More than 50 years ago a study was made involving 1,800 seminary and institute students to determine the factors that influenced their religious life.
Among other questions, the students were asked:- What things in your home life or in the home life of your friends are tending to build up belief in religion and to make young people become better Church members?
- What things are happening in such homes that are tending to tear down faith in religion and are causing young people to neglect their religious life?
In response to the questions, four basic reasons why young people remain strong in the Church were prevalent. They were:
- Prayer in the home.
- The religious practice and life of the parents.
- An abundance of good magazines and books in the home, especially Church books and magazines.
- A general feeling of love, loyalty and cooperation in the home.
Other factors listed as being important to the religious home life of young people back in 1938 were respect for Church authorities and willingness to cooperate with them, marriage in the temple, and family support and interest in a missionary in the field.
Conversely, the survey showed factors in the home that may cause young people to neglect their religion. They included:
- Prayerless homes.
- Irreligious living in the home as represented by such specific things as smoking, drinking, working on Sunday, dishonesty in business dealings, profanity and immorality.
- The lack of good reading material.
Other factors contributing to the neglect of religion in the home were parental criticism of the Church and authorities, making fun of sacred things, hypocrisy in the home, parents who show no love for each other, and insufficient religious instruction in the home. (Deseret News Church Section, May 7, 1938.)
Alot has happened in the world during the last half century since that survey was taken. Tremendous progress has been made in science, medicine, electronics, communications, transportation and undoubtedly every other field of endeavor.
And what has happened in the Church during the past 50 years is phenomenal. From a little more than 600,000 members in 1938, the Church has grown to more than 8 million. The 122 stakes back then have mushroomed to more than 1,850 today. Temples now dot the globe in 44 locations, and more are being planned or constructed, whereas 50 years ago there were only seven temples, with only two outside the western United States. Indicators across a broad spectrum show that the faithfulness and spirituality of Latter-day Saints are significantly up from what they were in 1938.
Truly, the past 50 years, in lots of ways, have been wonderful years in and out of the Church.
But sadly, sin and wickedness also have greatly increased, perhaps at a corresponding rate. Because of the forces of good and evil working against each other, wickedness increases seemingly as fast as righteousness. Today is really the best of times but also the worst of times.
Even though we're living in a world much different than it was in 1938, the principles of the gospel remain constant. Just as prayer in the home was listed as a vital religious force in the 1938 survey, so it is today. And the same is true of the other factors listed in the survey 50 years ago. They are just as valid today as they were then. Foundation principles do not change. Think of the good that would occur today if in all our homes there was a general feeling of love, loyalty and cooperation. There would be no unfaithfulness and infidelity, no backbiting and bickering, no contentions and hurt feelings. Think of the powerful positive influences that daily prayers would bring into a home as family members kneel in humble petition to the Lord. Think of the wholesome spirit that would be created in a home if parents and children faithfully studied the scriptures together, and read good magazines and books.
And think of the righteous example for young people to follow if all Latter-day Saint parents were observing the Word of Wisdom, paying their tithing, living a moral life, keeping the Sabbath day holy, and attending Church meetings.
In the ever-changing world in which we live, the principles of the gospel remain unchanged. They do not get outdated with the passing of time. Just as they were 50 years ago - or 100 or 150 - gospel principles are still our fortress against the evils of the world. They will ever be so.