M2C Mailbag - Teenagers and Mormon Friends
I received this e-mail from "J" and thought I would share my answer with the readers of the blog:
I've been wanting to ask someone about the tactics used to persuade teens to join their religion. You know a teenage guy well - not a lot of information comes our way. Teens don't want parents casting judgement on their friends and their families. It's a fine line to walk: allowing him to spend time with his friend while trying to limit that amount of time without over reacting.. They treat our son like gold and their son is always on the phone inviting him over. What frustrates my husband and I, is that it seems their son can never come to our home.
Any insights on how to handle this situation or what to watch for would be greatly appreciate
You are very wise to be concerned about your son's involvement in his Mormon friend's activities.
Many teenagers join the Mormon church due to fellowshipping and "love bombing" from their friends. Mormon teens are encouraged to socialize with non-members almost exclusively in the context of trying to convert them. Mormon teenagers are encouraged to have nice "wholesome" entertainment, and for this they should be praised. However, the fact that the children are only allowed to socialize in their Mormon home is basically saying that the parents don't quite feel that your home is "wholesome" enough for their children.
Also, from the time children are old enough to have friends who are not Mormon, they are taught the concept of "Every Member a Missionary." They are taught that giving the gift of the Gospel is the best gift you can give to a nonmember friend. No matter how close your son becomes to these Mormon friends of his, I can guarantee you that their guard will be up and they will always try to find ways to give your son the gift of the Gospel.
Here are some articles from official LDS publications that address the issue:
Activities that Change Lives
They've turned 16, now what?
Sharing the Gospel: It’s the Grice Thing to Do
A Parent’s Guide, 5: Teaching Adolescents: from Twelve to Eighteen Years
What I would recommend is to talk to your son about his friends and their religious belief. Let him know that it is Ok for them to be friends, but if religion comes up that he is encouraged to bring back questions he may have about his faith and the Mormon faith home instead of taking what they say as concrete fact. Make sure he knows his catechism, and make sure he's secure in his faith.
There's not much that can be done, unfortunately, especially because I'm sure these types of discussions would be quite difficult for a parent and a teenage boy.
I hope this gives you at least some perspective on where the friends are coming from, and what you can do to protect your son.