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Boring church meetings part II

December 12, 2008

I’ve talked about this before: the LDS church has this (perhaps not so) unique issue of having…boring…meetings. And these meetings are so dry that people actually look into finding further meaning out of them…Are they a trial? Are they something that allows members to “endure to the end?” Patience is long-suffering, after all…

For adults, I guess we just choose to stick with it. And maybe over time we appreciate these meetings just a little bit more…but as with last time, the question seems always what to do with *the children.* Enter: Nine Moons’ blog writer MCQ. MCQ has a daughter who doesn’t want to attend church. Uh-oh!  And MCQ has been asking what he should do with her.

Faithful answers are illuminating. Many commenters urge that MCQ should…”force”…his daughter to church. I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything else. After all, it’s MCQ’s house and he should lay the rules of who his house will serve. Parents’ rule.

Now…when I first read the story…I was concerned that if he were to take this route, he would actually be sowing the seeds of a daughter who resents the church. You can take the horse to water and dunk him down, but he doesn’t have to accept baptism. Typically, however, the faithful believe that making someone do things against their desires will eventually cause them to like such things. I think it’s an interesting point of difference…because at the very least, these two outcomes are reasonable and seen in general life. You can easily imagine someone who eats his vegetables just because his parents force it and hates it, but learns to appreciate and love the veggies.

What made me change positions was finding out the age…the daughter is 12. Now, as 16- or 17- year old may have a number of reasons for disliking church and is prone to teenage rebel on out the door, but someone who’s 12..? I’m not saying 12 year olds should be forced to do everything their parents say…but there are different levels of reasoning here.

So…why did I write an article about this? Well…the interesting thing is that while many others and I would think it’s ridiculous to assume that a 12 year old is at the level of mental or emotional functioning to fully think certain things out at 12, the church determines accountability at 8. It could be just another clever part of the church (oh, get them while they are young and not fully developed!)…but I will not speak so negatively of the church. Instead, a comment in response to comments by MCQ brought up a point that I, as a nonbeliever, would never imagine except as academically:

Baptism is the gateway. Of course an 8 yr old is not capable of deep understanding of it but such is not required. Conversion is a process that is only begun at age 8. The decision made to become a member is not the final link in the chain, it is just the first one. The reason we baptize at 8 is because children begin to be accountable at that age and need the guidance of the Holy Spirit which is available as a gift only after baptism.

I remember very clearly discussing the issue with my children at age 8. They don’t know everything about the issue, but they are capable of understanding this commitment. They may change their minds a hundred times before adulthood, but I would rather have them navigate those intervening years as members with the gift of the Holy Ghost. I think it helps tremendously.

So, the reason we have all of these ex-members or cultural members who write constantly about how they wonder if they should send in their resignation letters or not…is because conversion is just a process that *starts* at 8, so baptism is acceptable even if the child does not fully understand.
But wait! Baptism is a great mercy indeed, because without it, children would not have the gift of the Holy Ghost! What a terrible world to live in without such a gift.
Even though I sound like a jerk, I’m not trying to chastise those who believe this. Even though I know that by the books, baptism is for the gift of the Holy Ghost over the more generic light of Christ…I’ve never ever seen that as a defense of baptism. I’m in shock. Maybe just a little bit.
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4 Comments
  1. I was reading that thread too. I know a fair number of full-fledged atheists who were forced to go to church as teens, but that doesn’t mean that forcing one’s kids will automatically lead to making them question more — others apparently internalize the improtance of church (even if they hate it ).

    Regarding letting kids be accountable to choose baptism at 8, but not allowing them to choose not to go to church at 12 — well, people can rationalize anything.

    But I’d learned that it was “confirmation” (the laying on of hands for a blessing after baptism ) that confers the “gift of the Holy Ghost.” It’s true that it’s a bit weird to say that the Holy Ghost grants special privileges to those who have passed this special ritual, but apparently they believe in a diety that operates that way…

  2. yeah, that’s why I can see both sides. I can see how getting kids at church could endear them to it…or cause them to resent it.

    But do parents necessarily want to take the gamble that their efforts could fail?

    Yeah, that’s what the books say, at the least, about receiving the holy ghost. It’s one of the articles of faith — the fourth principle and ordinance of the gospel is the laying on of hands for the gift of the holy ghost. HAH, I still remember something!

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