Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why I'm a bad mom, part 6: Teaching them from the Book of Mormon

Back in part 2, you may recall I was trying to teach my kids a little something about their Catholic and Mormon heritage. It's surprisingly tricky. The problem is that either you're talking to someone who believes (and half the discussion is negotiating a peaceful way to agree to disagree) or the subject doesn't come up at all (because, really, religion is not that interesting, especially compared to Legos or other kid-interests).

But a fantastic new musical changed all that!!

Singing along with The Book of Mormon has provided a fun and funny intro to Mormonism. It turns out my kids weren’t aware of even the most rudimentary points like (1) Grandma’s church is called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (2) its members are called “Mormons” (3) Mommy (me) was raised in this church — that when I was a kid, our Sunday family activity wasn’t hiking in the woods, it was going to church. Every Sunday.

The kids have also learned that the Mormon missionaries use the title "Elder" and are sent two-by-two all over the world to try to convince people to join their church. They've learned that Mormons like to call God "Heavenly Father" and that Mormons believe that Satan/Lucifer really exists (even though lots of other people believe in God without believing in Satan). Here are some typical conversations:

Nico asked me to explain the song Man Up, so I explained that Elder Price and Elder Cunningham have to go talk to the villain (General Butt-f*cking-naked), but they're afraid -- so Elder Cunningham is singing about how he needs to be brave, like Jesus was brave. Nico's a little vague on the Jesus story, though, so I had to explain further.

me: Actually, Jesus was killed in a horrible way. [conveniently, just then the line "What did Jesus do when they put nails through his hands?" played in the background]
Nico: Who killed him?
me: The Romans.
Nico: But... where was God when this was happening?
me: God doesn't exist.
Nico: No, I mean in the story!
me: According to the story, God wanted it to happen.
Nico: [thinks about that a bit] Oh.


Leo: When you were a kid, you went to this church?
me: Yep, every Sunday.
Leo: What do you do there?
me: Hmm... Well, people tell you stories about God -- kind of like Elder Cunningham in Making Things Up Again, except that you're not supposed to make up new stories, you're only supposed to teach stories out of old books.
Leo: But... You shouldn't just teach out of old books! With science, sometimes the old books are wrong.
me: Yes, that's right. In science, you should find the most recent books because they generally have more accurate information than older books.


Now, probably a lot of people are thinking that it's questionable of me to be encouraging my kids (ages 8 and 9) to sing songs that are not only loaded with profanity, but also cover adult topics like female genital mutilation, infant rape, and people dying of starvation, AIDS, or dysentery. Hence the title of this post. But the tough subjects aren't covered in detail -- they're simply mentioned -- so it's easy to give the kids as much information as they ask for without delving into details they don't need.

Here's what I mean. When Nico was asking about the FGM references in Hasa Diga Eebowai, and asking how they were using frogs to cure AIDS, I explained as follows:

In Uganda, the people have terrible problems -- they don't have enough food or clean water, and many people have AIDS, which is a terrible, deadly disease. But some people are also doing things to make their problems much worse. For example, some think that girls need to have a part of their body cut off, and some think they can cure AIDS by hurting a baby. That's why Elder Cunningham was making things up -- he was trying to convince people to stop doing the things that are harmful. He told them that hurting a frog can cure AIDS to keep them from hurting babies. Really, neither one cures AIDS, but he figured that at least this way people will stop hurting babies.

Nico didn't ask precisely which part of the body was being cut off nor precisely what people were doing to hurt the babies and frogs, but if he had, I'm sure I could find an appropriate anatomy textbook and/or explained that the word f*ck actually refers to mating.

It's funny that they don't appear to know the definition of that word and they haven't bothered to ask. But they do know that it's a highly offensive syllable to most English-speakers -- almost magically so -- and that's more than 90% of what you need to know about the word; far more important than the precise definition. Naturally, they love the line where Elder Price says "Excuse me, sir, but you should really not be saying that!" :D

They also love the references to Boba-Fett.

See also parts 1, 3, and 4.


Holly said...

I think this is evidence that you're a great mom.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Holly!!!

Varina said...

I like how Nico thinks of God as basically a fictional character, but understands there are certain stories he is supposed to be, and clearly thinks there is something off about the whole letting people kill his only son thing. Also someone charted your kids:

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Sabayon!!!

lol, that chart really captures it. :D

Carla Schmidt Holloway said...

You are an awesome mom!

anthilldown said...

I drop in on your blog from time to time and, from what I've gleaned, I'm guessing you are probably a terrific mom!

Although, I've had to resist the temptation to click on the links to the Book of Mormon songs because I am going to see it on 6/10 and want to approach it fresh. (How I got tickets: luck and ordering them the second I saw the positive NY Times review!!)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Cecilia!!!

You are so lucky -- I wish I could see it! :D

Unknown said...

OMG. I'm in love with your blog.

Andy said...

I've experienced to resist the temptation to click for the hyperlinks for the guide of Mormon
When you have nothing to do or unhappy? What should you do to spend the free time? How about the game? like to get Buy RS Gold in WOW, and how to have theRS Goldwith less money, is there anyway to get the for us? We need to think about this.