For this weeks post, let’s talk about Mormonism for kids. You may not realize this if you are a casual reader, but every perm here at W&T has a weekly slot. Mine is Tuesday morning. That’s why there is a regular stream of entertaining and informative posts here. It’s a nice system, contrasted with group blogs where perms just post whenever they want to, which might be three posts in one day or none for a week or two. During the week I’m always on the lookout for good post material.
So over Thanksgiving I was visiting with family. Lots of people in the house, a few kids and a few pets running around, I needed a break. Went over to Barnes & Noble to browse in a nice, quiet bookstore for an hour or two. [I bought The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan, because I feel like I ought to buy books at brick-and-mortar bookstores once in a while so Amazon doesn’t take over the world.] I hit my favorite sections: History, Philosophy, and Religion/Theology. Most of the religion section is now religious fiction, self-help/spirituality stuff, and so forth. There was a new section: Christianity for Kids. Now that’s an interesting topic. I wonder what Evangelicals think their kids ought to be reading about Christianity? Let’s review some titles, then come back around to the same question for Mormonism.
Not being a Millennial, I didn’t do the obvious thing and take a picture of that section with my smart phone camera. But here are some books I pull up at the Barnes and Noble site under that topic:
Cold-Case Christianity for Kids: Investigate Jesus with a Real Detective. A review comment explains, “Cold-Case Christianity for Kids is an engrossing read that shows kids steps for being a good detective. There are two cases that are worked out: one is a fictional case about a mysterious skateboard and the second is the case that has to do with Jesus and if he was real.”
Why Christian Kids Rebel: Trading Heartache for Hope. Okay, this one is directed at the parents. The author has also written the helpful Grace-Based Parenting (this sounds like a nice alternative approach to LDS obedience-based parenting) and Little House on the Freeway. The blurb says the book “helps Christian parents avoid the potential problems their well-meaning parenting styles could create. This book offers a new way to look at the ‘ideal’ Christian home and shows why ‘cocoon-style’ Christian homes don’t always work.”
Christianity for Kids. For the serious-minded Christian kid. “This book is meant for reading-age kids to help them better understand the Christian faith. It provides easy-to-read chapters which cover the entire Biblical message from Creation, to the Fall, to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, to how God is with us, to the content of our Christian hope.”
And I’m sure there is some Christian fiction directed at kids and teens. I’m not poking fun at any of these titles or the specific topic. Just like LDS parents, Christian parents are worried about the religious faith of their growing kids, the challenges they face, and their general well-being. Some of them are likely happy with what the kids are taught in their church, others not so happy, and some don’t attend any church but nevertheless want some help teaching their kids something about their personal faith or their view of Christianity.
So here’s the thought question for this post: What could be or should be or is taught to kids in the LDS Church? If there is a Mormonism for Kids section at Deseret Book, what is or should be in it? Some readers may have actual LDS books they read as a kid and liked or learned something from. There may be some books on the shelf that fit the bill (see below). There’s a more general question about religious pedagogy or educational theory: What and how should kids be taught about (for example) the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith or polygamy or LDS history? I’m not sure the LDS curriculum for youth really gives much consideration to educational theory or content. The focus seems to be more on indoctrination and training kids to do the right Mormon things (pay tithing, go to church, go on a mission, marry in the temple, pay tithing) than on the content of what to teach them and how it should be taught. So the question of what to put in the Mormonism for Kids section of a bookstore is largely separate from the Sunday or seminary curriculum. They’re just trying to indoctrinate your kids. You are trying to teach them something important. What and how to do so?
The only title I found at the Deseret Book site (I’m not really looking very hard) is The Book of Mormon for Young Readers. One that I somehow got on my bookshelf but never read and certainly did not give to my kids is Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites, which involves some time travel back to Nephite times. One that I read as a teenage convert was Jack West’s The Book of Mormon on Trial, which is now available at a website sponsored by the author (and with an updated title: The Book of Mormon: Another Witness of Jesus Christ on Trial).
A related issue is whether Mormon kids read books anymore. They read Harry Potter, but I’m not sure they actually read a book about the Church until they get to seminary or the MTC and attempt to read the Book of Mormon. But I’m going to put that question aside and hope they read a book if you get them the right one. And as I noted above for Christian books, I’m not poking fun at any of the titles I listed. LDS parents have a sincere concern with the faith of their kids, the challenges they face, and what they are taught or not taught in church about the Church, the scriptures, and about Mormonism in general.
So here is what you might share in the comments:
- What book did you as an LDS kid read and enjoy or learn from?
- What have you bought for your own kids that worked out?
- What book about Mormonism for kids do you wish someone would write?