With the ever-evolving world of technology and social media, more and more people, both the younger generation and even some of the older generation, are becoming more actively engaged in the use of electronic communications. Even the simple art of letter-writing to stay in touch with loved ones and friends may now be considered almost as antiquated as spinning records on a record player, or a secretary using a typewriter or taking dictation. .
With the rapid advance in technology, and the advent of social media such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, being able to stay in contact with someone has become a real-time adventure. Being able to converse with someone halfway around the world, and to be able to see each other face to face, at any time – day or night, and regardless of time zone differences, could only be imagined even a few short years ago, but now it is a reality.
Not only do individuals and businesses depend on social media to help keep them connected, but religious organizations and groups such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church by the media and others) have also joined the technology and social media revolution. The Church of Jesus Christ recently announced that members of the First Presidency of the Church have launched Google+ pages and Facebook pages for each member.Read More
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church by the media and others) was first recognized as a part of the Boy Scouts of America in 1913. The scouting program in The Church of Jesus Christ functions to provide leisure-time activities for the young men of the Church, with a spiritual and cultural emphasis. At the close of 2010, the LDS Church’s involvement in Scouting consisted of: 142,085 Cub Scouts in 10,345 packs; 205,990 Boy Scouts in 19,285 troops, and 64,645 Venturers in 8,298 crews.
Incorporated within scouting for LDS youth is a program known as the Aaronic Priesthood Duty to God program which enables young men to accomplish the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. In addition to the skills that they learn and obtain as scouts, the Duty to God program helps them to develop skill sets and character attributes that will be needed in order to achieve success in life. Young men work with their parents and priesthood leaders to set and accomplish goals leading to the Duty to God Award.
Gay Mormon Youth and the Boy Scouts of America
The Church of Jesus Christ has long advocated that a young man’s sexual orientation has never been, nor is it at present, a deterrent for a young man to be a member of an LDS scout troop. That is not to say, however, that The Church of Jesus Christ condones homosexual behavior. A young man’s membership in the scouting program is predicated upon his abstaining from pre-marital sex relationships.
Church of Jesus Christ Supports BSA’s Decision to Lift Ban on Gay Youth
Just one short month ago, Church leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ stated that the support of the BSA’s proposed decision to lift the ban on gay youth was in the affirmative. That stance has not shifted one degree to the left or to the right, as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on Thursday, 23 May 2013, issued an official statement in support of the BSA’s resolution to lift the ban on gay youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America. The statement that was issued reads as follows:
For the past 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has enjoyed a strong relationship with Boy Scouts of America, based on our mutual interest in helping boys and young men understand and live their duty to God and develop upright moral behavior. As the Church moves forward in its association with the Boy Scouts of America, Church leaders will continue to seek the most effective ways to address the diverse needs of young people in the United States and throughout the world.
The Church’s long-established policy for participation in activities is stated in the basic instructional handbook used by lay leaders of the Church: “young men … who agree to abide by Church standards” are “welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church , 8.17.3). This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.
These standards are outlined in the booklet For the Strength of Youth and include abstinence from sexual relationships. We remain firmly committed to upholding these standards and to protecting and strengthening boys and young men.
The Church appreciates BSA’s reaffirmation of its commitment to “duty to God,” which includes service to others and moral behavior—central principles of our teaching to young men. As in the past, the Church will work with BSA to harmonize what Scouting has to offer with the varying needs of our young men. We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.
Joseph Smith, the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is quoted as having said, “A man who is full of the love of God is not content with blessing his family only, but thinks about all of the people in the world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, pg. 227.) The prophet also taught, “After all that has been said, our greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel.” (Joseph Smith, TPJS, pg. 113.)
The most viable way that members of The Church of Jesus Christ can effectively bless the lives of all humanity is by preaching the gospel, not only in word, but also in deed. Some may feel that the responsibility of preaching the gospel rests only with full-time proselyting missionaries, but the truth is that every Latter-day Saint has a significant part to play, and can indeed be a blessing to all of humanity through the giving of the time, talents, and abilities of which they have been blessed. Some may also feel that what they have to offer is not good enough or is insignificant. Gordon B. Hinckley, the 15th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addressed that concern and exhorted,
Cultivate the light you have within you, and it will shine through as a radiant expression that will be seen by others.
You need never feel inferior. You need never feel that you were born without talents or without opportunities to give them expression. Cultivate whatever talents you have, and they will grow and refine and become an expression of your true self appreciated by others (from The Light within You, Ensign, May 1995).
Natural disasters of any type, and of any magnitude are prone to strike at any given moment, and normally without any prior warning. Such calamities often result in leaving people in undue predicaments such as finding themselves homeless and unable to obtain the necessities to sustain life. In the aftermath, the weight of the burden of stress that many will bear is often accentuated by the sorrow that is felt because of the lives of loved ones and friends that have been claimed by the disaster that has occurred.
Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank, a German-born Jewish girl from the city of Frankfurt, who wrote a diary while in hiding with her family and four friends in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, is quoted as saying, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” This expression of compassion is often exemplified by those who respond to the call to action to aid and support those who have fallen victim to any unwarranted and unpleasant circumstances in life. It is during those moments that those who are willing to lend a hand to help another begin to realize, as Dalai Lama XIV once said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
An example of individuals who have a heart of compassion is the Rev. Myke Crowder, senior pastor of the Christian Life Center in Layton, Utah, and his son, Chris. In response to the storms which devastated parts of the Midwest this past week, Crowder is “soliciting donations so in two weeks he can travel to Moore, Oklahoma, to distribute envelopes containing $500 each to tornado victims in the area hardest hit.” Read More
At the start of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church by the media and others), President and Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, announced the reduction in age requirements for those worthy young men and young women who desire to labor in the Lord’s vineyard by serving a full –time mission. Eligible young men may now serve a mission beginning at age 18, and eligible young women may serve beginning at 19 years of age. Young men will still serve a two-year mission, and young women will still serve an 18-month mission.
As a result of that church wide announcement “the Church reported that missionary applications had increased dramatically (from 700 applications per week to 4,000), with women comprising more than half of the applicants. While the number of post-announcement applications is still double what it has been in the past, the total number of men and women who have applied since October is now about equal.”  It is of noteworthy interest that prior to President Monson’s announcement, the missionary force of The Church of Jesus Christ was comprised of about 15 percent of young women.
The Missionary Program of The Church of Jesus Christ
They can be seen on the streets of major cities of the world, as well as in many of the smaller, rural communities. Their purpose and their mission is to teach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and to bring believers into the fold by baptizing them in His name. With nearly 60,000 missionaries serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at any one time, most of whom are under the age of 25, serving in nearly 350 missions around the world, The LDS Church’s missionary program is one of its most recognized characteristics.
It should be noted that the decision of a young man or a young woman to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ is a personal choice. Serving a mission is strongly encouraged by Church leaders and parents, but it is not something that is commanded or demanded of young people. There are some young people who decide not to serve a mission for various reasons, and there are others who face the challenge of whether to attend college first, or to pursue a career prior to serving a mission. For some, the decision is easy, for they have been preparing to serve a mission from their youth, and so there is no question as to whether they will serve their mission first. For others, that decision is not necessarily an easy one.
President Monson, in the course of his remarks, regarding the new missionary service age requirements, stated, “I am not suggesting that all young men will — or should — serve at this earlier age. Rather, the option is now available based on individual circumstances, as well as upon a determination by local Church leaders.” 
It should also be pointed out that unlike some other Christian missionary programs, young men and young women of The Church of Jesus Christ who are called to serve a mission do not get to pick and choose where they wish to serve. But rather, “Missionaries receive their assignment from Church headquarters and are sent only to countries where governments allow the Church to operate. Missionaries do not request their area of assignment and do not know beforehand whether they will be required to learn a language.” 
The decision to serve a mission is based on faith and trust in the Lord, and those who serve, willingly go wherever the Lord needs them to go. Some may serve in missions not far from home, while some may serve in missions in lands far away. No matter where they are called to serve, they know that they are on the Lord’s errand.
Also, unlike some other Christian missionary programs, the Church of Jesus Christ does not fund the cost of an individual’s mission. Those wishing to serve a mission are expected to work and earn monies that will be used to help support them on their mission. Family members are also encouraged to lend monetary support in whatever way they can. The Church of Jesus Christ does, however, have a missionary fund which members can generously donate to, to help support those members who are called to serve a mission, but do not necessarily have the funds to support a mission.
How Mormon Youth Compare to Other Christian Youth
Needless to say the life of a Mormon teen though similar to other teens in some ways, is significantly different in other ways. For example, Mormon teens in many areas arise early each morning to attend a religion class prior to the start of the normal school day. This class, known as seminary, is where they are taught principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In an article in Christianity Today magazine, titled What Can Christians Learn from the Surge in Mormon Youth Missionaries? Greg Stier, founder and president of Dare 2 Share Ministries, and author of Firing Jesus commented:
Mormonism pushes its kids harder and takes them farther than even the most ardent Protestant youth ministry. Can you imagine a youth group that challenged each of its teenagers to meet at 6 a.m. every day of the school year to learn about Christianity? That’s exactly what Mormons do with their high-school students. We get excited if our teens gather around a pole at 7:15 a.m. to pray once a year. 
Stier also makes mention of the fact that a Mormon young man is ordained to the work of the ministry at the young age of 12. In comparison to other Christian teens, he notes, “When typical Christians graduate from high school, they grab their books and go off to a college dorm. When typical Mormons graduate from high school, they grab a bike pump and go on mission.” . In a further observation he states:
Those high expectations pay off. Young Mormons know what they believe and why they believe it. They’ve hammered out their theology on evangelical doorsteps. Their hearts and minds have been steeled and sealed into Mormon orthodoxy through their intense commitment.
Maybe that’s why Mormons give more and work harder than their Christian peers. Maybe that’s why the religion is expanding while a majority of former Christian youth-group attendees are fleeing the church. 
Steir believes that Protestants should have higher spiritual expectations for their teens. He further believes that the Great Commission should be presented to them as the ultimate cause; that they should be encouraged to spread the message of the gospel at their schools on a daily basis; and that grace and love should be the motivating factors, not religious duty or pressure. He also believes that the Mormon perspective should be adopted, and that Protestant teens should be challenged with greater opportunities of service, outreach, and training to enable them to catch Christ’s vision and mission of building up His Kingdom here on earth. He urges fellow Protestants to “learn from Mormons and instill in our young people a passion for Christ and his cause—making disciples who make disciples.” 
Putting Christ First is the Key
Also in the Christianity Today article titled What Can Christians Learn from the Surge in Mormon Youth Missionaries?, John Divito a former Mormon, a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and administrator for the Midwest Center for Theological Studies in Owensboro, Kentucky contends that Mormon culture is founded on a worldview requiring works in order to gain eternal life. He quotes from a verse of scripture found in the Book of Mormon, which Latter-day Saints testify is ‘Another Testament of Jesus Christ’ and is comparable to the Holy Bible, in 2 Nephi 25:23, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” His defense is that this verse contradicts what is taught in the Holy Bible in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
His supposition, therefore, is:
“Mormon missionary work is critical to one’s eternal future. In light of this, we should not be surprised at the flood of applications that followed the LDS First Presidency’s announcement that it was lowering the minimum age requirement for missionaries. These young people are eager to serve so they can earn God’s favor through their faithfulness.” 
He does assert, however, that there is at a least a “cautionary” lesson that can be learned from the recent increase in the number of Mormon young men and young women answering the call to serve a mission. He states:
We call our children to be obedient, but don’t point them to Christ, who was obedient for us. We call them to godly living, but don’t direct them to Christ as the substitute for our ungodliness. So when we urge our young men and women to serve sacrificially at home and abroad, the call is too often separated from the gospel. We’ve functionally taught them that the Christian life depends on what they do rather than who they are in Christ. This leads either to pride (“I can do it!”) or to despair (“I can’t do it!”).
In Christ, we have the security and the strength to faithfully serve Him in love. May our youth go into the world and make disciples of all nations, having been reconciled to God and entrusted with the message of reconciliation. 
Be Motivated by His Grace
Kara Powell who is executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute, and teaches youth and family ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary, also commented in the Christianity Today article titled What Can Christians Learn from the Surge in Mormon Youth Missionaries? Her comments put the capstone on this topic of discussion. She stated:
Adolescence opens the curtain on a new season of questions for teenagers and emerging adults. Often standing at center stage among the questions that captivate young people is, “What can I do to make a difference?”
The Mormon Church’s missions program gives young people a vibrant stage on which to wrestle with that question and pin down answers. There is a God-given spark embedded in humankind that burns especially bright in adolescents’ developmental hunger to impact others. By lowering the age of eligibility for service, Mormon leaders have fanned the flame for teenagers eager to change the world around them.
The Mormon Church has found a powerful outlet for a young person’s desire to experience purpose and connection. If we as Christians can combine that desire with a sense of God’s extravagant grace, we may experience a similar surge of missions involvement among Christ followers of all ages. 
Additional Resources:Read More
Bringing your attention, friends, loved ones, of all faiths, to the UCAP Coalition Against Pornography’s upcoming conference in Salt Lake City, May 18th, 2013, 9 AM – 1 PM.
Since 2000, UCAP has worked to deliver training, instruction, and bring people together to combat the ills of pornography and its effects on individuals and families. If you are struggling, or engaged in the desires to reduce the avalanche of pornography in your sphere, this conference may provide solutions, perspective, hope, and direction. Visit utahcoalition.org for more information.Read More
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church by the media and others) is the second fastest growing Church in the United States according to a report by the National Council of Churches. One of the primary focuses of the Church of Jesus Christ is its youth membership. At the end of December 2012, the First Presidency of the LDS Church issued a report stating that the total Church membership at that time was 14,782,473. Of that number, 391,680 youth, ages 14-18 were reported as being enrolled in seminary classes (religious education program for secondary students that is taught in conjunction with their daily educational curriculum.) Of those 391,680 youth, many are members of the Boy Scouts of America.
The LDS Church, Boy Scouts of America, and Same-Gender Attraction
In February 2013, after much discussion, it was decided that a resolution on the current policy of excluding gay members and leaders would not be voted on by the approximate 1,400 voting members of the national council until the annual meeting which will be held during the week of 20 May 2013 in Grapevine, Texas.Read More