Thursday, October 17, 2013

Brainwashing children

By the time I hit high school I started realizing how sickening the Primary songs were. Primary is the name of the Mormon Church's Sunday school program for children ages four to twelve a healthy chunk of which is dedicated to learning and singing songs. 

A few of the songs are about things like a tall snowman melting in the sun, apricot trees blossoming in the Springa spider crawling up a rain pipe (not included in the Songbook), and a kind of Simon Says-type number, but those sorts of songs are mostly for the youngest kids only. The older children get to enjoy an exclusive diet of songs that clearly classify as heavy-handed indoctrination efforts.

By far the most beloved of all Mormon songs for children young and old is "I am a Child of God", a little number with intimidating lyrics like "help me to understand His words / Before it grows too late" and carrot waving lyrics like "Celestial glory shall be mine / If I can but endure". This is where it all begins for Mormon children. Kids have to know that they have a Very Real Daddy in Heaven who's more awesome than the one hanging around the house and that if they behave themselves He'll give them a Very Big Treat. Kid's love this song. The music is so earnest. Parents love it too. It's a sure-fire tear jerker when the Primary kids sing it together in front of the whole congregation.

Other classic Mormon brainwashing songs included hits like "I Know My Father Lives" (they know no such thing), "I Hope They Call Me on a Mission" (they have no idea what a mission is or what it's like), the very spooky "Follow the Prophet", the similarly themed "Keep the Commandments", and a bizarre song about loving to see the temple (when they have only the vaguest idea of what goes on in the temple). There's even a song about happily giving money to the Church (little children don't make any money)! Browsing the Children's Songbook will quickly offer up a good many more examples of how Mormons hone passion and dedication for concepts and practices in children long before those concepts can be understood or the practices can be put in place. Mormon children never have a chance of formulating their own opinions or working through independent thoughts because they're taught to keep these songs on repeat in their head at all times.

My teenage self was the truest of true believers when it comes to True Believing Mormons. I was all in and pitied anyone who couldn't see just how clear and simple and perfect the Gospel and the Church were. But I was also considering not allowing any child of mine to go to Singing Time. I seriously doubted the ethics of placing a child inside the brainwashing machine. But, instead of exploring the implications of unethical treatment of children in the Church, I moved forward with faith, went to the temple, and served a mission just as the primary songs taught me to do.

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