Teaching our Children

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Teaching our Children

Post by RuthandI » 21 Aug 2009, 12:16

Yesterday, as my children sat down to breakfast before school, I decided to open up the Book of Mormon and read to them. It has been a year and a half since I have done this. After learning of my husbands newfound atheism (and almost anti-religious beliefs) and then struggling with my own beliefs I have felt very uncomfortable and insecure about teaching my children much of anything until I was more sure of myself. Now that I am more sure that Mormonism is a myth but the one that brings me the most peace and happiness and the one by which I choose to live I thought I would feel more comfortable sharing The Book of Mormon etc. with my two little children. As I read to them a big part of me felt like a liar. How do I explain to them what The BOok of Mormon is? Do I feel right leading them to believe that it is absolutely factual when I don't know if I really believe that myself? What do people like some of you, like John Dehlin, Valoel, with a more symbolic view of The Church, teach your children? How do we help them to value and find inspiration in the church without feeling like we are being dishonest with them? Or, even worse, like we are leading them down the same road that some of us have traveled, the road that leads to feelings of betrayal, confusion, pain, guilt, isolation and loss of identity? I have really been struggling with this. Any thoughts from the wise group at stayLDS.com?

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Re: Teaching our Children

Post by just me » 21 Aug 2009, 12:47

Great questions!

I haven't changed anything yet. However, I see nothing wrong with children (who believe Santa is real) believing scripture stories are real. I would stress love and charity and that they are loved by Jesus. I'm not sure how to teach much of the Old Testament stuff since I don't believe God commands killing or kills his children for wickedness....

I suppose teaching them the symbolism and truths we have discovered is the best we can do. For me it all comes down to charity and following your own inner path to God. That is what I want my children to learn.
Most of us, sooner or later, find that at critical points in our lives we must strike out on our own to make a path where none exists.~Elaine Pagels

Ultimately, you are the path-the path begins and ends with you.~Stephan Bodian

He who think he knows, doesn’t know: He who knows he doesn’t know, knows.~Sanskrit proverb

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Re: Teaching our Children

Post by hawkgrrrl » 21 Aug 2009, 12:55

Do I feel right leading them to believe that it is absolutely factual when I don't know if I really believe that myself?
I don't think you should teach them that if you don't tend to believe that (it sounds like your view is still settling in). But whether it's factual history or not has little to do with reading scripture. I tend to read it more like the OT now. Possibly some of this stuff happened, but certainly it was handed down many times (orally even, before being written down). This isn't a history book. The real value is in "likening it unto ourselves." To me, that doesn't mean (as it does to many) to empathize with the characters in scripture as if they were our next door neighbors. To me it's about understanding patterns of human behavior. There are stories with different themes:
- the struggle between man's will and God's will
- the struggle to comprehend God's will
- the struggle to follow one's conscience when it's not rewarded or even punished
- the struggle to care for others
- the struggle to develop and improve onself
- the struggle to overcome our self-destructive tendencies

There is humanity in the stories in scripture, just as their is in great works of literature. It's no surprise that GC is full of literary references. These are all the same types of stories. It's all about the human condition.

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Re: Teaching our Children

Post by Old-Timer » 21 Aug 2009, 15:43

I personally believe it still is great literature even if someone comes at it from a non-literal viewpoint. Imo, it certainly is worth deep contemplation and effort to understand as a reflection of what many find inspiring and uplifting.

If I were in your current perspective, I would read it simply for the discussions you can have with your children. Don't try to read any particular amount at each sitting (like the "Chapter a Day" tradition); just read a few verses at a time and talk about them - openly and showing how different messages can be taken from them.

We just read Matthew 27 over the past couple of nights with our children, and I used it to point out that there are multiple ways that the words, when parsed, could be used to try to understand Pilate, Judas and Peter - and even Barabbas. I mentioned how the first three often are criticized for their actions at the end of Jesus' life, but that when you read the words carefully, each one could be seen in a very different light. We then talked about how they are a great example of why we are told to "judge not, that ye be not judged". (Maybe I will write a separate post about that.)

I think there is a TREMENDOUS lesson in there for those who struggle to accept our own early (and modern) church leaders - and those types of potential lessons abound in the scriptures. Frankly, I think you are questioning the way the scriptures were presented to you - as doctrinal proof texts, rather than as ways to learn principles and grow spiritually.
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

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Re: Teaching our Children

Post by RuthandI » 21 Aug 2009, 16:52

Thank you for your thoughts,Just Me, Ray and Hawkgirl. I think I can really identify with what was said about the human experience and helping our children find their own path to God. The scriptures are rich with the human experience with God. I can hold on to that! I think Ray hit the nail on the head when he said "Frankly, I think you are questioning the way the scriptures were presented to you - as doctrinal proof texts, rather than as ways to learn principles and grow spiritually." I have to find my own way of teaching the scriptures...teaching them to help my children learn principles and to grow spiritually! And that is exactly what I'm hoping to teach them through my continued church membership. Thanks, Ray. I've never been the scriptorian, that was my husbands job. I read my scriptures regularly but they never came alive for me. I just need to find the gumption to teach the kids by myself and learn about them while doing it. Maybe the kids and I can learn together! I really want my children to learn to recognize a spiritual witness when it comes to them. I want them, so badly, to feel the love of God in their life. Without the cut and dry answers that I relied on in my youth I feel lost as to how to help them recognize that. I'm having to formulate the methods for myself all over again. I'm still trying to find the things in the gospel that I can rely on. I know there is wheat amongst the tares I just have to find it again. Thanks for your help.

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Re: Teaching our Children

Post by swimordie » 23 Aug 2009, 15:55

Thanks for this thread Ruth, I've been feeling this exact way for months now.

I agree with what the others have said. I think the most important thing to teach my kids is how to discern, reason, weigh, come to learn of the good in themselves, embrace that good, trust that good, try to make good decisions based on this methodology and be willing to accept the consequences so as to learn and progress more.

How the church, the doctrine, the scriptures, the brethren, the culture, the community help/assist/hurt/damage will be a learned process by my kids, hopefully seeing me go through this and their mother, and they'll begin to be able to make value judgments for themselves based on the good that they've discovered and experimented with in themselves, for themselves, as unique individuals.

Based on my own up-bringing, I feel rather certain that being given choices with gentle guidance wherein kids can learn to think for themselves, love themselves, honor themselves, embrace themselves, is the most helpful thing I can do as a parent.
Perfectionism hasn't served me. I think I am done with it. -Poppyseed

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