I have a two year-old daughter. A beautiful, mischievous, redheaded imp of a girl who leaps and spirals through life. She is my light in this world, a daily reminder of the goodness of God.
This past Sunday, as I picked her up from her nursery class, my daughter proudly thrust a piece of paper into my hands and said, “Look Mommy, I drawing.” I started to tell her how lovely her drawing was but stopped short as I registered the image before me. Underneath her pink crayon scribblings was a picture of a little boy with the words “I Have a Body like Heavenly Father’s” printed above him. But what really took my breath away was this image in juxtaposition to my daughter’s very feminine name scrawled in the upper right-hand corner.
Sylvia. Named for my grandmother.
This piece of paper felt like a slap in the face. That this image was so un-ironically presented to my daughter to teach her about the corporeal reality of God was astounding to me. Sylvia has a basic understanding of human anatomy, she knows that as a girl she has different parts than a boy. Sylvia knows that her body is like Mommy’s, not like Daddy’s.
When we got home I checked the nursery manual to see if maybe–just maybe–there was a similar illustration for girls. There wasn’t. In fact, the lesson makes clear that the scriptures teach “God created man in his own image.” They even suggest that the nursery leader ask the children to name body parts and reinforce that God has those same body part. Which begs the question, what happens when some innocent little girl shouts out “Vagina!”?
I always knew the day was coming when my children would be presented problematic teachings surrounding gender but I wasn’t expecting it this quickly. And I underestimated how much it would hurt to know that my daughter was taught that the male body is the normative body. That indeed, the male body is like the Divine Body. I realize that this message is unintentional but nevertheless it is unavoidable when you give a child a picture of a little boy and then tell them that his body is like God’s.
I have written before about my unease with raising a daughter in this church. My decision to stay faithful despite the worries I have for my daughter remains one of the rawest choices I have made as a parent. Somebody once told me that this choice was tantamount to child abuse and I cried for days. My daughter’s, as well as my sons’, emotional and spiritual welfare is my top priority and to have it suggested that I was causing irreparable harm to her was beyond heartbreaking.
I cannot bear the thought of my daughter feeling the pain that I and so many of us have felt because of our doctrine and culture. But even if I were to leave the Mormon church there is sexism and misogyny in every aspect of our society. I cannot protect Sylvia from this reality. What I can do is stand against inequality and injustice in ways that my daughter can see. I believe there is no greater gift that a mother can give a daughter than to show through her words and deeds that women are equal to men.
As she grows up, Sylvia will see me advance the cause of gender equality within the church. My daughter will hear me demand that women’s voices and experiences be taken seriously by our leaders. Sylvia will know that any doctrine or teaching that demeans or lessens women is not of God. And today she will learn that she has a body just like her Heavenly Mother’s.
In the end, the only irreparable harm that could be done to my daughter is if I didn’t make her worth as a daughter, a girl and eventually a woman explicitly clear. I get to choose what my daughter learns about being a woman. It will be the lessons I teach Sylvia, both directly and indirectly, as her mother and a Mormon feminist that will stay with her.
mraynes, I love your writing.
I’m so glad there are women like you in the church who will teach their sons and daughters that divinity comes in both male and female form.
My 4 year old son doesn’t tell me what he learns in primary. I’m worried that he’s getting message after message that connects God with maleness. It’s hard to know what to do. I used to think it might be useful to have a discussion with his teachers about trying to incorporate a balance of gender images, examples, etc., but it was pointed out to me here on the blog that his teachers are just volunteers. I shouldn’t give them a hard time. Which means it’s all going to come down to me teaching him on my own what I think he needs to know. I hope what I say will balance out all those other messages…
Thanks, Caroline! I completely understand the desire to monitor what our children are being taught. I think you’re right, though, it’s a lot to expect teachers to only teach what we find acceptable. It puts a lot of responsibility on our shoulders but like you, I’m not sure what other option there is. And I do think that what parents say and do carries the most weight for children. I remember feeling shocked as a young adult to realize that not everybody in the church believed in equality between the sexes since that’s what my parents believed and taught.
I serve as the nursery leader in our ward. When I came to this lesson and saw the picture provided, I kept flipping through the pages looking for the picture the girls in my class would identify with. Surely there would be a picture for them. Sadly no. I feel a loss in not having a feminine deity to identify with. It’s always “Father and Son”, never “Mother and Sister”. How would the men and boys in the church feel if the roles were reversed and we worshiped the “Mother and Sister” and the picture they got to color in nursery was a little girl? I can’t change doctrine but there is so much in the church that is cultural, not doctrinal that feeds into the inequality. For nursery that day I omitted the picture altogether and instead traced each child’s hands onto a piece of paper.
I was actually really surprised that there was no female illustration to go along with this lesson. Although it would be nice if the lesson acknowledged the existence of Heavenly Mother I think it could still work to have a picture of a little girl with the same saying. Not perfect but better than what’s currently offered.
I feel the same loss you talk of in not having a divine feminine to identify with. I think one of the reasons we don’t know more about Heavenly Mother is because men run and receive revelation for the church and they don’t know what it feels like not to have a divine being that is like them. It is a stunning example of male privilege. Thanks for the comment and thank you for being a sensitive nursery leader!
I’m not sure why the nursery manual doesn’t have both images, but both of my daughters have had that lesson a combined total of three times. Once was just the male image, twice it was a side-by-side of girl and boy, obviously of the same style. So it does exist somewhere.
It’s good to know that an alternate image exists. I’ll have to look around for it so that we can re-do this lesson for Family Home Evening. Thanks for letting me know!
I did find these. They aren’t the ones my girls had, but they might work for your re-do.
Oh, and it was the same boy in both the single and combined pictures. I haven’t the least idea where they found the duo one.
My feminist-self is shocked that the nursery leader didn’t think a boy-only picture was problematic.
Lesson One: I Am a Child of God of the nursery manual has a coloring picture of both a boy and a girl – though it’s only from the shoulders and up.
Lesson 14: I Will Obey has a picture of both a boy and a girl standing side-by-side – though those individuals are suspiciously devoid of necks.
I want to give the nursery leader the benefit of the doubt since it was her first week on the job. It’s just unfortunate that better materials aren’t more easily accessible. Anyway, thanks for the comment and the links to the other pictures.
Maybe our teacher cut-and-pasted those side-by-sides with the title from the single one. That would make sense.
I find this disheartening. Although I subbed for a sunbeam class with the same theme and they had pictures of both a girl and boy. I hope it is an oversight in the manual and that more teachers will take their own iniative. Although the problem will always be present.
Yes, it is disheartening especially because I think that the nursery manual is generally great. But this image is so obviously problematic and I was genuinely surprised it was included. I share your hope that most leaders will find an alternate image when teaching this lesson.
I am expecting a baby soon, and friends have asked whether my husband and I are going to raise her in the Mormon church, like we were. I’m not sure of the answer yet. But this was a beautiful piece — it raises many of my own concerns while also recognizing that sexism is found everywhere. And like you said, Mraynes, the biggest tragedy, regardless of what decision my husband and I make, would be to not actively teach our daughter about equality. Thanks for writing this. It’s nice to know that thoughtful people like you are out there.
Thank you for your comment, birch. Deciding to raise a daughter in an unapologetically patriarchal tradition really is a heart-wrenching decision to make. For me, it was important that my children see their parents actively fighting for equality but I completely understand why others make a different choice. Congratulations on your impending arrival and good luck making your decision.
I teach primary (the oldest girls…who used to be called “Merrie Miss” and I can never remember what they are now). One of my girls–who knows quite a lot about the gospel, including multiple obscure stories in the Old Testament, and all her articles of faith–had no idea we had a Heavenly Mother when I mentioned Her one day. I grew up with a feminist mom so I knew about Heavenly Mother from the beginning. I guess I was just surprised that she had never heard about her Heavenly Mother before!
That is a really sad story, braids. I’m not completely shocked since we go to such great lengths to distance ourselves from the doctrine of Heavenly Mother. But it is a sad state of affairs that we don’t see this doctrine as absolutely vital for our existence. Thanks for your comment.
I teach the 9-11 year old girls this year and taught the 7-8 year olds last year. Heavenly Mother has been brought up by one of the kids in the each of the classes, and the other 90% of the kids hadn’t heard of Her. I grew up in a super conservative area, but even I had heard of Heavenly Mother at least by middle school. Is the feminine divine going out of fashion?
I suppose I am being a bit contrary, but I see an apparently caucasian child with short hair wearing a polo shirt, shorts and sandles.
No definite indication whether the child is male or female.
No primary or secondary sexual characteristics visible.
I know plenty of little girls who wear their hair very similar to the child in the picture, but with asian or hispanic facial features.
When I asked my daughter who was in the picture, she told me it was a little boy. I assume this would be a fairly typical response from most nursery-aged children. Though the picture has many characteristics that we typically see as male signifiers, now that you point it out I can see how the illustration could be androgynous.
As a sunbeam teacher I feel a strong responsibility to take every opportunity to make sure the girls and boys in my class understand that we have a Heavenly Mother as well as a Father. And when we talk about scripture heroes I do my best to emphasize female as well as male figures. Some of the questions my little students ask though break my heart. The other day while looking at and talking about a picture of Heavenly Father & Jesus appearing to Joseph Smith one little girl asked “but where is Jesus’ Mommy?” I fumbled through an inadequate explanation about how She must have stayed up in heaven that day, but can’t tell you how proud I was that that she had asked the question. I just can’t help being frustrated about the materials we have to work with, which I often refuse to use, especially ones like the handout your daughter brought home. I hope it’s some comfort to know that there are those of us who do work hard putting together accurate handouts and making sure all children grow up knowing that they are loved by both of their heavenly parents.
I would have been proud too if I had a child that asked where Heavenly Mother was. Too bad there is no good answer to give to children for questions like that. You sound like an awesome sunbeam teacher! I can only hope and pray that my children get teachers like you all through their years in Primary and YW/YM’s.
Another sad thing is that so many other parents and teachers wouldn’t think twice about the picture. I think it has GOT to be a symtom of not talking about Heavenly Mother. Like Braids’ example, I think there is a void that is ever growing in even being aware of here, forget *knowing* her and understanding her!
I was similarly struck yesterday as testimony after testimony mentioned Heavenly Father and being His child and being grateful to know about Him, etc. Not ONE even used the term Heavenly Parents, and it would have totally made sense to do so, and not sound the least taboo. We are getting further away from including Her, and something needs to be done.
This example with your daughter just makes me shake with a quiet sadness for my own daughters, mraynes. I can’t imagine how I would have felt if someone tried to tell me that keeping them in church was abusive, but I can certainly understand the perspective and sentiment. We really have our work cut out for us as mothers of daughters to counteract what they get from church, and it shouldn’t be that way.
I also fear that we are raising a generation of members who know nothing of the doctrine of Heavenly Mother except for the brief mention of her in ‘O My Father’. It would not shock me at all if Heavenly Mother completely disappeared within 50 years. I agree something needs to be done but I’m kind of at a loss at to what to do except mention Her whenever appropriate.
“And today she will learn that she has a body just like her Heavenly Mother’s.”
I’m glad Stacey brought up the issue of racial heritage. Whenever I overlook issues of race (since I’m white) and focus on issues of gender (since I’m female and feminist), it reminds me that the people who overlook issues of gender aren’t necessarily doing it maliciously. Just because it’s not malicious, though, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need correction. We ALL need more education; we ALL need to be reminded of our biases and seek to overcome them.
This is an excellent point and was something I initially overlooked in Stacey’s comment. It’s easy to have a blind spot in regards to race when you’re white. You’re right that most the time it isn’t malicious but it’s still hurtful to completely ignore another individual’s experience. Thank you for the reminder to examine our privilege. I have found that this is one of the most uncomfortable things to do but also a place for dynamic growth and understanding.
beautifully written as always mraynes. This incident feels gut wrenching to me, I was a primary teacher for 4 years in my current ward and recently asked to be released. I have no children by choice, and felt that I could serve in primary– until recently when I have been overcome with frustration regarding the church. I frequently substituted female gender in stories and poems and often asked the kids to draw their own pictures to avoid male centric art work. We played the follow the prophet game where one child would lead the rest to the drinking fountain and restroom and I would choose both boy and girl prophets. There are other primary and young women teachers out there like me, I hope your daughter has a few in your ward. I love your resolve to stay in the church and be a force for change. I admire you for giving your daughter your spiritual legacy and owning the problems and issues that come along with it– this will be so helpful for her, If she knows from a young age that religion is messy and sometimes uncomfortable she will have healthy expectations the rest of her life. You are inspiring, thanks for writing.
Oh it’s so nice to see you around here, T. I’m so sorry that church has become frustrating and that teaching primary is no longer a respite. I am impressed by the efforts you took to be gender inclusive and hope that my children will have teachers similar to you. Also thank you for this:
“If she knows from a young age that religion is messy and sometimes uncomfortable she will have healthy expectations the rest of her life.”
You articulated perfectly my secret hope. Though wonderful in their belief in equality, my parents believed and taught that the church/gospel was perfect. I think a lot of my sadness and disappointment has come from the realization that this is not the case. Hopefully in being honest about the problematic aspects of our religion I can innoculate my children from a similar disappointment. Thank you for your kind words.
I worry about a lot of the things my kids will hear in church. I dread the Young Women’s manual and its emphasis on preparing for motherhood to the virtual exclusion of preparing for everything else in life, but as you so poignantly point out, mraynes, there’s plenty to worry about before they get to that age.
A few examples – a friend of mine said her children first found out about murder at church. The Gospel Art Picture book (aka The Gospel Art Book of Scary Stories) has a picture of Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac – try explaining that to a preschooler. Nephi’s brothers leave him tied up for days. I’m not ready for my 4 year old to have these stories in his consciousness, but they hear all this and more in church. I am torn between wanting to control content and wanting them to get used to regular church attendance.
I’ve opted for regular church attendance for the following reasons: 1) I think they’ll remember and believe what we tell them at home more than what they hear at church or school 2) I ultimately trust my kids’ intelligence and inherent compassion and ability to discern truth 3) I can’t control everything they encounter 4) I trust that the atonement will heal the emotional wounds they suffer from encountering untrue and hurtful things. And #4 is the ultimate reason I go to church at all – I want them to know they can access that power, even if the church as a vehicle for teaching it is imperfect.
And finally, I think whoever said you’re abusing your children by taking them to church was being extremely judgmental and hyperbolic. And rude. Really, who made them the expert in child rearing?
Your comment reminds me of something a Yale biblical scholar said about the Bible not being appropriate for children and how she wouldn’t let her own children read it. There is a lot of dark stuff in religion and it’s difficult to know exactly what and how you should expose children to it.
I’ve cut and paste your second paragraph into a file I keep so that when we have a particularly bad week at church I can pull it out and remember why we go. Thank you for articulating this so well, it was exactly what I needed to read.
I’m the Activity Days leader in my ward. This past week I prepared an FHE lesson that the girls could teach at home about the “Putting on the Whole Armor of God” verses in Ephesians. I had drawings of the pieces of armor with their meanings on them for the girls to color and cut out to put on a “soldier”. I consciously did NOT make the soldier a man. I had my teenage daughter draw a young woman as the figure for them to attach the armor to. The interesting thing for me was that the girls noticed right away that it was a female soldier, rather than a male. I commented to them that we are women in this group, and we are to be “Christian soldiers” just as men are. They had a great time coloring their soldier’s underdress in various bright colors, complete with polka dots, jewelry, etc. They colored the breastplate, shield and sword to reflect their personalities as well.
It just reinforced to me that this is something missing in the church curriculum– When an image is needed, the default is a male. I’ve decided not to do that whenever I teach– whether it is with my AD girls, music time in Primary, RS or giving a talk. I choose the female as my default. Interestingly people seem to notice it more– perhaps because it sounds or looks different.
I agree with Deborah, totally awesome! This is exactly the kind of activity that I would have loved when I was that age and it would have been something I would have remembered forever. I’m sure your girls feel the same way.
I agree that male is the default in the church. I once opened a talk with “good morning sisters and brothers.” I was amazed how many people commented on this throw away phrase exactly because they had never stopped to think what it means for the man to always come first.
What a great idea! I’m so glad you did this for the girls you were teaching that day. I like to think that it will make a difference to them.
What I love most about this post is your passionate articulation of why you are committed to remaining in the church. I love counting you as one of my sisters, out there fighting the good fight for our daughters and their spiritual health.
Thank you, Deborah. I feel the same way about you.
Like I said on your blog, I teach Sunbeams and I do make sure I mention Heavenly Mother along with Heavenly Father. I also try to be careful about the coloring sheets. This last one was “Heavenly Father (and Mother) and Jesus loves us.” There are a few of us teaching these things. Though, to be honest, I’m not sure how much goes into their brains. They can only really handle 2 minutes of a lesson. But I do know that the 5 minutes of coloring x all the weeks that they only see male-oriented coloring sheets does add up. Sigh.
I loved your comment on my blog about my daughter drawing a figure outside of the picture that resembled herself! I’m so glad that there are teachers like you out there who are sensitive to these things. I know it makes a huge difference even if no one stops to thank you for it. Thank you for your comment and the things that you do.
A few weeks ago a member of the primary presidency told me about a sharing time where they were talking about Adam. She said that Anna (our 4 year old) yelled out ‘Don’t forget Eve.’
My hope is that if my husband and I continue to talk about Heavenly Mother, women in the Bible and in our church that our daughter will love being a women, the church and feminism.
I love your daughter . . .!
Sylvia’s a wonderful name. I also have a two year old Sylvia (though we just liked the name, there’s no family connection).
I haven’t had my nose rubbed in this sort of sexism quite so blatantly, though I just got a calling to the primary, so I’m sure it’s coming. I love your final though–I’m going to have to write it on a card and read it to myself when I do encounter the unfortunate sexism that’s so deeply ingrained in this culture.
Great post and conversation.
Several posts have alluded to the idea, but it has not been said outright; when we encounter instances such as this in church I first remind myself that the volunteer teacher probably spent between 5-15 minutes preparing the lesson. Therefore, that teacher never even considered the implications of having only a little boy image to compare to God.
The second thing I do is plan how to teach my own children after church about the flawed subject. These learning opportunities motivate me to actually have spiritual/religious discussions with my children that would otherwise be ignored.
Next I think of ways to undo the damage (regardless of whether it was intentional or not). So, just for you, this morning a seminary class of 15 freshmen paid very close attention as we traced the history of Heavenly Mother in the modern church from Joseph Smith’s first comments concerning Heavenly Mother to her representation in the Kirkland Temple.
Tomorrow, the Sophmore-Senior seminary class will have a similar involvment of heavenly mother in their lesson.
The church is still small enough that just one devoted, active, intelligent person can have a tremendous impact through their calling(s). Emily and I regularly remind one another when we are heading out the door to another pointless meeting that we are making a difference, even if it is just one seminary lesson or nursery lesson at a time.
It makes me wonder what the relative impact is between two options. For example, this morning I taught a controversial lesson to a group of very attentive youth. If I had gone with the lesson plan, they would have dozed through class.
Sure, I will get a few emails from annoyed parents, but I can support every comment I made in class with references in church publications.
I would speculate that one controversial lesson about Heavenly Mother is worth 10 by-the-book lessons on Heavenly Father. I wonder if there is a way to analyze/quantify that difference.
“I would speculate that one controversial lesson about Heavenly Mother is worth 10 by-the-book lessons on Heavenly Father.”
Amen! I love your willingness to talk about our Mother, Harijan. It is so important to keep this doctrine alive.
Totally lame that this happened (happens), but beautiful post, mraynes. Thanks.
I am so glad to see this lesson here. When I taught sunbeams was given the “Be Hold You Little Ones” as supplemental material. When i reached this lesson I was angry. I opted not to copy the offensive picture. In class I taught about God having a body and us having a body. My class was all girls, except for my own feminist-exposed boy, and one of the girls crossed her arms across her chest, stared me down, and told me “I do not look like a boy.” I told her “of course not. You look like Heavenly Mother. She is a girl.” They wanted to see a picture and I told them I didn’t have one, but that she was a really pretty Mommy in Heaven. Now I teach an older class and the feminism has already been taken out of them. It was easier to bring Her into sunbeam lessons (Heavenly Father and Mother create, have a body, send their son), but with an older class they are already so decided that they can’t do certain things and it makes me so sad. Is there someone a bit more artsy who could make a “I Have a Body like my Heavenly Parents”? Is there something like Beginnings New, but for primary?
I too thought of race, and how to address that with children without blond hair and blue eyes.
But to the comment about the child being androgynous, I think it would be very rare to have a toddler girl (under three) in shorts at church. A skirt, sure, or shorts under a skirt. Maybe things have changed, but I remember a fairly strict social dress code. Whether or not it’s conscious. Maybe not. My daughter had some cute short outfits that we could have worn to a church, but it’s unlikely.
I think these unspoken images and messages are incredibly powerful, not just at church. Parents who are aware amd conscious can discuss these things with their kids. A person can’t shield their kids from everything, but they can present a different point of view.
Stacey wrote: ” I suppose I am being a bit contrary, but I see an apparently caucasian child with short hair wearing a polo shirt, shorts and sandals.
No definite indication whether the child is male or female.”
Stacey, I’m certain that the facial features would be different–more refined–if this were a girl. There’s no way that drawing can be thought of as an asexual child, except by someone who just wants to defend the church culture and the manuals. Besides, the church would never purposely confuse the sexes. It’s definitely a boy. I’m annoyed by people who can’t look at what is and try to twist it to fit their concept that the Church does no wrong, so they tell me the sun is shining when rain is pouring down my face.
As a woman who has believed I was worth less, because I was born female, I really appreciate that you are confronting this. Sylvia is a very lucky little girl!!
I have been thinking about this post constantly the past few days. I wonder if the nursery manual has been changed recently, and that could be why some children received the version with both a boy and a girl? The Gospel Principles manual was changed to remove references to Heavenly Mother. Could it be the same with the nursery manual?
Also, I wonder if this is the reason we have YW and RS. If we were always together for every meeting, would we just learn about the gospel through men’s eyes? Does it free us more to be able to interpret and discuss the gospel as women? I tend to think so. I think this post is a good example of that.
I’ll confess, as a primary worker (right now I’m the chorister) with a busy life, when I find something in the lesson manual that I can simply xerox without having to invest extra time in drawing my own or hunting the internet for ideas, I’m pretty likely to just use it without thinking too much about it. Primary takes an incredible amount of weekly prep time compared to other callings I’ve had. I’m really glad for this post–you’ve opened my mind to the need to critically evaluate everything before I simply head to the copy machine. I think this really highlights the need for curriculum material updates–particularly as the church becomes more global and more diverse.
[…] tears lept up and stung the back of my eyes–it never gets any easier to see my daughter be disappeared by patriarchy. The counselor in the stake presidency is a genuinely nice man, a benevolent […]
[…] have made the case for a more prominent role for a feminine counterpart to the traditional image of god, […]
I had this same dilemma! The day we had this lesson there were only two girls in my class and I quickly drew pictures of each of them, with hair and dresses that were similar to what they were wearing that day. One girl had brought in a stuffed penguin toy and I drew that on her picture too. I felt so sad seeing that there was no representation of a girl created in God’s image. It reminded me that we are told that we have a Heavenly Mother but are given no representation of Her, and even praying to her is forbidden by church leadership.
It reminds me of the GC talk by Elaine S. Dalton where she says
“Could it be that we have been deceived by false role models and persuasive media messages that cause us to forget our divine identity? What could be more deceptive than to entice women to be so involved in ourselves, our looks that we lose sight of our divine identity and our ability to change the world through our virtuous influence?”
It makes me want to shout. Give us a Divine Role Model! Why do church leaders still forbid us from praying to Heavenly Mother? At least tell us that we are ok to do that so that we don’t have to do it in secret or so that members who choose not to pray to Her won’t think of us as apostate or crazy.
Thanks for this reminder! I’m going to be making some small adjustments to the way I teach my girls the gospel. I recently read “LDS Women and Feminism: Keeping Perspective, by Cherilee Howden,” and found some much-needed answers about my knowledge of and relationship with Heavenly Mother, and the value of my eternal role. This book helped me be at peace staying solidly in the mainstream of the church.
[…] You Chance To Meet A Frown and What My Daughter Learns Adapting Nursery lessons to be more inclusive of […]
My children are a bit older – oldest daughter 10, oldest son 12. I told myself many of the same things you did when, as a young mother, my eyes were opened to the institutionalized sexism in the Mormon church. “The doctrine is perfect, the culture/people are not” I chanted over and over each time I or my children ran into these types of situations. “I can correct these misunderstandings at home, teach them to think for themselves, fight the good fight from within”. It all sounded good and plausible for a long while. Now that my children are entering into their teenage years and developing deep, complex spiritual identities, those mantras no longer feel sufficient and here’s why: 1 – So much of what my children will learn about themselves, their gender, their sexuality, their relationship to God, their intrinsic worth – it will be spoken aloud, not come home on a coloring page, which means I will have no way of knowing or undoing what’s being taught. I often think of Elizabeth Smart’s chewed-gum reasoning for staying with her abductors. These messages become much more overtly malignant in the hands of well-meaning mutual leaders motivated by the fear that the teens in their charge will dwindle into promiscuity and drug addiction if not firmly scared/shamed out of such choices. 2 – We all know that teens tend to give less and less credence to their parents’ counsel and much heavier weight to the guidance of leaders, teachers, friends during adolescence. So even when I am aware of the damage being done and attempt to undo it, my efforts may or may not have the same affect as they did when my children were little. 3 – When we set the gospel as our child’s representation of God, even if teach them to do so with a skeptical eye, we inevitably place religious leaders in a position of spiritual authority over them. I’ve been trying to walk that line with my son and it’s a very tricky balance: “So the bishop has been asked by God to be the father of our ward but remember that he is just a man, imperfect like the rest of us. But, I mean, of course he has wisdom to share with you and if you ever need good counsel I want you to know you can receive it from him…. I mean, you can trust *most* of what he says but make sure you’re listening to what the spirit tells you about what he says… but I know that he has your best interest at heart so feel free to talk to him about anything… but then you might want to talk with me afterwards so we can dissect what he says and hold it up against our own beliefs about what God wants for us… but yeah, no need to feel uncomfortable when he asks you if you masturbate…” HONESTLY? After 12 years of letting my faithful church participation communicate to my child that I am in full support of the leadership of the church and the way they represent God, now I’m supposed to undo all of that every time he goes to an interview? Every time he goes to a Deacons quorum meeting? It’s a mad scramble of brain gymnastics for both my son and I and it’s starting to feel more and more pointless. Raising young boys and girls inside the church and contrasting your own teachings at home with whatever they get force fed in nursery/primary may be a reasonable task, but it is near impossibility as they become adolescents. I sit at a parental precipice and am sick about all the possible paths in front of me.