Beliefs Culture Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

The Mormon “assault on the family”

Different kinds of familiesThis month I attended a Relief Society meeting in another ward, mostly to support a friend who was teaching the lesson. The assigned topic was a contentious one – chastity – and she was concerned about doing justice to the topic without having the discussion fall into some of the predictable traps to which Mormons are sometimes prone.

And for the most part, the discussion was solid, compassionate, and frank, in keeping with the tone my friend set.

With one notable exception. One sister said that the decline of the value of chastity in our culture was a result of the overall “assault on the family” we are seeing in our time. She followed this with personal anecdotes about how, as a teacher, she sees all the time how children from divorced families are less loved and cared for than children who aren’t from “broken” homes.

And . . . um, what?

Let’s set aside the fact that the supporting evidence she provided had little or nothing to do with the actual topic at hand, which was chastity. All of us are entitled to logical lapses, especially right before lunch.

No, what burned me was her clear sense of superiority and judgment on any family that didn’t fit her definition of the ideal.

That included my good friend, the divorced woman teaching the class. Ahem! I’m not sure if my friend noticed – probably not, as she is too mature to take such slights personally – but I did.

How could this sister who was going on and on about the perils of raising children outside of marriage not make the connection that the righteous, lovely, intelligent teacher standing before her is a single mom who loves her child just as much as any other parent does?

Sitting there in Relief Society, the organization whose very motto is “Charity Never Faileth,” I had to feel that the Good Ship Charity had already sailed, and we were not aboard.

Here’s what I wanted to tell that sister but didn’t: The only “assault on the family” I see here is the one you are perpetrating yourself.

I have actually met that sister before in passing, and she struck me then as a caring person. But in this context, speaking to an audience that she naively assumed would view the world the same way she did, and whose life experiences would mirror hers, her eagerness to pass judgment on anything less than her ideal caused her to be utterly tone deaf to the lives and feelings of the women around her.

And this, I’m afraid, is a tone the Church has encouraged. For example, when our leaders refer to some families as “counterfeit,” a word that implies a criminal intent to defraud others, we imagine that there is only one legitimate, upstanding kind of family – and hey, what do you know? It happens to be ours.

We set ourselves up in judgment upon others, so much so that we fail repeatedly to see the proverbial motes within our own eyes – and to consider the many people around us who are hurt by our insensitive and harsh words.

Mormons are witnessing an “assault on the family,” all right. In fact, we’re all too often leading the charge.

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.


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  • I have come to absolutely loath the word “family” in church. As a single person, I am completely shut out of the church’s definition and more and more, the church’s hypervigilant focus on The Family appears like idolatry. I was angry and bitter that that changed the name to Pristhood and Family executive council – not only because of the implication that women have no voice or opinions or leadership outside of familial relationship, but because their definition excludes me and so many others.

  • Nailed it. I can’t handle Relief Society anymore because of comments like that. And my family DOES fit the mold! But the judgment is so icky and offensive. Different is not bad!

    I often think about that scene in the movie Robin Hood Prince of Thieves when a little girl asks Azeem why God painted him. He responds, “Because Allah loves wondrous variety.” I don’t think Mormons have caught on to that.

  • “We should recognize that ideals are stars to steer by; they are not a stick to beat ourselves with.” – Barbara B. Smith (10th RS General President)

    We’re definitely getting into the latter territory with some of that broken home rhetoric (among with other things we say about the family).

  • I’m pretty sure the church lost the moral high ground on that when the Nauvoo Expositor was published and it was revealed and subsequently denied that Joseph had 37 wives. Marrying other men’s wives and 14 year old girls didn’t sit well with the predominant society… even his.

  • I’m pretty sure the Mormon church lost the moral high ground when the Nauvoo Expositor was published. It revealed that Joseph had married other men’s wives and young children. Kind of hard to justify those “family values and chastity” unless you believe in flaming sword angels. Allowing the Mormons to maintain moral superiority is a joke when you fully consider that

  • The entire premise (some would aptly call it a business model) of the LDS church is the notion of eternal families. That’s why they build temples. That’s why they expend massive amounts on genealogy. That’s why “family” is the correlated theme throughout every church related undertaking. In the eyes of the “brethren” fractured families are fractured pieces of Mormonism and not a shining example of the Mormon ideal. Nothing creates more Mormons faster than an intact young family banging out more puppies.

    And nowhere in recognized scripture is there any indication that families are forever. I, for one, would consider eternity with my parents to be predestined hell.

  • While I agree that the rhetoric used by this sister was probably hurtful, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We can have ideals and goals without denigrating those that don’t live up to them. Mortality is an exercise in progression towards ideals (not uniformity, but that’s a different matter). So we don’t have to assume that when we talk about what is best, we are demonizing the good situations that could be better. Single parents are generally heroic people, and there is no doubt that fantastic people both run and come out of single parent households. But the question is, are a loving mother AND a loving father who love and respect each other better than just one of those? I would say yes, in all cases. If one parent is not so loving, that changes the calculus, and we make the best with what we have. I’m single, but when people tell me I would be better off married, I agree, but I don’t take it as a suggestion that I am somehow inadequate now.

  • Families are the Mormon God, they are the critical part of the revenue stream, especially the dead one’s

  • Yes and no.

    Yes, the sister’s comment was insensitive and ignorant. And, yes, the Church’s rhetoric about “the family” is inflammatory and encourages self-righteousness and lazy thinking.

    BUT, the sister touched on a legitimate problem that we must learn how to discuss. Is it disputed that children in 2-parent homes generally perform better? That performance gap impedes those children (eventual wage earners). It disproportionately harms particular socioeconomic communities. It hobbles the country’s competitiveness. Indeed, it’s one of the reasons that allowing gay marriage is good policy, the increases 2-parent households.

    Unfortunately, we can’t talk about it partly because (1) conservatives have difficulty conceptualizing the problem outside of divine-punishment theory. (2) Liberals too often have their 0-to-10 sensitivity nobs set to ELEVEN, and refuse to construe well-intentioned-but-thoughtless comments patiently and charitably.

    This post encapsulates…

  • The rate of child abuse in step families compared to intact families:

    -6 times more abuse overall
    -5.2 times more physical abuse
    -8.6 times more sexual abuse
    -6.2 times more emotional abuse
    -3.5 times more abuse resulting in serious harm

    Furthermore, the risk of death due to inflicted injury is ~47 times higher for children with an “unrelated adult” (parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend) living in the home.

    Also, the sister Ms. Riess lambastes was certainly not off topic: families do involve sex (it’s where the babies come from). And sexual abuse — 8.6 times more likely in a step-family, remember? — is a severe offense against chastity.

    Ironically, the sister Ms. Riess censures made no (reported) moral judgements; Ms. Riess, by contrasts, castigates her as uncharitable, uncaring, obtuse, irrational, and combative…

  • If we are the modern Israelites, “family” is our golden calf. We no longer worship at the feet of a resurrected savior, but the graven image of the “perfect” Mormon family.

  • Except that God asks us to form families, directed toward His ideal.

    And God forbade (and forbids) worshiping idols, bovine or otherwise.

    But yeah, other than that, I can scarcely tell the two apart.

  • I don’t think there’s anyone who is unaware of the fact that a two biological parent household is ideal. We know that, we aren’t stupid. But the point is that way people talk about those who don’t fit that mold makes them look and feel like garbage, which isn’t ok and makes church feel like an unfriendly place to be.

  • What do you recommend as an alternative? How should we discuss the effects of non-intact families on children, including the much higher rates of abuse?

    You’ve said that “no one is unaware” of these effects, presumably including unchaste behavior; under what circumstances, if any, may we mention it?

    The sister whom Ms. Riess chastises spoke only in general, naming no particular individuals. Ms. Riess, and — apparently — you, have deemed this wrong.

    Ms. Riess, on the other hand, has pilloried this same sister to a much larger audience. Neither of you seem to object.

    Given the widely divergent responses, I am unable to determine your standard for right and wrong in “the way people talk”. Could you tell me what your standard is?

  • God made no mention of families in the hereafter,which puts an end to the Mormons marketing strategy of families are forever……nice emotional “heart sell” which keeps the little sheep in line and keeps the revenues pouring in.

    In reality the Mormon Church just needs families as free labour to run the organization at the lowest level,clean the buildings and sell their product by sending their children on missions for which they charge the family.

    The more recruits they can get the greater the Real Estate Empire…….

  • Another self-serving comment heard all too frequently in the LDS church. I have a counterfeit family since our ‘gay’ family members will prevent us from being a real celestial family. Somehow, the whole plan of salvation doesn’t seem like much of a plan.

  • I have a hard time telling apart the mormon desire to have men in charge of all the women in their church and in the eternities, and the mormon desire to have men in charge of all the families and children in the world. To me they are one and the same.

    I think the real reason so many are opposed to same-gender marriage is because you can’t have it without recognizing that people are equal regardless of gender.

  • You’re correct that an argument could be made that this post is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. But I think there’s a difference between writing a blog post in anonymous terms (I can’t identify the woman from the information given- can you?) and condemning a person’s lifestyle in front of a group of her peers.

    Also, we should discuss the facts you mentioned as precisely that- facts. Without a value judgment attached. The woman in this blog post was talking about how children are less loved when they come from “broken” homes. That’s not a fact…that’s an opinion she has formed through observation and it’s not helpful. I still think her comment was fairly off topic but, had the conversation veered that way, perhaps she could have volunteered some of the numbers you shared and then put forth some ideas for ways to protect children in those circumstances.

  • James Sneak: “I have a counterfeit family since our ‘gay’ family members will prevent us from being a real celestial family.”

    Interesting to see how Elder Perry is misquoted with increasing inaccuracy, particularly since the original text is available with negligible effort. Here’s what he actually said:

    “We want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established.”

    So, if you don’t “try to replace the family organization that God Himself established”, he’s not talking about you at all.

    It’s not clear how “counterfeit and alternative lifestyles” became “counterfeit families”, “counterfeit love”, and even (on a few blogs) “counterfeit individuals”, as if some people were grown in big glass vats, or rolled off an assembly line.

    I’ve never seen your particular misrepresentation before, however. Is it original, or are your repeating it from somewhere else?

  • Thank you for your kind reply.

    The sister Ms. Riess criticizes is indeed anonymous, though readers from her ward could probably identify her. And, according to Ms. Riess, at least, the errant sister did not mention anyone by name, much less condemn a particular person in front of her peers.

    As for pots and kettles, that wasn’t my point. My question was about your standards for acceptable communication. Your response sheds some light on this (internet vs. in front of peers), but if fits the facts only partially, and is quite brief. More information would help me understand.

    Regarding facts: given that abused children as “less loved” than non-abused children, and — because the rates of abuse are higher in step-families — step-families are more likely to be less loving.

    If the sister had instead quoted my statistics, I suspect I’d be seeing a post almost identical to this one. Though I could be wrong.

    *I didn’t mean to hit the “Report abuse button. I apologize.*

  • I will absolutely dispute your comment. As a social worker, I can tell you not every child does better in a home with two parents…especially an abusive one. There are countless research studies to support this. There is also no evidence that children from a family with a single father fairs worse or better.

    I do, however, agree with your comment about same sex marriage, as there also have been studies and no evidence that they are better or worse than heterosexual homes.

    Amazing article, thanks for sharing. I have tried to return to church several times and there is a comment every Relief Society that makes me not want to return, and my family does fit the “mold,” whatever that means. Open your eyes and hearts, members. If you can’t, then at least close your mouths!

  • Jana, I think you meant “see the proverbial *beams* in our eyes.” [A mote is a tiny sliver of dust, so small it might even float mid-air. A beam is a large 2×4 or plank – used to construct or support ceilings.] I love the analogy – getting all worked up about a nearly invisible wisp of something in my neighbor’s eye, all while I have a giant log protruding out of my own. It’s almost comical, the hypocrisy (or it would be, if self-righteousness were not so ugly).

    For those who protest the OP, the message I got is that sitting in a meeting and talking about how evil & wrong the world is, and how righteous and good we are (a big ‘pat ourselves on the back’ session), is about the last way any of us will ever grow closer to God. Sure it can feel great temporarily – the ego boost – and we might mistake it for spiritual uplift. But I think we damage our cause and ourselves when we act this way. It’s a superficial attempt at wholeness that cannot deliver real joy or the true Spirit…

  • I don’t see that children in two parent homes generally perform better. What I do see are that successful students have a parent or parents that are on the ball and are committed to raising successful, kind, healthy children. It’s about the quality of the parents not the quantity.

  • “not every child does better in a home with two parents…especially an abusive one.”

    Yeah, obviously. But that’s not what I said, is it?

    Do you dispute what I actually said? Is it your understanding that there is no material corroralation between educational performance and whether there are two parents shouldering the household requirements–GENERALLY?

    Seriously, is this important topic just off limits. Tragic. This is not a Republican canard. I’m a Democrat. Think Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

    Obviously, the sister should not have suggested that every single-parent home is a trophy of Satan’s. (I doubt she meant to.)

  • And isn’t that quality easier to achieve when two are sharing the load?

    Every person has only 24 hours per day. And with a minimum wage that has not budged for more than a decade, the work day (often 2 jobs) gets ever longer.

  • I was raised in an ideal LDS home with very loving parents who followed the counsel of the prophets to have as many children as God would send. God sent my parents 11 children. I can promise that even though this was and perhaps still is the “ideal mormon” home it is not an ideal way to raise children! At age 8, I was left home alone to tend my younger siblings so that my mom could fulfill her calling as president of young women. They were so busy and overwhelmed they couldn’t keep track of us all–it wasn’t unusual for children to be left behind at church or other places. I am sure that they loved/love us, but they have no idea who we really are, because that would have taken more time than they had in a day.

    Mormons can talk all they want about God’s special plan for the family, but considering their track record, they have no more insight into what makes a family “ideal” than anyone else, and it wouldn’t hurt for them to pick up a parenting book or two

  • I totally agree with you Julia. By marginalizing those those that don’t fit the ideal definition of “family,” we just breed contempt and frustration. So counterproductive.

  • “In the United States, the difference is especially pronounced: the average achievement difference in math between children of single- and two-parent families is 26.6 points — roughly equivalent to one grade level.”

    Ludger Woessmann (Prof. Economics, University of Munich), “Single-Parent Families and Student Achievement: An International Perspective”
    (January 9, 2015)

  • JD 9:322 − 323, Brigham Young, July 6, 1862
    Why do we believe in and practise polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. “And is that religion popular in heaven?” It is the only popular religion there, for this is the religion of Abraham, and, unless we do the works of Abraham, we are not Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise. We believe in Jesus Christ the Mediator of the new covenant, who has introduced the Gospel for the benefit of the human family, to happify, exalt and glorify them in the presence of the Father, not to make them miserable, not to torture them, nor cause them to walk in the gloomy path of grief all their days. We rejoice in this Gospel, it is all glory, hallelujah, peace and comfort.

  • “There are countless research studies to support this. There is also no evidence that children from a family with a single father fairs worse or better.”

    The rate of child abuse in step families compared to intact families:

    -6 times more abuse overall
    -5.2 times more physical abuse
    -8.6 times more sexual abuse
    -6.2 times more emotional abuse
    -3.5 times more abuse resulting in serious harm

    The rate of child abuse in single-parent families compared to intact families:

    -3.5 times more abuse overall
    -3.1 times more physical abuse
    -4.8 times more sexual abuse
    -3.6 times more emotional abuse
    -4.6 times more abuse resulting in serious harm

    Sounds worse to me. If you object to child abuse, that is.

  • I’m not a Mormon, but I’m wondering what’s the sense of remaining one if you’re always whining about them.

    It might be better to join a more liberal religious group like the Unitarians or the United Church of Christ, where you can believe just about anything you want and be okay.

  • Thank you, Jana! I’ve never understood the phrase “attack on the family” that is repeated in church meetings like a mantra, especially in reference to homosexuality. I don’t understand the mechanism by which same-sex couples are purportedly attacking traditional mormon families (especially because most mormons probably don’t know or affiliate with many gay people). When I heard L. Tom Perry cruelly call non-traditional families “counterfeit,” the irony really hit me: the church calls same-sex marriage an attack on the family, but really it’s the church that is attacking same-sex families!

  • Joel Aug 21, 2015 at 9:58 pm ¶And isn’t that quality easier to achieve when two are sharing the load?

    Why stop at two? Maybe a few sister wives or brother husbands is what we need to do a good job raising children.

  • Hahahahaha…. I see you didn’t publish any of my remarks. What ever happened to free speech? Can’t publish my thoughts because apparently it would lead to you realizing your obsession with the mormons. If you’re so offended by Mormons why are you participating in their religious practices? Why are you participating in religion at all? Free your mind Jana. You didn’t even have the strength to confront this woman on this issue, but you’ll publish your dribble on the internet?? Why not pick up a hobby like golfing or enjoy a beautiful hike and find your spirituality in the outdoors before you die and never enjoy another sunrise again. Wouldn’t you hate the thought of your time spent in a mormon chapel, wasting your time as the mindless bigots themselves continue in their pathetic ways, just before you take your last breath? I really am trying to do you a favor here. Stop participating in something so unworthy of your time. This will be my last message to you, I hope it…

  • ” she sees all the time how children from divorced families are less loved and cared for than children who aren’t from “broken” homes”

    Jana was right to point out the lack of sensitivity and awareness. Why don’t we address and discuss what children need–economic, emotional and physical consistency and stability in their lives–and how to model and teach Christ-like love?

    Then we don’t have to insult the teacher or anybody listening to the lesson who doesn’t meet some outward standard.

  • A whole column devoted to whining and crying about just one person who opined that children of divorced families are less loved and cared for? Granted, it was insensitive and mindless, but it’s time for adults to act like adults, not babies, and deal with silly statements in a mature fashion. Going on and on and on about it is as boring as heck, especially with the predictable rejoinders about being judgmental and how somehow one jerk is an entire organization’s fault, leads absolutely nowhere, unless you’re a writer casting about for new column material.

    It’s time for people to climb out of the sandbox and just grow up.

  • It seems that every column of this person is the same refrain:

    “Waah! Waah! Mormons are so mean! Mormons are so backward! Mormons are so uncool! Mormons are always judging me! Look at me and see how cool I am to bash them!”

    I’m not a Mormon because I disagree profoundly with their theology, but again, if you’re so miserable being a Mormon, why not dispense with the weekly bellyaching and find a more liberal church home?

  • Some people just like to whine and complain and gossip, and apparently at least one of them has converted those tendencies into a regular whine column.

  • The church teaches a societally and doctrinally ideal definition of ‘family’. It doesn’t teach that if someone has not achieved that ideal or doesn’t care for that ideal to be treated as less than. Can we please stop mistaking ‘culture’ with ‘what the church teaches’? Members are free to speak and behave how they wish-just as we are free to respond and react how we wish. That agency is one of the blessings of this mortal tribulation. Just because more than one member (or even lots of em) has decided to be an idiot about things doesn’t mean we need to hail them as the mouthpiece of our leaders or our Father in heaven. We could, instead, treat them with the love, forgiveness, and compassion they did not afford others. Because that IS what the Mormon church teaches.

  • What you, and the sister, have confused, is that the statistical rate of abuse being 6 times higher in step parent families, is not the same thing as there being six times more abuse in step parent families. You don’t have both necessary and sufficient evidence to generally condemn single parent and step families, you merely have evidence about some particular number of families that in fact may have nothing at all to do with a decision to be a single our step family as much as it has to do with the structure the family had prior to being so. This is the problem with statistics or correlation that can’t explain causation, and the arrogant assumption here that these numbers explain causation.

    This idea that it’s necessarily the case that step families are bad is harmful rhetoric. What you haven’t mentioned is what the base rate is. I’d the base rate is .0001%, we’re taking about a meaningless increase. If it’s 20%, we have a problem.

  • Converting something that can be said about a group generally, into something that is said of them universally, is what the sister was doing in that meeting.This is the same tactic that was used to justify slavery, and is continuously used to justify bigoted belief systems.

    The wonderous thing about using these tactics is they’re self fulfilling: it’s important to note that the abuse statistics don’t mention the vector of abuse. Often it doesn’t come from the single parent abusing their children, it comes from others who see single parent children as vulnerable targets because they might have less adults to take notice. When we promote the idea they are vulnerable targets (their homes are broken, after all, everyone knows that anything not matching our ideal is then obviously broken), we’re helping to ensure they are vulnerable targets. Especially when we determine that, under no circumstances can one group be better off than another, because a general statistic says so.

  • Oy vey. I’d love to hear about how you spent a few minutes after the lesson to discuss your feelings with the offender in question.

    Oh, wait…

  • I’m sorry but you are wrong. A child from a single parent family is less loved than a child from an intact family with a father and a mother. It may sound bad but it is a fact. A single mother (or a single father for that matter) cannot love there child more after a family is split up. If a child loses the love of one parent due to absence they are by definition “less loved”. In addition, I know from my own experience that once the dad takes off and leaves the mom and kids flat. the mom has much less time to spend with her children, like mine did…having to work two sometimes three jobs to keep clothes on our back a roof over our heads and food on the table. My mom was great, but not only are there only 24 hours in a day, But a single mom only has so much strength to give.

  • No one said step families are bad…your putting words in these folks mouths. Let me ask you a question to clarify. Is it, generally speaking, better for a child to be reared in a family with a Father and a Mother (biological) than any other arrangement?

  • The leaders do hear. They arranged for a divorced single mother to teach the class. It sounds to me like the Church is being blamed for an insensitive member.

  • Yeah, that’s just what I was thinking…she’s getting a lot of support from people who hate Mormons.

  • Why stop at two?

    No don’t. I believe in the “it takes a village” (ward) concept. Incidentally, I acknowledge that a robust village (whether familial, religious, civil, etc.) can fill in many gaps that may arise in a single-parent household as a consequence of the parent having only 24 hours per day.

  • This is my favorite type of response, because it points out the variety of views and therefore the variety of remedies because we all have our own areas that need to be improved.

  • My first comment was supposed to post as a reply to Joel’s first comment.
    I will try again by copying some of his post herewith:

    Yes and no.
    Unfortunately, we can’t talk about it partly because (1) conservatives have difficulty conceptualizing the problem outside of divine-punishment theory. (2) Liberals too often have their 0-to-10 sensitivity nobs set to ELEVEN, and refuse to construe well-intentioned-but-thoughtless comments patiently and charitably.

    Again my response: This is my favorite type of response, because it points out the variety of views and therefore the variety of remedies because we all have our own areas that need to be improved.

  • There is ample evidence that children who don’t grow up with both parents commit crime, use drugs, drop out of school, are abused, suffer from depression, etc. more than those who do grow up with both parents.

    Those very undisputable facts are not meant to bash anyone over the head with. The sister from the story was not only insensitive, she misapplied the facts.

    But ignoring those facts, or disputing that – in general – having a household with two biological parents should be the ideal, is as big a trip through fantasy-land as organized religion was ever accused of being. It is very definitely NOT an evidence-based opinion.

  • I do believe the teacher of the class claimed that children from single parent homes were less “loved”, not that they performed more poorly. I highly doubt you can prove the veracity of her actual claim Joel

  • So I guess anyone who may demonstrates a lack of charity (although it’s questionable that this is such a case) deserves to be held up as an example for public shaming to rile up angry feelings against the church. You are such a model of charity, Jana, I’m sure you shared your personal feelings with that sister after that meeting was over in a loving and non-judgmental way before subjecting her to this tribunal. I guess there is no point in having charity if you can’t bash someone else with it.

  • Thanks Jack. Church meetings and lessons are filled with imperect Time to recognize that we are all learning and growing. If a person teaches false doctrine or comments in an insensitive way it is much more appropriate to be gracious and study the true doctrines on our own. Bashing people behind their backs is unproductive and cowardly. If a comment really bothers you, politely tell them about it. I’ve done it, it’s not exactly comfortable but it is much more helpful and less two faced.

  • Julia, do you have a mom, a dad, a sibling, a grandparent? Do you have a heavenly father? A heavenly mother? You have a family. You are a glorious son or daughter of perfect heavenly parents. You happen to be temporarily living in a fallen world full of situations that don’t fit the ideal. Your worth and value were established long before you ever came to this earth. nothing you do or don’t do will ever change that.

  • Indeed I did, Ben…..yikes!

    Actually, I’m a bit too edgy and opinionated to be a Mormon. They’d kick me out pretty quickly.

  • Perhaps I’m reading the wrong blogs and articles but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much defensiveness in the comments section. I suspect that Jana has hit a real nerve.

  • Wait a minute. This is misleading. Elder Perry did not say “counterfeit families”. He said “counterfeit and alternative lifestyles”. There is a difference. And one woman’s comment in a class, does not represent everyone in the Church.

  • No rational, fair-minded person would blame the entire LDS Church, its leaders, or its doctrine for one ill-chosen comment. People are smarter than that …… surely.

    Seriously, we need to remember that church is like a hospital where we go to be healed. If we were all perfect, we have no need to be there.

  • If you had/have a father, mother, and perhaps siblings ….. not to mention grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. …… you have a family. And unless you never intend to marry even if the opportunity arises in this lifetime, then you aren’t left out. No one will be left out eternally, unless they chose to be.

  • I just don’t agree and I’ve attended (and taught in) more RS mtgs than I can count. There are occasional ill-chosen comments and why? Because we haven’t yet arrived at perfection. We are all flawed. That’s why we need church. What I get from attending RS (and all church meetings/classes) depends completely on my own attitude and not what others say.

  • It’s apparent you have not thoroughly studied JS’s life beyond that one topic. Those who have, feel very differently than you do.

  • That’s too bad. Perhaps you’d feel differently after your parents worked through their mistakes, sins, and imperfections through repentance …. a process that sometimes takes more than a lifetime.

  • That was your experience and it’s valid. But you’re only seeing a small part of the big picture …. as do we all from our limited mortal vantage point. From an eternal perspective, you might feel differently …. or not. Just a thought.

  • I’d be interested in responses by adults who, as children, were reared by someone other than their biological mom and dad.

  • Revenue stream? You mean the money that builds beautiful edifices of worship like those mentioned in the Bible? Or the money that sends missionaries worldwide as commanded by Jesus Christ, also in the Bible? Or the money that pays for farms that grow crops to feed the poor, or helps people stay off government welfare, or sends doctors into third world countries? Or sends disaster relief? Or the money that’s invested in jobs, helping people to support their families? Or money that supplements education? Money that seems to line no one individual’s pockets, but goes towards the general good of the Church, and beyond? Is that what you mean?

  • Randy “… the mom has much less time to spend with her children…”
    You do realise that equating time spent with children with how loved they are is ultimately an argument in favour of small families, maybe even one-child families, since the fewer the number of children the more time available to that child from the parent/s.

  • Jack,

    I agree with you 100%. I have no doubt that single parents have just as much love, concern and affection for their child. That’s where the sister’s comment went terribly wrong. I don’t defend the statement. And, I think there’s a good chance the sister didn’t mean it that way, and would clarify if she could.

    My only point is that the topic of costs and trade-offs of single-parenting, on a macro level, is too significant an issue to be off limits. I cite the statistics only in response to the assertions that there is no issue. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I took Amanda, Mel and NV Teacher to be saying that the performance gap is a myth.

    I think the anecdote in the post, along with Jana’s harshly condemning reaction to it, exemplifies how polarizing, personal, and emotion-laden the issue is. I’m pushing back against the implications that (1) there is no real problem and, even if there were, (2) it’s too hurtful to even try to discuss, as delicate as it is.

  • Yes, there is indeed a difference.

    Counterfeit and alternative lifestyles is three lies, not one.

  • Full context Elder Perry’s statement:

    “want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alter- native lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established. We also want our voice to be heard in sustaining the joy and ful- fillment that traditional families bring.”

    “Traditional” families.
    The church still believes in and practices polygamy in its most sacred rites–temple marriage. I’m pretty sure most people don’t define “traditional” as including polygamy–and would deem it “counterfeit” an “alternative” lifestyle.

  • I came from a family of 9 children and it was wonderful. Sure as one of the older ones I had the opportunity to tend my younger siblings. I never minded doing it one bit as I loved them. I never felt cheated out of my parents attention. They knew me and loved me. I also learned from them the importance of fulfilling a calling. Because of my wonderful parents and all the fun stuff we did together as a family my siblings and I are still close. I am also as close as ever to my parents and love all the did for me.

  • But aren’t you criticizing Jana for being edgy and opinionated? I guess one man’s edginess is another man’s bellyaching.

    I personally love having edgy and opinionated people at church. Livens things up.

  • “[O]ne woman’s comment in a class, does not represent everyone in the Church.”

    Boy, ain’t that the truth. The purpose of discussion – think of that, discussion! – in a Relief Society or Sunday School class is to express views and listen to those of others. My view of Jana Riess columns toggles back and forth between admiration and disgust, and here my view is in the latter column. How appalling that she takes a single comment out of context (did the sister say anything else? what did others say? what did Jana herself say and what was the response?) to smear this one sister and her Church (Jana’s too) along side of it. That’s shameful, and we will put it in the book of shame with Jana’s hateful smear against Jay Bybee.

    If Jana Riess thinks that divorce is good for children or even that it is a neutral factor in their lives, all things considered, then she’s a fool. If she knows better, then why is she writing this tripe?

  • Thank you so much for opening my eyes to a different view with this comment. I personally think if we all (men and women) really understood the Priesthood, there would have been no need to change the name of the Council. I see your point and hear your pain. Thanks for your comment.

  • Notice the roar and symphony of answers to your post. . . . . . (crickets; sounds of crickets. . . . .)

    Guess the folks (both members and non), who actually in fact are just carrying a chip on their shoulders and looking for a reason to be offended, and looking for any way (especially subtle) to criticize the Church, have nothing substantive to say.

  • Jana:

    We get it. And this is one of the times when you aren’t just incessantly whining about some minor imperfection in the Church. No, really. This was a good piece and addresses a weakness in all of us (ok, just me, if it pleases you), but take a look at what the dogs at Real Clear Religion did: they just simply used your title and used it to whitewash the entire CofJCofLDS. And they’ll never read the article and see what you REALLY said. Too bad. And sad.

  • @Trytoseeitmyway
    “children from divorced families are less loved and cared for than children who aren’t from “broken” homes.”..”assault on the family”

    Oh com’on. Many church leaders refer to “assault/attack on religion/family/marriage. The sister then makes a sweeping generalization/smear about divorced families with children–ignorant that the teacher herself is divorced. Church culture and American society is great at demonizing groups of people–“others” that don’t represent the “majority.” I would think we would want to fold divorced people into our church “family,” thereby enlarging support surrounding those adults and children. But we won’t do it by smugly using labels, judgments and generalizations. We need to have more “cultural” sensitivity and awareness.

  • I myself have a hard time figuring out how, when, and where it is acceptable to voice a differing opinion within LDS culture–especially when it may differ from the majority viewpont. If I had been visiting a ward, at the request of my friend, the last thing I would want to do is pull one of the ward’s sisters aside and tell her I had a differing view on her comment–or remind her the teacher is divorced. In my own ward I largely keep my mouth shut–because if I ever do posit an alternative viewpoint I feel guilty afterward that I disturbed the “spirit” for some there. A blog seems a relatively benign way–I don’t know what stake, ward or even state Jana visited let alone the identity of the sister. (Furthermore, Jana pointed out the sister seemed nice enough).

  • In “recognized” scriptures? Recognized by who? The ones I recognize speak about it explicitly, and the ordinances which are taught and carried out in the LDS temples are authoritative as revelation in the eyes of the Latter-day Saints, including those that seal us together with spouses and children as eternal families.

    While we as individuals and our families as such are not generally perfect, the family is the best place on earth for each of us to learn to live as Christ commands us to, to love others and care for them and forgive them. I have known people who were raised in terrible situations, but that made them all the more dedicated to creating their own families as nurturing places for their children, including those they adopted or took in as foster children.

  • My wife’s parents were divorced when she was about 6 years old. She had a difficult, poverty-stricken childhood, with a brother who was injured by the absence of his father and took it out on his siblings. I don’t see anything ideal about that family situation. When people are in that circumstance, they don’t lie to themselves that they would rather have that environment rather than a family with a loving and present father AND mother. Divorce or widowhood is not something anyone would strive to achieve. It is simply where we do the best we can under the circumstances. We all should respect and love each other, and in my experience the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a place that can create a kind of extended family that can help make up for a lot of the losses entailed in not having an intact nuclear family. The Church can teach us love and hope in spite of our difficulties, and give us both teaching and examples in how to be loving participants in a family.

  • What bothers me most is that it seems like most of the people who agree with this article are those who’s families fit the ideal (or those who just want to hate on the church). Those of us who are from “broken” families, neither need nor want your political correctness on this matter. I know my mother loves all of her children very much. And she did her absolute best to create the best life she could for us. But it doesn’t change the fact that we would have been better off with an additional parent that could lead us and guide us at home, rather than just put a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, while only seeing us at night when she got off work. Regardless of what your t-shirt might say, you are NOT “super-mom” and you CANT do it all. Yes, it hurt growing up and always hearing in primary about how a family is supposed to be, and seeing other peoples “perfect” families. Sometimes, the truth hurts, but it doesn’t make it less true. And, yes, it is relevant to the topic of discussion because, at least as a boy, i’m sure puberty would’ve been a lot easier to navigate if i’d had a righteous and loving father i could look to for guidance, rather than just a government sex education system that teaches that masturbation is healthy, porn is completely natural, and sex is OK so long as you wear a condom. Perhaps the author should try to be as mature as her friend and try not to take the “slight” personally. Stop letting “political correctness” blind your judgement. The church is about teaching truth, not about protecting your feelings.

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