On Informed Consent

I consented to be baptized a Latter-day Saint at the age of 8, and my basic understanding was that everyone was doing it, so I may as well too. Plus, a girl I had a crush on was baptized, so I didn’t want to feel left out of that club.

There are a lot of things I was not informed about when I gave my consent at the age of 8, and I’ll offer a list of some of them here.

  • I was not informed that keeping the commandments I was taught as a youth would help me avoid some of the self-destructive behaviors of my peers at school.
  • I was not informed that living differently from my peers would help me to develop a healthy sense of individuality amid pressure to conform, which would help me in many situations later in life.
  • I was not informed that I would go on to have an authentic revelatory experience at age 13, and witness several miracles throughout my teenage years.
  • I was not informed about the temple endowment, and I thought it was strange.
  • I was not informed that I would serve a mission that would be brutally difficult, and it would be a formative experience that would make possible some important changes to my perspective and character that would lead me to much better outcomes in life.
  • I was not informed that on my mission I would see powerful evidences for God on multiple occasions, and I would come to personally understand the love of God for all of His children.
  • I was not informed that after my mission I would look back on the specific promises of the temple endowment and see that they had been powerfully, specifically fulfilled.
  • I was not informed that my continued church participation after my mission would lead to some very deep and lasting friendships.
  • I was not informed that I would have some real struggles with faith, and that trying to live the gospel would push me to my limits on a regular basis.
  • I was not informed that there would be times where I would be deeply doubtful and confused, and resolution would only come after a lot of fasting and prayer and study.
  • I was not informed about the awful cognitive behavior, the narrow worldviews, and the powerful biases that I would come to see prevalent among the church’s critics.
  • I was not informed of the depths of joy that would come from seeing God’s hand in working through my challenges.
  • When I got married, I was not informed about how hard marriage is. I was not informed about how important my temple covenants and living the gospel would be in helping me to approach my potential as a husband and father.
  • I was not informed about the importance of fasting, and how fasting every week for the year I lived in Baghdad from 2005-2006 would help me to keep my sanity and emerge from the experience with new spiritual resources.
  • I was not informed at how messy and even sad church history can be, and I was not informed about the importance of grace in considering the stories of people in the past.
  • I was not informed about the joy that would come with applying myself over several years to work through my faith struggles. I was not informed about how much learning I would need to undertake, and how valuable that process would be.
  • I was not informed that paradigm shifts are possible, even on important concepts.
  • I was not informed that in trying to help other people return to faith, I would see clear fulfillment of specific obscure promises in my patriarchal blessing.
  • I was not informed that exercising my spiritual gifts would help lead to my children’s discovery of their gifts, and they would have important experiences of self-discovery in the process.
  • I was not informed that throughout life I would see regular evidences that the church is exactly what we claim it to be.
  • I was not informed of the human weaknesses of some of my spiritual heroes, and also how profoundly good they became during a lifetime of living the gospel.
  • I was not informed regarding how much I would need guidance throughout life, and how my church participation would lead me to amazing mentors at various critical points in my personal development.
  • I was not informed that it would be possible to look back with so much joy upon the life I’ve lived, and look forward with joyful anticipation for the future even as the world is descending into chaos and conflict.
  • I was not informed about how much love and appreciation I would come to feel for my community of believers, especially in a time of history when people’s capacity for healthy human connection is rapidly deteriorating around the world.
  • Most importantly, when I gave consent at the age of 8 I was not informed about just how demanding and rewarding it would be to come to know Christ on a personal level.

I really had no idea of these things when I consented to join the church. I don’t blame the people around me- I don’t think they could have known either. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t thank God for my choice to join the church on such limited information.

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