Episode 198: Children in LDS Families

37 comments on “Episode 198: Children in LDS Families”

  1. Megan von Ackermann Reply

    I think another, sometimes over looked, effect of the emphasis on children is that women’s role not only in the church but in their families is essentially a declining one. A woman’s importance doctrinally sort of peaks with childbirth, and her central importance socially is when her children are quite young. While men have a visible trajectory of increasing potential, women have the opposite once their children are older.

    • ZDZiff Reply

       Interesting point, Megan! I wonder about the comparison of the Church versus American culture in general in this regard. Where women’s appearance is such a focus of their value, it seems possible that their peak value might be even earlier outside the Church than in it, while men’s, which is more likely to be tied to something like earning power, would follow a trajectory similar to what it follows in the Church.

      What do you think? I may be totally off base here.

      • Megan von Ackermann Reply

         I would not say you’re totally off base, naturally! The visual rhetoric of the American culture is excessively youth and sex oriented. However, and I’m answering stream-of-thought here so things may get jumbled or badly expressed, here are a few differences I see.

        1) While the visual and sub-voca rhetoric of youth is powerful, it is not the only message, and the supra-voca rhetoric is far more broad. I would not try to argue that this means women HAVE equality, only that the range of expression of acceptable feminine value is far wider outside the church than inside.

        2) Practically speaking, youthful sex is not and has rarely been the only valuation for women. Without trying to comment on the universality of these, or on their comparison with men in the same culture, I would say that other measures of value include influence (which may come from wealth, family, position etc or a combination), ability, visibility/audience or wisdom (which may be acquired, conferred or assumed I suppose).Mormon rhetoric and cultural construction constricts a woman’s ability to achieve many of these, and sometimes makes the possession of them a thing of shame.

        3) [thinking about it, this should be point 2, or possibly point 1a… darn stream-of-thought disorganization!] The Mormon church specifically, vocally, directly and absolutely equates feminine worth and influence to fertility and the act of giving birth by stating that men have the priesthood because they cannot bear children. Since men clearly can nurture and love their children, aid in their rearing, teach them, care for them – in fact do for them all the things that mothers do as a normal part of parenting, logically it’s pretty easy to parse out that the only things men are barred from are gestating a foetus and lactating. The enormous problem with this disparity for BOTH gender roles – and for the concept of the priesthood – is extremely disturbing in a lot of ways, but it makes particularly clear the point I was trying to make above: men rise in the priesthood, have a clear trajectory of increasing influence and importance, even seeing the visible evidence of the highest authorities, elderly men, called to their positions for life; women fulfill their ‘highest calling’ in single events, at a finite time fairly early in their lives – and that’s assuming they can or want to ‘fulfil’ it at all!

        • ZDZiff Reply

          Thanks for your analysis, Megan. Gives me more hope for American culture than the church! 🙂

          • Megan von Ackermann

             Oh dear. I certainly didn’t want to do THAT!

            Other thing I think maybe you can confirm or deny. It seems to me that there is nearly as much emphasis on youth and fertility for men as there is for women – only it’s often unacknowledged. I know I have male friends who feel they cannot leave a job they don’t like because they are less able to compete in the job market due to their age.

            So the youth/sex thing is not solely a female pressure while the motherhood/birth thing in the church is.

  2. David Jarvi Reply

    Long time listener, first time commenter 😉
    As a single man, I was asked this past week to help teach primary to 5,6 yr olds (first time in ~15 yrs). just a few hours ago… This was part of an email I sent to a friend who asked me how it went.

         “When religious information is presented to kids, I love that they (for
    the most part) don’t give adults the benefit of the doubt.  They kinda have a built-in BS meter.  If it doesn’t make sense.. they are going to raise their hand or spurt out a comment.

         “It was rather interesting to me how some of these super simple
    comments.. actually were the gateway to super complicated gospel
    doctrine debates. Sometimes I wish I could go back through my indoctrination process as a kid and write down all my questions that I had.”

    my favorite ‘expression’ in this podcast was when Lyndsey brought up the topic of childhood reverence.  (~38 min to ~ 43 min)   

    “We don’t have freedom to move intellectually & literally childred don’t have freedom to move”.  To me it’s abusive that we literally force our children to sit still, to stay quiet, not ask questions & institutionally lie to them about the honest questions they do have.

    “Reverence is only there to serve the church.”  John
    “Jesus Loves me when I’m quiet” Lyndsey
    “Reverence is hierarchal value, not a spiritual value” Lavina

    http://www.buckthefilm.com is great flick around this idea of forcing young ‘bucks’ to do what we want.  I believe that spiritual abuse is rampant among the church – not only with children.. but with ‘spiritual orphans/children’ who are susceptible to the confident pseudo-parent energy the church can represent (often bully energy).

    This Bully energy can exist in any relationship (parent/child…   child/child…  wife/husband.. or husband/wife) but especially with (mid-level manager church leaders/members)

    more and more, the “children” are start to figure out the Wizard of OZ in Salt Lake City are really just a bunch of men (mostly good) behind a curtain.

    May we all worship (or not worship) to the dictates of our conscience…

    If anyone knows of a book/chapter/resource on the religious diversity/freedom that existed within Joseph Smith Sr’s family, please reply  (seems like there was lots of ‘wiggle room’ in that family)

    • Robert Saladino Reply

      Joseph was the bizzaro version of the modern day lds prophet! Joseph at least was open to new ideas, no matter the source and always asked questions. He wasn’t the rigid, stuffy shirts we see today, Man he would’ve been a breath of fresh air lol. To be honest, I don’t know how in the world we have the church today which is so vastly different from the early beginnings? I mean if Joseph made the whole thing up wouldn’t the leaders be as liberal and crazy as he was? I guess this is one of the reasons why I think the church is still true…sorry for the tangent…

       But yes the worst thing you can do to children and adults for that matter is tell them to stop asking questions and stop being energetic. If God acts like nothing gets him excited, then I don’t want to become like him!!!!!  The church portrays God as if he needs some adderall!!!!  

  3. jackrodwell Reply

    growing up lds or religious is awesome. one has a great mom and dad normally.  never attack the family.

    • Chaste_and_Benevolent Reply

      As someone who works with physically and sexually abused kids, I testify that the family is the most powerful force in the world for good — and evil. The family may be the most natural of all human institutions, but it is a positive institution only to the extent that it encompasses relationships of kindness and responsibility.

  4. canadacole ** Reply

    I loved this!  My husband and I often have conversations that sound a lot like this one and it’s so comforting to know we’re not alone.  I’m going to get him to listen!

  5. JTurn Reply

    Ahhhh!  Children of the Damned (movie). Right?   One of my fondest childhood memories – watching that with my older brothers who helped me see the fun of it.   

    • Chaste_and_Benevolent Reply

      No. This was taken from the Cleanflix version, Children of the Danged.

      • JTurn Reply

        Or maybe it was the sequel … Village of the Danged … I hope this gets through the ME correlation committee.

  6. jeremy Reply

    I shared this on the subreddit /exmormon….  there was a severally mentally disabled kid in our high school and he recieved his patriarchal blessing which said that he had personally escorted Satan out, and so Father gave him this disability so that Satan wouldn’t have power over him. I’ve heard apologists say that this is an urban legend, but me and many others had the chance to read his PB. And his parents shared this in sacrament meeting as well.

  7. Christopheralmond Reply

    One aspect about children, Mormonism and women issues that was briefly touched on but I think deserves more discussion is how a 12 yr old child who happens to be male has so much more spiritual authority than any woman in the church, even the general relief society president. As some scripture in the d&c states (too lazy to look it up) if there is a deacon in the room and no other priesthood holder, he is responsible for presiding over the meeting. I suspect this almost never happens but the fact that the official protocol states that males are inherently so far superior to any woman, that even a 12 year old boy would be preferable to a wise older woman in terms of conducting a meeting. Even if the woman is Sherri Dew.

  8. Heather_ME Reply

    “you could easily go Duggar”

    If my life had gone differently, I would have happily gone Duggar.  OK, well, Duggar-lite.

  9. Chaste_and_Benevolent Reply

    Great podcast. Many thanks.

    I appreciated the point about how Mormonism’s frontier heritage permeates almost everything about it. That may be especially true of the idea of eternal progression. Just as Muslims envision heaven as being a vast oasis, Mormons envision the afterlife as an eternal frontier where there’s always a better valley beyond the next hill.

  10. Crystal M Scott Croshaw Reply

    I think the idea that Mormon kids are soooooo much better than other kids (like mormons really believe that they ARE BETTER!) can be so damaging to other kids who are treated like they really are lesser because they are not mormon.

    My husband really believed that he would get into law school with a 2.8 and a 7%ile LSAT- why? Well, because he is a faithful priesthood-holding LDS man… It’s been a fun marriage, friends.  Because until that time, I really believed he would be going to law school- he was SURE of this- HE KNEW IT TO BE TRUE.  Well, it did not work out… and 5 jobs later, he always thinks he will be given the best position in any given company, why?  Because he is the only mormon in the interview.  It is so, so bad and has absolutely carried over to his adulthood.

    • Robert Saladino Reply

      I hear you sister!! The GA’s make it seem like they’re temporally blessed through some unseen meta-physical divine intervention due to righteousness. But the reality is they’re successful due to the natural laws of life!!! Most lawyers and business men have money, whether or not they pay tithing or pray to bugs bunny!!! I got into trouble with that kind of thinking with my student loan debt!  All I did was act in faith and now I hate to say it, I may never recover!!!
      If God was really behind prospering the leaders he would call the humble pizza men, cleaners, farmers, bus drivers and cabbies to run the church!!! And make them just as rich finically !!!!

  11. Lara Machin Canen Reply

    I though there were alot of good points in this.  Some not as good, but it did get me thinking.  But I keep hearing this line about women only serving in primary and men never serving under women over and over on the bloggernacle.  But in my ward we actually have men and women in primary callings.  We even have a man chorister.  And it seems to me that he is serving under the primary president, who is a woman. Is my ward unique in this?

    • Zilpha Reply

       Even though there is a Primary President (always has to be a woman, but why ?-another subject), and she appears to be “in charge” of the teachers, the Primary is an auxiliary of the Priesthood. This means that the Primary President does not have the final say about decisions effecting her Primary. The Bishopric’s approval is always required for people the Primary President wishes to have called to certain duties. In addition, it is the Bishopric who actually calls and sets them apart. In the Handbook of Instructions Book 2 (2010), it says, “The Primary Presidency meets regularly with the counselor in the bishopric who oversees the Primary organization.” It doesn’t just say, “advises” but rather, “oversees.” The woman is not truly in charge of the organization, when push comes to shove. Therefore, the male teachers are only sort of “under” the Primary President.

  12. ZDZiff Reply

    I really like the point that the emphasis on reverence (i.e., sitting still and quietly) is simply an institutional convenience, and doesn’t serve any important needs anywhere else. In this way (and this was alluded to on the podcast) it’s like the emphasis on obedience in the Church in general. Obedient members make the Church easier to run, but obedience for its own sake is emphasized far more than it needs to be.

    • David Jarvi Reply

      I think it was Stephen Covey who said that a great classroom borders on chaos… kinda like this podcast 🙂

      I think this youtube video makes the point well..  check out the white mormon housewife ‘sitting still and basically yelling’ at 1:16

      Would have paid $100 bucks to see Boyd K, Packer on the stand.

  13. ZDZiff Reply

    Another point I really liked was Lyndsay’s (I think) about the Church doing a good job in raising kids to be productive members of society, but perhaps not very flexible or able to adapt to new circumstances. It’s my impression that Church members are generally more successful in business (which requires fitting in a hierarchy) than artsy stuff (which requires more thinking outside the box). This pattern seems consistent with your point.

  14. JTurn Reply

    Thanks to all for such thoughtful preparation and excellent insights throughout.

    I was struck by the conversation surrounding Lyndsay’s quotation of Schopenhauer on child indoctrination (38-42 min) which Alyssa  connected to “cultural imprinting” that literally “wires” the brain.

    That linked nicely to the discussion near the end sparked by Alyssa’s insight about various Church practices suppressing (and infantilizing) individual thinking. I thought that these practices evolve as byproducts of the Church’s hierarchal structure, rather being consciously and covertly designed, was important.  Lavina Anderson’s comment on how docile reverence is a hierarchal value, not a religious one, was a good example of this.

    I also appreciated the acknowledgment that some people do flourish (or at least find comfort, meaning, and opportunities to feel valued) in conservative hierarchal groups.  It almost seems that being a TBM has more to do with a person’s innate disposition to the group structure (e.g. Alyssa’s worker bee description) than his or her disposition toward holding onto peculiar propositional beliefs. 
    Perhaps it is the belief system itself that is a byproduct of the social psychology of hierarchal/patriarchal group structure.  My guess is that the apparently diverse doctrine of religions with similar group structures have components that functionally matched.  The particular propositional beliefs are somewhat arbitrary – its the group structure that people groove on.



  15. cwinchesteriii Reply

    One of the best yet! I loved that part about the LDS producing good worker bees, good neighbors, but not good critical thinkers. 

  16. Christopheralmond Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion on reverence. John in particular made some great points. It seems that within the church teaching ‘reverence’ as a value to children serves the same function as their constant emphasis and teaching of ‘obedience’ to the adults.

  17. Cate Rawson Reply

    Great podcast!!  Loved listening to it as I cared for my almost 2 year old rambunctious little boy.

    SOOO many things discussed hit home for me.  Especially the part about not being able to express any negative feelings of being a mormon mom.  

    I had my first son really early at 24 weeks (you can listen to our story on Mormon Expression Voices as we just discussed a lot of this along with our faith crisis with Heather) and was thrown into motherhood before I would’ve like to have been and before I was really ready (financially, mentally, emotionally…).  I of course LOVE my son and did everything I could to help him grow and thrive (and still do).  But motherhood is not something I come by naturally I feel and about 6 days a week frankly I’d rather be doing something other than cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, nose wiping, and breaking up fights between my two boys.  I remember when we had just gotten our first son home from the hospital after a long and precarious 4 month NICU stay I felt completely and utterly exhausted and overwhelmed.  For about a solid year I did nothing but sit on the couch holding my special needs son in a tiny old apartment in Provo while my hubby went to school and work all day.  No one could come in and I couldn’t take my son out because of his weak immune system.  I remember venting my frustration over the situation to a mormon “friend”.  She looked at me bug eyed and chastised me for not being grateful to have my son living and for the blessing that he was and that I need to remember that I’m lucky that god had given me such a trying experience for my own personal growth.  Since then, I try my best to keep my issues with motherhood to myself.  

    Also, I am realizing as I transition in my faith that these messages of child rearing/bearing, although mainly directed at the women, are damaging to the men and boys as well.  One of the best things that has happened for myself, my psyche, my self-worth, and my marriage has been letting go of those ingrained gender role messages that have plagued my entire mormon life.  Luckily, my husband is going through this with me so he realizes as well the damage that uber-defined fundamentalist gender roles do to some people and their relationships with the opposite sex.  

    I am now letting go of all of the guilt for not being a “good mormon woman”.  I have realized  that I can LOVE being a mother without having to LOVE being a caregiver, chef, maid, therapist, nurse, chauffeur…  I love my sons, but I don’t love the “sacrifice”.  I see my own mother struggling with her identity being wrapped up into her children who are “going astray”.  She literally feels like her “life’s work” has been worthless.  I think this is such a common feeling for women in the church (and men) when their kids inevitably grow up and become THEMSELVES, instead of the clones of their parents like their parents would wish them to be.  I don’t want to be that.  And I don’t want my kids to feel responsible for my self-worth.  

    And thus ends my rant.  🙂  
    Great podcast!  

  18. Spencer Peacock Reply

    I don’t know that I would have talked about the caste system in the context taht you did. There was a part in your podcast where the caste system would have been much more relevant. The idea that our position in pre-mortality deteremines where we are in mortality. That is pretty much the same as how the caste system was in the subcontinent. The actions of past lives determine your current situation. When I would get sad about beggars on the indian streets my translators or students or whoever I was with would say “oh no don’t feel bad, this person is in the situation they are in because of who they were in a previous life”. ANyways. It was still a great podcast.

  19. Travis Humphrey Reply

    I know this is a late comment, but I wanted to add a thought I had about Jesus’ use of children mentioned in this podcast. In Matt. 18 Jesus is speaking to his disciples (which, in Matthew, means the apostles). They want to know who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven and Jesus responds by telling them to become like little children. Peasant children in the time of Jesus were viewed on the same social caste as slaves/servants. Thus, Jesus is telling the disciples to be servants; servants are the greatest in the kingdom. In other words, the first (rich, arrogant leaders of the time) will be last, and the last (slaves, tax collectors, children) will be first. Jesus is reversing the social norms of his time and teaching his disciples to NOT become hot-headed because they are leaders, but to maintain the same social standing as even a little child. It is difficult for us today to recognize children in such a lowly position because of our different perception of children and culture. However, Matt. 18 is a strong chapter on leaders as servants. If we can try to comprehend Jesus’ use of children in this manner, it should inform us on what to expect from church leaders (social lowliness, insignificance and servitude). In the LDS Church and general culture today we perceive children very differently than Jesus or his disciples and it affects our interpretation of this chapter. I’m not sure how this comment contributes to anything, but it was something that came to my mind while listening. Thank you for your wonderful and thought provoking podcasts. Love ’em.  

  20. Jake Struckle Reply

    I’m a 20 year old, exmormon, and I LOVED this podcast! Talked about so many things that applied to my life just a year ago! Thank’s for the incredible discussions!

  21. Llew30 Reply

    Sorry I’m late. Just found this forum and spent a few hours listening to some of the podcasts. I loved the comment about the caste system of the church. As a childless 38 never married it is a real struggle to stay active in a religion that places such a high emphasis on motherhood. I’d sell my soul to the devil for temple marriage to a worthy priesthood holder so I could fill the measure of my creation and join the Married Mormon Bourgeois Club. Is there a podcast about this topic? With current debates on alternative forms of marriage, cohabitation and lack of dating in LDS youth culture threatening our demographic implosion you might want to consider it. If you need any ideas please see my blog http://www.oldmaidmormon.blogspot.com/

    • hetaira Reply

      Llew30, you might want to listen to Episodes 18 and 26. (And then work your way through all the rest.) Have you also tried any of the Feminist Mormon Housewives podcast? They cover some issues I think you might appreciate with good humor and intellect. As a non-mormon I can’t say I totally relate to your goals, but as an unmarried middle-aged woman in a largely mormon area, I do get just a glimpse into the social pressures you must endure. Keep on being yourself and may good things come to you, even if they’re not in the way you always imagined.

  22. james Reply

    It was a revelation to me to at Mrs Monson’s death that they only had three children. Upon further study nearly have of the fifteen have three or fewer children.

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