Defending The Family
For the last several years I have been one of the Sunday teachers in our Elder’s Quorum (for those unfamiliar with LDS Church practices, that’s like a Men’s Group Sunday School Class.) My assignment about 10 times a year is to prepare a lesson based on an assigned sermon delivered during the most recent General Conference.
In the four years I have been teaching these “Teachings for our Times” lessons, I had never been assigned a talk by one of the church’s female auxiliary leaders. So, when the lesson schedule was released and I saw that May’s lesson was a talk given by one of the sister leaders, I was initially excited. Then I realized that rather than being the talk by Sister Wixom that I found incredibly inspiring, I was assigned a talk titled “Defenders of the Family Proclamation” by Sister Oscarson.
This was the most difficult lesson for me to prepare in years. I feel like I have to be completely authentic when I teach, and I am not a huge fan of the Proclamation, particularly the way it gets used in some LDS circles. At the same time, if I wanted to be completely faithful to my personal feelings, I would argue that “protecting the family” requires traditionally progressive ideas like:
- living wages,
- family friendly leave policies,
- single-payer and socialized health care,
- expansion of subsized higher-education.
Ideas that don’t find a lot of support in the heart of conservative Utah, and not really in line with the points Sister Oscarson was trying to make.
It seems likely given Supreme Court cased being decided this summer that this talk will be assigned in numerous other congregations, and several friends have asked how I taught this lesson and remained faithful to both the orginal by Sister Oscarson and to my own feelings and testimony. With that in mind, I have decided to share my notes from that lesson. Hope they will be helpful to someone in the LDS Blogosphere.
Defenders of the Family Proclamation
I bristle a bit when I hear the Proclamation described as revelation, revelatory or see it elevated to a status equal to scripture. I know I am not the only one. As an example, over the pulpit in the 2010 October Conference President Packer stated that The Family: A Proclamation to the World, “qualifies according to definition, as a revelation…” The printed version of that talk released in the Ensign a month later include a revision. It states that the proclamation “is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.”
That does not mean that I lack any conviction that it contains valuable principles and guidance for our lives. However, I have found that the furthest I can go is to accept the description of the Proclamation given by President Hinckley when he introduced the Proclamation at the Women’s Conference in October 1995, He said, “the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history.”
What does it mean to say that the Proclamation is a “a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family”?
Sis Oscarson: May I point out something obvious? Life rarely goes exactly according to plan for anyone, and we are very aware that not all women are experiencing what the proclamation describes. It is still important to understand and teach the Lord’s pattern and strive for the realization of that pattern the best we can.
Sis Oscarson: Heavenly Father has a mission and plan for each of us, but He also has His own timetable. One of the hardest challenges in this life is to have faith in the Lord’s timing. It’s a good idea to have an alternative plan in mind, which helps us to be covenant-keeping, charitable, and righteous women who build the kingdom of God no matter which way our lives go. We need to teach our daughters to aim for the ideal but plan for contingencies.
When Sis Oscarson says we should “have an alternative plan in mind, which helps us to be covenant-keeping, charitable, and righteous women who build the kingdom of God no matter which way our lives go.” what kind of plan is she talking about? What kind of plans can we help our sons and especially our daughters develop? How do we help, support and encourage those whose lives have only include the contingency road?
Sis Oscarson proposes that there are three principles in the proclamation that are in need of steadfast defenders.
- Marriage between a man and a woman.
- Elevating the divine roles of mothers and fathers.
- The sanctity of the home.
(Explain the concept of a dog whistle) The request to defend marriage between a man and a woman is sometimes used as a dog whistle to rally the troops against the legalization of same-sex marriage. We as members for the Church of Jesus Christ most certainly believe in and preach the divine nature and purpose for the relationship between husband and wife. Yet at this moment 71% of the members of the church live in states or countries where same-sex marriages are legally performed and recognized, and another 11% are in countries where same-sex civil unions are legal.
In the face of these conditions, what is Sis. Oscarson asking us to do when she asks us to defend the principle of marriage between a man and a woman?
She says “We need to continue to model righteous marriages, seek for that blessing in our lives, and have faith if it is slow in coming. Let us be defenders of marriage as the Lord has ordained it while continuing to show love and compassion for those with differing views.”
In discussing the divine roles of Mother and Father, she makes two points:
We eagerly teach our children to aim high in this life. We want to make sure that our daughters (and sons) know that they have the potential to achieve and be whatever they can imagine. We hope they will love learning, be educated, talented, and maybe even become the next Marie Curie or Eliza R. Snow.
Do we also teach our sons and daughters there is no greater honor, no more elevated title, and no more important role in this life than that of mother or father? I would hope that as we encourage our children to reach for the very best in this life that we also teach them to honor and exalt the roles that mothers and fathers play in Heavenly Father’s plan.
How do we best balance those two goals?
*What do you think of when you hear the term “homemaker”?
We need to take a term which is sometimes spoken of with derision and elevate it. It is the term homemaker. All of us - women, men, youth, and children, single or married - can work at being homemakers. We should make our homes places of order, refuge, holiness, and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught, and lived.
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