Friday, January 14, 2011

The Family: A Damaging Doctrine?

I have noticed a growing trend in various LDS blogs of referring to the "centrality of the family" in the LDS Church doctrine as damaging to the value and self-esteem of singles.

I don't buy it.

The doctrine of the family is multi-directional. Everyone, everyone is the member of a family, whether or not you have married and had children. And being the child of parents does not make you a child insgesamt or as a whole.

The doctrine of the family has everything to do with tribal bonding and non-sexual intimacy and loyalty, and very little to do with saying "I do".

Granted, the doctrine of the family, like much doctrine, is largely misunderstood, but to me that is a problem in application, not in doctrine.


  1. The trend you note is a growing source of frustration for me, and I struggle to understand what is behind it. I suppose it could be a natural tendency of writers (including bloggers) to push ideas like this because 1) they are running out of topics to mine, or 2) they are courting controversy as a vehicle to increase site traffic.

  2. "The doctrine of the family is multidirectional"

    This is such a great observation! Thank you.

  3. Amen. It's only damaging if it's one-dimensional and no exceptions are valued - and the pure doctrine is not. Too many members make it one-dimensional, but, as you say, that's an application issue.

  4. SR, you have a unique perspective to proclaim this truth; thanks for that.

    I think you're right that there are issues around cultural practice, but the doctrine is remarkable as it is far reaching in multiple directions.

  5. SilverRain,
    I don't think of the centrality of the family as being a damaging doctrine for singles any more than I think of the law of chastity being a damaging doctrine for homosexuals in America (outside of New England). These are certainly things that lead some people to feel marginalized (and they certainly marginalize some people), but everything is church doctrine is multidirectional.

    I also think that there are some structural issues within the church (some cultural, some ecclesiastical) that makes some things harder for singles than for marrieds (and other things harder for marrieds than for singles). It's all so complicated. Anyhoo, I don't think that the centrality of the family is damaging. I think that its effect is dependent on how you define family and why you define it that way. I guess I don't see it quite as universally as the church does, but that is neither here nor there.

  6. I do not believe that the doctrine of family is damaging in itself, it is how people misinterpret or misapply it that causes many problems. For example

    1. The treatment of single women or married women without children on Mother's Day
    2. The shunning of a child because he or she is homosexual.
    3. Unthinking behavior by well intended people which can be very hurtful. Thirty two years ago my wife and I found we could not have children. That was devastating enough, but during a Temple Reccomend interview a member of the Stake Presidency conducted a mini inquisition on why we did not have children. He was not satisfied by a simple explanation, but continued for about ten minutes challenging our "failure." After trying to adopt through Church Social Services for a year, we were turned down Because, quote "As a diabetic you could not be a good parent" and you would want "these children to have good parents."

    The point is, it does not take much to have a very harmful effect. In our case thirty two years does not dimish our anger over these thirty minutes. We know that these were good people who simply did not know how, as Spike Lee wrote "Do the Right Thing."

    Thank goodness the Church has worked very hard to lessen these problems, but individuals can still fall well short of what is desired. As a result many people have a problem with the doctrine of family.

  7. Well said, SilverRain!!

    Stan Beale - your comment about being denied adoption due to diabetes floored me. I would expect better of LDS Social Services. But maybe I shouldn't - During my last months in Quebec mission in 1973, an LDS family was denied adoption due to religion, because the child would not be like the 'normal' kids - Catholic. So they were waiting for his military posting to Alberta with a friendlier environment. Quebec had only opened doors to missionaries recently.

  8. I agree. My in-laws are in the habit of "adopting" people. I am one of them. But you don't have to marry to get into their family. You only have to be willing to receive their love and be a part of it.


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