September 18, 2009

The Family as a Weapon

One of the very clever pitfalls of the LDS church is the eternal family. Please do not misunderstand; I love the principle itself, but what I find disturbing is the lingering threat of the impending separation of the family, unless all principles of the LDS church are accepted.

What I mean is that the LDS missionaries make a wonderful promise to investigators - they can be with their families forever - but then they explain that for this wonderful promise to come to pass, investigators must do whatever the Church commands (see page 53 of Preach My Gospel). In other words, they indirectly threaten that one's family will be taken from him or her if one fails to accept their teachings. Few put it that way, but it is the inevitable consequence of the doctrine. And since announcing my decision to leave the Church, more than one person has told me that I will lose my family for following my conscience. If that is God's way, He is not a god I can worship.

Imagine a realtor showing you a house. It's absolutely beautiful from the outside. She lets you peek through the windows and see the yard from the sidewalk, and it looks fantastic. She tells you that if you buy the home, you and your family can live there forever. But if you don't buy the home or ever sell the home, you will have to live alone for the rest of your life. Every other dwelling in the world is a single bedroom apartment. Your wife and children will love you, but will never be able to live with you. If you want to be with them, this is the only option.

You'd buy the house, right? You'd move in and say, "Wow! Look at those vaulted ceilings! The kitchen is huge!" But what if you noticed the foundation was cracked? You can't sell the house, because then your family would never be able to live together. You would ignore the crack, patch it up superficially to make you feel better, etc., because the alternative is to lose your family forever.

So while the LDS church makes great promises about the family, it also very much uses the family as a weapon against questioning, rational thought, and the conscience. For a very concrete example in its history, consider this quote from Helen Mar Kimball:
I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it. (quoted in Van Wagoner, 1992, p. 81)
In other words, young Ms. Kimball was bullied into denying her conscience because of the lingering threat to her family. Joseph Smith might as well have said, "Marry me, or God will separate you from everyone you love forever!" He chose different words, but the message was the same.

Incidentally, I've never really understood what it actually means to be "sealed" to one's family. If I am sealed to my family, but my siblings are sealed to their spouses and children, and my children are sealed to their spouses and children, what does it mean to be with them forever? We all live in some massive celestial hotel, taking turns with each individual to whom we're sealed? Perhaps even more mind boggling for me is what does it mean exactly to not be sealed, and how is that different from sharing sealed family members with everyone else sealed to them? Do I never get to see those to whom I could have been sealed, but spend lots of time with people to whom I never wanted to be sealed?

Isn't it more likely that the eternal family, as the LDS church preaches, is just a very attractive way to lure people into something they do not understand and then keep them from leaving when they discover the truth behind it all?

Van Wagoner, R. S. (1992). Mormon polygamy: A history. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books.


Anonymous said...

Excellent thinking.

And I love your blog. It's the only exmormon site I have actually bookmarked on my computer. Your thinking is so rational and concise. Even if no one comments, keep writing. I am reading and nodding my head in aggreement. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...