Recently, a new family moved into our neighborhood. I was chatting with the mother of three and she asked about babysitters in this area. I have an awesome babysitter, and off the top of my head I could spout out no less than nine teenaged girls who I knew would be excellent candidates. I described them, their skills, ages, and driver’s license status. The mother looked at me and asked, “How do you know all these girls?”
As I have mentioned, I was asked to volunteer in the youth program for our church. I work with the Young Women, ages 12-18. So, I explained that I know these girls from church. I further explained that I work with the youth in our congregation. Immediately, she grasped the significance of that connection stating, “Oh, so that’s awesome because you know their values.”
“Yes,” I added, “And I know their families”. In fact, I know their character, their history, and their hopes for the future. These are good kids. Amazing kids. Seriously. These girls attend church every sunday for three hours. They pay tithing on their babysitting wages. They attend Seminary Education classes at 5:30 AM (before High School) five days a week. They actively participate in a Personal Progress Program designed by the LDS Church to expand their horizons, give service and develop skills. These 12-18 year-olds have values. In fact, I can list them! We recite them each week as we meet together. They believe in Faith, their Divine Nature as children of God, their Individual Worth as human beings; They believe in the value of Knowledge, the concept of Choice and Accountability, the importance of Good Works, Integrity, and moral Virtue. These young women are actively preparing for lives of service to their families, communities and God.
How many kids in America do you think fit that description? They know who they are. They don’t need to experiment with all the wrong things to find the right way to live. They don’t look to alcohol or drugs for a good time. They have skills and confidence and good, old-fashioned sense in their heads. They don’t need to waste their post-grad years backpacking across Europe to find themselves. Instead, most of them will be traveling the word as missionaries, helping others find God.
A realization hit me with force as I spoke to the new mother in our neighborhood. These Mormon girls are very unique. They are years ahead of their peers in terms of character development. That’s a bold statement, but I’ll stand by it.
When you’re the new family in town looking for a babysitter you can trust so you can just get out of the house for a minute (just a minute!), you’re thrilled to find someone who will perform the basic function of keeping your kids alive until you return. Finding someone who won’t invite their boyfriend over is a plus. Finding someone who won’t be texting their friends the entire time is miraculous. And, finding someone who is an exemplary role model for your children almost seems unrealistic.
Really, how many teenagers in America—or even the World— do you think fit that description?
Well, my congregation in Memphis is just one of 28,660 congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints (Mormons) world-wide. Each congregation provides the Young Women’s Program (and Young Men’s Programs) for their youth. That’s a lot of awesome potential babysitters.
But of course it’s not the youth programs alone that give these kids such a head-start. Their education begins in the home, at the cradle-side. Check out this quote from one of my favorite October 2013 General Conference messages:
Parents today wonder if there is a safe place to raise children. There is a safe place. It is in a gospel-centered home. We focus on the family in the Church, and we counsel parents everywhere to raise their children in righteousness. ~Boyd K. Packer (from The Key to Spiritual Protection October 2013 General Conference)
I can’t say it better than that.