News Story

Mormon Leaders Speak to Canadian Youth Using Technology

In most respects, youth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Airdrie, Alberta, are just like their peers of other faiths — they study, play sports, hang out with friends and use every type of technology available. They are an integral part of a digital generation, the first generation with no memory of life before cell phones and the Internet.

But like other Mormon teenagers, they are also different from some of their peers. Many attend scripture study classes each morning before school and meet with other young Church members once a week outside of church. They often pray and read scripture daily. They also naturally turn to technology to explore their religious beliefs, using social media to post and discuss videos and quotes from Church leaders.

For Mormon youth, religion is not a Sunday-only affair, but part of who they are. So when Church leaders determined it was time to revamp the lessons taught to youth on Sundays, they knew they needed to provide tools for them to integrate their faith into their digital lives.

“Youth today face a never-ending stream of digital distractions that pull them in a variety of directions, many of which are destructive or unnecessary,” says Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “The Church must play a significant role as a source of good for youth in a technological world. Our new online-based curriculum seeks, both through digital media and increased interpersonal interaction in and out of class, to help youth apply the teachings of Jesus Christ in their own lives.”

The curriculum, called Come, Follow Me, focuses on providing teachers in the Church with resources to teach gospel doctrines as Jesus Christ taught. The title refers to Christ’s words in Luke 18:22 (see also Matthew 16:24; Mark 1:17; Luke 9:23). Teachers are asked to emulate the Saviour’s way of teaching — loving and knowing those He taught, preparing by fasting and praying, using the scriptures, sharing real-life examples, asking questions, trusting those He taught, inviting people to act and being an example.

The previous curriculum was taught out of published manuals, and the lesson materials were the same for every congregation around the world. Manuals often did not include the most current resources and teachings. The new curriculum can be updated as new resources and teachings are made available, and teachers are asked to use the online resources to create a lesson tailored to the individual needs of the youth in their classes.

Each month, leaders and teachers now select from an online collection of lessons those they think will best meet the needs of the youth in their congregations. It’s a curriculum designed to adjust to the youth, complete with videos, music and graphics accessible via a Church website and mobile apps.


Using the New Curriculum

Twelve-year-old McKenna Sager of Airdrie, Alberta, says the technology used in the new curriculum helps her learn better. “It’s a new age, and technology is a way to connect better with us.”

The digital tools are just one part of a more individualized approach to teaching in the new curriculum.  “Come, Follow Me has been adapted to the needs of the youth by harnessing multiple methods,” says Elder Christoffel Golden Jr. of the Seventy. “[It] will help the youth … to more deeply internalize the gospel in their lives.”

The new curriculum places a heavy emphasis on youth participation as students and as teachers. The youth are asked to come to class each Sunday prepared to learn, to study scriptures and other teachings on their own, and to share what the gospel means to them with peers and family.

“[It’s] exciting to be involved more,” says Sager. “I like that I can download scriptures so they are with me all the time.”

The lessons are posted as an outline, with references and links to scripture, videos and recent teachings from Church leaders. Since the lessons can be continually updated, youth will hear current examples of how Church doctrine may apply to their lives and problems.

Trajan Schulzke, a Sunday School leader in Gatineau, Quebec has served with the youth in Ottawa, Ontario, for a number of years. He says the new curriculum “gives them the opportunity to consider for themselves how they really feel about the doctrines and principles of the gospel, to share their feelings and to hear what their friends think” about living the gospel. 

The curriculum also asks youth leaders to befriend, encourage and support youth in their personal spiritual devotion. These lay leaders are asked to be involved in the lives of the teenagers they teach and to try to understand their personal spiritual needs. 

“It is a wonderful stretch for teachers,” says Schulzke. “As teachers, we need to prepare well by making time to ponder the lessons and seek inspiration on the best ways to present the doctrines and start the discussions with our youth. ... The role of the teacher is to help ensure the principles and doctrines are being recognized from the experiences being shared.” 

“Everyone’s still a little cautious about sharing their feelings in class. No one wants to look silly, but they are learning that our class is a safe place to explore and develop. ... It’s getting easier for all of us each week. Sharing feelings and experiences is different from giving the ‘right’ answers, so everyone can get involved and not be judged for the views they hold.”

All Church Programs Seek to Strengthen Faith in Jesus Christ

Mormon youth differ from some of their peers because of the Church’s focus on daily religious devotion. In the Mormon view, being a follower of Christ means much more than attending church on Sundays.

For example, Mormon high school-aged youth are encouraged to enrol in four years of religious education (in addition to regular schooling) known as the seminary program. Mormon teenagers also participate in the Church Young Men and Young Women programs, where they meet in classes on Sundays for religious instruction and several times during the month for social activities — including service projects, sports, camping and dances. Young men and young women are also given leadership positions within their respective organizations in which they learn to set goals, plan group activities and solve problems. The Church’s First Presidency has also created the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet for teens. The principles in this booklet — including honesty, clean language, regular exercise and obtaining as much education as possible — are rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ and encourage teens to take an active part in their religion and community. 

The deep devotion of Mormon youth led one Christian author to write that “Mormon teenagers tend to be the ‘spiritual athletes’ of their generation, conditioning for an eternal goal with an intensity that requires sacrifice, discipline, and energy.” This devotion often continues into adulthood. A 2010 study from the Pew Research Center shows that Mormons score among the highest of all religion groups in their knowledge of Christianity, the Bible and other religious information. 

Trajan Schulzke says he is “confident that this [online-based youth] curriculum will help our youth to understand themselves better and be better prepared to face the real, personal challenges of everyday living.” Assisting youth to be better prepared is consistent with everything the Church aims to do: help people come closer to Jesus Christ.


Additional Resources

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