According to a recent study at the Universtity of Notre Dame, men and women are almost equally involved within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in contrast to a decline of male religious involvement in other churches nationwide.
To everyday members of the Church at BYU, these results may not seem entirely new or unique. On many sunny days around campus both men and women can be seen outside studying their scriptures. What surprised the authors of this study is that LDS men in particular were still engaged in their religion while men of other religions have steadily decreased regular attendance.
According to the 2001 National Church Life Survey, only 39 percent of people who attend church around the country are male. At BYU, and in the Church as a whole, the number is closer to 50 percent.
Donald Peterson, a chemical engineering major and elders quorum president in his ward at BYU, attributes the activity of men in his ward to the priesthood branch of the Church.
“Most men, when they receive the priesthood, realize the responsibility they have to serve other people,” Peterson said. “They feel like they have a responsibility to do home teaching, they have a responsibility to be good examples, to be involved in church, to help other people out and to fulfill their callings.”
In his regular student ward, Peterson added that most of the men in his Elders Quorum regularly attend and are involved in the ward.
“Most of the men in the elder’s quorum are pretty active,” Peterson said. “Most of the men are pretty involved. They do their home teaching. They look for ways to use their priesthood, to serve and be involved in church.”
Many men learn early in their college careers to serve others. At BYU, 78 percent of men have served LDS missions, like the one Peterson served in New Mexico. Many other men learn to serve from their examples and all lead their families for generations to come.
Kazhia Mellor, a biological science education major at BYU, agrees that men should lead their families by being involved in the Church and in the priesthood.
“The priesthood is very important,” Mellor said. “Not only does it help us have blessings…but it adds an extra measure of maturity and responsibility that allows men to lead their families in faith.”
While he was growing up, Peterson remembers that just seeing the men in his wards staying active and serving others influenced him to be more actively involved in church. “Just seeing people serving in the priesthood made a really big impact on me,” Peterson said. “It showed me an example. This is what righteous men do. This is what good dads and good husbands do: they serve in the priesthood.”
“When I think of the way I learned about priesthood responsibility,” Peterson continued, “it’s true I learned about it from General Conference, and I learned about it from church, but the biggest way I learned about it was through noticing other priesthood holders’ examples and trying to emulate them.”
More than just fulfilling a responsibility, Peterson said church involvement simply brings both men and women more happiness in their lives. Speaking of his own experience and involvement in church, Peterson concluded, “Even though it is a sacrifice, and even though it seems hard, it’s interesting because I’m always happier and I always feel better.”