We recently received this question from Susy:

I have an 18 year old Catholic friend traveling as an exchange student from Mexico to Arizona next August.  She will be living with a Mormon family and I would like to know what she should expect during the school year.  It must be a very different culture:  home discipline rules, religious rules, etc.  Does this religion allow kids to go out with school friends, use a computer, attend school activities out of town, of course all these with respect…?  I really hope she can have a great experience and learn different things and language.

~Answer by Heidi

As a Mormon woman who has had both family and friends, also Mormon, act as host families in the foreign exchange program, I am happy to have the opportunity to answer this question for you, Susy.  First of all, let me assure you that any Mormon family prepared to welcome a foreign exchange student into their home will have a strong desire to:  expose her to rich cultural experiences, keep her safe from harm, provide her with what she needs to do well in school, treat her with warmth and love and do all they can to help her learn English.

At the same time, Mormon families, like most others who attend the Catholic church and other houses of worship, would have a problem with guests in their home who do not respect their rules, especially when it comes to issues such as smoking or drinking in the house, foul language, drug use, sexual activity, coming home in the wee hours of the morning, extreme immodesty in dress, or viewing inappropriate content on the computer. However, it is my understanding that most of these behaviors are not in harmony with the foreign exchange program and one would not expect to welcome a student into their home who did not, as you say, treat their host family with respectful behavior.

I feel that your question can allow us to clarify some of what Mormons believe and practice.  For example, Mormons most definitely use computers and I would expect that a host family would be prepared to allow a student living in their home to have access to one.  However, your friend could very well encounter a situation wherein the computer has filters and/or other protective software to prevent the viewing of inappropriate content.  Based on what you have said about your friend, I don’t expect this to be a problem.

Our religion does indeed allow their teenagers to go out with friends, to attend school activities (sometimes out of town), to dance, to attend movies, plays and concerts, etc.  Of course, as with any other family, personal preferences will come into play.  What one family sees as okay, another might not feel is a good fit for their children.  However, for the most part (as there are exceptions in every situation) I would imagine that in this situation, a Mormon family would likely not expect the exact same behaviors from their guest as they do of their own children (though they will encourage their guest to follow the rules as outlined in the foreign exchange program).

Obviously, I do not know the family with whom your friend will be staying and therefore can’t know specifically what they are like, but I feel I can say with confidence that your friend’s host family members will go out of their way to insure that she has a very positive experience.  In the end, I think that she will find she has more in common with them than not.

Thank you so much for giving Mormon Women to opportunity to address your concerns with regards to this issue.

Editor’s note: To learn more about Mormon family life, see this post:

What are some of the family traditions and rules of the Mormon religion?

– – – – – – –

**Please note: The answers in “Ask a Mormon Woman” reflect the thoughts, perspectives, and experiences of individuals. Although here at Mormon Women: Who We Are, we strive to have our content consistent with the Church’s doctrine and teachings, we do not speak officially for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For official information about or from the Church, please visit www.mormon.org or www.lds.org.

Have a question you would like to ask? Send an email to us at gmail, with username ‘mormonwoman’