When I was younger, my Dad used to ask that question all the time… are we for it or against it? It was almost always a joke. I’d talk to him about something, and he’d respond with that. I’d ask about staying out late, and he’d ask if we were for it or against it. I’d ask about going to a church activity, and he’d ask if we were for it or against it. You get the picture.
Anyway, I’ve recently been thinking about peer pressure. Are we for it or against it? As a bishop, I spend a lot of time with the youth. I have yearly interviews with some, semi-annual interviews with others; I meet with the Priests each week; I teach in YW a few times a year; I’m at Church for all of the mutual activity nights. We so often encourage the youth to resist peer pressure. That obviously assumes that peer pressure is bad. But when you think about it, there is a lot of pressure in the Church to do certain things. As a youth, that pressure gets ratcheted up even more. There is pressure to go to Church, to go to mutual activities, to go to seminary, to go to dances, etc. There is pressure to get your Duty to God or Personal Progress requirements/objectives done. Often the pressure is put on by their peers. Add that to the pressure from leaders, and sometimes it can be overwhelming.
Most members would agree that peer pressure that encourages you to drink is bad. Is peer pressure that encourages you to not drink good? I think the answer is, “It depends.” In my experience, pressure more often than not is a bad thing. People know what they are supposed to do. If they are drinking, they know they shouldn’t. If they are not paying tithing, they know they should. It’s a challenge counseling these people, occasionally calling them to repentance, but still being sensitive to their struggles and being there to help. The right amount of inspired pressure/pushing/prodding at the right time can do wonders. The wrong amount at the wrong time can do a lot of damage.
My general philosophy is to get people out to Church and have them enjoy fellowshipping with the Saints. To a degree, I don’t care what you are doing, what you have done, or what you are hiding. Come to Church! I have total confidence that they will feel the Spirit of our meetings. If they keep coming, they will have the desire to make necessary changes. This kind of reminds me of what Elder M. Russell Ballard said in the October 2006 General Conference:
I hope it goes without saying that guilt is not a proper motivational technique for leaders and teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must always motivate through love and sincere appreciation, not by creating guilt. I like the thought “Catch others doing something right.”
Pressure may have it’s place, but don’t let it get in the way of the Spirit.