Anyone who knows me understands that I spend most of my time and effort in raising my two beautiful children, Julia age eight and Joshua age six and a half (these half years are very important to children, we must understand) and as I see the challenges that await these young souls and experience the difficulty of raising a child I cannot help but prove exceedingly grateful for the structure, order, strength and power of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in their lives. My late grandfather joined the church later in life and he said that though he wasn't sure about the whole Joseph Smith idea, he recognized that there was no better way to raise a child than within the walls of this church.
What makes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints so different? Well, let's discuss what children learn within its embrace. Families are paramount in the doctrine of the church and parents are instructed to read scriptures as a family daily, hold family prayer daily, and every Monday night is set aside for Family Home Evening, which is simply an evening where the family joins together to study the gospel and grow together in love, service, gospel teaching, and wholesome recreation. When a child turns three or four they are invited to publicly stand at a pulpit in front of the others in the children's class and give prayers, bear testimony, read scriptures or even give miniature sermons. At the age of eight they have the choice to be baptized and this is their choice, not that of their parents. The bishop will interview them and ensure it is something they want to do of their own free will and choice, and that they understand the implications of so doing. Also at the age of eight boys enter Cub Scouts and girls begin Activity Days and work on earning their "Faith in God" award, which is essentially the feminine counterpart of scouting. At 12 it becomes more exciting, as they are invited to preach to the entire congregation on Sunday, can enter a small portion of the temple, boys receive the priesthood with its duties and responsibilities and girls begin a fantastic program called Personal Progress. Girls can earn their "Young Woman Recognition" award which is essentially the counterpart of the boy becoming an Eagle Scout. At the age of 12 they are now expected to study for and help teach their own Sunday School lessons as well and often have leadership responsibilities over the others withing their age groups, planning and executing activities and consulting with the bishop on how best to reach those who are struggling. Dating is forbidden until 16 and at that time they are to go out in groups, avoid dark places or being alone with the opposite gender and abide by high outlined standards of dress, speech, behavior and the like. In high school they enter seminary, which is usually early in the morning before school every school day and they study one year of Old Testament, one year of New Testament, one year of Book of Mormon and one year of History of the Church before graduation.
One might think this is too rigorous for a child to handle, but I lived through most of this (Activity Days were instituted fairly recently) and I can tell you it is an absolute joy! Children feel accomplished, strong, capable, intelligent, resourceful, special and important, and they learn from a very young age several skills which prove great advantages in life including public speaking, individual accountability, service to others and the like. Maintaining high moral standards can prove challenging in this world but these kids already know what is expected of them and their friends also know the difference between right and wrong and the outlined moral code. The Mormon kids often band together to support each other and have fun, drawing with them those other kids who want to have good clean fun and creating an atmosphere of light wherever they go. Perhaps there is somewhere a better way to raise a child, but I haven't found one yet and as soon as my daughter entered Activity Days it felt like a massive weight lifted from my shoulders, because I had a support system to teach not only about God but about manners, budgeting, service, developing talents and the like. And you don't have to be Mormon to join up with the troops of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and the other activities. One of the main reasons we do this is to bless as many people as we can possibly reach.