My daughter and priestesscraft

My oldest daughter, who’s 10, doesn’t like church. It’s not a phase. She’s never liked church. Oh, she was more or less fine with it as a baby, but once she got to be about two, she just didn’t want much to do with it anymore. You know how cute it is when little kids will spontaneously bear testimony about how much they love Jesus and get all excited whenever they see the temple? Yeah, that’s not a shared experience. Those who read my personal blog will probably remember the story of my two-year-old princess throwing herself down before the chapel doors and screaming, “NO CHURCH! NO JESUS CHRIST!” I know I’ve told it more than once, but it’s just so perfectly representative of her history with religion.

I suspect that part of her problem with church is an autistic thing. (She has Asperger’s Syndrome.) Some of it is sensory-related. She’s never been fond of the organ, and a lot of the Primary music drives her nuts. Her nursery leaders told me they just had to give up on “Do As I’m Doing” because every time they started singing it, she’d start punching herself in the head. When she was a Sunbeam, the birthday song would make her run out into the halls screaming. (I must confess, I’ve had similar impulses during certain renditions of “I Believe in Christ.” But that’s another blog.) Aside from the unwanted stimuli, however, there’s the fact that autistic children have difficulty understanding abstract concepts. As one specialist told me, “If they can’t see it, they don’t get it.” Since faith is the substance of things that are hoped for but not seen, that can certainly pose a problem for an autistic child.

I suspect, though, that her lack of piety has just as much to do with her personality as her disability. (My younger son, who also has autism, has no particular problem with Jesus or church, aside from the sitting still part.) At age five she informed us that she definitely did not want to be baptized when she turned eight. Certainly we had no intention of forcing her to get baptized ever, but she just wouldn’t let it go. Like, for two years she wouldn’t stop talking about how much she didn’t want to be baptized. And then sometime during the year before she turned eight, she decided it would be okay. So she got baptized. It was a sweet experience to watch her come out of the water, looking so happy and right with the world. It took almost a month for her to start regretting it.

In her words, “I’m just not a very religious person.” I’m not sure that’s true, though. I think she’s like her mother. She wants to believe. She just doesn’t know how. Unlike her mother, she can’t yet appreciate the ambiguities of faith. She wonders why it seems so simple for other girls her age. They all seem to like church. If they’re bothered by the fact that there aren’t any women in the Book of Mormon, they’re certainly not standing up in the middle of class and screaming about it. (Not that, ahem, we’d know anything about that.) The worst part is that they all apparently have testimonies, and she just doesn’t. As she says, “I’m at a very difficult age.”

A couple weeks ago I had to spend Sacrament Meeting sitting with her in the foyer because she couldn’t handle being in the chapel with all those righteous folks. She complained a whole bunch about us forcing our religion on her, and that it was a dumb religion with dumb rules, and why couldn’t she belong to a more normal church. (One of her current beefs with Mormonism is the temple sealing ceremony, which she understands lacks color and has no music. She thinks that’s a rip-off. Really, you’d expect eternal marriage to be a little more exciting.) I didn’t want to have that conversation again, so I told her she should just go ahead and make up her own religion. I got out a notebook and a pen so she could write down the basic doctrines.

She called it “Corpse Bride-ism.” Corpse Bride is her favorite movie and favorite topic of perseveration. Believe me, she does not lack the evangelical spirit; she merely channels all her energies toward convincing the rest of the world to be as obsessed with this film as she is. And yes, she is just as insufferable as all those other religious nutcases out there. But in case you’re interested, here are the tenets of Corpse Bride-ism. (It’s instructive, to say the least. Apparently the girl can take herself out of Mormonism, but she can’t quite take the Mormonism out of her.)

1. No R-rated movies.

2. Watch Corpse Bride at least once in your life.

3. Women have same rights as men.

4. No smoking.

5. No saying bad words.

6. Scriptures: Corpse Bride book, parts of the Bible, parts of Book of Mormon (no women getting killed; only bad people getting killed).

7. No naked people (except in bath tub).

8. No lying, unless it’s a difficult situation.

9. No stealing.

10. No murdering.

11. Obey your parents, except when they tell you to do something evil. (There will be talks at church about exceptions.)

12. Go to church. Don’t worry, it’s fun.

13. Church must be fun. Anyone who’s not having fun has to go home. Don’t ruin the fun.

14. No Disney channel.

15. No watching stupid TV shows. Parents decide what’s stupid. [Well, thank you for that.]

16. Spread the word about Corpse Bride.

17. No saying that fashions are out of date.

18. Don’t be mean. (Listen to church talks for exceptions.)

19. Don’t act like women are aliens from outer space. [I swear I never told her about Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. I don't know where this came from.]

20. Weddings can be as fancy as you want.

21. All churches must have at least one stained glass window.

I might add a couple more exceptions for naked people, but other than that, it’s not all that restrictive. Thusfar I’ve resisted the temptation to start my own religion, but I know that if I ever did, I would definitely have a rule about worship services not lasting more than an hour (none of this “70 minutes” crap–what’s that about?), and singing hymns at half tempo would be punishable by stoning. I won’t make up any more rules now, though, because I don’t want to draw you all away with my flattering words that are pleasing to the carnal mind. I’m in enough trouble as it is.

What’s in your religion?

Comments

  1. Hey I loved that movie, I think she’s pretty genius! But seriously, how unbelievably creative! And how oddly like our Church it really is (with bits and pieces missing/added/exchanged). Apparently she’s been listening to something in Church, whether she likes it or not.

  2. ” ‘I’m just not a very religious person.’”

    “‘“I’m at a very difficult age.’”

    “One of her current beefs with Mormonism is the temple sealing ceremony, which she understands lacks color and has no music. She thinks that’s a rip-off. Really, you’d expect eternal marriage to be a little more exciting.”

    10 years old? My, what a precocious child!

    Hmmm…What ten-year old girl doesn’t like The Disney Channel?

    I smell a rat.

  3. Since my oldest son is also on the autism spectrum (it’s hard to say if he is Asperger’s or autistic or something new and completely different–he’s a very unusual case, but that’s another story), I can sympathize with how religion and autism don’t always seem to mix.

    Having a daughter with Asperger’s is rare, so that’s a unique challenge in itself, but it does appear that she is learning.

    I think the key to her learning to enjoy church is actually embedded in all this: FUN!

    She has to learn that sacrament, primary and the associated events are NOT boring, are NOT chores, but are exciting things. It’s a retraining exercise that I do not envy you, but it’s one that EVERYONE of us needs to learn–how to really enjoy our meetings with the other saints. Now the other saints could do a LOT MORE THAN THEY DO to make this easier (grr), but this is largely about our attitude. Do we dread going to church? Then it will be miserable. Do we look forward to it? Then it will be enjoyable.

    That’s how I see it, and your daughter can probably learn to see it the same way. My son, at 6, is having to learn the same things. It’s not easy, and I’m nervous about his baptism because he’s not really thrilled with the concept of going under water. This may be extremely difficult. I hope that it’s going to be okay, but I fear that we may delay his baptism until he’s okay with that.

    I think we lose a lot of our youth because they never have the type of crisis your daughter, at a younger age, is already dealing with–until they hit college. Then, when no one is there to push them at all, they realize that they aren’t having FUN at church, and so they quit going.

    But they forget that church isn’t just supposed to be fun–it’s pleasurable in other ways, and it can be FUN if they will approach it in the right way.

    I don’t know if my point is coming across in the right way, but I’m trying.

  4. Do we dread going to church? Then it will be miserable. Do we look forward to it? Then it will be enjoyable.

    Oh, that it were really this simple.

  5. must confess, I’ve had similar impulses during certain renditions of “I Believe in Christ.” But that’s another blog.

    Thank you. I am glad to know that I am not the only one who can’t choke my way through that particular hymn.

  6. Bro. Jones says:

    #3:

    She has to learn that sacrament, primary and the associated events are NOT boring, are NOT chores, but are exciting things.

    Have Rebecca’s daughter call me when she figures these things out, because I apparently need to learn it to. I will say in all humility that I have strong faith; I believe in God and I sustain His prophets, etc, etc.–but I am routinely bored out of my skull in church, especially in Sacrament meeting. I look forward to church, but that does not make it automatically fulfilling. Were it not for my awesome Primary calling–which does fulfill me–I suspect I’d often “wake up late” for church.

    I’ve taught my Primary kids that church ISN’T always full of thrills, and that it’s okay for them to feel bored–that they’re not bad kids if they’re not having a party during every minute of the 3-hour block. Sure, some days will be great, but others drag on. I particularly feel for kids with special challenges like Rebecca’s daughter–my “healthy” attention span is strained to the limits.

  7. BTD Greg says:

    I think going door to door to promote the Corpse Bride would have been a lot more simple and straight-forward than trying to get the people of Japan to accept a very uniquely American variant of Christianity.

  8. My religion:

    (This is not an inclusive list, just those areas where it differs from Mormonism)

    1) Men and women have the same opportunities to serve in the same callings and hold a similiar or same priesthood.

    2) Marriages take place as civil ceremonies and then the church ordinance takes place afterwards (ideally, on the same day).

    3) Meetings only last one hour–this includes sacrament.

    4) Repentance is completely between an individual and the Lord.

    5) When a General Authority announces some “rule” in a local Stake Conference he/she either makes a clear point that it applies just to that stake, or he/she publishes it in the Ensign. Maybe that will stop some of the Mormon Urban Legends.

    6) Testimonies must never be travelogues or thankimonies.

    7) Single Women must be treated with dignity and respect and taken out on dates as often as possible, assuming that is what they want and desire.

    8) My “movie-that-everyone-must-see” is Lars and the Real Girl. So everyone has to watch it at least once a year.

  9. There is a whole group of us who can’t stand that hymn. And having my name people expect me to like it. But for me it is mostly because it is 8 verses arranged to look like four. I could go on, but that’s another thread.

    I applaud your creativity. My repsonse would not have been as good. My daughter has been “difficult” since she was one year old. Not with the same stuff as yours. But she finds whatever she can.

    Me: Hey kids, you want some ice cream for dessert?
    Daughter: Yeah, but there probably isn’t any chocolate.
    Me: Yes, there is. I just bought some.
    Daughter: But there is no vanilla, and what I really wanted is a root beer float.

  10. I have a son with Asperger’s, and he has the same attitude about church — and scripture reading, and prayer, and FHE, and school, and anything that doesn’t involve video games or Bionicles or science. We’ve had most of the same struggles as your daughter, which make me laugh and cry at the same time. The world would be much poorer if not for the way-outside-the-box contributions of Aspies. Interesting to see that applied to religion!

    Our son does have a very spiritual side to him, but he is bored out of his skull at church and at school. Half is his incredible IQ, and half is the fact that ANY emotion he feels, particularly boredom, is at least 3 times more powerful to him than to us neurotypical folks. We play a delicate balancing game between “church,” “religion” and “spirituality and faith,” and we’re trying to formulate a long-term strategy to help him keep the three elements combined as much as possible. He has so much to offer.

    For the time being, he’s 12 and brings a clipboard full of paper to church and draws monsters during his classes, but you ask him a question and he is listening. Despite his constant protestations that he hates church and doesn’t have a testimony, he kind of knows he is benefiting from church and a testimony is distilling on him unawares. He starts missionary discussions with people like it’s the most natural thing in the world. He’d have a hard time with a full-time mission, but there’s a place for him.

    Good luck in helping your daughter navigate the neurotypical world, particularly as it relates to faith and revelation. It’s harder, but we see progress and we believe he may have some very interesting spiritual journeys ahead.

  11. BTD Greg says:

    BruceC – Your daughter is my second daughter. I hope you’re doing a better job of raising her than we are.

  12. My boy has been adamantly anti-baptism since about age 3. It was whenever he developed the understanding that baptism meant water-dunking and developed some words to refuse it. We’re not the least surprised, given his lifelong shrieking and panicking against bathing in general.

    He’s 5.5 now and getting dressed for school, let me catch him…

    “hey E, what about getting baptized?”
    well, I’m not going to do that
    why not?
    because it’s bad
    how is it bad?
    I don’t want to talk about it
    what if you could be baptized with no water?
    that’s good. but no dipping!
    Yeah. But there is water
    yeah, so I won’t do that.

  13. I wish I had another story about kids, but alas I do not.

    Two activities of a church I would like to see:

    We have to invite members of other faiths to church (or activities) not to be spectators, but participants. We have to learn to love our neighbors for who they are and understand them on their own terms. We would have discussions about our differences and similarities and how, even with differences, we can work together and love each other. I envision dialogue during Sunday School, perhaps with a moderator. (If there were known hostile groups, there might have to be some preparatory activities to bring them to a point where we can be neighborly.)

    Praying for each other (maybe take a couple minutes at the beginning of Priesthood or Relief Society to turn to your neighbors, find out what’s going on in their lives, and then take a couple minutes to pray for each other, learn to love each other. A few minutes won’t hurt all that much.)

    …Just thoughts…

  14. Rebecca, I think my favorite part of this story is that you told her to make up her own religion and wrote down all the tenets for her.

    And I really like what Bro. Jones said about reassuring children that if they’re bored that doesn’t mean they’re bad kids. I despised Primary from the time I was about eight or nine: the goofy songs, the saccharine voices of certain leaders, being stuck in Sharing Time with a bunch of little kids on loooong hot summer afternoons. (And due to the complexities of ages, birthdays, and school schedules, I found myself still stuck in Primary for most of my first semester of junior high when all of my peers had moved on. By then I was thoroughly miserable.)

    But everyone was evidently so horrified by my hating Primary, and later YW, youth Sunday school, and seminary that I quickly absorbed the message that I was a bad kid for not wanting to sit still for three hours, and that God didn’t like kids like me very much. I still vividly remember the day in Primary I decided that it ran both ways, that I didn’t like God either, that I certainly didn’t like his pet leaders who talked in the super-sweet fake voices, and that I wasn’t going to the celestial kingdom.

    It’s fascinating to me how early personality clashes with church can start. I remember being hauled out of sacrament meeting when I was six or seven because I started sobbing uncontrollably during the opening hymn, “There Is Sunshine In My Soul Today.” That particular day my soul was filled with grumpiness and irritability, and I hated sunshine and all the happy people whose souls were filled with it.

    And I still can’t stand the sunshine section of the hymnbook. Give me “I Believe in Christ” any day over that kind of alarming cheeriness! So I don’t know what else would be in my religion, but that would certainly be one tenet: No sunshine hymns.

  15. Rebecca J says:

    There are hymns I dislike, but I’m actually rather fond of “I Believe in Christ,” which is why I hate to hear it sung like a funeral dirge. Which it almost always is.

    My daughter is certainly learning things at church, and she obviously doesn’t have as much contempt for it as she claims (as evidenced by her list). As my husband puts it, she’s very cause-and-effect oriented, and faith just doesn’t provide that sort of instant gratification. Faith is a lot of waiting for something that isn’t easily defined. I think that’s the core of her struggle. Also that there are no stained-glass windows in our building, so she doesn’t even have something pretty to look at while she’s waiting.

    We don’t have the Disney channel, so she doesn’t watch the Disney channel, and I think she just feels left out, which is why it’s on her list. I’m beginning to wonder how much fuller her spiritual life would have been if we’d just gotten cable.

    I’ve definitely learned a lot from this girl, more than I could possibly describe in a single blog post. At the very least, she keeps me us all honest.

    Melissa S. – I find your rules appealing, so I will have to add Lars and the Real Girl to my Netflix cue so I can learn more (assuming that’s the first discussion).

  16. Rebeccaa,

    Just don’t let the plot throw you off. Trust me that it is a lot better than the summary makes it sound.

  17. Oh, and I should add that it looks like I just got my first convert. Nice…

  18. You can’t necessarily blame her for wanting things to be less drab/serious at times. That’s common even for grown ups. And you also have to admit a lot of the rules that are placed on top of the gospel (outside of the commandments) are a bit stringent and at times silly.

    A reverse on this is a funny conversation I had with my dad last year, I was complaining about the 3 hour block saying how I felt it was far too long and I wasn’t getting much out of it. And Dad’s reply was something to the effect of, “I know it stinks but you need to do it for your kids. I stayed all 3 hours for you.” To which I replied, “But dad, I remember being a kid and I hated it then too, I just went because you wanted me to. So if I stayed because I thought you wanted me to, and you stayed because you thought I wanted you to…why did we do it?” It was as if I could hear his brain explode over the phone.

  19. Very interesting Rebecca, I liked your solution. Where have I been reading lately about a faith gene? It came to mind a few weeks ago when listening to a couple in my neighborhood describe their son’s lack of interest in church–from the time he was 4. (And they weren’t the kind to say church is going to be miserable, therefore it was miserable; they’re quiet, optimistic people.) They said that from a very young age and for several more years he would come into their bedroom each morning and ask nervously whether it was Sunday; most of the time, of course, the answer was no, but when it was yes, he threw himself backwards on the ground and started yelling and crying that he wasn’t going to church and hated it. Just as some kids seem born with faith, maybe some are born without.

  20. #13 M: I really like your ideas. Thanks.

    TonyD

  21. MelissaS (#8), may I join your church?

    Rebecca, it sounds like you’re doing a great job in adapting the church experience to the needs of your family. In a seminary class I was teaching several years ago, I had a fifteen-year-old girl with Asperger’s. She was an avid reader of SF, and we were studying the B of M. Much to the entertainment of the other four students, she interpreted the B of M stories in a SF context and made us all think a little harder. It was great fun and a wonderful spiritual experience as well, as we learned to see the Gospel from an entirely different perspective.

    I also have a daughter with severe ADD, who was a real challenge in church meetings. (She managed to drive away three Sunday School teachers in one year when she was twelve.) Needless to say, we had to adapt our expectations and our family activities to bring out the best in her. Now, at the age of 29, she is an active Church member (and a very delightful person), but she still takes a book to read during Sacrament meeting and often spends part of the meeting walking the halls.

  22. As I’ve written elsewhere, I became an atheist at age 10. At that time (1963), we were mostly inactive Episcopalians, and I was voraciously reading the Time-Life Science and Nature libraries. I just didn’t see any need for God. There wasn’t a lot of family conflict over it — I’m not sure I bothered to tell anyone, and we didn’t attend church often anyway.

    I didn’t have Asperger’s or autism, though I was precocious in both reading and math. And if it’s any help, I decided at age 13 that I had been a bit too hasty about there being no God — which started a series of events that led to my conversion at age 14 to the LDS Church. ..bruce..

  23. There are hymns I dislike, but I’m actually rather fond of “I Believe in Christ,” which is why I hate to hear it sung like a funeral dirge. Which it almost always is.

    Gotcha, Rebeeca. I couldn’t agree more.

    There is a peculiar sluggish horror that creeps over me when there’s a long closing hymn after a meeting that’s already gone over and we sing all four verses at a snail’s pace.

  24. I’d love to meet the parent that can convince their child that church is fun. From my experience children either decide they like it. or decide they don’t. No amount of FHE, scripture study or bearing of testimony convinced my youngest brother and I to love church as much as my two sisters and middle brother.

    My daughter is dragged to church every week. Even though she usually enjoys it once she’s there, if we gave her the choice she’d stay home in a heartbeat. We treat my son just the same and he’s go to church every day if he had the choice. Children are just different.

    I still remember my mom freaking out when I was reading Lucifer’s Hammer to escape boredom in the middle of sacrament meeting one week, she thought for sure I was going to hell until my dad explained what it was (a novel about an asteroid hitting the Earth).

  25. Oh, and the list is hilarious Rebecca.

  26. At various low points in my relationship with the church, I’ve come up with my own ideas about worship. For a while, when we lived in an isolated rural area and the nearest bookstore was a Barnes & Noble an hour’s drive away, I wanted to belong to the Church of Barnes and Noble. Every Sunday I just wanted to go to Barnes and Noble, sit in a comfortable chair, smell the coffee (not sample, of course! I may skip church, but I wouldn’t drink coffee!), sample some chocolates, and plunge into another world by reading several novels in quick succession.

    Then during a period when I felt completely unable to deal with the social complexities of my ward, someone in my family thought of the Church of the Cubicle, and it became a frequent topic of longing conversation. We could all go worship God all by ourselves, each in her own little booth. Or every chapel could have some cubicles for people who just couldn’t interact other people that morning. I suppose, though, there’d likely be a run on those cubicles every single week. I know I’d be running for them.

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    I absolutely loved this! Your daughter sounds amazing (those words coming from a 10-year old mouth is difficult to imagine), and you’re obviously a gifted mum for your suggested exercise of having her create her own religion on paper. Count me as a convert to Corpse Brideism, and an investigator to Melissaism (I like the rules, but haven’t managed to see Lars yet).

    My little brother, who is now 30, is autistic. When he was about the same age as Rebecca’s daughter, he used to down huge bottles of Diet Coke as if it were the elixir of life. One day at Church some officious a**hole told him that he couldn’t be a good Mormon and drink Diet Coke, thinking that this would get him to give up his Diet Coke jones. Wrong! From that very moment to this, he has hated the Church and will have absolutely nothing to do with it. And there’s no reasoning with him; the die is cast, the stone is set, and that is that. Given such a stark choice, he immediately gave up Mormonism, not the Diet Coke.

  28. Well to be fair, Diet Coke is a scrumptious drink.

  29. StillConfused says:

    My son also could not handle the stimuli at church. The lights were to bright, the pews were too crowded and the discussions talked down to him too much.

    Partly in jest, my best friend and I have discussed creating our own church. I like the rules you have above but ours was leaning more toward outdoor nature-based “services” (aka hikes); individual determinations of worth; general discussions of self improvement and kindness; and an annual mecca to hawaii (seemed as good a place as any).

    We have been trying to think of some goofy rituals. Seems all religions have them. Any thoughts in that regard would be most appreciated.

    I have to admit that I get more upliftment, knowledge and understanding from my hikes with my friend than I do sitting in a church for hours.

  30. (#13) I appreciate your approach. There seems to be a fair degree of negativity in response to this thread. With (#20) I agree that you’ve taken the challenge of this post in a positive light.

  31. jjohnson – My father never went to church. We could stay home from church if we wanted, but he spent the day doing yard work, cleaning the garage, and other heavy labor. If we went to church the rest of the day coul dbe a day of rest. Each of us tried it out and in the end decided going to church was better than the alternative. We weren’t allowed to pick and choose our commandments.

  32. Hmm, I may give that a shot Bruce. A choice between yardwork and church may help my daughter appreciate church a little more.

    My friend’s dad started his own church in Utah. He built up about 20 followers and used the tithes to renovate his kitchen and basement before getting in trouble with the IRS. He’s a temple worker in Provo now.

  33. #27, Kevin, that’s Sophie’s Choice. But I already know which I would choose were it so presented. So long and thanks for all the fish.

    #24, JJohnson, I have never met another person who has read Lucifer’s Hammer. Beats the crap out of these more recent asteroid movies, doesn’t it?

  34. Cobalt (30), thank you for your comment. I don’t think I see as much negativity in these posts as you might–it seems more like some questioning, some teasing, some opinion expression. I hope I contribute to the forum. Looking back, mine seemed like somewhat of a threadjack.

    TonyD (20), I’m glad it helped.

  35. I am borderline if not full-blown Aspbergers. Never been evaluated for it. I’ve learned my own coping mechanisms.

    For a long time I attended the more boring ward IN THE WORLD and I’d take notes during Sacrament Meeting just to force myself to pay attention. I’d put a star on the page whenver I felt the Spirit. I began to realize I was feeling the Spirit more than I thought I was.

    My current ward is getting really boring and I may have to resort to note-taking again.

    I teach the oldest girls in Primary and I try to make class fun for them. I put a lot of work into my lessons, try to come up with creative ways of teaching them the scripture stories. I want class to be something they look forward to.

  36. 13. Church must be fun. Anyone who’s not having fun has to go home. Don’t ruin the fun.

    That’s my favorite. Don’t ruin the fun. =)

    I’ve never liked going to church (this one or the previous one) In school, I didn’t start watching the clock until I was in high school – but in church I was glued to it. How … much … longerrrrrrr?

  37. #24, JJohnson, I have never met another person who has read Lucifer’s Hammer. Beats the crap out of these more recent asteroid movies, doesn’t it?

    I haven’t read it in years, but I think so. I’m a sucker for end of the world stories though.

  38. My 4 kids 8-6-4-4 enjoy church and like to go. Hopefully #5 does as well.

    I ahve also read Lucifers Hammer. A great book.

  39. Rebecca J says:

    Catherine (#21), I would have liked to be in that seminary class with that girl! It reminds me of when my daughter was five and I used the movie Kiki’s Delivery Service to teach the principle of keeping the Sabbath. Don’t ask me how I managed to draw parallels between between the fourth commandment and Japanese witchcraft. Suffice it to say, it was awesome. Every so often the challenges of raising an autistic girl are intellectually satisfying. I’m also continually surprised by the depth of my daughter’s perceptions.

    ZD Eve – I would enjoy a Church of Barnes and Noble-Church of Cubicle hybrid. I also love the smell of coffee. I’ve never drunk coffee, but I love the smell and I would just pipe it into my home’s ventilation system if I could. Except that my daughter can’t stand the smell of coffee, so I’d have to wait until she left home.

    Kevin, I can totally picture my daughter making the same choice in that kind of situation, at least when she was younger. She still struggles to differentiate between real religious obligations and the sometimes Pharisaic cultural expectations, which is why I feel obligated to continue drinking diet Coke and eating coffee-flavored desserts, just to give her more practice discerning nuance. I typed that with a straight face, just so you know.

  40. Rebecca J says:

    Now I have to go read Lucifer’s Hammer. I think I will read it in the halls at church whilst swilling diet Coke.

  41. Coffee-flavored desserts are an abomination. This may or may not include tiramisu, but coffee ice cream is anathema. The smell of coffee, however, is a sweet savor that brings blessings to the entire aisle at the supermaket.

  42. If it came to real, honest-to-goodness sugar-laden Coke (or even the corn syrup stuff), I can see having the same problem that Kevin’s brother did.

    As to the original post and the comments, I’m reminded of conversations with evangelical Christians who contend that they’re not interested in religion–just in having a relationship with Christ. (Frankly, I think that such relationships are best created in the context of true religion, but that’s a subject for another post.) I also don’t know how to help engender such a relationship between a 10- (or 19-) year-old child, particularly one who is inclined not to believe, or who has difficulty in understanding the abstract, but I’m concerned that none of the invented religions described above include a loving Father who gave His Son as a sacrifice that we might live. Is our religion really just a bunch of rules?

    My youngest son seems much like Rebecca’s daughter, and has never been much of a religious boy–and for the past four years has simply removed himself from any active participation in all things religious. His difficulty in believing likely makes it impossible for him to grasp the love that a Heavenly Father has for him–but I’d surely be happy if somehow we could help him feel that, and to see that the best of Mormonism enables us to feel that love as we love and serve our fellow humans.

  43. Researcher says:

    Several moves ago we used to pass The Church of the Pancake House every Sunday morning as we drove to the ward building. I never stopped to think about what their religion actually entailed, so here’s an attempt at some rules.

    Use fresh fruit for the toppings and fresh mushrooms for the omelets.

    No smoking.

    Children must be well-behaved.

    Enjoy yourselves but not too loudly.

    Finish your breakfast and move along so someone else can be seated.

    Tip generously.

  44. Merinmel Caesg says:

    ZDEve- I had a friend in high school whose parents required that she attend some church every Sunday. What church was of no consequence. So, she and her best friend sampled a variety of churches. Sometimes, when the idea of visiting another church was unappealing, they would hold services in a similar style to your own at “The Church of Saints Barnes and Noble.”

  45. I came fairly close to purchasing Corpse Bride on DVD a few days ago. But then I didn’t. I haven’t seen it yet. So I think that makes me apostate to your daughter’s religion.

    I could try to put together a list – but I don’t think I could come up with something more original and interesting than Mormonism.

  46. Now I have to go read Lucifer’s Hammer. I think I will read it in the halls at church whilst swilling diet Coke.

    It has nothing to do with Satan or a hammer, so unfortunately only the title is good for shock value, once people hear what it’s about they will go back to thinking you’re a good recommend-carrying Mormon.

  47. Corpse Bride is wonderful, as is The Nightmare Before Christmas. Tim Burton’s brain would be interesting to study.

  48. I am often jealous of the kids in church who appear to love church and all of the cultural things that go with it. And of the kids in the Friend who share their little stories about how much the love the temple etc. My kids aren’t like that! My son was recently baptized but I know he wasn’t sure about becoming a member of the church because then he’s stuck with it. He sometimes will tell me “I wish you hadn’t signed me up for church.” It’s just comforting to know there are others out there like mine. And, as far as “saccharine voiced primary leaders”, one of the primary leaders was recently made a counselor in the Relief Society presidency I am in and my daughter said “get ready for her cartoony voice all the time!” I told her that I was sure she just used that voice for sharing time with children. I was wrong! I am now impressed with my daughter’s insight into this person’s personality because she was actually warning me about more than just the voice, which is ALWAYS cartoony!

  49. Oh what an amazingly great list! My favorite? “13. Don’t be mean. (Listen to church talks for exceptions.)”

    My religion would definitely let me talk more. And stand up and walk around. And the music would be nice and brisk. And we would not have an organ, but many other musical instruments would be welcome. And really lame poetry would be forbidden. And everyone would have to speak in a normal tone of voice. And the kids could play, outside during good weather. And we’d sing a lot. One hour (tops) for any meeting. No back-to-back meetings.

  50. I have a problem in a little bit of an opposite way. My two oldest daughters (9 and 11) are complaining about Primary, but it’s because they are so bored or the teachers don’t know enough about the scriptures or the other kids aren’t behaving so they can’t get anything out of the lessons. I’m about ready to pull my oldest out of Primary prematurely and just let her attend the 14 yr old SS class I teach (where she’ll also think the kids don’t behave or know anything). I wonder if I’ve done them a disservice by having so much scripture stuff at home that they’re bored at church, but then you think that that’s really the right thing to do… And my poor 11 yr old turns 12 in January, so she’ll have an extra year of Primary.
    Any ideas on that front?

  51. Your daughter has such a great sense of right and wrong and fairness and justice, that I don’t think it’s all that worrisome that she doesn’t enjoy church. I don’t think any of my kids particularly love going to church. Heck, I don’t particularly love going to church. My 6 year old doesn’t like church at all, and refused to pray for nearly 2 years. The other night she asked to say the dinner prayer, and I about fell out of my seat.

    I also love how she recognizes the need for exceptions to certain rules. She’s pretty awesome.

  52. Anita, for whatever it’s worth one of the best things my mother ever did for me was start sending me to Gospel Doctrine when I was fourteen. In my case it wasn’t that I was particularly intellectually advanced in my knowledge of the scriptures–and I was even less spiritually advanced–but absolutely nothing was happening in my age-group Sunday school classes. Teachers failed to show up, showed up unprepared and talked to us about nothing, or (in one notorious case) told us all we were going to hell. It was really pretty awful. I didn’t have much better luck with YW, but at least there the teachers were prepared and made an effort.

    Going to GD as a teenager was a huge breath of fresh air. For maybe the first time in my life I saw people actually take the gospel seriously and talk about it thoughtfully and raise various points of view on various issues. My age-group Sunday school classes were all afflicted with a too-cool-to-care malaise that was making my brain leak out my ear.

    I was quiet and unobtrusive and just slipped in and out of the back, and the entire three or four years I did so no one ever said a word to me about it.

  53. I taught Primary using references to cartoons and books and movies all the time. I switch between taking notes in Sacrament to force myself to listen, and tuning out completely with a good book. When I was a small child, attending UU services with my dad and grandma, I trained myself to sleep during the sermon with my head positioned so it appeared I was looking at the pastor, and with my body turned so that neither my dad nor grandma could see that my eyes were closed and I hadn’t moved in twenty minutes. I never got called on it, though I did get stuck in the teenager Religious Education class when I was 9 (the next-youngest person was 13); I *have* been diagnosed by my psych-major sister as being on the autism spectrum, but she diagnoses everyone with something like that, so. I don’t think there’s anything terribly disturbing about hating most aspects of church meetings; I usually demand a calling a few months after starting in a new ward because I know that otherwise, I’ll go inactive.

    And I would vote, in a heartbeat, for the wedding and stained-glass-window rules in your daughter’s religion.

  54. merrybits says:

    My daughter doesn’t have Asperger’s, but she has always been one of those “I hate Church” kids since day one (she’s now 13). I take my comfort in the fact that she is one of the most straight-laced people I know.

  55. Just watched Lars and the Real Girl a few days ago. Great movie. We need more like it. Maybe even worthy as a canonical text of a budding religion.

  56. On the topic….When my son told me he thought “church day” was boring, I said “Yes, it is boring a lot of times. But sometimes it’s really great. Since we don’t know which one it’s going to be, we have to go to all of them.”

  57. I like the idea of Corpse Brideism. If I was asked to add a few tenets (not that I’ve been asked, mind you):

    1. Pink Floyd would provide opening hymns, and Rush would provide the closing hymns. Danny Elfman could do the rest hymn, either from a soundtrack composition or from Boingo.
    2. The City Museum in St. Louis would be a holy site and regular pilgrimage would be required.
    3. If you want to play the tuba instead of giving a talk, go ahead.
    4. I second the stained glass. I could never pay attention if I went to Hogwarts.
    5. Quentin Tarantino and Frank Miller would be in the First Presidency, and would each give three talks every General Conference. Or show movies, or pass out comic books.
    6. Hellboy comics would be added to the standard works. He is a perfect lesson of how no matter where you come from or what you look like, you can fight evil. And kill Nazis.
    7. The book of Deuteronomy would be recognized as an early BBQ cookbook, and instead of having Fast Sunday, we would try to make perfect sauce and get the ribs just right. BBQ beans, cole slaw, and garlic bread would also be available for vegetarians.

    But, I’m flexible.

  58. Lucifer’s Hammer is a great book! I love Niven. Pournelle isn’t that great imo but Niven had so many great ideas. It’s kind of cool how many Mormon – science fiction connections there are. Maybe we should start proselyting at science fiction conventions. Now that sounds like my kind of mission. (/threadjack)

  59. ZDEve 52–thanks for your comment, I really like that idea. I’m so by the rules that I don’t think that would have occurred to me, but when I taught GD I never minded having the occasional teenager attend. If that’s what it takes…

  60. As a primary worker an a mother of five, one autistic, two with ADD, I believe that primary should involve movement, peaceful moments, and laughter to release tension. All this can be done in a spirit of reverence, but still involve faithful enthusiasm. Think of David dancing before the Lord, early saints dancing in the temple, gospel choirs swaying and singing with joy. Sometimes I think we saints forget to bring joy, fun, and laughter to our faithful experiences. For a long time my daughter was confused by the tears and crying when people bore their testimonies. She has trouble reading emotions and all the somberness at church troubled her. Just a thought.

  61. yiayiarocks says:

    I have an 8 year old daughter with mild autism. She too really doesn’t like church. I think mostly because it’s so boring and all the faith concepts are so beyond what she can grasp. The best I can hope for is that maybe one day she’ll just be able to feel the Spirit and enjoy those good feelings.

    I have to agree with many of the other comments. Church is usually very dull even for grownups. I must say that I barely tolerate church, but that’s mostly due to the fact that I’ve got 4 young children, one with autism. I just go to church because I know I’m commanded to. I hope I get blessed for it in the end. But I suppose I should have a better attitude about church.

  62. I started the Church of Pez when I was in high school. Baptisms were conducted in the senior hall water fountain. For two or three days it was advertised as the the fastest growing church in the world. But eventually everyone, including the founder, apostatized. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens in your daughter’s case–although I like the idea of mandatory fun at meetings.

  63. Hey, your daughter nearly describes our Christian church… ahah. Minus all the movie stuff! She’d love it at our church.

  64. My daughter turned 9 yesterday and she isn’t autistic, but she has also been a very reluctant church goer since she was a toddler. She only agreed to be baptized about 4 months after she turned 8. I was wondering if she’d do it or not.

    I love your daughter’s church. I second (third) her rule about marriage. My daughter has stated very emphatically she’s NOT getting married in the temple. She wants a wedding with flowers and music and the whole fairy tale.

    It’s nice knowing I’m not the only one with a girl so uninterested in church.

    My personal church would have a tenet that no one would feel guilty for not accepting a calling. I know so many people feel lost without a calling, but I savor being on the receiving end!

  65. I find it interest how many people here equate “hating” church with not having a testimony or not believing in God. The two are not mutually exclusive. Maybe it would do us well to listen to some of the problems these kids are having with church in it’s present form.

  66. Is our religion really just a bunch of rules?

    I really liked Mark B.’s asking this. That was certainly my perception as a kid. I remember that when I was in primary, I formulated the one rule that I thought all others could be subsumed under: Thou shalt not have any fun.

    I’ll also fifth the recommendation for Lucifer’s Hammer, a wonderfully engaging book. Did anyone else read Arthur C. Clarke’s sorry excuse for an asteroid book, God’s Hammer? I tried it because I had liked Clarke’s earlier work, and well, asteroid books are fun. But it was pathetic. This was one case where Lucifer definitely came out on top.

    jjohnsen (#37) I also love end of the world stories. Will you give me more recommendations? We can pretend that it’s not a threadjack by couching it in terms of a new religion: the church of reading about the end of the world.

    Also, Eve, I want to join you at the Church of Barnes and Noble. Perhaps we could read some end of the world stories there. :)

  67. I liked Mark B’s question as well. And for adults the answer should be an emphatic no but for kids I think the answer’s nearly always yes. I think that may be a bad thing but I’m at a loss as to what to do about it.

  68. I don’t think, even as a child, that I thought of the Church as just a bunch of rules. Maybe because most of my siblings are 10 or more years older than me and we therefore had very sophisticated FHE discussions.

    Like Jami and a few other posters, I wish there were more movement at church. Before I went to the temple and everyone was saying it was going to be very different from what I was used to as a Mormon, I was hoping there would be lots of movement. I think I was imagining some variation of Jane Austen dance parties. Shucks.

    I was just called as the Primary chorister in my ward and I am thrilled that I’ll be able to get my wiggles out and be a little zany at church.

  69. Nevil Shute’s On the Beach is the ur-text for the Church of the End of the World. After that, everything else is commentary.

    For the holy place in that church’s sanctuaries, the 1959 Stanley Kramer movie, with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner should play in a continuous loop.

  70. Researcher says:

    Eeeew. I ABSOLUTELY loathe that book. It was a surprise, since I loved his other stuff that I’ve read including A Town Called Alice.

    I guess they won’t have any success recruiting me to that church.

  71. Katie P. says:

    I have a very, very hard time sitting through three hours. I’ve been blessed enough to have callings to teach Sunday school or Relief Society, and that helps enormously. It helps so much that on the days I don’t teach and don’t have a responsibility, I can almost never make it for the whole time. Which is a sad, because I really like my Relief Society. I suspect that Sunday school is stuck in the middle for a reason – fewer would stick around for it if it were last.

    The list is great.

  72. Martin Willey says:

    One thing is sure: In my church, no one will be pressured to contribute to the Boy Scouts of America.

  73. On (older) kids being bored at church: our daughter Heather was terminally bored by church all through her teenage years, though (bless her heart) she continued to go. She complained mightily about the talks, the teachers, and the lessons — she had heard everything 10,000 times before, and when was she going to hear something new? Then she went to BYU and fell in love with religion classes, taking two every semesters and eventually working (part time) as a secretary for Richard Draper. She ended up serving a mission (Russia), finished her college degree (Russian), and is now married and struggling with 3 kids. But, hey, she’s still faithful and active in the Church. :-)

    On Lucifer’s Hammer: it’s a bit dated, but it still remains my favorite end-of-the-world novel. Also, ever since I read it (when it first came out — yeah, I’m that old), I eyed some of the end-of-the-world passages in the D&C in a new light (cf. D&C 88:88-91). ..bruce..

  74. #33 Lucifer’s Hammer is one of my favorites! I might just take it with me this Sunday and see what happens!

  75. Also, The Postman (David Brin) is another end of the world book I like. I think they made a movie of it but I didn’t see it. We could have a Church of the End of the World, but it would probably be pretty much like the one we belong to now.

  76. Rebecca J says:

    I was hoping there would be lots of movement. I think I was imagining some variation of Jane Austen dance parties.

    Now that would be cool. Instead, they’ve changed the ceremony so there’s even less movement now!

    Some people complain about getting stuck in Primary or Nursery, but that’s really where all the action is.

  77. Rebecca,
    After reading your note I am convinced that this autistic child is very fortunate, because she has a mother who loves her and cares for her. As your school psychologist will tell you, not all autistic children have that. I do not have to worry about your child, because I know that she has a mother who is worrying about her. That is what she needs.

  78. Adam Greenwood says:

    Be careful about griping around your kids, they might repeat it back to you.

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