Teen Faith: Mormon vs. Mainstream

In the political thriller, By A Thread, Mormon missionary Kevin “Red” Davis struggles to make sense of a world that is far different culturally and politically than the insular LDS society in which he was raised. At 19, he was sent out to change the world, but finds it changing him instead.

For an insight into the mind of a typical LDS teenager, as compared to the average American teen, consider this excerpt from the Book Review: Teen Angels: What, if anything, do they believe? by Eve Tushnet. The book she reviewed was “What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church” by Kenda Creasy Dean, Oxford, 264 pp., $24.95

…American teenagers follow a mutant creed best understood as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” Almost Christian, a popularization of the results of the 2002-05 National Study of Youth and Religion, attempts to help Christian parents, youth pastors, and others who are alarmed at the shakiness and incoherence of most teens’ faith.

The content of that faith is simple and as American as a smile in an airport. The tenets of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) include belief in a god who watches over us and orders life on earth, and whose major moral concern is that humans should be nice to one another

MTD cuts across old denominational and confessional boundaries. It’s most prevalent among mainline Protestants and Catholics and least prevalent among Mormons, black Protestants, and “conservative Protestants.” In fact, this belief system seems designed to minimize the importance of religious difference, partly as a way of defusing the tensions and passions of a pluralist society. It’s as if believing that other people are wrong about God in some important ways is bad manners.

Mormons, by contrast, challenge their teenagers and require a lot of time, study, and leadership from them. Mormon parents rise at dawn to go over their church’s history and doctrine with their children. More than half of the Mormon youth in the study had given a presentation in church in the past six months. They frequently shared public testimony and felt that they were given some degree of decision-making power within their community. They shape their plans for the immediate future around strong cultural pressures toward mission trips and marriage. Whatever one thinks of the actual beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it seems obvious that both adult Mormons and the teens who follow them really, really believe.

Here is the full book review, as it appears in the Weekly Standard.









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