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.
So 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.