SACRAMENTO, CA-

There was a time when my little sister, Kati, and I were practically inseparable.

Kati loved coming to my house because she got all of the attention. There weren’t seven other kids battling for love and affection. Just her and me.

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Kati spent holidays at my house. I made here green eggs and green milk for St. Patrick’s Day. Donald and I would make Easter egg hunts just for her. She had her own Christmas stocking hanging up at our house.

It wasn’t that my parents didn’t want Kati around. Kati just didn’t want to be around them. My family’s house was always in turmoil. My parents were always fighting. The kids were constantly battling against each other. And Kati, being the smallest, was often lost in the fray.

There were more than a few times when Kati asked if Donald and I would adopt her, but I always declined. I told her she wouldn’t have as much fun with us if we were her real parents because I’d make her do her homework and go to bed early.

No, it was much better this way. I got to be the fun big sister who dressed up like a ballerina with her (sorry no pictures). I stayed up late making her ice cream sundaes and reading her Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I wouldn’t let her watch the movie until after we’d read the book).

One other thing I remember about my years hanging out with Kati was her birthdays.

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Our family has never been big on birthdays. My mom always said if she let one of us have a birthday party then all of us would want a birthday party. And in my house that amounted to a birthday party almost every month, sometimes twice in one month.

It just wasn’t happening.

But Kati always got a special birthday when I was around. For her third birthday I invited all of my friends out to dinner as though it was my own birthday. We just went to some little diner and I didn’t expect it to be too big of a deal.

But it was. Everybody brought her gifts and balloons and cards. And the waitress brought here a huge sundae with sparklers. And everybody sang Happy Birthday to her.

I don’t know if she even remembers that now. It was quite a long time ago.

The last birthday I got to spend with her was her ninth birthday (the one pictured above).

I had returned from France just three days prior. But I had promised Kati I’d make her birthday special. I got my other sister, Jess, in on the plan. We decorated my apartment. Set up a karaoke machine and invited both Kati’s and my friends over to celebrate. It wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped, but I think Kati still had fun.

About a year later my family moved to Idaho, taking Kati with them. Every year after I’ve told Kati I’ll come visit her for her birthday, but I’ve never been able to make it. I’ve missed three of her birthdays now.

Kati and I had grown apart a bit anyway. I’d been gone in France for eight months and I think she felt a bit abandoned. Also, I stopped having her over as often because my parents blamed me for Kati’s not being baptized.

In the Mormon religion children don’t get baptized until they’re eight years old, ostensibly because they want people to make their own decision as to whether they believe and want to be a member of the church.

As you’ll soon see, this isn’t actually the case.

Kati had put hers off for the first year, saying she wanted to wait until I got home from France. It was a good strategy for her. She got to deflect the attention to me. My dad called me up in Paris and said, “Kati isn’t getting baptized because of you.”

That’s what he said.

He asked me to talk to her, to plead with her to get baptized before she turned nine. I told him it wasn’t that big of a deal and he could schedule it for the month I returned.

I thought Kati really did want to get baptized. I thought she just wanted to wait until I was there for it.

But several months later Kati still wasn’t baptized.


I thought it was just my parents being irresponsible as usual. After all, I wasn’t baptized until I was almost nine too. Not because I didn’t want to, but because my parents just never bothered to schedule it and send out the invitations.

So why were my parents so concerned this time?

Well, it turns out that Kati flat out told them no. She said she wasn’t getting baptized.

Now the pressure was on.

One Sunday evening I went to raid my parents pantry for groceries. When I arrived I was surprised to find my dad and Kati in the living room with two missionaries while the rest of the family seemed to be hiding out in the kitchen.

“What’s Kati doing in there with the missionaries?” I asked.

“They’re trying to make her get baptized.” my brother told me.

“What do you mean? Of course she’s going to get baptized,” I said.

“No, she won’t,” my brother said. “They come here nearly every week and every week she tells them no.”

“Seriously?”

“Yep.”

At this point I went searching for my mom, who was hiding out like everyone else.

She told me the missionaries came twice a month, but Kati wasn’t budging.

People, this is a nine-year-old kid. Children do not tell adults no. They do what everyone else does. And in our family and our circle of friends, everyone else gets baptized.

After this I was intrigued by my sister and her strength to stand up for what she, in this case, doesn’t believe.

Of course, although my heart was swelling with pride, I didn’t tell her that. It would for sure be my fault if I encouraged her on this path.

Moving on…

Today Kati is 12 years old. She’s made it more than four years without getting baptized, even after my parents moved her to Utah last summer.

The missionaries continued to come while they lived in Idaho.

And Kati continued to tell them no.

Every so often, when I called my mother, and trying to not sound eager, I would inquire about Kati and the missionaries.

Exasperated, my mom would say, “The missionaries still come on Sundays. Your dad won’t tell them to leave her alone.”

This week though two of my sisters came to visit and I found out that my mom finally put her foot down.

The story as relayed to me by my sister:

The bishop of their new ward came to my parents with Kati’s church records.

“There seems to be a problem with your daughter’s records,” he said.

“No, there’s no problem,” my mom said.

“Well, it says here that she’s not baptized yet,” he persists.

“Yes. That’s not a mistake,” my mom says.

“Oh, well…”

“No. That’s the way she wants it and that’s the way it’s going to stay. If you send even one missionary to our house I’m going to leave the church for good. I will not allow any of my children to step foot in this church again. Got it?”

And the missionaries have stopped coming.


UPDATE, November 2009: I just learned, via Facebook, that Kati is getting baptized. Apparently all the church had to do was give her some space.

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REBECCA ADLER is from Sacramento, CA, where she is a grad student in applied linguistics and works as a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in Jane & Jane, Sacramento Business Journal, and Comstock's Business Magazine, among others. She also keeps a book review blog and can be found on Facebook or Twitter.

3 responses to “Introducing My Youngest Sister and the Tale of How She Survived Years of Being Stalked by Mormons”

  1. Original Comment Thread Below:

    21 Comments »

    Comment by melissa d.
    2007-07-30 11:57:56

    oh, i just love, love, love hearing kati stories. i hope i get to meet that kid one day. sounds a lot like you! 🙂 love ya and miss ya lots.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Dawn C.
    2007-07-30 12:07:34

    Wow. Tell Kati way to know her own mind. Does she ever discuss her reasons for making this decision with you?

    In any case, I can’t wait to see what she turns out to be when she grows up, given her self assurance at 9.

    Also, kudos for your mom for backing her decision … eventually.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2007-07-30 12:22:26

    M-Doll: I’m sure you’ll meet Kati one day. She’s still my little hero, even if I only see her a couple times a year.

    Dawn: Nope, I’ve never talked to her about it. I worried that if I asked her about it she’d feel like I was pressuring her too. Because to a kid, “So how come you don’t want to get baptized?” sounds a lot like “Give me one good reason why you shouldn’t get baptized.” You know? I hope I can talk to her about it one day without feeling like I’ll be on the wrong side of the fence no matter what I say.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Kaytie M. Lee
    2007-07-30 12:44:25

    I’m impressed that your sister is treating the decision about whether to become baptized as a life-decision and not as a reason for a party or a mindless step.

    She may eventually choose to be baptized later or not, but no matter what, the one thing everyone will be able to say is that she made a thoughtful decision that was right for her.

    And I’m glad to hear that your mother is supporting her decision!
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Lenore
    2007-07-30 13:41:38

    damn, go kati. i wish i had her balls.

    i wasn’t baptized because i am a dirty jew.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Richard Ferguson
    2007-07-30 14:58:30

    Lovely story, Rebecca.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Martyn Smith
    2007-07-30 15:59:33

    Not only is she adorable, but she’s strong too. I think kids should have a say in that sort of thing, especially when it comes to a religion that some people (not myself) would argue was extreme, or at least extreme for a child. Great post.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by 1159
    2007-07-30 16:13:48

    Jesus is loving her chutzpah!

    “Stick it to the man Kati!” he is saying!

    You should be proud!
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Elizabeth
    2007-07-30 20:25:11

    I’m so so so curious what Kati’s motivations are. Is she generally independent and rebellious, or is there something particular in the baptism that she doesn’t want? Children that age are absolutely fascinating. Please write another post and tell us!
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2007-07-30 22:31:53

    Thanks everybody for the comments! I have to admit I’ve never asked her why she’s made this decision because I’ve been afraid of how she’ll interpret my questioning her. But it looks like I’m going to have to ask her so I can let you all know! 🙂
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Emma R
    2007-07-31 00:51:45

    Rebecca – What a brave kid. I’d also like to know how she came to this decision. I didn’t expect your mother to come around though: that was a surprise ending.

    It may be that your decision to make your own life outside of your family’s church allowed her to think of it as a possibility. Well played, both of you!
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by rk
    2007-07-31 02:30:35

    RA:

    My parents put off my own baptism because our Washington Redskins were playing in the Super Bowl that Sunday…

    …and look how I turned out…

    Great piece about a really interesting young woman!

    RK
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Rebecca Adler
    2007-07-31 05:22:16

    RK: Haha! The Super Bowl should always take precedence.

    Emma: I think you’re probably right. Of nine children only about three of us are really active in the church anymore. I think seeing that probably effected her decision.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Meg
    2007-07-31 07:54:12

    My grandmother insisted I be confirmed and my mother agreed. I did it begrudgingly and to this day haven’t gone back to mass. If anything, I hate the Catholic Church more because of it.

    Good for Katie – standing up for what you don’t believe in is just as important as standing up for what you do believe in.

    Eloquent post. 🙂
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Chason
    2007-07-31 08:01:59

    Wow. That’s one stubborn kid. What exactly is her reasoning for not wanting to be baptized? I know a lot of people who were baptized and who now rarely go to church. I think it’s great that she is standing up for what she believes in, or, as you put it, doesn’t believe in. I can’t imagine having been strong enough in my beliefs at nine years old to be able to say no about anything to my parents, let alone people from a church that my parents go to.
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Christina
    2007-07-31 09:50:33

    I’m so proud of your sister and i’m glad your mom finally got wise to what realistically was going on. As you know we share a lot of religious background/experience… different religion smiliar rebellion lol. i know how tricky that fine line is between encouraging a younger sister’s independence and strength and being that overly opinionated sister… trust we’re like sisters from another mister!
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by Layla
    2007-07-31 22:45:03

    There’s something about determination at that age. I’ve never been a decisive person but when I was 8 or 9, I set my foot down regarding a family thing, and I never budged. And I certainly never regretted it. Go Kati!
    Reply to this comment

    Comment by jennifer white
    2007-08-02 06:01:55

    Wow, I loved reading this–of hearing how both of you have made your own path.
    I also adore that first pic of you two.
    Reply to this comment

  2. Carl D'Agostino says:

    Why would you stay in that Church if you felt so harassed and persecuted? If you are a member of a denomination wouldn’t it be natural for them to expect you to follow their protocols? Now let me tell you about us normal regular folks, the Presbyterians….ooops! Sorry.

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