I just spent the weekend with 1,300 teenage boys and girls at a Latter-day Saint youth conference. I am exhausted. I also feel ancient after trying to be hip while hanging out with 16-year-old girls and boys. I felt especially decrepit after Justin Timberlake’s song “Bringing Sexy Back” came on the car radio and one girl yelled, “Oh yes, a classic! This takes me back to 7th grade.”
Really? A classic? Oh man, I’m old.
It was also fun, though, to hang out with teenagers for a weekend while the youth practiced for a dance festival that incorporated more than 10 complicated dances. It was hot. It was a lot of dancing, and there were plenty of reasons to complain.
But, these teens didn’t (at least not loud enough for me to hear). In fact, I think I grumbled more than they did. The theme of their performance was “Arise. Stand. Shine,” and these LDS boys and girls did just that.
I am constantly hearing of how disconnected the teen generation is and how entitled and disaffected teenagers are. But this group of LDS youth shook that stereotype. Of course there are tons of non-LDS teenagers who are wonderful as well, but here’s the traits I found most impressive about these Mormon kids:
- They are polite. They say thank you and you’re welcome. They even thanked me for nagging about sunscreen and hydration.
- They got the job done. These teenagers didn’t quit, even when the dress rehearsal was a total disaster and it looked like the show was going to bomb. They pushed through even when it wasn’t fun to make the final performance a hit.
- They smile. So often I see teenagers looking down at a phone, thumbs a-flying. Or they are looking up, but only to meet me with a glare or a “what-are-you-looking-at?” head tilt. But these LDS youth smiled at each other, at me, at total strangers. Their faces had a light to them that made them appealing and attractive.
Right now I am in kindergarten mode in my house. The teenage years seem far away. But they will come all too fast. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared — mostly because if karma has anything to say about it, I have a lot of slammed doors heading my way. So I’m crossing my fingers that my daughters fall into the same category of youth from this weekend. I hope they smile. I hope they say thank you to adults and appreciate leaders who serve them. I hope they stick things out even when it’s tough.
Mostly, I hope my daughters associate with other LDS youth who have the same standards even when it’s not popular. I hope they arise, stand and shine as happy, grateful youth.
Do you think LDS youth stand out from average teenagers? How? If you have teenagers at home, how do you help them shirk the rude teenager stereotype?