What to Say to Son

This is for encouragement, ideas, and support for people going through a faith transition no matter where you hope to end up. This is also the place to laugh, cry, and love together.
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Linked
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What to Say to Son

Post by Linked » Mon Oct 24, 2022 2:37 pm

I've long planned to "come out" to my son as a non-believer sometime before church teachings fully set. He's close to ordination with the Aaronic priesthood, so I think that time has come. My goal is to prevent the church from being a wedge between us, and to prevent him feeling betrayed when he does inevitably realize that I am not TBM. But as I write out things to say it feels like too much for a kid. I'm not sure how to find a balance of sharing and age appropriateness.

Have any of you done something similar? Any tips for success?

Right now I've got an outline of:
- We simplify things for little kids, and you are growing up and ready for the more complicated version.
- I love you. Your mom loves you.
- You know how we go to church some weeks and stay home some weeks? That's because mom and I are striking a balance between our beliefs.
- I grew up very active and fully believing. Seminary, mission, temple.
- I learned of confirmation bias at school and saw it in action at work. It seemed similar to how faith worked at church and I wondered if my beliefs were built on confirmation bias. I very quickly went from believing in what was taught at church to not believing what was taught at church. There had been a few other things I wasn't sure about with church which made more sense after not believing.
- That led to a years long reconsideration of the teachings, stories, and rules I had learned at church. We can discuss those later if you want.
- I now believe that I don't know what our soul is or if we have one. I don't know if we existed before we were born. I don't know what happens when we die. I don't know if there is a great creator. And I don't think other people know either. I know that I love my family. I know that I want to reduce bad things for people and animals. I know that I don't like unfairness. And I love the freedom I feel to determine my path and what is important to me.
-DW takes a turn sharing her beliefs and stories
- Mom and I love you and our family and each other. But we had to figure out how to respect each other in new ways with different religious beliefs. Fortunately we still agree on a lot of important things (love others, be kind, work hard, learn, help those in need). We decided to try doing half church and half not church and so far that has been ok.
- I am sharing this with you because I want you to know me better. I hope you understand. We can talk anytime. Your beliefs are yours; you can borrow moms and/or mine but you get to come to your own conclusions. I look forward to learning and discovering with you.

I want to share my moment of transition because it is a huge part of my life. But I am worried that it is too preachy against the church and doesn't leave room to accept my DW's views. And while my son is a thoughtful kid and likes considering things, he's also a kid. He likes to play pokemon and looks forward to recess. Maybe this is too much and too soon?
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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Angel
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by Angel » Mon Oct 24, 2022 7:28 pm

You know your kid best.

Does your kiddo have any friends their age who are not in the church? Any other relatives / friends not in the church? Sports / actors / musicians/ public figures your kiddo looks up to you could use as examples of people who are not in the church? It won't seem strange if you can pull in names of others who are also not in the church. Just my opinion.

Follow the sane people, follow the rational people, follow the free people, don't be a slave.

You know, teach by examples - it is an entire lifetime of preaching in a single name - they will get the message more clearly if they have names/examples of normal folks.. *vs crazy folks* ... combat grooming of the church, by showing it for what it is.
“You have learned something...That always feels at first as if you have lost something.” George Bernard Shaw
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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alas
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by alas » Tue Oct 25, 2022 12:16 am

Angel wrote:
Mon Oct 24, 2022 7:28 pm
You know your kid best.

Does your kiddo have any friends their age who are not in the church? Any other relatives / friends not in the church? Sports / actors / musicians/ public figures your kiddo looks up to you could use as examples of people who are not in the church? It won't seem strange if you can pull in names of others who are also not in the church. Just my opinion.

Follow the sane people, follow the rational people, follow the free people, don't be a slave.

You know, teach by examples - it is an entire lifetime of preaching in a single name - they will get the message more clearly if they have names/examples of normal folks.. *vs crazy folks* ... combat grooming of the church, by showing it for what it is.
I kind of don’t feel comfortable with the confirmation bias approach, and I am not sure why. It feels like comprehending that concept takes abstract thinking and most kids are not up to that cognitively. So, I would stick with things that are more the concrete thinking that kids are capable of. Maybe talk about how the church is always talking about converting people and that means leaving the religion they were raised in. Basically changing their minds about something, and people can and do change both to agree with the church or to disagree. And while you were raised in the church, you have changed your mind about what you believe based in some experiences you have had. And that changing your mind is not bad, like the church tries to say it is, it is just different beliefs. And then talk about people he knows and respects who are not LDS. Maybe even a hero, or national hero. Good honest people sometimes believe different things.

Then if he asks about what made you change your mind, then try explaining confirmation bias as when we really want to believe something, then we convince ourselves it is true. And that you wanted to believe. Then as you thought about it more, you realized that was really the only real reason you did believe.

But other than that, your plan sounds good to me. I like the part about going to church some weeks and doing other stuff other weeks as a compromise. It shows that you respect your wife’s beliefs and she respects yours, but most important is being together as a family. And maybe also verbalize that respect and how each of you agree that loving each other is more important than any religious beliefs, or lack of. Because that is a really good demonstration of what you are trying to tell him, just be sure he gets the point by verbalizing it. Then, when he hears stuff at church that says you can’t love and respect people who don’t believe, he will have that verbalization that it isn’t true. That should strengthen him in not losing respect for you….oh, who are we kidding? He is almost a teen and it is traditional to lose respect for stupid old fashioned parents.

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Angel
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by Angel » Tue Oct 25, 2022 4:39 am

Bias is real.

If you want to take it up a notch, have everyone take a few bias tests

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/t ... htest.html

Everyone thinks they are not biased until they take the above test... I think the best way to overcome bias, is to become good friends with those you are biased against, which is difficult in the lds church.

Best wishes.
“You have learned something...That always feels at first as if you have lost something.” George Bernard Shaw
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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jfro18
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by jfro18 » Tue Oct 25, 2022 8:07 am

I don't quite know what to add here because ultimately you'll know the best way to talk to your son with an approach that works for your family.

Ultimately some people will respond to discussions about confirmation bias and all that, but you also have to make sure your wife is OK with you going into confirmation bias because that concept can go a million different ways.

One approach I've often taken is to just ask "does that make sense" and then follow it up with "if it doesn't, what can we do to evaluate it" and that way it's not coming at things with an "that's nonsense" approach.

I'm not sure how that would fit into a confirmation bias discussion, but just to say that we're conditioned to accept certain ideas as truth but then when you took that step and asked if it made sense that it didn't and that led you to start trying to figure out what that meant.

Ultimately that approach might not be any easier or softer though - you're in such a tricky position. I just hope whatever you work out with your wife goes well - I tend to think the hardest part for your son will be trying to figure out how you both are communicating to him at the same time as you have that talk.

Good luck and let us know how it goes... I hope it's as painless as possible for everyone there!

stuck
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by stuck » Tue Oct 25, 2022 10:09 am

I think your approach sounds great Linked! And an easy analogy is likening the church to santa claus except maybe not the best if you want your wife's viewpoint to have a chance. But yeah I think it's a good idea to let him know that you and your wife have different beliefs about the church and he probably already knows that. And how you explained it I think is great. Good luck with it.

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Linked
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by Linked » Tue Oct 25, 2022 3:01 pm

Angel wrote:
Mon Oct 24, 2022 7:28 pm
You know your kid best.

Does your kiddo have any friends their age who are not in the church? Any other relatives / friends not in the church? Sports / actors / musicians/ public figures your kiddo looks up to you could use as examples of people who are not in the church? It won't seem strange if you can pull in names of others who are also not in the church.
He's got an uncle and me and some YouTubers he watches religiously. I'm not sure about his friends though. This is a good idea to highlight the good people in his life that aren't believing mormons.
alas wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 12:16 am
I kind of don’t feel comfortable with the confirmation bias approach, and I am not sure why.
I'm in the same boat. It's a really key piece of my journey, but maybe I will save that for another day. I was planning to define confirmation bias in a paraphrase of something Adam Grant tweeted, "Confirmation bias is when you only see information that supports you beliefs; you ignore anything that might disprove what you believe" followed by a benign example. But it seems like maybe that would be too direct of an attack at the church. Maybe I will just gloss over my faith transition with "I had some experiences that led me to stop believing what the church teaches and think that it doesn't really make sense" and leave it at that for now.
alas wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 12:16 am
But other than that, your plan sounds good to me. I like the part about going to church some weeks and doing other stuff other weeks as a compromise. It shows that you respect your wife’s beliefs and she respects yours, but most important is being together as a family. And maybe also verbalize that respect and how each of you agree that loving each other is more important than any religious beliefs, or lack of. Because that is a really good demonstration of what you are trying to tell him, just be sure he gets the point by verbalizing it. Then, when he hears stuff at church that says you can’t love and respect people who don’t believe, he will have that verbalization that it isn’t true. That should strengthen him in not losing respect for you….oh, who are we kidding? He is almost a teen and it is traditional to lose respect for stupid old fashioned parents.
I really like your point about verbalizing that our respect/love/family are more important than our differing religious beliefs. Will definitely do that.

He's already calling me and DW cringe all the time haha! I am curious how me giving him freedom not to believe in church will play into his rebellions. Hopefully it works out...
jfro18 wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 8:07 am
One approach I've often taken is to just ask "does that make sense" and then follow it up with "if it doesn't, what can we do to evaluate it" and that way it's not coming at things with an "that's nonsense" approach.
This is good, thank you for suggesting it. I think it leaves room for my DW's beliefs. To me, it doesn't make sense, but to her it does make sense. "Which of us is right? Good question, that's for you to figure out son." Although that's pretty heavy for a kid. Do kids raised outside of dogmatic religions just live with that open ended question hanging over them?
stuck wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 10:09 am
I think your approach sounds great Linked! And an easy analogy is likening the church to santa claus except maybe not the best if you want your wife's viewpoint to have a chance. But yeah I think it's a good idea to let him know that you and your wife have different beliefs about the church and he probably already knows that. And how you explained it I think is great. Good luck with it.
This will be the first time we explicitly acknowledge that we have different beliefs about the church. But he sees me leave after SM all the time, and disagree with stuff taught at church, so maybe he has an idea. Thanks stuck!
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

Wonderment
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by Wonderment » Tue Oct 25, 2022 3:40 pm

HI Linked, I think this is absolutely beautiful. Kids will listen for what comes from your heart, and this is very sincere and heartfelt. I think it will work perfectly. It's clear that you put a lot of thought and care into what you're going to say. It will reasonate very well, I am sure. Thank you for posting, as this is uplifting and so well stated. Please keep us updated on what happens. Blessings to you and your family, from Wonderment.

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alas
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by alas » Fri Oct 28, 2022 9:40 am

On kind of a personal note, I appreciate that you trust your kid enough to share that you don’t believe. My parents kept their doubt/disbelief secret, but put pressure on us kids to attend church, even during periods they were both inactive. I learned when my mother was 84 that she read “No Man Knows My History” before I was born and had pretty much stopped believing. She wore her TGs until she died, but hated them. It was like this big secret that she didn’t believe. So, yeah, I was making all her funeral arrangements and gave her a very Mormon funeral and buried her in full temple crap, even though neither of us believed. I guessed she lived “as if” she still believed for her relatives, to impress her 20 years dead mother? So I gave her the funeral her brothers would expect.

Why I need to write down “no funeral” cremate me and have a drunken wake in one room, and marathon viewing of Lord of the Rings in another, and if anyone wants a third room to tell stories about me, OK, oh, and my one daughter can have her pagan ceremony for me and her wife can decorate with her favorite Halloween decorations, even if I die in March. Keep all my relatives happy. See, my one brother and sister in law who would disapprove of that arrangement both died first, so they can’t be horrified. And my husband’s siblings in law who would disapprove can just stuff it.

PS. Sorry about the funeral tangent. Mostly I just wanted to say it isn’t good keeping your disbelief secret.

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Linked
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by Linked » Fri Oct 28, 2022 1:13 pm

Wonderment wrote:
Tue Oct 25, 2022 3:40 pm
HI Linked, I think this is absolutely beautiful. Kids will listen for what comes from your heart, and this is very sincere and heartfelt. I think it will work perfectly. It's clear that you put a lot of thought and care into what you're going to say. It will reasonate very well, I am sure. Thank you for posting, as this is uplifting and so well stated. Please keep us updated on what happens. Blessings to you and your family, from Wonderment.
Thanks Wonderment, I appreciate your kind words.
alas wrote:
Fri Oct 28, 2022 9:40 am
On kind of a personal note, I appreciate that you trust your kid enough to share that you don’t believe. My parents kept their doubt/disbelief secret, but put pressure on us kids to attend church, even during periods they were both inactive. I learned when my mother was 84 that she read “No Man Knows My History” before I was born and had pretty much stopped believing. She wore her TGs until she died, but hated them. It was like this big secret that she didn’t believe. So, yeah, I was making all her funeral arrangements and gave her a very Mormon funeral and buried her in full temple crap, even though neither of us believed. I guessed she lived “as if” she still believed for her relatives, to impress her 20 years dead mother? So I gave her the funeral her brothers would expect.

Why I need to write down “no funeral” cremate me and have a drunken wake in one room, and marathon viewing of Lord of the Rings in another, and if anyone wants a third room to tell stories about me, OK, oh, and my one daughter can have her pagan ceremony for me and her wife can decorate with her favorite Halloween decorations, even if I die in March. Keep all my relatives happy. See, my one brother and sister in law who would disapprove of that arrangement both died first, so they can’t be horrified. And my husband’s siblings in law who would disapprove can just stuff it.

PS. Sorry about the funeral tangent. Mostly I just wanted to say it isn’t good keeping your disbelief secret.
Sounds like you will put the fun back in funeral! Just hopefully not for a long time.

Thank you for sharing your experience with this, it is validating to hear the downside of not sharing my disbelief. That must have been difficult to process.
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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Hagoth
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by Hagoth » Sat Oct 29, 2022 6:59 am

If I were to have this talk (I won't because my kids were out before I was) I would put less emphasis on what I don't believe than on my conviction that everyone has the right to do their own thinking and follow their own path. I would share the Hindu concept that there are many paths up the mountain, but they all lead to the summit. I would encourage them to do their own research and have the courage to not only ask difficult questions but to accept answers that might not be what you expected. The answers you need for yourself may not lie on someone else's path.

I don't know how well this applies, but it's useful to look at a map of the physical distribution of religions and realize that the "truth religion" in which you are raised is more about zip code than anything else. The thing I kept reminding Mrs. Hagoth when I went through my faith crisis was that I never chose this. She is an adult convert who did have a choice. I was never asked or given another option, but I was indoctrinated and shamed and blamed whenever any aspect of it wasn't a good fit for me. Everyone should make the choice for themselves, eyes wide open, regardless of what others want them to believe.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by dogbite » Sun Oct 30, 2022 5:27 pm

Let your son direct how deep to go.

Start with that you just don't believe anymore and that's OK. If he wants to know more, let him direct on what topics and when. Let him know you'll talk about it as much or as little as he wants.

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Linked
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by Linked » Sun Dec 11, 2022 8:42 am

It’s done.

DW and I wrote out everything and agreed on it beforehand so there were no surprises. All the details of my beliefs and story were removed, but I’ve got a lifetime to share that if my son cares. He seemed to understand but wasn’t too shocked. He got bored and wanted to get back to the video game he had been playing. A perfect response imho. He knows he doesn’t have to be mormon to be our loved son.

Thank you all again for your feedback, it was very helpful!
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by jfro18 » Sun Dec 11, 2022 11:26 am

Linked wrote:
Sun Dec 11, 2022 8:42 am
It’s done.

DW and I wrote out everything and agreed on it beforehand so there were no surprises. All the details of my beliefs and story were removed, but I’ve got a lifetime to share that if my son cares. He seemed to understand but wasn’t too shocked. He got bored and wanted to get back to the video game he had been playing. A perfect response imho. He knows he doesn’t have to be mormon to be our loved son.

Thank you all again for your feedback, it was very helpful!
That sounds about as good as you can expect and I love that his response was to get back to gaming. :lol:

Sometimes with these things the anticipation is so much worse than the actual conversation, but glad it went OK - someday he'll probably want to know more about your story, but this way you at least get the big parts out of the way until he's ready for it.

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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by moksha » Mon Dec 12, 2022 12:06 pm

I have mixed feelings about kids attending the LDS Church when there is so much potential to screw them up with strange church doctrines and ultra-conservative politics. I'm glad my kids did not get sucked into the darker sides of Mormonism.
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
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Linked
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by Linked » Mon Dec 12, 2022 3:11 pm

jfro18 wrote:
Sun Dec 11, 2022 11:26 am
That sounds about as good as you can expect and I love that his response was to get back to gaming. :lol:

Sometimes with these things the anticipation is so much worse than the actual conversation, but glad it went OK - someday he'll probably want to know more about your story, but this way you at least get the big parts out of the way until he's ready for it.
He took this much better than the birds and the bees talk :lol:

For me the tough conversations were all with my wife. The talk with my son was one I looked forward to. Though it was probably really hard for my DW.

moksha wrote:
Mon Dec 12, 2022 12:06 pm
I have mixed feelings about kids attending the LDS Church when there is so much potential to screw them up with strange church doctrines and ultra-conservative politics. I'm glad my kids did not get sucked into the darker sides of Mormonism.
I'm right there with you. I hope my kids stay thoughtful enough to stay out of the more harmful stuff, we have thoughtful discussions and they seem to be on a good path for now. But my DW feels very strongly about them getting some exposure to the church.
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by Linked » Mon Dec 12, 2022 3:23 pm

The high of sharing that I don't believe the stuff at church was followed the next day with a low of attending the Priesthood Preview.

Quite an emotional beating. The primary president had to stall for a few minutes before the bishop arrived and shared her experience growing up watching the boys advance through the priesthood while she could not. She said it to highlight how special it is for these boys. So special that she was not allowed to have it. Ouch.

Then the bishop with a friendly smile and bright eyes telling them how lucky they are to get to make a promise with God to keep building their testimonies in his beliefs. He mentioned the "opportunity" they will have to reach out to the many deacon-aged boys who don't attend and nag them. Disgusting ideas draped in words like "love" and "good" and "power" and "duty" and "helpful".

Then telling them that they have a bishop who loves them, and parents who love them. He barely knows my kids name. He doesn't get to mention his love for my son in the same zip code as me :x !

But when I tell my wife that this was extremely painful for me she just looks hurt. And when I get into the specifics of what is inappropriate about it she shuts down.

ETA: This experience shook me pretty bad. The bishop offers a clear path to heaven and I offer an unknown afterlife. The bishop offers a clear definition of good and I offer nuance. The bishop offers love untainted by a real relationship and I offer a human with faults and history. The bishop demands fealty for a reward and I demand my son take a shower with no reward.

My offer is way less flashy. And even though I know that the bishop's offer is false I can't say that because of my DW.
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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sparky
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by sparky » Tue Dec 13, 2022 7:39 am

Linked wrote:
Mon Dec 12, 2022 3:23 pm
love untainted by a real relationship
This is such a perfect turn of phrase that describes so much about the church. Yes we all agree that so much of what the church offers is fake--the doctrine, the cosmology, the purpose of life. But admittedly it does offer some real things: built in community wherever you go, a quick way to make new friends, clear and obvious ways of obtaining validation for your life choices. But those things come only with the deep personal cost of turning who you actually are into what the church says you should be.

ETA: I meant to add, I think in the long run you have the advantage, Linked. If you keep on showing your kids that you are a safe person to share things with, share their doubts and concerns about the church with, talk about non-religious things that are nevertheless taboo in the church with, and frankly just be their authentic selves with, then even if they stay in the church they will know you're on their side. That's one thing you can offer that the church never can, and as they get older they'll realize how valuable that is.

At least that's what I hope.
Last edited by sparky on Tue Dec 13, 2022 11:51 am, edited 2 times in total.

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wtfluff
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by wtfluff » Tue Dec 13, 2022 10:43 am

Linked wrote:
Mon Dec 12, 2022 3:23 pm
...
The bishop demands fealty for a reward and I demand my son take a shower with no reward.
...
Remember: The bishop's "reward" is made up, and all the evidence we possess shows that it isn't real.

At some point you'll be able to explain this to your son.

Real answers to real questions that don't ask you to ignore reality will always be better the bishop's non-answers and platitudes.
Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. -Frater Ravus

Keep the company of those who seek the truth - run from those who have found it -Václav Havel

The Beauty of Gray

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Hagoth
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Re: What to Say to Son

Post by Hagoth » Tue Dec 13, 2022 1:31 pm

Linked wrote:
Mon Dec 12, 2022 3:23 pm
The high of sharing that I don't believe the stuff at church was followed the next day with a low of attending the Priesthood Preview.

Quite an emotional beating. The primary president had to stall for a few minutes before the bishop arrived and shared her experience growing up watching the boys advance through the priesthood while she could not. She said it to highlight how special it is for these boys. So special that she was not allowed to have it. Ouch.

Then the bishop with a friendly smile and bright eyes telling them how lucky they are to get to make a promise with God to keep building their testimonies in his beliefs. He mentioned the "opportunity" they will have to reach out to the many deacon-aged boys who don't attend and nag them. Disgusting ideas draped in words like "love" and "good" and "power" and "duty" and "helpful".

Then telling them that they have a bishop who loves them, and parents who love them. He barely knows my kids name. He doesn't get to mention his love for my son in the same zip code as me :x !

But when I tell my wife that this was extremely painful for me she just looks hurt. And when I get into the specifics of what is inappropriate about it she shuts down.

ETA: This experience shook me pretty bad. The bishop offers a clear path to heaven and I offer an unknown afterlife. The bishop offers a clear definition of good and I offer nuance. The bishop offers love untainted by a real relationship and I offer a human with faults and history. The bishop demands fealty for a reward and I demand my son take a shower with no reward.

My offer is way less flashy. And even though I know that the bishop's offer is false I can't say that because of my DW.
Yup, most of the worst things about the church are encapsulated in this ^ post. This is how you know it's a fundamentalist religion. Its members and leaders cannot comprehend the possibility of anyone being happy outside of their tradition, or of any belief system that is even slightly different having any kind of genuine value or validity.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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