I Blew the Whistle on Santa to my Primary Class

by: Bored in Vernal

November 28, 2010

I have been teaching the CTR 7 class in Primary — this group all turned 8 during the year and they were baptized.  Today we had a lesson on Jesus Christ in which we pulled different scriptures about the Savior out of the Gospels and made a Concentration game from them.  During a short explanation of one of the scriptures regarding faith in Jesus Christ, one of the little girls piped in, “I have faith in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.”  Trying to feel out her purpose in making that comment, I asked her what she meant by that.  She replied, “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive.”

Now, I have heard parents use that phrase before, but always rather tongue-in-cheek.  As my eight children have grown up, we’ve never presented Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or any of these fun manifestations of the holidays as anything other than symbolic.  If asked if they are real, we say, “No, but it is fun to pretend they are.”  So maybe I’m a bit out-of-touch with those families who try to maintain the fantasy as long as possible.  But surely, I thought, by the time the children are 8 years old and are baptized members of the Church they must know there is no Santa Claus.  I told them that faith should be a belief in something that is true.  I thought that their protestations were a bit of teasing they were doing.  But as the children became more and more confused and insistent, I realized that each of the ten children present in my Primary class believed that Santa was an actual being.

At this point I found myself in an uncomfortable quandary.  How could I teach the reality of Jesus Christ when juxtaposed against Santa Claus?  Was it my place as a teacher to blow the whistle on St. Nick?  The best I could do was a cryptic, “Believing in Jesus is different than believing in Santa Claus,” and then we moved on with the lesson.  But this has bothered me all day.

I’ve read some different blog posts around this time of year about how parents should handle the Santa Claus question with their own children; there are passionate views on both sides.  I wouldn’t presume to tell any LDS or Christian family how or when to “out” Santa.  But what is my responsibility as a teacher of the Gospel when confronted with a comparison of the Savior and an imaginary character?  Is this something that doesn’t matter — will children just naturally retain their belief in Christ when they learn that Santa isn’t real?  As a Primary teacher, should I ever override the teachings of the parents when it conflicts with my view of the Gospel? Does this experience have implications for other doctrines and principles that are taught in Primary?

What would Jesus do if he had been in my position today in Primary?

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55 Responses to I Blew the Whistle on Santa to my Primary Class

  1. Amy on November 28, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    This is why I never believed in Santa Claus. I was a precocious child, and when I was two I asked my mom if Santa was real, and if Big Bird was real, and if Jesus was real. My mom didn’t feel like she could lie to me about one without me thinking she had been lying to me about the other, so she told me the truth.
    I think I’ll disillusion my own future children pretty quickly. It’s hard enough to remember Jesus with all the commercial garbage.

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  2. Bored in Vernal on November 28, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    Amy, I agree, but what if they are NOT your children? Is it fair to impose your beliefs on others’ kids? And does your conviction that something is true make it right to contradict something that their parents have taught them? If not, what age should this become permissible?

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  3. Shabs on November 28, 2010 at 5:42 PM

    But St Nick was a real person. We’ve told our 8 yr old that even though Santa isn’t alive he did exist and he did do good things just as people believe the same of Jesus. How can you tell kids Santa isn’t real when you have no “proof” he isn’t and only stories about him to keep him “alive” just as there’s no “proof” Jesus is orbisn’t real besides the stories written about him.

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  4. Bored in Vernal on November 28, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    Shabs, I think that teaching your children that St. Nick was an historical person is a bit different than perpetuating the myth that a fat man in a red suit comes down the chimney every year and brings them presents. You are right that from a non-believer’s perspective, there isn’t much difference between a third-century Nicholas and an historical Jesus who was not resurrected and who did not appear personally to Joseph Smith in the grove. But work with me, here. I’m writing this from the perspective of a Primary teacher charged with representing the Mormon view of things to children who have just been baptized into that faith tradition. Latter-day Saints don’t believe in a miraculous Santa, but they do believe in a miraculous Jesus. How vigilant should a Primary teacher be in representing this view to 8-year-olds?

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  5. hawkgrrrl on November 28, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    The best way to respond, IMO, when kids ask about Santa is diversion and non-commital answers. It is up to the parents how they choose to handle their Christmas traditions, and depending on the child’s birth order they may believe in Santa as late as age 11 or 12 or stop as early as 6 or 7. Oldest children tend to believe the longest. By about age 8 or 9 all kids know same age peers who don’t believe, but they also know some who do.

    Best responses for precocious children not in your direct care:
    – Put it back on the child. “What do you believe?”
    – Ask the class. “What do the rest of you think?”
    – Let the kids talk about Christmas in general. “How do the rest of you celebrate Christmas? What do your families do?” You can also share some of the unique things you’ve done to celebrate either as a child or with your own children.

    In general, though, kids are going to believe as long as they choose to believe. I strongly dislike the mantra about those who believe are the ones who receive, which rewards opportunistic and manipulative behavior from children who no longer believe if they feign continued belief.

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  6. AdamF on November 28, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    Timely post for me. My 3 year-old wrote a letter to Santa last week. Just like last year, he wants “a candy cane” but also asked for some “tape” this year. I’m not sure what to do about other people’s kids other than “go ask your parents.” I think what you said was good – Santa (to Mormons, for example) is different than Jesus. Personally, I can’t imagine my son will still believe in Santa by 7 or 8. I’m not going to lie to him. I also don’t have a problem with talking about Santa or getting excited with him – once he’s old enough to understand a metaphor I can explain the historical view, along with Santa being real as a symbol, while my wife likes to emphasize her belief in the reality of Santa as the spirit of giving. If sometime he asks me if Santa is “just for pretend” I will certainly not lead him on.

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  7. Kevin Barney on November 28, 2010 at 6:46 PM

    I absolutely do not think it is the business of a Primary teacher to be outing Santa Claus. I agree with Hawkgrrrl, that if pressed to respond one should do so with evasion, diversion and non-committal answers. Different families are within their rights to have different approaches to this issue, and a Primary teacher should not take it upon him or herself to short circuit familial traditions.

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  8. ClarkJ on November 28, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    Delicate subject, but I believe that it’s up to the parents. However, I did object a couple of years ago when they sang Rudolph in primary (tactfully, and after the fact, in private). Yet with six kids of my own, believe it or not, it never came up. They found out soon enough at school, and it seemed at a younger age with each kid. The only discussion was with our oldest son, and he brought it up. We asked if he wanted the truth, and he said “I don’t know if I want to know the truth”, and that was that. It was not traumatic for any of them.

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  9. Bored in Vernal on November 28, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    I wish my kids would be happy with a candy cane and some tape, since that is about all I can afford this year!

    Hawkgrrrl, good examples of responses, and diversion always works with this age group! I guess perhaps I am overthinking this a little bit, because I have such difficulties in my own life with resolving my compartmentalization. It seems like training the kids to talk about their families’ Christmas celebrations and affirming whatever they’ve been taught about Santa — and then later in the lesson trying to teach about faith in Jesus and “things which are not seen, which are true” just fosters that kind of thinking. I worry that later in life they will have the same kinds of agonies I do over competing beliefs, and I’m probably just projecting my own anxiety onto them…

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  10. Course Correction on November 28, 2010 at 7:19 PM

    “I’m probably just projecting my own anxiety onto them…”

    I think you are making a big deal out of it. I did not lose faith in Jesus when I found out about Santa. I just never connected the two anymore than I connected Jesus with witches, dragons, or other magic.

    My daughter refuses to let her children enjoy the magic of Santa belief because she fears it will undermine their belief in God. I’m betting that my grandchildren will allow their children this magical belief.

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  11. Jon Miranda on November 28, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    I like to visit various blogs and I know some of you come from Mormon Matters. Is that blog dead? It hasn’t changed in a long time.

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  12. Bored in Vernal on November 28, 2010 at 7:28 PM

    Maybe it’s just resting… :)
    We sure are glad to have you visit us here, Jon!

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  13. Jon Miranda on November 28, 2010 at 7:37 PM

    Thanks.

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  14. Laurie on November 28, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    When my kids are old enough to ask me about Santa my response is, “are you sure you want to know the truth about Santa? Because I’ll always tell you the truth”… and usually they buy themselves another year of blissful denial while it simmers underneath their consciousness.

    A friend of mine though, told her son the truth about Santa and his first response actually was to ask, “Is JESUS real?” It’s not uncommon for the whole magical belief structure to start crumbling at once.

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  15. diane on November 28, 2010 at 8:17 PM

    I don’t think PT should out Santa, that being said, why can’t one incorporate the idea of Santa as Jesus and still teach the same principle?

    After all Santa Clause has the same qualities as Jesus like Omnipotent, etc.

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  16. Badger on November 28, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    I found out about Santa when I was 5 years old. I reacted as suggested by the poster pictured above. I believed in God for exactly the same reason I believed in Santa. My parents had assured me both were real. I could see the obvious logical conclusion, but the implication was far too disturbing to deal with at that age. It was my first experience with putting something on the shelf.

    As far as I can tell, my experience was unusual. As a child, my intellectual capabilities sometimes ran ahead of my chronological age, and I sort of think that if my thoughts had been more “age appropriate”, or if I had found out when I was a little younger, things would have been different. On that basis, I would have speculated that waiting until children are eight or older was just asking for trouble, but I guess if everyone is doing it, maybe it doesn’t matter as much as I thought it might. When I was that age, absolutely nobody I knew over the age of six believed in Santa (it wasn’t cool for school), and I’m a little surprised to hear it is possible to keep it bottled up that long.

    I don’t have any advice for parents or teachers. However, if I were in BiV’s position and did not want to evade or dissemble, I would probably say something to the effect that I don’t personally believe in Santa and although many do, not everyone does. I’m not sure it would be a good idea, but if you’re going to go in that direction at all it seems best not to directly challenge their parents’…um…teachings.

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  17. Goldarn on November 28, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    I think there’s a fine line between parent’s perpetuating a tradition of a fat man who brings presents, and the phrase “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive.” While I’ve never heard that one, to me it smacks of parent’s manipulating the child so the parent can preserve an illusion.

    As for imposing your beliefs on the kids…. isn’t that the point of Sunday school? I say that tongue-in-cheek, but what happens if little Charlie says, “Daddy says blacks were less righteous and that’s why they didn’t use to have the priesthood” or something similar that’s not based in literal doctrine of the church? When do you stand up for truth, and when do you become a willing participant in a falsehood?

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  18. Bro. Jones on November 28, 2010 at 10:20 PM

    My kid is someday probably going to be the kid in junior primary saying “What’s wrong with you people, Santa isn’t real!” Hopefully I’ll raise her to be more tactful, but that’s a crapshoot. :)

    As for BiV’a predicament, I’d have punted and said “Ask your parents.”

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  19. Jon W. on November 28, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    Good discussion. Personally I agree with the majority that outing Santa by a Primary teacher is asking for trouble.

    I have six kids about half believe, one is still too young and the older two stopped believing for a while now.

    If I think about when I found out it was a self discovery, I said to my Mom out of the blue that “Santa is not real.” I had been in denial for at least a year before that and I think I was about 9.

    My kids have been around 8-9 and even 10 when they decided not to believe anymore. We have never made it all about Santa, he gives a present here and there but is not the main gift giver.

    So with that in mind it has never been a big deal. It is more fun and we co-opt those who know keep the secret from those who do not. To my knowledge this has never been a deal breaker for our kids any more than it was for us.

    Too much fun and innocents is lost by taking away a child’s sense of a magical world, yet I nor they, have come to see a once a year event as on par with the worship we do each Sunday.

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  20. Starfoxy on November 28, 2010 at 10:33 PM

    If it came up in class I would out Santa to the kids. Church is a place to teach the truth- it’s not my fault if the parents have been fibbing to their kids for their own amusement.
    It seems to me that is who it really is about- the parents. They’re the ones who get a kick out of their kids believing in Santa. Kids can have fun at Christmas whether they believe in Santa or not, but when you ruin the charade, the parents are the ones who lose out on a good time.
    Sure I’d be nice about it, and break it to them gently and do it without condemning their parents, but church is a place to teach doctrine and faith in Santa is not a part of that. If you want kids to trust you, you have to be trustworthy- even when it’s no fun.

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  21. Alice on November 28, 2010 at 10:59 PM

    I would hope a primary teacher wouldn’t spoil what I see as an important magical part of childhood for my child.

    My oldest is 9 and still believes. When he asks, we’ll tell him the truth- that Santa is a fun tradition.

    I didn’t have problems accepting that santa or the tooth fairy, or the easter bunny, were pretend, and Jesus was real.

    Adam, a candy cane and tape is so sweet! My boys have been making mile-long lists for ipods and such.

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  22. rob on November 28, 2010 at 11:08 PM

    Santa always knocked on the door Christmas eve and left presents in a blue and white striped bag. While playing hide and seek one summer I hid inside the upper nose of our home made boat and was shocked beyond belief to discover the bag! No one had to tell me Santa was not real. Any teacher at church that implied Santa existed was a source of concern for me from that point forward.

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  23. Proud Daughter of Eve on November 29, 2010 at 3:31 AM

    I grew up believing in Santa Clause. Discovering the truth was evidently not traumatic as I don’t remember it! It didn’t make me question Jesus either. That said, it bugs the heck out of me that we always have a “Santa” come to the church Christmas party and I will not be teaching my daughter that the red-suited man is real. Christmas should focus on Christ and can be plenty of fun without Santa.

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  24. Eric Nielson on November 29, 2010 at 4:54 AM

    For show and tell in Kindegarten I once told the entire class that Santa was not real. I thought they had a right to know.

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  25. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 29, 2010 at 5:43 AM

    I like telling kids the story of St. Nicolas and how all the Santas they see about are doing his work today, as we can, in being kind and charitable and looking out for others. Which is a diversion, I know, but is also a useful lesson.

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  26. jmb275 on November 29, 2010 at 6:20 AM

    I absolutely do not think it is the business of a Primary teacher to be outing Santa Claus. I agree with Hawkgrrrl, that if pressed to respond one should do so with evasion, diversion and non-committal answers.

    I’m very conflicted about this as well, mostly for the implications as it relates to other nonbelievable, mythical things. I suppose, for Santa, I would probably agree with Kevin and Hawkgrrrl (mostly because I’m a big believer in parents’ rights).

    However, yesterday, in my SS class, someone brought up Noah and the flood. We were talking about it like there really was some sort of worldwide deluge a few thousand years ago. I kept thinking to myself “this is all metaphorical right”? And yet, had I raised my hand and “broke the truth” to them that there has not been a worldwide flood, I’m very unsure what the response would have been. I think it’s interesting which “truths” we accept as literal, and which ones we easily reject when the amount of supporting evidence seems about the same. Reject Santa, accept worldwide flood. It seems it is less a function of the supporting evidence, and more a function of tradition.

    Also, I think BiV touches on a bigger issue of how we view and teach truth. Many parents still find the teaching of evolution in schools to be a secularist agenda – but the scientific theory is sound. Why on earth should we continue to tip-toe around “family tradition” and other “myths” when there is sound evidence in support of a particular view? At what point do the “tender feelings” of squashing belief win out vs. the teaching of a correct worldview? I think it’s more acceptable to perpetuate the myth with Santa because virtually ALL adults know it’s not really true.

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  27. Paul on November 29, 2010 at 8:14 AM

    I would have been unhappy to have a primary teacher break the myth of Santa for my child, but it will happen somewhere sometime. (We had a missionary speak in our ward about a year ago who used the “myth of Santa” as a tradition of men that the gospel can correct in his talk, much to the dismay of parents. Fortunately most of the kids weren’t paying attention…)

    For my kids, the movement from believer in Santa-as-person and believer in Santa-as-movement has been gradual. They hear clues from friends or teachers (maybe in Primary!) and finally ask one of us. Our answer has always been the same: “You’re right, Santa as a person does not exist, but he does exist in all of us,” and we talk about how they can help keep the magic of Santa alive (eg, by not telling their littler siblings or cousins and by sharing the giving of the season).

    jmb, the “correct” worldview is rarely as clear cut as it seems. Your tone makes clear that you understand that for many the issue of the origin of man is not as clear cut as evolutionists would suggest (or, rather, it may be as clear cut, but in a different way). I think there’s a big difference between Santa and the Big E (and maybe for just the reason you mention).

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  28. jks on November 29, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    I wouldn’t out Santa. I don’t think it would be appropriate. I wouldn’t tell a kid that his mom is pregnant if she were keeping it secret. I wouldn’t tell a kid that his Dad was about to lose his job either.
    However, if a kid brought up Santa I’d say something like “We aren’t talking about Santa right now.” I would refuse to let the conversation go there.
    When you have 10 kids, there are inappropriate subjects brought up all the time and you have to be able and willing to shut them down. I would consider Santa one of those subjects best left out of MY class.

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  29. hawkgrrrl on November 29, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    I do agree with those who say Santa’s not an appropriate topic for church, but try telling that to a class of 8 year olds in the 2 months before Christmas! Primary teachers are going to be thrown curve balls. I had a class of 9 year olds bring up lesbianism. :)

    On the topic of debunking the worldwide flood, for me it would depend on how it was being discussed. I don’t think many LDS view the worldwide flood as a “proof” of the LDS church’s truthfulness. When viewed as a metaphor for baptism, it fails because we believe in baptism by immersion, and science shows that the earth was never fully immersed. Those who wrote the Bible didn’t know that, though, because their “world” was just a small section of the planet. While it’s interesting to note, it’s probably not going to cause testimonies to fail. I’d put it in the limited context of what the authors believed about the flood and the value they got from the story by handing it down through generations.

    I did raise the point once that the story of Ammon cutting off the 52 arms at the waters of Sebus (and not one of the arm-losers died) strained credulity. Was this a campfire story someone embellished? It sure doesn’t sound medically plausible.

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  30. MoHoHawaii on November 29, 2010 at 10:56 AM

    When my kids were 4 or 5 years old, I got the question “Is Santa real?” I smiled and said “Dad likes to play Santa.” They got this instantly. No bubble was burst. Over the years they still got as much enjoyment of Christmas traditions as other kids, but I like to think that I saved them some future d disillusionment. Steve Benson’s trauma (linked by the OP) is something I passionately wanted to avoid with my own kids.

    If I were the Sunday School teacher asked by 8 year olds about Santa, I’d probably change the subject, just the same as I would if asked about the Tower of Babel, the Flood, historicity of the BOM, or any number of topics where the parents might not want me interfering with literal beliefs. This is really the tip of an iceberg. The cultural rules in the Church prohibit any public challenge of literal belief. You can speak of such things only in private. In a sense, I think a lot of LDS public discourse is ritualized. It’s purpose is social cohesion and strong group identity. Any actual communication must be in private. Or on blogs. :- )

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  31. Matthew Chapman on November 29, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    Young children’s brains do not operate in the same manner as adult’s.

    It is sometimes difficult to tell- even with a seven-year-old- if they are understanding what you tell them in the way you understand what you tell them.

    I always told my children, from the very youngest age, the truth about Santa Claus:

    “When you give a gift to someone in secret, then you are Santa Claus”

    They have continued this tradition.

    It generally took them years, and several repetitions of this statement, to understand what was meant.

    My seven-year-old grandson currently believes in Santa Claus in the same way and for the same reasons that he believes in his Uncle Mark: he sees each of them several times a year, usually around the Christmas holidays.

    There is nothing wrong with believing in Santa Claus. The real question is what you believe about Santa Claus- and that varies very much from family to family, from child to child, and from year to year.

    I was apparerently a very precocious child, my parents told me, and explained to them at the age of two why Santa could not possibly exist.

    It was not over twenty years later that I realized how wrong I had been.

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  32. Matthew Chapman on November 29, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    Hawkgrrrl:
    One of the disturbing aspects of the Ammon story is that if you read it assuming that the word “arms” means “weapons”, it makes perfect sense.

    And the word “arms” always means weapons almost everywhere else it is used in the Book of Mormon.

    This makes the story much less appealing to the Aaronic priesthood.

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  33. PaulM on November 29, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    Everyone so far has focussed on the Santa issue. If the class confused “faith” in Santa with faith in God is it possible that BiV was misrepresenting faith or at the very least providing an imprecise definition? In addition, I question the ability for 8 year old children to truly grasp the concept of faith.

    As a side note, last night we were sitting at the dinner table eating dessert when my 14 YO blurts out, “Who invented Santa anyway?” My wife and I both shot her the evil eye and quickly turned to the side of the table occupied by our 3 & 5 YOs. The 5 YO, very deliberately, swallowed what was in his mouth, shrugged his shoulders and answered his sister’s question: “God did, duh!”

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  34. mike ortega on November 29, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    If “Santa” isnt real……why not also teach that the BOM isnt true, JS 1st vision has multiple versions, Men WILL NOT be come Gods?????? If you want to teach 8 year old the truth, lets start with the religion its self.

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  35. Alisa on November 29, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    I had a similar experience when my 8-year old primary student once blurted out, “I think Santa Claus is Heavenly Father’s cousin!”

    I quickly explained that there was a difference between magic and Priesthood, and that Santa is part of the magical world and Heavenly Father, Jesus, Holy Ghost, and even regular people at our Church get to be a part of the Priesthood, which is a much greater power than magical traditions like Santa.

    While not a perfect answer on the spot, I hope it helped them to compartmentalize without disturbing any kids who weren’t ready for the truth.

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  36. AdamF on November 29, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    mike ortega – “JS 1st vision has multiple versions” – We don’t teach that? I was taught that in Sunday School.

    Now back to Santa.

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  37. mike ortega on November 29, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    AdamF…….if so, why don’t most missionaries know this…….or JS multiple wives?

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  38. Seldom on November 29, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    Last week in a neighboring ward, a college age sacrament meeting speaker made an extensive comparsion of false Santa with true Jesus. As soon as the speaker said “Santa” he had the attention of every child. There were noticable gasps and murmurs from the congregation, but the speaker plowed ahead with his comparison, oblivious to the reaction. After the talk was over, the Bishop got up said he didn’t know what Brother Mythbuster was talking about, but Santa was coming to his house this year. Some parents are still upset.

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  39. jmb275 on November 29, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    jmb, the “correct” worldview is rarely as clear cut as it seems. Your tone makes clear that you understand that for many the issue of the origin of man is not as clear cut as evolutionists would suggest (or, rather, it may be as clear cut, but in a different way). I think there’s a big difference between Santa and the Big E (and maybe for just the reason you mention).

    Yeah, I got lazy and used the words “correct worldview.” I know it’s rarely clear cut, but lets be real here, some things are…the Santa myth, for example. Ultimately, I think it comes down to general acceptance of the evidence. I’m not sure the reason there’s a big difference, but I suspect in 100 years when people who actually think the earth is 6000 years old are considered very poorly educated, it will appear “obvious” to everyone that the 6000 year old earth is a myth and will be on the same footing as Santa. But as it is now, I know faithful, and well-educated Mormons (even engineers) who think it is still plausible that the earth is only 6000 years old.

    Re Hawk, and MoMo

    The cultural rules in the Church prohibit any public challenge of literal belief. You can speak of such things only in private. In a sense, I think a lot of LDS public discourse is ritualized. It’s purpose is social cohesion and strong group identity. Any actual communication must be in private. Or on blogs. :- )

    Yes, I agree with MoMo here. My own position on this issue is that unless a person’s literal worldview involves physical harm to others, I won’t bother to try and correct it…but I’ll still think they’re nuts!! But I do understand the concern that humanity’s progression is retarded thanks to our willingness to continue to entertain myths as literal even when it is CLEAR (and I mean VERY clear) that they’re erroneous. However, I digress because I think respecting people’s feelings is also important. It’s a tough issue.

    I quickly explained that there was a difference between magic and Priesthood, and that Santa is part of the magical world and Heavenly Father, Jesus, Holy Ghost, and even regular people at our Church get to be a part of the Priesthood, which is a much greater power than magical traditions like Santa.

    No offense, Alisa, but I think this is a potentially dangerous tactic. The magical worldview is VERY MUCH a part of our Mormon roots (and Christianity in general). There may very well be a difference between belief in Santa and belief in God, but comparing Santa to magic could be a disappointment later on when people find out Joseph peered into a hat with a rock in it to translate the BoM. If you’re a believing Mormon, I think you HAVE to accept the magical worldview, at least in part.

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  40. AdamF on November 29, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    mike – We can’t speak for “most missionaries” unless we have data on this. If you’re referring to your experience, please say “most missionaries I have met” or something. If the latter is the case, I can back you up with at least one anecdote – my father (current missionary, former bishop) a few years ago got a few missionaries excited about all the great mormon history stuff they could read when they had time after they got home, they were stoked – they too, as you mentioned – had no idea about polygamy in Nauvoo. Which is SO weird, because, HELLO, it’s in the D&C. They have to read the D&C.

    Anyway, back to Santa. I hate being a threadjack. I’m sure we could open up a new post called, “Why don’t most missionaries that mike ortega meets know much about history.” It must be frustrating. :)

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  41. Andrew S on November 29, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    Jon W,

    sorry your comment got trapped in our outrageous spam filter…I fished it out so that shouldn’t happen again…I hope.

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  42. lilytiger on November 29, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    I would be upset if a Primary teacher outed Santa to my children. However, if a teacher did so, I would hope they would have the courtesy and good sense to give me a heads-up, so I know how to handle it at home. It would be bad if a teacher inadvertently called a parent a liar and gave the parent no opportunity to address it with the children.

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  43. Alisa on November 29, 2010 at 7:34 PM

    jmb275, definitely no offense taken, but I disagree that it’s harmful to separate Priesthood from magic that is implied to be false or pretend as in Santa, Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

    First of all, I think only a small percentage of the Church ever finds out or cares about seer stones in hats. It’s just not a regular topic of conversation for most LDS–and for many who discover it, it’s not an issue (my whole family has read RSR and is still as TBM as can be).

    Secondly, I think it would be easy to say that the BoM was translated by God’s power and not some sort of fairy magic. Sure, people believed in both of these at the time, but at least in my readings (which are not as extensive as many of you here), it seems Joseph Smith’s magic world view was directly related to God and religion and not to fairies and leprechauns. Instead of training magicians, Joseph Smith seemed insterested in training priests and future gods.

    I think there’s a difference, and I think the anology works for an 8 year old without causing too much damage. If they’re going to be damaged by seer stone realities as adults, it probably won’t be because they were talked out of their belief that Santa and Heavenly Father have the same grandparents.

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  44. Blain on November 29, 2010 at 9:22 PM

    Ah, the trouble with reality is that it’s not as real as you want it to be when you look at it really close. I am troubled by the smug snobbery against things magical/mystical and those who believe in them. There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in any of our philosophies, no matter how enlightened or inspired or evidence-based those philosophies might be. Some healthy skepticism is healthy, but an inflated faith in the validity of your current understanding is every bit as damaging and fantasy-based as any superstition that ever was.

    My children have never heard me say there is no Santa, or no Easter Bunny, nor will they. There are plenty of ways to see to it they understand the important things to know about Santa in age-appropriate fashions without telling them that they were lied to, and that all these things are a fraud. Faith is an important thing, and there are valid things in Santa to have faith in. Has nobody read “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”? If so, then try this on for size:

    Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

    I have no problem debunking urban legends — I follow the Snopes.com rss feed and share some of the things that come across there on FB when I think it will help stop the circulation of hoaxes which are harmful. Santa can be done without harm, and should be done thus, and trying to strip him out of the world out of some misguided sense of not “lying” to our children, or of pointing them to the “truth” about Christmas is to steal something of value to children of all ages that can’t be found in any other way.

    Most people in most of the world for most of time believe in things considered today to be magical and superstitious. These beliefs were attacked by institutional churches and secular skeptic alike a few centuries ago, and they managed to ingrain the contempt the Western mind has for these things quite successfully. Just as every child believes his parents stupid until he becomes them (or an adult), the present considers the past ignorant and misled and old-fashioned. A little intellectual humility about the past can mix with a little philosophical humility in the face of those with the gall to disagree to knock back the prideful arrogance and “tyranny of the present” to help us better understand our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and even sons and daughters. There is plenty enough of that pridefulness without us adding to it.

    Leave Santa be. You might not be as right as you think you are.

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  45. Leave Santa Be « Blain Nelson's Blog (not!) on November 29, 2010 at 9:28 PM

    […] My comment in a thread about a Primary (think Sunday School) teacher who decided to “out” Santa to the …. […]

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  46. Karen on November 29, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    I posted this story on fMh a couple of years back so my apologies to those who’ve heard it. I love Santa. I decorate Santa. I used to wallow in Santa. I went visiting teaching to the wealthiest family in our ward shortly after Christmas. I brought my oldest daughter because the daughter of my friend was also 5 and they liked to play. My daughter came home traumatized. We were afraid she had been molested or something. It was a couple of days before we got the truth out of her. The friend, who had received over $5000 dollars worth of toys (in 1982!) told my daughter that the relative receipts on Christmas are directly correlated with righteousness, as Santa is in cahoots with Jesus. My believing daughter believed this hook, line, and sinker and cried for days. DD got the truth right away and little rich girl’s parents got my wrath. The next year little rich girl spouted the same nonsense in Primary and the whole senior Primary got the truth from the counselor doing Sharing Time. Several parents grumbled, but the only one who was truly angry was the rich dad. I wished I had told her the truth a year earlier. With our next 5 kids DH and I did what MoHoHawaii does. We say we like to “play” Santa. wink. wink. We told our kids to respect other families’ traditions, but I know for sure that my darlings had to show off their perfect knowledge a few times.

    Also,I have seen some nasty ingratitude from kids who imagine their parents don’t love them as much as Santa does.

    I still decorate Santa stuff, but I make a point of tipping the balance of the decor toward the birth of the Savior.

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  47. Anna D. on November 30, 2010 at 12:21 AM

    Their are a lot of things we COULD have faith in. Our employers, the economy, the government, our parents, our spouse. But what we NEED to have faith in is Jesus Christ. Having faith in Him is what really matters. This is what I would have done in that situation.

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  48. Mr Q&A on November 30, 2010 at 1:01 AM

    As a whole IMO “Lefties” are more willing to attack there own culture, and defend others, whilst the opposite is true for “Righties”.

    I would never dream of damaging somones cultural belief if they were from a non westernised country, (unless that belief would result in injuring someone else).

    I guess it is for the parents to decide, but at the end of the day it seems to be a form of manipulation.

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  49. jmb275 on November 30, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    Re Alisa

    First of all, I think only a small percentage of the Church ever finds out or cares about seer stones in hats. It’s just not a regular topic of conversation for most LDS–and for many who discover it, it’s not an issue (my whole family has read RSR and is still as TBM as can be).

    I think I can see this point. However, I get multiple emails each week from new people who discovered this and are seriously disturbed by it. It happens, A LOT, but you’re right, it’s not the majority of church membership. BTW, if it’s just not a regular topic of conversation for most LDS, how do you know it’s not an issue for more people? How do you know so few discover it or are bothered by it? I go to church and hold a TR, but I am bothered by it. Yet no one in my ward would know precisely because it’s just not a regular topic of conversation.

    Secondly, I think it would be easy to say that the BoM was translated by God’s power and not some sort of fairy magic.

    This really speaks to my first comment in this thread. WHY do you differentiate between rock-in-hat translation magic and fairy magic? My suspicion is that it is because virtually EVERYONE already agrees that fairies don’t exist. It’s a level of acceptance of evidence (or lack thereof). I doubt there is much more reliable evidence for people resurrecting themselves than for leprechauns existing, yet we believe one, and not the other. Like I said, I agree there is a difference, but I think that difference is more arbitrary than you make it sound and it appears to be based on general opinion.

    I think there’s a difference, and I think the anology works for an 8 year old without causing too much damage. If they’re going to be damaged by seer stone realities as adults, it probably won’t be because they were talked out of their belief that Santa and Heavenly Father have the same grandparents.

    I agree with you here.

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  50. Barbara on November 30, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    This is something that happens ALL the time in Sunday School classes — I’ve taught all ages and, if I’m not right on top of the discussion, it can head off in a different direction. You wouldn’t tell that crazy old fart in Gospel Doctrine (we ALL have one of those in our ward) that he’s wrong; you would try and redirect the discussion. You always have the option of simply saying “Hey, we’re getting off topic…” or something similar, and dragging them back to what YOU want to talk about. Be the teacher; be the grown-up!

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  51. mike ortega on November 30, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    AdamF……thanks adam……as a non mormon, in talking with “most”missionaries, its always about committing to baptism. When I raise questions in regards to the history, or things within the LDS Church that concern me, I get the “milk before the meat” talk. Anyway, thanks and have a great Christmas.

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  52. AdamF on November 30, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    “When I raise questions in regards to the history, or things within the LDS Church that concern me, I get the “milk before the meat” talk.”

    That’s unfortunate. If you are looking for answers, or even just conversations about things related to the LDS Church that concern you, I hope you can find some of it here, or with some people you trust. I’m no expert but I’m open to talking about whatever – [email protected]

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  53. […] & Religion #7: In The Beginning… By: Mike S November 30, 2010 Just like BiV’s recent post, this one begins in Primary.  A few months ago I was in sharing time and the message was on […]

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  54. LDS Anarchist on December 1, 2010 at 1:57 AM

    We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. (AoF 11)

    #4 BiV, you said, “Latter-day Saints don’t believe in a miraculous Santa, but they do believe in a miraculous Jesus.”

    Your post proves that there are latter-day saints that do believe in Santa, namely those of a younger age. As our beliefs are not homogenized, let these young latter-day saints believe as they wish to believe. Juat teach them gospel truths without throwing down the idols their parents have given them. When they arrive at the age of reason and begin questioning things, such as the teachings of their parents, then you can tell them your views of what is false in their beliefs, if they want to know. But do not undermine parental authority and teachings while they are still children.

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  55. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on December 29, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    Jesus probably would have told you to shut up.

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