I thought we didn’t choose Satan’s plan


See original here.  From book being peddled to children here. As well as book discussion questions for parents and children here.

One of my favorite talks about this very subject here.


  1. Superb. I saw this book advertised through Deseret recently and felt the same way as your post indicates.

    Yes, it would be great if none of our kids (or us) did the wrong things. And certainly we try our best not to.

    But sometimes we do and will. And while setting this impossibly high standard is ideologically understandable, it is still impossible – and we wonder why so many mormons have a guilt complex.

    I like your version much better.

  2. Oh, dear. So what happens when your membership in the Not Even Once Club is revoked? Chuck it all out and embrace a life of sin?

    A good friend and graduate school classmate once told me that he thought Mormons, as a group, rejected God’s grace. I’m sure I bristled at the observation, but when you see stuff like this, is it any wonder he came to that conclusion?

  3. I’ve always said, “You know what our children need more of? Reasons to feel guilty!”

  4. Between the “pioneer trek” ascetic pilgrimages, the growing culture of confession to Bishops, and guilt trip stuff like this, I sometimes wonder if Mormon culture is on a slow path to just becoming the new Catholicism. I guess that would be OK, as long as we get indulgences, too.

  5. The underlying focus of the original message, “not even once” I think is probably a desperate attempt to deal with the onslaught of pornography that leaders know all children will soon face. The teaching about pornography in the church is focused on not looking at it the first time. Because we hear over and over again, once it’s been looked at, “you can never unlook,” and the dirty images will be forever engrained in your mind, forever sullying you. So what’s the solution? Obvious. Don’t look in the first place!

    The rest of us are lost. Kicked off missions, forbidden to take the sacrament, relegated to lifetime visits with the bishop and weekly addiction recovery meetings.

  6. Not a fan of the marketing. But given that the book was written by an apostle’s wife, I think I’ll wait until I’ve had a chance to read it before hinting that Sister Nelson is endorsing Satan’s Plan™.

  7. It’s ok, JimD, it’s not on the list, so I’m safe.

  8. I would think Christ would never author such a book. IMO, He would want all of His brothers and sisters to rest assured of His constant availability. This segregationist approach to obedience, deepens the chasm between the sinner (me and most of us) and those aptly ready to retrieve rocks from the ground.

  9. Jesus must feel pretty lonely in this club all by himself. At least he gets to come over to our houses to shame us about things in our closets from time to time (see discussion questions).

  10. Mark Brown says:

    Brigham Young says that when he was young someone wanted him to sign a temperance pledge. He believed in temperance, but he refused to sign the pledge. “Even then I said, ‘I do not need to sign the temperance pledge.’ I recollect my father urged me. ‘No, sir,’ said I, ‘if I sign the temperance pledge I feel that I am bound, and I wish to do just right, without being bound to do it; I want my liberty’; and I have conceived from my youth up that I could have my liberty and independence just as much in doing right as I could in doing wrong. What do you say? Is this correct?”

    JD, 225.

  11. Embracing Light says:

    I am sure the intent of the book is to encourage children to make commitments. It goes back to that idea that if we make the choice ahead of time it will be easier when we are tempted. Sister Nelson I am sure wants to help children live a life that avoids the pain that can come from making unhealthy choices. Yet, even with the last section that says we can repent, this will definitely set children up for living a life based on fear and guilt. It allows children to believe there is a “club” where only the “good” can be accepted. It is too bad, because I am sure that was not Sister Nelson’s intent. I haven’t been able to read the book. Maybe it talks about how members of the club embrace those that, despite their best efforts, make choices that could hurt them. I hope so. We all need a place to be loved when we mess up.

  12. Embracing Light: There is nothing in the story that you outline, I so wish there was something, anything that referenced repentance. However, in the very back, on the page of resources for parents, there is a paragraph on the importance of exact obedience followed by a paragraph on repentance. It feels very much like a hurried “oh by the way, as mortals, we do make mistakes, so repent when that happens.”

  13. Christ himself refutes the idea of this book. See Luke 7:36-50

  14. What I hear you saying is that we should teach “Thou shalt not X — but we all know you’re going to do it anyway.” If that isn’t an uncertain trumpet, I don’t know what is.

    In a world where everybody says “go ahead — just once won’t hurt you” (with this post’s corollary, “… you might as well, because the atonement is a get-out-of-jail-free card”), teaching that it’s NOT okay to smoke or seek pornography or cheat or break the law of chastity even once is NOT a bad thing. It isn’t comprehensive (what child’s book is?), but neither is it wrong.


  15. SGNM, my thoughts exactly. The LDS leadership has closely examined a faith that has survived everything, including raping its own children, for 2000 years, and has allied itself closely with it on, of all things, “social issues.” What are they thinking? The closer they get to the RCC, the further they get from me.

  16. Steve Evans says:

    I agree with Ardis. That doesn’t mean I like the book, but I like teaching kids that God’s laws should be obeyed and that sinning isn’t okay. That doesn’t diminish the importance of the atonement.

  17. I’m all for teaching kids integrity, obedience, etc. But this book isn’t the way to do that, in my view. Steve, you say it doesn’t diminish the importance of the atonement. Well, this book doesn’t actually mention the atonement, so yes, pretty much diminished from the outset.

  18. Interestingly enough, I also like teaching kids that God’s laws should be obeyed and that sinning isn’t ok. I just don’t like insinuating that “you’re out of the club” if sinning (or perceived sinning, some of those directives are pretty subjective) happens.

    And we certainly don’t sign “Not Even Once” pledges to gain access to our most holy houses.

  19. No, I’m saying that teaching the importance of obedience doesn’t diminish the atonement – I wasn’t saying anything about the book. I’m sure the book is terrible (as are most books of this genre for this age). I suppose you could say that teaching the topics of obedience and atonement entirely separately from each other is just wrong and stupid (and you’d probably be right). But it’s a mistake to lay the foundation for sin by implying there’s no big consequences for screwing up because the atonement’s there, etc.

    Is anyone really disagreeing about that point, btw? I am sure the author would probably agree as well, but would have perhaps good reasons as to why a children’s book focuses on pure obedience and not repentance.

  20. PS the title of the OP is needlessly inflammatory, IMO. Not wrong, but certainly over the top. It distracts from the principle at play.

  21. ^^Tis true. Dipped into my more bombastic journalistic traits and it’s never a good thing to have the title overshadow the content.

  22. This reminds me of the purity pledges many evangelical Christians do. As I recalled, the studies are pretty mixed on what impact it has to actual behavior. I looked it up, and here are the outcomes of 5 studies of those who had taken a purity pledge (formal pledge of total abstinence before marriage). Four studies were based on the same data set culled from 13K adolescents in 1995, 1996 and 2000. The other study used separate data from students in California:
    – Study 1: During the first year, some pledgers delayed having sex. Those who did have sex were more likely to have unprotected sex. Pledges were only effective in schools where at least 30% of students had taken the pledge and lost effectiveness if there were too many who took the pledges and pledgers didn’t feel “special” for taking the pledge (the club factor).
    – Study 2: After 5 years, both pledgers and non-pledgers had similar numbers of STDs; however, males who had pledged were far more likely to delay sex. There were several who substituted other forms of sex that were not specifically mentioned in the pledge but caused STDs to be transmitted.
    – Study 3: This study showed that an informal promise to oneself resulted in delayed sex, but a formal pledge (e.g. a signed contract or ceremony) did not result in delayed sex.
    – Study 4: This study showed that those who had pledged but were already sexually active denied later having pledged as did those who became sexually active after pledging.
    – Study 5: This study showed no difference in sexual activity between pledgers and non-pledgers, but showed that pledgers were 10 points less likely to use condoms and 6 points less likely to use ANY form of birth control. It also showed that those willing to pledge had pre-existing negative attitudes toward sex that were not adjusted for in the data. IOW, pledge or not, they were less likely to have premarital sex due to other factors.

    So, if this information applies to this approach, it seems that it’s a preach-to-the-choir tactic anyway that is unlikely to change behavior but could solidify negative attitudes toward sin among those predisposed to have negative attitudes toward sin. It also seems likely that kids could simply substitute other non-specified sins because they are not formally prohibited. All of which seems kind of obvious, but the data is interesting.

  23. Data are interesting.

  24. Hey, I’m as willing to get offended by a book I’ve never read as the next guy, but perhaps we should wait for reports from actual readers before we start getting into the specifics of why it is bad.

  25. Angela: Data is interesting.

  26. I really dislike the original, even as I do like teaching children to strive not to do the things on the list (and even as I don’t mind lack of nuance for very young children) – strictly because of the use of “The Club”. As EmJen said, I don’t want anyone to feel like they will be kicked out of a group if they make a mistake once – and I don’t like the exclusivity connotations of the phrase, either.

    I don’t want children, youth or adults to create a club that is forbidden to “sinners”. It brings to mind Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk in which he said:

    “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you do.”

  27. I’m going to form another club called the “Just This Once Club.” Oh wait, I think that already exists.

  28. While I share in some of the concern about the message here and apparently in the books, I will only say that Wendy Watson Nelson has written some pretty insightful stuff in the past about relationships and the atonement, and that she was a pretty accomplished individual and scholar way before she married Elder Nelson. It’s the message that is the problem, not the messenger.

  29. I haven’t read the book, and I won’t condemn it any more than I would condemn Denver Snuffer’s works, which I also have not read. However, I like the way the Lord described the perfectionism He seems to contemplate: “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.” The two greatest lies told by Satan are that one (or one more) little unhealthy act will not hurt us, and once we are in the grasp of unhealthy patterns, that we are lost and cannot fully recover. The title of the book certainly addresses the first lie, I hope it does not unwittingly endorse the second lie–that once “out of the club” we cannot return to health and sanity.

  30. It’s pretty easy to follow all of the rules in this list and still be a pretty horrible person and a terrible Christian. It disturbs me that this is what we’re about. Not that the author intends that, but that in reality this really is what our kids think is important–identity in terms of what we don’t do. And we shouldn’t wonder when the non-LDS only know this sort of thing about us.

  31. Amen, kevinf.

    I have absolutely nothing against Sister Nelson or the idea that we should “abstain from all appearance of evil” (even if I believe that concept is butchered regularly in our communal discourse). I admire her greatly in many ways. I simply don’t like the use of “The Club” in this context.

  32. The book is clearly not Satan’s plan. That said, I don’t agree with Not Even Once pledges for kids or adults. Once the Not Even Once pledge is violated, both kids and adults look at themselves as worthless failures. I don’t think it’s a healthy approach to life, and worse, it does seem to me to be unchristlike. That’s why all the prophets have emphasized repentance, practically to the exclusion of all else, because repentance is the path that leads to perfection. Not taking a pledge to never sin.

  33. Embracing Light says:

    I know the book may not talk about the atonement, but the last part of this pledge says, “But if I do I will use the beautiful power of the atonement to repent and seek forgiveness.” So, really for the individual making the pledge, the book reminds them to use the atonement in their lives if they make mistakes. The problem is that the culture of the Church is a club like this. If you don’t think and act like people think you should, you aren’t part of the “club”. Church isn’t always a Christ-centered atmosphere. It seems like the idea of a club like this isn’t Christ-centered either, although I am sure that wasn’t Sister Nelson’s intent.

    Thanks Angela C for that data. I have wondered about the effectiveness of those pledges. Those studies suggest that outward committing to “being good” will never be effective as helping people realize there are good reasons for following commandments and supporting them as they work out their own path to perfection.

  34. John Taber says:

    “[T]he last part of this pledge says, ‘But if I do I will use the beautiful power of the atonement to repent and seek forgiveness.'”

    The problem is, the actual certificate doesn’t have that line, just the edited version in the OP.

  35. Embracing Light, Emily added the last part of the pledge that you quote.

    One method that I’ve used with my Beehives is what Angela mentions in Study 3. Give the girls several minutes of quiet time with paper and a pencil to think about their future choices in regards to Word of Wisdom, chastity, etc. using the phrases “I will never…” and “I will always…” I may have gotten this activity from the blog “Beginnings New.”

    I’m all grown up, heading slowly toward middle age, actually, but I did the activity with them and made a resolution or two. Strangely enough, one of the situations came up not long afterward, and there was no moment of hesitation or indecision since I’d already decided what to do. I had made an informal pledge and it came easily to mind.

    However, signing on a dotted line as in the linked contract might not involve an actual decision, except the child’s decision to sign his or her name. I don’t know if the contract would work for some children and be a benefit to them. It would probably depend on questions of personality.

  36. Last Lemming says:

    Baptism is the revealed covenant in which we promise to “keep his commandments which he hath given” us. Pledges like this risk overshadowing that covenant and thereby devalue it.

  37. Two thoughts:

    1. As slogans go, “choose the right” is so much better than “not even once.” Choosing the right is a possibility for all, even those who have previously chosen the wrong.

    2. Yesterday I finished listening to the excellent new podcast interview with Brad Wilcox at the FairMormon blog. To paraphrase one thing Wilcox said, one of the problems we have in the church is that we’re afraid of grace, or at least of openly teaching it, because we fear it will be seen as a license to sin and make us some of those Christians who believe that God doesn’t expect anything of us. Yet, grace is a fundamental principle of the gospel, especially as taught in the Book of Mormon. When we ignore it, as parts of the above-referenced book seem to do (I’ll withhold my judgment until I see the whole package in context), we miss out on the divine power of transformation offered to us.

  38. Wheatwoman says:

    I had a crap-ton of rules for my kids. Sometimes the rules were straightforward, like “Don’t take other people’s food”. Sometime the rules were a bit ridiculous, like “Keep your hands in your lap, your mouth closed, and look out the window while the car is moving”. I usually invoked that one several hours into a long road trip. In any case, there were A LOT of rules. I hated hearing my kids argue, so it was not allowed. I hated having my children disrespect me, so they learned very quickly to guard every single thing that came out of their mouths. As my kids have grown, I’ve discovered that a great many of my rules were for me and my comfort. They weren’t necessarily the best thing for my kids. Children have to learn how to get along with their siblings. They have to learn how to speak with wisdom to their elders. These things are best learned by having a good example to look at and the room to make mistakes and learn from them. Today, my adult children struggle with how to get along with each other. They clam up and won’t speak at all when they disagree with an authority figure. I would like to reiterate: I think a lot of my rules were for me and my own comfort. They didn’t help my children in the way I thought they would.

    I feel the same way about this pledge. I live in Michigan, just outside of Detroit. Drinking and smoking aren’t part of the counter-culture here. They are are the dominant culture here and lots and lots of good, respectable people smoke and drink. Modesty continues to be a bugaboo. We live in a predominantly Muslim community. Between the wide range of modesty norms in that culture and the fairly narrow range of modesty norms in the Mormon church, my daughters are pretty cynical. The hair, the arms, the midriff, the cleavage – take your pick; displaying one of them will make some dude horny.

    Point is, children don’t just have to learn simple obedience. They have to learn to navigate. This pledge is for parents and their comfort.

  39. I agree with Last Lemming. The pledge made in baptism is enough. “Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me.”

  40. Heartbreaking on so many levels…

  41. Chris Kimball says:

    Something to think about — the book is marketed for ages 4-8, as “a fun and engaging way for parents to help teach their children”. Parents teaching their children is, of course, the right context for ages 4-8. When I was that age my parents didn’t have a book like it, and when my children were that age I didn’t (and didn’t feel the need), but if I had such a book and pledge in hand (as a parent) I would have had no problem with the absolute nature (never, no never . . .) I would have fussed with including “modesty” (definitional issues, including what modesty means for a 5 year-old vs a 15 year-old, also not a do/don’t do but rather a middle ground/avoid extremes kind of issue difficult to communicate at that age), and I would have cut down on the pornography point, made it a short subpart of chastity rather than give it weight approximately equal to everything else combined. And I would have added my own commentary about repentance and atonement. But that’s all refinement, not rejection.
    For a conversation with a teenager, or an adult, I’d reach for something completely different. But it’s not really fair to criticize a piece directed to 5 year olds for the fact that I wouldn’t use it with teenagers or adults.

  42. Firemeboy says:

    Immodest billboards? Does that include the the City Creek billboards? Or do they get a special waiver?

  43. Firemeboy: Not “immodest” billboards. PORNOGRAPHIC billboards. I’m not sure where these are. I would think it would be a driving hazard.

  44. Yikes. As a parent I can appreciate the desire to prevent pain, suffering, and the consequences of sin from inflicting my/a child. But this is the wrong message. No one maintains perfection. Rote obedience, while it will save you from certain trials, will not turn your heart to God. We all have to pass through sin. This sort of kitsch, though well intentioned, is a breeding ground for barren Pharisaical piety. E.g. “I’m more religious (and therefore better) because I never said/watched/wore/did…
    I think it’s far more important to teach kids that it’s OK to make mistakes and to help them understand the consequences of poor choices. And as sin is inevitable, to also teach them about examining the effects that poor choices make on their hearts, and inviting the Spirit that encourages and strengthens them to do better the next time. I grew up with the, “At least I didn’t do those things” mentality and it totally misses the central Gospel message.

  45. “immodest” is pornographic in our culture, Angela.

  46. Barren, sterile, bowdlerized, anti-septic — our growing cultural tendency to depict and try to live life in a way reflected by these descriptors moves us farther from the Savior and his mission of caring for and succoring the downtrodden.

    This is not to say that we should be sinning or not teaching our children not to sin. Rather, many of the comments above reflect the harm in this approach. It was Emily that added the all-important line to that Certificate: “But if I do I will use the beautiful power of the atonement to repent and seek forgiveness.”

    Why wasn’t that in the original? Why does the book stress “not even once” to the exclusion of actual Gospel principles of Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and the Laying on of Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost? 3 Nephi 11 refers to these steps as the Gospel, and 3 Nephi 27 defines the Gospel as Christ’s Atonement, that he came to do the will of the Father, was crucified, resurrected, and now stands to lift all people up to be judged according to their works. If the “not even once” mentality is based on that last proviso of Christ’s Gospel — that all will be lifted up by Christ to be judged according to their works — then it does indeed completely miss the point of Christ’s grace, the real power of the Atonement, and an acknowledgment that “not even once” is actually impossible because no one is perfect. Repentance is the key, not a “not even once” pledge. Our pledge should be fealty to our covenants and the Lord. None of that implies that we will not mess up and, in fact, we are assured that God and Christ understand that we all will mess up repeatedly throughout our lives. That is why repentance is so important.

    This book plays right into the hands of our Christian critics who accuse us of denying Christ’s grace and the Atonement in favor of an “obedience” focused approach to salvation.

  47. Wheatwoman, I really appreciate your comment. It’s given me a lot to think about.

  48. What John f. said … especially the closing line … I might add that it seems that this book begins from the premise that we can ‘work our way’ to heaven by working to sin ‘not even once’ .. it is unfortunate that such an important piece of Christ’s teaching ‘grace & the atonement’ is often hard to find in our faith practice.

  49. I fear that if actually used, the approach put forward by the book will inadvertently make it impossible for our children to understand the folk wisdom that Church is not a country club for the perfect but a hospital for the sick, dejected, weak, weary, i.e. sinners.

    By all means, let’s teach our children not to do drugs, bully, look at pornography. Let’s also teach them to value all people equally, teach them never to use other people as a means to an end but always to view them as an end in and of themselves. Let’s teach them to never oppress the laborer or rob him or her of their fair wage (a price that might be higher than our bargain hungry natural man/woman might prefer to pay, negotiating the downtrodden down to a price that does not reflect the value of their labor). Let’s teach our children to reject the profit motive or zero-sum-game competition as the driving motivating factor in their lives, instead helping them to place Christ’s love and mission at the center of their motivations so that they can begin to contribute to building Zion by “seeking the interest of [their] neighbor,” rather than their own profit, “and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:19). Let’s teach them to reject racism, sexism, nationalism, or discrimination of any form so that the lives they lead as they grow up can truly reflect the Truth that the Lord “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33). If they learn these lessons, people will view them as the disciples of Jesus Christ that they profess to be.

    In fact, I believe that raising our children up this way can make them much stronger in their faith than through the “not even once” approach. I would think that the “not even once” approach would produce a remarkably brittle faith, shattered by mere mistakes that on their own do not necessarily even transgress God’s law but rather breach one of many well-intended hedges around the law.

    Let’s teach our children first and foremost about Jesus Christ, who he was, what he did, why he did it, and how we can and should orient our lives to relate to that sacrifice and to the Savior personally. Obedience of the kind sought through this approach will follow naturally as the signs of true disciples of Jesus Christ who are following him out of their personal devotion to him and his role as our Savior. Faith really is strong enough to achieve this. Our culture suffers as we drift farther from this confidence in God’s willingness both to convey the gift of faith to us and to lift us up and heal us through his grace so that our hearts are changed and we begin to “sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26).

    It is our decision to follow Christ and become his disciples. This discipleship is a lifelong journey full of ups and downs, successes and failures, trials and tribulations. The Atonement accompanies us on this pilgrimage, making us whole. And our discipleship begins to show more and more strongly through our actions. This is a process that, I fear, can never be adequately captured through the “not even once” approach. Instead, we set our children up for failure, disappointment, disaffection, and perhaps even shame, guilt, lack of self-worth and other such problems by taking this approach.

  50. Caffeine Drinker says:

    This children’s book is clumsy, yes. However, I think people in this thread are being harsh on the author.

    I doubt the author thinks kids who look at porn should be condemned to a life of second class citizenship in the Church.

    She’s just trying to use blunt force to motivate kids to stay away from porn. In this era of smart phones, I can’t blame her. Everyone Mormon is now walking around with a device that can instantly bring up a vast library of porn, for free. This is staggering.

  51. John Taber says:

    John F – and others: You’ve laid out the problems with the idea behind this book much better than I could. Is there any chance you could go to GoodReads, Amazon, and especially Deseret Book and post what you’ve posted here?

  52. I like what others are saying about focusing on Christ. I’ve thought about what would be a better way to teach certain things like modesty and chastity, and I think that focusing our children on the Savior would make them want to do those kinds of things without the prodding. As they come to learn about Christ and have a relationship with him, they would automatically want to respect themselves and others. They would want to avoid pornography and drugs because it does not lead them to Christ. Their spirits would reject evil because it would feel uncomfortable to them, not because they signed a pledge.

  53. Jeremiah Stone says:

    This approach can be very harmful to compliant, perfectionistic people. I was taught this approach implicitly by my community growing up, and it resulted in a very damaged person who couldn’t understand and apply the Atonement of Christ until he was in his 30s.

    Even God expects us to sin–which is something very different from permissiveness.

    I love the parallelism in the scripture from D&C 1:

    “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
    Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.”

    Notice the balance in the parallelism above–it’s not 20 verses of condemnation followed by one verse about the Atonement–it’s one of each. Balance.

  54. The best part is how so many of these infractions of the Not Even Once club can be determined by other people. So a little girl wears a sleeveless dress to church, and the Primary Second Councilor tells her that she’s dressed immodestly? Sorry, Suzie, but you’re out of the club now, and Nothing You Can Do Will Ever Change That. You’re soiled, despicable, dirty – just like a brownie with just a little bit of dog poop in it.

    Bad, bad message, and I intend to have a talk with my daughter about what an insidious message this is.

  55. Angela C. You have obviously never been to Europe. Billboards in some places leave nothing to the imagination. I’ve come the conclusion that it is or will be impossible for our children or anyone else to avoid porn. It is critical that we teach our children what to do when it is shoved in their face.
    I have never been much of a fan of pledges. Like some in the other post have said it is our covenants made to God that have the most meaning. That is why I always found the Honor Code at BYU a little silly and redundant–not that I disagreed with living according to those expectations.
    I do think it is important to teach children that experimenting with sin risky and will eventually lead to regret and heartbreak. In the predominantly Mormon town I grew up in there was an attitude among some of the youth of “I’ll just party now and then clean up my act before I go on my mission just like so-and-so did.” This attitude is disturbing to the least primarily because it makes a mockery of the atonement. It is not wrong to warn youth that even breaking some of the commandments once can permanently change the trajectory of your life. For example breaking the law of chastity can result in pregnancy and incurable STDs. You can make bad choices and harm others while drunk. The key though is to help those who have already made mistakes or who will make them anyway understand that the Lord will forgive them as long as they truly repent.

  56. The main thrust of the comments is a concern that such an approach leads to paralysis and discouragement once the perfect record is broken. I agree with that criticism.

    But just as harmful, I think, is the other side of the same coin that, inherent in the idea of a “club” is the idea that those who don’t do a list of things “even once” and therefore never had to repent (as they suppose), are somehow superior to those who have committed these sins “even once” but have been forgiven. In other words, this kind of thinking is potentially just as damaging to those who do live up to the “not even once” standard as it is to those who fail to measure up, because it misses an opportunity to encourage kids who don’t mess up to emulate the Savior in extending the hand of fellowship to those who do mess up and then repent. I know that’s probably not the intent, but that’s the message, and it’s a message that denies the power of the atonement. If the Lord promises that he will “remember no more” the sins of the repentant sinner, than who are we to set up a club that excludes the repentant sinner on the basis of those sins? I know the exclusion is probably not intentional either, but it is inherent in the idea of a club, especially one with a “not even once” condition of membership.

  57. “For example breaking the law of chastity can result in pregnancy and incurable STDs. You can make bad choices and harm others while drunk.”

    Yes. But the target market for this book is 4-8 year olds, among whom STDs and drunk driving are not major issues. It _is_ however, entirely possible to inculcate nasty, judgmental attitudes among children that age, and set them up to be unforgiving of themselves and others as they grow up.

  58. It _is_ however, entirely possible to inculcate nasty, judgmental attitudes among children that age, and set them up to be unforgiving of themselves and others as they grow up.

    You mean, when they grow up and start blogging?

  59. Steve Florman says:

    I think it’s probably at best a ham-handed effort to encourage people to adopt the attitude President Kimball talked about (I think it was in The Miracle of Forgiveness), where he says that he made up his mind when he was very young never to do any of those things, so when the opportunity to do them came up later in life, he didn’t have to think about it and make a decision because he had already made it. (I’m paraphrasing.) I remember thinking “Well, I’m glad that worked for you.” As an adult (college-aged) convert, I thought Miracle was the most hopeless, depressing book I’d ever read. I have purposely not opened it again for more than 25 years.

  60. “he made up his mind when he was very young never to do any of those things, so when the opportunity to do them came up later in life, he didn’t have to think about it and make a decision because he had already made it”

    That is good advice. But I don’t think that this book effectively implements it. It also seems to ignore the more important role of the Atonement in favor of this “never make a mistake” approach.

  61. The other thing that I think is deeply problematic about this approach is that it is entirely negative–focused on not messing up on easily observable and measurable outward behaviors. The two great commandments are positively stated, and it is impossible to fulfill them perfectly. The Not Even Once Club is, by definition, for observers of the lesser laws, and doesn’t necessarily do anything to encourage Christian discipleship.

  62. I think the really sad thing about this is it all about external behaviour stressing what should not be done and not the real message of grace and most importantly ‘love’ that Jesus gave. I would have no problem with any book that said: “I will try always to be kind, “I will try always to not judge.” And remember self compassion is required to help us to be compassionate to others. How many times do a Bishop ask a youth “What are you doing to show charity to your family and friends?’ Yet youth are continually questioned about chastity etc. Are tenets, ideology, what changes hearts? These are external things. The change of heart comes in very different ways. This book although well intended in my view is misguided. If we want to bare the name Jesus Christ in our church, perhaps we need to all read the New Testament a little more so his teachings can be seen in our members behaviour and writings. ‘Love one another, as I have loved you.’ Doesn’t that feel so much better than ‘note even once.’?

  63. I mean not – it’s been a long day!

  64. It seems myself and Kristine were thinking the same thing at the same time! Well said Kristine.

  65. Oh, my word! How many ways can BCC find to be morally smug?! A great many of the commandments are negatively worded. All of us have to learn lesser laws as a school toward higher laws. We do have to avoid certain behaviors in order to create an atmosphere in our lives that allows higher principles to flourish.

    I officially give up on BCC. Not that you’ll miss me, but you aren’t my people, I don’t understand you, and I won’t be hanging around this cesspool anymore.

  66. Capozaino says:

    Looks like Ardis just kicked us out of the club.

  67. it's a series of tubes says:

    You mean, when they grow up and start blogging?

    Man, I heart Ardis’s occassional zinger. Really liked this one.

  68. Matthew73 says:

    Our churches — and our temples — would be very lonely places if admission were restricted to those who never violated the pledge.

  69. I do have to agree with Ardis that, even though I don’t like “the club” usage, much of what we have to learn in life can be framed best in terms of “thou shalt not”. I also repeat that I am fine with absolute wording for the very young, since most children at the target age won’t understand nuance and complexity that would add to the understanding of older children, youth and adults. Honestly, I’ve been divided in my response to many of the comments in this thread, since I think quite a few of them have glossed over the age factor and some have tended to paint in the harshest terms possible.

    I am somewhat guilty of what I am about to say by focusing on “the club”, but I do think it is easy to make someone an offender for a word – and I believe that has happened more than once in this thread. Em already admitted the title is over the top and not accurate, and I think Ardis’ last comment has lots of merit in response to some of the latest comments. I think outrage makes precision difficult, and I think precision is important in a discussion like this.

  70. The Casters of the First Stone Club.

  71. I agree–there’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning the “thou shalt nots” as a baseline, and let’s face it, most of us don’t get much beyond that baseline ever. It makes lots of sense to focus on them, even with teens. Like most parents, I’m scared to death that my kids will do something dumb to mess up their lives while they are young and stupid, and I would very much like them to make it through high school in the “Not Even Once” club. But there are ways to teach those behavioral norms that don’t deny the power of the atonement or make it more difficult for them to understand the role of grace when they are ready for a more nuanced understanding of the gospel.

  72. ONe would like to think that having a PhD in family therapy would include understanding the importance of compassion, forgiveness and empathy. Apparently not. What a horrible and damaging way to teach children. A continuation of a troubling trend, in my opinion, of the church disregarding the atonement and demanding a completely unreasonable standard for its missionaries and our young people generally. This depresses me. And re what some folks have said about the Mormon fear of pornography (and the human body in general, let’s face it), I can tell you from personal experience that as someone who looked at a fair amount of porn when I was younger, I’ve never found it difficult to keep temple covenants, to stay faithful to my spouse or to engage in healthy, mutually beneficial relationships. How is this possible? I focused on other things, like the atonement, empathy and love for my spouse and on doing other things, like home teaching, temple work, etc. And one thing I absolutely did not do was live a life of fear that I might someday see a naked body and be tempted by it or whatever. Nor did I live in fear of my own sexuality. If we continually make ourselves deathly afraid of things, we will continually obsess over those things, thus causing us to focus on those things even more rather than leaving them behind. We’re getting things, sadly, absolutely backwards when it comes to temptation and how to deal with it. And shame on us for teaching our kids in this manner. No wonder 90 percent of young singles leave the church.

  73. rk: “Angela C. You have obviously never been to Europe. Billboards in some places leave nothing to the imagination.” Leaving nothing to the imagination is not the definition of pornography, and I have been to Europe many times in addition to serving a mission there. Nudity does not equal pornography. Pornography includes graphic depictions of sexual acts. When did pornography suddenly become nudity? Billboards in Spain often featured a topless woman. It was an ad for sun cream. That’s not pornography. It’s nudity.

  74. It sounds like there are many great ideas for children’s books here to counter this approach. I say write em. I’m not too tied up over this book because I am not the target market.

  75. RE: The emphasis on porn: So it’s OK to see media depictions of violence & murder, but sex is the Big Sin? Something wrong with that. And no, don’t tell me that porn includes violence (as in non-nude violence) because it doesn’t.

  76. Doug Hudson says:

    Oops, Ardis finally dusted off her feet at BCC. Inevitable, really. But is it really so hard to understand that demands for obedience must be tempered with the knowledge that failure is inevitable? Much of Jesus’ preaching concerned the perils of blind obedience–the Pharisees believed they were guaranteed to get into Heaven because they followed the letter of the law, without understanding the spirit.

    Why not just teach kids what Jesus had to say? Sure, they might have some trouble understanding it–but that’s a feature, not a bug. (If you are certain you know what Jesus meant by any particular statement, you’re probably not looking close enough.)

  77. I hardly ever comment, but I am a long time reader. I feel very grateful to BCC for helping me become a better person and for feeling like a soft place to land when I’m not that better person. Just had to break my normal rule of only letting myself read while I eat to actually type when I should be cleaning up the disaster that is the result of feeding one meal to my children.

    Ardis, your comment made me so sad. I often cut and paste interesting posts (and the comments that I find insightful) into my own personal online journal, and when appropriate I forward them on to the people in my ward with callings that they might apply most to. I was reading along, copying away to send this to my Primary presidency when I read your comment.

    I’ve never met you Ardis, and I probably never will, but I have to ask: maybe could you just take a little break?

    (and now to go sweep my floor while I wipe my tears! :)

  78. Peter Yates says:

    Bypass approaches that don’t pass the sniff test, without hesitation. Fluff books such as these will increase the numbers of teenagers, young adults, and adults, seeking professional therapy by the score.

  79. In a book like this they ought to add “I will never be self righteous.

  80. Embracing Light says:

    Sorry EmJen, I didn’t realize that you had added the atonement part on the certificate. I didn’t look at the original again (my bad!). Yeh, without that, it will NEVER work. You made a great addition! You should write a book. :)

    Wheatwoman… I grew up in a family just like yours. My siblings and I have never learned how to deal with conflict because we were never supposed to have “contention”. Feelings were “bad”, we weren’t taught how to deal with them. Now I am muddling through trying to teach my children something different. Thanks for your post.

    johnf – I loved your post.

    JayJay – I loved your post. In an institute class I attended I basically said exactly what you posted. I was told by a women in the class that children want to do bad things, even if they have testimonies of Christ. I don’t believe that. I am with you, the closer we come to knowing Christ the farther we will get from doing wrong things. It is a process though. We aren’t going to be perfect…ever.

    To Caffiene Drinker and others who have argued that teaching children this way is appropriate. It isn’t. I believe children can be taught through a balanced approach as Jeremiah Stone suggests. Our children can learn about the atonement along with the commandments. It isn’t an either-or proposition. I feel like a broken record, but I am sure Sister Nelson’s intent wasn’t to ignore the atonement. But, it looks like (I won’t buy the book and I don’t live anywhere near a Deseret Book, so I am going to have to “judge a book by its cover” this time) she successfully did it in this book.

    The real problem is that we never stop teaching this way in our culture. I still get these type of messages as an adult. “Do it ONLY this way or you are WRONG. You might as well leave the Church if you don’t believe X, Y, Z or act this way.” I have had people suggest to me and my spouse that we need to leave the Church “club”. These messages didn’t start when I was 15 years old. They are pervasive in the culture.

  81. Jack Hughes says:

    A “club”, by definition, is exclusive. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, by contrast, is meant to be totally inclusive, and tends to emphasize the carrot, not the stick.

    By the way, has anyone actually read this book? I may yet be convinced of it’s value if, perhaps, it contains a subplot about one of the characters being kicked out of the club and later re-admitted–or better yet, he builds a bigger treehouse nearby and starts his own, much more awesome club.

  82. I have read the book. It is a simplistic story of a new boy knocking to get entrance to the club in the treehouse, being welcomed warmly by his church class classmates, given a test to choose between hypothetical drinks, one of which is lemonade (the right answer) which he passes. He looks around and marvels at the toys and treats surrounding them and exclaims that they must really know how have a good time, to which they explain that their church teacher supplies all the perks, in exchange for then keeping the “not even once” pledge. They then give him the poster (original one above) to sign. They all begin chanting “not even once!” over and over. He then rides home, sees a pack of cigarettes on the side of the road, remembers his pledge and throws them away. He is grateful for his new friends and decides to make “not even once” his motto for life. The end

  83. marginalizedmormon says:

    I haven’t read the book, but, frankly, it’s not in our budget to be able to buy a lot of books, even LDS books, so we have to be very discriminating.

    I would say that IF you have the money to buy this book for your child you’re already entered a club–

    The gospel of Jesus Christ is free. Well, the price of a Book of Mormon is all that is needed for the text.

    This is just one more thing.

    As for the atonement only being for ‘sin’; that is where I believe there needs to be more teaching. The atonement of Jesus Christ is not just for committing a particular kind of sin (sins of the flesh)–

    it is for being human, for hurting, for hurting others; it is for being ‘fallen’. That’s not something a lot of LDS are comfortable talking about, I have observed.

    Why can’t those who have the resources to write books just point everyone, including children, to Jesus Christ? Why can’t it be that simple? It can be, but for some strange reason, it’s not–

  84. Wheatwoman says:

    Honey, I know cess pools – and this ain’t one. Your borders need a little stretching.

  85. How many 4-8 year olds are tempted by drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, dressing immodestly (which I would contend is not possible at this age) or pornography? I’ve been in that age range and had 3 kids in that age range, and these are not the issues. The real sins they are prone to are: lying, selfishness, temper (including things like hitting, biting, etc.), stealing, greed and manipulation to get what they want. Also, not wiping properly and eating boogers. I also don’t know of many 4-8 year olds who have cell phones. Maybe by age 8 at the earliest.

    EmJen: the chanting part is a bit disturbing, as is the bribery by the teacher with all the perks. What about those kids who follow the rules and don’t get candy? What about the kids who bully other kids to get the candy? What about (as someone above mentioned) the kid who messes up and can no longer ever be eligible for the club? What do they do with that kid? Go all Lord of the Flies on him?

  86. Meldrum the Less says:

    My college age kids have exceeded my expectations in nearly every way, probably more from the influence of my patient wife than me. Before the first one was a year old we made the startling but crucial discovery that we were INCOMPETENT PARENTS and that the programs of the LDS church (Sunday meetings, FHE, Ensign, YM/YW, seminary) while providing a foundation did not do nearly enough to teach us parents specifically how to raise our children. This drove us to the library and book stores (~1990, no internet).

    The solution that we found is not for everyone but we came across a series of parenting books based on positive discipline and the one I remember best is called: “Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World.”( I suspect more up –to-date books are available now). I organized a study group of about 8 similar families and we systematically read and discussed this book chapter-by-chapter while meeting every week for Sunday dinner and letting the kids run around in our basement and yard. Most of these families moved away but we keep in touch and we know of not a single prodigal son/daughter in this group, now of college age and beyond..

    I cannot begin to relate even a fraction of what is in these books but a brief sampling should suffice. Solid research indicates that perceptions held by THE CHILDREN (not their parents) govern their behavior. These perceptions can be measured and certain ones are correlated with success (defined by attending college, productive employment, marriages, etc.) and even more highly (negatively) correlated with failure (defined by truancy from school, encounters with the criminal justice system, drug use, suicide, etc.) Not a very high bar. The three perceptions in the minds of maturing children of most influence are :

    -Perceptions of being loved unconditionally. That a parent is strongly in their corner no matter what.
    -Perceptions of competency. That they know how to do some things well and that they do them. (The can-do attitude).
    -Perceptions of significance. That what they do is important and furthermore that meaningfulness comes from them (not their parents) doing important things to help others.

    This is merely the tip of the iceberg of the principles of positive discipline. What we found was that with application of these principles our children developed strong internal compasses at a pretty early age and required fewer and fewer rules. You would be astonished at how slack we got to be with rules. Like we eventually didn’t have any because we didn’t need any. Our kids went through the rebellion-against-adults stage at about age 10 to 12 and by the time they were 15 they were functioning almost like mature adults. They got themselves up for early morning seminary every day along with getting their friends up and managed their school work without much parental motivation and were self-directed in almost all of their activities. It was easier to deal with a rebellious 11 year old writing irreverent parodies of the primary songs than with what could have been a 16 year old rebellious automobile driver who was also well on his way to being a college level athlete.

    We noticed the families in our ward, not interested in our ideas, used sort of a Fortress Mormon approach. Lots of structure, rules and rules and rules, lectures, guilt and shaming, confrontation and power struggles, yelling, generous doses of private corporal punishment, etc. Their children, always on a tight leash, were much better behaved in primary and appeared on the outside to be nearly perfect in grooming and modesty. Inward they often seethed with rage to my children or withdrew and dried up emotionally. To the astonishment of their parents they often underperformed or went wild when given the least chance which re-enforced the parental desire for even more control. Even their own parents often hesitated to turn them loose behind the wheel of a car until age 18 and my children wouldn’t set foot in a car they were driving. These devoted LDS parents have not yet finished reaping the whirlwind of anguish as many (but not all) of their children continue to struggle and disappoint them and perform far below their capacity.

    The most tragic outcome was the suicide of the bishop’s son in an adjacent ward. His suicide note expressed a complete lack of all three of these perceptions clearly even though his parents loved him deeply and he was successful in school and sports. (With digital technology a picture of that note was sent to every youth in multiple stakes within hours of his death, even though the parents tried to paint it as an accident).

    Many children will do pretty good with either approach and failure is possible even after the best parenting, but I think this approach is enough better to be worth it.

    Permit me a brief comparison with the three positive discipline perceptions above and The Not-Even-Once-Club rules. Do the rules generate feelings within the child (not the adult) of unconditional love? Yes, maybe as long as the child complies, but once the child realizes they have made one serious mistake (not even one that is listed) this perception flips to one far more conductive to failure. Do the rules generate perceptions of competency? Well, a fence post can keep all of those rules so not really unless doing nothing is your family definition of competency. Do the rules generate perceptions in the children of meaningful or helpful service of significance to others? How is excluding wayward friends from the club even close?

    These rules fail miserably to generate or even peripherally support the perceptions I think are important for children to learn in order to function best. They are a quaint and rather harmless (to the extent that children will tend to ignore them) attempt to be helpful by well-meaning grandparent figures, probably half a century away from working on the front line of parenting. Youth and young adults really don’t care about belonging to Grandma’s club. They will not follow these rules unless they have developed some additional internal moral backbone elsewhere that is already pointing them in this direction.

    I suggest that young parents ignore this blog and seek words of wisdom on parenting out of the best books and other sources available,

  87. Meldrum — We took a similar approach to raising our kids and with similar results. There’s something freeing for the parents as well in not having to micromanage their kids’ lives.

  88. Wheatwoman, I appreciate your comments, also. Thank you

  89. I am sorry, but whoever posted this is absolutely idiotic. “I thought we didn’t choose Satan’s plan” What the crap is that supposed to mean? This is meant to be moral encouragement to plan on never sinning, but repenting when you do, and you guys are acting like the biggest hawks over it. Is it not written: Be ye therefore perfect, as your father which is in heaven is perfect? THERE, Christ commands it. BE YE PERFECT, but repent when you are imperfect.

  90. The comment that came flying out of my mouth in the middle of the Deseret bookstore was “Hey look we can now build our Great and Spacious Buildings in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil now.” It was most likely the wrong thing to say outloud in the present company, but sometimes my mouth runs without my permission. If I was to be honest about it though it was probably intentional.

  91. Daryl H–In real life, I doubt you would just walk up to a perfect stranger and say “I am sorry, but you are absolutely idiotic.” Don’t do it here, either.

  92. I forgot to say please. Please don’t do it.

  93. Ruth Geitgey says:

    I went to training for volunteers on the state’s (not Stake’s) Meth project which goal is to keep kids from ever trying Meth in any form even once. Meth is so dangerous and so immediately seriously addictive that the project uses the mantra “Not Even Once” in their ads and educational campaigns. This message is deadly serious to get to children, teens, young adults, adults of all ages to understand Meth’s highly addictive properties and not try it “not even once.” In addition to it’s addictive nature, there are all the sneaky ways it can be introduced as chewing gum, placed in a drink, to our children. Parents and children need to know these dangers and signs of meth addiction. Few do.

    Do we have any of this education going on in our church children/youth programs or even to parents on the dangers of meth? I asked about it and was told we didn’t and there did not seem to be much interest in pursuing it. I find that strange since we introduce so many other vices, which may be of concern, but none quite so immediately addictive and potentially deadly as meth.

    We really need to let the different state’s Meth Projects /Ads have exclusive ownership of this mantra (or something similar to it) and use other ways or another theme/mantra for teaching our children to make good choices. I agree giving them reasons for making good choices is and thinking about the consequences of various choices, the ripple effect on any decision, even a good one, is what we need to talk about.

    Unfortunately, you won’t find many “older/wiser” meth user to tell their story. They are either in jail or dead.

  94. Ruth, “do drugs” is part of the list of things to never do once (look at the post carefully), so the answer to your question is, “Yes, we do” – and I have absolutely no problem with that approach when dealing with addictive drugs.

  95. Ruth Geitgey says:

    Ray, I was referring to a very active program on drugs aimed at young people and parents, especially the Meth education. Meth related crime is responsible for such an incredible amount of our tax monies. foster care programs, hospitalizations, jails. I guess did skip over the fact the it says don’t do once, but I was sharing the specific focus of the Meth campaign. Most people can smoke a joint or try some of the other drugs and not get hooked, statistics are pretty sad about the immediate and intense hook Meth has the first time. Many of my friends seem to shy away from discussing specifics of drug use because they are afraid talking about will encourage it and they are sure their kids would not do them anyway.

  96. “Many of my friends seem to shy away from discussing specifics of drug use because they are afraid talking about will encourage it and they are sure their kids would not do them anyway.”

    Yeah, that’s an issue we have to face in the LDS Church – and not just with regard to meth. We talk too little, openly and unselfconsciously, about other things, as well, but I have seen a marked improvement over my lifetime. I know my kids’ generation(s) are much more open to talking frankly about lots of things than my and my parents’ generations were.

  97. Daryl, where does it include that caveat about repenting in this book? Where does this book acknowledge the Atonement?

  98. Geez, Ardis, overreact much? I hope you think better of your Not Even Once pledge against BCC.

  99. Meldrum the Less says:

    I can testify to the destructive power of meth. A cousin of mine living in Utah and active in the church had a son whose intelligent mind and athletic body was destroyed by meth. He was at the top of his class academically and he can’t do high school level academic work now. He was talented enough to get an athletic scholarship to college in two sports and he now is like an old man with multiple health problems affecting his brain, heart, lungs and liver before his 30th birthday. He has been drug free for a couple years but he is now incapable of doing more than half of what he might have done, and being an ex-con is just the beginning.

    Telling our kids to never use meth is a beginning but it is not enough. We must comprehend why youth try drugs and why they go from less harmful to more harmful substances and why they don’t stop after one or two experiments. We must get into their minds and understand the perceptions and attitudes that make them more vulnerable to drug use and replace them with perceptions and attitudes such that they have no more desire to do these things than one of the apostles does. They make these decisions, we cannot be at their side every hour of every day.

    The concept of the Atonement is a double-edged sword. It is essential in overcoming addictions and every other iniquity. It is often misused as an excuse or safety net justifying risky behavior. Sin now and repent later or maybe not at all. Because of the physical nature of our lives and the one way travel of time, the consequences of some actions are not reversible. A teenager shoots himself in the head. The atonement doesn’t bring him back. Drugs damage brain function in ways that might not heal entirely. God through the Atonement can repair these sort of things in the next life, but not here. At least not often.

    LDS parents who think we LDSs are at low risk for this problem are delusional. One of my friends in my ward had a son who went to BYU on a football scholarship. He never used drugs but he was also poor and he had been selling cocaine through most of high school. He found quite a lucrative market for his wares in Provo, Utah. His dreams were shattered when he was arrested, spent Christmas a few years ago in the Utah County jail and has never returned to college, or the LDS church. (Although he is now married and working to support his wife and young children). The main difference he reported between A-town (Atlanta) and Prove was the amount of tattling not the amount of cocaine use.

    Some people I know who have struggled with their kids using drugs say that going to therapy to learn how to shape the thoughts and behavior of youth long before the problems emerge (from as long before as about 4 years old) would have been beneficial and far easier that fixing the problem when it became impossible to ignore. These problems have their roots early in childhood.

    This is a pipe dream, possibly a misguided attribution of responsibility. But what if the LDS church rounded up a bunch of experienced professionals in the field of substance abuse and designed a sort of intense preventive group therapy for parents and youth that began when the children graduated from the nursery into primary and extended until they were about 30 years old. Maybe over the top but worth a thought. Short of that, parents are going to have to do the best they can.

  100. “Maybe over the top”

    Don’t worry. We’re used to that by now.

  101. Meldrum,

    We, from the 60s and 70s, used your method. The kids are in their 30s and 40s with families of their own. They internalized the rules and in the next generation are raising great children. Not without problems, of course, but they are the captains of their souls. The guide star of my parenthood was that our children would become our friends when they were adults, and we should raise them with the respect and consideration one would extend to friends. I can say it worked. Wonderful people.

  102. questioning says:

    I’m too busy sinning to read all the quotes but I recall that Jesus repeatedly said, ‘Go … and sin no more’ – sounds like the ‘never again’ club. When has Satan ever told anyone to avoid sin? It is hard to see how a plea not to sin even once is Satan’s plan – unless of course, it was Satan’s plan that Christ was following and not the Father’s.

    I agree with teaching repentance – after all, after 8 we all need it. But why is teaching righteousness so bad. D&C 89:1-4 strike me as this kind of message. Don’t do it … even once. Just in case.

    When people sin, as they do, we show them an increase of love, grace and mercy because that’s when they need it most. Of course, the obedient few need it to stay obedient!

    So what’s the real difference between the righteous and the repentant? Not much, it seems to me.

  103. I don’t know many of the commenters personally, questioning, but I don’t get the impression that anyone, including the author of the post, is suggesting that children or adults should go and sin.

    However, I think that a major objection is that the “Not Even Once” poster insinuates that there is a club for the super righteous.

    Here’s what Jesus said about the “righteous club”:

    “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

  104. It is possible to be judgmental and self-righteous about not being judgmental and self-righteous. This seems to happen too often on BCC and I find myself coming less and less. I have to agree with Ardis about the smugness.

  105. It is good to set high standards. But this concept makes me think more of Old Testament penalties than the Plan of Salvation. Elizabeth Smart revealed one clear result of how we teach purity in our culture. The new phrase in addiction recovery is ‘toxic shame,’ and it has nothing to do with Godly Sorrow. In fact, it’s the opposite. Shame teaches us that we are defective, and cannot become worthy no matter how hard we try.
    I once had a healthy debate with a member of a Calvinist church. His belief in Predestination led to an assurance that, once ‘Saved,’ he would not commit sin again. And if he did, it would show that he’d never truly been saved.
    We’re headed towards a similar doctrine— perhaps not in theory, but in practice.

  106. I’m glad that, for one, someone came out and more or less said that contemporary Mormonism is a club for people who think they’ve never made a mistake. It’s easier to address a concrete example of the mindset than to first have to establish the very existence of the mindset to partisans. I’m also glad for the ensuing discussion, but I think it would be more impactful to address the scriptural misreading that this way of thinking (partially) stems from: the allegory of the Iron Rod. Even though the angel explicitly states to Nephi that the Tree of Life is the love of God (as opposed to salvation, heaven, etc.), I’ve heard members my whole life invoke the allegory as evidence of what happens when you sin: you fall into temptation, then a tumultuous river sweeps you away from any chance of repentance or happiness. It’s a Satanic interpretation, and it feeds into the culture that believes safety is our ultimate goal.

  107. I think it would be more fruitful to have a pledge to do things that are positive in the development of the kids…not the pledge against the don’ts.

    At ages 4-8…learning to be honest, to share and to play nice is more applicable to their every day life than abstinence from debauchery.

  108. I wrote a review of the book that was posted on Rational Faiths earlier today. http://rationalfaiths.com/satans-plan-2-0-deseret-book-edition/

    I really should have read the comments here first, as you all made most of the points I did.

  109. The fur is flying over in the Amazon comments section:

  110. A friend found this Sister Nelson quote, from a missionary’s blog of his MTC experience:

    “Being obedient will save you. Obedience brings blessings, EXACT obedience brings miracles. YOU want to be the missionary that the Mission President can send to ANY area, and that area will flourish. BE TOTALLY FOCUSED on the Lord, Jesus Christ. NOT EVEN ONCE should you be disobedient. BE EXACTLY OBEDIENT.”


  111. questioning says:

    I would prefer a focus on doctrine rather than application.

    We all probably belong to the imaginary ‘not even once’ club in some things.

    I couldn’t see anything on the list that we shouldn’t encourage each other to avoid but I do agree that we could do better at encouraging the good.

    The scriptures teach the not even once concept and so does conscience. But reality allows us to taste the bitter so that we may know to prize the sweet.

    To me, the taste of repentance is as sweet as the taste of obedience. I’ll happily much on both.

  112. The comments on Amazon are sad and feel like a personal attack on the author. Reading those, I very much regret that I commented on this thread.

    As previously discussed, the title of this post was over the top, and in some ways the book is too easy of a target. I didn’t realize at first that it is being marketed to the four to six year old crowd. Developmentally, that age range can have a rather fluid definition of the truth — they can live in a fantasy world — so something like this may be a good tool for grounding them in some firm principles. (Then again, it may not. I don’t know; I haven’t read the book.)

    Also, obedience can be an under-appreciated principle. Obedience to the gospel and to God — not to cultural practices — can save us from many difficulties and heartbreak, can increase our chances of happiness and success, and can allow us to be of great service to the Church and to mankind.

  113. Amy T, perhaps you should read the book, and then decide if the comments on Amazon are sad, or an attack on the author. They seem to me to be a refutation of the ideas presented in the book, not a personal attack on Sister Nelson.

  114. I need to read it so I can get really riled up and go on the warpath as defender of the faith? Naah. More than enough pixels have already been spilled in this fray. I’ll go fight some of the more important battles of life.

  115. Meldrum the Less says:

    The Not-Even-Once Club is fine. As far as I know my kids comply with it even though they would probably laugh at the way it is presented. Obedience is fine. My problem with it is that it is shallow and doesn’t do enough. We have plenty of rules. More depth is needed in order to shape behavior quite beyond proclaiming obedience to more and stricter rules .

    The police only care about what you do. Thought crimes are hard to prove. But it is a different matter entirely with raising children. It is crucial to cultivate their positive inner thoughts and perceptions if you want to have any hope of influencing their choices and behavior when they are older. The Not-Even-Once Club distorts this critical aspect of parenthood while holding every outward appearance of righteousness and obedience.

  116. Meldrum the Less says:

    Possible thread jack?

    Eric, RW, any others:
    Those who have expressed a good result using similar tactics to mine while raising their children, have you experienced any success in getting other people at church to follow in your foot steps? Initially, a group of friends of mine seemed to all be going along these lines together and I think we had mustered enough critical mass that we might have been able to convince most of the parents in the ward to at least partially soften their approach and adopt some of these tactics. But for one reason or another they all moved away.

    I felt alone (one of the principles of positive discipline is to develop networks of like-minded parents).The greatest challenges raising my children came not at marginal public schools with 30% minority students bused in from the poorest neighborhoods in a large violent urban city, either in the classroom or on the athletic field, not at any of their many activities at other churches in the community. But the greatest challenges came from within my own LDS ward. A series of what my daughter labeled “Nazi Mormons” were called to lead and serve in the Primary/YM/YW and made life miserable for my children who fought back usually pretty effectively. Individually they all seemed like reasonable people but put them together and it was astonishing what a toxic atmosphere they were capable of creating.

    As young adults my children swim in almost every social pool as a distinct minority of Mormons but seldom completely alone. They find a certain rather large sector of their LDS peers to be nigh unto insufferable including the central groupies at the singles ward who have nothing better to do than to proverbially sit around playing chutes and ladders. The stereotype is a smug BYU grad, RM holier-than-thou, isolated, wife or husband hungry, toting their scriptures everywhere, over-compliant in every external feature, but won’t even associate with non-LDS youth except to convert them.

    Typically they identify themselves by attempting to make up or over-enforce external rules on other LDS peers. Many young people quietly comply enough to appear to agree and distant themselves. My children usually push back which causes conflict. Often they resort to humor and pranks that may or may not win the support of the silent majority depending on the venue. I worry if my children are not being systematically identified by those most desiring to be in the Not-Even-Once Club as unsuitable as dating or future marriage candidates for the majority. (Meeting me is going to be enough of a challenge, they don’t need any additional hurdles.)

    I wonder if I have raised my children such that they are strong and capable of making their way in the world but not in the LDS church (which seems to be increasingly dominated by external fervor) and are judged subtly unfit as potential marriage partners by most LDS youth? They either causally date decent non-LDS or don’t date at all. How do the internally driven strong self-reliant LDS youth find each other in this social tangle of over-zeal?

    I guess I would be less ruffled than most if they were to marry honorable members of other faiths. But they had it drilled into their heads at church that that option is not viable.

    Any thoughts?

  117. The problem with such absolutism is it sets you up for failure when you inevitably cross some line. I recall a story someone told here about one of their Seminary students, who had perfect attendance for three years. Then he missed a day. And he thought, my perfect attendance is gone, so what’s the point? And he more or less quit coming. We can’t set our youth OR adults on that kind of spiritual path. It’s more important to pray as the tax-collector.

    Jesus “told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayeda thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.””

  118. MtL – are you theorizing that Sis Nelson’s views were shaped by her many years as a YSA? She does have strong credentials, but worldview is often shaped by personal experiences more than academic theory. It’s an interesting point.

  119. MtL asked: “Those who have expressed a good result using similar tactics to mine while raising their children, have you experienced any success in getting other people at church to follow in your foot steps?”

    I can’t say we’ve really tried. Although we live in Utah now, our kids (except the final one still at home) grew up outside Utah and were exposed to kids from a variety of backgrounds. The friends they tended to make at church were generally not from the super-rigid families, who actually were in the minority. We taught our kids that most people (whether conservative or liberal or whatever) in the church are doing the best they can with what they know, and that if they hear stuff that’s off the wall (like that coming from one family in our ward who taught against the use of chocolate because of the caffeine) they should just realize that not everyone’s values are the same and sometimes people just pick what seems best for them without realizing that the same may not be true for everyone.

    As it turned out, my one kid who went to a church school (BYU-I) didn’t have much experience in dealing with the “super by the rules” type until college. He was a little bit surprised that some people he knew didn’t want to go with him to see a movie because it was rated R. His two older siblings who are married ended up with spouses that, while active in the church, don’t fit “the mold.”

    In our current ward (in Utah) there aren’t many teenagers, and I don’t know much about parenting styles here.

  120. MtL – Your earlier description of your parenting choices fit what my adolescent-therapist husband and I shoot for. I worry sometimes about what you said about if I am possibly setting them up to have trouble navigating through some of the church culture. I tell myself that the only thing I can do is love them and teach them through example that “finding others nigh unto insufferable” is just as much a character failing as a self-righteous obsession with obedience. It’s what I tell myself every time I start to fall into the trap of feeling special, at least. I think I need to make one of those needlepoint framed calligraphy signs of Elder Uchtdorf’s “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you” to hang by the wall where I pour out my “Why do I feel so alone?” prayers. I really do think I feel alone because I feel special, when in reality I’m not special any more than ever child of God is, we’re just out there with a different set of sins to work on. When I think of it that way I get along much better with parents of other persuasions. Not without struggle, of course, but with less of a sense of isolation.

    Also, I have some ideas for finding more “liberal” single LDS social networks for your kids that I’d love to share. Is there a way to contact you personally?

  121. This is the kind of media I want for my 4-8 year olds. http://www.mormonchannel.org/video/mormon-messages?v=2609209978001

  122. I actually love this book. My kids received it so well. God’s Laws are just that…LAWS. The book introduces commandments and keeping them in a fun way. It is encouraging, Definitely not SATAN’S plan. It set’s a Standard for our children. It gives them a vision. And you know the scripture, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Why not set the bar high. I also teach my children about repentance and doing better. My kids were out of the club the first day that they made the club promise. They aren’t perfect. They know they don’t have to be. They know that their covenants make up the difference. I think that this book is a great kids book and it opens up dialouge about really important issues.

  123. “They know they don’t have to be.” Well, they didn’t get that from the book…

  124. Ben S. You are right that the book does focus on “NOT EVEN ONCE”, but the savior himself said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” I’m am a parent that talks with my kids everyday about making right choices, repenting for wrong choices and trusting the Savior to do the rest. While the book does not focus on the Atonement directly and makes keeping the commandments seem fun and rewarding for kids, it does have a section in the back of the book with talks about obedience and repentance. I think that a lot of people don’t even have the book to look at and read. It is actually set up really well with guides for parents and children to use as they read the book. It opens up dialogue about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and encourages parents to pray and seek guidance for continued discussion about the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ and seeking forgiveness when we have made mistakes. I think it is pretty great. I understand that some might disagree, but my kids loved it and understood the deeper concept through our discussion.

  125. “While the book does not focus on the Atonement directly”

    Why doesn’t it? Isn’t that our whole problem as Mormons — that we often don’t focus directly on the Atonement, whether in our church talks, our lessons, our FHEs, our children’s books, etc.?

    Let’s turn that around and make everything that we do in the Church focused on the Atonement. If your bishop asks you to give a talk about tithing, prepare a talk about the Atonement that somehow incorporates tithing. If you are asked to speak about modesty, prepare a talk about the Atonement that appropriately fits modesty into the picture (and if it’s about modesty, here’s a challenge: give equal time to discussing McMansions and expensive cars that you give to talking about girls’ exposed shoulders or hemlines).

  126. Steve Evans says:

    Erin, it sounds like you’re doing things right by not just farming the book over to the kids and letting them sort things out on their own – three cheers for involved parents!

  127. “Be ye therefore perfect” is a horribly proof-texted passage of scripture. It comes in the Beatitudes at the end of the section about loving your enemies. The injunction, therefore, is to love perfectly as God loves and *not* to be perfect in keeping the lesser laws. Such perfection is impossible — too many laws! — but I have known people who have learned to love in such a way.

  128. it's a series of tubes says:

    You are right that the book does focus on “NOT EVEN ONCE”, but the savior himself said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

    Erin, you might be interested in the greek word teleios as found in Matthew 5:48 and what it really means. Here’s a link to a concordance you may find helpful:


  129. Emily, what’s interesting about your re-formulation of the pledge is that, as written (that is, “I will try to never …”) it actually is possible to achieve complete compliance with the law. I can *try* to keep the commandments quite easily, depending on how I interpret “try”, of course. Thus if the bar is simply trying to obey, I can easily and often perceive myself to be completely obedient and thus in no need of forgiveness and grace. Absolute prohibitions, for better or for worse, may create the feelings of sin and disgrace from which grace and forgiveness appear as salvation.

    If the central psychological state of Christian discipleship is acknowledgement of our own brokenness and insufficiency (and this is arguable, but it’s an idea that appeals to me and has been popular recently), then strict external proscriptions can bring us to that state. “The law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.”

  130. Rosalynde, you are right, but most people interpret “try” as an effort to comply with the law, with the failing to do so no longer a “try” (“I tried, but I failed” versus “I tried and I succeeded”) until they pick themselves and try again.

    One of my favorite lessons my father taught me was when I came to him horrified that I had forgotten it was fast Sunday and had taken a drink from the drinking fountain at church. He told me that he uses those moments of failure to remind himself about for what he is fasting, and to recommit to the fasting. I loved that. It did not make me feel like I had failed myself or the fast, nor made me feel like “cheating” while fasting was appropriate. I have repeated his lesson to my children when they have done likewise.

    I feel like the “Not Even Once” provides no room for that type of failure and learning process.

  131. Interesting, Rosalynde.

  132. I do agree with Rosalynde with the problem of “try” and even the problem of “striving” in the TR questions. We all strive (and fall short). But if we start out knowing we will fall short, we may not strive as much. In the moment of covenant-making we should be committed to succeeding.

    It is so hard to get the balance of preaching works and grace just right. This book doesn’t. It doesn’t even try to balance it from what I can see. Works without grace must rely on shame and coercion to get compliance. Shaming and bribing children is unwise, IMO. I’m not a trained therapist, just a mom. Kids need to feel it’s safe to be honest, safe to be themselves, OK to admit and learn from mistakes, and that they will be loved and accepted even when they fall short, not ostracized.

    Mormons do have a streak of orthopraxy that is more extreme than in other faiths. I’m not wholly against that either. I prefer being judged by humans for my actions than my thoughts or beliefs, if I must be judged at all. Just because I say “Lord, Lord,” doesn’t mean I’ll be saved. Of course, any humans judging other humans are hypocrites.

  133. Please consider signing this petition for Deseret Book to remove The Not Even Once Club from its shelves. If you would like to read the book for yourself first, I have images of each of the pages with text and can email them to you (for review purposes only, of course; please email me at edwardjones76 at gmail).


  134. I would be relieved the author of that book is no longer teaching marriage & family therapy classes, if she weren’t writing things like this.

  135. If you don’t like the book or its approach why don’t you write your own: “I-did-it -just -once-and-Jesus-helped-me-heal-CLUB. Or whatever you beaf is. Parents NEWSFLASH you can teach your children how you want. The approach to teach the Ideal hardly finds its Genesis in this children’s book: Matt. 5:48.

    So don’t buy the book, but don’t burn it either.

  136. I think that there is a much more subtle message here. The secret code to the Not Even Once club is represented by at the clubhouse door by N.E.O. Surely it is not a coincidence that Neo is the name of the hero in The Matrix, a modern day tale that raises the question of how we distinguish illusion from reality. The book is actually a masterful introduction to the Red Pill / Blue Pill decision…..

  137. There is an even worse book out there I think everyone should boycott immediately! It completely denies everything Christ stood for!

    Example: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”; this is an obvious plot of Satan to discourage us! There are so many more just like this!

    It is only through sinning that we can be forgiven so…….God loves whoever sins the most because they can be forgiven the most and that is when we can receive the most love back from Him!

    Why do you think He would let His Son be crucified? Because He wouldn’t sin and thereby deprived Himself of the love of His Father!

    Burn this book now!

    Postscript – See “facetious”

  138. it's a series of tubes says:

    screwtape, you might want to consider my post and link above (Sept. 6, 7:36 AM). As was so well said in The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  139. Peter Yates says:

    Inigo Montoya can now roll BACK over in his grave. Thanks “tubes”.
    screwtape, Christ omits Himself from this declaration in Matthew but includes Himself in 3rd Nephi. Just a thought, but seems to support “tubes” thoughts on being complete rather than a traditional view of the word perfection.

  140. So many seem to think this book preaches against tolerance (I don’t but…) so you tolerate the book by wanting to burn it?

    Pot meet the kettle!

    I’m sure there are other books on the shelf if you’d like.

  141. n8c, there are only three comments in this thread that mention, in any way, burning the book. Two of them are yours, and the third states explicitly that it is facetious.

    You might want to put down that particular sword of righteousness and stick with a shield in this case.

  142. I don’t see much in this discussion about tolerance. Looks like someone commented without reading the original post or the comments.

  143. Some people have told me they find it ironic that I refer to this as Satan’s plan—in which people’s power to choose would have been taken away—when I am advocating taking away people’s choice to read this book with the petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/deseret-book-please-remove-the-not-even-once-club-from-your-shelves-and-inventory-2. Is that hypocritical?

    My response has been this. There is a difference between banning a book and asking the publisher to prayerfully reconsider promoting it based on the publisher’s own values. I think there is also an age issue as well. Adults, young adults, and even older children may have the critical capacity to recognize competing ideas and judge between them. Young children often uncritically believe what they are told by authority figures, so it is especially important to make sure the gospel ideas they here are correct and helpful to their development.

  144. Ray and johnf–respectfully my opinion is that this is a modern day burning, without the smoke. Calling for Blog-bombing of the Amazon boards, petitions to ban the book, personal attacks of the authors character (gratitude she no longer teaches, etc).

    Sorry I see flames.

    postscript: Please see “metaphor”

  145. n8c, I do not malign her character, only her competence to teach in a program ostensibly to promote healthy relationships. Many people are wonderful, caring, individuals, who are also not adept at their chosen profession. That includes me — Believe it or not, I am sometimes a wonderful, caring individual who loved music and teaching, but I was a poor fit to be a high school music teacher. Just because we are interested in something, or even passionate about it, doesn’t mean we should be teaching it to others.

  146. Michael N-I understand your point. I feel that way about myself as a soccer coach. I’ll bet many of your students benefit greatly from your music instruction, and if there are those who don’t–hopefully they are respectful to you and simply seek a teacher that fits their needs.

  147. My comment was moderated/edited by BCC!


    I remember several years ago when I first started attending the bloggernacle and thought BCC was “the outer edge” full of way-ward rebels and dissidents. Yesterday, I found myself too extreme for the BCC editors and was censored/moderated. I need to do some serious soul- searching as this shows a serious change over time. Thanks bloggernacle friends, for the reality check and apologies to the BCC editors.

    My censored comment was a light-hearted, but sarcastic parody in the voice of Wendy Watson Nelson lamenting the fact that “I” didn’t understand why everyone was being so mean about the mistake in publishing the book and can’t you forgive “me” not-even-once? It’s like you make a mistake and you are black-balled or something.Haven’t you ever heard of the atonement or forgiveness?

    Perhaps the humor was lost. My who point was that there is a relationship between forgiving and forgiveness. People in glass houses . . .

    “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: ” (Luke 6:37) and “of you it is required to forgive”.

  148. I will never buy this book and feel sorry for the kids who are subjected to this type of manipulation. Join the club and judge the rest of the world. This is how we learn to be so judgy of everyone. And also to be really hard on ourselves and have over-active guilt syndrome.

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