My husband and I have 3 kids. Luckily for us, our loss of belief in the Mormon church happened while they were still young. Our oldest is only 6 years old. We still go to church every now and then so the older two know what primary and sacrament meeting are. Neither of them really love church, so its easy to go sporadically, and as I’ve said in a previous post or two, I really don’t want them going to primary anymore. But even when we stop going to church all together, its not like Mormonism will be gone from their lives. Both mine and my husband’s families are completely active. Whenever we have dinner with grandma and grandpa, we say a prayer. The missionaries stop by to chat. We still have friends from church. With all of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to teach the kids about the positive aspects of Mormonism while still making it clear that we choose to live our lives differently.
So here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
Teaching About Mormonism, Specifically:
I plan to focus this part of their religious experience on traditions. If they ask why we say a prayer at grandma and grandpa’s house I will tell them that prayer is a tradition. Why do we celebrate Christmas and Easter? Tradition. Why do we go to friends’ and family members’ baptisms? Tradition. If they ask why others go to church but we don’t, I feel safe telling them that those people choose to participate in that tradition, but we choose not to. I can’t speak for the beliefs of our family and friends who go to church, but attending church is a custom of Mormon culture. The passing on of, or intention to pass on customs from generation to generation is tradition. For my kids, Mormonism is a part of their DNA. Their whole extended family is Mormon. Their ancestors were Mormon. We don’t have to abandon all of the traditions that connect us to our families and our ancestors just because we abandoned belief. I want them to know about their heritage, so that is the avenue I plan to use to teach them about Mormonism, for now.
Teaching About Religion in General:
My kids went through a big Hercules obsession a while back (the Disney movie). They have seen it close to 100 times, I’m sure. I realized that it was a great way to talk about gods. So we had discussions about how the story of Hercules is a myth and what that means and how a long time ago people used myths and stories and religion to explain how things in nature worked. We then talked about how we use science to explain a lot of those things today, so we don’t need to make up stories anymore, unless we are just doing it for fun. I also told them that a lot of people around the world still believe in gods and that there are many different religions and belief systems. Yes, I realize that this discussion was probably over my preschoolers’ heads, but they seemed interested enough. Obviously, this is and will be an ongoing conversation. I purposefully check out myths and fairy tales and stories from religions and cultures from around the world from the library and make it a point to say, “this story is a myth (or fairytale, or creation story, or folktale, or historical book, etc.), do you remember what that means?” They were so impressed and excited the other day when I told them that the pyramids from ancient Egypt were real structures, and that the book we were reading about them was from actual history, not just from a myth. I think this is a good way to talk about religion for now. As they get older, I look forward to seeing how their views and beliefs evolve and we can have more in depth, and reciprocal conversations about religion.
As I type all of these ideas out, I am tempted to plan some kind of family home evening lessons on some of these topics and post them on the blog. I like the tradition of family home evening. Before we stopped believing we were never very good at family home evening. We would try it sometimes and my daughter would always say “Can we have family home evening tonight, but without the church stuff?” I think she was on to something…