Last week I heard an amazing young woman give a great Sacrament talk. But in it, she shared a scary experience. One of her high school teachers had written a random group of items on the board, such as family, friends, money, vacations, stylish clothes, electronics, popularity—just a number of things many people want or appreciate. In that assortment was “religion.” Then the students were asked to make a list of these items in order of importance to them. For more than half the class, “religion” was dead last.
I worry that her class is typical of classes all over the world, filled with young people who have no interest in God, church, or faith. Yes, there are outstanding youth in the world today, in and outside of our church, who would put “religion” first. The girl giving the Sacrament talk was one of them. They study scriptures, they pray, they adhere to high standards. But this fraction is shrinking, and it scares me.
Tomorrow’s elementary classrooms will be filled with the children of today’s teenagers, and with each succeeding generation, fewer and fewer believe. Clearly, the parents of these youths have dropped the ball, as perhaps have their parents before them. And kids applying for college today will be tomorrow’s local leaders and decision-makers who impact curriculum, vote for representatives, and determine the direction society will take.
Twenty-five years ago I was asked to explain the real meaning of Christmas to a classroom of 1st graders. Evidently I was the only parent the teacher could think of, who could address this. So I sat down in a little chair, surrounded by kids in “story time” fashion. And I asked, “How many of you have heard of Jesus Christ?” Aside from my own son, not one hand went up. Not one! And I wasn’t asking who he was, or if they believed in him, just if they had heard of him– even mentioned in passing—and nothing.
It was one of the most heartbreaking moments I can recall—to think that my greatest friend, my Savior, the one who purchased us all with his atoning blood—was utterly unknown in those families. And I couldn’t keep from bursting into tears. At the time I wished I could have had more control, but in retrospect, I think my reaction was the most appropriate one in the room. Is there a greater tragedy than to live without knowing and loving Christ?
Those kids are adults, now, many of them undoubtedly parents. And what are they teaching their children of Christ?
Last week Meridian printed an article that said, “nearly three-quarters of the public (72%) now thinks religion is losing influence in American life, up 5 percentage points from 2010 to the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past decade.”
Watching religion dwindle in importance is more than just sad; it constitutes an emergency. If we don’t amp up our efforts to turn this around, it won’t take many years for us to live in a jaw-dropping world we don’t even recognize. When generations grow up without a moral code, without faith, without any connection to God, disaster looms. Look to any nation that has sterilized its people from the truth, scrubbed clean the hard lessons of history, and you’ll see disintegration of that people—poverty, crime, submission to tyrants, loss of freedoms, breakdown of the family, even economic ruin.
I’ve heard many say, “Well, this is a sign of the times—the polarization of good and evil,” as if it’s just the unstoppable, inevitable outcome of life leading up to the millennium. But we aren’t supposed to shove our hands in our pockets and give up. We’re to reach out and try to save all those we can. We’re to be part of the Search and Rescue team. Each individual matters, and each one is worth saving.
For years I resisted social media. Didn’t have time, didn’t want to hear what every Beehive in my ward just bought at the mall. Sound familiar? I figured Facebook was great for grandparents who want to see pictures of their grandkids, or for teenagers whose vocabularies have diminished to BFF and LOL. I felt even less interested in Twitter or Instagram.
But I’ve changed my tune entirely. If our leaders have told us to use social media to spread the gospel, then that’s a clarion call to action. One of our Relief Society teachers shared a goal of hers, to daily post something about the gospel—a quote, a video, a talk, a link—something. What a grand idea.
We can reach people as never before by taking the plunge and joining the chatter. Last week I wrote about unplugging—and that’s still good advice for those who spend entirely too much time online. But for those who have resisted any and all social media, bite the bullet and ask someone to help you create an account. If you only visit for five minutes a day, you can make a difference.
Let’s take back the messages pummeling the new generation. Let’s let them—and their parents– know there are millions of people who do love religion, and who do place it at the top of their list. Let’s make it socially acceptable to say so. And maybe we can actually save that bottom line for something else.
Hilton’s LDS Nursery Rhymes is hot off the presses and can be purchased at the BYU Store, or at this link.
You can find her other books here.
She is also “Your YouTube Mom” and shares short videos about easy household tips and life skills at this channel.
And be sure to read her blog.
Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.