Tonight I realized one of the effects of my disaffection. My 9 year old daughter came into my room and told my wife and I that when they discussed the history of Utah and how the Mormons settled it she felt uncomfortable. Being in a small town in the north end of the state, her class is probably 99% Mormon. She is our youngest, baptized into the church not long before my shelf collapsed to the point of no repair.
I told her that she should be proud of her heritage, for she comes from those pioneers that were willing to make great sacrifices for the things they felt were true. I told her it is tough sometimes when you feel left out of the group and being the only one in class that doesn’t go to church doesn’t make her a bad person, just different. I let her know if she ever wanted to attend our local ward, I’d go with her and be her support as well. We talked about how all churches for the most part generally want to help people be better people and that for the most part, people in their religion feel like they are doing the right thing in their beliefs.
After we talked a bit, she seemed relieved and gave me big hug and went to get ready for bed. I sat pondering that exchange for a while remembering words my sister once said to me after I confessed my loss of faith to my parents and siblings. She asked, “What are you going to tell your kids? What are you going to teach them?” At that time I told her my wife and I would let them decide on their own what religious or non religious path they would take. We certainly didn’t feel it right to indoctrinate our kids into the church at a young age even though it is something the church explicitly expects of parents. We would support them and guide them to the ability to think and choose for themselves. After this discussion with my little girl, I certainly pondered again the consequences of my actions in terms of being a father and an example to my children.
Our biggest concern with regard to our kids’ belief or lack thereof was the social stigma attached to those that have left the faith. Utah is very cliquish in its schools and not being part of the ‘in’ crowd can be rough. And believe me, you can’t get much more out of the ‘in’ crowd than you do by leaving the church. Even the never-been-a-mormon kids have it better off because they are potential converts to the church. Inactive members have it better too because they are just lost or “wandering in the mists of darkness” searching for the “iron rod.” Literally though, heaven help the person that openly questions the doctrine or points out the illogic of the religion. They are the fallen ones. They are the lost elect that were once part of the tribe and are now exiled. They are the Korihor, whom believers tied up, cursed, shunned and eventually trampled to death. (see Alma 30)
So my point is that one of our most stressful considerations is how our children will be treated. Will this be rough on my kids living in the Mormon corridor? There is no doubt in my mind that it will. So why would I write this blog? Why do I speak out? There are those in the church that would call me a false prophet, sent to deceive the very elect. From the LDS perspective that is literally what I am. For the love of Fridge, I even declared myself a profet (albeit sarcastically) to prove the idea that anyone can do so. From the inside of the religion my kids could have a rough go of it, simply because their dad says what he does. I realized tonight that I owe them each an explanation. They each deserve to know why I write what I do. Personally, I feel I am better at communicating my thoughts in writing than in person and I hope you all won’t mind that I declare here my reasons why I do what I do for each of them individually. I hope that someday in the future they will look back and read all that I have posted and know I did it for them.
To all my kids:
The number one reason I speak up, is I believe it is the right thing to do. If I didn’t feel it was important to reveal truth and teach what is real I wouldn’t do this at all. Truth is simply truth. Deception, no matter how noble the justification, is still deception. Even unintentional deception leads a person to a false premise, and once that is discovered, I strongly believe a just and good person would do something to correct it. I follow the council of a primary song that I learned as a child: Do what is right, let the consequence follow. Why the Fridge? Well kids, I also believe in a healthy sense of humor and sarcasm as a teaching tool. We have always been a laughing family that has faced tough things with both of these implements. I mean no sacrilege to others’ beliefs. I see the value of enshrining good principles into people’s lives, even though in my eyes it looks like myth. Each of you children mean the world to me. I believe, more than ever before, that you are the greatest chance of my own immortality as your own children will be yours. The one way I am confident people live on in this world is via their posterity, and I couldn’t be more blessed than I am with mine. I want you each to know that there are also reasons that apply to each of you personally and individually, with regard to my decision to leave the religion that I once loved.
To my oldest, the inventor:
I knew you struggled with the veracity of the church. I knew that I had taught you everything that in essence indoctrinated you into the belief system that just wasn’t logical when tested. If you stopped believing and returned from your mission early, I couldn’t bear the thought of you feeling all alone and disgraceful for doing what you saw as right. I got you into this mess and I certainly wasn’t going to leave you there alone. You have a tremendous gift to create, Son, and I am sure you will create wonderful things that will make the world a better place. I needed to show you by example that integrity is a virtue in its own right and even when its tough to do so, you should honor it.
To my second son, the soccer star:
To you I would say, I felt it important that you know it is good to correct yourself, even if you have to admit you made a mistake. One day you may become a doctor or even a politician. Whatever you choose, you can certainly become it. You already know hard work pays off, so pick a direction, work hard and make your dreams come true. I want you to know that just because lots of people believe something, that doesn’t make it right. So don’t be worried about fitting in when you were born to stand out!
To my middle child, the brilliant gamer:
Son you are brilliant. Many things that others struggle with come easy to you. You are a lucky kid. One day you may be an awesome programmer, or you might use your ability to debate to become a lawyer. Like your older brothers, you have it within you to be whatever you choose. Tonight I watched you help your sister when she felt down and depressed. This is a good thing. I would like you to know that my reason for you is that I want you to know that people of all beliefs or no beliefs at all are good people. The good things that are in all religions are what the individuals bring to them. Please remember that even though they will credit God or their church, it is people themselves that make good things happen to other people. I hope you will always watch out for those in need and help whenever you can.
To my youngest son, the charmer:
Everyone is your friend my son, cause you are just so darn likable! Of all our kids health wise, you have been dealt the toughest hand. Physical struggles are often very hard to overcome. We are much alike in that way and I know for a fact that changing your body and making it into what you want is possibly one of the hardest difficulties to overcome. My reason to you is so you know that there are truths about health that real science has proven. The enshrined revelation on health (the Word of Wisdom) got several things wrong, and the interpretations that came after, even more so. I want you to know that it’s alright to learn new things and challenge the status quo–to check out things for yourself. You don’t need to take another person’s word for it. Find out on your own terms! Don’t let anyone tell you what can’t be done. Instead, go about doing it.
To my daughter, the strong willed:
You, my dear girl, are very outspoken and decisive–much like your mother. I want you to know you are a key reason that I felt the need to speak up. You see, the LDS church is very patriarchal. This means that if you are a male, things are pretty good. I might have simply toed the line if you hadn’t come along after your four older brothers. But I have watched many an outspoken, strong-willed female eventually buckle under the impossible expectations of women in the church. I watched your mom go from her outspoken and confident self when we first married to a depressed and indecisive person that always felt she was never quite good enough. Once we stepped back from church she regained her former self. You are a lot like her, my darling daughter. I don’t ever wish you to feel you aren’t good enough to be a leader, a mom, a veterinarian or any other dream you may have. Your role in the world is yours to define! I want you to know that you have every bit as much as your brothers to offer the world. Become the person you want to be. When I think of you, my youngest, I think of my favorite Simpsons episode where Homer does the difficult thing for his little girl. He did it for her. I might be an outcast due to my unbelief, and you might feel left out at times because of your association with me, but in the long run, I do it for you. Because I think in the long run it is better that you have the opportunity to know truth on your own terms and not have someone else’s concept of what is ideal indoctrinated into you.
To all my kids:
A smart man once said,
“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” [Edmund Burke]
We should not support deception once we uncover it. It’s a fine line to walk though, because to some, exposing it is very offensive. I hope to exercise caution in my approach, and to use humor and kindness to explain where I am coming from. If my outspokenness ever causes you pain, please tell me. I will endeavor to correct it in order to eliminate the angst it causes you. Because there is one church teaching that I will always agree with: Family is #1 in importance, and you are mine. There is a saying on our living room wall that your mom and I put there which declares the goal we set when we moved in. “Make our home a place to run to and not from” That goal drives me. It drives your mom. We only want the best for you. We love you more than anything. I love you more than anything. That is what I want you, my children, to know.