One of the big announcements coming from last weekend’s General Conference was a new-and-improved For the Strength of the Youth pamphlet.  I have a post-in-progress comparing and contrasting the most recent (2011) and new version of the pamphlet—which is by nearly every measure a major improvement.  Put your second piercings back in, ladies!  Freedom!   

But that post isn’t done yet, and anyway, I wanted to talk about something specific that I noticed when reading the new pamphlet that doesn’t really fit into that larger discussion. It’s this section:  

Is it wrong to have questions about the Church? How can I find answers? 

Having questions is not a sign of weakness or lack of faith. In fact, asking questions can help build faith. The Restoration of the gospel started when 14-year-old Joseph Smith asked questions with faith. Seek answers in the scriptures, in the words of God’s prophets, from your leaders and faithful parents, and from God Himself. If answers don’t come right away, trust that you will learn line upon line. Keep living by what you already know, and keep seeking for truth.”

For the Strength of Youth: A Guide to Making Choices

While I appreciate that nod to questions (faith-building questions …), it troubles me that there is a qualifier to “parents”—kids should seek answers from “faithful parents.”  There is no qualifier whatsoever in front of prophets or leaders, by contrast. I guess we recognize that parents can make mistakes, but not Church leaders … 

I’m concerned that this may add to discord in families because it suggests that less active / non-member parents aren’t qualified sources for answers to questions.  I have friends who have renegotiated their relationship with Church (including many of those quiet quitters I wrote about last week) and now face judgment and derision from their own children. A Church that inserts itself between parents and children (unless there is actual abuse going on) is the opposite of pro-family. 

Ironically, the Church’s purported reason for the 2015 exclusion policy was that it didn’t want to come between parents and children with differing beliefs. I don’t think that was ever the full or truthful story, but if there was any doubt, this line certainly suggests that family harmony isn’t as important to some Church leaders as orthodoxy. 

I also wonder about the “why” for this text, which I suspect was intentional. I’m sure people pored over every word in this pamphlet and it would have been natural—and better parallel structure—to simply say “parents.”  It sticks out. I don’t think it was an accident.  So why?

I don’t know, but I wonder if the Church is concerned about the children of parents who are checking out. It would seem a good response to that would be to try to re-engage parents, but the Church has been hell-bent on focusing on youth at the expense of adults for years now.  I’ve heard from a CES employee that the Church has basically given up the over-40 crowd. The people like me who heard one version of the gospel and are now disillusioned—that’s a trust crisis that the Church has not been successful at repairing (because it is unwilling to face it head-on). Instead, they are trying to avoid those mistakes with younger kids who they hope won’t reach disillusionment.  

Apparently, they’ll do that even at the expense of telling kids to trust their parents.  

  • If you read the new FSOY pamphlet, did this stand out to you?  Have you seen instances of the Church inserting itself between parents and kids, or do you think this is pretty rare?