Valuing Families

Every time I hear someone climb on the “family values” soap box and advocate for “pro-family” actions or attitudes, I get very nervous because I start wondering “if you are pro-family, who are you against”?

  • Single people?
  • Single people who want to be single?
  • Single people who you want to think want to be single?
  • Childless divorced people?
  • Divorced parents with children?
  • Divorced people who got divorced for a valid reason?
  • Divorced people who you want to think got divorced for reasons that aren’t valid?
  • Children of divorced people who you want to think got divorced for reasons that aren’t valid?
  • Orphans?
  • Unwed parents?
  • Non-humble and unrepentant unwed parents?
  • Children of unwed parents?
  • Children of non-humble and unrepentant unwed parents?
  • Married parents with children who disagree with you about what the phrase “family values” means?
  • Polygamists on earth?
  • Polygamists in heaven?
  • Adopted children?
  • People who give up children for adoption?
  • People who don’t give up children for adoption, but you think they should have?
  • Childless couples?
  • Couples who are childless because they are selfish?
  • Couples who you want to think are childless because they are selfish but you really don’t know because you aren’t their doctor?
  • People who don’t like their families?
  • People who don’t like their families some of the time?
  • People who don’t like some people in their immediate or extended family?
  • Parents who have gay children?
  • Parents who have gay children and are tolerant of them?
  • Gay people who are married?
  • Gay people who are not married?
  • Gay married people who adopt children?
  • Gay people who are not married who adopt children?
  • Celibate gay people who don’t like their families?
  • Non-celibate gay people who do like their families?
  • Promiscuous single people who use birth control?
  • Married people who use birth control?
  • Married people who you think should have used birth control a couple kids ago?
  • Old singles ladies who prefer cats to people?
  • Gay people who like old single ladies who prefer cats to people?

You know I’m going somewhere with this, right?  Maybe we should be moving away from teaching a gospel that we think is solely focused on personal behavioral control, and move more towards living one oriented towards loving outreach.  Let’s stop creating fragile glass castles of performance, and rather build sturdy homes of forgiving love–homes that are able to withstand the threat of difference and are shored up against cracking from a fear of loving inclusiveness.  We should build homes that embrace change and otherness–that may have a few shingles missing, and a few unmade beds, but are safe havens for those who need to be loved.  We should build homes that can withstand the tragedies of human life:  divorce, sin,  disbelief, depression, and pain.  Because really, no home or family is immune to tragedy.  Children who come from these homes are resilient.  They are children who rather than pointing fingers directed by finely tuned instincts to notice difference, instead open their arms to those in need.  These children are unconstrained by worry of living up to expectations of outward conformity.  With their crooked grins and smiling eyes, they put an arm around the shoulder of their Muslim, gay, illegal immigrant, Jewish, short, fat, immodest, awkward, Catholic, insecure or shy classmates and invite them home for a snack, a game, and the beginnings of friendship.  Even if it risks their own social status.  These children are from homes that are transformed by brave and tenacious love.  They want to live in communities more concerned with identifying and helping the needy than casting blame.  They will be taught by their mothers, or fathers, or teachers to first learn to forgive and then to resist the satisfying whispers of judgment.  In our classrooms, can we lean away from “teaching to the ideal” knowing that that picture of “family” may break the hearts of the “non-traditional” families in the congregation?  Instead, can we teach to this ideal:  As I have loved you, love one another?

Comments

  1. Whenever I hear somebody get on the “Love and Tolerance” soapbox, I ask myself: “what is he really against?”

  2. If this were the church I saw on Sundays, I wouldn’t feel that horrible pit in my stomach every time I walked into the chapel.

  3. Nicole B. says:

    Yes! This is what we should be— people loving people. Thanks for your insight and perspective.

  4. Loved this. Thank you.

  5. AMEN! AMEN! A-fraking-MEN!!!!!1!

  6. Thank you, Karen.

    In our Sunday School lesson today (oldest two youth groups combined today), we read (sentence-by-sentence) the first three paragraphs of The Family: A Proclamation to the World and talked about each sentence – what it means, how the main message in it has been taught throughout history (inside and outside the LDS Church), and, most importantly, what it means in real life and how we use it as we interact with others. We spent nearly half of the class time talking about the statement that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God”, with much of the discussion ending up being about how we treat people who are not in a family situation that consists of a married man and woman.

    I told them about someone I came to know online (and later met in person) whom I admire tremendously, who loves the Lord and is an amazing example of faith and courage and determination, and who has written about the pain it causes to hear her and her family described in negative terms constantly – and we talked about awareness of the pain we cause being the first step in repenting of causing that pain. (Thank you, friend, for writing so eloquently about that aspect of your life. I hope you know what an impact your story had on my students.)

    It was a wonderful conversation, and I was heartened by the way the conversation went very differently than it might have in a typical High Priests Group lesson.

  7. Bill Weaver says:

    I understand what you are saying, and we should not be hipocritcal when talking about families. I also agree that I need to be more inclusive and loving in the way I treat people. However, should we never talk about the ideal family? I am very fortunate to havie a loving wife of 40 years, and five wonderful children. Should I withhold my joy because I may hurt someone elses feelings? I really do not know where to draw that line, other than not to be boastful. Seattle, WA recently removed words like citizen and brown bag from their official vocabulary because these words offend someone. Are we doing the samething?

  8. Bill, if I thought that an ideal family was determined by demographics, then I would think you should talk about it. My experience tells me that an ideal family develops family members that resemble the paragraph above no matter what their demographics look like. That’s my ideal.

  9. I for one cannot condone gay people and elderly cat ladies consorting together, engaging in their shenanigans and tomfoolery. It’s not couth.

  10. RedPillLDS says:

    This seems crazy to me (hey, at least I’m reading it, so will think about it). It’s as if the author is worshipping some abstract notion of equality rather than dealing with the messy though true reality of us humans as impefect and biological copies of Elohim. Take the red pill, and wake up from equalist false religion!

  11. Thomas Parkin says:

    Exactly.

  12. Perhaps in “teaching correct principles” and allowing us to govern ourselves we have to hold up the principle sometimes….. and yes sometimes I agree the delivery is poor, but what else can we expect from a lay clergy of volunteer fishermen……. or should that be fisherpeople)

  13. *sigh* There is no such thing as the ideal family- there are only families. Real, flesh and blood bodies in the mortal trenches doing their damdest to live a decent life. When one particular configuration is held up as ‘correct’ it by very necessity relegates others to ‘less correct.’

    Karen’s last two sentences succinctly sum up why this matters:

    In our classrooms, can we lean away from “teaching to the ideal” knowing that that picture of “family” may break the hearts of the “non-traditional” families in the congregation? Instead, can we teach to this ideal: As I have loved you, love one another?

  14. Mark Brown says:

    One problem with our pretense to focus on the ideal is that it is dishonest, leading us to value form over substance. So that family at church might look ideal, but sooner or later they will run into difficulty, and the only way to help is to focus on the other ideal Karen prescribed, “As I have loved you, love one another?”

  15. Time for a serious reply Re. the line from the end that Tracy M quoted: I grew up in a house with only one of my (not temple married) parents active, which in an LDS context makes it a kind of “non-traditional” family. I grew up fully internalizing the idea that my family was second-class and so was I, that when the church taught lessons about eternal families and the blessings of the priesthood those were asterisked, not meant to apply to me. Through no fault of my own the “ideal” was something I could probably never hope to obtain, and for a while I was quite bitter about it. Years down the road I’m temple-married and rather more positive about the idea of eternal families, but I can’t quite say the old scars ever fully healed. Anything we can do to make sure nobody is made to feel like I did–not to mention the many others who’ve faced more overt stigmas–is a positive step.

  16. Jack Hughes says:

    “Married people who you think should have used birth control a couple kids ago?”

    In my ward, this seems to be the “pro-family” status quo, not the exception.

  17. Why must being pro-family mean that one is against someone (rather than something)?

    One can be pro-honesty and still not hate liars. We are able to teach about not to lie, without that those of us who have sometime lied feel hurt. Same should be true for family values too.

    Before you say anything, let me assure that I do understand that my analogy is not flawless, lying is almost always wrong, but for example divorce might be the best option in some cases. But I still think it is possibly to be pro-family without being against someone. I think that we should focus on the ideal, but it doesn’t mean that we need to disregard the reality of life in this fallen world.

  18. Yes, to everything Casey said. In church, we routinely heart litanies of problems in society, like drug addiction, porn use, crime, alcoholism, abuse. Then, more often than not, tacked on to the end of that list, is “divorce” and “unwed mothers”.

    Guess what? We’re a divorced family, and I am, at to my children’s reasoning, an “unwed mother”. We’ve GOT to stop doing this. My children, at church, and with a frequency that is startling, hear their family listed with things that are dangerous and criminal.

    You may not notice it if it doesn’t effect you, but trust me, when it’s your family, it’s wickedly painful. And I cannot be convinced that after a time, as Casey said, this doesn’t seep in and people start to believe it.

  19. Niklaus, I’m pro-family. Pro ALL families, not just the ones who have the proscribed pieces in place. Thats the problem. You cannot divorce from the position and implied meaning of “pro-family” and claim innocence of the collateral and contextual meaning. We don’t live in a vacuum. In the context of our church and our culture, and even society at large, it means one type of family is better than another.

  20. marginalizedmormon says:

    well, not all divorces are created equally–or come from the same causes.

    You left out a category: adoptive parents.

    A lot of what you say is valid, but just as not all divorces are created in heaven or hell–

    not all people who are ‘different from me’ are safe to bring home–

    Some children don’t see that line and end up in very bad situations; some adults don’t see that line and end up in very bad situations. It might not even be because they are in any of the categories that were mentioned, but not everyone is warm and fuzzy and will respond to loving warmth from warm and fuzzy people–

    some will ‘take’ you and use you. There are people with borderline personalities in all of those categories and even in the ‘happily married, doing everything right’ category–

    But it’s all something good to talk about–

    Every case is as different as the person involved in the case. Maybe if *we* could begin to see individuals as individuals instead of as a ‘type’ *we* would be getting somewhere–

  21. Bill Weaver, speaking as someone who falls into one of the alternate family situations Karen H. described, I think it’s wonderful that you’ve found happiness with your wife and children. However, you should not assume that your version of familial happiness is what will bring everyone happiness, nor should you assume that everyone wants to or is able to create familial happiness in the same way that you’ve created familial happiness. In my reading, this post is calling for more understanding of and love towards people who don’t conform to the ideal LDS view of family.

  22. One way I process a lot of the “family first/family only!” talk is to categorize it as political/legal oratory. From the tower, the Brethren are looking at societal issues and propounding a certain ideal that they think will be best for society (and for the Church). I grant and respect their perspective to speak in that way. They have a different view and are also charged for protecting the Church at large. On the ground, however, much of that rhetoric is simply inapt in day-to-day living. (What difference does it make how we define marriage when it comes to my day-to-day interactions with my teenaged daughter?) As you point out in this post, Karen H., if we adopt the legal jargon in our interpersonal interactions, it can dampen and damage relationships. Let the prophets, then, propound teachings about the importance of family to society and let’s support that position — yes — but let’s not forget our individual responsibility to act in Gospel-centered homes and wards/branches, homes that are filled with Christian virtues without respect to the particular occupants of the household.

  23. Chris Kimball says:

    Filtering through my reading and talking, from inside and outside the church, I’ve picked up the idea that two adults working together is probably/often/likely better for children, than one adult. And that one adult may be better than two adults who are fighting. And that when the focus is on the children, “two adults” does not mean one-man-one-woman necessarily, but can come together in lots of ways all of which have pretty much the same benefit for the children.

    Now I might have this all wrong. Or partly wrong. But is it possible to have a conversation about better and worse? We don’t all get the whole menu to choose from. We all (most of us, anyway) make choices from a rather truncated list that doesn’t always include our first choice. But in a world of second best–which is where most of us live most of the time–can we talk about the good and the not so good? At least for my children, that would be a productive conversation.

    When looking at where someone is today, “love one another” seems absolutely right. But when looking forward, with choices and decisions to make, it is not the case that every family on the list is equal. There are some choices which, if available, will be happier than others for everyone.

  24. One more thing to chime in with, in response to Niklas’s point. I think something E. Holland said speaks to that:

    ‘You may say most positively that “Susan is pretty and Sandra is bright,” but all Susan will remember is that she isn’t bright and Sandra that she isn’t pretty.’

    He’s warning specifically against comparing children to each other, but I think the point applies broadly: even a positive message can convey unwanted and unintended negative messages to those for whom the message doesn’t precisely fit. A primary teacher may teach that Jimmy’s family is eternal, but all Joey, son of a divorcee, remembers is that his family probably isn’t! Of course we can’t avoid taking ANY positive stances or avoid teaching ANY normative behavior, but we can be more sensitive, both at as individuals and as a church, especially when the ones most likely to hear the negative messages are already at the greatest risk of feeling marginalized or of falling away altogether.

  25. I believe more strongly in covenant marriages as outlined by the Family Proclamation than I did before. It doesn’t damage me to hear the ideal. It doesn’t break my heart to be taught things that I can’t obtain. It makes me grateful that the Church teaches parents to take responsibility for their children and to their spouse. As a single mother, it is validating to know that my situation is hard because it isn’t the way things should be.

    It isn’t the ideal that hurts, it’s others’ disregard for it. When it comes up, I’ll be the first one to teach my daughters how to marry a man who is willing to look beyond his own immediate gratification in service to the Lord and to his family.

  26. Talking past each other, SR. What you’re saying doesn’t have anything to do with the post. I, too, will teach my kids to be responsible and look for partners willing to look beyond immediate gratification and have a willingness to serve his/her family and the Lord. What does that have to do with the fact that I’m divorced? What the heck does that have to do with my kids’ family being lumped in with a list of unsavory and criminal sundries?

  27. alliegator says:

    What is “the ideal” though? I have two parents and three siblings. Two of my siblings are no longer members of the church. One of my siblings is a public interest lawyer and is in school to become a hospice chaplain. Two of my siblings are mental health therapists. All smart, happy people who are spending a good portion of their life working to make the lives of others better. We love each other and are supportive of each other. It doesn’t get more ideal than that.

    There is no one ideal that is going to make every family happy. The ideal is when we take what we’ve been given and make a good life out of it.

  28. wreddyornot says:

    Thanks for the post. I agree we need to value families in all ther varieties.

    The ideal is to realize that we are all in the family, the family of God, the kind of family we are to value, one of great varity and diversity and problems, etc. We are brothers and sisters, broken and flawed, every one of us. The ideal is to realize that God loves us all, that our brother sacrificed greatly for our redemption, that our Heavenly Parents (who, given what we know of them as a couple almost seem divorced as we understand the concept) want us to love one another as much as we love ourselves.

  29. Niklas has a good point. Being in favor of a way of living does not mean you are against something else. It simply means you are advocating for policies and practices that allow individuals in that situation to be able to flourish.

    So, one can be pro-two-parent-with-kids-family and also pro-singles, and pro-gay-marriage, and pro-foster-children and pro a zillion other things that one might hope will be able to exist and flourish in our society in ways that nurture individuals and help them grow.

    Granted, there are always some people who think that being pro-A must, by definition, make you anti-B or judgmental against or denigrating towards C and therefore adopt that way of viewing life for themselves, but that’s just insecure thinking. And hopefully most of us eventually recognize that anxiousness and insecurity at some time in our lives, and get past it. It’s part of letting go of the “spirit of fear” and welcoming the “spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind” that Paul wrote about it.

    But not all your brothers and sisters will get it when you do. So, when you do get it, I say double your efforts of love, power and a sound mind to do what you can to counterbalance and reduce the damage until the atonement can finish the healing that will be required. And it can.

  30. The term “unwed mother” is usually understood to mean a mother who was never wed. A “single mother” could be an unwed mother, a divorced mother, or a widowed mother.There’s an important difference between having children with the benefit of marriage and having children without that benefit. If you think that the rising number of children born out of wedlock–the illegitimacy rate, if that is not too insensitive a term–is not a huge societal problem, well, you are just ignorant.

    However, I can’t think of any scenario at church where it would be useful or edifying to include “unwed mothers” or “single mothers” on a laundry list of everything that’s wrong with the world. I can’t think of a scenario where a list of everything wrong in the world is useful period, regardless of what’s on it. I think we spend too much time in church talking about stuff that is wrong with the world, how Satan deceives “[other] people” and not enough time talking about stuff that is wrong with *us*, how Satan deceives *us*. We’re all familiar with the saying that the church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners, but we forget that this hospital has only one physician; the rest of us are the patients. Maybe we should liken the church to an AA meeting. It doesn’t really matter what brought us there or how far along we are in our journey to sobriety; we’re there to bear each other’s burdens and keep each other from falling off the wagon. Occasionally that involves talking about how much it sucks to be a drunk.

    From my years serving in Primary I know that any lesson about eternal families includes a *note* in the manual that teachers should “be sensitive” to children who haven’t been sealed to their parents (for whatever reason) and/or whose parents may be divorced, but I have never seen an example of how one might go about “being sensitive” while teaching that some people’s families will be together forever and some people’s won’t. I still don’t know how this is accomplished.

    Most human beings want to be partnered in life; most parents would prefer not to parent alone. Therefore, talking about the importance of marriage and family should not hurt anyone’s feelings. However, none of us lives in an “ideal” family situation–or if we do (or think we do), that is a combination of good choices and good luck, and we should never give short shrift to the luck part. If someone is in an “un-ideal” situation, it doesn’t particularly matter to the rest of us if their situation is the result of bad choices or bad luck or (most likely) a combination thereof. We can’t know anyone else’s full story and we can’t know their heart. We can assume that if they’re sitting there in church (especially for three mostly-boring hours), they’re trying to do the right thing. We should be helping each other figure out how to strengthen all of our families, whatever form they take. A single mother shouldn’t have cause to despair at church over the fate of her family; she should be given every reason to hope that her family will flourish with her love and guidance and (hopefully) with the help of her community. Why else are any of us there?

  31. Tracy, maybe to you it doesn’t have anything to do with the post, but to me, it has everything to do with the topic of the post. So often with these types of posts, there is an underlying premise that teaching values is the same thing as devaluing people who don’t perfectly match those values. I reject that premise. They are two entirely different things. As someone who doesn’t fit this particular value, I am still grateful that it is taught.

    I don’t see teaching those things as lumping me or my children in with criminals or the unsavory. If OTHER people feel that way, well, there are a lot of things that people think or feel that I don’t agree with. The answer is not to cease teaching principles such as The Family: a Proclamation to the World. It is to use my perspective to deepen the understanding and compassion of those who conflate situation with intent. I speak up about it to those people when confronted by their opinions. What I don’t do is speak against the value itself, because I believe in it.

    Every good and true thing can be twisted. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good and true to begin with.

    The “ideal” according to TF:aPttW is that two people capable of making children have responsibilities of love and care towards their children and towards the person they’re making children with. To me, it isn’t just about being happy as a person, it’s about developing a sense of responsibility and commitment to something outside of your own personal happiness or individual value. You are right, alliegator, that it is also an ideal to make the best out of a life that is less than perfect. But that doesn’t mean the idea of a father and mother committed to their marital and familial responsibilities isn’t something to teach and encourage.

    Which is why I am glad that these things are taught. It gives me reason to hope that somewhere, at some time, I will be able to partner with a man who has been taught it and believes in it, even if his own life hasn’t followed it perfectly.

  32. Eh Steamed Enough says:

    FWIW – the note to be sensitive is found in most lessons that deal with families and eternal marriage, whether they be located in the sunday school lessons, YW or YM. It isn’t as if church leaders aren’t aware that people’s situations aren’t always ideal. If we’re afraid of teaching the ideal, perhaps we should excise Mathew 5:48, too.

  33. “two people capable of making children have responsibilities of love and care towards their children and towards the person they’re making children with”

    I buy this–endorse it, even–and I buy that this is what the FamProc means to say. Personally, I don’t have strong feelings about the FamProc, but then, I got married before having children and am fortunate enough to still be married, so perhaps this accounts for my lack of emotion. The problem, as I see it, is that people in church don’t often say what they mean. They use shorthand and innuendo and euphemism to the point where it is easy for people to misunderstand and take offense, or alternatively, understand perfectly well and rightly take offense but the speaker still has plausible deniability because after all, they didn’t come right out and say x, y, or z; they just used language that was easily twisted (or twistable, depending on the situation).

    The other problem is that in addition to using unclear language, we don’t talk about divorce and out-of-wedlock birth as though it’s a reality that we as Christians need to deal with; we only talk about it as something we need to keep ourselves (and our children) safe from. We need to think about how a lesson applies to someone who is in the “non-ideal” (for want of a better term) situation. If the only application is “buck up, everything will work out in the next life,” maybe it isn’t a very good lesson. This doesn’t mean you never talk about the responsibility of men and women to marry and take care of their children. It just means that if you don’t have a central message that benefits someone who is divorced, single, gay, whatever, then your focus is in the wrong place.

  34. “It isn’t as if church leaders aren’t aware that people’s situations aren’t always ideal. ”

    They’re aware; they just haven’t given us much guidance on How To Be Sensitive.

  35. I don’t blame church leaders for not teaching people how to be sensitive. I blame the insensitive people, and try to correct them with love and patience, knowing that I’m sometimes insensitive myself.

    Church leaders aren’t parents, and we aren’t children. Church isn’t there to teach basic social skills, except perhaps by experience.

    And I find it far more annoying to have someone overly careful in how they word things than ignorantly insensitive. The latter can usually be repaired with a few mild words. The former is assuming I’m an emotional child, unable to handle unpleasant or painful things.

    Not all messages are equally important for all people. Again, that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Adults should be able to handle that not everything is about them.

  36. Chris Kimball says:

    “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” — Proclamation on the Family

    In the classroom with young men and young women whose families do not meet this description, how do you address this line from the Proclamation? When they read “entitled” aren’t they going to react with “I’ve been robbed!”?

  37. So you’ve just replaced the word family with home. A a single paragraph you used the word home about 8 times because you’re grasping for something to use in place of family in your post-family view of the world. Excep… what if I don’t have a home?

    And even further, it’s entirely offensive that in your search for a word to replace family, you’ve chosen an inanimate material object that is the modern objectification of obsessive consumption. Nothing could be more repulsive and materialistic than replacing the concept of family, which prophets have long taught is the most important organization in eternity with a descriptive place of residence.

    My apologies for sounding harsh, but I’m not ready to accept a post-family world just because you say so.

  38. MikeInWeHo says:

    It’s interesting too see Tracy and SilverRain talking past each other here, but not surprising. As far as I can see, the LDS church has defined what constitutes a family these days. The family proclamation is unambiguous. Take it or leave it (and I certainly leave it!), it’s hard to dance around the fact that one particular form of the family, based on normative and eternal gender roles, has been elevated to divine status in contemporary Mormonism. All other families are, at best, damaged goods.

    I’m reminded of a quote by Terryl Givens on the topic of homosexuality:

    “For a Latter-day Saint, salvation means attaining to a level of godliness in conjunction with a companion [to] whom you are sealed eternally. Mormons also have the belief, of course, that the ability to procreate, to foster progeny, is a gift of God, and is a right and a privilege and a gift that will persist into the eternities in some way or fashion. That makes it especially difficult to situate within the Mormon theological system a place for homosexuality….”

    It is equally difficult to situate most of the other people listed in Karen’s original post.

  39. Just a note about “the ideal family”:

    I know personally of more than one situation where a man and a woman got sealed in the temple and had kids – and appeared to be “the ideal family”. In one case, the father even served as a counselor in a Stake Presidency. He also abused his wife and children emotionally – actively and egregiously, and his children and wife paid a terrible price. There was nothing, and I mean nothing, ideal about that marriage or family – and, as I said at the beginning of this comment, this was not a singular example.

    I believe in marriage. I believe in two parents with children (biological or adopted) as the basic model of family life. However, “the ideal” is to love, serve and act charitably, regardless of structure. Everything else is packaging, and no arrangement that lacks love, service and active charity is ideal – while every situation that includes those things is far closer to ideal than any situation that lacks them. That means there are many gay marriages, for example, that are “more ideal” than many straight marriages – and kids would be better off in many gay marriages than in many straight marriages.

    We can believe in a foundational structure, but our focus and our teaching ought to be on being Christ-like in and toward whatever situations are our collective realities.

  40. In the classroom with young men and young women whose families do not meet this description, how do you address this line from the Proclamation? When they read “entitled” aren’t they going to react with “I’ve been robbed!”?

    Chris Kimball, perhaps the response will be something like “who sinned, this child or his/her parents?”

  41. Mark Brown says:

    kaphor, don’t be ridiculous. You know very well that often home and family are interchangeable. “Broken home” means the same thing as “broken family”.

    My apologies for sounding harsh, but I’m not ready to accept a post-lobotomy discussion just because you are leading the way.

  42. MDearest says:

    First, this: “So often with these types of posts, there is an underlying premise that teaching values is the same thing as devaluing people who don’t perfectly match those values. I reject that premise.”
    For the record, I reject that premise too. Further, I don’t even see that premise as axiomatically true, either in the OP or in the comments. I’m dismayed to see this discussion, once again, degenerate into an argument over lesser points.

    I am heartened however, to see some of the comments rising above the temptation to joust over Temple Families vs. Broken Families, and truly address what it is that all functioning families do, that pleases God, and for the first time, I can see what sensitivity would look like in the trenches of, say Sharing time or Valiant class, or even General Conference. (Thanks alligator and Ray, and wreddy, Mike and especially madhousewife for oiling my rusty brain.)

    Imagine if you are a single parent like Tracy or SR, or the child of a “broken” home, or the wife/child in Ray’s example; from a seemingly forever family with serious hidden abuses. You are listening to a sermon exhorting the benefits of committing to temple marriage and a gospel-oriented home. Now imagine if the Primary teacher/Apostle delivering the sermon takes a moment to spell out what family love looks like and praises the parents who struggle to create such an atmosphere for their children to grow, perhaps even giving a specific hat tip to the men and women who do this without an earthly partner, with only the help of the Lord. Teaching that there are things that can be done (must be done!) to build a family here and now, lots of things that count just as much as a temple sealing. How empowering it would be for the child who might otherwise go home in tears, to know that he can admire his mom for hearing her praised too, and maybe feeling empowered to help her a little more. I think we’d do a lot to mitigate the damage that people suffer by giving them credit for what they’re already doing to create their forever family, and encouragement to keep doing it.

    I repeat, I don’t think we should see this as a conflict between the Temple Families and the Broken Families. I appreciate the good families I know for their priceless examples, and don’t begrudge them their successes. But we all have successes, and we’re all operating alike under a large measure of faith. We’re all broken in some way as well, and we all have the same potential to become eternal families, but none of us are there yet, and we all have to work through the same paths to get there, what does it matter that some have their pathways ordered differently? And why limit our teaching about what’s necessary to make a family, to a single pathway, when all of it is necessary?

  43. I grew up in a less than ideal family, at least in the eyes of the institutional church. Hearing things like “Your mom can’t go to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom because she isn’t married to your dad anymore. You can, but the most she can ever be is a ministering angel in heaven.” (My parents divorced when I was very young leaving my mom with three young children, she subsequently had another child out of wedlock as a result of a brief relationship with another man after the divorce.) I can’t tell you how painful this kind of talk was to my little preteen heart to hear. In this particular case I know the woman meant no harm, she just clarifying doctrine the best way she understood it, but I’ll tell you I didn’t want to go to heaven at all if my mom wasn’t there. It was excruciating to think about for years. I don’t think it’s true, my sweet mother brought us to church through all of it, because that was where where to find the Gospel, she knew it was where we needed to be. The furnace she had to walk through raising us I think purified and qualified her for anything that awaits on the other side. As a grown up in my own family I also find the rhetoric sometimes painful, mostly I worry a little bit about me reflecting on my kids or how others view them. I need to be on my toes, I feel I need to compensate in some situations because our my husband isn’t a member. Almost like culturally it’s a strike against us. So all my other ducks better line up because that one is out. It’s probably mostly in my brain but I keep a lot of the non typical for where I live views close to the chest. I’m not going on about my political views in public or on social media, and unless it is something egregious that needs to be called out, I keep my mouth shut. Anyway I don’t know how to do the communicating the doctrine without injury better, but I do try and be sensitive and speak and teach as the spirit directs, I don’t know that I’ve been successful, but I try.

  44. “I don’t blame church leaders for not teaching people how to be sensitive. I blame the insensitive people, and try to correct them with love and patience, knowing that I’m sometimes insensitive myself.”

    Well, I know I’m insensitive sometimes, but I’m usually not ill-intentioned. I might just be dim-witted, so perhaps someone who’s experienced it from the other side can explain to me the most sensitive way to teach Primary-age children that the only way you can be with your family forever is to be sealed in the temple. I’m not trying to be a smartass or willfully obtuse. I’m just a temple-married mother of BIC kids who grew up a BIC kid to temple-married parents and I haven’t experienced a lesson on eternal families as someone who wasn’t already sealed to all the people she wanted to be sealed to.

    Casey (7:22 a.m.) said, “I grew up fully internalizing the idea that my family was second-class and so was I, that when the church taught lessons about eternal families and the blessings of the priesthood those were asterisked, not meant to apply to me. Through no fault of my own the ‘ideal’ was something I could probably never hope to obtain, and for a while I was quite bitter about it.”

    I would like to avoid making any child in my class feel this way, but I don’t know how to avoid it and also teach the lesson as it’s outlined. I mean, I know I have permission to veer from the outline, but so far I have veered to the point of just avoiding the subject altogether, which I think is not what church leaders have in mind. I suppose this is where the spirit would come in handy, but in my case “follow the spirit” is about as useful as “forget the lesson and spend more time coloring.” These lessons are supposed to be written so a monkey could teach them. Do monkeys have no need of an example or two of how to sensitively handle the topic of eternal families with young children who can’t be sealed to their parents and siblings (yet or perhaps ever)? That was a rhetorical question, but my non-rhetorical question is how, specifically, might I be sensitive to those children who are from the “non-traditional”/”non-ideal” families? What might that look like in reality?

  45. Thanks, MDearest, for your comment (4:04 p.m.).

  46. Hey Mike! Let’s get married! ;)

  47. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but having left this conversation for most of a busy work day I’m a bit shocked at the direction the comments have gone in. Really? A post about loving others despite differences, and teaching our kids to love others no matter what the demographics of their home looks like is this ruckus-inducing? Does anyone in a happy two parent family not realize how lucky they are? Do you really think that anyone chooses heartache? Do you really think you’re safe from change? Do you really think that you deserve the amazing luck that has come your way? YW lessons may make you think it’s all a cause and effect chain of gospel living and good decisions, but anyone who has truly been out in the world and has taken the time to get to know their fellow sojourners in life must realize that it’s cause and effect and a whole lotta luck. Consequences hit some people hard, and others escape scot free. We’re all sinners. Sometimes the consequences of someone else’s decision completely overshadows all of your decisions. People don’t “deserve” the sadness that life sometimes sends their way. Don’t treat them like they do. And even if you have to convince yourself that they do deserve it and you don’t to serve some sort of hierarchical construct that is super important to you, why should that impact the way that you treat people. Love them. Be kind to them. Treat them like Jesus would. Why is that such a freaking hard concept?

  48. it's a series of tubes says:

    Karen, I suspect that, as is so often the case, much of the ruckus arises less from what is said, and more from how you said it.

  49. Brian F. says:

    I’m a little reticent to jump into this conversation, but I think I can offer something to the conversation. I think that the Brethren are aware of these issues, especially Elder Oaks. He has mentioned many times that he grew up in a “broken family”, to borrow a phrase, and his current wife was single into her 50′s. I think that the comments in lesson manuals to be sensitive are there to remind us of the differences and to be sensitive. I think they are trying to treat us like adults and we should act like adults and love everyone.
    Yes, there are people who treat others poorly, and I feel sorry for them.
    I don’t know what solution to offer, maybe as we treat others better others will notice and learn? I may be a little naive, but I think most people who make insensitive comments don’t realize their words are hurtful. I know when I haven’t been as sensitive as I should be I’ve appreciated someone telling me, nicely, that I was a little insensitive, and I’ve apologized to the person I was insensitive to.

    I think that we are teaching people to love one another, the problem is people. We are all imperfect, we make mistakes, and I think that there is not a lot of actual malice behind people’s actions.

    Fwiw, I fall into one of those non ideal categories. So take my words or leave it, it’s ok.

  50. Karen H., I enjoyed your post. I found out a few weeks ago that I drew the short straw and will be teaching “Sealed…For Time and All Eternity” in my singles ward Sunday school class later this month. I am absolutely stumped about how to teach this lesson to a room full of people who, I know from my own experience, may be suffering profoundly because of their failure to live up to the ideal presented in the lesson. The lesson material is pretty straightforward, and of course there’s the requisite addendum at the end with a GA quote about how righteous singles needn’t fear that they’ll be kept out of heaven because of something they had no control over. But anyone who’s been there knows what cold comfort that can be. For those who aren’t struggling, the lesson will either edify them or bounce off them, but I know it will hurt others. I am very sincerely trying to find a way to teach this doctrine positively without gut-punching the wounded members of my class. I have three more weeks to worry about this and hope something comes to me.

  51. MDearest, you, SR, and others are free to interrogate and reject that premise for yourselves, but I’m not sure that allows you to therefore assume that it doesn’t apply for anyone else. Especially for children–if my own experience means anything it’s that at least some people don’t always find our idealization of certain types of families empowering. When i was a kid and a teenager I often found it discouraging and even humiliating that my dad didn’t attend church like all the dads in the lessons, the videos, the songs, and (seemingly) the ward. It’s not just a matter of individual people being insensitive (although that’s a problem too); reminders that something is “wrong” with you are everywhere in the church, which is why we need to go out of our way to be inclusive and not patronizing to people on the margins as much or more than the rest. I’d say that’s pretty consistent with what Jesus did, no? SR is probably correct that adults can handle everything not being about them, but from my perspective the biggest problem isn’t with adults. Tracy said it perfectly: “You may not notice it if it doesn’t effect you, but trust me, when it’s your family, it’s wickedly painful.”

  52. Stumped: may I suggest a lesson on tithing?

  53. Brian F. says:

    Stumped, I feel for you. I’m glad I don’t have to teach that lesson in my singles ward. I suggest expressing your reservations about the lesson at the beginning, and makin it a discussion about navigating the Church as a single adult, most of whom want to get married and are trying. Just my two cents

  54. MikeInWeHo says:

    I find the very use of the term “broken family” troubling and sad. Didn’t Elder Oaks’ father die when he was a child? How does that make his family broken?

    Families that don’t fit the 50s ideal model aren’t broken, they are just different. The problem isn’t a lack of sensitivity, the problem is the teaching. You can slather talk of sensitivity over it all you want, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that really helps.

    Tracy M: You know my plans for you.

  55. Mike, I agree. Different families can be a model of love, support, education, and moral training. Why can’t our spiritual lessons be about what families do instead of what they look like. Problem solved. Everyone is included, everyone wins.

  56. The thing is, families like mine aren’t only not broken- we’re not even different now. We’re just a family, like any other- until we go to church.

    Indeed I do, Mike!

  57. MDearest says:

    Casey, I’m not sure if or where there is a miscommunication, but I honor your experience more than I may have let on. My family has been made to feel less-than, both when I was a child, and now, but being a well-bred Mormon, I have steadfastly refused to take offense where none was intended. Now I’m seeing that I can’t expect that everyone is gonna drink the kool-aid as easily as me, and it’s a perfectly reasonable reaction to feel hurt, and I would never want to cause that in anyone in your (or my) position.

    Also, Mike is quite correct in questioning what is the criteria for labeling a family broken. From what I know of what it took to make my own family work, and of others families who suffer that label, broken is the last thing you could accurately call them.

  58. Brian F. says:

    I didn’t mean it like that. I was just borrowing the term that someone else used. It was in quotes.

  59. Apologies if I’ve mischaracterized what you said, MDearest. Sometimes in long threads like these even if I’m nominally addressing one person I find myself responding to everyone’s arguments all at once, including those of the strawmen swimming around my mind :)

  60. Stumped, I taught the High Priests Group lesson last recently, and the assigned topic was Elder Packer’s talk “These Things I Know”. I didn’t want go over everything in the talk, so I quoted some from his poems about how he knew some things differently and better than he had when he was younger and how he was grateful for the experience of age – then I went around the room and asked each person to share something he knew better now than when he was younger – something he would share with his younger self if he could.

    It was a wonderful lesson, and I learned a lot from them.

    I can’t tell you how to approach that topic, but I can say that some of the best experiences I have had in classes occurred when the instructor took something from the lesson outline and tailored it, to the greatest degree possible, to the real people in the class.

  61. MDearest says:

    Casey, no worries.

    I’m not likely to ever be called upon to teach a lesson about Eternal Marriage in my ward, where I am considered capable of doing all manner of organizing, bookkeeping, keeping track of details and assorted helpmeeting, but, being married to an unbaptized heathen, never to be trusted with an actual voice.

    And here’s why: I’d teach this lesson with as full of disclosure as time allowed about the other components that go into making a family worthy of those covenants, not focusing solely on one single requirement. I’d talk about the lifetime of daily sacrifices made out of love for one’s family and one’s Lord. I’d talk about the virtue of patience honed for a lifetime in spite of severe challenges, and longsuffering that wasn’t just a term in a scripture, but held years of deep meaning. I might bring up the most meaningful temple sealing I’ve ever witnessed, wherein my aging and frail grandmother was sealed to her deceased husband, with whom she had a difficult life, and seeing her children gather around to be sealed together to the Lord, and how it affected me to see that those children all had gray hair and wrinkles and a lifetime of battle scars, and plenty of weariness themselves. I’d talk about the furnace cited by Dovie 4:12pm, that we all have to walk through to some degree or another, and how that is a requirement that some of us fulfill before the lovely temple ceremony, instead of the other way around, and both ways are acceptable to the Lord.

  62. MeekMildMagnificent says:

    Jacob: It is just strange that you think being pro-family means being unloving to others and against something.

  63. In sealing a child to a parent there is a line that it is as if you had been born in the covenant. Whenever I hear that line I am filled with awe. There are so many children in pain in the world…whatever their circumstances or how their home or lives have been broken…whether the parents are still living together or living at all. that somehow Christ can heal them as if they were born in love…to me is the biggest miracle of all. when people wonder if Noah is possible, or Elijah raising the widow’s son. Or anything…I think of this miracle. It is the most amazing miracle of all, to me. Here no idea how it will be done. No idea.

    Children are entitled to be born in a loving home. To say this recognizes the real pain that exists when there isn’t that love. Teaching LOVE is an ideal.

  64. It is precisely because of these ideals that a church tries to make you believe in that I do not belong to any church. The brainwash you into believing that certain people are not good enough yet does it not say that all man is created after god? Then in that cast aren’t the gays also created after him? Or Jews, African American etc? Churches teach racism towards other religions, races, and sexual beliefs. They may say love one and other but they mean only love the ones that believe as you do!!!!.

  65. I live in an area with few “ideal” families. I worry my children won’t get married and have children.

  66. RedPillLDS says:

    Yes, Wendy, it’s those damn Churches that are responsible for racism! Got to get down to the Mosque to truly understand anti-racism (see, e.g., Sudan) and love for teh gays (see, e.g., Saudi and Iran).

  67. RedPillLDS says:

    jks,
    I feel for you. This is what valorizing everything as equally valid leads to. Of course your children have fewer opportunities bc of that non-family oriented environment. Hopefully they will pull through–some do!

  68. When a thread turns south, it turns in a hurry.

  69. Thokozile says:

    When church leaders use the term “family values,” it’s often a euphemism for all the negative things the OP points out. I think that it’s also important to remember, however, that “those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society,” include measures that are pro-parent and pro-child but not anti-anyone. I support pro-family policies like maternity/paternity leave, good health insurance for children, and employer-subsidized child care. Policies that increase flexibility for employees who have family commitments are probably particularly beneficial for single parents. I’m not a parent myself, but these things matter to me because I believe that practices that are good for children are good for society.

  70. Antonio Parr says:

    Hard to argue against exhorting each other to be loving and welcoming to the fullest extent possible.

    But it is also hard to argue against the value of a child being raised in a home with a mother and a father who are married and lovingly committed to each other and to their children.

    An imperfect analogy, but I weigh more than I wish that I did. If I attend a class that references the importance of physical fitness, it is easy for me to feel discouraged, because I am missing the mark when it comes to my ideal weight. Nevertheless, there is no question that obesity is not the ideal, even though I and many others may be struggling with weight issues. What, then, to do? Avoid offending me by teaching physical fitness, or kindly but firmly continue to admonish me to seek out an ideal that I have not attained? Avoiding discussions of the ideal may address my feelings of discouragement, but it also does me a disservice since there are significant health risks/dangers associated with my current status, and it is an act of kindness to remind me of the ideal.

    If a child or parent is in a less-than-ideal family situation, do we avoid teaching the value of the ideal because of the reminder that it gives them of their situational shortcomings, or do we continue to kindly but firmly describe the ideal in the hopes that (to paraphrase Thoreau) we can help teach and learn about ways to build/repair the foundations for our castles in the air?

    We can and must be ever mindful of the sorrow that is hidden in the quiet hearts beating next to ours in the pews and chairs of our meeting houses. But we can and must do so in a way that promotes principles that are essential to the individual and collective well-being of members of our community.

    It can be done, but only if we are genuinely committed to loving each other the way that Jesus loves us.

  71. I dare say it wasn’t the OP that caused the downturn. It was me daring to share my perspective that challenged p
    a few base assumptions.

    I agree that we must be compassionate and sensitive, I just don’t think that means we stop teaching things that might cause pain. More from an internal perspective, I prefer to focus on what I can do to handle my pain and learn from it than on what others should do.

    When I do have a problem with someone, I try to discuss it personally with them. I find that more effective. Maybe my experience is offensive to some people, or they read that as being judgmental. But maybe some people appreciate hearing another paradigm, so I keep sharing despite the tendency to draw ire.

  72. Ray: indeed.

    Thokozile, good point. I think those measures would fall under the category of valuing families.

    Antonio Parr: yes, it is a very imperfect analogy as it seems to assume that one can just exhort the singleness or divorce out of someone else as if those situations were as under their own control as food choice and exercise.

  73. Antonio Parr says:

    Karen:

    The analogy is imperfect, but I stand by the point behind my flawed comparison.

    If God desires that His children be born and raised by a married mother and father, then the Church has no choice but to promote such marriages and such homes, even if there are some/many who are not a part of such ideal family units. And while one cannot in all cases just “exhort the singleness or divorce out of someone else”, promoting traditional marriages/families undoubtedly inspires at least some to find the strength to navigate through difficult moments in marriages (which come to most of us) or to move out of one’s comfort zone and seek a spouse. (Of course, some are in marriages that are so destructive that divorce is the only righteous option, and some will never find spouses. Still, the family is the fundamental unit of society, and is worth preserving and protecting and celebrating.)

  74. Wheatwoman says:

    Some years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who was angry after church. She was angry because her teenage daughter (active, seminary attending, etc) felt routinely ignored by the YW leaders. There were several other young women who came from “broken homes” and were “a total drain on the leaders”. This woman’s daughter felt that the leaders would call on these other girls for answers more often, chat with them more often, and in general just expend more emotional energy on them. And the mother was really frustrated that her daughter didn’t get more attention for being “one of the good kids”. I remember thinking that it was really sad this woman wasn’t taking into consideration that her daughter had HER to come home to every single day, let alone Sunday. It makes me think about what the church (as opposed to the gospel) is for. It’s not a country club where people pay their dues and act like everyone else so that they can belong. It’s like a hospital. If you’re sick, you go there. Sometimes you’re a patient and sometimes you’re a doctor, but the point of it all is healing. Our wards cannot function merely as a gathering place for “the good people”.

  75. Doug Hudson says:

    I was going to write up a response, but I think Jesus addressed this better than I ever could:

    “So he was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, waiting to see you.’ But he replied to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’”
    (Luke 8:20-21, NET Bible)

  76. MikeInWeHo says:

    That really sums it up. Thanks, Doug.

  77. Thomas Parkin says:

    Please don’t confuse us by referring to the sayings of Jesus, Doug.

  78. Silver Rain, I hope you didn’t read my comment as pertaining in any way to yours.

  79. No, Ray. It was an amalgamation of several comments. I just wanted to clarify that in my mind being sensitive and teaching correct principles weren’t mutually exclusive, since some seemed determined to read it that way. Teaching the ideal doesn’t mean believing that anything but the ideal is damaged goods. At least, no more than we are all damaged goods and in need of the Atonement.

  80. I was in the Teachers quorum for the Family Values lesson on Sunday. The other instructor gave the lesson and he went through the Proclamation on the Family paragraph by paragraph and supplemented the discussion with quotes from the Brethren outlining dangers to the family and emphasizing that the family is under attack. The young men heard quotes from General Authorities about the dangers of divorce, single parenthood, marriage outside the temple, changing traditional gender roles, and those who want to change the definition of marriage, It was obvious who you had to be against to be for family values. Every time I tried to change direction of the discussion, there was another quote. The boys were mostly quiet. Of the ten boys in the quorum, two have siblings that are gay, one probably is gay, three have families impacted by divorce, one has a non-member father, two are adopted, and all but three have mothers that work outside the home. I felt beat up after the lesson, and I think the boys did too. Attempts at sensitivity are futile when the subject matter isn’t.

  81. Antonio Parr says:

    Seldom:

    No one wants to see people walk away from Church feeling overwhelmed or dejected. They should walk away feeling loved and the recipients of great mercy. Hopefully those messages were clearly presented during Sacrament Meeting and demonstrated in the other two hours.

    That being said . . . there ~are~ dangers associated with divorce, and our young people should be braced for the challenges associated with marriage and prepared to endure during the hard times that are inevitable. There ~are~ dangers to single parenthood, and our young people should be encouraged to live their lives in such a way as to optimize the possibilities of their children being raised by a committed mother and father. To the extent that membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints matters, there ~are~ dangers to marriage outside of the Temple, where, besides the theological implications, there is a greater likelihood that children will be favorably exposed to the Church at a young age.

    (Traditional gender roles and issues such as same sex marriage are too big for this topic, so I will take a pass on that subject!)

    It would be reckless for the Church to refrain from encouraging the ideal. It would be equally reckless to not offer comfort and encouragement to those who don’t meet the ideal (which is all of us in one way or another).

    But when it comes to family, we are talking about an essential aspect of LDS teachings and identity. By way of example, we would expect our Orthodox Jewish friends to teach their children of the dangers of failing to keep the Sabbath holy and the dangers of not keeping a kosher home. That message will undoubtedly come from time to time to children whose parents are doing neither. But these practices are at the heart of what it means to worship as a Jew, and I would not suggest to my Jewish friends that they should stop teaching the importance of these practices to their children. Neither would I expect my Jewish friends (or my Latter-Day Saint friends) to suggest that we as Mormons should stop teaching our children about the desirability of a traditional family unit, even though some may not have all of the benefits of that ideal.

    The lesser prophet Brian Wilson hit the nail on the head: “Love and Mercy is what we need tonight.” Approaching Gospel topics with kindness and love and empathy and compassion and mercy is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, and, hopefully, love and mercy rule the day in our classes and meetings. If not, then we need to repent.

  82. marginalizedmormon says:

    You know, I feel that I have to speak up about divorce, too.

    Why is it so wrong to talk about the broken culture (for everyone, not just those who divorce) that makes divorce so much a part of our society?

    Why is it so wrong to try to prepare young people so that it might not happen?

    It’s not attacking a divorced person to point out that divorce is a symptom of a culture gone awry–

    I’m an older boomer, and I know that MANY of my boomer peers in the church are divorced–countless of them.

    I don’t judge them or think less of them. Oddly, if I ever talk to them about anything family-oriented (theirs, mine, anyone’s) in a general, non-threatening way–
    they usually bring up the fact that they have had one or more marriages that ended–

    and almost always they will say, “I wish it hadn’t happened; I don’t regret being married to _______, but I know that it was hard on my children, etc., etc., etc. And I just wish there had been a way around that.” If divorced people, without being asked questions or being provoked by any kind of conversational pressure–bring such things up, why is it so horrible to mention that it’s not the ideal?

    There ARE no ideal families, and some ‘normal’ families may hide some real heartaches that few people see–

    but the fact is that *we* live in a broken world, and pretending it isn’t broken doesn’t help anyone.
    Not many of our peers came from broken homes. One of us (my spouse and me) does–and it was brutal–
    the emotional fallout has been intense. It doesn’t matter that peace was made all around with all the ‘parents’ (bio and step and foster, etc.)–

    it doesn’t matter that they are all dead and all the temple work has been done for all of them (though it’s very awkward for a convert to know who to be sealed to when parents divorced and were never sealed, and we’ve worked that out, but the fact is that a choice couldn’t be made about being sealed to ANY parent, and no choice was made to seal people together who made life for each other miserable when they were alive)–

    It doesn’t matter how old a person gets; the hurt is still there–

    it’s not fair or kind to deny it–to say it doesn’t matter–

    boomers pride themselves in thinking divorce is good for children; well, it isn’t–

    there are a LOT of things that aren’t good for children, but the victims don’t have to be blamed, ever–
    whether adults or children–

    no judgement has to be made on anyone for a person to say, “it was hard; it wasn’t fair, and it’s not the ideal”–

  83. “*we* live in a broken world, and pretending it isn’t broken doesn’t help anyone.”

    Nobody here has suggested our world isn’t broken in many ways.

    Nobody here has suggested that divorce is wonderful, in general, or that we all ought to aspire to be divorced.

    Nobody here has said divorce doesn’t matter.

    Nobody here has said a lot of extreme things that always get thrown out whenever this general topic is discussed.

    Finally, many families and marriages that people collectively stereotype, lump together and call “broken” actually are FAR more healthy and connected than they were when they resembled “the ideal” from the outside.

    Again, I believe in trying to have married couples, but there is a way to teach that without denigrating and belittling real people and their real lives – which is what happens whenever sweeping, generalized statements are made about them relative to a stereotypical, shallow, badly defined, generic, sterile “ideal”.

    For example, not to embarrass her, I hope, but Tracy M’s family is more ideal than multiple “traditional families” I know (inside and outside the LDS Church) – and calling it “broken” and the others “ideal” simply because the others have two parents (which, in practical terms, often means double the neglect, bad examples and/or abuse experienced by the kids) is . . . ignorant and reprehensible.

  84. Wheatwoman says:

    Doug, that’s a nice quote. What do you mean by it?

  85. Chris Kimball says:

    (Apologies for coming back in so late . . .)
    John f. (August 5, 1:32pm) says: Chris Kimball, perhaps the response will be something like “who sinned, this child or his/her parents?”
    And the expected reply is “Neither . . . but that the works of God should be made manifest”?? (John 9:3)
    It’s an interesting response. But I would plan on a good hour or more to unpack that one, with the young men and women I know.
    I take from this whole discussion that one-liners won’t work. No matter the source. That families are complicated and that any single dimension measurement is going to be misleading. That I would insist on a rich and nuanced discussion (or to stay silent or find a different topic).
    But in the end, if a one-liner is required, then I’m with the OP, “love one another”. Or maybe with the Primary: “there is beauty all around, when there’s love at home”.

  86. Thomas Parkin says:

    Ray, what a great comment. Just so.

  87. Ray, amen and amen.
    After I’ve had my say I hesitate to chime back in and stir up contention, even though at times I’m sorely tempted. Tonight I’m blessed to have Ray (7:10) say exactly what I thought needed to be said, much more clearly than I would have said it.

  88. Thanks you for your last comment Ray. One of the things that bothers me most in these discussions is the lack of depth, and the insensitivity of one liners in pretending the depth either doesn’t exist, or doesn’t matter.

    I’m in a “situation,” that has never been “ideal,” especially not the 16 years when my siblings and I had the two parent household, that “we deserved.” I do not believe that Christ or our Heavenly Parents believed that we deserved what went on in our home.

    My mother, who was a convert at 18, and married to an RM 18 months later. My mother has said repeatedly, that she didn’t know that Mormon marriages were not supposed to be any different. The few times she approached leaders with specific concerns, she was given praise for “living the ideal.” I remember one Sunday, a few months after my 12th birthday, having my family used as a model for the ward, in a sacrament talk. All I can remember thinking at church, for the next few months, was that I was not *ever* going to have a family like mine.

    My mother “kept our family together,” for at least 6 years, (although she discussed separation with my grandparents after my middle sister was born, almost 11 years before she left) but despite promptings to leave, she bowed to pressure from my father and church leaders. As far as my father was concerned, he was the patriarch, my mother had made a covenant to listen to his revelation from The Lord, and to harken unto that counsel.

    It took my mother, sitting in a hospital conference room, (after her oldest daughter (me) had almost died in a suicide attempt) watching my father be physically escorted from the building , because he wasn’t willing to follow the rules of a safety plan meeting, to feel like she had permission to protect her children from the father who they were sealed to. I will never forget the look on both of their faces as it happened. My father had just pounded the table, (making my jump back in my chair) and demanded that *his issues* be dealt with first, before his lying slut of a daughter got to share her ideas about what she thought she needed. My mother had jumped too, but no one else in the room had responded at all. My lead therapist calmly told him that he had made it obvious that he did not have the capacity to be stable enough to even talk about a safety plan, and so he didn’t need to be in the rest of the meeting. As my father yelled and tried to get to where my mother was sitting, or where I was sitting, he was blocked. Security opened the door and with a lot of yelling, the man I am eternally sealed to, walked out of having any more control over me physically.

    Once security arrived, it was my mom’s face I watched. She started out moving forward, as if to try and intervene so my father could stay. When my therapist said the word *safe,* it was like a weight lifted off of her. Someone had just told her that she did not have to keep me safe from my father on her own anymore. (I had seen that look once before, on a youth temple trip, when we both prayed together in the pews, since I was on my period and wasn’t allowed to participate in the baptisms.) As the meeting continued, and we established what things would need to be in place for my physical and mental health, my therapist told my mother that she needed to be seeing a counselor if she was going to be my primary check in person before I went to stay with my grandparents out of state. With determination on her face, she said that she had a joint counselor with my father, but that it was time to get one of her own, who could be her support in helping me, and my siblings through the divorce.

    Her decision that day is one of the most Christlike that I have ever seen in my life. She started with the fear of my father, church leaders, and what she had been taught to believe was the ideal, and that she had “signed up for” when she joined the church and was sealed in the temple. Her entrenchment in the patriarchy was deep, and had survived three of my counselors and two marriage counselors telling her that her eternal partner in “the ideal,” was the reason that she and her older children were struggling. She could have left the room and gone through the motions of the safety plan, but stuck to the ideal we teach, and let her husband “preside,” and continue to discipline/beat me.

    Instead, that day she started teaching me, and my siblings, how to be a Christlike parent, which includes standing up to abusive people, even when you are married to them. When my father refused to pay any of my counseling bills, she increased her student loan by enough to cover the cost of seeing an non-LDS social services counselor who refused to disclose the details of our sessions. When my father would come back to “visit” the ward after they were separated, and share intimate details of their sex life in a “testimony,” she continued to refuse to make public accusations against him. When pushed, she would quote the scripture about, “by the fruit of a seed, you may know if it is good,” and then tell the other person that she was comfortable with her life standing as her testimony. The marriage that she and my stepfather have is its own testament. I think I could have avoided the disaster that was/is my first marriage and its aftermath, if I had known that marriages like theirs could exist. They had been married for 14 months when I married the first time. My siblings who were younger and had 6-15 years to soak in the environment of love and Christlike charity, in their home, had a huge advantage.

    I have been asked to teach lessons on family, with all of the examples teaching to the ideal. I have always decided that as a teacher, I can be sensitive to myself, and teach the lesson I could have, and would have, latched onto if only had been given. So I talk about Christ, and what he did.

    Christ forgave the adulteress, and then gave her the command to be a better person, to go and sin no more.

    Christ had half siblings and a stepfather, and he worked alongside his stepfather daily, learning about life and how to be a carpenter, a desirable career with a heavy apprenticeship.

    Christ called as his Apostles men from all walks of life, many with seriously “messed up ” pasts, and he nurtured them, showing them that they were capable of becoming spiritual leaders, meant to share the gospel.

    Christ allowed women to learn the gospel alongside the men. Mary and Martha were both invited to sit at His side and learn all that He had to teach. There is no indication that either woman was married at the time, (all speculation about a married Jesus aside) and they were women old enough to have their own home. We’re they widowed, “spinsters,” divorced, married but to men who did not support them? The scriptures don’t say. What they do not say is, “Mary wife of He-Man,” or “Martha mother of Tom Brady.” They were disciples in their own right, whatever their relationship with man. Heck, for all we know they were lesbians, and if they were it wouldn’t change that Christ would invite them to come unto Him and learn His gospel and be part of His church.

    I usually then open up the lesson and ask them who in their lives has made a difference, who doesn’t/didn’t have an “ideal family,” as expressed in the Family Proclamation. I’ve never had a lesson that ran out of stories before the lesson time has been finished. I’ve had many people, especially those who are the children of intact two parent families, and a spouse in an intact two parent family, (with children, and sometimes grandchildren) tell me that they learned a lot of surprising things, and that they were amazed at all they learned from those that they wouldn’t have thought might have any insight on families, since they had considered the person’s family a failure. For me, those comments are always the most poignant and heartbreaking. We have fetishized two parent families, with children “born under the covenant” so much, that we forget that there are things to be learned from those who do not meet the ideal. Christ did not show that fetish in his lifetime, so why should we make it so important, that we are willing to dismiss the reality and wisdom of a large group of members of the church in the US. When you leave North America, it is extremely unusual to have two parents, sealed in the temple before they have children. The reports from missionaries I have written to over the last 25 years have served in countries all over the world. Having an entire stake presidency, and a bishop in each ward that is married, and has been sealed in the temple is a goal that can be hard to meet in areas of the world where the church is growing fast. Wards and branches could not function if members, who are from a part member families, were not considered for leadership positions. I will never forget one letter from Brasil, where an entire ward was rejoicing that the RS president, who had been a member for 22 years, and RS president for the last 10 years, had her husband choose to be baptized. The young man said that he hadn’t realized that the man sitting next to her in church every Sunday was her brother, and not her husband, until the RS president asked them to come to her home to teach the discussions. This RS president was a beloved member, and most of the Stake came for her husband’s baptism, too many to allow everyone to even be in the building, the room with the font to packed that a hapless deacon fell in the water after the baptism from everyone jostling to see. The deacon was put on the shoulders of the newly baptized man as they got out of the front and went to dry off.

    I usually end my lesson on family with this story, and a few simple questions.

    If this woman wasn’t given a leadership calling, is it possible that her husband might never have joined the church?

    More important, how many people’s lives would not have been touched, how many needs would not have been met, how much love would not have been spread, if that dear sister had not been given the chance to serve during those 22 years that her husband was not a member?

  89. Honestly, I think this is a terrible article. The premise of it seems to be that being “pro-family” somehow equates to being anti-something. Just because I might think apples are the best, most nutritious fruit doesn’t automatically mean that I’m anti all the other fruits. I think being pro-family goes very hand in hand with the concept of loving one another. It’s a core principle of our beliefs.

  90. marginalizedmormon says:

    @Ray, this is such a pro-divorce discussion that it appears that what I said about being sensitive to those who have divorced was ignored.

    I am sure there are many instances in which (probably especially really religious people, such as LDS) divorce is justified.

    I don’t doubt that. But denying that divorce can and often does break children is just as insensitive. If you haven’t dealt with an adult child of divorce who is aging or if you are not an adult child of divorce who is aging and still feels marked by that divorce, in spite of years of counseling and reading all the right books and praying all the right prayers, then at least make a fair attempt to acknowledge that there are those for whom divorce was the pivotal element that turned a life that could have been happily productive into a life that was filled with heartache and endurance and struggling confidence which would never end, except in the hope of death. *You* don’t know everything. There ARE things that have happened as a result of divorce (I understand that some have shared why divorce was so important for them and such a good thing for them) that could never, would never be shared on a forum such as this–
    It becomes ridiculous when there has to be a choice made about which sort of victim needs to be treated with compassion. But, for now, I see that in this community, at least, LDS and all, those who divorce and for whom divorce is the greatest blessing–will be in the majority.

  91. Naismith says:

    I am also amazed that we have to be “against” anything if we are pro-family. If I am against anything as far as families, it is people judging one another. Each of us is unique and has stewardship ONLY for our own family.

    If I am “against” anything, it is what Thokozile described. I am against policies that make it hard for employees to have dinner with their family every night. That force people to be employed full-time in order to keep health insurance for their family. That only allow full-time enrollment in college, so that parents can’t go to school part-time when their kids are in school. That don’t permit work-at-home options for a job that could be done that way.

    I have been able to build a career as a part-time professional, but it has not been easy. Various people have informed me that my children don’t need me as much as I think, that I am wasting talent, and so on. I stand fast and put up with their complaints and insults, but if I didn’t have the church, it would be easy to believe what they say and accept their idea of normal. Fortunately I have certain skills that they can’t find elsewhere, and a track record of getting things done, so they keep hiring me. Many other mothers have asked how I pulled off the part-time thing, as they were not able to. Our employer, like so many others, is not real supportive of family-work balance. And so yes, I am against that.

  92. “With their crooked grins and smiling eyes, they put an arm around the shoulder of their Muslim, gay, illegal immigrant, Jewish, short, fat, immodest, awkward, Catholic, insecure or shy classmates and invite them home for a snack, a game, and the beginnings of friendship. Even if it risks their own social status.”

    This is exactly what the Savior did (Mark 2:16). Thank you for this post. Additionally, I have always loved this statement from Joseph Smith:

    “Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.”
    History of the Church, 5:23–24.

  93. “denying that divorce can and often does break children is just as insensitive”

    Again, nobody has done that in this post or thread. Not one person.

    “It becomes ridiculous when there has to be a choice made about which sort of victim needs to be treated with compassion.”

    Nobody in this post or thread has said that. Not one person.

    “But, for now, I see that in this community, at least, LDS and all, those who divorce and for whom divorce is the greatest blessing–will be in the majority.”

    Hogwash. That is patently inaccurate and, frankly, ridiculous. Please pardon my bluntness, but sometimes bluntness is required.

    Again, my biggest problem is when these sort of statements and charges are thrown at people who haven’t said anything remotely like them. They are a perfect example of what “false witness” means in the purest sense. Not one thing in your comment describes me, my life or what I have said. Not. One. Thing.

    I actually agree with the first two statements (as, I think, do pretty much everyone else who has commented in this thread), and if you can’t see that from my previous comments and those of others, I don’t know what else to say.

  94. Juliathepoet, that was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for sharing you family’s story. I especially like the lesson outline you give at the end. It is a real example that can be replicated. Seriously, thank you.

  95. Yes, Julia, it was. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  96. marginalizedmormon says:

    @Ray, I just realized that I don’t care what you think, and that probably means that I shouldn’t comment on here anymore. BCC has always been an uneasy place for me–

    The fact that I don’t feel safe sharing the circumstances behind the brokenness caused by divorce in my own family–

    probably has a lot more to do with my personality than it does with the other members of this board. I can admit that and apologize if I accused YOU, personally, of anything. Perhaps you didn’t accuse me of bearing false witness; maybe I didn’t analyze your actual words closely enough–

    I responded to you, Ray, because you quoted some of my comments. I didn’t realize that, by doing that, I was telling you what I thought of your life. I didn’t know we were talking about your or about your life, just about ideas and church culture–

    So for you to become so sensitive:

    Not one thing in your comment describes me, my life or what I have said. Not. One. Thing.

    I didn’t realize that I was commenting to describe you. I was talking about the general ‘feeling’ I was gathering from the discussion about divorce–

    You singled *me* out first, by quoting me and then saying why the things I was saying, as per your quotes, were not representative of the discussion taking place (or something like that)–

    If using words like “hogwash” and implying that I am bearing “false witness” make you feel more genuine, more sincere, in this kind of discussion, then that is just the way it is. Otherwise, why use such words–you expressed yourself.

    Again, even if anyone cared, I would never go into the kind of personal detail that others have gone into, in describing why divorce was so important/necessary, to discuss the raw and brutal brokenness that can come from divorce–for SOME children. I didn’t say all children either. I don’t think I ever did. Let’s face it Ray; you don’t like marginalizedmormon and his/her comments–
    and since you are one of the ‘in’ people on here (I assume; I have seen your name before), I guess your ‘hogwash’ and “false witness” accusation are just your not-so-subtle way of saying, “marginalized, you don’t fit on here”–

    I take the hint–

    There will come a time, however, when the hurts of nobody will be denied. In the meantime, peace–

    Not hogwash to you, but peace to you. I wish I could avoid this blog–

    I need to just click it off my sidebar–

    Unfortunately, there are sometimes things of much value here–

  97. “Let’s face it Ray; you don’t like marginalizedmormon and his/her comments–
    and since you are one of the ‘in’ people on here (I assume; I have seen your name before), I guess your ‘hogwash’ and “false witness” accusation are just your not-so-subtle way of saying, “marginalized, you don’t fit on here”

    No, I didn’t say anything like that, either.

    I truly am sorry you read what I wrote in that way. I was being blunt about what you wrote, and I still stand by what I wrote, but I probably would love you if I knew you outside this written forum and we had a chance to talk more deeply. I certainly have appreciated and agreed with much of what you have written here at BCC.

  98. Latter-day Guy says:

    This was a great reminder: why BCC is great––What a wonderful OP!––and why I do not participate here or at church anymore––Certain swathes of the ensuing discussion… shudder. If I were a better person, I might have the patience to engage. However, I am not Ray (more’s the pity). I just know I’m happier not dipping my toe in such waters. The occasional scald refreshes my memory.

  99. For those of you not completely *done* with this thread, I wanted to share the light and inspiration that came from this. Apparently a bishop in my area, (who read all the comments on this post, including mine) clicked on my name and got my email address off my blog. He had guessed my identity because he was a member of a SS class that I taught, where I shared the story of that baptism in Brasil. He asked me if I would come teach the lesson to a combined group of YM/YW in his ward during 3rd hour this month. I declined because I am still housebound with health issues, but I offered to flush out my comment here, to create an entire lesson plan. Here’s the start. Feel free to use it or link to it in any forum you want. Use part, all or none of it, as best fits your situation. I try to talk about this in an FHE setting at least twice a year, and the story at the end is always the best part.

    “So you have to teach the lesson on the Proclamation on the Family: You want to be sensitive to everyone who doesn’t have two parents, who are sealed in the temple, all siblings born under the covenant, all served or serving missions and finding perfect marriage matches at BYU. But, how do you do that when all the examples in the lesson manual are of those “perfect, ideal situations?”

    I know it’s pretty radical in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but why not use *Jesus* as your example?

    http://www.poetrysansonions.com/2013/08/my-mormon-perspective-how-to-teach_8.html?m=1

    Dedicated to Stumped, MDearest, Ray, marginalizedmormon and Karen H., for the BCC discussion that prompted this post as a formalized lesson plan. I hope that whether you are teaching this lesson in church or family home evening, that you will take the chance and try it out. You may be as surprised as I am every time I use this general lesson plan, how much I learn from my “students.”
    (For those of you who have read my comment on the BCC thread, I have added additional details to the story of the family in Brasil, after rereading the two letters from the missionary who originally shared it with me. I have asked him, and he prefers to remain anonymous at this time.)”

  100. Juliathepoet, thanks so much for sharing the follow up. I’m interested to hear how your borrowed lesson goes.

  101. Antonio Parr says:

    The OP and ensuing comments are all interesting and thought-provoking. The real challenge that I see is not marginalizing those who don’t meet the ideal notion of marriage/families while at the same time promoting the ideal notion of marriage/families. Hopefully, these principles are not mutually exclusive.

    Most of the comments on this post have emphasized the former (which I agree is an essential principle), but seemingly at the expense of the latter (which I also believe to be an essential principle). If we teach our children that a traditional marriage is indistinguishable from a single parenting situation, then there may be a greater likelihood that this “either/or” option will result in a greater number of future single parents. I think the proper way to proceed is to recognize and extol the virtues of a married father and mother lovingly raising their children, yet doing so with the love and mercy and wisdom necessary to reach out to and genuinely encourage those whose situation may be less than ideal. (Of course, this love and mercy and wisdom is needed for every Gospel topic, because all of us fall far short, in one way or another, from the ideal.)

  102. Antonio Parr says:

    (Which is why Christ should be at the heart and center of every talk and every lesson. His love and mercy are sufficient to carry us through any difficulty, and we can never talk too much about the Prince of Peace.)

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