This post is part of our month-long series featuring different ways that parents of various religions have talked to their kids about God.
Fold your arms.
We say this to our 3-year-old daughter whenever food is about to be blessed at my parents’ house. She never folds her arms nor closes her eyes, but instead maintains her energy while everyone else stops conversations and becomes reverent. By this age, she should be well-trained in the Folding Arms & Bowing Head procedure, and maybe even saying the prayer, with some parenting assistance. Everyone finds this adorable. You see, we’re Mormon and Mormons typically teach children early on about how to communicate with their father in Heaven.
After a couple of attempts to get our daughter to fold her arms, we would look at my family, act frustrated, and say something like, “Ah well, she does her own thing. Can’t make her.”
But the truth is: we never taught her.
Unlike everyone else, I keep my eyes open during the prayer and watch our daughter walk around the room. She looks up at each family member, hoping they will open their eyes and look down at her. Sometimes she will tug on their arms, trying to unfold them. She’s not used to seeing folded arms because we stopped folding ours.
We lost our faith in the Mormon religion about a year ago. And here’s the weird part: we are happier. This is a contradiction in the church. Good feelings come from God. God wouldn’t want us to leave his one true religion, would He? Then what does this feeling mean? Is it Satan, masking his deception with good feelings? That doesn’t make sense. But here’s something else: our (my wife and I) relationship became more loving. We embraced each other’s mistakes as beautiful and human. We now communicate better than before. We even started doing more good deeds without the almost guaranteed blessing in return. Did God want us to lose our faith to be better people? Now that’s just absurd.
While things seem to be running smoother since we left, there is still one problem. With losing our faith, we also lost our teaching method. What exactly do we teach our daughter and how? Do we teach her about God? Well, the only God we know is the God that was taught to us by the Mormon faith. Now that that’s gone, is there a God?
Our daughter was recently diagnosed with a severe speech delay. She says very little. She can say “rock” pretty well, which makes me nervous because “rock” is like three or four words away from phonetically pronouncing “God,” and that has me in a sweat. So if there is a God, I’ll count the speech delay as a blessing–buying me some time on how to approach the God topic.
Even though my wife and I are still figuring out how to raise our daughter with good morals outside our traditional faith, we are also thrilled for the future because before, we never felt the excitement to learn different ideas about life from other great thinkers outside the Mormon faith. If you’re part of the one true faith, then what’s the point of looking into other philosophies? Sure it’s interesting, but it’s not the whole truth that the Mormon Church claims it has.
But now we get to. We get to discover new ideas and ways to live our life that is meaningful and wholesome, and the best part is: we get to do it right alongside our daughter, all together as a family. We can’t wait to see what we find.
Heath Wilcock received his Bachelor’s Degree in English Creative Writing at Arizona State University. On weekends, he performs improvisational comedy at The National Comedy Theatre. Heath’s short stories have been published in Ninth Letter and elsewhere. Heath currently lives with his wife and three-year-old daughter in Tempe, Arizona.
To read all of the post in this series, click here.