Through entertaining stories mingled with hilarious jokes, Brad Wilcox enlightened Education Week’s youth with wit and wisdom.
In a spacious room in the Conference Center on Monday, Wilcox asked the youth one question: What did they get for being Mormon?
The father of a young man interested in joining the Church posed this same question to Wilcox while he served as a mission president in Chile.
“Oh, just a little thing,” Wilcox replied. “Salvation.”
Though to the point, this answer wasn’t good enough for the inquiring father. He didn’t believe in the spiritual, he wanted proof of the temporal.
“Let’s talk, for just a few minutes, about the temporal blessings,” Wilcox said. “Let’s talk about what you get right here and now.”
Wilcox continued to list four temporal proofs of being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
First, as members, you get to live a longer life. On average, Wilcox said, members of the Church live 10 to 11 years longer — an entire decade.
“If you don’t believe me, you just think of Michael Jackson — he’s dead,” Wilcox joked. “Donny Osmond? He’s dancing with the stars.”
Wilcox said he didn’t know why this was true, maybe it was the Word of Wisdom, or positive attitude, or maybe it was just because Mormon’s have too much to do.
“I can’t die today, I’ve got four meetings to go to, a fireside, I’ve got to bake brownies,” Wilcox said. “We just don’t have time to die.”
The second proof, according to Wilcox, was our opportunity to get better education. He explained members of the Church are 30 percent more likely to get an education than people who aren’t members.
“Because you are Mormon you will be better educated,” he said. “Mormons see it as a way to make a better life.”
Wilcox cited studies showing members of the Church have more books in their homes. They also have more musical instruments, accompanied by more music lessons, than non-LDS houses.
“It’s just a way of life for us,” Wilcox said. “It’s just part of who we are … that’s why you see Mormons at any age and any stage going to school.”
Third, Wilcox said he believes the Church leads to an international network of friends. The Church is the same everywhere, he said, and so, after moving to a new town, members have an instant community.
Wilcox experienced this himself, much to the confusion of his new next-door neighbor. The neighbor couldn’t understand where all the extra hands (the priests) emptying the moving van came from, where the free babysitter (the primary president) came from or where the chef (the Relief Society) for the free meal had appeared.
“We’d been in town one hour and we had more friends than he did,” Wilcox said. “Anywhere you go you have instant friends.”
The fourth and final proof for the Church showed in the strength of families and marriages within the gospel. Wilcox was quick to address those who experienced the heartache of divorce.
“Stretch your vision,” he told the youth. “Start seeing all the families in the Church.”
On a whole, the Church has the least amount of divorces across the board. On average, 1 in 2 marriages in the U.S. ends in divorce. For couples of the same faith, 1 in 4 marriages fail. For an LDS couple, not married in the temple, 1 in 6 marriages can’t make it. However, for two members of the Church married in the temple, only 1 in 20 come to an end.
“Now, 1 in 20 is not tremendous,” Wilcox said, “but it’s a lot better than 1 in 2.”
More than that, outside of the Church a study found 95 percent of children of divorces will also find themselves divorced.
“It’s like a death sentence,” Wilcox said. “You’re going to be divorced too, unless you’re Mormon.”
Because the stats for the Latter-day Saints were so different, the scientists recreated the study, thinking something had gone wrong.
“You carry a hope inside of you,” Wilcox said. “Even if your own family has struggled you still think, ‘you know what, I could have a happy family.’ ”
Because Wilcox focused on only the temporal blessings of the Church, he gave his best idea as to why these youth weren’t shattered by divorce.
“You’ve got examples,” he said. “Maybe your parents haven’t pulled off the perfect ideal marriage, but you could give me the name of someone who has.”
With these four points, Wilcox urged the youth to remember that being Mormon doesn’t mean they’re missing out on anything. They are not missing out on drinking, drugs or sex — they’re gaining something.
“You are not missing something, you are the one getting something, they are the ones missing something,” Wilcox said. “You are on the lifeboat, they are on the Titanic.”
Wilcox explained to the youth the necessity to keep themselves clean. He held up two glasses half full with water. One represented a youth, the other represented a friend, caught in the wrong decisions.
With each wrong decision, the friend lost a sip of water from the glass.
“At first it sure looked like your friend got something you missed,” Wilcox said. “Turn that thinking around. He’s the one that’s missing something.”
Wilcox went on to explain how happy marriages are formed. They are not formed through selfishness, which is how the friend learned to act. The friend, said Wilcox, will continually be searching for something he’s missing.
“You take a look at any happily married couple in the Church and they’re not looking,” he said. “They have what everyone is trying to find.”
Wilcox urged the youth to stay strong, remain faithful and stand by the Church.
“Yeah, it’s hard being a Mormon,” Wilcox said, “but it’s a lot easier than being without it.”