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?