what they believe.  I really wanted to dispel the myth that Christians are closed minded and arrogantly judge other holy books.  I wanted to move towards treating other religious students (who had differing religious beliefs that Christians) with respect while still claiming Jesus as the way, the truth and the life.  There is a fundamental difference between respecting and accepting theology.  I worked very hard for our youth group not to judge the Mormon students as we educated and equipped our teens about Mormonism.

(2)  Get students to move away from narrow-mindedness. I strove to make my students feel like they were learning about other religions, namely Mormonism without being closed minded.  Holding to Christianity as the ultimate truth is not narrow-mindedness.  Narrow-mindedness does not attach to what you believe, but how you believe it.  If our youth group refused to learn about any perspective, any religious book, or any philosophy which disagreed with the Christian doctrine – then that would be narrow-minded.  No matter what you believe there will always be opposition.  Learning about Mormonism was going to be a learning experience for everyone involved.

(3)  I committed to visiting a few local Mormon temples.  During the weeks I made multiple stops at the local Mormon temples.  During these visits, I would see if I could gather literature, multiple books of Mormon, and sit down and talk with one of the elders.  I wanted to simply befriend other religious leaders in my community and learn.

(4)  Teach on Mormonism and other holy books.  I really wanted to show how Mormonism and Christianity are drastically different.  You can explore my post about how I addressed the other holy books here and my teaching notes for how I talked about Mormonism here.  My goal was to get my students to critically and objectively think about how Mormonism and Christianity are not the same.  I wanted them to use their own brains to think.  I wanted them to process the information so they were able to have their own objective convictions about Christianity and Mormonism.  I did not want to see confusion in my students any longer.

(5)  I decided to invite an Ex-Mormon elder to come speak to our youth group.  One of my youth pastor friends had a connection to an Ex-Mormon elder, Tom Hall.  Tom was a Christian, a bit older, and a very wise ex-Mormon elder.  He spoke at youth group and had many great stories about his eldership in the Mormon temple.  Tom wrote a book titled:  Mormon Chronicles of Deception:  An Ex- Mormon Elder’s Journey to Biblical Truth.  Tom was awesome and totally connected with my students.  He gave each student his book for free and truly bestowed an inside perspective about Mormonism.  Tom initially got involved in Mormonism because he fell in love with a beautiful gal who was Mormon.  It took him a long time to be fully exposed to true Mormon theology, and he didn’t like what he learned or saw.  His journey back to Christ and Biblical truth was incredible and something the kids completely connected with.

(6) Supply students will resources.  A great historical book about Mormonism that I recommend to students was:  Under The Banner Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith.  Dare 2 Share also has some great Mormon resources for students here and here

(7)  I committed to inviting Mormon missionaries into my home so I could learn from them and ask a lot of questions.  I wanted to check out how much Mormon missionaries new about Mormonism.  I wanted to hear why they felt convinced to be Mormon.  I also was really curious about why evangelism and being on mission was so important and why they sacrificed 2 years of their lives to serve their district temples.

(8)  I asked my students to keep befriending, loving and respecting Mormon students.  I simply wanted my students to keep demonstrating the Kingdom of God.  I wanted to remind my students of the bigger Kingdom picture and not get confused as we explored Mormonism.  My hope is that all of my students will always be seeking Jesus and Truth while being the Kingdom of God here and now.

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Do you have a high Mormon population where you do youth ministry?

How do you deal with the growing influence of Mormonism in your youth group?

Are your students confused and drawn to Mormonism?

Do you agree or disagree that Mormons tend to do better ministry because of their strong inclusive community and character?

 

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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One comment

  1. Hi Jeremy,

    I stumbled across this post and found it quite interesting as a youth Mormon leader. I appreciate your article and would be happy to provide some of my own perspectives if it helps. Again, I am a leader of youth in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and I could provide some insight for whatever its worth.

    If this may be of interest to you, I’d be happy to answer questions and help you to understand what we do as a youth program. If I do so, and if I happen to venture into what may seem as evangelizing my faith, please let me know and I’ll back off.

    thanks,
    Vince

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