We were sitting in the waiting area at the Salt Lake Airport. Two youngish couples were seated behind us. Their wives had gone off somewhere, leaving the two men to talk. They were talking about their careers and whether they'd be able to stay in the Salt Lake area. It sounded like both families were perhaps facing financial challenges.
The subject of their conversation switched to their callings (for non-LDS, their jobs in their local LDS congregation). Both couples were teaching 10-year-old Primary (Sunday School) classes. They talked about the boys in the their classes (sometimes challenging) and the girls (well-behaved) and how much they enjoyed working with them. "They're a good age group," one commented. I silently concurred.
Then one of them mentioned a boy in his class who "asks deep questions." "Yeah," the other said, "I have a kid like that in my class, too." I was curious what would be considered a "deep question" for a ten-year-old boy. One of the boys, I heard, lived with his grandmother. Another came from a troubled family.
Neither man really described the questions these boys had asked. But one volunteered how he had handled it, which consisted of redirecting the boys' attention to what was in the lesson manual and/or by singing a song.
I thought about those boys and about the message that had been conveyed to them: Don't ask deep questions. Life is better if you keep those thoughts inside you. Just stick to the lesson manual. You're a recipient of information to be dispensed. Simply learn the lesson someone else decided you need to learn, sing a song and go along. You'll see: life is better this way.
Not every Primary teacher, of course, would have responded this way. But unfortunately, there are all too many teachers who would have responded just as these two men did. This sort of approach is endemic in the Church from cradle to grave. It wants teachers to stick to the manual. Don't wander into the messiness of the lives of people. (I, for example, during the course of almost 30 years of sitting in men's priesthood classes (both elders' quorum and high priest), rarely felt that the real issues of being a father and husband were discussed.)
I thought of my own ten-year-old son. He is the type of boy that, by nature, "thinks about things" and sometimes makes some rather profound observations. He is one of those boys that asks deep questions. His life these past four years has been one of upheaval, change and adjustment, and his family is now anything but conventional. It doesn't fit inside the box. And I wonder if he ever asks "deep questions" and what his teacher's response might be.
I'm thankful that he - along with each of the others of my younger children - knows he doesn't have to rely on his teachers. I'm grateful that there are others who support and love him for just who he is and what his family now is. I'm pleased that he knows that it's ok to think for himself and that deep questions are not only entertained, they're encouraged.