What to tell my eight-year-old son

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What to tell my eight-year-old son

Post by Daeruin » 17 Sep 2014, 22:59

About a year ago, I had reached a crisis point. My oldest son was seven, going on eight, and my wife wanted me to baptize him. But I didn't feel I could do that when I wasn't even sure I believed in God, let alone church or priesthood. I had been slowly distancing myself from the church as much as possible for a decade or so. We were moving into a new ward, and I had decided to tell the bishop up front that I was planning to attend church with my wife, but I wasn't interested in being involved in any other way. I told my wife I didn't want to baptize our son, and was planning to ask my dad to do it.

So my wife tried to prepare my son for the idea that I wasn't going to baptize him. We had talked to him a number of times before about how not everyone believes the same as we do, so lots of people smoke or swear or shop on Sunday or don't believe in Jesus, and that's OK. We can be different from them and let them make their own choices. (My son is very outgoing and we had problems with him telling complete strangers what they should or shouldn't be doing.) I had no idea what to do about any of this, and honestly I was avoiding thinking about or talking about it. So one day a few months before the baptism, my wife sat down with him and explained that even though I went to church, I was actually like some of the other people we know who don't believe in Jesus, and I wasn't going to baptize him. He was upset about me not baptizing him, but he took the rest in stride. A few days later, we were reading family scriptures, something about Jesus, and he smiled excitedly and said, "See, it's in the scriptures, dad. NOW do you believe in Jesus?" I just smiled and distracted him so I wouldn't have to answer. He didn't bring it up again, and I thought maybe he had forgotten about it.

And then, as it turned out, I discovered StayLDS and ended up baptizing him after all. It was a good experience. He didn't seem to see any contradiction between the fact that his dad doesn't believe in Jesus but still baptized him.

But I found out that he still remembers that dad's not a believer. He has brought it up twice in the past year or so. I've always managed to weasel out of saying anything definite either way to him. In some ways, I really wish I had discovered StayLDS sooner and prevented that conversation my wife had with my son. It might have saved me some trouble and bought me more time to keep him in the dark. But the cat is out of the bag with my son, and if I don't do something he'll let the cat out of the bag for his little sisters, too.

Even if that situation gets contained, he knows we're not a temple family. My wife and I did not get married in the temple. She went through the temple after we got married and keeps a current recommend, but I haven't had one for years. I've become more open to the idea that I might get there at some point, but I really don't know if or when that might happen. I feel too uncertain about it. I still don't know what direction I'm ultimately headed. The other day I overheard him talking about temple sealing with one of his cousins. She had said that you have to be sealed in the temple to stay together forever, and he replied that even though his mom and dad weren't married in the temple, his family is still sealed to everyone else because grandma and grandpa were married in the temple. I didn't jump in to correct him.

I don't know what to say or how to deal with this. I wish I could just tell him, "Nevermind, I actually do believe in Jesus, and we're getting sealed in the temple next month!" But that's just not true. I don't know if I will ever really believe in God or ever end up going back to the temple.

Thoughts? Advice?
"Not all those who wander are lost" —Tolkien

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Re: What to tell my eight-year-old son

Post by DarkJedi » 18 Sep 2014, 03:52

As you know, Daeruin, we have some similarities - my FC just happened to start a bit later in life when my children were a bit older. However, you (and Roy) baptizing your children was a boost for me and I was as a result able to find within myself the ability to baptize my own son - although he was way older than 8 at the time. We live in an area where there are few church members, my son is currently the only Mormon in his high school (since his brother graduated). None of them are much about hastening the work (although one is on a mission right now), and none of them are extremely outgoing, especially with airing the family "dirty laundry."

So I didn't really have this issue you have, but I think I do understand it. With what you have written about your son before, he seems like an bright young man who loves his Daddy very much. I think he might be able to understand some of your doubts, but I actually wouldn't share them with him - I would share with him what I do believe, however scant that actual belief might be. My family knows I believe in God and Jesus, and I do. They don't know that I doubt the whole business about immaculate conception, that I don't believe Jesus was perfect from the beginning, that I'm not so sure there was an actual "atoning sacrifice," etc. They know I don't pray, and they know I don't believe in the 'God of the Lost Car Keys." They don't know that I'm essentially a deist and believe that God doesn't really interact with us much, if at all. I never tell them I "know" anything, because I don't. I don't feel like I'm being dishonest with them - I have given them what they need and it's all true, they just don't know the details. That approach actually seems to work for us and for my SP, who actually probably knows a bit more about my beliefs than my wife does - and still trusts me in my calling. I swear to you that no one comes away from my talks believing anything other than that I am a true believer - but I never indicate any such thing (I talk a lot about what the prophet/apostles believe, and since I do believe in the two great commandments, especially the second, I address that topic every talk).

I'm not sure I've been helpful, so take this for what it's worth, and I do sincerely wish you all the best my friend.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Re: What to tell my eight-year-old son

Post by SilentDawning » 18 Sep 2014, 06:15

Yep -- that's a quandry when you have young children.

I have taken the path of honesty with my daughter. My son (11) doesn't seem to care.

I try to give reasons that are not stark like "I don't believe it". I try to provide practical, philosophical reasons that also emphasize the benefits to character and mankind and God from my actions.
So, I would suggest that you ask yourself -- what are my own set of philosophical, practical, character-related reasons for not believing or doing the things that are controversial in your family?
Here are some of my answers below to various questions from my daughter.

Regarding garments, which I don't wear anymore, I told my daughter that I felt it was irreverent in our extremely hot climate to wear garments that don't fit me (they hang below my knees even when wearing below knee-length shorts). I said that when the church comes out with a pair that fits me, I'll wear them, but after 25+ years showing my underwear to the world, and policy that prevents altering the garments to fit personal circumstances, I felt it was time to make my own decisions about garments that are right for me -- and reverent regarding the display of the garment.

Regarding tithing, I explained the principles of self-reliance, and tithing the church's wealth, and that I paid tithing for decades. I have seen instances where people have paid all their lives but not received the help they needed from the church. I feel it's best to ensure self-sufficiency first, and to give to any cause one feels is important afterwards. The church has it backwards, and that there are places other than the church that can use the money for good..

I also comment that my son has a life threatening health condition and we need to budget for that in the future, as the church is only there for short-term needs, and there is no provision for long-term care. We are his guardian for the long-run, and so commitment to family and self-sufficiency come first, and altruisim is second. On a plane, you are told to put your own oxygen mask on first, THEN your child's or the person next to you -- the principle of self-reliance in action. You are not much good to others when you are drained yourself. Plus, the church teaches self-reliance as an eternal principle. It seems odd to me that we suddenly demote self-reliance in favor of tithing, which is a very church-centric principle.

Regarding my lack of calling, I quote GA's that describe the blessings of serving community, that the priesthood is to serve mankind (everyone), and there are organizations outside of the church that need my help and talents. Also, also that this life is one of eternal progression. After 20+ years of service in the church, I was no longer progressing in my leadership ability, so I have refocused my efforts on the community where I have grown in leaps and bounds in the last year.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

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A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Re: What to tell my eight-year-old son

Post by mom3 » 18 Sep 2014, 12:29

My situation isn't at all like yours, but when I do get questions from family or curious friends about mine or my husbands status I point to 11 Article of Faith. It doesn't always fix everything, but it gently tips the scale of consideration. He may be too young for that understanding but keep it in your back pocket and a couple of key Joseph Smith quotes for times when you need to make some personal space for your beliefs.
We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God, according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege. Let them worship how, where, or what they may.
"I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like Latter Day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine." Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:340
"The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If is has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a "Mormon". I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination, for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. - Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg. 313
These aren't exact to this topic, but they help a lot.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Re: What to tell my eight-year-old son

Post by intothelight » 18 Sep 2014, 23:54

My situation is admittedly different. It's more my parents talking to their child and asking them similar, more pointed questions - so I guess in reverse. However, I (think) I can somewhat understand and commiserate with some of the feelings you have.

In my case, my parents want to change me because they feel that I am 'wrong' - that without the church, I'll never be as good or as whole or as complete as I would be with it. As you know, this hurts - and hurts pretty bad. Probably especially bad when it comes from your son. Anyways, I'll never be able to say anything to them to make them think I'm OK. However, I think you can show your son that you are good. If he sees you being kind and compassionate towards others, that's going to make him think, in a way that words never will. I think there is something deep inside of us all that realizes that kindness and compassion are the really important things. I mean, not many mormons (or protestants) would start a bible bashing session with Mother Theresa in an attempt to convince her of the error of her catholic ways - or disagree that she's going to end up in heaven.

And in my opinion, if your son goes through life thinking that the church is the really important thing, he's going to eventually end up on a site like this after a bishop having a power trip, stake president making a bad mistake, etc., - sends him into the faith crisis spiral that many of the people here experienced (myself included) - as they go through the very difficult process of separating a perfect God from an imperfect church, run by imperfect people (though I'll absolutely agree that this church does a heck of a lot of good).

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Re: What to tell my eight-year-old son

Post by nibbler » 19 Sep 2014, 05:55

First off... I'm glad you got to baptize your son.

I guess my thoughts are similar to what intothelight has already said. Is faith what you believe or is faith what you do?

I don't know any way of saying this that might not come across as being insensitive but I'll try. You may not believe in the church, the priesthood, or god but you decided to baptize your son. If faith truly is a principle of action I think that act showed faith. That faith reveals the love you have toward your son and shows that you were willing to put his needs before your own.
Daeruin wrote:I still don't know what direction I'm ultimately headed.
I don't think any of us do ;)

The strange thing... I now find myself needing that uncertainty in life. While I was an orthodox member of the church I had a sense of certainty that gave me comfort and confidence. Now I view certainty as a barrier that holds me back. Certainty that the church is true, certainty that it is not. Neither appeals to me any more.

Where am I going with this? [Rodney Dangerfield]No, really, where am I going with this?[/Rodney Dangerfield] Our children are only with us for a brief time, our challenge is to not allow uncertainty to lull us into inaction. Just continue to be there for your son and help him be the best version of himself that he wants to be. Baptisms, priesthood ordinations, etc. aren't opportunities for the participants to bond with god so much as they are opportunities for the participants to bond with each other.

If a trip to the temple to be sealed for all time and eternity can become a fond memory that we hold on to for the rest of our lives does it really matter whether the priesthood has been restored? Yes, I recognize the glaring contradiction in that statement, perhaps that's why I currently stand behind it. ;)
To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.
― Mark Twain

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Re: What to tell my eight-year-old son

Post by journeygirl » 19 Sep 2014, 10:05

I have an eight year old son too, and although I haven't been quite as open with him as you have, he does hear me talk about certain things that I have issues with sometimes. One thing I think is important, even at this young age, is to teach them that no one has all the answers. We can all just do the best we can. I don't expect my son to have the same experiences or beliefs as I do necessarily. He seems to be a strong believer, so if that is true for him I will be okay with it. I just want to make sure he doesn't judge others (including me!) for not believing things the way he does. I would be aware though about telling children this age too much of your doubts because it some of it might worry them.

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Re: What to tell my eight-year-old son

Post by Heber13 » 19 Sep 2014, 12:33

nibbler wrote:You may not believe in the church, the priesthood, or god but you decided to baptize your son. If faith truly is a principle of action I think that act showed faith. That faith reveals the love you have toward your son and shows that you were willing to put his needs before your own.
I agree with nibbler.

It may have been a great lesson your wife gave your son, some people believe different...and that is OK.

It doesn't need to be all or nothing..."I believe everything the church says" or "I don't believe in Christ". Nah, it can be "I believe, help thou my unbelief". (See Mark 9:24)

If Christ is in the scriptures...ya, I believe Christ. It doesn't need to get deep or philosophical with kids. Simply...I believe in lots of things, maybe just different than others.

Kids respond to what they see you do more than what you say you believe.

You baptized him. He'll always have that gift. :thumbup:
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: What to tell my eight-year-old son

Post by Daeruin » 28 Sep 2014, 22:47

I really appreciate all the replies here. I don't have much time to spend here anymore, which is why I haven't responded yet. I've written a few comments on other threads, because I feel it's important to give at least as much as I get. So... I still don't know for sure what I'm going to do. I guess I might be over thinking it. He's only 8 years old. I probably don't need to try to nuance my explanation too much. Maybe something like "I want you to know that I do have faith in Jesus (meaning I believe he was a real person, and he taught good things), and I'm trying really hard to follow what he taught, like loving and being kind to everyone, and always trying to do better." Then if further questions come up about things I'm not doing or doing differently, I can emphasize how important it is to let everyone believe in their own way. If he starts to worry about the temple sealing thing, I can explain that I think the most important thing is to love each other and try to be better, and that I don't believe a loving Heavenly Father would split us up as long as we're trying our best (which is true).
"Not all those who wander are lost" —Tolkien

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Re: What to tell my eight-year-old son

Post by kinglamoni » 29 Sep 2014, 16:44

You say you dont believe in Jesus. Thats kind of a blanketing comment. Are you sure there isnt something about Jesus you believe in? Instead of finding all the things you dont agree with you might try looking at the little and small things that you might still be able to hang on to.

So instead of telling your kid you dont believe in Santa Clause you can say, gee I really like the idea of a guy who is jolly, brings me gifts and likes cookies. :smile:

Just my 2 cents.

Just read your last post. sounds like you already said what i am trying to suggest. good luck! and best!

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