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Choose Ye Which Day?

Here’s a poser.

I recently met with a former college roomate. It had been 30 years since we’d seen each other. I ducked out of the college thing early, married, and raised kids. She went the whole nine yards with schooling, graduated from BYU, ‘cuma sum’ something, went to medical school, Johns Hopkins, then she settled down, married, and started raising a family. This explains why my youngest child is older than her oldest child.

She has a lovely family. As she pointed to their faces in a photograph and told me a little something about each one, I was surprised to hear her relay that two of her children were LDS and one (only 15 years old) was not. She went on to explain that although she is active and has a strong testimony of the gospel, she decided from the onset of her marriage that her children would be able to choose whether to be baptized or go to church. (Her husband, not a member, goes occasionally and supports her in her callings.) She seemed very comfortable with this. She told me her middle son was a wonderuful boy but that he was not comfortable with the LDS faith. (My first thought, maybe not so commendable was, “why did you give him a choice???!!”)

I looked at her happy family photo again. It was a candid shot showing interaction with one another. I noted especially the direction of the gaze of the ‘non’ mormon son at his parents and the happy expression on his face.

It seemed so odd to me. To allow a 15 year old (or younger, not sure how long he’s not gone or if he ever went) make such a important decision?! I thought of the many responses I’d heard over the years and my own response to rebellious teens: “As long as you live under my roof, You will attend church with the family.” One response in particular I used to think was rather clever, from an LDS author, when a teen declared that they weren’t going to church with the family anymore (and I paraphrase): “That’s terrific! This means you are moving out and are completely self-supportive! Tell me about your new career!”

I contrasted this experience, with the experience of someone dear to me, whose child, now in their late twenties, hates the church and is accusatory toward her mother for ‘forcing church down her throat’ and ‘baptizing her at eight when she was too young to know better.’ (In my friend’s defence, if she was cramming, she wasn’t aware and she loves her daughter dearly.)

But I ask myself, which is better? To have a child that hates you, and all that you stand for, or have one that is tollerent of your religion but chooses not to follow?

I posed the question to my daughter-in-law. She’s expecting her first child in a few short months.

Her: “Oh, choosing is much better.”
Me: “So what will you do?”
Her: “Well, she( baby) will go to chuch with us, of course.”
Me: “Will you baptize her at eight?”
Her: “Well, yeah.”
Me: “O.K. But what if she doesn’t want to go later? Will you just let her stay home?”
Her: “Well…yeah. But. Well, if she’s old enough.”
Me: “O.K. How old is old enough?”

And what about family scripture study, duty to God award, Young Women’s awards?

That’s the poser.

So, I ask you? Is there a right answer? The scriptures, as usual, can seem contradictory. ‘Choose ye this day whom ye will serve but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.’ I leaned on that one alot while raising my children.

But what of the LDS Hymn, “Know This, That Every Soul is Free” “He’ll call, pursuade, direct aright…but never force the human mind.” I realize those words aren’t scripture, but they do express LDS teachings.

My child/raising years are done. So many of you still have it ahead of you. We know that ‘choice’ is so important. The question remains, when? And does it take more faith to allow choice, or deny it?

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Angie Gardner April 30, 2011, 10:14 pm

    I don’t have an answer for this, as I have seen so many situations go wrong no matter what the parents do. Generally, my parenting philosophy is “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves”, but wow…when it is your own kid it is tough sometimes to let them choose a different path than you would want for them.

    I had a cousin who always had an independent spirit about these things. When he was 8, he told his parents that he didn’t want to be baptized. They didn’t make a big deal of it and eventually (I think around age 10) he decided that he wanted to after all. He was the same way when it came mission time – at 19 he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to go, but did end up going at age 21 and was a fabulous missionary. I think in his case, his parents were very wise not to push it and let him make his own choice. Of course, he was still expected to do the family church things like attend church, have family prayer, etc. He was always “active”, he just wanted the big choices to be his own. I think his parents were smart to just keep living the gospel in their home and expecting him to do the same until he was ready to make those decisions.

    I think I personally would definitely lean towards the agency end of this equation if push came to shove with my kids (they are still pretty young and we haven’t confronted anything like this yet.) I have seen so many situations where the relationship between a parent and child was ruined, or the child “super-rebelled” because of the pressures put on them by their parents. Many of them have not come back to the church and in fact have bitter feelings about it. Even more sadly to me, some of them never were able to repair that relationship and don’t have much contact with their parents. Is it worth it to destroy the relationship with your kid so that they will attend church every Sunday when as soon as they move out of your house all they’ll do is stop going to church AND hate you? To me, it’s not worth it.

    Having said that, I do think there are some things that should be expected of our children when being raised in an LDS home, and of course I would be absolutely heartbroken if my kids started pushing those boundaries. I hope I’ve been the kind of parent to them that they can see I am only trying to guide them, not force anything, and that they will choose accordingly. This is a tough one though. I have a friend who is going through this right now with her teenage son and it is rough – he doesn’t really want to be involved with the church at all, and she’s not forcing it – I think in these cases it is just so important to follow the spirit. Bear your testimony to your kids, answer their questions, and take their concerns seriously (maybe they really have doctrinal concerns that they need to work out), and listen to what the spirit tells you as far as how much or how hard you should push. Maybe for some kids you do push, maybe others you don’t. I’m not sure. Clear as mud!

  • Steve May 1, 2011, 9:17 am

    The critical point is that LDS parents need to understand that their kids may choose to not be active in the Church — and that’s ok.

    Currently, evidence indicates that the majority in their teens and twenties will elective to go inactive. Thus, if you have 3 or 4 kids, probably only 1 or 2 will remain active.

    Parents need to understand that is likely — regardless of what they do. And, they need to focus on building a long term relationship and not personally take any departure as a failure on their part.

    Parents can teach and create experiences. But, they cannot dictate the ultimate results. But, they can maintain long term relationships.

  • Darcee Yates May 1, 2011, 9:10 am

    Angie- Thanks. Me to. Clear as mudd. Mother- there is no greater call, nor any job more difficult.
    Darcee Yates recently posted…Sleeping through a SessionMy Profile

  • Angie Gardner May 1, 2011, 1:03 pm

    I also got thinking today while at church about something I remember hearing at an open house for Primary leaders several years ago. Sister Lant was the general Primary president then and she talked about the youth taking more ownership in their own Faith in God and scouting progress. I don’t remember her exact words but something along the lines of if they can take ownership for their own gospel progress and habits, and develop them by the time they are 12, their gospel foundation will be stronger than it would be otherwise – hopefully strong enough to withstand the pressures that are there in their teenage years. I think there is a lot to be said for that – the programs that have been instituted by the church for our youth (including Personal Progress and Duty to God) are there not only to keep the kids busy but to develop a foundation and testimony that is strong. It’s more a prevention than a cure, and certainly not foolproof I am sure, but it’s definitely a parenting help I believe.

  • Laura May 1, 2011, 4:31 pm

    You make it sound like there are only two options. Dictate and expect blind obedience or teach nothing and accept where they end up. Neither of the two sound like parenting. Neither end of the spectrum seems to include very much conversation, counsel, teaching, relationship development, nurturing, or respect. What happened to just talking to your kids? Live your testimony with integrity, lead your children, love them. Do that and they will come to know the truth for themselves. Pretty simple. Not easy, but simple.

    I must say I am skeptical of the where your friend is coming from. Every oh-so-open-minded, evolved person I know of who “let their children decide for themselves” has either had an agenda or did not have very strong grasp of the gospel. Just sayin’.

    I enjoy your blog. Thanks.

  • MB May 2, 2011, 7:53 am

    It takes more faith to allow choice than to insist upon behaviors.

    Insisting means your faith is in the outcomes of the performance of outward actions.

    Allowing choice means your faith is in the power of Christ to save.

    Insisting means you do not trust your child’s ability to learn from his own experience and that you believe he can only learn from yours.

    Allowing means you see the value of personal learning, have faith in God’s ability to get through to your child, and that you understand the reality of the blessings of repentance in your own life.

    Insisting means you believe making someone do something or making someone uncomfortable when they don’t do something is the way to make people better.

    Allowing choice means you still, as you did in the war in Heaven, believe in God’s institution of agency.

    Insisting means you will find it harder to enjoy your children.

    Allowing choice means you will find more opportunities to learn to love and enjoy people who behave imperfectly and make stupid mistakes, something that God knows how to do very well.

    Like God we are to encourage, celebrate, teach and enable righteousness in our interactions with our children. An agency is one of those key principles of righteousness.

    The best and most helpful book I have ever encountered, which specifically deals with the questions you pose is Christlike Parenting: Taking the pain out of parenting, by Glenn I. Latham. I highly recommend it.

  • MB May 2, 2011, 8:07 am

    By “insisting” I mean declaring that it is a must-do, with no exceptions simply because that’s the way we do things in our family, and that you will force or coerce or impose punishments if the expected behavior is not demonstrated.

    Good behaviors must be taught and expected and stupid choices must bring natural or logical consequences, but there is a big difference between a) natural or logical consequences and b) parental punishment, laying down immutable law, manipulation of consequences to gain compliance or disallowing choice.

  • Tracy Keeney May 2, 2011, 8:24 am

    Fantastic post, Darcee.
    This is something that my husband and I have actually discussed often. Since we both have worked with the youth most of our adult lives and have seen the outcomes of various methods and approaches to parenting (and in this discussion, thinking specifically of this issue about church attendence) and considering points of doctrine and the teaching of modern-day prophets, we’ve come to a conclusion about how we would handle this.
    And as has been already pointed out– it’s really a question of how to best employ two basic prinicples which on the surface can seem oppostional to each other. Agency and Authority. The kid’s have their agency to choose, but as parents we not only have authority over them, but we’re OBLIGATED because of divinely appointed stewardship to do all we can to lead them on paths of righteousness. So the question then is, where, when and how to use our authority.
    When it comes right down to it, I don’t believe for one second that Christ would FORCE anyone to go to church. But I’ve seen parents do it.
    Can anyone envision the Savior LITERALLY dragging a kid to the car saying “I don’t care if you don’t believe in me (my church) — you WILL go to church!” I mean, really. How much closer to Satan’s plan can you get?
    On the other hand, my husband and I know couples who’ve approached it from the extreme opposite position. With the notion of giving their kids the “freedom” to choose, they either don’t take their kids to church at ALL, (if they want to go, they’ll ask, but we’re not going to initiate it) or, in their attempts to “honor agency” they unintentionally give their children the impression that church isn’t really that important. (Because the kids know that their parents wouldn’t let them choose to stay home from SCHOOL, or choose to look at porn all day, or choose to do drugs. There would be a punishment and discipline for that.)
    I’m thinking particularly of one couple who has seven kids. From a home that the parents would consider to be a “faithful LDS home”, only ONE of their children is fully active. This couple raised their kids with the “We don’t want them to stay home, but we can’t force them to go” approach, but when they talk about it, you can TELL that they approached it very nonchalantly. They acted like it wasn’t a big deal, so their KIDS think it isn’t a very big deal either.
    One by one, year after year, the younger kids watched nearly ALL their older brothers and sisters staying home all the time, with hardly a word from their parents, because the parents didn’t want to “force” religion down their throats, or “force” them to go to church. Somehow, these parents equated strong encouragement and admonition with “force”. And they simply are not the same.
    At some point, with each of our kids, we’ve had to deal with this same kind of thing when it came to tithing. When they were really young, they didn’t mind giving up 25 cents or a dollar– in fact they were excited to hand that envelope over to the Bishop. But as they got older and started earning larger sums of money and wanted to buy bigger and more expensive things, the temptation to want to hold on to that money for their own purposes became stronger. So I had to do some reminding and teaching. If they earned $50 for example and they were talking about buying that $48 skateboard, that new dress and pair of matching shoes, etc, I reminded them that they didn’t really have $50 to spend, they only had $45, because $5 of it was the Lord’s. The reactions were different, but the same. Rolling of the eyes, sighs of frustration, a disappointed “oh yeah– (sigh) now I can’t buy ____. Do I HAVE to pay tithing?”
    And the response was always the same. Something along the lines of “No, you don’t HAVE to pay tithing. Paying tithing is an act of faith. That’s between you and the Lord.” But I’d remind them that they made covenants when they got baptized– that if they wanted to be worthy to go to the temple, they needed to be full tithe payers, they needed to be obedient. Yes, it’s a sacrifice. Yes, it’s hard to do sometimes. But if we want to be obedient, and if we want the blessings that come from that sacrifice, we do it anyway out of FAITH. Then I pointed out that they had a choice– to put the Lord first, or their own desires first. If they pay their tithing, they could STILL get the skateboard (or dress and shoes), they’d just have to wait until they earn a little more. Then I bore my testimony to them about paying tithing, and PROMISED them that they would build their testimony, would feel more confidant in front of the Bishop, in front of the Lord and in front of the mirror, if they put the Lord first, but told them the choice was theirs, and that if they chose otherwise, there WOULD be consequences. Not “punishment” from me or Dad, but spiritual consequences. But either way, the choice was their’s and they’d still be loved no matter what.

  • Mike May 2, 2011, 5:08 pm

    I believe children should have a choice.

    They can go to Church and be happy, or go to Church and be sad.

  • Darcee Yates May 2, 2011, 9:19 pm

    I appreciate all of your comments. Like I said, my youngest child is 25. I’m done- with child raising anyway- lots of other things- like being friends with my mature children- a different journey altogether.

    That there could be a ‘different than my desired result’ with my child rearing was not something I contemplated in my twenties. Or if I did- the children I worried about were the ones who remained strong and the ones I thought would never leave the faith are the ones who struggle (who knew?).

    I wrote this post for those who are still in the thick of the battle. Or just beginning the journey. Food for thought.

    MB- Are you Yoda? lol. Sorry, but you’ve got a lot of wisdom behind you, and I always look forward to your words.
    Darcee Yates recently posted…Sleeping through a SessionMy Profile

  • MB May 3, 2011, 1:06 pm


    Ha. Thanks. No. But he said something that might pertain to this conversation.

    “Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”


  • Lisa May 3, 2011, 10:17 pm

    I just taught our Relief Society lesson this weekend using Elder Lawrence’s Conf talk from Oct ’10 on Courageous Parenting, so I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately.

    I think it’s important to have Agency, but realize that there are consequences to every decision. To let your children choose to stay home, without any adverse consequences, is not teaching them to make the RIGHT choices. You wouldn’t just let them stay home from school, would you? If we were “sick” enough to stay home, then we were too “sick” to play, right?

    I have also heard recently that if you raise your children right, in the gospel, then they will be better prepared to return to you, no matter what the situation. I do believe that a good, open relationship with your children is important in any case. They should know why you believe what you do, why you wish them to follow, and what will happen if they don’t.

    One last point, if your teen does choose to not attend church, I’d think they’d still have to follow your rules of the house, which would include family prayer, study, and FHE. They should still have the same rules when out with friends, and standards that they would if they were attending. They could essentially be still “living” the gospel without attending the meetings. This could get them past this tangled point in their growth until they decide to come back. And, if they don’t they will still be better prepared to handle adult decisions.

  • Carlilee May 4, 2011, 1:12 pm

    Don’t get what you mean by “poser”?

  • Darcee Yates May 5, 2011, 7:30 pm

    Poser- a difficult or perplexing situation or problem.
    Darcee Yates recently posted…Sleeping through a SessionMy Profile

  • Brandi Leigh May 10, 2011, 12:35 pm

    Mom… poser?
    Urban Dictionary: poser 1- One who pretends to be something they are not. 2- who tries to fit in but exaggerates. 3- Any one who does not follow his/her own ideas of what he/she likes

    Just funny that you chose that word. Why take your child go to tap lessons when they won’t tap? <=== RHETORICAL! Basically, your child's heart is already not in it. If they go and pretend to like it, wouldn't that make them a poser? Nobody here is the first parent to see their child choose something else. But those choices have consequences. (Er, Lucifer really can't ever have a body.) The expectations should still be there, whether the child chooses to go or not. So, 16 year old's don't get cars, right?

    I took biology in HS and you could dissect the pregnant rat (no joke) or write a paper on inner workings of a dead rat. Most people did the 30 minute dissection. Others went to the library and spent hours doing a paper.

    If your child can't do church, can they do scripture study? Does it have to be LDS scripture? Abstaining from church shouldn't mean kick-off time. Expect the child to still understand God's gospel and obey those rules in your house. They'd probably zone out at church; at home they'd really have to write the report. 😉 Otherwise, there will be consequences. Do reports if they can't worship. So they can get that car at 16. (Aren't I clever?) (I can't wait for all this to back fire later.)

    NOTE: Darcee and Brandi once had an infamous stand-off. Darcee dropped off a 4 year old Brandi at tap. Brandi refused to leave the front door of the dance studio. Instead she stared out at her mother sitting in the car ready to go. Brandi swears it was the entire dance lesson (an hour?) and Darcee swears it was like 10 minutes before she came back inside and took her home, never to return to the already paid for lessons. Darcee later signed Brandi up for ballet and it was a great success!

  • Brandi Leigh May 10, 2011, 12:41 pm

    Tracy Keeney said:
    “Can anyone envision the Savior LITERALLY dragging a kid to the car saying “I don’t care if you don’t believe in me (my church) — you WILL go to church!” I mean, really. How much closer to Satan’s plan can you get?”

    Oh, the funny irony.

  • Alison Moore Smith May 10, 2011, 4:23 pm

    What do you do if your kids don’t want to go to school?
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  • Janiel Miller May 13, 2011, 11:05 am

    I find that if my children understand why Heavenly Father wants them to go to church–and in fact the why’s behind everything we ask them to do–that they make much better decisions. Especially if that understanding is backed up by how their father and I live our lives, and what we do in our home.

    And the most important why in everything we are asked to do is this: because Heavenly Father loves us. If we do what he asks and commands, then he can bless and protect us like he wants to. If we don’t, he can’t. Plain and simple. Once my kids start understanding that God is all about love and safety, and it is Lucifer who wants to do the punishing, it is much easier for them to obey. Then they learn to trust God more, and when he asks them to do something that doesn’t have an immediate explanation, they can always go back to “Well, he loves me, and he’s trying to help me, so this must be something I need to do.”

    If, after I’ve done all of that, I have a fully-informed child who still chooses to go their own route, can I actually believe that forcing them will somehow turn them around? No. I’ll listen to the Spirit and do everything I can within those bounds. But I won’t go Satan’s route and try to force them. At that point all I can do is what Alma the Elder did, and pray that my child will see the truth.

    (Addendum: I do think it is a rare [read: not unheard-of, but rare] 8 year-old who would ask not to be baptized if they are taught what the blessings and protection are that come with that ordinance. And what they won’t have if they don’t do it. I asked my 9 year-old what his biggest reason had been for desiring baptism, and he immediately said, “I wanted the gift of the Holy Ghost!” Then he looked at me like, “Duh.”)
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  • Janiel Miller May 13, 2011, 11:11 am

    I love that with Adam and Eve in the Garden, God taught them a principle, told them what the natural consequences of disobedience would be, then allowed them to experience those consequences.

    He didn’t say: “Adam and Eve, you can eat everything but this. If you eat this you’re in big trouble. I mean it. Big. What are you doing! Don’t you touch that tree! Didn’t I tell you not to touch that tree? I’m counting to three! One! Two! OMIGOSH! I can’t believe you did that after I told you not to! You’re grounded for the rest of your lives. AND you have to do the weeding!”
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  • Alison Moore Smith May 14, 2011, 10:44 am

    Then they learn to trust God more, and when he asks them to do something that doesn’t have an immediate explanation, they can always go back to “Well, he loves me, and he’s trying to help me, so this must be something I need to do.”

    My problem with this approach is that is assumes that everything they are asked to do (in general) or everything they go through is directed by God or is God’s will. With baptism, I’d agree this is true. With lots of stuff in the church organization, I don’t. So the “because God loves us” works only within a very specific subset of those things they deal with.

    I have to leave and can’t go into that, but hope that makes sense for now.
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  • Janiel Miller May 14, 2011, 7:46 pm

    Yes, it makes sense. I was specifically referring to things God asks people to do, or go through, in their lives. Although, even if something within the Church structure is a question for me, I can ask God and still get an answer to follow from him. For me, it all comes down to knowing that God loves me and everything he asks me to do is for my good. (I’ve had to learn that God loves me, and it was a huge discovery for me.) If something bothers me–like whether or not a calling or direction actually came from God– I can always ask to receive clarity and direction from him.

    To me the most important thing we can do is help our children feel God’s love, and help them understand that his commandments come out of that love. And that they can ask him anything–even things having to do with Church structure. After that, it just takes faith in those answers. (which is sometimes a big deal.)
    Janiel Miller recently posted…Doolin- Winding Our Way to O’Connor’s and Eileen’sMy Profile

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