The Unavoidable Reality of Generational Change

sunday-school It’s become rather common here on the Bloggernacle to talk about Mormonism in terms of a “two church” theory–namely, that there are those who are internet-savvy, who have a fair amount of education, who are somewhat critical in the way the make use of science, philosophy, and history in how they think about the truth claims of the church, and then there are those who mostly are and do none of those things. Some people have made a big deal about this divide, whereas others have pushed back against it just as strongly. I don’t think it’s necessary to commit to strong sociological arguments about who belongs to which group or whether they even exist to acknowledge the very simple fact that, as times change, and especially as technologies change, the ways people think about and teach about their own religious experiences change also. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t see the church’s effort to embrace better scholarship, nor the discussions those efforts give rise to. That these changes are both motivated by and received by populations of the faithful of different ages in different ways is probably an unavoidable reality.

The current iteration of this reality focuses much on the growing number of “nones” in American life–that is, those who do not affiliate with any religious body or identity–and the slow but general falling away from most forms of organized Christianity by large numbers of people, particularly younger people. Those who study these matters recognize that this is not solely a generational phenomenon, nor one specific to a particular ethnic or socio-economic group. All Americans who are touched by the larger, structural, secularizing and pluralizing forces of today are finding it easier to move away from the sources of faith that had once been assumed by so many. But for those who have particular pastoral responsibilities–and here I mean everyone from ward bishops and Relief Society presidents to mothers and fathers in their homes–the focus really does tend to be on young people, and the question of how to teach them (or what to teach them) when so many of the cultural assumptions which undergirded traditional curricula in the past now are questionable. There’s a good discussion of these matters taking place here; I have little to add, except one short observation: that whatever particular response parents or church leaders develop, it should be remembered that the rocky transitions of religious faith over time are nothing new.

Reinhold_niebuhrA century ago, in 1915, the not-yet-famous Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr began 13 years as the pastor of a German-American Evangelical church in Detroit (German Evangelicalism in America being one of the forerunners of the United Church of Christ). Niebuhr in the 1920s was a powerful exponent of the Social Gospel, and was strongly critical of the nominally “Christian,” but actually racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, and anti-Semitic social mores that, in his view, polluted the minds of the people whom he had been called to serve. (The Ku Klux Klan was a popular force in Michigan at the time.) This mean, predictably, that he had to find ways to express his Christian faith in ways that he thought spoke to the best of those he thought could lead his ethnic community and his country in a better direction, while at the same time attending to the faith of those older German-Americans who made up the backbone of the congregation at Bethel Evangelical. In a passage from his memoir of these years, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, he talks about attempting to teach a young man who has doubts about the Christian faith while simultaneously fending off (one must assume with much polite compassion and quietly gritted teeth) the “assistance” of his pious grandmother: “It is no easy task,” Niebuhr concluded, “to build up the faith of one generation and not destroy the supports of religion of the other.”

When a friend called this passage to my attention, I found myself thinking about how my oldest daughter simply gave up on attending Sunday School after she’d been lectured to yet again, harshly and judgmentally, about how wrong she was for accepting the principles of human biological evolution…and about how that same woman who did the lecturing was one of the strongest, most dedicated members of the church in our area, who had served and devoted her whole life to it. And my sympathies went out once again to those of us–all of us, really–who have to deal with the reality of generational change, with the simple fact that as some teachings (the legality and social normality of same-sex marriage is the next one on deck, but there will be others which follow it; there always are) get taken up and rethought in light of one’s religious belief by one group of the faithful, another group of the faithful will, of course, dig in even deeper, and start muttering in apocalyptic tones, because it may be that that very issue is central to their own religious belief. There is no easy solution here, as Niebuhr realized a century ago. The essential Christian message may endure, but getting it to grow in one generation’s hearts may involve rooting it (or at least what they understood that “it” to involve) out of another’s…and similarly, nourishing the faith (as it exists) in the hearts of those who have lived and served long within the church may be exactly what makes it that much harder for it to take root in those who are new to the faith, and still young. Thank goodness God is going to forgive us all, for everything we do wrong–because sometimes, when I think about those I love most in the world, I doubt there’s any good I can do for them that won’t do someone else, somewhere else, something quite wrong.

Comments

  1. From that liberal, progressive rag, the Wall Street Journal:

    “Any institution—just like a person or an organism—depends on a modicum of privacy in which to conduct its business and control its activities without too much interference and too many prying eyes. Religious institutions, since their founding millennia ago, have managed to keep secrets and to control what their flocks knew about the world, about other religions and about the inner workings of their own religion with relative ease. Today it is next to impossible.

    What is particularly corrosive to religion isn’t just the newly available information that can be unearthed by the curious, but the ambient knowledge that is shared by the general populace.”

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-future-of-religion-is-bleak-1430104785

  2. (I link that because it is offering a perspective on the Pew study and because it highlights the generational change issue that you are addressing — many in our parent’s and grandparent’s generation, which includes all General Authorities, simply don’t seem to realize yet that they cannot control the flow of information any more. This doesn’t have to be a handicap, but it requires a new way of thinking about the agency of Church members, and trusting in their own relationships with the Lord. It also might require a recognition of the limits and dangers of committing the Church to specific but very geographically and temporally determined political preferences of individual Church leaders.)

  3. Carey Foushee says:

    I’ve began to believe this is what the scriptures are really talking about when they say the hearts of the children must be turned toward their fathers (and mothers of course). While we may not be able completely avoid causing some harm we must approach these matters with love and then as you imply ultimately leave it in God’s hands.

  4. I’ve began to believe this is what the scriptures are really talking about when they say the hearts of the children must be turned toward their fathers (and mothers of course).

    That’s a fascinating connection, Carey; thanks for making it. I can see real possibilities in reading the scripture in that way as well: that what we are be called to do is love and understand and forgive those that built the worlds of faith that we have received, even as we (inevitably, unavoidably) move in a different direction…which is what, in turn, our children–whose hearts we will hope will be turned to us in time!–will do as well.

  5. Good thoughts. I will add that it is stressful to try and find a comfortable middle ground between these generational differences. As an example, as a ward missionary, I have been learning to unfilter my language and conversation about the church in that role, while I find myself more and more guarded in my statements in class discussions and interactions at church. I am more careful about what I say and ask within the confines of the church building than I am about the church in my everyday life. It is an interesting and not entirely comfortable situation, almost a complete reversal of my attitudes and actions of ten years ago.

  6. A couple of days ago I was doing some family research and discovered a great-great-great-great grandmother was a polygamous wife (for time only) to Joseph Smith. Since then, I’ve struggled over whether or not I should bring this information to my mother and grandfather. I’m sure they’d find it interesting, but at the same time there’s a good chance that both of them still believe Joseph Smith was not a polygamist. What, to me, greatly strengthens my feeling of connectedness to the church could be a major stumbling block to them.

  7. Yes, kevinf, good observation! In Sunday School class, we have to walk on egg shells for fear of “upsetting” that older generation who still do not believe it is beneficial or good to seek Gospel learning and knowledge about scriptures, history, or Truth from “outside” sources such as science, biblical scholarship, or the testimonies of religiously committed people who aren’t LDS (though they are willing to accept the latter from CS Lewis or others whom they’ve seen quoted by General Authorities). That generation who still believes (even after the race essay on LDS.org) that the priesthood ban (and segregation) were divinely ordained — not only didn’t do anything about either out of their own moral agency but actively constructed apologetic frameworks to justify both and to defend Church leaders who promoted both. That generation that still places doctrinal or historical speculations put forward by past General Authorities ahead of scholarly consensus on any number of historical or contextual facts relating to the scriptures, particularly the Bible and the narratives found in the Old Testament (and the groundbreaking research and consensus about certain facts of the compilation and creation of the Bible). Etc. — it goes on and on about many issues.

    But when we present the Gospel to people in our daily lives, people in our generation or strangers who are not within the fold, are not members of this “sheltered” Sunday School generation, as part of our personal missionary effort, we present it in the first instance in its contextual richness, enhanced by every type of outside scholarship, knowledge, learning, science, religious conviction that could possibly be relevant, whether from LDS sources or not, and usually not! I’ve found the latter to be extremely successful in my missionary efforts as an adult.

  8. Suleyman says:

    An amazingly thoughtful and nuanced post. Thank you.

  9. “I doubt there’s any good I can do for them that won’t do someone else, somewhere else, something quite wrong.”

    I have only to look in my own home to see this dillemma. What I say to one child can be misconstrued, misapplied by another, and even not be appropriate for them at all.

    Words are limited in their precision and they rely so much on context, verbal and situational. Here we are, spirits in bodies with brains which filter everything and usually use words as tools for doing just that, can it be any wonder that those who preach The Word habitually hit snags? What frequently hits me is the revelation to Joseph Smith, that when we rebuke we make it absolutely clear to the rebuked that we are loyal in loving them, leaving no doubt of it.

    So how we feel and how we make each other feel is essential to creating any lasting meaning with our words. And I’d say that, as a Church, we must strive to help people feel Christ. If we don’t do that in any forms of expressing ourselves, the words are just flotsam.

  10. Mark B. says:

    John f’s generalizations about the “older generation” remind me of my dad’s quip about generalizations: “All Indians walk in single file. At least the one I saw did.”

  11. Russell, I have a story to share and then a perspective.

    Story. Soon after the Race and Priesthood essay was released I used it in a ‘spiritual thought’ for ward council, specifically discussing the disavowal of prior justifications for the ban. I was surprised at the generational differences in response. The full-time missionaries were ecstatic; “this is just what our investigators need to hear.” But the Sunday School President (a very good friend who I admire deeply) felt compelled to offer a defense of the church leaders who had overseen the ban; essentially arguing that the members of his youth were racist and couldn’t stomach a change any earlier.

    Perspective. I believe there are (at least) two key principles to understanding the divide between generations when change happens in the LDS church. These are the silence period and the welding principle.

    First, there is a period of silence between when a teaching is accepted and when it is rejected. During that period the teaching is not officially promulgated, but it is also not rejected. Consider the curse of cain, incompatibility of genesis and evolution, and many other teachings. In every instance, there is a years-long period during which we hear nothing in official discourse. Youth raised in that period have no attachment to the teaching (unless given it by local leaders or parents), while older members who have embraced the idea have no reason to lessen their embrace. This results in the change being much less costly to youth than older members.

    Second, if we envision each generation as a link in a long chain (consider Joseph’s reference to welding links in D/C 128:18), then to succeed a generation must keep its bond with both the generation before and the one after. Accepting a change of teaching means more than just adjusting your own beliefs. It means reconciling those beliefs with your relationship to ancestors – most of who may have departed this life, thereby “locking in place” your understanding of their views.

    Based on these principles, I believe there are two primary means whereby change is fostered. The first is time – the longer the silent period stretches, the more of the old guard dies off. The second is harmony – if a solution can be found to allow members the ability to embrace the change and also keep respect for past ancestors, the old guard is much more likely to accomodate the change rather than fight until their death.

  12. This is super anecdotal, but I tend to have a lot of faith in our older generation, particularly the sisters. I have a tendency to shoot off my mouth at church, and my observation is that the older folks are perfectly capable of considering new perspectives. Often they know a lot about the “messiness” of church history than I even do, especially if they’re involved in genealogy research. I do sometimes get the feeling that they are simply adding new information alongside the old, not recognizing the contradictions, but there you have it. Maybe there is wisdom in that. Who knows? A big factor in my experience may admittedly be that I’ve held a lot of leadership positions and am a married white male with children, so my words automatically carry more weight than they should and I can speak more freely than many others could…

    RE the sisters vs brothers angle, High Priests Group is markedly different from Gospel Doctrine and the reports I get from my wife about Relief Society. The old men seem more set in their ways, more tied into ultra-conservative memes, and less self-reflective regarding their considerable life experience. They don’t seem to have any interest in lessons or in-church experiences beyond reading the text from the manual and patting each other on the back for being so righteous. We certainly don’t ever deal honestly with any difficult subjects, as I know the sisters frequently do. Privilege probably plays a role–the older sisters have seen a *lot* of life and seem to have developed significantly more compassion and resilience. They don’t really care if someone is an apostate just so long as they can find some way to serve them. Cliched perhaps, but that’s what I see. My wife and I actually prefer wards with older demographics, particularly if the median income is also low–a young affluent ward is just about our worst nightmare, and our friends in such wards often express their distress. (Wouldn’t it be interesting if everyone in those wards was feeling the same way but not admitting it to each other–emperor’s new clothes style).

    What about younger people who are essentially reactionaries? I’ve heard that young Mormons are often even more politically conservative than their parents. Is that true? I certainly see it in my extended family and many of the church youth I’ve worked with in Utah.

  13. The most alarming thing about the study is not that the current generation is trying to define Christianity in its own terms and doing damage to the faith of the fathers in the process, but that they are dropping the ball altogether.

  14. “What frequently hits me is the revelation to Joseph Smith, that when we rebuke we make it absolutely clear to the rebuked that we are loyal in loving them, leaving no doubt of it.”

    Rebecca, that is a great insight!

  15. (continuation of prior comment)

    I believe we can best help all generations, in particular the older ones, by searching for ways to harmonize changes into broader principles of good, and thereby avoid what appear to be irrreconcilable conflicts.

    As one example, in 1951 the First Presidency taught that the curse of cain doctrine was revealed from God. Current leadership, though the essays, as disavowed that belief. What’s a member to do? Particularly an older one who was embraced that teaching because it was taught by beloved leaders? One way is to recognize that the 1951 FP was not saying they had *personally* received revelation on this issue; they were just reporting their understanding of what prior leaders had been given. So we need not conclude that prior prophets were wrong on revelation; only that they can get scriptural interpretation and history wrong. I find that members are open to embrace the disvowal when they understand that it doesn’t mean rejecting prior prophets.

  16. “I believe we can best help all generations, in particular the older ones, by searching for ways to harmonize changes into broader principles of good, and thereby avoid what appear to be irrreconcilable conflicts.”

    Seems like the series of “Gospel Topics” essays, including the race essay, are deftly steering that course, Dave K. Also, I think the First Presidency teaching you are referencing was in 1949, likely authored by J. Reuben Clark, Jr. who also seems to have authored the infamous correspondence with Lowry Nelson in the late 1940s.

  17. john f. – It’s the same statement. Some sources cite to 1949. Some to 1951. Perhaps there were two issuances of the same thing. I don’t know.

    J Lawrence,
    “The most alarming thing about the study is not that the current generation is trying to define Christianity in its own terms and doing damage to the faith of the fathers in the process, but that they are dropping the ball altogether.”

    Every generation defines Christinity on its own terms and thereby damages (to some degree) their fathers’ (and mothers’) views on the faith. If there is a difference between this generation and prior ones, I don’t think it’s so much the speed of change (internet, etc.) as the fact that modern medicine allows for older generations to live longer than they ever have (at least since OT times) and so there has been disruption to the natural cycle in which each new generation is allowed to take things over. And, yes, that comes from a member of the younger generation. :)

  18. Clark Goble says:

    While religion ebbs and flows with lots of changes, I think there is a valid concern about whether the US will stop bucking the trend of other western nations in terms of secularization. There’s a fairly strong relationship between religiosity and wealth. It’s not just a Book of Mormon thing. (grin)

    I don’t know if it’ll come through but here’s a graph from Pew on that relationship.

    <img src="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/03/12/how-do-americans-stand-out-from-the-rest-of-the-world/ft_15-03-10_religiousgdpscatter/&quot;

    The US is a huge outlier in terms of religiosity. It seems fair to ask whether this is, as in Europe, a deeper change than the normal ebb and flow.

  19. Thanks, Russell, you articulate an important problem, and one that I have confronted in my own “ministries.” But are you not perhaps too confident that “he essential Christian message may endure”? Or does the “may” indicate that even the sense of some “essential” core of Christianity may be… a generational prejudice?

  20. The core of Christianity — that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of the Father, was born of Mary, subjected himself to the will of the Father in all things, was crucified and resurrected himself on the third day, thus performing the Atonement for every human being, past, present, or future — has endured for 2,000 years. I see no reason whatsoever to think that it will not continue to endure. This has nothing to do with tertiary and geographically/temporally determined clashes of political ideologies.

  21. John F.: why do we need Atonement? The answer seems quite historically conditioned. Many of course deny we need it.

  22. We need Atonement because of the Fall.

    As to belief in Jesus Christ, the Fall, or the need for Atonement, and the fact that many would deny these things, “the care of the salvation of men’s souls cannot belong to the magistrate; because, though the rigour of laws and the force of penalties were capable to convince and change men’s minds, yet would not that help at all to the salvation of their souls. For there being but one truth, one way to heaven, what hope is there that more men would be led into it if they had no rule but the religion of the court and were put under the necessity to quit the light of their own reason, and oppose the dictates of their own consciences, and blindly to resign themselves up to the will of their governors and to the religion which either ignorance, ambition, or superstition had chanced to establish in the countries where they were born?” (John Locke, “A Letter Concerning Toleration,” 1689.)

    A robust secular public square (state) is the answer. “Further, the magistrate ought not to forbid the preaching or professing of any speculative opinions in any Church because they have no manner of relation to the civil rights of the subjects. If a Roman Catholic believe that to be really the body of Christ which another man calls bread, he does no injury thereby to his neighbour. If a Jew do not believe the New Testament to be the Word of God, he does not thereby alter anything in men’s civil rights. If a heathen doubt of both Testaments, he is not therefore to be punished as a pernicious citizen. The power of the magistrate and the estates of the people may be equally secure whether any man believe these things or no. I readily grant that these opinions are false and absurd. But the business of laws is not to provide for the truth of opinions, but for the safety and security of the commonwealth and of every particular man’s goods and person. And so it ought to be. For the truth certainly would do well enough if she were once left to shift for herself.

    Could part of this “generational problem” contemplated by Russell in the post and under discussion in the comments possibly stem from generation after generation failing to adopt Locke’s perspective here, instead succumbing in every successive generation to the temptation to try to legislate sectarian obligations thus binding individuals who do not agree or share the same beliefs? Back to Locke, who reasoned that Truth “seldom has received and, I fear, never will receive much assistance from the power of great men, to whom she is but rarely known and more rarely welcome. She is not taught by laws, nor has she any need of force to procure her entrance into the minds of men. Errors, indeed, prevail by the assistance of foreign and borrowed succours. But if Truth makes not her way into the understanding by her own light, she will be but the weaker for any borrowed force violence can add to her.

    In our pluralistic society, are we not seeing, in this Pew report, the weakness that results to truth when the majority attempts to force it into others’ understanding not by its own light but by the borrowed force of violence occasioned by the legislative tyranny of the majority?

    In the information age, with free people who are empowered to decide for themselves what the meaning of their lives is and whether they personally believe that the sectarian teachings of any particular religious denomination are true, efforts to restrict information or burden others’ civil rights will naturally result in people gravitating away from those offering such efforts.

  23. It just means that we, who are religiously devout and wish to persuade others around us to adopt our faith or any faith, need to start doing so in ways that are at least compatible with Locke’s Toleration — which is the foundation of any decent society — and preferably in ways that embrace pluralism as a feature, not a bug, of a Zion society. By embracing pluralism here I refer to accepting and even celebrating other people’s differing beliefs and conclusions about what the meaning of their life is and about ultimate Truth, even if we do not agree. It means respecting their human dignity to reason this out for themselves and live according to the answers they find. Nothing in any of that means that we would need to be any less devoted to our own understanding of Truth as Mormons, though perhaps part of that understanding of Truth ought to include listening to the insights, enlightenments, and sincere desires/beliefs of others around us who have different views, respecting them, and thinking long and hard about whether they are part of the Truth that we are, by covenant, supposed to be circumscribing into one great whole as Latter-day Saints.

  24. thisgreatdeep says:

    In our ward, the tensions between generations surface in many areas. In a recent Relief Society lesson, an older sister related a concern she had with her granddaughter who, had recently read “Rough Stone Rolling”. She felt that as a result, it had amplified her granddaughter’s concerns with church history and damaged her belief in the gospel.
    I felt compelled to speak with her after the meeting, and I told her a little about how I was able to reconcile concerns about Joseph Smith and how, in the end, I walked away with a stronger testimony of the gospel. I tried to assure her that a clear-eyed view of church history doesn’t have to result in a damaged soul, and wished her the best in helping her granddaughter. I think these types of one-on-one conversations are important.

  25. I suppose you can make a generational stereotype; on the ground, though I’m often surprised about the openness of the older generations and the close mindedness of the Xers and the millenials. I’m in a BoM class at BYUI (as an employee spouse) and am shocked by the close minded ness of these young ‘uns. From a vow to never read anything spiritual-minded not published by the church…..to the utter lack of knowledge of any essay, etc. I feel there’s a marked rise in the number of Matt Walsh types in my generation.

    meanwhile some older ppl (former bishops) who see me wear pants as primary chorister are the ones who reminds me to brush off the haters bc our clothing doesn’t matter to the Lird, only our hearts.

  26. Kristine A–I’ve noticed the same thing. I’ve noticed it more in Eastern Idaho than anywhere else. In other places, those types tend to be outliers and the “weird” ones. Here in Eastern Idaho, those types are put on the leadership track.

  27. Angela C says:

    I think it’s interesting that in Matthew 10, the differences people will experience are generational: “34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
    35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”

  28. Linda Strickland says:

    So I guess this whole discussion means that when I read this statement “”those who have to deal with the reality of generational change, with the simple fact that as some teachings (the legality and social normality of same-sex marriage is the next one on deck, but there will be others which follow it” is really just a shot across the bow of what is upcoming in this church. That we are not looking same -sex marriage as a moral law brought about by God but it really is just a “Legality and social normality”. And if I read this correctly, it’s only one of the things to come. I guess God just doesn’t have any laws and as long as everyone is happy, then he is happy!!

    Also, I left the RLDS church years ago because I was not willing to “see our past as merely a springboard to lift us to the next enlightenment.” I joined the LDS church because they were not ashamed of the Book of Mormon and they were not afraid to stand up for what they felt was a protection of the family values to maintain our society.

    Well I guess I’m at 65 one of the old guards that just needs to die off quickly and let you intellectuals tell God what needs to be done to make everyone happy!.

  29. FarSide says:

    Russell,

    These words of Niebuhr—“It is no easy task to build up the faith of one generation and not destroy the supports of religion of the other”—echo the the thinking of one of my heroes, Edmund Burke, who understood that change which seeks to displace the established order in its entirety will invariably collapse for want of a foundation. For this reason, he supported the American Revolution, which retained the best traditions of the British political and legal system, while, with uncanny prescience, predicted the ultimate failure of the French Revolution, a movement that sought to completely destroy the religious, cultural and moral underpinnings of the communities in which ordinary French people lived.

    Similarly, it is worth remembering that Christ, the most successful instigator of change of all time, came “not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” Although He urged His followers to radically rethink their relationship to each other and the world around them, He did so upon the foundation of the Law of Moses, showing great respect for the traditions and values of His forefathers.

    Nice post.

  30. Pokemom says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. However, I was troubled by some of the broad stereotypes of the older generations in the comments. Partly, I was troubled because I wonder, who are the older generation? Definitely my 80-yr-old parents are. But these were the people who taught me, among other things, that things are not simplistic, and that all religions are good. They always knew about things, like JSmith’s polygamy, that some commenters are so certain older people do not know about. They were troubled by the racial issues with the priesthood. mthey we troubled by women’s roles in the church. But they loved and served and honored and sacrificed and by any measure would be seen as stalwart members of the old guard. They often told me about differing opinions among adults in our rural Utah ward, enough for me to see that within those adults (now 70-90 yrs old, or dead), that there was a huge variety of points of view. My parents always spoke with love and respect for the individuals, even while pointing out how they disagreed.

    Now I am in my 50’s. Am I older or younger? From the point of view of younger families in our ward, am I older? Just because they have not actually heard me say something about race and the priesthood, do they assume I feel a certain way because I am older than they are? Sometimes people do not say something because they want to avoid contention with more vocal conservative members–who they love as part of their congregation. Sometimes people are silent because they are quiet types. Sometimes people seem quiet because they are so busy handling the day to day work of life at home and in the church on Sunday.

    While Russel’s article provides a very helpful generational discussion, in our daily lives and opinions and actions, we make a huge mistake in assuming someone thinks a certain way just because of their age, or because of their geography, or because of their silence. Sometimes people’s gray hair covers a head every bit as thoughtful and intelligent and informed as anyone else.

  31. I’m coming back here to say I had my own generational epiphany today: I went to visit my 90 yo grandparents in Rigby and help them with yardwork. As I’m pulling weeds with my grandfather he asks me what I know about church history and what I would do if the church re-introduced polygamy. He was not happy with my answer. It was only after I got home and looked at my family tree that I realized his grandparents were a polygamous couple to whom his father was born. He remembers these peoples and loves and honors their sacrifices. They aren’t names on a piece of paper – they are memories in his mind, part of what makes him what he is. He started to ask me about believing in the priesthood ban; he hadn’t heard the church released a new essay about it . . . and I just don’t have the heart to put him through that kind of processing.

    Gave me a new appreciation and sense of empathy for what the Q12 & FP went through when producing and releasing these “hidden” essays.