This is the final (for now) installment in last week’s guest post, “Finding Faith.” We left off at the part when our guest poster had recently married a man of another faith and had resumed attending church.
During those early years, I had very sporadic visiting teachers, and I don’t think we ever saw home teachers once. I think the missionaries came by a couple times. I was perfectly content to stay off the radar, though. It was in those years David learned the three questions: Where are you from? What brought you here? and, What do you do? Of course things changed once we became parents.
When our first child was born, she was very sick. She spent the first week of life on the NICU. The second day she was there I called my bishop and asked him to come give her a blessing. (Asking for blessings is something I am not good at, even to this day.) Then, the most bizarre thing happened. When his grandparents came to the hospital to see us, David asked his grandfather to pray over her. In that moment I learned the truth of the saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. My husband, despite describing himself as an atheist, was really an agnostic!!
On the day of my daughter’s blessing (she was blessed by my dad), David’s entire family attended. And I started right then the habit of taking my baby to church with me every Sunday. I’ve been active ever since.
David was used to my participating in activities such as visiting teaching, going to homemaking, watching conference, working on RS lessons, etc. But shortly after we moved to our current location (we moved here to be closer to my parents), I was called to the Young Women’s organization. If I’d done that job before we’d had children it would have been easier, but with little babies around, that is a hard job. That was the first time I started to dance around his needs. It’s the same as with tithing. Either you’re raised with that concept of it being something you just do, or you aren’t. He wasn’t raised with 10% every month, and he wasn’t raised with being gone every Wednesday night plus other meetings. He was a real trooper through it all, anyway.
David has always been so supportive of church activities, time away, etc. Really, he likes it. I keep thinking that the way I’ll get the girls through adolescence and staying active is that he looks forward to his 3.5 hours of peace and quiet each week. He will strongly encourage them to go to church, I hope.
He has also always welcomed church members in our home. The first three years we were here we had one home teacher who never missed unless he was sick (rarely), his wife just went into early labor (once) or we canceled on him. He was a dream. He loved our girls, knew their latest tricks, and always asked David meaningful questions. (At this point, we’d gotten way past the initial three.) He never pressured David about anything. He would give a three-minute lesson and include David, but he mainly talked to me and the girls. When our ward split, it was a huge loss to not have him.
When my testimony began to start growing in earnest, that is when parenting got trickier because everything changed. Being active in the church is not just something we do to keep ourselves occupied. There are huge eternal consequences at stake. We don’t have family prayer, per se. We pray all together at dinner, and David bows his head and usually closes his eyes because he knows our youngest will bust him if he doesn’t. The kids and I read scriptures most mornings for 5-10 minutes, which isn’t nearly as long as we did it when I was a kid.
Perhaps the biggest thing is that the gospel isn’t discussed as freely as it would be otherwise. It’s not because it is not allowed, but just because it’s not part of who David is, what he knows. It would be like speaking a foreign language one of your family members just doesn’t understand. He tries, but it just seems weird to try to talk about something that makes no sense to him.
I wish my children could get report cards at Primary because I need to know where I’m failing. Because I know we do talk about churchy stuff less in my home now than I did as a child, I worry that they’re not getting all they should.
I have often heard minorities, especially African-Americans, describe the feeling/reality that they have to be twice as good as their white competitors in order to ‘pass’. Perhaps it’s a strange comparison, but that is how I feel at church. In order for my kids to ‘pass’ they need to be ultra-super-Gospelsmart, super-kind, super-well-dressed/modest, and super-reverent. On the surface, that might sound superficial, but not if you know what drives that thinking. One of my worst fears is that my kids will be shunned because they’re from a part-member family. As in, “Well son, I don’t know that I want you to date Susie. You know she’s from a non-priesthood-infused home. She might lead you down dark paths.”
Recently my 4-year-old picked up from her 9-year-old cousin who is not LDS the phrase “Oh my (deity).” She said it the other night when I wasn’t home and David was in charge. My other daughter flipped out. But David said it wasn’t that bad a thing to say, all things considered. My oldest, in her best big sister bossiness said that mom would be very upset. He was trying to tone down the mothering tone of big sister, but what got communicated was it’s not that big a deal, so I had to do some reparation work later that night with both girls.
I feel I have to say, “Daddy believes this, but in our church we are taught X”. How do you say that without undermining the authority of the spouse? I ended up telling my 4-year-old that she can say whatever she wants but I can guarantee her that her best friend’s mom will not let her come over if she hears her saying it, because she strongly believes that this is a commandment from Heavenly Father and absolutely doesn’t want her children to say it.
The next week my mom gave a Family Home Evening lesson on the Ten Commandments. As we were talking through the commandments, My oldest said “Well, I’m having a little trouble with that ‘keeping the Sabbath holy’ one because I’ve snuck out with Dad a few times to get his NYTimes.” My mom handled it so beautifully. She said, “Every family has different circumstances. And you aren’t breaking the Sabbath so much as spending a few minutes one-on-one with Dad.” The next commandment is to honor your parents, and she talked a few minutes about what a good guy David is and how we would never do/say anything to make him feel he is bad. Then she said, “Let’s focus on what you could do to make the Sabbath more holy.” I don’t know what I would do without my parents. They are such a huge help.
I think if you grow up in the church, it is hard not to feel you’ve made the ‘wrong’ choice by marrying a nonmember because at least weekly I’m reminded of the fact we’re not sealed together, etc. I’ve always wondered how I would I explain this so my husband doesn’t feel weird in any way, and so my girls don’t feel second-class?
Recently the theme of our meetings was “Mothers Who Know.” One of the things I’d not really heard before was the part about “These mothers have made and honor temple covenants. They know that if they are not pointing their children to the temple, they are not pointing them toward desired eternal goals.”. Let’s just say it really hit home because my 7 year old looked at me and said, “And don’t you forget it!”
After we got home and I was putting her to bed, she asked the question I’ve waiting for years and years to hear, not without some trepidation. “Why weren’t you and Daddy married in the temple?” The question was going to come sooner or later, but I hadn’t really expected it yet. I asked her why she thought that was the case, and she promptly responded, “because Dad isn’t a member of our church.” I said that was right, and then she wanted to know why I married him then, because one of the commandments is that we get married in the temple.
I told her that I loved Daddy and I made a choice to not get married in the temple, and that it’s not an easy thing to understand. I told her that I thought it was the right choice at the time, and that Heavenly Father knows us and he knows our needs and that everything will work out, as long as we do our best. I don’t ever want to communicate to her that I have regrets/doubts/whatever else about her Dad because he is a fantastic man and father. But, it is a tricky thing. I asked her if there was anything else she wanted to know, and then she said, “What kind of cake did you have at your wedding?” So I’m pretty sure my answer sufficed….for now.