Mormon youth find unity in faith

By Amelia Kurk

It’s 6:45 in the morning. At a church, about 20 Latter-Day Saints, more commonly known as Mormons, are studying scriptures from the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

“It’s a sacrifice, but it helps me start off my day right,” senior Kailee Kema said.

The Mormon youth attend seminary, a program to learn more about their faith and beliefs, and this gathering helps members solidify their values to explain their religion to others.

One common misconception is that its members are not Christians.

“I just clarify to them that we are Christian,” freshman Brandon Aguilar said. “Other churches don’t always believe in the same thing, so it doesn’t make us any different.”

Many of the core beliefs of the Mormon church are similar to other Christian churches. They believe in a Godhead and that Jesus Christ died for the sins of humanity and rose again.

“We believe in the Godhead; Heavenly Father, His son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost as three separate beings,” Garlick said. “Where our beliefs differ is that we believe when all of the apostles were killed, the Priesthood left the earth, and there was nobody authorized to act in the name of God.”

Outside observers of the faith express curiosity about the Book of Mormon and its relationship to the Christian Bible.

“We study the Book of Mormon along with the Bible, which we also believe is a sacred book of scripture,” junior Brooke Hanks said.

In addition to the daily study of these texts, emphasis and value are placed on the closeness of family and the responsibility that family members have for one another.

“We believe that family is central to God’s plan,” senior Brooke Hanks said. “It is important to show love towards and care for our family members.”

The notion of an earthly family and an eternal family is one that is taught in the Mormon church and held in high esteem by its members.

“We believe in eternal families,” senior Riley Park said. “We say family scriptures and prayers in the morning and at night. That’s something that we’ve been able to build off from our religion to be able to be a closer family, and I love that the church teaches that.”

This concept of being together as a family through all eternity is one of the biggest draws for Kema, who finds reassurance in the eternal family.

“We believe that when you go to Heaven, you’ll live as a family,” Kema said. “The difference between a Mormon marriage and a civil marriage is that a civil marriage is ‘until death do you part’ and a Mormon marriage is for ‘time and all eternity.”

Many Mormon youth choose to serve as missionaries to share information about the Mormon faith with others. Men ages 18 to 21 and women ages 19 to 21 may be assigned for one to two years to places around the world. Contact with family is limited during this time, so the faith’s  strong emphasis on family can make it a hard choice for young adults to make this commitment.

“It may seem like a huge sacrifice to some or a waste of time, but for me, I have been blessed with the knowledge of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in my family,” Garlick said. “I have been so blessed by it that the least I can do to show my gratitude is to help others to feel and experience this joy that I feel.”

Above all, members of the Mormon church believe that practicing their faith shapes their life experiences for the better.

“I don’t just go to church. It’s my lifestyle,” Park said. “It’s made me who I am as a person, so if people ever wonder why I am the way I am, it’s because that spirit has been put into me.”