Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

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Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

Post by Roy » 23 Apr 2015, 08:59

Over the last few days my 7 year old son has been talking to DW and I about the three degrees of glory. Sunday night he said that if we as a family do not go to the same kingdom then we could be eternally seperated. I reassured him that we will all be together in heaven. I told him that we might not live together because he might have a family of his own but that he could visit and be visited as often as he wants. I hugged him and told him that a family is a family is a family and that will never change for us.

Last night DW told me that DS initiated a conversation with her about the three kingdoms. He said that unless we go to the Celestial Kingdom we cannot live with God again. He then told her that he did not think that he would make it because he is more of a "moon" kinda guy. DW told him that we do not know all the details about the afterlife and that many churches just believe in heaven.

DS has perfectionist tendencies and may be on the highly functioning side of the autism spectrum. I am very bothered that he would be taught this. I can't imagine any of the churches that we participate in teaching about being seperated from your family or from God.

What would you guys do?
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Re: Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

Post by SilentDawning » 23 Apr 2015, 09:25

It's tricky.

One one hand, I like the values the church teaches our children such as chastity, avoiding harmful substances, smoking, being a generally good person, and the programs that encourage them to do good -- such as YW medallion and the scouting program (when it functions).

For kids to buy into this, they need to have a kind of TBM attitude -- they can't do the same mental gymnastics and philosophizing us adults must do. Therefore, there is a need to correct harmful teachings while still preserving their loyalty to the church.

My solution is to frame such teachings as "debate". I do this in my classes a lot, when I say something, and students point to some obscure paragraph in a textbook that seems to prove me wrong. I have a number of ways of refuting this:

a) I disagree with that paragraph because.....and then give well-reasoned arguments from other parts of the textbook or my bank of knowledge.

b) Indicate there is debate on the subject. Point out other schools of thought, and indicate that while there are certain fundamentals we must accept, there are many unknowns and debatables regarding the afterlife.

I like to cite the passage/section regarding Eternal Punishment being God's punishment in the D&C. You might read it as it implies that assignment to kingdoms is not final. You would have to explain that in such a way that doesn't destroy commitment to keep trying for a heavenly existence, but also indicate there are certain things we don't know, and that it's not clear whether this separation is permanent or temporary. You think it's temporary for reasons you give. You even argue there's a case for never seperating families eternally.

[As an aside, I still have my biological family, but I never see them anymore. And I'm not close to them either, and it seems to matter less and less and less as I get older...and my family doesn't seem to care much either. So, in a way, I'm not overly concerned about it.].
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Re: Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

Post by SamBee » 23 Apr 2015, 09:31

I have no visible prospect of marriage or children just now, and my career is rear-ended. Can't really get much exaltation on that!
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Re: Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

Post by hippo » 23 Apr 2015, 09:37

We have a daughter high on the spectrum as well, and have run into issues too. She was terrified about going to nonmembers houses for a long while because they might offer her (gasp!) coffee and insist she drink it. :smile: What I have found that works with her is getting answers from someone she views as making the rules. (Rules are everything to these kinds of kids. He was probably told a list of things that he had to do to get the the celestial kingdom and didn't think he could do the whole list) Find his teacher and explain the situation and see if they are willing to talk with him and help him see he is doing enough. Even better, seek out some books, LDS or not, that discuss the beautiful and often overlooked concept of Grace. Believing Christ is one that might fit the bill and could be read together (though it's been years since I read it). Hearing it from someone or a book always works better for her, as for some reason, with things like this, I am not seen as the rule maker.

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Re: Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

Post by DarkJedi » 23 Apr 2015, 10:20

I think the parable of the prodigal son is great. (Yeah, I know I'm obsessed with it lately.) If the father in the parable represents God and he "while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him" after all the son could do (which at this point was confessing and asking forgiveness) and "the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’" is that not how it might work in the end?
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Re: Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

Post by West » 23 Apr 2015, 13:20

No advice, just some random insight. OCD and perfectionism is a huge issue in the mission field that leads to regular mental health issues with these young missionaries. In general, mental health issues are the number one reason we send kids home.

It ties back to that ideal discussed in some other threads. We are taught an ideal from the very first church experience, and when we don't match it, we fear that we have failed. Perhaps you can consider discussing ideals and how there are no true universal ideals.
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Re: Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

Post by Holy Cow » 23 Apr 2015, 13:29

Roy wrote: What would you guys do?
Hey Roy,
My son's asked similar questions, and I remember worrying about this as a little kid too. It can be a scary thought for a little kid to think about not being with his family forever. I would keep things as light as possible. When my son asked me about this, I told my son that my favorite thing in the whole world is being a dad. And God will want us all to be where we will be happiest. And if my son was in one kingdom (like the moon :smile: ), then I would ask him to put me in the same kingdom because that's where I would be happiest.
You don't have to get into a deep doctrinal conversation about who goes to which kingdom, because that's a stressful and confusing thing for a kid to comprehend. I personally don't believe there will be three kingdoms, but I know I still need to answer my kid's questions about the things they learn in Primary.
I think the doctrine of eternal families can be one of the most beautiful and comforting doctrines in the church for people who feel they're worthy of it, and that their family members are headed in the right direction. But for people who aren't so TBM, or have family members who aren't, it can be a very divisive and harmful teaching. It basically says that you better fall in line, or you won't see your family again once you die. Seems like something I'd hear from an extortionist, rather than from a loving and merciful God.
Anyway, I'd lean toward just reassuring your son that you'll all be together, whether it's on the sun or moon or wherever.
I could be way off, but that's just my perspective.
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Re: Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

Post by Roadrunner » 23 Apr 2015, 14:58

Joseph Smith probably wanted the idea of eternal families to be a comforting, uplifting thought. The downside is that families not in the celestial kingdom may not be families any more. Given Joseph's statements that God is far more loving and forgiving than we imagine, I tend to believe - if there is a celestial kingdom and an afterlife - there will be plenty of chances for us to get there.

I have a OCD streak myself and as a kid I had the same worry as your son about having to be perfect in this life. It helped me a good deal when someone told me that we can repent after we die. I'm not sure it's scriptural but I sure like that teaching because I believe if there is no repentance after we die we're utterly hopeless.

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Re: Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

Post by Roadrunner » 23 Apr 2015, 15:06

A post script to my previous post. I've always thought excommunication was an act of violence because it figuratively tears families apart for eternity, husbands from wives, children from parents. Judgement day would be the same. Can you imagine if you made the highest degree of the terrestrial kingdom and your son made the lowest degree of the celestial kingdom? You'd both wonder for eternity would you could have done differently to be together.

It just doesn't seem like a plausible scenario for a loving heavenly father. Seems like there are details and caveats that we are missing.

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Re: Harmful LDS Teachings/Perfectionism

Post by Awakening » 23 Apr 2015, 15:57

Hi Roy,

I had this exact same issue come up last year! My boys, now 9, were telling me all about the 3 degrees of glory and explaining to me about being together in the celestial kingdom if we are all good! This has bothered me so much that since we have moved out of state last summer, we have rarely attended church. I do want my kids involved and I have a DD that turned 8 last August and still has not been baptized. We were thinking we would baptize her with another family member who also turned 8 this month back in our the state we moved from and have told our bishop this. I seriously have been very involved all my life as well as my hubby so to step back as we have has been very different for us but we felt it was necessary as we tried to sift through all of this and figure out how to proceed forward without this kind of well I guess manipulation. Kids are so impressionable and it is hard to see the black and white approach given to them by well meaning primary leaders. I wish I knew the answer. I'm curious to see what others are doing.

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