Monday, January 17, 2011

"I don't believe in God."

We were not surprised to hear him say it, but hoped it wouldn’t be so soon. When our son delivered this message, my wife listened calmly and said little. In a follow-up conversation he allowed as how he’s not done thinking about it, yet, and he hasn’t made any final decisions. He is, after all, only 14.

But his best school friend is, like him, a bright scientific thinker, heavily influenced by the popular science minds today. And the friend is also somewhat confused by his family’s church’s teachings about some things.

As we’ve had follow up conversations, here are some things we’ve said:

1. No one can make you believe. In the end, you have to choose for yourself, and live with your choices.

2. At 14, you might not know everything you will learn in your life; there may be still more understanding to come that will influence what you believe.

3. Just as there are a lot of smart people you admire who do not believe, there are also a lot of smart people who do. Think about why people who believe do, and see if there’s anything in there for you.

4. Don’t give up on the wrong God. Just because your protestant friend’s view of the scriptures is hard for you to understand, listen to what your church teaches, and ask God for help. He can answer your prayers.

The good news is that he’s come to this crossroads while he’s still at home with people who love him. And he’s willing to leave the book open for a while. And he’s still talking about how he feels. And his friendships at church are still very important to him.


  1. You might consider letting him try different approaches to faith through other denominations. Though I'm LDS, I frequently find much of our Sunday meeting schedule stultifying. Different services/kinds of prayer are, for me, much more uplifting and I find it easier to feel close to God there than in yet another Seminary/Sunday school class.

  2. I'm sorry about this trial you are dealing with. I have an inactive 24year old daughter and that's tough on me. I don't know how I would cope with one who would say such a thing as to not believe in God. What gets me through my trials with my daughter is the temple and putting her name in every time I go. Also remembering the great promise to parents who stay faithful; that their children will not be lost. And that we do learn by our own experiences. Never stop praying, our Savior knows our heartache and he will help us through.

  3. Those are both good an interesting ideas. I do believe we need to find our own paths to faith. Of course we hope our children will find the happiness that we have found, but sometimes they don't.

    At 14 I also asked a lot of tough questions. I'm sure that my parents' patience with me and prayers in my behalf went a long way to my finding my way as I did.

    I'm very happy that the conversation is still on-going. I think that's a good thing.

  4. You are a brave and admirable parent to allow him to come to know such things on his own while still providing that support system for him. Nothing could be more crucial than knowing he can always come back to his family, who loves him regardless.

    As a convert of about three years now, I was basically agnostic before joining the Church. I had participated in Catholic and Baptist services when I was younger, and always had some conception of a God, but due to moving and other things that happened in my life my mother and I stopped going to church altogether. I will be forever grateful for the two Elders who sacrificed two years of their life just to bring people like me into the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have never been more fulfilled, confident, and understanding of who I am and what my destiny is, then as a member of this Church. It is for that reason that I will be serving a mission for two years in Ogden, UT, starting the 26th of this month.

    If you would like, (and I realize I barely know you or your son), I would love to write letters to you and perhaps your son sharing my own conversion, struggles with faith, etc. All in the hopes that he might see how someone can deal with questions that are not all that clear at once and yet still hold on to faith.

    God Bless you and your son. He's got a great dad from what I can tell.

  5. Hope you don't mind my comment, just felt a bit impressed to share that. As an investigator to the Church at about 16 years of age, I encountered quite a bit of anti-mormon material, some of it from evangelical criticisms, and other materials were of a secular nature. Thanks to my need to analyze everything (a blessing and a curse), I came to see that there was more than one side to the criticisms and questions asked and more than one way to look at them. I saw that many of such criticisms were based on misunderstandings of LDS doctrine and practice or misinterpretations of history.

    Anyways, your son must have a strong faith to continue to search and be open while dealing with those questions. Good for him.

  6. Tony, thanks for your comments! And congratulations on your mission call -- that's outstanding.

    I went through a process like the one you describe when I was younger. Though I joined the church with my folks when I was about 9, I still had to find out for myself when I was in my teen years. And as I've matured, I've had to continue to learn new truth. The good news is that our testimonies can do just that.

    My 14-year old is not the first of my kids to go through this phase. It would be nice to guarantee an outcome, but that's not in the plan.