The “Doctrine of the Family”

I was disturbed as I read the Visiting Teaching Message for the month of March.  It is titled “Uphold, Nourish, and Protect the Family,” and begins with the question, “Why must I defend the doctrine of the family?”

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president: “As a disciple of Jesus Christ, every woman in this Church is given the responsibility for upholding, nurturing, and protecting families. Women have distinct assignments given to them from before the foundation of the world. And as a covenant-keeping Latter-day Saint woman, you know that raising your voice in defense of the doctrine of the family is critical to the strength of families the world over” (“What Latter-day Saint Women Do Best: Stand Strong and Immovable,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2007, 110).

As far as I can see, setting our modern Latter-day Saint conception of a family (a patriarchal unit of one man and one woman and their biological or adopted children, including traditional and limited roles for each) into a “doctrine” began with the Proclamation on the Family in late 1995.  By 1996, a talk by Mormon Apostle Robert D. Hales, “The Eternal Family,” identified the “doctrine of the family” as an eternal principle.  In this talk, Hales contrasts the LDS conception of the family with Satan’s major effort to “destroy the sanctity of the family, demean the importance of the role of men and women, encourage moral uncleanliness and violations of the sacred law of chastity, and to discourage parents from placing the bearing and rearing of children as one of their highest priorities.”  Thus, for the past 13 years, Latter-day Saints have been encouraged to view other definitions of “family” as pernicious and threatening to their efforts to live their religion.

This struggle has reached the point where the majority of Mormons are unable to view with equanimity the choices of others to define the word “family” differently than themselves.  I have seen the following questions posed to such LDS members:

  • Why is the church so threatened by the lifestyles of others?
  • Why the need to force views and personal morals on others through the laws of the land?
  • How are individuals who make different choices about the makeup of their families harming or infringing on the rights of anyone?
  • Didn’t the Church and its members object (for the same reasons) when under fire for practicing polygamy a century ago?

Unfortunately, members have great difficulty even considering such questions, having been persuaded that our “doctrine of the family” is the only  true position, and that acknowledgment of others would stand in the way of our eternal salvation.  This most recent visiting teaching message is a further step in advancing a paradigm that the LDS “doctrine of the family” is at war with and under attack by competing definitions of the family, spawned by Satan.  In near military terms, the message demands:

How Can I Defend the Family?

D&C 88:119: “Establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “I call upon members of the Church and on committed parents, grandparents, and extended family members everywhere to hold fast to [the family] proclamation, to make it a banner not unlike General Moroni’s ‘title of liberty,’ and to commit ourselves to live by its precepts. . . .

“In today’s world, where Satan’s aggression against the family is so prevalent, parents must do all they can to fortify and defend their families. But their efforts may not be enough. Our most basic institution of family desperately needs help and support from the extended family and the public institutions that surround us” (“What Matters Most Is What Lasts Longest,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2005, 42-43).

Elder Robert S. Wood of the Seventy: “For too many, responsibility seems to end with hand-wringing and exclamations of dismay. Yet talk without action accomplishes little. We need to be vigorously engaged in the world. If our schools are inadequate or destructive of moral values, we must work with fellow members of the community to bring about change. If our neighborhoods are unsafe or unhealthy, we must join with the civic-minded to devise solutions. If our cities and towns are polluted, not only with noxious gases but soul-destroying addictions and smut, we must labor to find legitimate ways to eliminate such filth. . . . We have the responsibility to be a blessing to others, to our nation, to the world” (“On the Responsible Self,” Ensign, Mar. 2002, 30-31).

I would like to revisit the question posed in the Visiting Teaching message, “Why must I defend the doctrine of the family?”  Why should we couch this question in adversarial terms?  Does the “doctrine of the family” place in jeopardy those LDS families who have chosen to define their familial roles a bit differently than the average?

In the quotation above, General Relief Society President Julie Beck is telling me, as a covenant-keeping Latter-day Saint woman, you know that raising your voice in defense of the doctrine of the family is critical to the strength of families the world over.”  I am a temple-attending, and, I believe, a covenant-keeping LDS woman, however, I know no such thing.  I see the strength of families the world over to lie in unconditional love, the forming of strong bonds, acceptance and support of difficult realities and choices.  Most families I know do their best to live in accordance with strong moral principles, though these may differ widely.  I know strong families made up of two males, I know strong families with the husband as primary child caregiver, I know strong polygamous families.  I would like to raise my voice in defense of them all.

Comments

comments

64 comments for “The “Doctrine of the Family”

  1. Mormon Heretic
    March 7, 2009 at 10:29 am

    It seems to me you are implying that there was a shift in church policy and rhetoric in 1995. While the Proclamation was definitely an important event, surely the LDS church has been teaching against gay relationships and for strong nuclear families longer than 1995. I don’t recall being at all surprised by the 1995 Proclamation, as the principles contained therein seemed to be taught all of my 40+ years–I suspect even longer.

    I don’t see the LDS actions on Prop 8 any different than say the ERA amendment of the 1970s. While I know that it is popular for people to think that gay marriage will inevitably win, it seems like the ERA movement was much more inevitable, yet failed to win ratification. Maybe society’s actions have made ERA moot with laws against discrimination by gender–certainly these laws aren’t perfect, but a vast improvement over the 1970s. Perhaps society’s actions will make gay marriage moot as well, regardless of whether the government passes a law or amendment specifically addressing ERA or gay marriage.

  2. Ann
    March 7, 2009 at 10:32 am

    I prophesy that in fifty years, the “doctrine of the family” is going to be “Blacks and the priesthood.”

    Brilliant post, BiV. This in particular:

    I see the strength of families the world over to lie in unconditional love, the forming of strong bonds, acceptance and support of difficult realities and choices.

    should be in a proclamation of some kind.

  3. Ray
    March 7, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I’ve worked for years to “combat” the horrifying effects in communities where families literally are being destroyed – actually, have almost been eliminated, so I don’t read the Proclamation fundamentally as an attack on same-sex marriage or stay-at-home dads. I know the Church fights gay marriage; I’m not arguing it doesn’t. I’m just saying to read the Proclamation as a “new” doctrine designed to fight a phantom myth of weakening families is as much of a straw man in the current world as it is to argue that gay couples are unfit to raise children. Both stances are hyperbolic extremes that do little to address the real issues that are affecting families and societies around the world. Seriously, when you see entire communities where the out-of-wedlock birth rate has passed 80% and where fathers raising their own children are few and far between, where the jobless rate (or the rate of employment that does not pay enough to lift people out of poverty) is almost universal for 15-30 year old men and women, where the majority of mothers have children from different fathers, where the arrest and incarceration rate is astronomical, etc. it’s easy to see why the church leadership is speaking so forcefully about the need to “defend the family”.

    Look at ANY study of incarceration, gang activity, terrorism, and other very serious social and political issues, and it is starkly clear that lacking an active, participatory father, particularly, has HUGE consequences on individual children (especially boys and young men). Again, I would rather frame the issue in terms of sharing the Gospel and conversion to principles, but I have no problem with “calls to action” in and of themselves.

    Granted, I don’t like all of the rhetoric that gets used when talking of things in terms of “battle” – but activism of all kinds throughout history have been couched in those terms, because it’s almost impossible to get mass support of anything unless “fighting words” are used. It’s unfortunate, but it’s historically pervasive.

    I see the strength of families the world over to lie in unconditional love, the forming of strong bonds, acceptance and support of difficult realities and choices.

    I agree with the overall point of this statement, but I think it actually is exactly what the Proclamation says at the most basic level. Gay marriage might or might not become accepted in fifty years, but I hope the “doctrine of the family” isn’t abandoned. I hope the “individual adaptation” exception simply is expanded to include all those whose circumstances warrant such adaptation, as we learn to accept more legitimate expressions of that adaptation.

  4. hawkgrrrl
    March 7, 2009 at 11:54 am

    There have been a lot of studies lately about the allergy problems kids have today that they didn’t used to have, allergies to things that aren’t that bad: pet dander, peanuts, fruits, etc. The studies show that when kids have been exposed to sufficient amounts of fecal matter in their early childhood, they don’t develop allergies to innocuous things. IOW, squalor gives your anti-bodies perspective on what is and what is not a pernicious substance. But when you live in relative ease, comfort and cleanliness, your body seeks out new things to be “allergic” to.

    Likewise, when we live in a fairly good society without much crime, domestic abuse, horrors like child prostitution and female genital mutilation, human beings instead fight the smaller battles as if they were the big ones.

  5. Ray
    March 7, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Great analogy, Hawkgrrrl.

  6. March 7, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I object to the sneaky, coded language used in the visiting teaching message. This is naked political advocacy posing as an inspirational thought of the day. No wonder BiV was disturbed by this. It’s foul.

    The Church wants to dissolve my family at gunpoint. That’s the bottom line here. The sugar coating just makes it worse.

  7. March 7, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I am postulating that the Church never articulated a specific “doctrine of the family” before the Proclamation. Do a search on lds.org. The first time we find that term was Elder Hales’ talk. It has been used many times since then. Now we as Visiting Teachers are being asked to defend this as a doctrine of the Church. And we ALL know what it means, it is in NO WAY a call to strengthen every family, only certain types of families.

    It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  8. March 7, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    it is in NO WAY a call to strengthen every family, only certain types of families.

    I don’t see how any families are strengthened by the persecution of other families. Maybe if you do it “as a family”….

  9. Brjones
    March 7, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Ray, you make some good points. One of my biggest problems with the church’s stance on the doctrine of the family in general, and the vociferousness of their position on Prop 8 specifically, is that I rarely hear a word in church or general conference about the problems of the inner-cities, adoption and foster care issues, or other issues related to non-mormon communities, except as statistics to support the church’s concern. I couldn’t agree with you more about the erosion of society due in large part to children being raised out of wedlock or in single parent, broken or otherwise dysfunctional homes. So why doesn’t the church rise up with passion and fervor to denounce and address these issues, and command its members to participate in community programs and policies to help combat these demonstrable dangers to society and the traditional family? Instead, they direct all their might and resources at a group of society whose only danger is theoretical in nature. These are people who are TRYING TO ERADICATE SINGLE PARENT HOMES, for god’s sake! These people want to get married. They want to make sure their kids are raised in loving, nuclear families. They want to adopt children and get them out of abusive foster homes. And instead of rising to support these efforts, the church falls back on its archaic policies of fear and tradition and attacks them with both barrels. The only argument against gay marriage is rooted in religious tradition. The arguments about the slippery slope of society’s degradation are a smokescreen, and are particularly hilarious in light of the statistics you quoted, Ray, which are the result of heterosexual familial relationships, not homosexual ones. If the church attached ALL the potential roots of this problem, including the gay marriage issue, I would be more forgiving in my assessment of its policies. But the fact that they obviously only really care about preventing any encroachment on their definition of an “acceptable” family, and not truly addressing the many problems that are at the root of the problem, makes them worthy of the scorn and shame that is being heaped on them from virtually every corner outside the church.

  10. geb
    March 7, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I can’t see where “defending the family” has to mean telling other people what to do. Mormons didn’t used to do that, at least outside of Utah they didn’t.

  11. Ray
    March 7, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Brjones, I agree totally that the heterosexual community is to blame for the state of marriage and the family in this country and around the world. Blaming the gay and lesbian community for the problems with marriage we see is ridiculous. I have said that over and over and over again, every time the subject comes up. I’ve also said I have a huge problem with denying civil unions and even gay marriage as long as common-law marriages are allowed to have legal standing. After all, from a religious standpoint, granting common-law marriage status to heterosexuals simply says, “Fine, have heterosexual sex with someone long enough, say you are committed and we will call you married – and grant you all the rights of marriage.” If a society is willing to do that, I see no way to justify legally forbidding monogamous, homosexual couples from qualifying for common-law marriage status, as well. Frankly, that practice (common-law marriage) is what I would emphasize if I were arguing for gay marriage, since there is no way to make a consistent, religious (Christian) argument in favor of it. Again, in religious terms, if you let fornicators be “married” if they just fornicate long enough with the same person, then legally you need to give all fornicators the same status – and heterosexual fornication is no different in biblical condemnation than homosexual fornication.

    Everyone, the Church does TONS of things to fight the effects of heterosexual failure. It preaches against it, as vociferously and unambiguously as it does against homosexual activity; it has established the LDS Social Services; it provides counseling and adoption and even financial assistance for non-members in many cases; etc. It rails against fornication and adultery no matter the orientation of the participants. Of course, perhaps it could do more, but to say that it does nothing is hyperbole – and simply wrong.

    My point is pretty simple:

    I am bothered by many aspects of “battle language” – but it literally is the default language for nearly ALL group efforts that tackle social concerns. It is every bit as common in the political left’s propaganda as it is in the religious right’s calls to action. It is pervasive in politics and business and sports and religion and philanthropic endeavors. Think of the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the War on Racism, the War on (fill in the blank). I’m not saying I like the language; I don’t. I’m saying it’s disingenuous to claim that this somehow is a uniquely Mormon thing – or even that the Church does it disproportionately to other organizations (even liberal ones). It doesn’t.

  12. Ray
    March 7, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    One more thing:

    Should the Church remain silent institutionally when it sees a political issue that it deems to be harmful to society? If you say that it should not remain silent, what is appropriate?

    (Those questions are NOT meant as a defense of anything the Church actually did with regard to Prop 8. They are meant strictly to ask what the words actually ask.)

  13. March 7, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Should the Church remain silent institutionally when it sees a political issue that it deems to be harmful to society?

    Of course not. The Church can preach against the drinking of coffee or the smoking of cigarettes and even disallow its members to enter the temple if they will not comply, without insisting that these substances be removed from the shelves of every grocery store. Why must we force all Americans to hold to our religious and moral standards? Now, here is a question for you:

    Should the Church insist that every adult woman visiting teacher pull out their battle swords and preach this lesson of exclusion to their sisters? To me it seems like an effort to force all women to declare a political opinion. I have found it awfully difficult to figure out a way to present this lesson while remaining true to my own carefully considered values.

  14. Ray
    March 7, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    BiV, I am basing my answer off of what you shared in this post. Please understand that.

    You said:

    I have found it awfully difficult to figure out a way to present this lesson while remaining true to my own carefully considered values.

    You are a VERY intelligent person. I could teach this lesson (from what you provided) and never come close to addressing homosexuality. There’s enough material from which to choose that I could focus strictly on strengthening my family – and make it last FAR longer than the 15-ish minutes that would be appropriate for a HT/VT lesson. If I could do it, you could do it – easily.

    You deemed it a “lesson of exclusion”. It doesn’t have to be.

  15. J.Ro
    March 7, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Wait, drinking coffee or smoking cigarettes is a political issue? Harmful to society, yes, but also apples and oranges compared with the marriage thing.

    I think it would be fantastic if the Church did more to help causes like elimination of poverty, drugs, etc., but I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a second. The Church’s goal, more than anything else, is to save souls. According to what we believe, hasn’t homosexuality always been a serious thing? I don’t want to sound insensitive (though someone probably will think that anyway), but (especially in light of what we believe about eternity) the Church’s purpose is more to save souls than saving lives. It would be great to have both. It would be amazing to have both. But it’s my opinion that if it comes down to the wire, the souls are most important. (End devil’s advocate play.)

    That said, I think Ray’s correct that the “battle language” is unfortunate. It’s disappointing that, in so many situations, we have to speak in extremes to get anything done. To me that’s a sign of a complacent society. And I do think that geb has a point. Home teachers are instructed to be prayerful in the lesson they choose to give, even if they stay within the limitations the FP message for the month. Lessons are to be adapted for the needs of those receiving them, put simply. Why is this necessarily different?

  16. March 7, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Well, Ray, here is the problem:

    1. “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.” Then why are some people born with same sex attraction, and why are some denied the opportunity for marriage on this earth?

    2. “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” Doesn’t seem fair to the millions of children who are raised in single-parent or other non-traditional homes, does it? What did they do that kept them from their entitled rights?

    3. “As a disciple of Jesus Christ, every woman in this Church is given the responsibility for upholding, nurturing, and protecting families.” Is it not possible to be a woman and a disciple of Christ who feels a responsibility to create art, or serve in the medical profession, or other paths rather than place her focus on family life?

    4. “Women have distinct assignments given to them from before the foundation of the world.” Placed with the preceeding sentence, this is code for “Women should embrace traditional female gender roles.”

    5. “as a covenant-keeping Latter-day Saint woman, you know that raising your voice in defense of the doctrine of the family is critical to the strength of families the world over.” I have already stated in the above post that I cannot defend the Church’s definition of the “doctrine of the family.”

    6. “I call upon members of the Church and on committed parents, grandparents, and extended family members everywhere to hold fast to [the family] proclamation, to make it a banner not unlike General Moroni’s ‘title of liberty,’ and to commit ourselves to live by its precepts.” I have many, many reservations about the family proclamation, and find it impossible to make it a title of liberty or encourage others to do the same.

    Knowing the Church’s stance on Prop 8 makes it difficult to see any of the rest of the quotations as anything but a call to condemn gay marriage.

    I am not saying that there are not answers to these questions. Just that almost every sentence in this lesson is problematic and less than uplifting to one who looks at it from my ideology. Yes, I intend to focus strictly on strengthening the families of those I visit teach–but to do this I will be unable to use any of the quotations provided. Ray, the lesson “doesn’t HAVE to be” a lesson of exclusion. But it was intended to be, and it will be for the majority of women, and to make it other than it was intended will take a LOT of cutting and creativity.

  17. March 7, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    J.Ro, that would depend on whether you think it is more conducive to saving the soul of a gay person to deny their God-created nature and to look at themselves as a mistake or an aberration; or to give them the blessing of loving and serving others in a committed relationship.

  18. Ray
    March 7, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    #16 – You could take at least the first three of those quotes and have a wonderful and enlightening lesson/discussion without ever getting into your concerns with the Proclamation. You could even highlight those situations that don’t fit the ideal (those that require “individual adaptation”) and encourage the sisters to help and feel compassion for them. You could make this a lesson about more inclusion and less judging if you tried, and you could do it without once contradicting those first three quotes. (Again, I could do it easily, and you could, too.) It might not be the lesson you would give on your own to those who agree with you, but it could be an uplifting lesson, nonetheless.

    Look, I understand your concerns. I really do. I don’t mean to be dismissive of them at all. I really don’t. All I’m saying is that there is a HUGE difference between, “I have problems with the overall tone of the material,” and, “There’s no way to teach this topic without going against my conscience.” I personally agree with the first statement but not the second.

    Having said that, if you really feel like it’s a violation of your conscience, don’t teach it.

  19. March 7, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Yikes Ray. You really do not understand my concerns. I cannot even SAY those first three sentences without choking.

  20. J.Ro
    March 7, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    BiV – that’s where we disagree. There are a lot of things I tend to do, things that are in my nature as God created me, that are not so great. I don’t think God creating us a certain way automatically means that that’s how we’re supposed to be. It’s not an if-then relationship. We’re taught this throughout all of the scriptures.

  21. March 7, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Ugh, this is a tricky one. There is something to be said for encouraging people to create stable, loving homes–specifically homes with two parents who are committed to each other and their children (whether or not there is an “ideal” sexual orientation for those parents is not something I’m addressing here).

    On there other hand, when we hold up an ideal so strongly, and give it an authoritative name like the “doctrine on the family,” those with non-traditional homes often feel completely alienated.

    Is it possible to emphasize an ideal WITHOUT making those who are somehow outside it feel excluded or as though they are “less worthy” than others?

  22. Ray
    March 7, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    #19 – How’s this?

    1. “The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”

    Without marriage (the binding of parents together in raising children), society falls apart. It doesn’t have to be universal for every single individual, but it must be the general rule.

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

    When looked at from the perspective of children, we should do all within our power to provide a home within which parents love and are faithful to each other completely and wholly. Children are entitled to our best effort in that regard. Having two parents in the home doesn’t have to be universal for every child, but it must be the common ideal and the general rule.

    3. “As a disciple of Jesus Christ, every woman in this Church is given the responsibility for upholding, nurturing, and protecting families.”

    While it is up to every woman (and man) in the Church to decide personally about the exact nature of their lives – to adapt the general ideal to their own “unique circumstances” – each and every woman (and man) has a responsibility to uphold, nurture and protect families, even those that are different than the traditional ideal, and even if they are not part of a traditional family.

    Sincere question: Do you have major problems with any of those statements?

  23. March 7, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Thank you, BiV, for highlighting one of the problems we’ve been denouncing for so long. Of course Mormons aren’t the only ones trying to claim “family” for themselves and foce others to ascribe to their very narrow definition of the term. The RRRW Christians are doing the same. And anybody who dares to ask for a slice of the pie (marriage rights, adoption rights, etc) is denounced as “anti-family”. How is it anti-family to want to marry and have a family?

    I don’t understand the intolerance and desire some have to exclude others, particularly when they’re members of a group that has felt the horrific brunt of the same (and I don’t mean only Mormons–there are others who do the same to us). Actually I do understand it all too well having studied Psychology in school, I just keep wondering why we haven’t learned to get past it after all these years.

  24. Ray
    March 7, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    How is it anti-family to want to marry and have a family?

    Buffy, fwiw, that’s been my main question, as well.

  25. March 7, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    It is NOT anti-family to want to marry and have a family!

    I share my life with another man. My life has dignity and meaning. The choices I have made are the result of deep reflection and moral introspection. Against formidable odds I have managed to claim a small space of safety, comfort, companionship and love. By what right can the Church come into the sanctuary of my home and rip apart what is sacred to me? I would never do this to you and your family. (You might recall that the Church is currently asking the California Supreme Court to forcibly divorce 18,000 legally married couples.)

    The visiting teaching lesson uses coded language to incite aggression against my family. I’m glad so many people on this thread see can see this, and I thank you for your kindness and sense of justice.

  26. alice
    March 7, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    BIV- I applaud you for raising this difficult question and you’re doing such an exemplary job of making the case I won’t add a thing. Your devotion and sincerity are as clarion clear as your compassion and reason.

    I wish there were a hundred thousand of you and at least one or two were in or ever had the hope of being in the Presidency itself.

  27. March 7, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Ray: yes.

    Can’t you see that by making one ideal and a general rule, you are placing non-“traditional” families as inferior? I just cannot agree that Visiting Teachers should go into individual homes with this message.

    Alice: wow.

    Will you be the president of my fan club?

  28. Wade
    March 8, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Thank you BIV for your reaction and this helpful post and thread.
    Are you a mother who knows?

    I have written here previously that I believe that the prop 8 campaign was a disaster for the church and will prove to be so in years and months to come. I also believe that this new emphasis has moved the campaign from a western U.S. state to the entire world as far as the Church is concerned where the battle was lost years ago and can never be rejoined.

    This is marginalizing the Church.

    We are enlisted now the conflict is o’er.
    But what is our helmut buckler and shield?

    Onward Christian Soldiers?

    Please allow me to claim exemption as a conscientious objector.
    I refuse to play soldier raising the title of “liberty” to tell others how to live.

    We have Stake Conference tomorrow with a visiting G.A.
    I hope this doesn’t come up.

    Back in the real world I have a 21 year old son whose girl friend was due to deliver a baby girl today my first grandchild. They have no plans to marry.

    That is the doctrine of the family I wish we should stick to.

    But then perhaps we should try to outlaw illegitimacy too.

    Should every child have a constitutional right to married parents?

    By the way does my attitude properly disqualify me from renewing my recommend?

  29. Jana
    March 8, 2009 at 12:52 am

    #4 hawkgrrl, Can I just say that I love your comment?

    As for the OP, the Proclamation isn’t new, it hasn’t changed, so that it is reinforced at this time should come as no surprise. My sense from your post is that your problem is with the doctrines of the church, as currently practiced (heterosexual marriage as the only way). Your handwringing here about being uncomfortable with the message, well, the solution is simple: visit with your sisters, offer them a hand of compassion, and move on. If your personal prayer and study leads you to believe this message is wrong or misguided, well, I can only imagine that you would have some spiritual confirmation that your inclinations are correct. Would this excuse you from teaching the message explicitly? I should say so.

    Your quarrel with this message is a quarrel with some very central teachings of the gospel. There are no easy answers to your quandaries, but I think it’s possible your projecting your distaste for the doctrine itself onto this lesson.

  30. Wade
    March 8, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I replied here late last night. In the clear light of morning. I read a talk by Barbara B. Smith given in 1978. While there was no mention of any doctrine of the family much of the content was the same. Indeed read this… on such issues as abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, homosexuality, and pornography—current issues sometimes categorized as women’s issues—The Prophet has given direct counsel. Mormon women know that they have the right to accept or reject the counsel; but in keeping with fundamental doctrine, they must also realize that to reject it is a heavy responsibility. It is the calling of a prophet to see to the very heart of a moral issue, to envision its future course, and to warn the people of its consequences. Sometimes those who do not agree with what he says may refuse to heed the warning. Only later, sadly, is the truth of his words made obvious to all.

    The message is similar but the strident militant tone is not there. It is the era of another prophet and another quorum but of course the same God.

    I look forward to General Conference. Having won the victory last year but facing an appeal and in the glare of worldwide attention how will the church react? Earlier Prophets also saw to the hearts of the moral issues of polygamy and our right to give the priesthood to races we wanted to. They envisioned future courses too and we ended up with ???

    I think that Biv’s quarrel is with tone and our present desire to force our very central gospel teachings onto others through law rather than teaching and choice. The irony is just too much

  31. Holden Caulfield
    March 8, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Wade–in your opinion was sad outcome did the ERA defeat save us from?

  32. Jeff Spector
    March 8, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Wow, a simple visiting teaching message about defending the family and it ALWAYS has to go to same sex marriage. The overarching problem with families is so far-reaching as to transcend the issue of same sex marriage and make it practically nil in the overall dicsussion.

    In fact, one could make the case that a monogamous same-sex long-term marriage WOULD actually benefit society as far as family is concerned. To me, same-sex marriage is not the issue being addressed in the VT lesson at all.

    The deterioration of the family is well documented and the case is simple. So goes the family, so goes society. That’s the issue, pure and simple. One can argue what is causing that deterioration, as each as a vested interest in protecting his/her own lifestyle (again, I am thinking well beyond the so-called gay lifestyle, so don’t go there!) as it pertains to women working outside the home, absentee fathers, bad marriages, no marriages, abusive parents, wayward children, mental issues, financial problems, etc, etc.

    The Church as a formula which has worked well for a number of years for many. The naysayers will continue to pick at it as a restriction of their own choices.

    And so it goes….. the arguing continues.

  33. Ray
    March 8, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    BiV (#27) – Let me try one more time based on your own words:

    Can’t you see that by making one ideal and a general rule, you are placing non-”traditional” families as inferior?

    Yes, I can see that interpretation, but I can see a different interpretation, as well:

    With regard to a “general rule” – Most reasonable estimates put the percent of the overall population that is homosexual at around 2%-5%. That means the other 95%-98% of the population is heterosexual. Therefore, by statistical default, there IS a “general rule” (heterosexuality). I understand the desire of those who don’t fit the general rule wanting to be recognized as legitimate, and I wish the Church at all levels did a better job of reaching out to those outside the general rule, but I have no problem saying there is a “general rule” and addressing it.

    With regard to a “societal ideal for the raising of children” – Every study I’ve ever seen identifies the harsh consequences for children (especially boys) of single-parent households. These studies clearly define a societal ideal – and that is a committed partnership of two people. I have no problem with saying that the condition of a child being raised by one parent is “inferior” to that child being raised by two parents – assuming each parent is equally kind, loving, generous, etc. Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can make a reasonable argument that being a single parent is better than or equal to having a committed, loving, involved partner – when it comes to raising kids.

    Summary – I can speak of a “general rule” and an “ideal” because every objective, non-emotional evaluation of simple data says they exist. However, I agree that we need to do a MUCH better job of addressing and acknowledging those outside the general rule and the ideal – and of expanding the borders of both to include those who, in their own sphere or group, fit the ideal but not the general rule. Hence, my full support of civil unions for all committed couples (those who fit the societal ideal outside the general rule) and my legal support for gay marriage if common-law heterosexual marriages are allowed. (an expansion of the general rule to be fully consistent and not discriminatory)

    That’s all I’ve been saying – along with the suggestion to not teach the lesson at all if you really can’t find a way to do it without violating your conscience. It’s just very easy for me to teach the lesson in a way that I find acceptable, and your overall position isn’t that different than mine. That’s the irony: I actually am FAR more liberal when it comes to the issue of homosexuality and gay rights than many here, but I also am one of the more traditional people here when it comes to belief and activity in the LDS Church.

    Yikes Ray. You really do not understand my concerns.

    We often assume things that make it easier to reject what others believe, and it’s not just conservative, believing members who do so.

  34. March 8, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Ray,

    Yes, studies show that children do more poorly in single parent households than when they have two parents. But you leave out the most important factor: It doesn’t matter if the two parents are of the same gender or of opposite genders. Unfortunately people promote intolerance toward LGBT people and same-sex marriage/parenting do that either on purpose or because they’re forwarding information they got from sites that do that. (Some 60 or so years ago I imagine certain “experts” would have been claiming children would be better off with parents of the same race rather than in those “untraditional” mixed-race couples.)

    And we’re only 2-5% of the population? What of it? About 10% of the population is left-handed. Perhaps less is naturally red-headed. Roughly 2% of Americans are Mormon. Are we to say that the size of a group determines whether or not they get rights? That doesn’t sound appropriate to me. Rights allegedly are based on the fact that we’re Americans, and are derived from the Constitution. But maybe I missed some part that says some are more American and equal than others.

  35. momma
    March 8, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    I am a guest in your house BIV…You are entitled to your view. I would like to add my thoughts to this discussion for your consideration.

    The concerns expressed here are valid. I see that being outside of what is normal is very difficult.

    One of the challenges of being a Latter-Day Saint in these very difficult days is trusting the prophet regardless of what the rest of the world has to say about their counsel. Satan has been working so hard for so long that even something that ten years ago wouldn’t have been a challenge for most members, now is a huge struggle. Satan is subtle, he is clearly very patient in his work. He has been chipping away at us little by little, and has been building lie upon lie, until we don’t even recognize much of the sophistry and outright lies anymore.

    We all have weaknesses that are natural to us that we must overcome. Scientists have discovered genes that are related to alcoholism, yet alcoholics are able to overcome those natural tendencies if they are willing to pay the price.

    Why would a loving God send a person with the wiring to be an alcoholic with all of the pain and suffering that come with it, especially if the Church teaches drinking alcohol is wrong? Why would he send someone with a compulsion to lie, to steal, to cheat on their spouse? Why are some people more prone to all kinds of addictions than others? And, why are some people sent with a natural inclination to be attracted to members of their own gender?

    There is so much heartache in this world. Why would a loving God do this?

    15 Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church.

    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 100:15)

    27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

    (Book of Mormon | Ether 12:27)

    This life is full of very very difficult challenges because God needs to see what we are willing to go through to return to Him. Are we willing to lay the required sacrifice upon the altar just as the Savior did in order to receive our promised reward?

    I believe that all of us will face some sort of Abrahamic test. We will be required to do things that will seem so horrific to us, so difficult that we cannot bear the thought of it, in order to show our love and devotion to our God. Like Abraham, I know that we will be blessed for it, and we will ultimately find that the sacrifice was no sacrifice at all.

    Some are called to be childless in a church that is built around families; some are called to be married to someone that is very difficult to get along with, whom they would rather divorce, but the Spirit tells them to stay; some are called to long for marriage, but never are asked in this life and are called, like Sheri Dew to trust in God’s promise that one day all will be set right. Some are called to resist their attraction to the opposite gender and trust that God will heal them someday and that they will one day desire and be blessed with a spouse of the opposite gender.

    God loves all of His children. He weeps for us when we are in pain, he wants for us to succeed here and to have all that He has someday. In order to do this he has to let us suffer like he had to allow Jesus to suffer in Gethsemane, and on the hill Golgotha.

    He loves his homosexual children just as much as any other. And yet, he cannot bend or change divinely instituted rules to ease their pain. Our bodies were created to bond as heterosexual couples to procreate and raise families.

    We are asked to control our appetites at every juncture of our lives: we are to be celibate until marriage, we are to refrain from masturbation, we are to resist any unnatural impulse that would cause us to deviate from the natural way He has set forth.

    The world has lied to us. We have been told that homosexuality is natural to those who experience it. We are told that it is cruel to expect someone to resist those urges, to live a life “without love”. I find it cruel that gays are told these things, especially as young as they are being told this now.

    The truth is that all of us are capable of overcoming our natural tendencies. It will not be easy, but it is very possible.

    One more thing, the proclamation makes very clear that there are situations that will call for individual adaptation of the traditional family setup. The church recognizes and supports those who are in non-traditional families, they just want to make clear that we all should aspire to the traditional family.

  36. Ray
    March 8, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Buffy, please re-read what I actually said slowly and carefully. I didn’t say anything to which you objected in my actual comment.

  37. Ray
    March 8, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Everyone, one of the reasons I choose my words very carefully and re-read and edit my own comments multiple times before submitting them is to avoid the type of misunderstandings that happen when comments are not read carefully. I don’t mean to point that at you, Buffy, since it happens regularly on every blog I read – not just to me but constantly to lots of people.

    The specific examples:

    1) “But you leave out the most important factor: It doesn’t matter if the two parents are of the same gender or of opposite genders.”

    I never said it mattered. I said gay couples can be outside the general rule but still be considered part of the ideal – and I said it quite clearly if my comment is read slowly and carefully.

    2) “Are we to say that the size of a group determines whether or not they get rights?”

    I never made that claim, and I never will. I actually said I support civil unions (with full civil rights) for ALL – and I also said denying gay marriage is hypocritical and legal discrimination, imo, IF common-law heterosexual marriages are allowed, as they currently are.

    Again, please don’t jump to conclusions about what you are sure I will say before reading the entire comment. Please.

  38. Annon.
    March 8, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    BIV,

    Thanks,you are doing exactly what we should all be doing if we love and understand our religion and the very real threat that ideology poses to theology. As tempting as it may be to form a specific set of religious values into an ideological (political) program, the result is always the becoming political of theology and a loss of religious praxis.

    What is unique about the POTF is that a narrow political program is written into the document. Thus I think the fatal flaw is that it calls latter day saints to arms in false battles while families around the world are weakened, abused, and destroyed by war, financial crisis, abusive and unfair labor laws, lack of access to education, lack of clean drinking water and medicine etc. Saying this is not to insist upon the replacing of one ideological program with another. It is to say that there is a theological understanding of a nurturing community that is pragmatically engaged with the material and spiritual well being of the family that does NOT put the ideological first. As long as the ideological is put first we are practicing a false religion.

  39. J.Ro
    March 8, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    I agree with Jana #29: “Your quarrel with this message is a quarrel with some very central teachings of the gospel. There are no easy answers to your quandaries, but I think it’s possible you’re projecting your distaste for the doctrine itself onto this lesson.”

    Buffy – the effect of homosexuality is a very difficult thing to get a clear picture of with any of the research we have available so far, because all of the information and data available is muddled so horribly with the emotions and preconceptions of both sides. Science is far from “proving” anything on the matter. (To use as an example the racism issue from 60ish years ago actually weakens your arguments.) Unfortunately there’s a lot more involved here than just your existence as a group; discussing Mormon doctrine adds more on top because these are very fundamental beliefs of the LDS Church.

    Yes, you are American citizens. But the flipside of the freedoms you’re appealing to sometimes includes the fact that this is a democracy of sorts. If it makes you feel any better, a look at recent trends in social opinion regarding gays may indicate the direction that the future of this kind of legislation is taking. This is a difficult balancing act. On one hand, denying rights from certain groups is tough. Not something to be taken lightly. It’s easy and important for you to ask what other things this will serve as an excuse to deny. But for those who would rather keep the traditional definition of marriage–and there are, as you know, plenty–it’s just as easy and important for them to ask what other allowances this might pave the way for. If you want to take people’s religious beliefs out of the picture as well (something else we’re entitled to), that is (IMO) an even bigger mess to deal with.

  40. hawkgrrrl
    March 8, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Buffy: “And we’re only 2-5% of the population? What of it? About 10% of the population is left-handed. Perhaps less is naturally red-headed. Roughly 2% of Americans are Mormon. Are we to say that the size of a group determines whether or not they get rights? That doesn’t sound appropriate to me.” I believe Ray’s statement is just that the VT lesson outlined isn’t necessarily about homosexuality–single parenthood and divorce are far more common than homosexuality and also outside the norm or requiring the “individual adaption” mentioned in the PoF. When there is so much focus on an ideal, whatever the ideal, it does make it a starker contrast for all who feel like an outsider: those who never marry, those who marry but can’t have kids, those who divorce, those with SSA, those who marry outside their faith, families with a pregnant teen, families in which the parents have died, homes in which the father is the primary caregiver, homes in which both parents have a career . . . this list could go on forever.

    I don’t know which is more spiritually damaging – obsessing over unintended slights (or even intended ones) because you feel like an outsider or being puffed up with pride because you are the lucky one whose life (at least on face value) is “the ideal” being described. I suspect neither is a very good place to be spiritually. It’s hard enough to try to weed out the tribalism in the church, but creating new mini-tribes for each minority view doesn’t seem like the way to go either.

  41. Holden Caulfield
    March 8, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    I really wish MoHoHawaii would respond to this. He would do much better than I. I spend hours reading. Lengthy (more than 20 words) responses are tedious to me. However,

    Momma—“The world has lied to us. We have been told that homosexuality is natural to those who experience it.”

    I don’t know what you mean by “natural”. Most gays are born that way. Some don’t/won’t/can’t believe it. I have do doubt. To borrow a Mormon phrase, “I know”.

    “We are told that it is cruel to expect someone to resist those urges, to live a life “without love”. I find it cruel that gays are told these things, especially as young as they are being told this now.”

    Cruel is how gays are treated.

    “The church recognizes and supports those who are in non-traditional families”.

    The recognizes and supports those who are in non-traditional families that it does not condemn. As for those it colors as evil, it wants to make them illegal and non-existent.

  42. lmnop!
    March 8, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    I will gladly share this Visiting Teaching message with the sisters I visit. In our small branch, separation and divorce is affecting several families, and families headed by single moms are struggling. As women, we need to be reminded that the preferred path is a whole family. I will encourage those in a recent separation to do their utmost to preserve their marriage, while considering it prayerfully. I will encourage those of us who can, to assist single mom families and their children, since they need it desperately. I will encourage those who are married to value their marriage, and to continue to reach out to their kids. I feel that this is a perfect message for all the sisters in my RS, and they, like in your RS, are a varied bunch.

  43. hawkgrrrl
    March 8, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    “I will encourage those of us who can, to assist single mom families and their children, since they need it desperately.” There’s a message we can all agree to – a message to serve those who stand in need of help and to reach out and include everyone.

  44. March 8, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Re #41 .. Holden, you do a great job. Don’t sell yourself short. I always enjoy reading your compassionate views. The existence of kindhearted LDS folks like you gives me hope for the future. (I know the Church is doing its best to drum moderates like you out of its ranks.)

    There’s not much more I can add to this thread. In any case, anything I might say or feel is apparently dangerous sophistry. 🙂

    P.S. I really appreciate the insight of #38 (Annon). The observation about ideology infecting theology is right on the mark.

  45. March 9, 2009 at 11:23 am

    MoHoHawaii,

    I disagree with the idea that the Church is trying to drum out moderates. A few weeks ago when the LA Times ran a front page article about me that featured my opposition to Prop 8 the public response from within and without the church was very positive and the local branch of the Church’s media relations office sent and email to the Times thanking the reporter for the article. So, if the Church wants to get rid of moderates, they should be doing their best to get rid of me, since I am in the public eye and am not really a moderate at all.

  46. Rigel Hawthorne
    March 9, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Good comments on this thread. I am reading Sis. Beck’s comment from a mans perspective and seeing how it makes me feel.

    Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president:

    1. “As a disciple of Jesus Christ, every woman in this Church is given the responsibility for upholding, nurturing, and protecting families.”

    The same is true for a man.

    2. “Women have distinct assignments given to them from before the foundation of the world.”

    The same is true for a man.

    3. “And as a covenant-keeping Latter-day Saint woman, you know that raising your voice in defense of the doctrine of the family is critical to the strength of families the world over”

    I’m not sure this is true for a man. It depends on what is meant by ‘raising your voice.’ Do I, as a member of the ‘Roaring Springs Ward’ in ‘Boise, Idaho’ with no stake or missionary calling have a duty to ‘be vigorously engaged in” other parts of “the world”? If I am an Elders Quorum instructor, then I agree there is a duty to teach or ‘defend’ the doctrine of the family to my Elders. Where does my ‘duty’ end? I think that has to be something that is between you and God.

    Elder Woods says, “If our schools are inadequate or destructive of moral values, we must work with fellow members of the community to bring about change.”

    What I see happening is families WITHDRAWING from the community and making attempts to homeschool kids. While I know there are good homeschoolers, I know of one situation in our ward where both parents work and the 12 year-old is left alone at home to do his online school on the computer. They have to get on him when they get home from work and the assignments are not done. I know of another situation where one of the parents completes online homework for the child and sends it in because the child won’t do it.

    Both of these families could use the message of the ‘doctrine of the family’, but they would assume that because they have the traditional structure of the family and hold recommends, their obligation in response to hearing this message is to sign a petition that would affect somebody else’s family. For those parents, they need to focus on this: “parents must do all they can to fortify and defend their families.”

  47. March 9, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    #46 “And as a covenant-keeping Latter-day Saint woman, you know that raising your voice in defense of the doctrine of the family is critical to the strength of families the world over”

    This is one example of how sister Beck did her best (as do others) to obliterate any distinction between theology and ideology. I just don’t think that we can overstate the risk involved in doing this.

  48. March 9, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Defend: Resist an attack, protect from harm or danger.

    I think we can defend our families, and even the idea of the family without “playing offense”. I read the VT lesson as, we need to be more careful about what we allow into our homes, we need to make sure our homes are safe places.

    Defending “the family” means we resist attacks, and protect from harm or danger. It doesn’t mean we go on the offensive, there isn’t a need (or at least there shouldn’t be) to attack others, or harm or danger others in our attempt to protect our own.

    There are a few things that get me worked up about the church and especially the culture of the church in utah, but I have noticed for myself that I have to be careful not to insert those things into everything I read or hear at church, because it kind of ruins the good stuff that keeps me active.

    I recently met with a member of my stake presidency and had to bite my tongue at one of his comments. He is a good man, and obviously his life experiences have been different than mine, and I hope that some day the life experiences of all church leaders are such that I don’t have to bite my tongue anymore.

    I’m sure people sometimes bite their tongues when I talk too. None of us are perfect (although it’s easy to think that people who agree with me are slightly more perfect than people who don’t. 🙂 )

  49. March 9, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    “Defending “the family” means we resist attacks, and protect from harm or danger. It doesn’t mean we go on the offensive, there isn’t a need (or at least there shouldn’t be) to attack others, or harm or danger others in our attempt to protect our own.”

    For what it’s worth, harming and endangering other people’s families is exactly what prop 8 did to gay families.

  50. March 9, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    That is true. I’ve been happy to see that since prop 8, the church has relaxed it’s stance on rights for same sex couples and even civil unions.

  51. March 9, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Change comes slowly.

  52. March 9, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    #50 I’m unsure on this, from conversations I’ve had it appears that the Church is relaxing its opposition where there is public pressure, but continues to work against gay rights where there is less public pressure. But I admit I am not entirely sure, I hear different things from different officials and members in different parts of the country.

  53. Holden Caulfield
    March 10, 2009 at 9:50 am

    In Utah, a House committee voted down a bill 5-8 would have made discriminating against someone in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity illegal.

    House Bill 267 also would have made it illegal for landlords to discriminate against gay and transgender people.

    To me, that means you can still fire someone if they are gay and you can refuse housing to gays. I suppose if they could refuse them food, the legislators of Utah would do that as well. To think such bigoted people not only still exist but are elected representatives, is amazing to me.

    Formally, the church has made only a token statement regarding some individual rights of gays and Elder Clayton made a statement that the church does not oppose civil unions. I don’t believe anyone else in authority has backed up that statement and “not opposing” civil unions is not the same as supporting them. The church will never formally endorse civil unions because that would mean they are supporting Satan and his evil ways, regardless of the effect this inaction has on the lives of decent people.

  54. Brjones
    March 10, 2009 at 10:09 am

    I have to agree with HC and the others. The church went out of its way in the immediate wake of Prop 8 to say all the right things about supporting civil unions, etc. Since then they have gone conspicuously silent, while prominent mormon members of the Utah legislature have not only gone on the PR warpath in slandering gays, but in absolutely obliterating the proposed laws the church supposedly supported. I felt from the beginning that the church was only trying to placate those who were upset at Prop 8, including many members, and that there was no way they would do anything proactively to see that any such laws were actually enacted. In my opinion, that has clearly turned out to be the case. Does anyone honestly believe that the church actually wants civil union laws passed? The very idea is absurd. Such laws would obviously constitute the subtle encroachments on the traditional family that we have been so strenuously warned against. Doesn’t it make you wonder why they made statements supporting them in the first place?

  55. March 10, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Equality Utah seems to have a fairly positive outlook on the future. Unfortunately none of the bills passed this year, with Senator Buttars off the rules committee perhaps those bills will have a better chance next year.

    I’m choosing to take the church leaders at their word. For whatever reason, they did what they felt was necessary, but have since softened their stance. It would be nice for church leaders to come out and tell members to support gay rights, but the church rarely works that way.

    (The church also specifically said that Buttars did not speak for nor represent the views of the church. I do think that Buttars is a result of church culture in Utah which teaches people to avoid all appearance of evil, while conveniently forgetting the love others as ourselves part.)

  56. John Nilsson
    March 10, 2009 at 11:18 am

    The really interesting thing about this whole monkeybusiness for me is what it portends for the evolution of Mormon theology.

    Language like “doctrine of the family” and “defending the family” was unheard of in the Church and American society before World War II. It is true that similar language was used by the temperance movement and the censorship movement, but still I don’t find an intuitive fit between the words family, doctrine, and defend.

    So why is this language useful now?:

    The Church is at loose ends theologically. The leaders are casting about for a purpose.

    My evidence?:

    Our backing away from unique Smith/Young/Taylor/Woodruff/Snow doctrines about the nature of God and the nature of humans.

    Gordon B. Hinckley’s statements to the media expressing his personal discomfort with the implications of these doctrines.

    The search for common ground with other Christians by enlarging the name of Christ in the church logo (could Joseph have foreseen his church would have a logo? Or accordion doors?),

    the video Special Witnesses of Christ,

    and with the millennium the signed apostolic statement The Divine Christ.

    But if what separates us from other Christians is only a book of scripture or two of questionable provenance, on what can we stake our missionary claims of exclusivity and find common ground with them against secularism at the same time?

    THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAMILY.

    We can dig in on archaic gender roles and deny gay rights with more vim, vigor, and sprightliness than any other Christian church. Why? When the rest of them eventually cave in, our theology alone will give us the answer to stiffen the backbone: (Cue theme to Saturday’s Warrior)GENDER IS ETERNAL. Just as we did with racialism, we can project backwards into a mythical preexistence all of the current societal forms we wish to preserve. And we can cast any positive social change in the direction of greater rights and inclusivity as the opposition of Satan. Perfect.

    This explains the bulk of what we see in Church today, and I doubt it’s a conscious process.

  57. Brjones
    March 10, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Allie, I agree that the church rarely works that way, and I think it’s very unfortunate. I’m sure many church leaders see the devastation to gay individuals’ lives and even the deplorable attitudes of many church members towards gays as unavoidable collateral damage in the war against homosexuality. Yet they do very little to counteract it. A mild remonstration every 6 months that we should “love the sinner” is of very little effect when the church champions policies that quite literally tear families apart and destroy people’s lives. Again, if you believe god is behind the church’s position on this issue then at best you think these are unfortunate outcomes, and at worst you really don’t care. But the fact is, the church does speak out strongly when it feels something is truly important or in line with god’s word. Hence its nearly unprecedented involvement in Prop 8. I think it’s fair to assume that it cares little for the rights of gays vis-a-vis civil unions or other legal protections, or else it would give even mild encouragement to its members to support them. As I said in a previous post, it isn’t reasonable to think that the church even tacitly supports civil unions or other legal rights for gays. The church has spoken at length about “avoiding the very appearance of evil” and the original post in this thread addressed a church lesson that instructed women of the church to “raise their voices” and actively fight the battle against the encroaching decay of the family. If, from the church’s perspective, governmental and societal legitimization of gay relationships don’t qualify as the “appearance of evil” and the decay of the family, then I don’t know what would. The church should refrain from insincere platitudes and step up to the plate and reap the consequences of its stance on Prop 8. It got Prop 8 passed in California – it can’t expect not to suffer the negative consequences of its actions. It’s unfortunate that it insists on having its cake and eating it too.

  58. March 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    It is unfortunate, and I agree that it is frustrating that church leaders are so willing to speak out on some issues, but not others.

    I guess I choose not to view recent statements as insincere platitudes. High profile mormon legistlators were mentioned, but a high profile governor was not- Governor Huntsman supports civil unions (and there was no statement from the church that “Gov. Huntsman does not represent the church”.

    With so much speaking out during prop 8, I take silence as a signal for full steam ahead.

    I’ve gotten very side tracked here, because back to the original post, when my partner and I went out last month, my partner taught the lesson and didn’t once mention same sex marriage, or gay rights.

    It’s like the political issue of abortion, it’s easy to bring it up and get people all riled up, but there are a lot of other less emotionally charged issues that we ought to be focusing on.

    I can raise my voice and say, my family is important to me, I will not allow porn into my home, I will teach my children to love and help each other.

    As I said before, it’s easy to insert whatever issue is frustrating us into every thing we read or hear at church. I’m trying really hard not to do that, because I don’t want the things I don’t understand to take away from the things I believe in.

  59. March 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Anthropologists categorize cultures as either guilt based or shame based. (Search for “doceo shame culture” for quick summary of the differences between the two.) The U.S. and Europe are thought to be guilt based due to the influence of Christianity. Cultures like that of Japan, Mexico and ancient Greece are thought to be shame based. The difference is the relative power of social conformity and the role of internal versus external morality. The Southern U.S. is more shame-based, compared with the more guilt-based North and West. Honor plays a larger role in shame-based cultures. Conscience is more important in guilt-based cultures. (There’s a reason that duels were popular in the South but not in Michigan.)

    I think LDS culture is moving more towards being a shame-based culture. It is not alone in this; to me this is the biggest difference between U.S. Evangelicals and mainline Protestants. The evangelicals are more shame based, while the protestants are guilt based. Mormons are following the lead (and political causes) of their Evangelical brethren.

    “Avoiding the very appearance of evil” is classic shame-based behavior. The pressure in LDS culture to use peculiar and instantly recognizable vocabulary and set phrases is a sign of a shame-based culture. Rigid gender roles are another characteristic of shame-based societies. The whole “family under attack” language of the visiting teaching message and POTF is shame based.

    Unfortunately, I think the larger picture can be summarized as the Church following the political lead of U.S. Evangelicals whose worldview carries over elements from the shame-based culture of the American South. This is absolutely not native to Mormonism. It’s a relatively recent import. If the Church leaders weren’t so obsessed with getting the popular kids (the evangelicals) to like them, we could have avoided this mess.

  60. March 12, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Thank you for this post. I thought I was the only one disturbed/ confused by this message. I’m all for the family. I am a pro-family kind of gal and the church’s focus on family life is something that drew me to the Church. I think that our society does not value the family enough. However, I have a hard time agreeing with the stance that a family consists of mom, dad, and kids (i.e. the people you can be sealed to). I understand it comes from the Plan of Salvation but not everyone is able to have that type of family. Some kids have two moms or two dads, or they live with their older half-sister because their mom died and their dad is a jerk. Some people’s parents are not nice. Some people just live with their mom or just with their dad or with their grandma. As I interpret it, the VT message also says that I should defend the position that homosexuality is wrong and that gay couples should not have kids. I cannot do that. I don’t feel comfortable teaching that to other people. Even though my VT partner and I have different views on gay marriage, we are just going to talk about why family (however we may define that for ourselves) is awesome and avoid the whole gay marriage issue if possible.

  61. September 19, 2009 at 1:55 am

    “Why must I defend the doctrine of the family?” Why should we couch this question in adversarial terms? Does the “doctrine of the family” place in jeopardy those LDS families who have chosen to define their familial roles a bit differently than the average?

    Interesting post, and thought-provoking questions. When I read through the initial post, I actually wasn’t thinking about Prop 8 at all, but of all the myriad permutations on family that exist in (and out of) the Church. Specifically, the image that I had in my mind was of the Church raising up the standard of the 1950s Cleavers (e.g., “Leave it to Beaver”), and how we all fail miserably.

    I love how the Church – and not just the Church, but most of Conservative Christianity, have mutilated the meaning of the phrase “defend the family” to support a political and ideological cause. What, exactly, are we “defending” “The Family” against? And what is “The” family? Obviously its not my family – they don’t say “defend your family,” but “The Family is under attack,” “protect The Family”.

    I want to know what this ideal is that I am supposed to be supporting, so I can choose not to throw my weight behind it.

  62. Mytha
    September 19, 2009 at 7:06 am

    Thanks for bumping this, Madam Curie! I missed it the first time around.

    I am very pro-family. I just don’t limit my definition of family to presiding Dad, nurturing Mom, and 5+ meek, obedient children. And when I sit in Primary on Sundays and look around the room, I see an awful lot of kids who do not live in that kind of family. I worry that they’re being taught in Primary that their families are not good enough.

    I believe children have a right to be loved, valued, and taught by people who are committed to their welfare, whether that’s a mom and dad, one parent, grandparents, foster parents, two dads, two moms, or multiple parents.

    I remember this VT message. It’s when I realized that church is requiring members subscribe to political views that I disagree with. It was at that time that I asked to be released as a visiting teacher.

  63. wayfarer
    September 19, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    You wonderful men and women have strengthened my testimony that the family is the safe place we create in which to nurture one another.We had a great coversation together when my VTs came,expressing our discomfort at being urged to adopt a siege mentality,it brought us closer and clarified for us that we desire to support all families that strive to cherish their members.I guess charity never faileth.

  64. L.S.
    August 3, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    I’m glad none of you are my visiting teacher.

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