An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Santa and belief’

What Do You Think?

A recent blog by Tierza at Mormon Expressions deals with the problem of telling children about Santa. Tierza relates the Santa question to later questions her children will ask about religion and God.

I immediately agreed with the author’s solution—ask the child what she thinks. Upon reflection, however, I recall that “What do you think?” was essentially the answer my mother gave to my 8-year-old self—and it didn’t satisfy. I knew what I thought—and what I thought wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted positive affirmation that my thoughts were wrong—that Santa really existed—North Pole, reindeer, elves, and all.

I entertained doubts about some of the things I heard at church throughout my teens and early 20s. But— when my first child arrived, I needed certainty that I would have the help and guidance necessary to raise this perfect child. The Church provided that. Every week lessons and talks testified that God lives, loves me and my children, and answers every righteous prayer. It was a great strength in an unsure world.

In later years I’m inclined to think the testimonies heard at church are much like the positive affirmations well-meaning parents give to children about Santa—the difference being that people testifying of religious truths actually believe what they tell others.

Belief in Santa makes children happy. Belief in religious teachings comforts and strengthens many adults. Does it matter if the things we believe are literally true?

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Yes, Virginia

Friday night we babysat the grandkids while their parents attended a temple session. After the first hour, we plopped onto the sofa and turned on the TV for animated relief from hide and seek and reading stories. The kiddie version of Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus was an insipid take off on the classic editorial, but we were too pooped to care. The real message of the original,  that Santa ”exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist. . . they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy,” was an afterthought in the dreary film, but George and I enjoyed the sentiment.

“Granddad and I saw Santa Claus in Murray last week,” I told the skeptical 7-year-old.

 “Where?”

“At the intersection of State Street and 4500 South. A car stalled in the intersection and three or four young men stopped their cars and trucks, set their flashers blinking, and ran over to push the stalled car out of traffic.”

“That wasn’t Santa Claus.”

“It was love and generosity. That’s the same thing.”

Of course, the grandkids didn’t get it, but witnessing these young men take time to help a stranger refreshed George’s and my belief in the basic goodness and humanity of ordinary people in a world where the unscrupulous and greedy too often dominate the conversation.

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