To anyone unfamiliar, the age at which a child can be baptized into the LDS (Mormon) church is 8.

I’m not sure how deep I need to go into doctrine, reasons and whatnot to have this post make sense as so many of you come from such different backgrounds, but I will say this: there are many traditions and rituals that are very much a part of my religion, probably any religion. Many of them make me very uncomfortable as I did not grow up in the LDS church despite living in Utah where traditions and rituals are most prevalent. There are assumptions placed on people from the moment they turn eight.

You are eight, you will now be baptized.

You graduated from high school, you will now go on a mission.

You got back from your mission, you will now get married.

You got married, now make a baby.

You had a baby, now make more babies.

Included with each of these expectations is a sort of blueprint way of doing things because it’s the way things have been done for generations. It’s a breeding ground for stereotypes and unrealistic expectations. I hope this is making sense to you.

The thing is, there is a HUGE difference between tradition and ritual as opposed to ordinances and covenants.

When it comes to a baptism, there is a very short list of what has to happen to make the ordinance count in the eyes of God. This includes witnesses, a body of water and a prayer.

When it comes to the baptism of a child (or anyone really) in the LDS church there is a very LONG list of things that traditionally or ritualistically happen. Songs, talks, programs, an open house, small gifts, a new dress or suit and a lot of fluff and stress that really has nothing to do with the actual 10 second part of the baptism that actually matters. Much like a wedding, all that matters in the end is that the right words are said by the right person and a piece of paper is signed making it legal. Everything else is fluff and fun but some people take the fluff and fun and blow it up to enormous proportions if only to outdo those around them. Many LDS women I know run themselves ragged trying to outdo the last thing that was done or come up with the next great thing, leaving them exhausted and everyone around them feeling as though they aren’t doing enough. It’s a terrible cycle.

I’m not saying everyone does this, but I am saying the wedding industry has gotten a little out of control. So have some people within my church, which is probably true of any church or organization.

My fear was that Addie was approaching her baptism with the idea of parties, cookies, presents and adoration at the forefront of her mind. She told me about what her Sunday School teacher promised to buy her and she began planning what cakes and treats she wanted and who she wanted to come and what she was going to wear. She has grown up in the church being told “When you turn 8, you get baptized, everyone comes and at the end we eat cookies.” whereas my thoughts have always been “When you turn 8 you have the opportunity to get baptized if you would like to.”

Deep.

To say Cody and I have gone to blows over this one for the last 6 months would be an understatement.

I wanted to make sure Addie understood it was up to her and I wasn’t going to force her, I just wanted to know she was doing it for the right reasons, not for a party and cake. There was also a part of me that remembered how much my friends resented their parents for forcing/expecting them to get baptized the moment the calendar changed over to eight. I didn’t want that for Addie.

Her birthday came and went and whenever someone within our church found out she had turned eight, they excitedly asked her about her baptism. “I didn’t get baptized.” she would respond. I could always tell who was in the “TRADITION!” school of thinking and those who approached the topic the way I did. Even the bishop pointed at me in the hallway at church one week and boomed “We need to get that kid of yours in the water.”

“It’s complicated.” I responded.

He didn’t ask about it again.

Last week Addie said “I want to get baptized next Saturday, okay?”

I began making arrangements based on tradition (because honestly it’s all I’ve known) I began asking her who she wanted to give the talks, what songs she wanted to sing and who she wanted there. She responded with “I don’t want any talks, I don’t want any songs, I just want you, daddy and Vivi there. Maybe my teacher if she can make it.”

The kid didn’t want tradition. She wanted the ordinance without the rituals.

She suddenly sprouted some young lady where there used to be nothing but child.

For anyone who may be totally lost, basically what Addie decided on was the equivalent of going to the courthouse with only the people you love most in the world and getting married. Forgoing all the stress, expense and fanfare of a traditional wedding. Sometimes you just want to be with someone for the rest of your life. While weddings can be fun, you don’t need a big fanfare to make a marriage real.

Addie wants to take her first major step towards her own relationship with God, no fanfare, just the basics. No one told her to do it and no one told her how to do it.

One of the greatest privileges in life is to watch her grow and be at the center of her universe for these few magical years.

We may not fit the traditional mold of an LDS family, but we fit with what God expects of us, we try to do our best and that’s all that really matters.

**********

Curious about Mormons? Find out more here.

Comments

  1. Aww that’s great, just the way a baptism should be, her decision. When I christened my son that it wasn’t a baptism but a christening. The difference being that a baptism is the person’s CHOICE and a christening is just a blessing on a baby. Though I didn’t christen my daughter.

  2. Good for Addie!

    My older daughter was 11 when she got baptized because we had been inactive. The day of her baptism, our landlord’s contractor suddenly showed up to replace the kitchen floor (three weeks late). So he disconnected the washer and dryer and tore up the floor. I suddenly realized we didn’t make arrangements for not dripping on the hallway carpet at church, so I had to wash all our towels at the laundromat. I was also baking cookies in a kitchen without a floor, stepping on the floor joists to get around. It was a huge hassle. I wonder if the day would have been better with just a few family members there instead of the grand expectations. My younger daughter was baptized the same year, on her birthday. Things went smoother for her, luckily.

    But yes, it definitely helps to have the person getting baptized make their own decision about that and about how much of the extra stuff to include.

  3. As much as I would have wanted to be there for her baptism, I’m so glad it turned out the way it did. I respect how you handled it. We did the same thing with sacrament. Didn’t let G take it because I didn’t want it to be a habit before he even needed it. Anyway, I’ve had the same thoughts about wanting the choice to be up to him when he turns 8. That Addie sure is special. Sure love her.

  4. From the one who actually did go to the courthouse and get married, just because we loved each other and didn’t need all that other stuff? I’d say that girl is tops. Happy Birthday, Addie!

  5. I absolutely loved reading this and I’m not even an active Mormon anymore.

    I wish more people remembered the important parts of these traditions.

  6. That girl of yours… she certainly is a special one.

    My family isn’t religious. At all. We’re a church on Christmas and Easter bunch (and that was if we were really feeling it). We are more about faith and belief on our own terms… not so much organized, church, religion. As children we went until we learned what we needed to learn and then kinda just stopped going. (Does that make sense?) We were always more about family time. Sundays were about family.

    Nick’s family is Russian Orthodox… and quite church tradition religious. Nick not so much, but his family? Church people. Choir. Church council. Sunday school teachers. Prayers. 6 weeks of strict lent before Easter (which isn’t until May 5 this year… there’s a whole different calendar).

    So, religion is important to his family. We were married in his church (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding), the girls were baptized in his church, the girls have taken communion since they were 6 weeks old, and Zoe is studying for first confession now. It’s important to his family.

    Me? Not so much. But I figure the girls will learn what they learn, and believe what they believe. And, it will be up to them if these traditions have meaning or not.

    (and now I will stop babbling.) :)

  7. I love this! I was baptized the day after I turned 8, which I loathed. Though I love the church and have a testimony at 8 I didn’t and I knew that. I wanted so bad to wait, and felt like a liar anytime people asked me if I wanted to be baptized and I said yes. But because of the culture of getting baptized at eight I was never told that I could wait a while if I wanted to. When my siblings were old enough to be baptized years later I always would ask them if thats what they really wanted, and told them they could wait if they desired to. Because if I could go back and do it again I would. I would wait till I felt ready, and felt comfortable and prepared. Not afraid and upset because I didn’t feel like I was ready

  8. Interesting reading, very different from our traditions here in Sweden.

    Rgds,
    Mary