Eight is Great

Last Sunday, our Primary had a little “8 is Great!” class for the Primary kids turning 8 this year to help them get excited for baptism. My oldest daughter is one of those kids.

sf_2012_134So I guess it’s real.

Baptism is a hurdle for me. I loved being baptized and getting the Holy Ghost when I was a kid, and I know my daughter will love it, too. But I have a list of pros/cons.

What I Love About Baptism

I love what it stands for: making a covenant and promise to represent Jesus in your life. I love confirmation where you are told you are given unlimited access to the promptings and guidance of God. I love that family and friends come together and celebrate a child getting older and being even more part of the community. I love the symbolism of being reborn. I love the importance placed on taking how you treat others.

What I Don’t Love About Baptism

The new policy excluding children of gay parents from baptism is automatically on this list. A month ago when kids were moving up in classes at the new year, I substituted in Primary and watched as the son of a gay couple in our ward was instructed to sit with his teacher. I watched and hoped his teachers will be gentle about the fact that while junior Primary is all about getting kids to want to be baptized, he will not get to experience that excitement without huge disappointment in a few years. Part of me wants to opt my children out of baptism until it’s available to all.

But that’s not the only thing. What I’ve been dreading for years is the implicit contract with the Church. I know a lot of people who have left the Church by quietly ceasing to attend. But the Church is still there: they get emails from home teacher, cookies on their porches from visiting teachers. They’ll be discussed in ward council and even if they ask to be on the “Do not contact” list, that list doesn’t seem to carry over from bishop to bishop. Every 5 years they restate, “Leave me alone.” If they move and choose to never show up at their ward, their family members or previous ward still update their information and it keeps coming. And leaving officially is a step that many people either don’t know how to do or have no desire to do. They just want to left alone. At no time did they sign a paper allowing the Church to keep records of them. They were baptized as kids.

No kid has the ability as a minor to agree to an adulthood of the Church knowing their whereabouts. Yet there it is. Sure, they might be fine with that as adults, but these are minors.

Now as I parent, I have the right to make medical decisions for my children, but agreeing to allow the Church to have their personal information on record forever is not something I feel is in my purview. And it actually feels a bit illegal that I have the ability to do that. The Church does not have a history of keeping records in a way that keeps people safe, either. Just a few years ago, the names and addresses of everyone child in the stake were available through stake directories. While you can now opt out of that, it’s not the default. Because of the history of the lack of respect and safety measures, the implicit contract with the Church at baptism and confirmation concerns me.

So I don’t know. A friend of mine, who was born Catholic, is planning on having her baby baptized “off the books” so that the Catholic grandparents aren’t concerned for their grandbaby’s soul, but the baby isn’t on any records. I wish there was an option for that for Mormons: have a baptism with our families and our friends and God present, a baptism that will get a heavenly seal from the angels keeping records, but will not violate my child’s safety and personhood as and when she grows up.

I want my daughter to be happy and respect her decisions. I want to celebrate her life with my ward community. But I feel like I can’t do that ethically.


TopHat is putting her roots down in the Bay Area with her husband and three children. She loves the earth, yarn, and bicycling.

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9 Responses

  1. Emma says:

    I have a lot of the same feelings that you do in regards to baptism. Luckily, my child is currently 2 so I have a few years to figure it out. It’s a tough decision that I go back and forth on, but I think I’m ultimately at the point where I can’t keep trying to fit in these things that don’t sit right with me logically, spiritually and emotionally. Prayers for you and your family as you try to navigate this part of life!

  2. Andrew R. says:

    There is so much in your post that I find so hard to align with someone who would understand the nature of baptism. It is the means by which we formally join the LDS Church (there is no other means of gaining membership). It also represents the covenant made between the person being baptised and the Lord.

    I don’t know about the US, but in the UK school records are kept for over 7 years after a person leaves school. The child, now adult, has no option.

    Likewise doctors’ surgeries and dentists also hold records of child into adult life.

    If a person doesn’t want the church to have their details, because they are no longer interested in their membership, they can have them removed. If they do not want them removed they have to accept that we (the Church) are still responsible for them, and their information.

    As to this:- “opt my children out of baptism until it’s available to all.”

    You will be waiting until the Millennium. Even if the policy you state were rescinded, and the one that has been around a LOT longer for children living in polygamous homes, you would have to wait. No child can be baptised (or at least should be, since I know it happens) without the consent of both parents. And often, and we all know them, children have to wait until they are 18 to be baptised for this reason. And we accept it because we accept parental right.

    But no one says, in this instance, that it breaks the second article of faith – because the child suffers for the sin of the parent. No one says, it’s OK I’ll have my daughter wait too.

    There will always be cases that are sad, and hard to handle, where in the best interests of the Child it is better they wait to be baptised. We may not always agree with the reason, but we have a duty to sustain it.

    I have watched men I was fairly sure would be poor bishops be called. I have sustained them, I have tried to help them, and I have watched them fail. I don’t know what the Lord was doing, or why He let it happen. But I do know that it was His will, and that no one’s eternal salvation will have been affected – because of the second article of faith. So if, and for me it is a big if, the policy is wrong, no one will suffer eternally for it – or God is not Just, and would cease to be God.

    So let your child be baptised and do everything you can to help the child that has to wait.

    • Andrew R., I think you need to be careful about spreading inaccurate information. Here is an article from Religion News Service that contradicts your description of the policy for polygamous families. http://janariess.religionnews.com/2015/11/07/mormon-apostle-stands-by-new-policy-barring-children-of-same-sex-marriages/

      Also, the new policies do not respect parental right. For many years, the Church has had a policy that minors may not be baptized without parental consent. That policy respects parental right. These new policies are designed to prevent children who have parental consent from being baptized, even when denying baptism goes against the wishes of the parents. That is the exact opposite of respecting parental right.

      • Andrew R. says:

        My point, about the parental right, is that it is a sin of parents heaped on children. I think you probably got that, but are deflecting.

        I’m not stupid, I do realise that there are some deeper reasons for this policy in relation to how the Church has to take a stand over what is marriage.

        We baptise a kid of a SSM and how do we record the parents in our systems? We can’t without accepting two parents may be of the same sex, with a possible marriage date. If we don’t record them then a parent would have the right to challenge that we are not holding correct information about their “minor” child – and certainly in the UK that would break our data protection laws.

        So it is a tricky situation. I believe that ultimately, whatever life choices people make, eternal marriage is between a man and a woman – and I believe the Church has a right to protect what God has instituted.

        But I do also see that it would be hard for any child in that situation to square what they were taught at church with what they experienced at home. I’ve had enough problems teaching kids are not sealed to their parents when the rest of the class were, most BIC.

        I don’t see how holding off the baptisms of our own children would help anybody – except to be a complete violation of a commandment https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/68.25?lang=eng#24

      • TopHat says:

        My favorite part is that Andrew likes to lecture us like we don’t know the gospel or scriptures or church we’ve been raised in.

        Also, be careful about questioning people’s dedication to or testimony. Questioning testimonies is against our comment policy.

        I’m not sure how it’s a sin of the parent on the child to wait until 18 or legal age of consent. 8 is the minimum for baptism, not the finish line. Jesus himself was 30.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Hey, TopHat, I agree with you – I don’t believe it is. But I wasn’t the one saying that the Policy violates the second AoF – that has been an argument against it – I was just saying I don’t see a difference.

        I also don’t believe I am lecturing, or questioning anyone’s faith – although I believe we should all do that for ourselves.

        Glad that you see asking a child living with SSP to wait until they are 18 is not the end of the world.

    • Kol says:

      Andrew. The Exponent is a space for women. Men should only contribute if they have something constructive to say. You do not have something constructive to say. Stop trying to impose yourself in a space that was not intended for you.

  3. Liz says:

    These are my feelings, too, TopHat – both the things I love and the things that concern me. I wish I had answers.

  4. Rachel says:

    Such beautiful things to love, and such real questions/things to think about for the others. I don’t have answers, but appreciate your thoughtfulness, and hope that you (and your daughter) are able to arrive at a good solution for your family. xo

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