I loved some of the responses to my last post on speechless youth. Thanks especially to the comment from Andrea. I’d like to cite part of it to emphasize a couple of points:
I’m 21. I joined the Church when I was about 17, so my first exposure to LDS youth and culture was mainly among that age group. I have to say, I WAS impressed with their mostly superior displays of if not intelligence, then [eloquence]. . . . I also have to say, they spent as much time chatting online and playing video games as the rest of the non-LDS kids out there. I think the big difference with them is the amount and quality of social interaction they had. They spent their time with their families, at youth group, or doing other (mostly) wholesome things with friends. In all of these situations, there are two huge differences I see between what those kids do and what most kids that age do. They are thus
A.) No drinking, drugs, or isolated boy/girl activity. All of these situations reduce the amount of (intelligent) communication needed to pass time and socialize. When a bunch of sober kids get together to play board games, there’s a lot more thinking and language development than a bunch of kids that get together to smoke pot. (as a foot note, sober/drug-free kids also do lightyears better than their counterparts in school, helping them develop their verbal skills in the most obvious setting)
B.) These kids didn’t swear. Now, being a convert to the church, I can tell you first hand the difference between swearing and not swearing in conversation. Swearing is easier. People instantly know what you mean and they know your emotions with one word. NOT swearing is a much more rewarding way of speaking in my opinion, because you, in a way, forced to use more words and sort of translate what you would say into a much more creative sentence. I think it’s awesome, to listen to people, especially young people, have an entire animated conversation without using one swear word. . . .
I have another point to make: Before I joined the Church, I had never given a talk in front of a crowd so large before. And certainly I had never delivered a successful speech, because I suffered from almost debilitating shyness and stage fright (I ran out of my drama class crying and quit before the first week was over, for example) But once I gave my first talk in Church… well, something amazing happened. I can only attribute it to the spirit, because not only did I manage to deliver a decent talk without fainting or wetting my pants, but I could suddenly do things like share my most personal testimony in front of a whole congregation of people without fear. Amazing. I can’t tell you how much it’s helped me in these transitional years of my life to have the Church to buoy me up that way.
I think Latter-day saint youth have a distinct advantage over their peers for all the reasons I mentioned. I have always been impressed with how well-adjusted children from active homes are because of their opportunities to do things like give talks, pray vocally in class, and sing in front of the ward. I think another thing that helps is social activity in the ward and the very MOST important thing is the involvement LDS parents have in their kids’ education and development.
And besides all that, nothing is cuter than a group of 5-year-olds singing “I am a child of God” at the top of their lungs on the stand each month.
Andrea’s comment nicely captures some important aspects of LDS culture and its impact on young people.