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. Oh Addie, I’m so proud of you for making such a big decision all by yourself!

    Is she generally a low-fuss person about things like that? Or do you think she sensed that the big baptism with all the trimmings was making it more about the party and less about making the covenant?

    Kaitlyn is 7 1/2, and I’m starting to see the little moments, the glimpses of her as a young lady, and it both excites and terrifies me.

    Casey Reply:

    @Elizabeth@Table4Five, She’s very low fuss as long as it involves me, for some reason just hanging out with me and having me around is enough for her. (for now. bless her heart.)

  2. This is a really special post Casey. I think you (and Addie) are dead on. I think she has learned that from you and I think her being baptized on her terms is more real than anything else. Man, God loves that little girl. And I think it’s so great that Addie is already thinking about what her relationship with him, and only him, means.

    Nichole Reply:

    Yes. What @Katie said.

    Casey Reply:

    @Katie, It’s a wonderful thing to witness.

  3. What a great post – I’m so impressed with both of you (her for making such a great choice on her own and you for giving her the space to do it – I think it’s so easy to SAY you want them to make the choice themselves and then kind of badger them into it even when you don’t mean to).

    Casey Reply:

    @Janssen, Thank you, this one was really hard considering Cody’s upbringing and mine. I’m so happy it worked out the way it was supposed to.

  4. The question is… does she want to plan my wedding? I’m just saying. Got a quote for a day-of wedding planner for 2k… think I can get Addie to do it for less?

    Casey Reply:

    @ClassyFabSarah, Addie’s is in for a Lego Set and some cake.

  5. This post rocks.

    My parents bucked tradition (even though I know in their hearts they didn’t want to) and let my brothers and I decide for ourselves if/when we wanted to make Profession of Faith. None of us chose to do it in high school when everyone else did. I know this hurt my parents deeply, but they did NOT want to force a personal relationship with God on us because, well, you really can’t. Horse, water, forcing. Doesn’t work.

    Anyway, I came to it on my own after Eddie was born. I was 31.

    My brothers still haven’t done it.

    This post made me smile both because Addie made such a wise decision that fit her best, but also because you insisted that she make the decision herself…for herself.

    My love of you just grew. I didn’t think that was possible. But there it is.

    Casey Reply:

    @Katie, Thank you, at church they say “train up a child in the way they should go and they will always come back/never stray” something like that. I have to believe that laying a good groundwork will go a long way.

  6. This post is just lovely. I hope to give my kids the space they need to make important decisions when the time comes.

    Casey Reply:

    @Betsy, Thank you, it’s hard. Super hard. But totally worth it (as far as I can tell. I’m still new to this.)

  7. Good job, Mama. Addie figured it out. I’m with you. There were a lot of people at Hudson’s baptism, but they were almost all family. We did have the traditional talks and a couple of songs, but mostly so that the family could participate. We provided a brownie in a cello bag and a juice box for those who came and went home. For his 7th bbirthday, I got him a book about baptism and what it means, what would be required of him afterwards, and sat him down and explained that although it was time to prepare for baptism, if he turned 8 and felt he wasn’t ready, we wouldn’t make him do it. I was very clear that it had to be his choice. And it was. That kidwas glowing head to toe. Addie will, too. Just you wait.

    Casey Reply:

    @Chrysta, Thanks Mama. I’m excited to see her, I can still remember how I felt after I was baptized. It was a good feeling.

  8. Aw, Addie. You are raising a lovely girl.

    Casey Reply:

    @aly, She’s outrageously lovely.

  9. Loved this post.

    Casey Reply:

    @OHmommy, Thank you. :)

  10. I despise traditions for traditions sake. Way to go Addie!

    Casey Reply:

    @Krista, There are very few traditions I like, and most of them involve Christmas or my birthday.

  11. I heart her.

    Casey Reply:

    @Joules, *sigh* Me too.

  12. It takes a certain amount of guts to stand up to tradition and say “No, we’re going to do it in a way that feels real to us.” I’m proud of you for giving Addie the space to make the choice for herself. I’m not surprised in the least, but proud nonetheless.

    Casey Reply:

    @Jessica R., We’ve landed ourselves in a really good church family out here, one where no one has time for tradition because we’re all too busy taking care of ourselves and each other.

    Jessica R. Reply:

    @Casey, It’s good to have found a spiritual home like that. Makes it easier.

  13. It’s so refreshing to hear of a mom who doesn’t push her kids into religion. I grew up Southern Baptist and well… I’m Baptist… we get baptized. Thankfully my mom was like you and knew that pushing me was not the thing to do. I was a follower of Jesus for 3 years before I made my public profession of faith through baptism. I was lucky enough that my family was traveling to Israel and my dad was ordained and blessed to baptize me in the Jordan River, a memory I will never forget. So basically, I got a kick butt baptism because I waited until I was ready. I hope Addie has a memorable day and yay for her doing something that is simple… focus your heart on God Addie, and you will never go wrong.

    Casey Reply:

    @Becca, Whoa. That’s the best baptism story EVER.

  14. Longtime lurker here but i had to tell you…This is a wonderfully written post. : )

  15. I’ve read your blog for years but only ever commented once or maybe twice before, but wanted to say you did great on this. I’m a convert to the church as well and I also get frustrated with the culture overtaking the religion at times. I live in Texas and I haven’t seen a whole lot of pressure and huge parties going on here, but I wanted to make sure my kids knew it was up to them and was their choice to get baptized when they were 8, if they wanted to do it then. They all did, and my youngest was just baptized this month. I think my kids wanted to do it because they believed us when we told them it’s a good thing and Heavenly Father wants his children to make covenants with him, rather than fully realizing at age 8 (although my middle son has always been extremely thoughtful about it and seems to have a very deep sense of his choices even at the young age he is still). However, I definitely wanted it be their own choice and for them to know that it was about their own relationship to God, and not about “this is what we do”. Even if Addie had done it for the party, because of the parenting and teaching you do, I’m sure she would find her way to the heart of things in time. Good job to both you and Cody for being conscientious parents who want to raise their kids in a gospel-centered home.

  16. Appreciated this. It’s still five more years before Addison is old enough to get baptized, but I’ll be okay if she wants to wait awhile. She can wait as long as she wants, really.

    It’s kind of a cool thing that your Addie REALLY chose to be baptized, and I hope it’s something she can look back on with pride and confidence. For many people, like you say, it’s the tradition that chooses for them. And if I could have my way (I know, it’s not about me…), I’d love for my daughter to choose her witnesses and supporters the same way Addie did.

  17. I love this and that you let her decide if, how, and when.

    I think it says a lot about her character and her personal relationship with G-d that she chose her way. And that’s so cool

  18. Thank you for this honest post. My dad always would make sure his six daughters were careful to not say “planning the wedding” as he taught that we were planning the party. The wedding was planned and the fluff was extra if we chose. I live in the heart of Utah, and one-uppings, and tradition and it drives me crazy. This last Sunday my husband blessed our baby. My son wore a white polo and khakis and looked adorable and did not wear the elaborate white tuxedo every male baby wears. Our circle was small whereas the one last month had 19 men in it. I know people were surprised to not be invited over for a big dinner but my husband and I also try to do what is asked of us from Heavenly Father and not what our neighbors assume we should be doing. So thank you again. I enjoyed reading this to my husband and watching him nod his head saying “Exactly. That’s right. Good for her.”

  19. I am not religious, though I was raised Catholic and understand the ‘rituals’. This post was so moving to me, and it’s a credit to how you are raising your children. Brava!

  20. Dear Casey,

    Have been reading your blog since I became a mom 5 months back and this post finally moved me to write.

    Addie has indeed made a wonderful choice, keeping it low key and personal – the way all religions ought to be.

    I wonder why she made the decision for baptism in the first place though. Do you think there is peer pressure at work ?

    Are kids old enough to take religious sides so early on in their lives ?

    I hope you and Cody have healed from the blows you have given each other over this. I am in an inter-religion marriage and this is familiar ground !

    With balm :)

  21. Andrea Snow says:

    I think this is great, Casey. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

  22. As a convert of 20 years, I get it. I do. I did have talks and such, and I am glad I did. It helped me to get to know people in my Branch. But, when I got baptized, I didn’t have cookies and the like. That was a new concept for me when my first nephew got baptized. I didn’t know that was supposed to happen.

    As for Addie, she knows everyone. We will support her and love her unconditionally. Getting baptized is a huge step and I am very proud of her for making such a very big and adult decision on her own.

    And, I am also glad that she’s doing it without the “pomp and circumstance”. Getting baptized is a very personal issue. I think she’s awesome!

    Please let Addie know that I think she’s just the awesomest and that I support her decision. She is awesome, and you and Cody are, too, for letting her be in control.

    *hugs*

    Anjala Reply:

    @Anjala, Also, I wanted to let you that I’ve heard about how baptisms happen in larger wards, that they schedule a day were all the 8-year-old baptisms happen and they do them like in an assembly line. I am so grateful that our ward isn’t that large, and that Addie gets to have her own personal moment with you all.

  23. just a shout out to say love this, you rock as a mom, and are an inspiration to those of us mothering daughters :)

    Happy Tuesday!

  24. It’s amazing how our little babies can really learn to make the right decisions when we let them do it on their own. I’m often amazed at how when I give them just a little space, they listen harder and make their own decision. I frequently surprised at how beautiful their minds are…and ALWAYS proud. Good job, Mom and Dad. She moved closer to God because she wanted to, not because you threw her a party and told her she did. Couldn’t be a better lesson out there.

    Chrysta Reply:

    “She moved closer to God because she wanted to, not because you threw her a party and told her she did.”

    Brilliance in a sentence.

  25. Oh, Casey. You usually reach into my heart and tug at its strings and speak the perfect words when I need to hear them the most. And now Addie has too. A good job you’re doing with that one. I have a smile and a tear all at the same time. So proud of her. So proud.

  26. Way to go Momma and Addie. Listen to the spirit and follow your heart.

  27. Casey, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way you feel about age 8 baptism. Covenants instead of tradition for tradition’s sake.

    Thank you for speaking out!!

    *Sigh*. I hope my Naomi turns out as well as your girls are!

  28. Great post! I had a “communion” in the catholic church when I was little, wore the white dress, had no IDEA what I was saying or what it all meant. I wish I never had to do it. The catholic church is a disgrace and I am embarrassed that I was ever a part of it. I’m not religious at all and just try to be a good person to myself and others as best I can.

  29. I’m going to confess something here, that 90% of my church friends don’t know.

    I haven’t been baptized. I’ve been a Christian for almost 10 years.

    While I’m not LDS, there is tradition and talks and speaking in front of the church to share your testimony and all of this STUFF that goes with it. And that sends me into a panic just thinking about it. (Once, I had one pastor/elder promise I wouldn’t have to speak and the second the ‘baptism teacher’ started talking he pretty much insisted. Yeah, no.)

    I want what Addie wants. Water, a couple close friends, prayer, done. Because that’s ALL that really matters. Good for you (and good for Addie) for allowing her to take the time and come to the decision on her own.

  30. I really loved this. My son turns 8 in July and tells us he is excited about being baptized, but as a Mom I do hope he is doing it because he wants to and not because that is just what we do. Addie is a special little girl!!

  31. Kudos to you (and Cody) for letting her make her own decision.

  32. Incredibly beautiful post and picture! She is a precious gem and one I know you and your family treasure with all your hearts!

    Love and blessings to your amazing family!

  33. Interesting. I was an exchange student in Denmark during high school and couldn’t believe the parties and gifts that went along with confirmation in the Lutheran church. Most people there did not attend church and the kids seemed to want to be confirmed only for the party and gifts. It was so different from my and my friends’ Catholic confirmations.

  34. Good for you. I had a very similar (almost parallel) struggle when it came to my daughter and her first communion last year. To be honest, if she wasn’t in a catholic school and if it wasn’t something she was doing with the whole class, I’m not sure she would have chosen it on her own. Now that we’ve switched to the Episcopal church there is no first communion ritual and I don’t have to worry about the fanfare for my son, not that he’d really care one way or the other. He thinks the wine tastes funny.

  35. My husband and I {both raised in the church} share your view. Our daughter, Brooklyn just turned 8 in September. She went through a year {4-5} of hating church, though we still went. And for the year before she turned 8, had no interest in getting baptized. Obviously we wanted her to want it, but there is no way we were going to force her. And we didn’t. I did, however, have lots of chats with her about it and asked her often why {scared of not being able to touch, not ready, etc.} I also explained that it was okay to not feel ready {it’s a big decision} buuuut that it if it was something she wanted to do, despite not feeling ready, it was then her responsibility to GET ready. And so we talked lots, I bought some books, I prayed…and when the time came there was no aversion. She was excited and happy and ultimately can never say we forced her {important to us}.

    Great post – and I love her decision and the way she wanted it. Love it! :)

  36. Love this. Great work all around. Xo

  37. This is possibly my favorite post i’ve ever read. Ever. Thank you.

  38. My parents told my twin sister and I they were getting divorced about 9 days before my 8th birthday. My baptism became ALL about who was invited, would my Mom allow my Dad to baptize us (no, she wouldn’t), would she allow his parents to be there (yes, but barely)…and here I am 22 years later and all I remember about the whole thing was that I felt forced to make choices of who and what and where and when that would publicly disgrace my Dad but would show the neighborhood/ward that my Mom was a true victim (which she wasn’t, not really).

    I wish I’d had someone (Bishop? Teacher? Aunt? Grandparent?) tell me that it was okay to wait until I was ready to make the decision for myself, and to not make such a big choice because I was trying to avoid being collateral damage in my parents breakup. *Sigh*

    xox

  39. I get it.

    When we were driving home from my baptism (to the party at our house), my mom compared me to my friend who was being good in the car. I remember thinking, “Dang,I was perfect there for a minute after I came out of the water. I’ve screwed it up already.” So much pressure.

  40. Jennifer Downing says:

    I agree so much with you that the idea that baptism should just be the next step is completely wrong. Its the same as saying we have been together for 2 yrs now its time to get married. We should be encouraging our children to make the choice based on decisions to become part of the church not just doing because they turned 8. Also, I think Addie is making the right choice to take away the fluff and very proud of her for making the decision on her own to be baptized. I wish more families encouraged their children to make the decision instead telling them its time to be baptized and make them do it. Maybe you are starting a new tradition. It will definitely be the way when Sebastian turns eight. :)

  41. Oh my goodness. I love this post so much! My husband left the church this last year, so I’ve been worrying about all the “traditions” and rituals in the LDS church without his support. But if I can raise my kids like Addie, I know they will be making the choice for themselves and no one else. That’s all I can hope for them. Thank you so much for sharing this!!!

  42. I’m crying into my lunch reading this. What a special little girl you are raising.

  43. I always thought it was so hokey when parents got up to bear their testimonies saying how proud they were of their 8 year old for making the decision to get baptized. And certainly I don’t know what happened in their homes, but I’m pretty sure that for the most part the decision was made for the child. Good for you for teaching Addie to understand what she was doing.

  44. As someone who doesn’t know all that much about the LDS church and rituals (and as someone who learned a lot simply by reading this post), I still want to extend a big hand to you–both for instilling a deep significance of the decision in Addie and in giving her the space to truly make that decision. We daughters (and, I imagine, the sons too) are lucky to have mothers who give us this sort of space. So right on, you!

  45. good for her! that shows that it really means something to her. i would be so proud of her (as I can tell you are) :)

  46. Thanks for this post. I’m a big believer in keeping with traditions, but this post really struck a chord with me. I want my boys to get baptised because they want to. I mean at 8 we tell them that they are accountable for their own actions, so we should give them the choice to be baptised or not as well.

  47. I think this is great. I grew up Mormon, but left the church at age 25. I remember being told that when I was baptized, I would become a real member of the Church. I remember thinking, what? I’m not a member now? That’s ALL I remember. I really feel 8 is too young for such a grown up decision. But what do I know…

    I love the way you handled it and the way Addie handled it.

  48. For Baptists, there is no designated age, but we ran into a bit of the opposite problem because my kids made a decision much younger than many people would have liked them to. My son and daughter were both 5 when they made a committment of faith but they werent baptized until they were a little older bc they didnt like the idea of being in front of other people. I totally get that. It really is such a personal thing. I understand the logic behind publicly stating your beliefs, but ultimately it’s not the water or the words, but the connection with your creator and your promise to do your best to follow. That just seems so intimate that it’s kinda weird how routine we make it seem.

  49. Really beautiful, touching.

  50. I give you a lot of credit for letting her make the decision on her own terms, not based just on tradition.