Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nonbelievers Who Want Mormon Kids

An interesting phenomenon that I've encountered fairly often is the desire of many non-LDS parents to have their kids be Mormon. Sometimes these parents aren't even Christian. This week, for example, my wife and I were blessed to have two wonderful sisters from Thailand teach us how to cook a couple of delicious Thai dishes. In talking with them, we learned of their conversion stories. They are grateful for their non-believing parents who learned about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and wanted Mormon ways for their children. They had missionaries over, sent them to church, and encouraged them to be baptized and be active in the church, though the parents kept their old ways and beliefs. So why would anyone wish that upon their children? From what I've seen, and in the case of my friends from Thailand, it's usually because the parents know some Mormons and see something tremendously positive that they want their children to have. They see high moral values, healthy living, happy and strong families, nice people, and want that for their kids. The church, of course, is more complicated than that and we have all the problems known to mankind within our ranks, but there's no doubt in my mind that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught and practiced within the Church, in general helps people live better lives, have better families, and find greater happiness.

So if it's great for the kids, why not for the whole family? For every parent who wants their kids to be Mormon and ships them off to a local Mormon church or encourages them to listen to the missionaries and be baptized, there are dozens of children who wish their parents would listen and find the peace and happiness they have. Some of these parents who like Mormonism and even see it as something from God might say "It's too late for me," or "I can't change, but my kids can be shaped." Sigh. We can change, at any age, and live happier, healthier lives as we strive to follow Jesus Christ and learn from him. Come on, parents, lead your kids by example and find increased happiness together. It's not that hard. OK, it can be hard and painful, as many aspects of mortality can be, but even those more difficult parts of the religious journey are worth it.

6 comments:

Bookslinger said...

In the recent past, the church has frowned upon baptizing minor children without the parents. Before that, the practice was common, and it was part of the situation with the unsustainable growth problem in South America in the 80’s and 90’s. Baptized children with non-member parents or inactive parents usually don't stay active themselves. In my day they were called "weenie baps", and were mainly a result of over-eager missionaries trying to make baptism goals.

But the situation you describe is different in two aspects: it's initiated by parents, not the missionaries; and the parents have their own motivation to keep the kids active in church.

If the children show genuine interest over a period of time, and the parents contnue their encouragement and support in church primary/youth activities , I don't see a problem.

I would hope that ward leaders get involved early in the teaching process to ascertain if the children have a real spiritual involvement or conversion, and that the family doesnt't view the church merely as a social club.

Social involvement alone in the church doesn't require the comittment of baptism. Sunday meetings and primary/youth activities are open to non-members. Maybe there is some church policy about delaying the baptism of primary aged children in the situation that you describe.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that one of the things these parents see in the Church is an opportunity for their children's economic and educational advancement? Among its other benefits, Church membership would provide the kids access to a Western educational/economic network that would otherwise be closed to them. But to reap this benefit the parents themselves wouldn't necessarily have to convert and participate, just the children. If the parents believed in the Church's spiritual truth, then as Jeff says, they themselves would want to convert. But if they're mainly interested in the economic and educational benefits of Church membership, maybe their "kids but not parents" approach makes sense. It's never "too late" to be saved, but, practically speaking, it can be "too late" to get an education and embark on a career.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

ES, Other than the church's encouragement to get an education and be industrious, I don't see the link that you're assuming between LDS membership of children outside the USA and a "Western educational/economic network". Care to elaborate? Were you referring to the Perpetual Education Fund? Even so, that fund helps with college/training in their home countries, and is not a ticket to the US.

If you were referring to attendance at BYU, admittance is very rare among those members outside the USA; only a very tiny fraction from outside the USA get in.

There have been a small few church owned primary and secondary schools outside the US, but those have been closing down in the last 20 years or so. I don't know if any are left.

Even in the USA, church growth has been such that a steadily declining percentage of applicants get accepted to BYU. It's not a shoe-in anymore, even for applicants with high GPA's.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking more of informal networks.

-- Eveningsun

Openminded said...

I plan on exposing my kids to whatever the mainstream religion will be--even to the point of letting them believe it.

Religion was a wonderful influence in my childhood. It teaches you an incredible amount about being the right person, what it's like to believe in something bigger than yourself, etc.

Even leaving religion was a massively positive learning experience.

It'd be a great experience for the kids, but since I already grew in a different direction concerning religion, it wouldn't be likely at all that I'd become a believer in the supernatural part of it ever again.

Anonymous said...

Openminded, I agree with you on a number of points, in fact, I wouldn't mind letting my kids see stuff from other religions for a change, just to know that certain people exist out there, and it's worth knowing how to interact and respect them in today's world. Regarding religion, myself and my father have gone entirely different ways, but at the same time, he was always fine with me seeing other religions' services, or even work put out with them. It helps one think and feel respect at the same time. My father has been fine with the direction I have taken, and we do respect each other greatly in that aspect too.