While we are on the subject of stripling warriors …
One of my least favourite interpretations of scripture focuses upon the story of the army of Helaman. In Alma 56, the standard of good motherhood is set forth:
Now they never had fought yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their own lives; yea, they had been trained by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying We did not doubt our mothers knew it.
The simplistic conclusion that often seems to arise from any discussion of the army of Helaman is that these relatively unknown women were “good” mothers because their children did not doubt.
It is easy to see how Latter-day Saints could form a philosophy of “know them by their fruits” parenting. Good trees don’t bring forth corrupt fruits, the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself and every seed bringeth forth its own likeness. In other fruity language, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.
“Good” LDS parents have children who are quiet and reverent in Primary and don’t run in the halls. They raise teenage daughters who always dress modestly and sons who go on missions. Their young adult children marry in the temple. These kids don’t doubt, always conform, don’t get strange haircuts or take unexpected or prolonged detours.
I have seen this “know them by their fruits” defense used in relation to a variety of parenting styles and family configurations in real life and here in the Bloggernacle. However, it seems to me that judging one’s merits or successes as a parent based on the actions of another individual just doesn’t make sense. It flies in the face of our doctrine on agency as well as scriptural teachings about parenting. Section 68 declares that the duty of a parent is to teach, not to ensure the outcome of another’s life choices.
Who is a successful LDS parent then? I just can’t believe that I can put my feet up and relax when the last child is delivered to the bride’s room in the Toronto temple. While it is tempting to set our sights on a checklist of events or our kids characteristics, I am more inclined to believe that a better measurement is how my heart is with my child and with my God. Is my love unfeigned? Am I long suffering and gentle and meek in raising my children? Do I recognize that I can still “lovingly” coerce even for the best of causes?
Undeniably, there is something to the idea that “good parents produce good kids”. But the bottom line is that even if all 2000 of those young men ran away like cowards, feared death or had other doubts, if their mothers actions had remained the same, they still would have been “good” parents. To think otherwise, seems to place a difficult and unnecessary burden on parents that even our Father in Heaven doesn’t assume.