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Family Togetherness

Posted by nebula0 on November 7, 2008


I must critique my former brother and sisters in the Mormon faith (perhaps my cousins through my family ties?).  Over the course of my time in Mormonism I began to pick up on a grand underlying assumption about the world: those outside of Mormonism are not truly happy.  More specifically: those outside of The Gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not have truly happy families.  It is this assumption which has allowed the LDS church to see itself as the protector of family values against those cultural mutants, the homosexuals, who would pervert, because the Gentiles (now the ‘non members’)  cannot truly fathom the consequences of the battle which is raging.  This attitude underlies many assumptions about the state of the mission field- dysfunctional families, single mothers, divorces, drugs, premarital sex prevails.  Mormons see themselves as sheltered by wise leaders instituting programs such as Family Home Evening, preaching eternal families and issuing the Proclamation on the Family defining the roles of the traditional family.  All this translates into very real attitudes by Mormons that I encountered, until finally offended.

I wasn’t raised with any religious belief.  Period.  We didn’t talk about God.  I never saw my parents pray.  We didn’t attend church.  The only times I attended church as a child were if my grandparents lured me to mass with promises of candy and toys and that was a rare event.  Take a moment, my Mormon readers, and imagine what my upbringing might have been like.  Be honest, as honest as possible.  Are my parents divorced?  Did I experiment with drugs?  Did I experiment with sex?  How about my siblings?  Did we have terrible fights? 

As I’m sure you could guess by my above line of questioning, my family life was and is unusually happy.  I say all this as a tribute to my parents.  I never saw my parents fight, and I didn’t fight with them.  I never tried drugs despite the temptation and I said my wedding vows as a virgin.  I got good grades, as did my siblings, and I’m the owner of a BS and an MA.  I still talk to my parents frequently and enjoy seeing them.  And all of this was accomplished without Family Home Evening, without family prayer, without church attendance.  This was accomplished because I knew my parents loved and cared about me unselfishly, not only because they said so, but because they proved it through their actions, over and over again.

I write this to honor my parents, above all and to warn Mormons against the too easy temptation to assume that the safety nets of the LDS church provide the happiest possible families.  There are happy families everywhere, without any church.  I do not think the LDS church can claim a corner on the market of families.  Mormon readers, if this idea threatens you, perhaps you ought to reassess what your faith is all about.  If anything I hope this post causes my Mormon readers to think twice before carelessly making statements about who families that do not accept Mormon values are not truly, really happy lest you offend someone with non Mormon, non religious parents (or those parents themselves).

I also offer the thought that just as Mormonism can provide a focus by which families can cohere, the cleaving goes both ways.  Families can be together forever, but only if all the family members are worthy members of the LDS church.  If individual conscience leads a child to another path, the vision of that family unity is fragile and can be easily shattered.  How many of you have sat through a Fast and Testimony meeting to this effect, some family member out of the LDS church, a mother in tears that her vision of family unity could so easily be broken?  If family togetherness and wholeness is so predicated on something as stringent as activity in the LDS church, perhaps that togetherness is a superficial illusion.  I call Mormons everywhere to expand and deepen their conceptions of what a happy family looks like.

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3 Responses to “Family Togetherness”

  1. Seth R. said

    I once heard an Evangelical minister point out that “to be more happy” is one of his top ten reasons NOT to be a Christian.

    He pointed out that being a Christian does not guarantee happiness. Sometimes quite the opposite. But then, being happy is not the point of true religion.

    There’s this neat little scene in “The Matrix” where Agent Smith is interrogating Morpheus and says that at first, the Matrix attempted to provide humans with a perfectly happy virtual existence. The results were bad, the human mind rejected the program. Whole “crops” were lost.

    OK, enough cheesy movie pseudo intellectualism. But I think it brings up the point. And the point is that the “point” is not entirely to be happy.

    I mean, God isn’t constantly happy – even in heaven. I don’t see why we should expect to be.

  2. nebula0 said

    Seth,

    I agree with that but I think American culture, and Mormonism in particular, promote constant happiness as the norm and if you aren’t constantly happy there is something wrong with you. It means you aren’t self actualized, you’re depressed, you have ADD — you aren’t worthy, you aren’t doing something right, you aren’t active enough…

    Anyway, I don’t think Mormonism is the only system of thought which can fall prey to this way of thinking, but it’s one I’m especially exposed to so there you go.

  3. nebula0 said

    Alright Seth. By changing the design the RSS shows up… go figure. Hopefully this design schematic isn’t too annoying.

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