The last time I entered a church as a full-fledged member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was approximately 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve dabbled in attendance, sitting in the back row for a farewell or a friend’s baby blessing.
I mostly showed up to get into the killer after-party, with those delicious chicken salad sandwiches, green Jell-O, and Sprite with ice cream that you can only find at a Mormon shindig.
Unlike many inactive Mormons, I don’t carry any bitterness or need to debate the tenets of the faith. I actually embrace the culture I grew up with, since good memories far outweigh bad.
Most of my friends belonged to my faith, a couple of friends were Catholic, which I took to mean they could drink coffee and play on Sundays.
Life as a teenager revolved around church activities. I looked forward to Wednesdays, when dozens of girls would meet up at the church house for our weekly activity, which could be something physical but was almost always a craft.
In the summer, my only camping trip came with the Young Women, a group of girls ranging from 13 to 18 headed up by ladies in the ward crazy enough to agree to the calling. Honestly, some of the best times of my teenage life were spent with those women, who watched out for me, offered guidance and practiced extreme patience as they were swarmed by hormonal girls. They exemplified what it was to be a wife and mother, performing the same balancing act I now find myself doing every day.
Dissonance set in as I grew up and realized my brain no longer aligned with the religion I was submerged in as a sixth-generation Mormon. I was around 19 when I no longer wanted to attend services. While I stand by that decision, I will never say “never” — because with kids, you never know.
Scarlett is only 3 and Benny doesn’t even know he has a nose, and yet I sweat when I think about raising non-Mormon kids in the capital of Mo-Town; mostly because I know what it’s like to be on “the inside.”
Girls who were less active or nonmembers always felt a bit out of place at activities where much of the time was spent trying to bring them back into the fold. Testimony meeting had those girls checking for the exit as they sat in the center of a holy pressure cooker, complete with sobbing girls proclaiming to know the truth.
Brian has never been a member, and if you’re picking up the phone to give the missionaries a call, he never will be. (In this instance, you can say “never.”) He knows plenty about Mormonism after growing up in ultra-diverse Layton, being a Boy Scout (he even has his Eagle), and dating a devout LDS girl for years.
He also knows what it’s like to be on “the outside.”
Brian knows all too well that, at some point, his kids will skip over to our neighbors asking to play, only to trudge home and mumble, “It’s Sunday.”
With two parents on the bench, what happens if Scarlett decides she wants to join up? What if she doesn’t want to become a member but misses out on all the fun I had as a Mormon kid? It’s tough as a parent to realize a great divide exists between children who are LDS and those who are not.
I think the difference is even more complicated for youth because they don’t quite understand what makes them different.
Eight seems like such a young age to start asking people what faith they want to belong to for the rest of their life, especially when you’re the parent watching your kid join a religion you left.
I’m not sure how I would react if either of my children were to come to me with news they want to join the LDS faith, or any religion, for that matter.
I do know religion is not something worth fighting over. If my babies decide they want to be church-going folk, I will not send them alone. I will not leave them to sit in the pew with a family I barely know. I will throw on a dress, run a comb through my hair, maybe put on some mascara, and sit through sacrament meeting like I did for 20 years. I’ll never say never.