During this whole COVID-19 thing, most young adults aren’t exactly pumped to get back to church. This age is a difficult one when it comes to this subject! I recently read an article released by the Religion News Service about a new study. Unfortunately, the statistics are clear. Young adults are leaving religion in high numbers and it’s not looking good.
What Was The Study?
This new study was done by the National Study of Youth and Religion. They have been tracking over 3,000 young people since 2002. They began when these children were from the ages of 13 to 17. Researchers followed them through their 20s and interviewed them along the way. Their findings were very interesting.
The NSYR has just published its fourth and final book about the study. In these books, they discuss their findings regarding young adults and spirituality. After following these spiritual journeys, we might be better able to understand why this generation is leaving religion so much. We can also see other patterns, such as what happens when they stick around.
I definitely encourage you to read the article and the corresponding interview about the NSYR’s findings. However, there are a couple of big things that really stood out to me as I read. I would love to address them and hear your thoughts!
Commitment and More Commitment
First of all, the researchers discovered that young adults who stayed committed to religion became even more committed over time. Remaining religious is a big decision for this age group to make. I’m 23 and have definitely experienced the pressure. However, choosing to stay is a springboard for their future spirituality.
I know that in my life, once I consecrate something to the Lord, I desire to give more. Have you noticed the same thing? For example, when I gave up my time to begin working in the temple, I found myself wanting to attend the temple more often as a patron.
Another example is my mission! Making the decision to serve the Lord as a missionary was one of the best things I could have ever done. It gave me a great foundation to use for the rest of my life. I honestly don’t think I would have a testimony today if I hadn’t given up those 18 months.
In my opinion, it’s no coincidence that the Church sends missionaries out at age 18 and 19. This age is a crucial turning point. It’s when young adults need to make the important decision to stay strong in the gospel. Heavenly Father definitely knows what He’s doing! Sending out missionaries when they are young adults will help them have a better chance for a spirit-filled life.
Young Adults and Marriage
The interview/article mentioned another interesting finding. It said, “The people who have remained and look more committed to religion are more likely to be married and have kids.” I think the reason I was so intrigued by this is that the study had nothing to do with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In our church, there is a large focus on the home and family. We are encouraged to get married and start families. Trust me, I’ve felt the pressure there, too. However, I had never thought much about other churches and the push to have a family. But that’s because there isn’t much of one.
It seems that another effect of giving your life to God is a divine desire to have a family. It doesn’t have to be something a preacher says at the pulpit on Sunday. Drawing closer to God simply makes you want to become more like Him. I think our spirits recognize that He has a family and that we should too. Isn’t that neat?
A Celebrity Example
Bear with me, but I’m going to talk about Justin Bieber for a second. My husband and I recently watched the new documentary about him on YouTube. This young man has made a lot of really bad decisions in his short lifetime. He spent many years addicted to drugs and alcohol. He almost died many times because of these addictions.
However, on one particular terrible night, he had a “come to Jesus” moment. He felt the love of God and promised to turn his life around. He still works hard every day to improve his mental and physical health, but he has found hope through giving his life to God. Sure, it looks different than our lives because he’s not a member of the Church. Many of his songs, though, talk about his devotion and love for Heavenly Father.
Once he began reading scriptures, praying, and attending church, he felt something drawing him towards marriage and family. He started dating a woman and they got married very quickly. As far as I can tell, they look really happy. It’s uncommon for a star in Hollywood to get married so young/quickly. I personally think it’s because of the divine qualities inside us that help us to become more like God.
The Light of Christ
This divine quality is called the Light of Christ. The Church’s website defines it as, “the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. The Light of Christ influences people for good and prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost.”
Every single person has the Light of Christ. It propels us to do good and prepare to feel the Spirit. I think it’s incredible to see this truth manifest itself in this new study! These young people that stick around are feeling God’s love and want to continue to grow closer to Him.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson said,
Unless you make a choice and commit to a certain direction, your life will be pretty erratic, and in the end, you will in fact miss out on most of the very best things.
Slow down. Make up your mind and settle it in your heart that you choose God. Find the quiet time when you can kneel down in a private place and say to your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, that you are His, that you are committed, body and soul, to Him, His Son, and the gospel path.
Then follow where He leads, now and for the rest of your life. Don’t hesitate or hold back any longer but get on with your purpose and mission in life. Mortality is so short. Make this time count so that your eternity will be one of joy, not regret. Do you not feel the Spirit telling you that this is right? And go forward with confidence.
I know that being a young adult in the Church can be hard. If you’re one of them, please stay. Trials will come, but having an eternal perspective will bring such peace and joy into your life! I have seen it in my own life and I know you’ll find it in yours.
What advice do you have for young adults to encourage them to stay strong in the gospel? We’d love to hear it in the comments below!