Posted by: Jay | May 9, 2008

Baptizing My Son

I love my son. He is an intelligent little guy with a lot of energy. So when he wanted me to baptize him of course I said I would. Since I think 8 years old is young to make such an important decision I made sure he understood that he didn’t have to be baptized if he didn’t want to. I also challenged him to read the Book of Mormon once before being baptized so he knew better what he was about to do. (He’s about a third way through Alma right now.)

I know that his desire to be baptized is probably brought on by the emphasis the LDS Church puts on being baptized by 8. He’s been taught in primary that when he’s eight he will “get” to be baptized almost like it is some kind of party. I’m not anti-baptism, but I do remember a little about my baptism and I know I was not ready to know what I was doing. Call me a late bloomer but I don’t think I really could have made that decision until I was a teenager. I think it would have meant much more to me then. As it is now I don’t remember much about what went on except for a vague memory of an interview with the Bishop. Anyway enough about me, I want this to be memorable for my son. I want him to feel a real change in his life a real commitment to God, not just something you do when your eight to get presents and cake. If I can make that happen then it will be a success.

I have wondered if I should baptize my son. If I’m “worthy” to do so or if my “weakened” testimony disqualifies me to perform the task. I don’t think it does but I know that some people may think so and one of those people may be my Bishop. I’m not sure if he will talk to me before the big day comes. I informed him of my struggling in a general way about a year ago and he hasn’t talk to me about it since. So chances are he will just assume everything is O.K., see that I have a temple recommend and give the baptism his blessing. That’s the scenario I’m hoping for. If he was to interview me before the baptism I am not sure what the outcome would be. I’m not anti-Mormon but I wouldn’t exactly call me a great believer in the Church either. In fact, many “standard” beliefs held by the majority of Mormons I no longer hold to or at least am in deep doubt about.

I know I am not unique in this dilemma. I have talked with several people facing the same issue (i.e. doubting with an eight year old child expecting baptism). It puts you in a difficult situation because you want to see your child mature a bit more before deciding to be baptized but realize that the Church does not allow that option (if you believe that your child’s sins will be on your head, something that contradicts scripture). In the end my son will be baptized. I am more than willing to do it for him even though it is not the exciting event I had always pictured it being in the past. It will be for him and that’s what matters. I just hope it actually helps him spiritually.

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Responses

  1. Jay

    I think that as long as your son expresses a desire and/or excitement to be baptised ( whether he has been influenced by the church or not doesn’t matter) then you should be the one to do it for him.It will mean the world to him.

    As he gets older there is plenty time and opportunity for him to learn further about his own choices in life and I think he has a greater advantage now with your Knowledge on things.

    I really hope Your Bishop does not suggest otherwise , at the end of the day, How worthy really is your Bishop or anyone else he might suggest to perform it ?

    It would be a bit of concern if you feel a slight fear of him and was tempted to exaggerate your level of belief ( ie Lie ) …
    You are being Honest about your belief and Honesty is a very ‘worthy’ and ‘qualifying’ value.

  2. I will not exaggerate my belief. However, I will be as vague and yet honest as I can.

  3. My son was 5 years old when he asked to be baptized (we were Southern Baptist at the time, and the only age criteria for being baptized is that you are at the “age of accountability,” which is extremely individual). Both I and the pastor thought he was too young to understand what he was asking. But my son insisted, and when the pastor asked him why he wanted so urgently to be baptized, he answered “because Jesus wants me to and I love Jesus.”

    My pastor looked at me and said, “I cannot argue with love.”

    So my son was baptized at 5.

    Later in life, his religious views expanded and changed, but neither he nor I ever regretted my allowing his early baptism. It showed him that I trusted his own spiritual self-knowledge, and gave him confidence to seek and find his own paths.

    I think if your son has expressed a desire to be baptized that you believe is based on a sincere wish to please God, then why not? Even if you suspect he might be asking out of more social reasons, I still say, what can it hurt? If your son is asking to be baptized out of fear for his soul or his standing in the church (yes, even young children worry about these things), or peer pressure, baptism can alleviate these fears, along with your own loving discussions with him.

    As for your own “worthiness” (in the eyes of your church) to baptize your son, of course I cannot speak to the issue of what this means to Mormons, but in the Bible, there is no other criteria for being worthy to baptize another person except to be a believer yourself. Whatever your standing as a Mormon, I can tell you believe in God and have a loving heart.

    And you seem like a good dad. “It will be for him and that’s what matters,” you say. Amen.

  4. Jay,

    The temple recommend questions are remarkably vague and insist mainly on faith. There is no need to exaggerate belief or faith. If you have faith and hope in Jesus and are trying your best on all of the behavior questions then you are without questions worthy to baptize your son. Remember faith is not knowledge no matter how much many Mormons would like to think otherwise. The only question that really matters on the whole interview is “Do you consider yourself worthy?”

    As for you son, he wants to be obedient to Jesus as far as he understands what that means. I think you should honor that by baptizing him. I wouldn’t pass that on to anyone else, it’s the birthright of every father in the church to be able to administer the ordinances to his children.

  5. As long as you think you are “worthy” to baptize your son then you should do it. Especially since that’s what your son and you want.

    If it helps, you could think of the ceremony as your promise to support him on his spiritual journey – whether he stays in the LDS church for life or follows another path. It could be a way to tell him that you trust him to make good decisions for his life, while assuring him that you will love him despite those decisions.

  6. I have made the decision that I will not participate in any of the religious rituals, including baptism. However, this is a personal choice and completely understand those that wish to continue in this practice.

    My Bro-in-law’s wife can’t have kids, so it will be a good opportunity for him if he wishes to do it.

  7. My son is turning 8 this month, and I have thought about it a lot. Even though my husband has some huge doubts (as well as me) we are baptizing him anyway (unless the bishop says anything…..so far so good). I felt guilty for a while, baptizing my son into a religion I don’t completely believe in…..however, I have decided that baptism is done in all Christian religions and it is a symbol of Christ, following his example and promising to follow and recognize Him. I am doing it for that reason, not for the fact that he is joining “the one and only true church”.

    I don’t really believe there is a true church, so I guess it doesn’t matter which one really……I also realize that if he does not want to be a member some day, he will have the choice to remove his name if he wants, when he is old enough to make that decision.

    My husband does not have a TR and has not been paying tithing, I don’t think that all bishops think it is necessary. They dont drill the dad on their testimony before they baptize (as far as I know).

    For the most part I would think that bishops would be happy to have you baptizing your child into the church….if they start telling the dads they don’t meet up to standards, then their will be less baptisms and I am sure they don’t want that. I believe if you are the father you have the right to baptize your own child. It is between you and God and nobody else.

  8. Hi Jay,

    who knows? Maybe it will be a good experience for you too?

    As an aside, as a branch president, if a member of my branch had queries and concerns like yours I’d be keen to know about them. I’d want people to be able to share their concerns and to receive any assistance I can give in resolving them. (Whatever that may be)
    Is your Bishop aware of your blog? What, if anything would you feel uncomfortable sharing with him which you’re comfortable sharing with, effectively, the world?

  9. @Josephine
    Baptism is not really performed in all Christian religions. A growing number are rejecting any ordinances at all as necessary for salvation.

  10. Paul,

    I’m sure it will be a good experience for me, although I think it will be much different than it would have been had I not begun to doubt the Church. We are inviting our friends, Mormon and non-Mormon. I’m trying to allow my son to plan it himself but I have suggested a few things that I think would make it more memorable for him. I think it would be nice to hear his friends give the baptism and confirmation talk. I’ve never seen that done and I think it would be interesting to hear what 8-10 year olds have to say about those subjects. I’m also hoping that we can avoid having the missionaries teach the first discussion while we change into dry clothes. I don’t mind if our friends have questions, but I don’t want them to feel like their trapped in a room with no escape. I’d like them to feel free to just enjoy the baptism without the pressure from missionaries.

    As far as I’m aware my Bishop does not know about Mormons Talk. My wife knows about it, and a couple of friends in my ward know. I have asked them not to tell anyone else about Mormons Talk because it is like a personal journal. I’m OK with being open about my struggles on-line because I can get honest feed back from people that don’t know or judge me. It also helps to have some dialogue with others that might be struggling with the same issues. Of course I run across those that have made up their minds on an issue that maybe I haven’t. I enjoy hearing their point of view but in most cases they have other problems with the Church that I do not share (though I may sympathize with them).

    My Bishop does know that I’m struggling with my testimony, but I have intentionally left out the details of my struggles because I’m afraid he would over react. I don’t want to be labeled as “that poor guy that has lost his testimony”. I’m also not so sure he would even be aware of the issues I have problems with and therefore he would be unable to help me resolve them.

    If pressed I would share anything that I have written on this blog. I am not ashamed and do not regret what I have written. I think it is an honest approach to difficult subjects. However, I’m not going to freely share my problems with someone just because they are my Bishop. I feel that this is a deeply personal matter. The only reason he is aware that I am struggling is because I came to the realization, about a year ago, that I needed to be released from my calling and that required an explanation. Being honest, I told him my testimony had weakened, I would not be going out with the missionaries anymore and that I would be willing to accept some other calling. He also knows I don’t want to leave the Church (though I admit there are moments when that option looks attractive).

    Perhaps another reason is that I keep hoping that there will be some new knowledge or light given to me so that I can come to peace with the things I have learned about our history. This is probably the reason why I have not left the Church yet. Indeed there are several issues that have been resolved because of further study on my part. I feel that I can at least defend my belief in them in an honorable way. I’m hoping that likewise the other issues I find troubling now will be resolved so I can find peace with them in a similar manner.

  11. Good luck on the journey Jay! It’s been nice to get to “know” you a little through your blog responses. Based only upon your comments, I love and respect you for what you’re trying to do.

  12. I don’t remember any of my baptism (I was baptized at 8) and sometimes regret that. I think what you are doing with helping your son make this decision and having him read the Book of Mormon is so great and I wish that I had been given that kind of guidance. It will make the experience something that really will stick in his memory. Even if you are struggling with your own doubts, you are teaching your son to base his beliefs on his own foundation rather than others’. Good work.

  13. Jay, hats off to you. The Church needs more people like you. Hell, the world needs more people like you. I am sure it will be a lovely service, and something you and your son will cherish.

  14. Jay,

    You know where I stand on these issues and I just conferred the Aaronic Priesthood on my son and ordained him to the office of Deacon.

  15. Jay

    Can you baptize your son if you want to then no problem, the only requirement that I can remember is that you are currently a priesthood holder period. YOU ARE WORTHY. The confirmation where you pronounce a blessing that is supposed to be inspired would be the only thing I would have felt hesitant in doing, but even that is YOUR personal choice, however it is common for Dad to baptize and Grandpa to the confirmation.

    What I would make sure to find out is are the right questions being asked in regards to your sons desire to be baptized.

    My youngest Daughter is the only one of my kids that were not baptized but she came very close to doing so. I asked her one day if she thought she “had” to be baptized when you are 8. She said yes – you have to realize from the time they are able to understand they are being told 8 is the magical number and it is talked about constantly as the big event they working towards.

    Luckily she believed me when I said honey you don’t have to be baptized at 8, it was like someone lifted a load of her back.

  16. Interesting, I think I’ll ask my son the same question and see what he says. I’ve already told him he doesn’t have to be baptized if he doesn’t want to, but he insists that he wants to be baptized.

    BR,

    Thanks. If you can do I know I can:)

    Peetie,

    I appreciate the kind words.

  17. My bishop knows my husband is struggling to believe right now and he does not pay tithing, have a recommend etc. The bishop called him in on Sunday and simply asked him if he felt Ok about baptizing our son. My husband said yes and the bishop said good. He told him that you do not need to have a current temple recommend to baptize or confirm and he sees no problems at all…….what a relief! Obviously being a firm believer is not neccessary either.

    Really I think the church would be in trouble if they started interviewing everyone for their personal beliefs to do preisthood ordinances….

  18. Jay I respect you for allowing your son to make a decision. He will remember it as something he wanted to do for himself. Good job!

    http://www.graceforgrace.com


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