Families are people, my friend

During October’s General Conference, I noticed a couple different speakers make reference to being part of multi-generational Mormon families. This hearkened back to a training video that the church released a few months ago, during which Elder Bednar talked about the importance of multi-generational families. “The basic purpose of all we teach and all that we do in the church,” said Elder Bednar, “is to make available the priesthood authority and gospel ordinances and covenants that enable a man and woman and their children to be sealed together and happy at home. Period. Exclamation point. End of sentence. That’s it.” He went on to say that “in the savior’s restored church on the earth today, multi-generational families are a primary source of spiritual strength and continuity.” He then compared the impact of multi-generational families to small seedlings in a large forest. “A young seedling develops into a mature tree and produces seeds that fall to forest floor. As conditions are right, the new seeds germinate, begin to grow and the cycle is renewed.”

He also shared this flowchart, for those of us who are visual learners:

bednar flowchart

He said that the cycle usually breaks down between point A (child converts baptized and confirmed) and point B (endowment) and asserted that this was (usually) due to “weak gospel teaching and modeling in the home.”

I cannot dispute that being part of a multi-generational Mormon family is a big contributor to people growing up to get endowed and remain Mormon and raise their children Mormon. We tend to stick with the religion we were raised with, for lots of reasons. For one thing, it is the spiritual language we know and the one in which we’re most fluent. What we’re taught in our youth, as our brains are developing, tends to stay with us for a lifetime. We want share our values and knowledge with our children. It helps us feel connected to our extended family. These are powerful motivating factors. The concept conveyed in this flowchart seems fairly self-evident: faithful Mormons make more faithful Mormons, and we want more faithful Mormons. I don’t imagine Elder Bednar thought he was inventing the wheel here. However, I had a few problems with his flowchart.

First thing: It bears an uncomfortable resemblance to something you’d see in a Dilbert comic.

Second thing: It excludes anyone who is not married, sealed in the temple and raising children (or have already raised children, who are hopefully in turn raising their born-in-covenant children), implying that the gospel is not really applicable to single people or people without children, or perhaps only that such people have nothing to contribute. Maybe both.

Third thing: It says that if your children choose not to become endowed, get sealed in the temple, and raise children in the church, it’s most likely your fault.

Fourth thing: It says the purpose of living the gospel is to make more Mormon families, rather than to bring souls to Christ.

The good news is that I’m willing to let the first thing go. The bad news is there are still those three other things.

I understand that the church has a vested interest in families raising children who stay active in the church as adults and go on to receive temple ordinances and hopefully raise more children who do the same thing, on and on for as long as we have to until Jesus comes back. But wait—I don’t see Jesus on the flowchart. I forget—does Jesus have anything to do with whether or not people stay active in the church? I seem to recall the church doing a study or something a few years ago that concluded the best predictors of children growing up to serve missions and/or go to the temple were personal prayer and personal scripture study. Or did I just dream that? Do we have new data that indicates agency isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

fish-bowl-600It shouldn’t surprise anyone that most people raised in the church become inactive between baptism and receiving their endowments. If you’re raised in the church, you usually get baptized at age eight. You won’t receive your endowment for at least another ten years. A lot can happen in ten years, especially if those years are between the ages of eight and eighteen. Not only do circumstances change drastically—you go from being a dependent child to a (hopefully) (somewhat) independent adult—but your actual brain changes. (Drastically!) Your parents could be the best parents in the world—they might do everything right, including daily family prayer and daily family scripture study and weekly family home evening and delighting the crap out of the Sabbath, and you still might choose not to become endowed and marry in the temple as an adult because you are a grown-ass person and you do what you want. Lehi raised Nephi and Sam, but he also raised Laman and Lemuel. God Himself raised trillions of us in the pre-existence and one-third chose to follow Satan. Unfortunately, lots of us who chose to keep our first estate talk as though we are really following Satan’s plan, i.e. as though other people’s agency doesn’t matter. Well, children actually do have free will. Heaven knows I wish they didn’t sometimes, but it’s too late for that now.

The good news is that if your kid ends up leaving the church, it is probably not your fault. The bad news is that you have no control over whether they stay or go; it’s their decision.

In this church we have an unfortunate track record of treating our single brothers and sisters as though they don’t exist or as though their lives don’t count. We teach our youth that they must marry in the temple as though it were an end in itself, instead of something that we do along the way to a much more significant end. Too often in church we talk about gospel principles only in terms of how we can teach our children the importance of x, y, z–as though we ourselves (as temple-endowed and –sealed adults) have already arrived, and all that remains is for us to raise children who will make the same choices we did. Single people are treated as though they aren’t living “real life.” Real life is marriage and children; everything else is just practice—or alternatively, a waste of time. We think it’s comforting to tell people that if they don’t get married in this life, they can still have a real life after they’re dead.

We tell single people that they shouldn’t feel left out, but then we turn around and leave them out. I wasn’t a single adult for very long (I married at 26, which is practically a baby by Satan’s standards), but I remember what it was like to be a grown woman who was treated like a child because I hadn’t been married yet. I can only imagine how galling this must be at 36, 46 or 56. I also remember being a young woman not remotely interested in getting married and having children and feeling like church didn’t apply to me because I didn’t want the things I was supposed to want. (When I don’t even want the things I’m supposed to want, why would God want me?) People don’t internalize these messages from isolated incidents. The message is constant and consistent: family is what matters. Here we have an apostle saying explicitly that the purpose of everything we do in the church is to make sure people get married in the temple and keep the belief cycle going. If you don’t have the prospect of marriage in mortality, it’s not difficult to imagine that you’re somehow irrelevant to this Kingdom of God.

The good news is that you have agency; you can choose whether or not to be offended by this implicit characterization of your life. The bad news is if you are offended, tough crap, we have families to save.

It’s not as though I think that we should never talk about family at church, that we shouldn’t tell people to get married and teach their children the gospel. That would be silly. Most people want to get married and have children, even if they’re not Mormons. Most people want to instill their values and beliefs in their children. In Mormonism this tendency goes up to 11 because so much is at stake: the point of life—the point of eternity—is to have one big happy family, where we’re all sealed to our ancestors, who are sealed to their ancestors, and so on and so on and so on; the only way for us to be together with our beloved families forever is to be sealed in the temple and remain true to the covenants we make there. If a child decides somewhere between baptism and endowment that they’d actually rather not get sealed in the temple and make more BIC babies, the chain is broken. At least in theory.

When we’re confronted with actual human beings grieving over their wayward children, we have handy quotes from apostles and prophets that reassure these poor parents that they and their kids will somehow be okay. Still, no one can go to church week after week, year in and year out, and fail to get the message that families can only be together forever if they’re sealed in the temple. This doctrine permeates our gospel instruction. Case in point: This talk was part of a training meeting focused on keeping the Sabbath day holy. We now even keep the Sabbath because marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. This is not a church where anyone can be confused for long about what our priority is.

My bishop showed excerpts of this training meeting video, including Elder Bednar’s talk, for our ward’s fifth Sunday combined meeting in September. During the ensuing discussion I broke with my own personal tradition and said what was on my mind–that I was frankly disturbed by Elder Bednar’s remarks, which framed Sabbath observance—indeed, everything we do in the church—in terms of family rather than individual salvation. A single sister who is divorced (and never sealed in the temple) later said that Elder Bednar’s words didn’t make her feel left out because the members of our ward are her family—which is exactly as it should be, and it reflects well on our ward that this sister feels that way.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels that they are part of their ward “family”—or if they do, they feel like they’re in one of those dysfunctional families that would probably be better off not being forever. My daughter, for example, is almost 18 years old. That she does not feel a part of her ward family is not (necessarily) the fault of anyone in our ward. My daughter’s situation is one that would benefit from a more individualized ministry—one that talks to her about her own relationship with God rather than her as-yet-hypothetical family. If you tell her that keeping the Sabbath is important because it means she’s more likely to get married in the temple and have children she’ll then raise Mormon, she isn’t going to find that persuasive or edifying. Frankly, I don’t find it persuasive or edifying, and I actually have a family I’m trying to raise Mormon.

I understand that this was a training meeting, not a devotional, and from an administrative standpoint it makes sense to talk about how to retain active church members; Elder Bednar’s remarks weren’t meant for people like my daughter, and they probably weren’t even meant for people like me. I don’t mind that he said things that weren’t meant for my ears. I mind that he gave a talk ostensibly about keeping people from going inactive between baptism and endowment but came off sounding like he doesn’t give a crap about anything but perpetuating multi-generational families for the sake of keeping Mormonism solvent.

Now, in fairness, I’m certain Elder Bednar cares about a lot things, including individual souls; families, after all, are comprised of individual souls. So I guess I just don’t see why we can’t frame these discussions in terms of individual souls. Not everyone is married with a family; everyone has a soul. There’s no reason why a single member of the church can’t nourish the faith of others; I’d be very surprised to learn Elder Bednar disagreed with me on that. But he didn’t frame the discussion in such a way to include members of the church who are single, divorced, not-sealed, gay, childless (or child-free)—the people who are more likely to leave church activity, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the church is so great at treating them like they don’t exist–or worse, don’t matter.

As the scripture goes, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Similarly, I think that while the family is ordained of God, it exists for the individual and not the individual for the family. Some of us are born into families who love and strengthen us all our days. Some of us aren’t as lucky. Some of us end up making families of our own choosing which may not follow the traditional (nuclear) model. Some of us are blessed to have a ward that acts as our family—in addition to or in place of the one we inherited at birth. A person who gets married and has children and raises them to be good Mormons contributes to the kingdom of God, but that is not the only or even the most important way to contribute to the kingdom of God.

Jesus said there were two great commandments: to love God and to love your neighbor. Each of us fulfills the commandment to love our neighbor within our own sphere, regardless of whether or not we have a spouse or children. If you do have a spouse and children, I certainly hope you are loving and serving them. If you don’t have a spouse or children, you are probably loving and serving someone else. Everyone in this church has something to give, and no one’s gift should be ignored. We don’t have to be married or related to each other to strengthen each other. A single person has as much to offer as a married person. A gay person has as much to offer as a straight person. A divorced person has as much to offer as someone who isn’t divorced. A person with no kids has as much to offer as a person with ten kids. This is because each of us has only himself to give, and each of us offers something unique.

If your child decides to leave the church, it may not be because of anything you did. If they decide to stay in the church, it may not be because of anything you did. It may be the influence of someone else in your child’s life that makes the difference. This other person may be single or married, a parent or not. Or it may not be another person at all. In the end it will really just be your child, as an individual, making his or her own choice.

I once sat in a class taught by a Relief Society president whose teenage son eventually died of cancer. Knowing that her son would not go on a mission or get married in the temple or have children of his own–all the usual markers of a successful Mormon life–she asked herself what was the most important thing that he could do during his relatively short mortal life, and she realized that it was for him to have a personal relationship with his Savior so that he would be prepared to return to him. She went on to say how important it was for everyone to have a personal relationship with God so that they can receive personal revelation for their own lives, which may or may not match up with the prescribed template. She knew that her son had developed that personal relationship with his Savior and that he was ready to return to live with God. During the time he’d been given, he had done the one thing that was needful.

A few years ago our Young Women presidency asked me and some other mothers to give the young women advice about what qualities and skills are most important to prepare them for motherhood, or something along those lines. I gave this a lot of thought, and what I ended up saying is that the traits and skills that will make you a good mother are also the traits and skills that make you a good person. Sure, it helps to know how to change diapers, but even if you don’t practice that ahead of time, you’ll probably be able to pick it up on the job. In the meantime, patience, hard work, a sense of humor, and compassion will serve you well no matter what path you choose in life, and they also happen to be the most important for parenthood. Likewise, ministering to individuals as individuals is the most effective way to minister to families. Everybody wins!

More importantly, nobody loses.

 

Comments

  1. Excellent! Thinking about the Dilbert strip and what I think Scott Adams is trying to do, I wouldn’t let the first thing go. It strikes me as a deep observation with several interesting threads.

  2. This is very powerful. Sometimes I think we overlook the role of others’ agency when we’re focusing so much on trying to create perfect families, or we get so caught up in the whats and have-tos, that we forget about developing a relationship with Christ, which is what will sustain us through the difficult times.

  3. A Happy Hubby says:

    The second half of your last paragraph needs to be expanded to a conference talk. That part is so lost and so important.

  4. Thank you for this.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Loved the post–especially the last line.

  6. This might be my favorite BCC post ever. Well done.

  7. “We tell single people that they shouldn’t feel left out, but then we turn around and leave them out.”

    This needs to be a tattoo somewhere very visible on my person.

  8. wow! RJ, this was extraordinary.

  9. This is excellent, Rebecca J!

  10. As I was laughing so much at the phrase, “delighting the crap out of the Sabbath,” I’m sure I’d better go back and read it all again to make sure I don’t miss anything. Great food for thought!

  11. You don’t need to “see Jesus on the flowchart” because Jesus is the flowchart. Be a Shaker, not an Evangelical.

  12. Yes, this! All of it! <3

  13. “everyone has a soul.” RJ, this is deep stuff. Thanks.

  14. Likewise, ministering to individuals as individuals is the most effective way to minister to families. Everybody wins!
    More importantly, nobody loses.

    Amen. A million times.

  15. Respectfully disagree with most of what was said here. But it sure was fun to knock down that straw-man you set up on Elder Bednar’s behalf, right?

  16. I listened in on a fantastic discussion about how we could use our family history prowess and sealing practices to open up our theological beliefs on family, especially in promoting a strong sibling based structure on the ward level and even beyond. We already call each other “Brother” and “Sister.” What if we actually meant it?

    Course the heteronormative family is our brand.

  17. thor @9:26am – Offering a specific disagreement would be more respectful. Otherwise, I don’t know which straw man you’re referring to. There are so many!

  18. Course the heteronormative family is our brand.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus Christ were our brand?

  19. We had a relief society lesson where we watched these training videos. Then we had a 5th Sunday lesson where we watched them. Then, because it was so crucial for every member to see them, they had a Sunday School lesson for those who had missed both the Relief Society lesson and the 5th Sunday lesson. They had the YM/YW teach primary for all 3. It was clear in my ward that it was crucial for every member to understand the organizational growth chart of the church.

    “The basic purpose of all we teach and all that we do in the church,” said Elder Bednar, “is to make available the priesthood authority and gospel ordinances and covenants that enable a man and woman and their children to be sealed together and happy at home. Period. Exclamation point. End of sentence. That’s it.”

    After hearing that quote by Elder Bednar twice, I refused to go to the Sunday School lesson and listen again about how the purpose of the gospel literally has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. There could be no Savior and purpose of our Church, as stated by Elder Bednar, would not change one word.

  20. Contrary to the impression I must have given, it was not fun for me to pick on Elder Bednar. I had no intention of putting words in his mouth. I did feel the need to respond to the words he actually said, rather than whatever intentions were behind the words. I assume good intentions on Elder Bednar’s part; this doesn’t mean I can read his mind, so I have not attempted to do so. I haven’t taken his words out of context. I have taken his audience into consideration. At any rate, this is not Elder Bednar’s particular problem. If it were, it would be much easier to ignore.

  21. It might also be worth considering how it sounds to 1st generation Mormons to hear that “in the savior’s restored church on the earth today, multi-generational families are a primary source of spiritual strength and continuity” — and how many times they’ll hear similar implications that members who come from Mormon stock are more reliably valuable to the church than are outsiders/newbies/people from the wrong sort of family.

    The new policy against LGBT people’s kids is just an extreme recent example. Every time I hear people brag about how many generations Mormon they are (something I’ve never heard in any other faith community), I wonder how that sounds to members who aren’t born-in-the-covenant descendants of so-and-so, from good “multi-generational” families. Also, what a great way to mark members outside of the U.S.A. and people of color as second-rate in a church that for so many generations has been dominated by white families from the American west (as if that demographic’s lock on church leadership positions wasn’t enough).

    The intent of these remarks may be to pressure people to create multi-generational Mormon families, but I’d be really surprised if they didn’t also cut the other direction. I do think a lot of members pick up on the idea that it’s safe to judge/value others based on who their families are, giving privilege to people from longtime member families. Everyone else has to try extra hard to prove you wrong, that they can still be good Mormons and good people “despite” their upbringing and ancestry.

    I see these remarks as reinforcing a pretty ugly type of tribalism.

  22. “in the savior’s restored church on the earth today, multi-generational families are a primary source of spiritual strength and continuity”

    It used to be that “converts are the lifeblood of the Church” — I wonder when that changed? Mid-1990s in connection with our emphasis on family?

  23. J. Stapley says:

    This is brilliant, RJ. Thanks.

  24. I really appreciate this, Rebecca. The whole issue of multi-generational families is complex, and unfortunately (and yet not) woven into the fabric of our culture and heritage. As the beneficiary of multiple generations of church members, I hope that I don’t overplay the importance of that, and yet also understand that it is a big part of who and what I am. That doesn’t make me better, but I can’t deny that it has been a foundation for me to build on. But you are so right in the last few sentences of the OP, that ministering to individuals as individuals is the most important thing for us to consider. There are times that I wonder if we have paired the Gospel of the Family with the Gospel of Prosperity, and come up with an unrealistic and potentially harmful paradigm for many members.

    I also loved the graphics.

  25. There are times that I wonder if we have paired the Gospel of the Family with the Gospel of Prosperity, and come up with an unrealistic and potentially harmful paradigm for many members.

    I think you’re really on to something with that, kevinf. It’s a cultural pitfall that we’re not doing a great job of avoiding.

  26. I remember talking with a guy at the end of my mission who said that he had heard that our church’s priorities were 1) church 2) family 3) God. We denied it, but I couldn’t help thinking that he was probably right. It’s a real problem.

  27. When we watched these training videos in my ward, I couldn’t help but think that the leadership recognizes — but won’t admit publicly — that the core membership in the United States (which is largely multi-generational) is really what’s propping the church up. While the church is growing faster in places like South American and Africa, many (if not most) of those converts do not stay active. The church is still very much about multi-generational families from the Wasatch front. Given that millennials from multi-generational families seem to be leaving the church at a high rate, the power and reach of the church may very well shrink in the coming years.

    When I joined the church 20+ years ago it felt vibrant, bold and expansive. Now the church feels afraid and frail. Maybe I’m the one who has changed.

  28. Rebecca,

    It seems you almost immediately lose sight of the fact that this talk was given in the context of training on “Sabbath Day Observance in the Home.” You never really delve into why exactly Elder Bednar would make remarks of this nature in terms of the context of better observing the Sabbath Day in the home. What was the goal of the training? Just a guess here, but I would assume it had to do with increasing obedience to the commandment from God to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy (in this particular training, that was dealt with in the context of individual homes). In my own experience as a lifetime member of the church, I have frequently observed how a sort of non-committal (or even adversarial) attitude toward the concept of the Sabbath Day by LDS parents has been a hallmark for kids who later grew up to be fully disillusioned or disaffected from the church. Is it a sure sign that your kids won’t “stay in the church”? Of course not, but to borrow a business-oriented term from the missionary program, it is certainly one of the “key indicators.”

    Secondly, it almost seems as though you are craving offense where there is no offense. There is no such thing as a talk, a lesson, a manual, a presentation…anything, where there won’t be some group of people that are either omitted or could potentially interpret something as an alienating remark. This is inevitable when human beings are attempting to communicate with each other. In fact, a primary facet of the nature of Gospel commitment is, at its heart, some form of alienation. “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. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:35-37). In other words, if you choose Christ, you’re ultimately going to be alienating someone, its just a question of who and for what reason…and how that person chooses to react is entirely up to them.

    My wife is a first generation member of the church. She was not remotely offended or put off by any of the comments made by Elder Bednar (and she isn’t shy when it comes to voicing her opinion about anything related to the church). To her, and to me, Elder Bednar’s remarks here remind us of the potent imagery of the opposite facing mirrors in the sealing rooms of the temple. They go on before us, and they go on after us, and then there we are…the question is: what are we going to do about it?

    Obviously there is an ideal that God wants us to strive for, but He doesn’t ask for that striving at the expense of the basic realties of mortal life; instead it seems, He asks because of those realities. Like probably most people, I have the whole nine yards of life circumstances in my surrounding family: divorce (including acrimonious, bitter divorce), church disillusionment, etc. None of that takes away from what we (I hope) are striving for. It’s simply a part of the reality that we are all striving to help each other through. Where is Christ in all of that? Pointing us to the ideal, since that is what His teachings apparently foster when internalized and lived to their fullest extent in our otherwise limited individual circumstances.

  29. I’m skeptical of this fairly recent (to my 47 years anyway) focus on family over the gospel. There was a time in the late 80s when the church was getting a lot of positive press for the strength of our families. It was quickly glommed onto as our new best sales tactic. Before it was a byproduct of Mormonism, but suddenly it evolved into being the whole thing, the entire “plan.” These themes existed before; they just didn’t replace individual focus (as you point out) until after that happened in the media. The rise of the family to the point that now the children are singing “The family is of God” in Primary suspiciously coincides with the rise of the culture wars in the US.

  30. What if we encouraged individuals to forge strong belief in and direct relationships with Jesus Christ and then trusted them to create families — or not — as inspired by the source for what is best for them individually?

  31. Ernie: “Where is Christ in all of that? Pointing us to the ideal[.]”

    Yeah, being single.

  32. The only time I hear members talk about coming from a multi-generational Mormon family is on blogs where the member is about to disagree with something the church is doing.

  33. Huh, that’s interesting. I recently heard talk of multi-generational Mormon families from Elder Bednar and Elder Perry (or was it Elder Nelson?) during a training on keeping the Sabbath Day holy and from other General Authorities in several general conference talks, references in regional conference talks, and in stake conference talks. Funny how the Church really is local, isn’t it?

  34. Ernie @11:23am – First of all, I did note the context and acknowledged Elder Bednar’s specific agenda. I agree that the goal of the meeting was to increase obedience to a commandment. However, I think I also noted that framing discussions in terms of family rather than individuals is a pervasive feature of Mormonism, and it’s not without its problems, which I’ve already discussed to the tune of 3,000 words, so I won’t elaborate further. I’m glad that neither you nor your wife was offended by his remarks. I daresay most people listening were not. I wouldn’t describe myself as “offended.” I think it’s kind of obnoxious to be offended on behalf of other people. It seems you’ve successfully imagined the goal of Elder Bednar’s talk, but perhaps you haven’t discerned the goal of my post. I can’t read your mind, though, so I don’t know what you think my purpose was.

  35. Ernie: do single people not have homes? Should I, as a single person, not worry about keeping the Sabbath holy? That seems to be what you’re implying.

  36. Rebecca J, amen and amen. You succinctly and eloquently put into words something as a single person I have been feeling and living for many years.

    I too have noticed the focus of the church change in recent decades from the Saviour to a focus on families. Even the church website which used to have an image of the Saviour on the homepage now is covered in slick images of perfect family life. There something about it that makes me queasy.

    For me the most disturbing thing about marketing the church this way it that we are promising something that we cannot deliver and ignoring something else that is vastly more important, that we can absolutely one hundred percent deliver. If you join the church you may or may not end up with a happy family life. But if you make an effort,spiritually speaking,you can absolutely have a personal relationship with the Saviour and the guidance of the Spirit to help direct your life.

    The worst part is that when converts fail to achieve the perfect family they blame themselves. I have sat in Relief Society while women wept openly blaming themselves for not having the perfect family. I’m the lone voice in the wilderness when I try and tell them that not all LDS families are perfect and that all the rhetoric from Salt Lake is just that – hype. They treat what I am saying like blasphemy. Talks like Elder Bednar’s do not help this situation. Or maybe they are revealing what the true thinking is, in which case I feel sorry for him, as he may not understand the worth of what the gospel represents.

  37. Stacy – have you ever been in a setting where you are trying to establish baseline rules (e.g., for a cub scout day camp – “No running into the street.”). Inevitably there is that kid at the back who raises his hand to tell the story of his cousin’s friend who had to run to the street that one time to save the dog who was on fire.

    As I interpret Elder Bednar’s comments (and Ernie’s spin on those comments): E. Bednar was establishing a baseline ideal – not a new idea, either. This is the same God who told Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish – he seems interested in men and women procreating.

    Rather, Bednar is a general authority teaching a general training on a general topic. We can quibble about his lack of addressing our specific situations, but the listener should accept some responsibility on how to apply the teaching to her own situation (The list of unaddressed exceptions to the ideal are essentially limitless, no? what about widowers with young kids? what about recently divorced women who were abused? what about couples that cannot biologically have children and are having trouble trying to adopt? what about a young couple where the husband recently determined that he is same-gender attracted? etc.).

    And Rebecca, this is my primary disagreement with the post – singles ARE ignored in Elder Bednar’s comments – along with all the other groups that are exceptions. While I cannot speak for Elder Bednar, I can speak for me: please do not make the assumption that the “exceptional groups” are not important or essential to the work – the body of Christ has need for all.

  38. I doubt Ernie would have mansplained all of that if the author had been named Steve or john or Kevin.

  39. If you join the church you may or may not end up with a happy family life. But if you make an effort,spiritually speaking,you can absolutely have a personal relationship with the Saviour and the guidance of the Spirit to help direct your life.

    BB, that is such a good and important insight — thank you!

  40. BB: “Even the church website which used to have an image of the Saviour on the homepage now is covered in slick images of perfect family life.”

    I’m looking at lds.org right now. There are 16 pictures. Two of them are of the Savior. One of them is an elderly couple taking the sacrament. Another is Elder and Sister Oaks speaking to missionaries on Thanksgiving. Two pictures are about refugees. Other than the two couples, none of the pictures are identifiable as nuclear family groups.

    Are you looking at a different webpage than I am?

  41. Amy T, two out of sixteen pictures of the Saviour. That’s about 12.5%. While the other images may not focus specifically on the family they do focus on programs and talks and events. Even the image of the nativity scene is focused on driving traffic to the new marketing campaign complete with its own hashtag. Yes, to my mind this is the very definition of slick.

    By contrast the LDS.org homepage used to have only one image of the Christus statue, like the one on temple square: the Saviour with His arms outstretched welcoming all.

  42. thor @1:19pm – Thank you for your clarification on what bothered you about my post. I agree that “the listener should accept some responsibility on how to apply the teaching to her own situation.” I think people who are married with children should be able to apply a gospel teaching to their own lives without the teacher addressing the lesson specifically to them and their particular life situation. I don’t want to see a bunch of different talks, each targeted at a different group. Nor do I think apostles are responsible for addressing every conceivable situation in mortality. I would have felt much less need to “quibble” if Elder Bednar had come out and said, “I’m going to specifically address the responsibility parents have to teach their children to keep the Sabbath.” I mean, not in so many words, necessarily–but if he had framed the discussion as “this is part of why it’s important to keep the Sabbath” rather than explicitly stating, “The basic purpose of all we teach and all that we do in the church is to make available the priesthood authority and gospel ordinances and covenants that enable a man and woman and their children to be sealed together and happy at home. Period. Exclamation point. End of sentence. That’s it.” Perhaps if he’d left out a couple punctuation marks, I wouldn’t have assumed that he meant to exclude anyone or anything from the church’s ministry. Not that I’m blaming the victim, of course. I’m just explaining my thought process.

  43. Thor: nope. Single-family households with a father, mother, and children at home are NOT the baseline. In a talk about keeping the Sabbath day holy, it should apply to ALL,whether we live in nuclear family units or not. There is no “everybody lives in a family” baseline. Nuclear families with that structure are less than 25% of US households.

  44. Ernie and thor,

    You do realize that depending on which stats you use, single people make up anywhere from one third to one half of the adult population of the church. Why not focus instead on gospel principles that apply to everyone and then no one has to be the “exception”.

  45. @Rebecca – I appreciate what you are saying. I think “how to present” is a problem that has been on-going for decades. And I DO agree with your points about righteous parents not being able to control the actions of their children. If I were to hazard a guess however- I’d bet a large number of “traditional LDS families” don’t consistently hold family prayer/scripture study/FHE/sabbath day observance. I imagine E. Bednar talking to us about how we’re the ones dropping the ball – on the teaching side. Unfortunately, good parents with wayward children will get caught in this overbroad net.

    @Stacy and BB – are you telling me that the Gospel “ideal” is NOT a temple married couple with children? Since when??
    And this isn’t just US/Western Culture tainting the view of the actual Gospel – I’m thinking about traditional Jewish culture here too – thousands of years of pushing the ideal of a man and woman raising kids in a home dedicated to obedience to God. Why should the last 30 years’ focus on individual rights hold sway over the previous few thousand?

  46. Why should the last 30 years’ focus on individual rights hold sway over the previous few thousand?

    Maybe because there’s a pretty large part of the population to whom that does not apply, and that prior to this time the ideal was maintained in large part through social and (not infrequently) physical coercion?

    An ideal isn’t worth much if people have to be either shamed or beaten into holding to it.

  47. BTW, if you want to know why Bednar’s flow chart looks like something out of Dilbert, it’s because the man himself is an organizational behavior theorist.

    Which…well, it’s not a good look.

  48. thor,

    The Saviour taught gospel principles that applied to everyone. The worth of souls is great is not a new idea. There is no record of Him ever giving a sermon where the message did not include everyone. He invited all to come to Him. He broke social taboos to include everyone, even children. He taught at the temple in the Court of the Women so that they also would be included. He got a lot of grief for this. He never said this applies to most of you, the rest of you can just ignore what I’m saying because it’s not directed to you. He dealt in universals.

    Paul believed that being single was the ideal and that married life was just for those who couldn’t handle being single. (This coincided with a belief in the imminent return of the Saviour.) Ideas about marriage in general have changed vastly over time. Certainly marriage in ancient times would have included considerations of land and property. Giving your daughter in marriage was in part a business transaction. It was like this for a very long time. If you don’t believe me just read any Jane Austen novel. So yeah, I do think our current concept of marriage is tainted by the cultural context we live in.

    This is not to say that I don’t believe in temple marriage or that the sealing ordinances are not important. Far from it. I just don’t believe that they should be used as a selling point for the gospel. Or that we should flog this topic so hard, and so endlessly in our discourse, especially when it comes at the expense of eternal principles.

  49. Ardis says:
    December 3, 2015 at 1:20 pm
    I doubt Ernie would have mansplained all of that if the author had been named Steve or john or Kevin.

    – mic drop.

  50. Mike, an 8th generation Mormon says:

    I am sorry, I did not read all of the material. But enough to ruffle my feathers.

    I think there is another aspect to this multi-generation family idea. We can run contrary to the expectations of the modern church. Like many ideologies, those expressed by the modern LDS church via the correlation movement are relatively new but they masquarade as old and traditional. This creates the memory hole.This is why family history has to be rewritten, washed and purged by each succeeding generation. Many of the old Utah pioneers would turn over in their graves if they saw what has become of the church they lived and died to build.

    My father will be 90 years old this year and he is sharp as a tack. As one of the younger siblings of a large family he helped care for his parents and other relatives who lived to be as old as him. As a youth I knew these people, some of them born in the 19th century in polygamous families. He does not fit into the church any more and most of them would not either. Although intensely loyal to the Mormon people as their community, they were not “church broke” by modern standards. Not even close.

    It would be difficult to concisely give many specific examples to convince anyone reading this. I think one glaring example is the shift from an emphasis on integrity and character (internal moral compass) to an emphasis on obedience to leaders and policies (external moral compass).

    Joseph Smith kept precisely none of his immediate family in the “true” branch of the Mormon church that went west. Another inconsistency is that we with our 80,000 strong missionary force desire non-members to contemplate and consider changing their family traditions; but we, with Elder Bednar’s little cycle above, reject the exact same process within the church. Seems like extreme bait-and-switch to me.

    A litmus test question might be considered: If there is a discrepancy between what your 6th, 7th, 8th generation family teaches you and what the living prophets teach you, which one do you follow? The Sunday school answer is the prophets. Anyone disagree? (Report to your bishops for flogging. ;) This puts to rest the primacy of generations of family in the perpetuation of our faith. Unflinching loyalty to leadership even at the expense of family is the grand key today.

    I think I would be safe saying with my forefathers, shame on the church leaders who are nearing or are the same age as my father for not remaining true to the original spirit of Mormonism. (If they ever understood it.) Yes, many serious flaws needed and still need to be corrected, but we are also destroying the essence of the faith.

  51. If Elder Bednar says “Period. Exclamation point. End of sentence. That’s it,” then I have to conclude that he means it. It’s a little too doctrinaire and final to need a narrower context than “all of Mormonism.” Sealed and happy is the point of Church teaching and Church activity.

    Yeah, Jesus is missing from that declaration, making my first response, “Have we now become the Church of Eternal Families of Latter-day Saints” instead of some other more scriptural thing?

    If that’s what it means, then he and I will have to part ways on what the point of Church teaching and activity is. Whatever else it is, it’s an overwhelming stressor for my single children, and I’m not really OK with that part. Perhaps that means that the ministry to my adult single children falls to me, rather than to Elder Bednar. I wonder if he’d agree with that.

  52. I think one glaring example is the shift from an emphasis on integrity and character (internal moral compass) to an emphasis on obedience to leaders and policies (external moral compass).

    That is so well said and poignant, Mike. So tragic, too, for us as a culture and people.

    Unflinching loyalty to leadership even at the expense of family is the grand key today.

    Yes, this is unfortunately true. Sad face.

  53. Heck, even the authors of Broadway’s “The Book of Mormon” have picked up on the idea that the whole purpose of the Church these days is to keep on creating Big Mormon Families from generation to generation.

  54. “Multigenerational families” and “Good Ship Zion” will hopefully soon join “tender mercies” and “iron rod/liahona mormons” as essentially dead metaphors. Luckily “ponderize” never had a chance.

  55. Are we sure Elder Bednar doesn’t have Asperger’s?

  56. When I read the comparison of families in the Church to seedlings in a forest, I started thinking about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, probably because they’ve long struck me as so very good at doing what Bednar was doing: using a metaphor to express a foundational idea in a very clear way. I can easily imagine a Watchtower article turning this family/forest idea into a picture of grandparents, parents, and a small child flanked by towering sequoias, a couple of stately oaks, and a graceful seedling (with the seedling perhaps being fondled by the wide-eyed child). And what does Bednar give us? A flowchart.

  57. “If you don’t have the prospect of marriage in mortality, it’s not difficult to imagine that you’re somehow irrelevant to this Kingdom of God.”

    So true for the singles but man, so very true for our active gay brothers and sisters. How some of them stay is just amazing to me.

    And then…
    thor @ 1:19 p.m.
    “what about a young couple where the husband recently determined that he is same-gender attracted?” really. He’s a young husband who just recently realized he’s homosexual. Like, is that a thing? Because I’m pretty sure of all the likely scenarios related to SSA, spontaneous homosexuality after marriage isn’t one of them. Even the leaders of the church have acknowledged people are born gay. Heaven help me if the bearded, handsome body that keeps me warm at night wakes up one morning and suddenly determines that he’s same gender attracted.

  58. Maybe I’m missing something from your article or your understanding of Elder Bednars flow chart, but aren’t gospel covenants and priesthood keys in reference to Jesus Christ and the promises we make with Him and Heavenly Father? This is absurd to me that so many people are acting like Elder Bednar has left the Savior out of the statement. The Savior is the priesthood authority that E. Bednar talks about and the gospel covenants we make are due to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Savior is included in the covenants we make when we are baptized and again when we are sealed in the temple- which is what is shown in the flow chart.

  59. I love you Ardis.

    Thanks for the post Rebecca and the great discussion BCC.

  60. Defining Jesus as “the priesthood authority” feels so wrong to me. There are many names given for Him in scripture (my favorite is simply Redeemer), but “the priesthood authority” is not one of them. It makes Jesus sound like an administrator whose job it is to approve contracts.

    Rebecca, I FWIW, I think you treated Elder Bednar’s comments utterly fairly. When I viewed the video in a 5th Sunday 3rd hour meeting, I was so taken aback by it that I went home and made it the topic of my once-a-month Exponent blog post. I’m still disturbed by it.

  61. The reason it is so jarring is because it is so straightforward an importation of org dev jargon into our religion. Sort of seems to commodify or at least corporatize it beyond previously seen levels.

  62. “The reason it is so jarring is because it is so straightforward an importation of org dev jargon into our religion. Sort of seems to commodify or at least corporatize it beyond previously seen levels.”

    When Uchdorf incorporates his life experience into his calling it’s awesome. When Bednar does it it’s bad.

    We need to come up with a list of acceptable professions to draw experience from. Here is a start.

    Good:
    Pilots, Social Work, Academics (As long as it’s not business or economics)

    Bad:
    Org Behavior, Salesman, Economics, Anything Corporate

  63. “Are we sure Elder Bednar doesn’t have Asperger’s?”

    If he does, no doubt some would care. The Lord would probably ignore their angst though. He keeps saying that he satisfied to use the weak things of the earth to accomplish his purposes.

  64. Whether or not he has Asperger’s, he is an Apostle and I sustain him as such.

  65. Is the Asperger’s angle here meant to be an insult to Elder Bednar, John (6:32 p.m.)? If so, I find that very disturbing — we should never use a condition such as Asperger’s as an insult. People struggle with Asperger’s through no fault of their own; it is intrinsically part of who they are. We disrespect them and their lives when we use Asperger’s as a way to make fun of someone. That’s not something we condone on the blog, whether in relation to an Apostle or anyone else.

  66. Regarding Aspergers – I have no idea whether the original comment was intended in a disparaging way or not (obviously ablism is a bad thing), but I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he is somewhere on the spectrum. My in-laws have Aspergers and knowing that helps me be a lot more patient and less easily offended. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not that I have changed my expectations for them because of this, but I do know that in general I have a certain expectation of empathy and consideration for others that they cannot meet. It helps me to try and treat them the same as anyone else, but not expect the same level of tact or empathy as I would expect of others. I don’t know if that’s the right approach and I worry about ablism a lot, but so far it’s minimized contention at family get togethers.

    All this to say: I don’t know if Elder Bednar has Aspergers, and I certainly think it’s irrelevant to his calling. That said, for me the belief that he has it might make me a little less offended at what seems like a callous lack of empathy sometimes. I don’t know if my framing of it is a good thing, necessarily, but I guess for me playing mind games with myself and changing my expectations of people is the only way I can maintain good opinions of people. Or something like that.

  67. Goodness. “I might be a little more charitable if he had a mental illness.” Why not just be more charitable? This thread has taken a weird turn.

  68. Frank – because I have a temper, am prone to misanthropy, and have a really hard time not getting offended. These are all flaws, and I’m working on them. In the meantime, it’s easier for me to be charitable if I think people have an excuse for being rude.

  69. I remember feeling the exact same way when I heard this training session! By Elder Bednar’s measures, the family I grew up in is perfectly successful. However, that same family was dysfunctional and abusive. Does that count for nothing? The flowchart definitely struck me as something you’d see in a business meeting in an advertising firm, where sales stats matter more than consumer satisfaction.

    Also as a newly single person (after a marriage that ended tragically), I’ve been shocked by how invisible I’ve become after moving into a new ward. My visiting teachers even admitted when they first visited me that they weren’t sure how to relate to me as a single person and this was going to be a “challenge” for them. This attitude makes no sense to me: when I was married I had a ton of single Mormon friends (but I also attended a very non-traditional ward that mixed young singles and families). Talks like these probably reinforce the idea that single church members fall “outside” the core of the gospel and that their views on gospel principles are less mature or valuable.

  70. I took the question about Elder Bednar and Asperger’s as observational, rather than judgmental. I think we’d have to recognize that the region he comes from (Mormon Corridor Idaho, right? What with the pickle jar story, etc…) looks on mental health care with great suspicion, preferring spiritually based solutions for happiness. I consider it entirely plausible that Elder Bednar could be on the spectrum, not recognize it, and be surrounded by like minded people on the matter.

    A visiting missionary a couple of years ago told me about an experience she had in a fireside Elder Bednar led. She said that during a Q&A portion he was asked what the greatest concern the Brethren had was for the young single adults in the Church. She said his answer was, “It is that you’re single. Next question.” That anecdote is very consistent with the outlook of someone on the mild end of the autism spectrum. The response, to her, was pretty awesome in its simplicity and clarity.

    So, Elder Bednar believes that establishing young adults in eternal marriages where they have children is a fundamental key to human happiness. Said more softly, so does every mental health therapist I’ve ever met; they frame it in terms of companionship, support, and purpose. If the Asperger’s label explains why he’s blunter about it than I prefer, it really does offer a more charitable narrative than we’d otherwise choose. It means he’s not motivated by malice or enmity, and it fosters, in turn, the notion that he’s just as human as I am. (All of the people I know who have Asperger’s traits are breathtakingly successful and a little bit hard to take. When they’ve internalized the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the result is astoundingly good.)

    But, yeah, I’d really prefer that these ideas were more firmly connected to basic Christian doctrines, which appear to be missing from his notion of “period. exclamation point.”

  71. Thank you, Rob, you expressed that way less awkwardly than I did.

  72. What’s missing is grace. Period. Exclamation point. There is so much emphasis on works and do, do, doing in this church. As a Mormon you literally can never do enough. I just wish there was more ministering my soul. I believe we all want to do good and be good. But like it’s been said before, so much of what we do in this church (and what Elder Bednar is talking about) makes us really good Mormons but not necessarily good people. Just like Emma @ 11:41 said.
    But what I want is more of this:
    “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 4:7

  73. Well, this conversation took an unexpected turn.

    First, for those who care, Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder, not a mental illness. My daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome. She also has mental illness. The two things complicate each other, and it’s sometimes hard to sort out the threads of each, but they aren’t the same thing.

    Personally, I don’t care what Elder Bednar’s career was (I had no idea) or whether or not he’s on the spectrum (the thought never entered my mind because my only experience with him is watching videos of him giving talks) because, as I said earlier, my point was not about Elder Bednar particularly. He merely provided a very convenient illustration of what I find to be a disturbing trend in the church. He’s an apostle, after all. It’s not like he habitually goes off the reservation and all the other apostles just sit back and think, “Well, that’s just his way” (as I imagine the reactions of the people who are used to my daughter’s church tantrums). Witness all the people who don’t have any problem with Elder Bednar’s remarks. Are they all just especially astute at interpreting the intentions and hidden layers of everything our church leaders say? (Maybe they have the spirit and I don’t. It’s a distinct possibility.)

    I tend to think it’s because what he said is not controversial in Mormonism. We are very ordinance-focused, and I do think most Mormons think of Christ as embedded in the ordinances–not a bad attitude, really–and embedded in just about everything we talk about, similar to the way speech and language therapies are embedded in the specialized educational classrooms my autistic children attended when they were younger. There’s no reason to mention Christ because he goes without saying–he is the flowchart, as someone said earlier. That’s a valid argument, but I’m going to disagree with it. Not that Christ isn’t present in the ordinances–he is–but that there isn’t any need to mention him specifically because everyone knows what we mean. Not everyone does.

    This habit of leaving Christ out of our conversation is not desirable. As Kristen (1:03pm) pointed out, what’s missing is grace. Mormons have always been more works-focused than grace-focused, and I actually think that’s not horrible–it’s part of what makes us us–but we also need to be called to repentance occasionally when we let it get out of hand. But the main point of my post was about our worse (I believe) habit of framing gospel discussions in terms of families rather than individuals. I don’t want to start repeating myself (actually, too late), but I feel like some people have missed that point entirely, which sort of proves my point. We’re so used to treating eternal families as the goal itself rather than the (wonderful, important) by-product of the real goal, eternal life. (And I just said “by-product” in reference to eternal life. Maybe because “side effect” seemed equally wrong. Forgive me.) The goal is to return to live with God. I’m not suggesting that Elder Bednar or anyone else has lost sight of that (again, not a mind reader), just that people talk as though they have lost sight of it, and what one actually says matters more than our assumptions about what people mean or understand.

  74. Mike, an 8th generation Mormon says:

    Elder Bednar has Asperger’s syndrome?

    This idea is like a bolt of lightening and definitely a step in the right direction. If I am not mistaken the diagnosis of this condition, especially in its milder forms, based on sermons and church work is dubious. But the idea that Elder B. might have SOMETHING is a break through. Because it allows him to be human again, not a distant semi-deity. It makes it easy to forgive him, to allow him to make mistakes and grow and improve. Now anger for him is replaced with compassion.

    John F. is right that we should not dishonor people because of their illnesses. Mental illness is tricky especially because most of it is mild with long stretches of normal or near normal behavior possible. Of course an athlete who suffers a spinal cord injury and is confined to a wheelchair never to set foot on the field again is no longer able to contribute in the same way as before. Some conditions are more disabling than others. But we can move in new directions. What spiritual conditions are the most disabling?

    Who made anyone, diagnosed or not, into a semi-deity and gave him all the power and ability to issue harmful (or good) statements? When I say something crazy people just ignore me. Ask my wife she has been doing it for at least 30 years. We the people of this church gave our leaders this power. We set them up as idols and worship them. Then like the ancient idols of wood, stone or metal, they fail us and we cry in despair.

    I hope for a day when we can take some of this power back. I hope this is done with gentleness and persuasion by people like the better voices on this site. Not people like me with too much of the old pioneer cactus and cayenne pepper in our hearts. Confine us to dark rooms, foyers and blogs.

    ***Note:
    A clarification about the 8th generation claim which contradicts my previous main point- that I knew the early church members well enough to see how they would not fit in today, across 8 generations. I should say member of an 8 generation Mormon family. The most recent 4 generations would be my grandchildren, my children, me and my parents. The other earlier 4 generations would be my grandparents, their parents (who were raised in polygamy), their grandparents who first joined the church in the early days, and finally some of their parents who converted in their older years.

  75. On the Asperger’s tip: I’m not sure how one could complete a PhD in organizational behavior, as did Elder Bednar, without being fairly far down the autism spectrum. To be sure, the same goes for most academic fields, even “soft” social sciences or the humanities. Having attempted unsuccessfully to do a PhD myself in a quant-heavy area of public policy, I met an awful lot of obvious Aspies among both established scholars and students. As someone who has other (well-treated) mental health issues but not an autism spectrum disorder, I became aware during graduate study that my inability to exert extremely intense concentration–something that characterizes high-functioning persons with ASD–was a serious disadvantage as a potential scholar, even if the lack of other negative characteristics associated with ASD is advantageous to me overall.

    (And FWIW, I went to a STEM high school that drew students from the whole of one of the most populous states, so I’ve known more than few folks “on the spectrum”–among them a handful who have made fortunes at some very well-known tech firms, and a somewhat larger number who are now tenure-track or tenured faculty members at some of the nation’s most prominent universities. I also have some family members who have ASD and are happy, professionally successful people.)

  76. Rebecca, I agree with your points. I hope you weren’t overly distracted by an imprecise conflation of developmental therapy with mental health care. Both appear similar to the untrained eye, I think. And since both involve problems of mind, it’s easy to shorthand it the way I did: Treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders is literally mental-(health care), even if it’s not (mental health)-care.

    So what I think you’re getting at is not a claim that Apostles have lost sight of the Savior, but that Elder Bednar’s framing of the topic makes it too easy for the Church’s members to leave people out of the soteriology we’ve developed, if they don’t or can’t precisely conform to a contingent ideal. Elder Bednar’s words offer those people no comfort at all. They have to look elsewhere and we’d be better at ministry if we were able to articulate it for them.

  77. Rob, for what it’s worth, Elder Bednar grew up in San Leandro, CA (and to make it even further from your trite assumptions, in a home where his father was not a member of the church) so I guess you’re going to have to fall back on other stereotypes for which you also have no evidence if you want to continue your armchair psychoanalysis.

  78. KLC, so nu? California Mormonism isn’t that different from Idaho to me. Growing up in a part member family describes my own mother, whose dedication to the way Elder Bednar puts the doctrine of eternal families is no weaker and no different than Elder Bednar’s. Stereotypes indeed. Anything else to add?

  79. I don’t care about Elder Bednar’s career, either. And although the org chart was jarring to john f (@9:19 am), that isn’t what bugged me. It was the content. It was that he said the whole point of everything we do in the church is to seal families. Not to redeem and perfect individuals, but to create multigenerational eternal families. I concede that one could read grace as underlying this goal, but I agree with Rebecca that the actual words that Elder Bendar used frame eternal families as the “whole point,” and this is NOT the same thing as the whole goal being to become a new creation through Christ (something that must necessarily happen at the individual level). This is a seriously problematic rhetorical, if not actual, shift in church teaching.

  80. “basic purpose”

  81. If he had said that the entire purpose of what we do is to seal families to Christ and bring them back to God through Christ, would anyone have been offended? Is there any other purpose to sealing families, the entire human family together to return to God?

    I guess part of it is what does family mean and what does sealing mean and what place does each ordinance (such as taking upon our selves the name of Christ, the sacrament, etc.) have.

    I think we have real issues caused, in part, because any time we focus on one part of things we are going to leave out a part of it. By having a core we necessarily will have things outside the core.

    Does that mean that we cannot do better and that we should not be reaching out? No. Does that also mean “There is no such thing as a talk, a lesson, a manual, a presentation…anything, where there won’t be some group of people that are either omitted or could potentially interpret something as an alienating remark.” — that is the rub.

  82. Kristine A says:

    Rebecca, thanks for this. I’ve always appreciated your perspective on things. I do think we’ve idolized the ideal so much that we’ve lost the value of individual discipleship. I wish Bednar had answered that the thing we care the most about singles is supporting and valuing their type of discipleship/contributions to the kingdom of God. Alas.

    I can see how financially multigenerational families prop the church up via tithing (higher GDP countries esp) and manpower. And they’re concerned about growth/fertility rates as well.

    Anyways. Off topic and about the tangent: I doubt bednar has aspbergers. (While I’m no expert at all) The man can perceive emotion and intention. He’s just a black and white, blunt, candid thinker who values exactness and things to be precise and correct in every area of life. My husband is this personality; it’s not uncommon.

    Bednar is tender and emotional w his family in person, but believes that’s for in private and not public display. Once he attended our married ward testimony meeting and ripped into the guys who say they needed to publicly let their wives know they loved them. He said “no you don’t. If you loved your wife she would already know you love her by how you treat her and what you say in private”

    So

  83. Rebecca,
    “But the main point of my post was about our worse (I believe) habit of framing gospel discussions in terms of families rather than individuals.”
    I completely agree. When I mentioned that grace is lacking in the church, I believe it is relevant to your point. Grace is personal. It is individual. And until we recognize and internalize grace and our value as an individual, regardless of marital status or anything else, we are really not equipped to do much in the way of works. Grace is what leads to good works. Sometimes I think the LDS church gets it backwards. It’s do, do, do and then if you do enough maybe grace will kick in. You know, “after all we can do.” But I believe it is when we make that connection to grace, when we understand that we are loved and valued, well then, we begin to understand and see the value in everyone else. And that is what leads to charity and the pure love of Christ.

  84. Amen. Particularly to the last three sentences.

  85. Anonymous24 says:

    Thank you for this. I come from a “good Mormon” family that often preached family, family, family. Unfortunately, that family emotionally abused (and continues to abuse) me. My father and mother manipulated me into doing what they wanted by using gospel principles against me. This really screwed me up and I’m currently in therapy (I luckily have a really great LDS therapist who has helped me sort through this). I realized that I had been putting their needs and wants above even my Savior (which I now understand that was what they taught me to do). I’m working to straighten out my priorities and I know in my heart that if I put the Savior first–above my family–that things will eventually be okay. It’s a relief to see others pointing out the damage that has come from Mormon culture’s slavish dedication to family above all else. I felt so “wrong” all the time for feeling cognitive dissonance (family first; my family is making me miserable). I’m very grateful for the honesty in this post and the comments. It’s very comforting.