Sunday, April 7, 2013

Teaching my children the gospel

Coping as an agnostic Mormon is complicated, no matter how you shake it. But it becomes infinitely more so when you are leading (if you can actually call it that) little minds and souls through the haziness behind you.

How do I teach my children a gospel that I don't necessarily believe? This was one of my biggest issues with coming back to church for social reasons. I would be meeting my social needs for sure (my ward is fantastic!), but in the meantime, my children would be indoctrinated. That was a problem for me.

First, I and my husband had to acknowledge the possibility of these children growing up and becoming real, believing Mormons. And you know what we decided? There are much worse things for your children to become than good Mormons. So that was settled. Not only are we okay with that, we actually think it doesn't sound half bad. In fact, one of the things that keeps me going when I feel confused and otherwise unmotivated is that we actually want our kids to go to BYU! Even my husband, the dirty, dirty Ute. We have heard what goes on at other universities, and oh my gosh. Please, no. Plus, BYU is a steal! But if I want them to go there, or grow up in this church at all, I do feel like I should teach them the basics.

My hope testimony helps a lot. See, if I'm hoping that something is true, then I don't have a problem teaching it to my children. Unfortunately, when you get down to the nitty gritty details, it does become slightly more complicated.

Reactive teaching opportunities (or more accurately, obligations):

"Mom, where does Jesus live?"

"Mom, how did Heavenly Father make the first people?"

And so on.

There are a few ways I handle this. My beautiful and brilliant cousin, who has struggled with a lot of the same issues I have, clued me into the first two.

1) "When I was little, I was taught that..." This works for things related to faith, like encouraging your child to say a prayer about something. "When I was little, I was taught that if I prayed to Heavenly Father, He could help me feel better if I was scared." So I'm imparting the information I want to impart (because I really don't mind if my kid learns to believe these things), but I'm also not saying anything I don't technically believe.

2) "You know what? I bet Grandma could explain that to you." This is a great one when you have a mom and a mother-in-law like mine. They can impart the knowledge and faith, so my kid is getting it, but again, I'm not saying anything I don't technically believe.

3) "Some people believe that..." I can also say "we believe" if I feel comfortable with it. Some people believe that Heavenly Father created Adam and Eve, and they were the first people. Other people believe blah, blah, blah. The point is, I never answer questions like this with absolute certainty. I don't possess that certainty. Plus, I think it's fine for my kids to know the various answers people have to fundamental human questions, so I deliver those answers without judgment or condescension.

Then there's the issue of proactive teaching. If I want to be a good Mormon mommy, I should teach my kids about the scriptures and other good Mormony stuff, right?

With scriptures, heck, I just teach them as the stories that I view them to be. (See my thoughts on scriptures.) These are stories with good morals...usually. They're also a part of our cultural lore, and if I'm going to raise my children in this culture, I owe it to them to clue them into the culture's lore as well as its founding stories--some of which are pretty dang inspiring, whether you believe the doctrine of the church or not.

With other gospel principles, it just sort of depends on the topic. Who doesn't want to teach their children about kindness, honesty, service, etc? If there are scripture stories that help illustrate them, great. When it comes to things like baptism and the Word of Wisdom, I teach them in the way I personally believe them (hang tight for my thoughts on those topics). If my kids decide at some point to believe them another way, that's their choice. My main goal with those things is to make sure I'm not raising Judgy McHolier-than-thou.

So there ya go. I'm not lying to my children. I could obviously never do that in good conscience. But I am imparting the information and values that I want to impart. It's like walking on a tight rope--tricky, and I can't become complacent--but it's getting me where I want to go.

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