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The kids are all raised and out of the house now. They are in various stages of establishing their own families and gaining that wisdom that comes from life’s experience. We brought our children up in the church. Our Sundays found us in the embrace of the Saints. The kids were taught to dress nicely and to be quiet in Sacrament. They attended Primary and were taught to follow the prophet, pay tithing, and prepare for missions. They went to Young Men’s and Young Women’s to learn how to tie knots, to create service projects. With the help of diligent parents they got up early and regularly attended seminary where they were presented with the correlated message of the restored gospel – to be happy you must avoid sin and faithfully attend to all your church assignments. You must prepare to enter the temple where you will be taught the keys to salvation.

Our children were taught that the true church was restored through Joseph Smith and that the truthfulness continued unabated to this present day. That the leadership of the church were prophets, seers, and revelators. That they would guide the church just as Christ will do when He returns. They were encouraged to bear their testimonies that the church was true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and (current prophet) was called by God to lead his people today.

The programmed message was repeated until the kids could recite it on demand. They learned what answers were expected of them and regurgitated them as necessary to make it through the current lesson.

There were occasional spiritual/emotional events such as a visit to Adam-ondi-Ahman or the Youth Conference testimony meeting. These seemed to be orchestrated to be inspirational and to reinforce the messages they received in their courses from Primary to seminary.

But, looking back there was something missing; something fundamental to the spiritual wellbeing of my children. They learned all the correct answers but had never been challenged to assemble the questions and seek the answers on their own. They were never given the opportunity to develop their own spiritual drive; their teachers and parents did that for them.

Today, I regret using the church programming that directed the religious upbringing of my children. I feel I missed the mark. When I was teaching them to follow the prophet, I should have been encouraging them to seek out the Savior because no religion is perfect. When they were learning to pay their tithing, I should have been teaching them  the hazards of relying on the works of men as recognition of God’s assent. Instead of injecting them with pride as the ‘one true church.’ I should have taught them that God will commune with the righteous seeker, regardless of their church affiliation. The message of priesthood keys should have been wrapped in the scripure warning that pride would invalidate any man’s priesthood. When they were instructed about the continuous line of apostles and prophets, they should have been learning that they can receive revelation; that they are just as worthy of dreams, visions, and revelations as any one else.

I never questioned the program when we were in the middle of it. I, perhaps, sensed that the church had taken responsibility for the spiritual training of my children and  obviated my responsibility in the matter. My children were fed a pristine view of the church and a distorted definition of the gospel that did not withstand scrutiny.

As a result, the kids grew up in the church and then grew out of it. At the time, we were so busy ‘living the gospel’ through its attendant outward ordinances and rituals  that we didn’t learn to live the gospel – the message to come unto Christ.

I have to wonder if there aren’t other parents and children who have experienced the same thing. The correlated message of the church having left them with a number of answers to the requisite questions but without the spiritual backbone needed to stand up a true child  of God.

What think ye?

12 Responses to “My Regrets”

  • Bliss:

    I am sorry your children left. We raised our seven the same way and they are all active. They have problems, but they use the gospel to help them through. Some of ours may yet leave and some of yours may come back. What think I? I think you did it right.

    • Spektator:

      Bliss,
      What is this gospel that they use?

      As far as leaving or going, I don’t expect any of my children to come back to the church. I dearly hope they will give God another chance.

      If I had it to do over again, I would not follow the church program. Instead, I would assist my children in building a relationship with God, not predicated on what man has defined as religion or the gospel.
      Spek

      • Glenn Thigpen:

        Yours is not an uncommon story. I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said “At the time, we were so busy ‘living the gospel’ through its attendant outward ordinances and rituals that we didn’t learn to live the gospel – the message to come unto Christ.”

        You also amplified that earlier when you said “They were never given the opportunity to develop their own spiritual drive; their teachers and parents did that for them.”

        Now this “When they were instructed about the continuous line of apostles and prophets, they should have been learning that they can receive revelation; that they are just as worthy of dreams, visions, and revelations as any one else.” is something that I have been taught for as long as I can remember.

        I do have a question about this statement: “My children were fed a pristine view of the church and a distorted definition of the gospel that did not withstand scrutiny.” What parts of the gospel do not withstand scrutiny?

        The one thing that stands out in my mind about my spiritual upraising was the urgent admonition from my parents to obtain a testimony of my own and not rely on the testimony of parents, friends, or gospel heroes. I was taught to seek the confirmation from the Holy Ghost for my testimony. Without that, it is almost a guarantee that a person will fall away from the church. That is the biggest component I find missing in your narrative.

        Glenn

      • Spektator:

        Glenn,
        Thanks for stopping by.

        You asked:
        “I do have a question about this statement: “My children were fed a pristine view of the church and a distorted definition of the gospel that did not withstand scrutiny.” What parts of the gospel do not withstand scrutiny?”

        I have an issue with how people define ‘the gospel.’ I did a post of it a couple years ago on this blog here: http://justandtrue.com/?p=80. In that post, I noted that the common usage on the term in the church does not equate to the scriptural definition.

        I would also like to respond to another comment:
        “The one thing that stands out in my mind about my spiritual upraising was the urgent admonition from my parents to obtain a testimony of my own and not rely on the testimony of parents, friends, or gospel heroes. I was taught to seek the confirmation from the Holy Ghost for my testimony. Without that, it is almost a guarantee that a person will fall away from the church. That is the biggest component I find missing in your narrative.”

        I have know many people who have, for example, prayed to receive a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon or some other aspect of the message of the church. They, in many cases, have received that confirmation. My concern is that many have stopped there and blindly assumed that such a confirmation carries over to all of the message of the church. In other words, if the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet and, therefore, Thomas Monson is a prophet. I have heard that idea recently preached from the pulpit of general conference.

        My plea to anyone who assumes this is correct, please reassess your position. EVERY facet of a message presented as critical to one’s salvation should be vetted with the Holy Ghost. Do not make the assumption that because one has received a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon that it validates everything else the church does.

        When I had my crisis of faith. I had to go back to the start and reconfirm each and every aspect of my spiritual worldview. What I found was that I had received a clear and irrefutable witness that God does speak to us and that the Book of Mornon contained a roadmap for building a relationship with Him. I have since discarded many aspects of the agenda and practices of the LDS church that didn’t pass muster. Examples that range from the current administration of the sacrament to the financing of City Creek, can be found in my blog. We must use the Holy Ghost as a sieve to filter out those teachings that are from God and allow the doctrines of man to pass on.

        “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

  • a marginalized mormon:

    Young parents do this in every generation, every religion, I believe. I did both. I tried to point my children towards Christ, while having them involved in the church, while trying to help them see that church programs/people are limited and finite. Even with that there have been huge struggles, and none of my children is successful by church standards, but they are all decent human beings. I won’t go into details, but all of them have had the sorts of heartbreaking troubles that many LDS parents would simply not allow in their children (no missions, etc.)–
    One of my children is trying to find God; two others have found God. As Mormons they are certainly not going to be held up as examples, however.
    I was cautious about “pushing” the church on my children, because of a disastrous mission experience that prepared me for all sorts of possible horrors within the church. I was even a successful, so to speak, missionary; I wasn’t sent home or anything, but the mission taught me well about wolves in sheeps’ clothing.
    I think that it is going to take something catastrophic, perhaps, to bring most LDS “middle class” Americans (especially Americans, and I am one) out of the deep cultural sleep into which we (speaking collectively) have slipped. I’ve spent years trying to wake up and wake up my children (and my husband)–
    I think that God will make this right. I believe that with all my heart. He loves your children, and He will make it right. Be gentle with yourself. My husband and I are still “active”, whatever that means, but we see the gaps in the culture and the church and in ourselves, but we place our faith in Jesus, that He will rescue us all. Yes, we have to want rescue, but I do believe that the prayers of parents are important. We have come to realize that we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath. We are also open with our children who are “trying” to be involved with church, about their disappointments. When there is hypocrisy and rejection, we don’t try to paint it something else. Above all else, there is hope in Christ. Not sure what will happen to some in the church or even the organization, ultimately, but there is hope in Christ.

  • a marginalized mormon:

    by the way, your comments (the original post) are beautiful.

    I thank you.

    • Spektator:

      Thank you for your comments. I feel your words came from your heart because they spoke to my heart. I agree, we can only rely on Christ, who strengthens us. I can only continue on this path because I believe that is is what God desires of me.

      Spek

  • MelissaM:

    Spek,

    My parents did the same thing and 5 of the 6 children during our 20′s were “faithful” LDS. One of my brothers died in 2007, and the questioning began. My sister and another brother have stepped aside. Another brother treats religion as the social construct that it can be. I have been frustrated and unwilling to do anything about my concerns for over 12 years. After my crisis last year when I finally began my intensive study of the scriptures, I came to many conclusions based in the scriptures, and some of them not welcome. I felt very alone in this and had 2 people I could discuss these things with IRL. My parents came for a visit and my father and I went to the store to pick up a few things. I felt compelled to discuss some things that can be considered hot button topics- theological issues. I was prepared to be told I was crazy, a heretic, apostate and severely chastized by me LDS active father. Imagine my humble suprise when he listened to everything I had to say and supplemented my conclusions with some of his own. I find I have great support in my concerns with the teaching of these people. The discussions and the relationship between us has grown tremendously and he has helped my mother to understand where I am coming from.

    I guess the reason that I tell this story is that I don’t think you have failed your children. The state of affairs within the Church is such that it is very easy to get upset, bail out, and not look back, particularly if you have not made a commitment to not get inflammed over concerns and are not seeking through scripture study, prayer, and fasting. I have run the gamut of rage to despair in this process and sometime just cycle through those emotions over and over again.

    I am in a position with my father now that we are professing to my siblings about the truth of the words of the Book of Mormon regardless of church affiliation or lack there of. I sincerely think that a heart to heart with your children can be an emormous help simply to help explain why you continue in the Church and live so scripturally based. It may be some time before they understand where you are coming from, but I don’t think the effort will be wasted.

    • a marginalized mormon:

      your experience is very familiar to me. This happened with my father before he died; it has happened with a sibling, and it has happened with my spouse.

      We have our own little ‘fellowship’–

      I am now working on this with my children, and my spouse supports me entirely. (They tend to listen to me better)–:)

      I have become a “Book of Mormon freak”–

      And . . . what we called in the 60s–a “Jesus freak”–

      I hope you can see that I am lightening things up; these journeys are very painful–

      mine has been decades long; I am considerably older.

  • Spektator:

    Melissa,
    Perhaps I need to provide some clarification. In a nutshell, my regret is that my children have effectively rejected God because they couldn’t accept the dissonance surrounding the Church. History says one thing and church teaching says another. They have walked away from the church because it appears to be intellectually dishonest. I would not want them to go back to the church but I feel responsible for the unfortunate situation of their decision to abandon God because they believe His ‘one true church’ is a fraud. After all, we are told it is ‘all or nothing.’

    I went through my ‘awakening’ between August, 1999 and April, 2000. It sounds like a very similar timeframe to your own. I had to go back to the basic understandings; I had and rebuild my belief system. I have done that, as you have, based on the scriptures. I have chosen not to associate with the church because we can’t have any meaningful dialog. There are very few statements that would go unchallenged if I felt free to speak.

    As for my children, they are not in a place at this time where they can discuss spiritual matters. They have heard my perspective on the current situation and do not feel any obligation to seek out any enlightenment. Perhaps, in the future, they will be more attuned to the things of God.

    I regret not being able to, in word or deed, draw a clear separation between the spirituality and religion in the minds of my children. They have chosen to reject religion and, based on guilt by association, have rejected spirituality also.

    Spek

    • a marginalized mormon:

      I do understand. Some of us must break away. Some of us “straddle the abyss”. Some of us can do neither.

      There is a reason my name is ‘a marginalized mormon’–

  • Thank you for this post. I was fortunate to encounter an alternate idea of how to teach children when my oldest was only 4. Even so, it has taken me these last 5 years to figure out what exactly I should be doing with my children. I was taught true principles, but couldn’t figure out to apply them to teaching my kids until I had applied them to myself and that was hard! I will share with you what I learned. It’s universal and can be applied by anyone, anywhere, at any time. Even you with your children moved out can apply this way of teaching.

    I have learned that the most important thing to teach is relationships. This is the basis of all learning and the purpose too. We learn so we can become like God. We become like God so we can come to know Him. And vice versa, too. Relationships bring us the greatest joy we can have in this life.

    There’s only one way to teach relationships–that’s to build relationships with others. As we more unconditionally love others we teach them about the nature of God and that is the purpose behind everything. God is love.

    First we build a relationship with God, then with our families, then others. If we don’t build a relationship with God first, we will never have the ability to build a real relationship with others. When we’ve built a true, genuine. loving relationship with others, everything else just falls into place. We don’t have to do much else.

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