A Note About My Son

Almost 20 years ago, I sat in a rocking chair at Utah Valley Hospital holding my newborn son in my arms. You really have no idea what you’re getting into when you have a child. You can anticipate sleepless nights and getting vomited on and changing diapers, but you really don’t know what you’re doing. You sort of feel your way along raising a child, particularly the first one.

When my oldest son was born, I wanted him to have the kind of parents I didn’t have: two active, faithful Mormons who would teach him to be a good person, to go on a mission, and to marry in the temple. See, my father wasn’t quite Mormon enough; he went to church, but he was clearly not interested in any of it. I grew up feeling kind of sorry for him.

At about age 12, my son began to seriously resent going to church. This wasn’t part of the program. How could he not like church? Thus began an epic battle that lasted years. Every Sunday morning it was like trying to drag a two-ton boulder to church. It really frustrated me, and sometimes it made me really angry. He told me that church was stressful and draining, and he just couldn’t take it anymore. But I wouldn’t listen. Church was good for you, and he was going to go, damn it.

Finally when he was around 16, I gave up. I figured he was old enough to make his own decisions (his mother disagreed with me), and I stopped pushing him, stopped punishing him when he didn’t go. It wasn’t long after that when I had my epiphany regarding Mormonism. Suddenly, neither of us wanted to go, but I didn’t talk to him about my feelings toward the church.

A year or so later, my wife and I were having a big fight about my participation on “apostate” message boards, and my son asked me what was going on. I said, “It’s just a church thing.” He replied, “Oh, she must have read your blog.” We had a long talk about the church, and he said, “I’m really glad I’m not the only one in the family who thinks it’s a load of crap.” The next thing he said was, “Does this mean we can go to Starbucks?”

He’s now off at college, and he has nothing to do with Mormonism. He’s living his own life without a manipulative organization trying to keep him in line. And you know what? He’s not a junkie or a gangster; he’s just a normal college student (and he’s doing pretty well, I have to say). Sometimes I’m a little jealous because I wish I had figured things out at his age, but I just have to be grateful that he knows the score.

I’m really proud of him.

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10 Responses to A Note About My Son

  1. Nom says:

    Amen.

    Having kids when you are young is tough. How much easier it must be to do if you don’t feel the need to fight with your kids every Sunday morning. Sadly, I did it just like you. Happily, they no longer resent me for it.

  2. Chris says:

    >>I said, “It’s just a church thing.” He replied, “Oh, she must have read your blog.” We had a long talk about the church, and he said, “I’m really glad I’m not the only one in the family who thinks it’s a load of crap.” The next thing he said was, “Does this mean we can go to Starbucks?”

    LOL.

  3. sideon says:

    I’m proud of both of you.

  4. Ray A says:

    One thing I’ve always respected about my father is that when I was 14 he allowed me to choose whether or not I wanted to keep going to Church (the Catholic Church). I chose not to, but in Catholicism there’s no stigma about this. No Either/Or dichotomies, and you’re not viewed as an apostate if you leave it. The odd thing is, had he forced me, I would likely not have become a Mormon, and more than likely harboured a resentment for religion. As it turned out, in my “search for truth”, I temporarily returned to Catholicism, but ended up becoming a Mormon. My parents never criticised my decision to become a Mormon either, though both felt I wasn’t the same person. Being able to make personal choices, as I understand it, is a core Mormon doctrine, but if pressure is exerted on children, they may feel they are “making choices” they are not really making, and are at places they really don’t want to be. Subtle pressure to conform is as good as force. This, I believe, is why we see so much resentment in many ex-Mormons. Your son may never experience that resentment, and may even eventually have a healthy respect for Mormonism (I’m speculating here of course, since I don’t know him) on a general level. Although he appreciates it now, later in life your son will thank you for allowing him to make his own decisions and appreciate this even more, just as today I thank my father, and totally respect the fact that at 14 he let me chose the life I wanted to live.

  5. zackc says:

    One down…a few more to go. Hoping they all find their way out. Take it easy runtu. 🙂

  6. Ray A says:

    zack: One down…a few more to go. Hoping they all find their way out.

    That isn’t quite my view, zack. Many people don’t find Mormonism something to be “escaped from”. What is important here is personal choice. Runtu had his wife to offer alternatives. The important thing is that his son is able to make his choice while weighing up alternatives. The notion that one should “find their way out” to be “happy”, is subjective. Some people are very happy being Mormons, believe it or not. And they don’t always subscribe to orthodoxy.

    To be frank, I find the notion that one must “escape Mormonism” to be kind of controlling. Your worldview isn’t necessarily the only correct one, and people continue to believe for reasons other than the reasons you reject Mormonism.

    I’m sure you don’t think your view is the “only true one”. My philosophy is live, and let live. So, having “one more out”, means, to me, having one more subscribe to your opinion – which is no doubt “right”. It may be right for you, but respecting the rights of others to believe what they wish, is central to personal freedom. I support Runtu’s son in his choices, not because I think his choices are right or wrong, but because he’s allowed choice.

    The freedom to believe, or disbelieve, is something personal.

  7. Elder Joseph says:

    Ray A

    You talk about Personal Choice ? But how much personal choice does one have when brought up in the church or even converted to it on misleading information?

    I’m sure many exmormons spoke as you do now and then sometime later snapped out of it all .

    I see lots of people in church with little choice for fear of family , and spouse and marital problems should they start to question the church and even dare to talk about the true reality of it all .

    I was misled and deceived by the LDS church and couldn’t make a real personal choice until I had the correct information which I got , and not from church members which made it all the more frustrating.
    I’m personally grateful to all those members and ex members who took the time to put up websites and blogs and write books.

    They have my respect and not those who still try to hide and put difficulties aside for the sake of keeping a testimony which is nothing more than a belief based on false information.

    A female church member can have a testimony of how great and faithful her husband is ( until for some who think that ,they are exposed to hard evidence of his infidelity) and that proves the testimony thing invalid and no measure of truth.

    Freedom to believe is one thing , but when the belief is furthered to entrap unsuspecting investigators and cause splits in other families and relationships then it becomes a threat to individuals and a potentially very destructive one .The experiences of past converts and members testifies to this.

  8. Ray A says:

    Elder Joseph wrote: Freedom to believe is one thing , but when the belief is furthered to entrap unsuspecting investigators and cause splits in other families and relationships then it becomes a threat to individuals and a potentially very destructive one .The experiences of past converts and members testifies to this.

    My reply: I was a convert and am a former member. I had no choice in being born Catholic, nor in being indoctrinated from birth, nor in attending Catholic schools, including boarding schools. None of us have choices about birth circumstances. Many born Mormons do not view it the way you do, and I’m talking about people who eventually lose belief. Although born into a family with a General Authority, and subject to indoctrination from a very early age, McMurrin did not believe. He wrote books on the philosophical and theological foundations of Mormonism, and is famous (or infamous) for his criticisms of Packer and Benson in the Seventh East Press (reprinted in Dialogue). His was not a black and white view, nor is mine. You are entitled to your view, but if it’s not shared by us, that doesn’t mean we are the “victims” of Mormonism. Everyone is a victim of something. Papillion was a victim of the French system of “justice”, and spent 13 years on Devil’s Island, not far from where I was born. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his political views. It is people of courage like this who remind all of us that life isn’t meant to be lived with regret, nor to see people as helpless victims of anything, including religion. If you conclude that Mormonism is a fraud, that’s fine. But don’t suppose that everyone will share your view, and that if they don’t something is wrong with them, or their thinking.

  9. zackc says:

    Ray:

    Yeah live and let live. But I think it’s easier to do outside the church. Freedom to choose is a whole lot easier to do when you have no ties to start with. If someone wants to be LDS/JW/a spaceman then fine, but put them in a neutral position to start, not born into and completely indoctrinated before they have a chance at freedom of choice.

    Hope you are well.

    Zackc/Bond (that evil Bond :P)

  10. Ray A says:

    Zack, I am well, and having a well-earned few days off. For practical reasons (i.e., my own experience) I agree to some extent, but most people don’t start off neutral. They could be born into a Hindu family, a Buddhist family, a Catholic family, or a Mormon family, that’s the reality of life. There is little doubt in my mind that Mormonism exerts more pressure. I did the same with my children until I left in 1987, because I was a TBM, but in my sporadic returns (as a “liberal believer”), I never forced any of them, and I came to feel that this was wrong, to exert too much pressure. The problem, I think, is that this is the “default” position of Mormons, and the D&C warns that any parent who doesn’t bring up their children in the gospel, or teaching them accountability (which is the whole hog), the sins of the children will be on the heads of the parents. So naturally many LDS parents act out of some fear for their own salvation.

    It’s “easy” for me now, and it was in 1987, because I lost my literal beliefs (not without a long internal struggle), and my children are now all well adjusted heathen, all fully employed and responsible citizens. But, admittedly, it’s not an easy subject. I’d say someone like Runtu’s son had a real choice – most LDS children don’t have that leveridge. Can you imagine being the son of Bruce R. McConkie? I can think of better ways to spend my childhood. I’ve read the account of one of McConkie’s sons, and his thoughts, and felt pure relief I’m out of Zion.

    My advice to LDS parents, nay, all religious-minded parents, is to go easy on the children. If you buy them Joseph Fielding Smith’s Man, His Origin and Destiny, then also give them a copy of Dawkins’ Climbing Mount Improbable, a book that an educated teenager can comprehend. Let them choose, but the problem is that most LDS parents, or I should say “TBMs”, don’t do that. It’s all one-way indoctrination traffic, and often fear-based “education”. All I can say is, sad.

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