The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the “Mormon Church,” has great programs for youth — young men and young women alike.
Seminary is for high school-aged youth, and typically takes place in the mornings before school, every day. In seminary, youth learn directly from the scriptures. In the four years of high school, youth will study in turn the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants/Church History. In Utah, high schools have what is called “Release Time” when Latter-day Saint high school students are permitted to leave school for one class period and go off-campus to a Church-owned building for seminary instruction. However, most seminary programs take place before school in a Church building or even a member’s home.
The Young Women’s program is for young women ages 12-18, and has classes on Sunday during Church meetings as well as activities during the week. Adult women lead and teach the young women. During the Sunday meetings, lessons are gospel-focused. The meetings during the week could be almost anything: fun activities, learning life skills, or serving others. One central feature of the Young Women’s program is Personal Progress, which is intended to help young women come unto Christ and learn of His gospel through a variety of activities and projects. The Young Women’s program and Personal Progress help young women realize that they are daughters of Heavenly Father, and that He loves each of them. Young women focus on the values faith in Jesus Christ, divine nature and individual worth as a daughter of God, gaining knowledge, the doctrine of personal choice and accountability, the importance of good works and personal integrity, and the need to be a virtuous woman. The Young Women also participate in a week-long camp during the summer.
The Church of Jesus Christ has a similar program for young men ages 12-18. In The Church of Jesus Christ, young men are ordained to the priesthood at age 12; this priesthood is called the Aaronic Priesthood. Young men who are ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood are responsible for preparing, blessing, and passing the Sacrament on Sundays, as well as other duties such as visiting church members and giving service. Boys can become “Priests” in the Aaronic Priesthood at 16 and are then authorized to perform baptisms. Adult men lead and teach the young men in the Aaronic Priesthood. Similar to Personal Progress, young men have a program called Duty to God,which teaches young men their responsibilities as priesthood holders, and prepares them to serve missions. In The Church of Jesus Christ, the responsibility to serve missions rests with the young men, and Duty to God and Priesthood classes on Sunday are intended to help prepare young men to fulfill this responsibility.
The Church of Jesus Christ supports the Boy Scouts of America, sponsoring thousands of troops across the country. Young men are encouraged to progress in the scouting program. Weekly Young Men’s activities frequently focus on earning merit badges and progressing towards the goal of Eagle Scout.
Many congregations have youth conferences intended for youth ages 14-18. Youth conference can take many forms; some congregations take their youth on trips to Latter-day Saint temples. Some youth conferences go camping; others take pioneer treks to learn what it was like to travel across the country in a handcart. Youth conference is different in every area of the church, and is directed by local leaders. Youth conferences are intended as a time for youth to strengthen their personal testimonies and build friendships with their peers and adult members.
Young Single Adults
After youth leave the programs intended for teens 12-18, they enter the program known as the Young Single Adult (YSA) program. The Church of Jesus Christ has separate wards (congregations) for young single adults whose classes and activities are catered to young single adults’ needs. These YSA wards are intended for members age 18-30. Some places in the Church don’t have enough young single adults for a YSA ward, but even in areas where there aren’t local congregations, the Church still has regional events such as YSA conferences or firesides.
Youth programs aren’t intended to replace parents and their guidance. The purpose of Latter-day Saint youth programs is to teach youth the important principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, reinforcing what parents teach. Teachers and leaders in youth programs use the scriptures and words of living prophets to help young men and women learn about the gospel and how they can apply it to their personal lives. Youth programs are supposed to be fun, safe places for young men and women to learn from strong and faithful leaders, make friends, and develop their own faith.
Youth programs also aren’t a place where the Church “brainwashes” teens or tries to “trap” them in the Church. Youth activities are intended to teach, not force teens into a testimony. If teens have questions, concerns, or doubts about the gospel of Jesus Christ, their seminary teacher or young men’s/young women’s leader should be a person who helps them and loves them no matter what. A co-worker of mine joined the Church at age sixteen, the only one in her family to do so. She received a spiritual witness that the Church was true, the second she walked into a Mormon meetinghouse. The occasion was a Mormon youth conference, and the speakers were well-known, successful Mormons in science, business, and entertainment. She not only took the lessons from Mormon Missionaries leading up to her baptism, but she participated in a “Road Show” — a 12-minute travelling play put on by the youth — classes, and other youth activities while she investigated the Church. Many of the youth in the congregation attended missionary classes with her, and she remembers it as a truly fun, exciting time of spiritual discovery. The clean-cut lifestyle of the Mormon youth encouraged her parents to approve of her baptism. She has now been a Mormon for fifty years and says it has brought her all the best things in her life.