Mosiah 24 describes the education of the Lamanite people under the rule of Amulon. From a worldly perspective, they are well educated; they learn the Nephite language and are trained in writing and doing business with others. As a result, they begin to accumulate riches and are described as a “cunning and wise people, as to the wisdom of the world.”
However, the one thing missing from their education is also identified: “They knew not God; neither did the brethren of Amulon teach them anything concerning the Lord their God, neither the Law of Moses; nor did they teach them the words of Abinadi.” (Mosiah 24:5) As a result, although the people are described as wise and cunning, they are also described as “delighting in all manner of wickedness and plunder.”
Sadly, our own public education system in the U.S. has evolved into something similar to the Lamanite education system. Note the progression over the past half century:
- It wasn’t that long ago that a school day was opened in prayer, and biblical concepts were taught in classrooms. Children from this era grew up knowing what the Bible taught and could then choose whether or not to live their lives based on those teachings.
- In 1962, it became illegal to have prayer in public schools. Initially, it was just prayer that was eliminated, and it was mostly seen as an accommodation to the rare person who might be offended by public prayer. Children still learned biblical concepts in school and also at home and/or at church with parents who grew up in the era referenced above.
- Little by little, references to God and His teachings were phased out of schools. Busy parents put church on the back burner. An entire generation of children grew up with little or no instruction about God, reaching adulthood with — at best — a very basic knowledge of who God is and what His teachings are.
- In today’s school system, teachers can be fired for even mentioning God or Jesus. Public displays of the 10 Commandments or the nativity scene have been removed. The generation of children referenced in the previous paragraph is now raising children, and since these parents have little or no knowledge of God, they are obviously not teaching their children about God. The sad truth is that the average young person today is growing up with absolutely no education about God.
What does this mean to us as servants of God? It’s actually a great opportunity to teach the untaught. Unlike the past few generations of young people who may have made a conscious choice to no longer attend the church they were raised in, today’s young people — teenagers and even young adults — may have never even seen the inside of a church building! When I say they know nothing about God, I mean nothing. They don’t know who Jesus is. They’ve never heard of the people in the common Bible stories that we all learned in Sunday school, such as Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, etc. They’re a totally clean slate when it comes to the teachings of God.
So, how do we take advantage of this opportunity? We befriend people of the younger generation. We show love to them. We earn their trust. Then, we have the opportunity to share the things of God with them. Share personal testimonies with them to show that God is alive today. Invite them to church where they can meet other people like you and where they can begin to learn more about the scriptures. People like this will typically be more open to learning about the Book of Mormon, too. Since they’re being exposed to the scriptures for the first time, it won’t make much difference to them that it’s two books instead of one.
Brothers in the ministry — If you have someone like this in your congregation, then you might be interested in what one such young man shared with me. He said, “Why, before relating a story from the Bible, does the minister say, ‘You all know this story’? I don’t know the story and it makes me feel dumb, thinking I must be the only person in the room who doesn’t know the story.” Although we may feel like we don’t want to insult the intelligence of our congregation by making a familiar scripture sound like it’s new information, let’s remember that for some people, it may be new information.
In general, let’s not make the assumption that a young person who is unchurched has made a conscious decision to be so. He or she may well have grown up with no education about God, and the Lord may be using us as the instrument to teach the untaught.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.