Mormon Fast and Testimony Meeting

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been uncomfortable in Fast and Testimony Meeting, a event Mormon’s hold the first Sunday of each month.  Members are encouraged to state their absolute knowledge of the truthfulness of Mormonism.  I’ve always been a natural doubter, and maybe this is the reason for my discomfort.

There is also another reason.  During FaTM, some parents encourage their young children to bare their testimonies.  I feel this is wrong.

During discussions on my IEET blog piece titled:  “The Increasing Obsolescence of Insitutional Churches”, “burt” made the following comment:

. . . my wife & I did not allow our 3 children to be exposed to any formal religious dogma and they never attended a church service until they did so on their own initiative after they were 18.

Until a child learns to think critically (and 18 is probably still to young to have developed a solid foundation in critical thought) IMO it is child abuse to allow a barrage of authoritarian brainwashing to infiltrate their impressionable minds. Of course parents can do as they choose and subject their progeny to whatever philosophical ideas they wish. Mostly the parents themselves are generationally influenced by unquestioned belief systems and continue to inculcate similar beliefs in their children.

I raised mine to a set of guidelines I have called Universal Morality and previously posted those tenets here at IEET. They are model citizens and contribute positively to society. Religion was a necessary step in societal evolution, . . . but now it is time for humanity to wake up to a post-religious era and take responsibility for themselves and not live in thrall to a vestige of ancient tribal cohesion.

 “post-post” on the same blog stated:

I like Christianity more than other faiths, yet that is mostly because of having gone to K-6 Sunday School; religion gets programmed into the subconscious and there is no way to remove it . . .

The most problematic exercises in FaTM for me are the well-meaning parents who hold up their tiny tot and whisper the words the kid is expected to repeat.  (I understand that some Wards now frown on this practice.) Older children get up and mouth a standard 4-sentence mantra. While this may sound harsh: Isn’t the practice of encouraging children to bear testimonies a not-so-subtle form of brainwashing or religious indoctrination?

Critics of religion, such as atheist Richard Dawkins, maintain that the children of religious parents are often unfairly indoctrinated.  The process of subjecting children to complex initiation rituals before they are able to critically assess the event is seen by Dawkins and other critics of religion as brainwashing.

Shouldn’t a testimony be something that a person develops through thoughtful study, prayer, introspection, and meditation . . . and not something you do to please your parents?  And shouldn’t there be room for doubt, and an expression of that doubt?  Does anyone really have perfect knowledge?

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3 Responses to Mormon Fast and Testimony Meeting

  1. buraianto says:

    It seems to me that I heard a talk in General Conference or some similar meeting that frowned on the practice of parents taking their children to the podium. I think the counsel was to allow the children to do it if they wanted to, but not to push them otherwise.

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    I have a problem with children of any age participating in FaTM period. The children are bound to be heavily influenced by their parent’s reaction. Either consciously or unconsciously, they know that they are doing it to please their parents. Can an 8-year-old really “know” that Joseph Smith or Thomas Monson are prophets of God.

  3. I always thought it was not only a waste of time but actually embarrassing to see little kids paraded up there like that to whisper lines their parents whispered to them. I made it a point to never do the same with my little kids, and now that they’re a bit older, I’ve told them why. And I’m proud that they totally agreed with my reasoning.

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