I thought my fascination with Mormonism had left, but it appears it was just lying dormant, waiting to be renewed by the sprinklings of a good chat with a friend from Utah (thanks Annette!). We were talking about the documentary, Sons of Perdition, which is "the story of polygamy's exiled youth." http://sonsofperditionthemovie.com/Sons_of_Perdition_Home.html I haven't seen the film, but our conversation and a viewing of the trailer for the film really got me thinking.
The trailer gives a very dark impression of the life of restriction and obedience the boys were forced to live on the compound, before their brave escape. They were withheld from the larger world, presumably to keep them from questioning the authorities in their own community. There is a scene in which 2 boys are in a Catholic Church and one asks the other (I'm paraphrasing), "Catholics believe in Jesus?" This depicts the sheltered existence they led, but this is not unique to just kids from a polygamist compound. Many kids are raised well-versed in the beliefs of their parents (religious and otherwise), but not knowledgeable in the ways of others. Part of why we do this is because it is what we know, but there is also that part that doesn't want to expose our child to the other ways of the world, thinking that by shielding them, we are somehow eliminating those ways as options.
I started thinking about this in regard to boys in mainstream Mormon society and the 2-year mission. As a person who lived in Utah for 12 years, I definitely saw the advantage given to those men who served their missions. I also saw how boys, from a very young age, were raised to assume they would go on a mission. In Utah this appears easy to do - such a high proportion of boys go on a mission that Sophie was prompted to ask Steve where he served his mission after living in Utah only a few months (Steve's response was that THIS was his mission, our life in Utah...take that as you will). It's nearly such a given that a boy will serve a mission at the age of 19 that it leads me to wonder, what alternatives are given to boys who opt not to serve a mission? Do parents even talk about that while their sons are growing up? Is there any ostracizing of those boys who do not serve missions?
I'm not sending this out to invite attack of this practice - many religions have rites of passage members are expected to meet. I'm interested in how this practice is viewed by my friends who have experienced it. I also realize that as parents we often lay out only one path we expect our child to follow - we do this because we see it as the best path for them. We worry that by even entertaining alternatives, we are giving our children permission to stray from the path, but should that be our fear? Or should we fear that our children will follow the path, out of a sense of obligation and perhaps risk lying to themselves along the way.