I have a son that recently turned eighteen years old. I have a photo of the two of us that was taken ten years ago when I baptized him into our LDS faith. I keep this picture in my car because it was a really happy day for both of us. He is kind, intelligent and so very thoughtful. I was surprised when he turned fourteen and stopped taking the sacrament. He would never tell me or his mother why. I worried about his self-esteem because he seemed to be overly critical of himself for the smallest of mistakes. When he was fifteen he told me, with tears in his eyes, that he was depressed and no longer believed in God. I just told him that I loved him and felt impressed not to push church issues.
He stopped going to church with our family, however, recently he began attending a nondenominational Christian church with a couple of new friends. My wife was concerned and asked me to attend this new church and make sure that it was a good place for him. I asked him if we could go together one week and he happily agreed.
The church service was beautiful. It was focused on praising God and God’s grace. I couldn’t help but get a little emotional as I felt God’s love during the service. I watched as the minister blessed and offered communion to all those who wished to partake of it. I literally cried as my son, who hadn’t taken the sacrament in our Ward in years, accepted the bread and the wine. I had such a strong feeling in my heart that God was still carrying him in his hands.
During the drive home I asked my son about the experience. I told him he should also feel free to accept the sacrament in our Ward anytime he attended with us. He said that he stopped taking the sacrament when he was 14 years old. He told me that the Bishop had told him to stop taking the sacrament because he had admitted to masturbation during a youth interview. Over the next several months, without my knowledge, the Bishop would check in with my son at church to see if he had masturbated and my son would reluctantly admit that on occasion he had. It hurt me to hear of the shame and pain that my son experienced for what I believe to be a very normative behavior for a young boy going through puberty. Sadly, I should have done a better job communicating with him during this difficult time. My son said that it ultimately took approximately eight months before the Bishop finally happily declared that my son was “worthy” and could once again take the sacrament. However, by this time my son simply told the bishop that he didn’t want it anymore.
I told my wife about the church service, the beautiful communion and my talk with our son on the drive home. We both cried. We decided that this new church is where our son needs to be right now. While it hurts to know what my son needlessly endured, I can’t stop feeling grateful for the experience I witnessed in a small nondenominational Christian church with a rock band.