Investigator’s Lament

Mission Mission Field

I am not your trophy,
Do not display me,
Do not report about me,
Be my friend.

When you reduce me
To a number,
I am less than human,
And so are you.

If you want me
To change my life
You better tell me
What you know.

When you go home,
I will be paying
For the choices
Pushed by you.

You want the best
For both of us,
If you respect me,
We will be fine.

I am not your trophy,
Do not display me,
Do not report about me,
Be my friend.

6 thoughts on “Investigator’s Lament

  1. We have neighbors who are LDS. They have several children. All are “bright” and pleasant. The older ones have become outgoing after they learned about us. The parents seem standoffish, but have been willing to let us entertain their kids. This is nice because we have an “empty nest” and we love children.

    We are devout Christians, and our neighbors know this. We don’t “talk religion” with them. We certainly do not mention religion to their children.

    But the younger children seldom smile. They stay inside their house almost all the time. Whereas we gave our kids a lot of freedom at early ages, these kids seem “rule bound”. We teased our kids a lot and they learned to tease us and still do even though they are grown. The same with other neighbor kids over the years… and we still have great relationships with them now even though they are grown. We can’t tease these LDS kids because they take every word literally. The LDS kids hardly ever appear outside on weekends except to get in their car and go.

    Can anyone give me a clue here. Is what we are seeing a “Mormon thing” or is this just a very strict family? Believe me, the kids have grabbed our hearts and we are very fond of them and like us a lot. We’d like to do more with them, but are afraid to ask.

    Can anyone out there give us a clue on how to be friends with this family? We want to be good neighbors and good friends. We take extra food from our farm in the country to neighbors, but we’re not sure what to do with these folks. We are not trying to convert them!!

    Thanks. Any help will be appreciated.

  2. Here’s my guess:

    But the younger children seldom smile.

    To me, that doesn’t sound particularly Mormon. If anything, Mormons are known for being extra smiley, and for a fun (if geeky) sense of humor.

    OTOH, since it’s specifically the young ones, it may be a big-family thing. It’s depressing to be a face in the crowd.

    They stay inside their house almost all the time. Whereas we gave our kids a lot of freedom at early ages, these kids seem rule bound.

    That’s somewhat typical of the very strict Mormons, but also of strictly observant people of most any religion.

    We teased our kids a lot and they learned to tease us and still do even though they are grown. The same with other neighbor kids over the years and we still have great relationships with them now even though they are grown. We cant tease these LDS kids because they take every word literally.

    That doesn’t ring a bell as being especially Mormon. It’s probably just that one family.

    The LDS kids hardly ever appear outside on weekends except to get in their car and go.

    To the endless meetings? That may be a Mormon thing…

  3. This may be more of a difference of parenting styles than a Mormon/other-Christian divide.

    Depending on how young the youngest children are, current parenting seems to favor giving young children less freedom than previous generations did, though some fundamentalist-religion leaning families take this to another level altogether.

    Also regarding teasing, it depends on what you mean by teasing. My wife and I have decided to never use sarcasm with each other or our children (and we’ve mostly succeeded). If someone talks sarcastically to our children, they are probably going to hurt some feelings. Though we tease them a lot, it’s always in a positive way.

    So if you were to use irony on our children, they would probably take what you say literally, too. And I do my best to avoid all the negative aspects of Mormon/religious upbringing. We figure that they’ll learn irony and sarcasm from friends. No need to clutter our relationship with them.

    And different children have different temperaments. My children seem to have been born with sensetive souls. Parents who are used to speaking loudly with their children to get them to listen draw tears easily from our children. I don’t blame these other parents because they’ve learned to parent their own children, not mine.

    Anyway, not knowing this family, I think you’ll find as much variation in parenting styles among Mormons as between Mormons and non-Mormons.

  4. Thanks for all your comments. They are helpful.
    Just fyi, by “teasing” I don’t mean sarcasm. And we don’t raise our voices. Never negative with the kids. And we certainly don’t tease them if/when they make a mistake. It’s more like me saying something outrageous to see if they realize it’s outrageous and not “for real”. Since I’m not good at this, they soon learn to read my face and then say “that’s silly” or… when about age 12… “that’s not even funny”.
    But then they learn to say outrageous things quickly followed by “just kidding”. Our grown children know how to do this with conviction so we are actually taken in by their little pranks.

    We gave our kids choices to teach them that choices have consequences.
    This included letting them spend their allowances foolishly instead of saving it for larger items. They learned. But the fact is the older ones taught the younger ones and influenced them to “save it up for something bigger”. We didn’t have to say a thing.

    Your comments re: diversity in Mormon familiesy were especially helpful. I’m guilty of stereotyping people (“guilty as charged”) and since we’ve never had a close relationship with a Mormon family we are trying very hard to understand them. Their kids are a delight. The two oldest boys (the ones I’ve spent the most time with) have gone from being downright fearful of us to smiles and even a little bit of kidding around. I see that as a good thing.
    There are days when the whole gang of children would love to move in with us.
    Of course!! We give them our undivided attention one-child-at-a-time. That’s just their need for attention.

    Now, I do have one more question.

    Can you tell me how Mormons view Christians?
    Most of our neighbors don’t attend any church.
    Several are Christians but you might not figure that out from casual observations. We (just my wife and I) probably stick out like a sore thumb.
    We are not “Bible Thumpers” or pushy about our
    beliefs. But it’s obvious we attend church regularly and love our neighbors very much.
    And we are devout Christians. That includes no drinking, smoking, foul language. Straight-laced and born during the depression of the 1930s.
    Hence very conservative.

    Why do I ask for this insight? Mostly because we are sort of overwhelmed that our Mormon neighbors have so freely let their kids come into our home (about two houses from theirs) and seem to trust us with their kids almost beyond our belief. We seem to come through to the kids as “grandparents” (which we are).

    Any thoughts on this will be appreciated.

  5. Well, the relationship between Mormonism and Christianity is complicated. Mormons see themselves as deeply Christian, but they also see themselves as having something to offer to other Christians (e.g. they don’t accept other Christian baptisms). So they (speaking generally since I don’t know the family) may see you as something of a missionary opportunity, just like you may see them as such.

    Or they may just appreciate having adopted grandparents who share many similar beliefs and outlooks. It sounds like you probably have much more in common than it may at first appear. This is probably trite, but if you’re asking for advice, I suggest that you try to forget about the Mormon label and get to know them as people first.

    Regarding the teasing, it sounds like your family and ours do something very similar. I like to make sure the kids think about what people say to them so they don’t accept it uncritically. Plus it’s fun. 🙂

  6. Jonathan,

    Thanks for your thoughtful answer.

    My only reason for thinking of them as Mormons is this. We are afraid of saying of doing something that might offend them without our realizing it. This is a real concern on our part because we don’t know where the boundaries are.
    Maybe they feel the same way about us…?? We must be doing pretty well… at least so far.

    I would have this same concern if they were not Mormons. When neighbors let their kids come into our homes (and especially since we have no kids of our own here) that’s a big step.

    Well, the kids really do see us as grandparents. As with out own grandchildren, we don’t splash gifts around in hopes of gaining favor. In fact, we ask our children before we give “surprise” gifts to our grandchildren. We give our grandchildren birthday and Christmas money (for savings) instead of “stuff”.

    Your comment on the missionary matter…

    Our pastor made that same comment to me yesterday. And they may see us as an
    opportunity for them. But I doubt it. We are Southern Baptists so I imagine they would suspect we would be a “lost cause” in that department.

    On the other side of the coin, in our religion we are supposed to be acting as missionaries and trying to convert them. We know that. But we are certain that even a hint of that (especially messing with their kids minds) would be the end of the relationship. In matters of this sort I trust God to lead us. I can imagine circumstances in which we might be led to make such a move (toward Mom and Dad only) but I feel we have to leave all of this to God. I am keenly aware of some members of our church who would have rushed in like a bull in a China shop
    by now with hellfire and brimstone. I try to be much more tactful, probably erring on the side of failing to support our faith. But as I said, this is a matter for God to lead us in and I pray for that. No way would I upset these kids.

    Our usual approach to Mormon missionaries who come to our door is to invite them in with the understanding that we’ll listen respectfully but we want “equal time”. They nearly always wig out on that suggestion and leave for the next house.

    Awakened by your comment… I’m going to double my efforts and try to stop thinking of them as Mormons. The idea is to treat them like any neighbor who lets us entertain and teach their kids To us that’s a wonderful thing to do for empty nesters.

    Yes, that’s why we teased. Kids that don’t get that treatment may just accept “whatever”. It pleases me that the two oldest of our newfound kids are now learning to tease right back. Ahhh.. yes… it is fun, too.

    I’m going to your link to see what you have to say about leaving the Mormons. Thanks again.

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