What is life like for a Mormon child? Since Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) do not all live in one place, but live wherever they choose and are found all over the world, each child’s life is different. However, there are some common elements found in most homes with practicing, believing parents.
Mormons are very family-oriented, and so most Mormon children are born into homes that want them and are excited to receive another child of God into their home. Soon after birth, babies receive a name and a blessing. This is normally done in church and is carried out by the father if he holds the priesthood (active Mormon males over the age of twelve may all hold the priesthood) or another chosen priesthood holder. Other men who hold the priesthood are invited to participate. The priesthood stands in a circle and the person speaking the blessing places his hands on the baby’s head. He gives the child his or her official name and then, as inspired, offers a message or blessing from God concerning whatever the Holy Ghost inspires him to say.
Children begin attending church with their parents immediately. The regular worship service does not offer a nursery because Mormons believe it is valuable for children to attend services with their families, learning from the experience of seeing their families in Sabbath worship. This makes the meetings a little noisy, but since Mormons generally like children, they don’t mind. Children who are too distracting are usually taken to the foyer.
At age eighteen months, they begin attending church classes meant for them. After the worship service, there are two sessions of classes, with the total service being three hours. During the class times, the little children are in a nursery. The nursery is considered a real class, not a babysitting service. Although there are toys and playtimes, there is also a brief lesson suitable for a toddler, singing, crafts, and other activities that help the children learn about Jesus Christ. Mormons believe even very young children can feel the Holy Ghost and learn to love their Savior.
At age three, they begin attending regular church classes. One of the two lesson periods is spent in Sharing Time, where all children ages three to eleven, or perhaps half the ages, if the Sharing Time is divided, meet together to sing and participate in gospel-related activities. The other period is spent in a class with children their own age and one or two teaches. The three-year-olds learn about all the scriptures as they are taught stories with morals. The four to eight year olds study the Bible one year and church history and the Book of Mormon the next. They then repeat, but at a higher level. The older children are on the same rotation as their teenage siblings and their parents—two years of Bible study, one year of the Book of Mormon, and one of Church history.
Mormons also believe the gospel of Jesus Christ should be taught in the home. In fact, the home is the primary place for gospel learning. Church programs only support the parents. To this end, Mormons hold a family night one evening a week, usually on Mondays. They have prayers, scripture study, a brief lesson on a topic of their choice, games, and treats. Most families rotate the responsibilities so children learn to lead music, conduct meetings, and teach, all valuable religious and secular skills.
Mormon families have daily scripture study and prayer, in addition to personal scripture study and prayer. Even small children participate in these. The parents have the opportunity to model a faith-based life.
Children are baptized at age eight. This is considered the age of accountability and the age in which they can discern right from wrong if they are taught. Before their baptism, they are encouraged to pray and to find out for themselves if the church is true, something they will periodically repeat as needed. Mormons have faith in a child’s ability to learn truth and to communicate with God.
At this time, they also join one of two church-sponsored clubs. Boys become members of the Cub Scouts, and girls have a special church-developed Faith in God program. Both require children to set and carry out goals and meetings incorporate fun but meaningful activities and service projects.
Mormons don’t believe in a Sunday-only religion, so they try to incorporate their beliefs into every aspect of their lives, trying to emulate the Savior in their behavior. This means most Mormon families will do a great deal of service, practice high moral standards, and integrate their faith into everyday life.
Of course, Mormon children also do the usual things most children do. They attend school. Mormons don’t have private church-run schools until college, so Mormon children attend any public or private school they choose and some homeschool. They play on community sports teams, join clubs, and play. They have busy but meaningful lives that are also fun and family-centered.