By Dina Alexander, MS
I have a confession to make. During the almost 20 years that I have been a parent, I have become kind of a dork. I find myself looking forward to going to bed; I enjoy documentaries more than most television shows and movies; I eat the same breakfast nearly everyday; I even carry bandaids and hand sanitizer in my purse. See? Kind of a dork. However, lately, I’ve actually been trying to be more of a “dork” and definitely less “cool.” Let me explain.
A few months ago, I was having lunch with a friend who had recently retired from being a professor at UT Austin. During the course of our conversation he talked about how he had never been “cool” and never sought to be “cool.” Then he said something along the lines of, “Well, you know what I’m talking about. Mormons aren’t cool.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his comment! Yet, despite how funny I found his comment to be, it stuck with me. It was true. From a worldly perspective, Latter Day Saints aren’t what you might consider to be “cool.” As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, our focus is more gospel oriented than it is worldly. We do our best to dress up each week to attend church, we wear underwear that reaches down to our knees, we don’t indulge in porn, we don’t watch the latest rated R movies, we don’t party with alcohol, we avoid going out on Sundays, and we often dress more conservatively than the latest fashions. The list goes on.
And my gut says we shouldn’t try to be cool.
Based on my own understanding now and from my experiences as a kid, being “cool” tends to include being selfish and self-serving. The entire concept of being “cool” can be boiled down to how our peers perceive us. In most instances, it means trying to fit in with whatever the current popular ideology floating around might be. The more we try to be “cool,” the more we become engrossed in ourselves. In seeking the approval of others, we can quickly find ourselves compromising our gospel standards in order to meet the needs of cultural standards. It can get to such a point that we may even begin looking down on or shaming others in order to justify that we deserve to be “cool.”
I don’t want to be cool, and I don’t want my kids to feel they need to be “cool” either. I want them to focus on becoming better versions of themselves. I want to see my kids being honest, kind, and a voice for truth as opposed to a voice for what’s most popular at the moment, or what the world has deemed “right.”
Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself.” Going further, Exodus 19:5 adds, “if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure…” This is what I want for my family! To be different, to stand out for being truly good, kind, and Christlike.
Last week’s Come Follow Me lesson talks about a thought provoking scripture that I believe leads us to being that “peculiar treasure” as mentioned in Exodus 15:5. 2 Nephi 5:27 says, “And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.” Throughout this chapter, Nephi’s people are described as “living after the manner of happiness” through living according the Lord’s commandments, building temples to the Lord, and working with their own hands. We too can be working hard, caring for one another, keeping the commandments, trying to be our best selves, and serving others, however imperfectly, in order to help guide our families to live after that manner of happiness talked about throughout chapter 5. These are the principles that lead to being truly happy and being the “special people” mentioned in Deuteronomy 7:6.
There are also so many good things we can do to help our families live after the manner of happiness that are not mentioned in 2 Nephi 5. We can attend the temple as often as our circumstances allow, we can invite another family over for dinner, we can brighten someone’s day with a heartfelt text, we can do our best to have meaningful family scriptures study and prayer, and we can think of ways to love and serve others that don’t overtax us or our families.
Please know we don’t have to do everything mentioned in 2 Nephi 5 today, and we DON’T have to do it perfectly, but we do need to think about how our actions and our priorities are setting examples for our kids to follow when it comes to living after the manner of happiness.
- What am I doing to live after the manner of happiness?
- Can my kids see this? Can they see the benefit of living the commandments and keeping covenants?
Here are some great questions to ask your family to spark discussion about being a “peculiar people” and “living after the manner of happiness:”
- What does it mean to be “cool” in today’s culture?
- Why is being “cool” attractive for many people?
- In today’s world, what would it look like to be a “peculiar people?”
- What are you and your family doing to live after the manner of happiness?
- What can we do to be truly happy?
Remember, you are doing better than you think! Keep loving our kids, keep trying day by day, line upon line. As we do our best to live according to the gospel in our ever changing world, the Lord will bless us just as He did the people of Nephi. Be kind to yourself and don’t worry about being “cool.”
For more help and great ideas for teaching kids about hearing and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost and gaining a testimony, check out our latest book, This is the Spirit of Revelation. Available on Amazon. Best of all, all profits go to LDS charities!
Dina Alexander is the founder and CEO of Educate and Empower Kids (educateempowerkids.org), an organization determined to strengthen families by teaching digital citizenship, media literacy, and healthy sexuality education, including education about the dangers of online porn. She is the creator of Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. She received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and her bachelors from Brigham Young University. She really tries to be a great mom and loves spending time with her husband and three kids. Together, they live in New Mexico.
Let' Do This!
“And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of HAPPINESS.”
— 2 Nephi 5:27