I wasn't giving my children enough credit

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Reuben
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I wasn't giving my children enough credit

Post by Reuben » 13 Jun 2017, 14:19

TL;DR: I came out to my kids, and they're awesome. So is my wife.

Sunday night, we were due to read Mormon 9 at bed time. Medium story short, we read the next chapter instead, and when DD2 asked why we weren't reading Mormon 9, I said, "Because it's full of hateful bull****."

I stand by my statement, for what it's worth. Well, maybe it's not "full," but it's definitely ripe.

I didn't want to leave that emotional bombshell undefused, so FHE on Monday night was a "Daddy talks about his faith transition" discussion. Mormon 9 turned out to be an ideal framework for it. Here's how it went down.

First, I coordinated with DW in private. I can't stress enough how important this was. As it happened, my take on Mormon 9 made her defensive because she's been reading it nonliterally for so long that she couldn't see the literal meaning without some work. Defensiveness from her during the discussion could have made the kids feel like I've done something wrong. DW also had great ideas; for example, that the #1 objective should be that they feel loved and safe.

I told the kids two implications of the literal meaning of the first few verses in Mormon 9. 1. If you don't believe in Christ, it's because you choose not to (the operative word is "deny"). 2. If you don't believe in Christ, you've spent your life abusing God's laws. We talked about counterexamples to both implications (good Muslims, good atheists), and about how believing those implications can poison our relationships. Using an additional example from the Old Testament - the Lord commanding the Israelite army to kill every Amalekite man, woman and child - I pointed out how always understanding the scriptures literally can make you a worse person. They dug it.

Then we talked about DW's nonliteral reading: broadening the idea of believing in Christ to include believing in what he did and taught. Anybody who believes in lifting, loving and healing others believes in Christ in this sense, including good Muslims and good atheists. The indictments in Mormon 9 don't apply to them.

Obviously, I said, this didn't explain my outburst. I had felt attacked, I told them, because I don't believe in Christ in a literal sense. I didn't tell them why. I identified myself as an agnostic deist and defined the term. I had to explain a few times what I don't believe from different perspectives before it really started to sink in. The prior discussion set me up to tell them that I do believe in Christ in a nonliteral sense - that I believe in lifting, loving and healing.

DD1 wasn't surprised at all. (She already knew I don't accept the Book of Mormon as a literal history.) The rest of them were. DW and I asked them a few times throughout the discussion how they felt, and whether they had questions. They took it surprisingly well: no tears, no blame, no anger. Nothing negative, really. Nobody had questions, though DW brought up eternal marriage and I said I hope we're together but I don't think the Church has any special authority to make it happen. I said they probably would have questions later, and that they could ask either of us - but that DW would likely direct questions about what I believe and why to me.

We assured them that things aren't changing: I'm still the Primary pianist, I'm not going to go out drinking, etc. Most of all, we assured them that I'm still the same person, and that I love them. Well, one thing will change: I'll occasionally bring up challenging ideas. As a believer, I used to avoid thinking about certain things. It turns out that most of them aren't worth thinking about, but a few of them really are, and I think it's important to discuss them.

DW talked me up a bit: I'm thoughtful and deliberate, and put in a lot of work to come to my conclusions. Also that I respect her beliefs, and that she respects mine.

We asked them to keep it all between us: not to tell people at Church or even extended family. Again, Mormon 9 helped: I could name specific people in the ward who are good people, but who are unlikely to understand because they almost certainly believe black-and-white ideas like those in the literal reading of Mormon 9. (Maybe it really is inspired!)

We told them how much we love them and feel fortunate to be their parents. Hugs all around.

I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It was comprised of a hundred little things. One example: if they notice that I hardly ever volunteer to pray, they can figure out why instead of worrying about it or putting my wife on the spot.

If there's a moral to this, I suppose it's "Don't underestimate what your kids can handle, especially if you break the news as a couple and are united in love."
My intro

Love before dogma. Truth before loyalty. Knowledge before certainty.

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Minyan Man
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Re: I wasn't giving my children enough credit

Post by Minyan Man » 13 Jun 2017, 14:32

This was a very healthy approach you & your wife took.
I believe that when you talk honestly with your family about your beliefs & feelings, the more willing they will
be to talk to you openly too. Excellent!!

I like the moral to the story at the end.

Roy
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Re: I wasn't giving my children enough credit

Post by Roy » 13 Jun 2017, 15:28

I am so happy that it went well for you. I personally am taking the approach of dripping out information drop by drop - not to challenge faith but just to look at things from different viewpoints.

Then again we do not read scriptures as a family so there is much less opportunity for religious talk. Honestly at my kids ages (9 & 11) they do not seem to care much for religious talk anyway.

Similar to the sex talk. I always answer questions honestly and if the kids are ready to ask they are probably ready for an answer.

But I also respect your approach and see some advantages to it.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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LookingHard
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Re: I wasn't giving my children enough credit

Post by LookingHard » 13 Jun 2017, 15:33

Wow. I am impressed! Kudos to your wife especially.

DoubtingTom
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Re: I wasn't giving my children enough credit

Post by DoubtingTom » 13 Jun 2017, 16:10

Reuben, I'm inspired by your post! Reading through other comments and posts over the past few months I think you and I are at similar places in our faith journeys (although I'm not sure I would call myself a deist yet - so far just agnostic or even atheist but my journey is ongoing).

I hope I can do something similar someday with my kids. I don't think DW would be on board yet though. If you don't mind my asking, what ages are your kids? I have four ages 9, 7, 5, and 2 so probably a bit young still. But I am having a hard time lately with feeling like I can't even be authentic in my own home. It's one thing to feel like that at church, but to a certain extent I can abide by the "their club, their rules" approach and get by. But at home it's much harder. And DW still wants me to lead out in FHE, family scripture, and family prayer and sometimes it's really hard. Any advice on the issue of not being able to be authentic in your own home and how you got to the point where your spouse was more accepting of your unorthodox viewpoints?

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Reuben
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Re: I wasn't giving my children enough credit

Post by Reuben » 13 Jun 2017, 16:56

I'm only a deist in the sense that I hope there's something more out there. I'm well aware that the question "Then who made God?" exposes the weakness of that hope. When I describe myself as an "agnostic deist," the word "agnostic" does almost all of the work.

My wife might have started out just as accepting as she is now, but I don't really know. I'll ask her.
My intro

Love before dogma. Truth before loyalty. Knowledge before certainty.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: I wasn't giving my children enough credit

Post by Curt Sunshine » 13 Jun 2017, 20:17

That is so good to read, Reuben.

I hope everything goes well as things unfold. There will be bumps, obviously, but you have a good start.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

squarepeg
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Re: I wasn't giving my children enough credit

Post by squarepeg » 13 Jun 2017, 20:41

I love this. I'm so glad it went well and that your burden is now lighter. I agree that kids can often handle more than we realize. DH and I are open about what we believe with our 12- and 11-year-olds, and they have handled it much better than I'd expected, thus far. I think you've set a better example of how to express our beliefs to our kids than I have been doing; you planned what you were going to say in advance with your wife, and you made sure it was done so that the kids felt safe and loved. I really need to follow this strategy. DH and I too often use humor/sarcasm when it would be better not to, and we've been lousy at careful advanced planning. (It's likely not helping either of the kids to hear the parents make jokes about how you need male genitalia to hold a Sacrament tray. We sometimes act like big children, ourselves. :oops: )

Thank you for sharing this. So awesome.

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Reuben
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Re: I wasn't giving my children enough credit

Post by Reuben » 14 Jun 2017, 15:35

DoubtingTom wrote:
13 Jun 2017, 16:10
I hope I can do something similar someday with my kids. I don't think DW would be on board yet though. If you don't mind my asking, what ages are your kids? I have four ages 9, 7, 5, and 2 so probably a bit young still. But I am having a hard time lately with feeling like I can't even be authentic in my own home. It's one thing to feel like that at church, but to a certain extent I can abide by the "their club, their rules" approach and get by. But at home it's much harder. And DW still wants me to lead out in FHE, family scripture, and family prayer and sometimes it's really hard. Any advice on the issue of not being able to be authentic in your own home and how you got to the point where your spouse was more accepting of your unorthodox viewpoints?
I have four kids, ages 17, 15, 12 and 10.

I still lead FHE, family scripture, and family prayer. I rarely call on myself to pray anymore because I have a hard time coming up with anything to say. I get more out of family scripture reading now that we swap the genders of every non-deity figure every other night. (I've requested reading the New Testament next. We'll read the NIV to make it legible. The Book of Mormon is relentlessly black and white in its outlook, and it's wearing on me.) My wife does almost all of the actual FHE lessons.

She says she's always been as accepting of my unorthodox beliefs as she is now, and I think she's right. One thing has changed, though: she's less anxious about our children picking them up from me. I'm not sure exactly why. It could just be that she's gotten more used to them.

I can only parrot general advice I've read: respect her beliefs (which you probably already do) and involve her in your journey as much as she'll let you (which again, you probably already do).
My intro

Love before dogma. Truth before loyalty. Knowledge before certainty.

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Heber13
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Re: I wasn't giving my children enough credit

Post by Heber13 » 15 Jun 2017, 13:16

I love this. Thanks for sharing your approach, and how things are progressing.

I might expand the moral of the story...not just our own kids, but I think the same can apply to ward members. Sometimes we don't give them enough credit, and it is our own fears we are battling...not actually what people do or say to us. With courage and the right approach...people can accept us as we are...so we can drop the masks of trying hard to pretend to be who we think we should be.

And in that...we find peace.

Thanks!
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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