Friday, May 23, 2014

We Shouldn't Pound a Principle So Hard We End Up Burying and Distorting It

I was talking with a friend a while ago about the concept of teaching correct principles and letting people govern themselves, and she shared a very instructive, poignant story with me.  I want to pass it on here and add my own commentary at the end.

My friend explained to me that when her daughter attended Young Women meetings and activities, it seemed like the central lesson always was related somehow to marriage (dating [with specific reference to preparing for marriage], chastity [with specific reference to being clean for marriage], virtue [with specific and exclusive reference to remaining pure for marriage], modesty [with specific reference to attracting a worthy mate], traditional homemaking skills [with specific reference to life after marriage], etc.)  My friend told me two things that really resonated with me about how this affected her daughter:

1) It made each of the things listed above appear to be about marriage, exclusively.  Each of them has a much more broad, important, even critical role than just in relation to marriage, but all of the other aspects of each of them were hidden (literally "buried") under the avalanche of marriage-related rhetoric.  That distorted everything taught in the lessons in a real and practical way for her daughter.

2) Her daughter understood how important marriage is, but, because of the unrelenting application of everything exclusively to marriage that daughter finally stopped attending Young Women classes and activities completely.  Why?  She was 15-years-old and had no desire to "stress about marriage all the time".  She wanted to focus on other things, get a good education, learn a marketable skill, etc. - all the things that would be important whether or not she got married.  She wanted to be taught like an important, full individual in and of herself - not just as a potential wife of someone else.

My commentary: 

There is a HUGE difference between "teaching and emphasizing" (even something that needs to be taught and emphasized) and "driving a tent stake so far into the ground that it's impossible to see the stake being driven and being left only with an image of a sledgehammer hitting the ground".  For example, how do you think it feels to a single mother (divorced, widowed from a non-member spouse, never married, etc.) or a single adult in the Church to hear every single week - even in our "worship meeting" - that the ideal is a married couple, sealed in the temple?  In that light, and please picture this image as you read, when you keep driving a tent stake into the ground further than it needs to be driven in order to secure the stake, it actually ends up restricting the tent and "shrinking" and "distorting" the tent in a real, practical way. Stakes have to be driven into the ground to secure the tent, but they don't have to be driven two feet or five miles under the ground.

We do a lot of driving already buried stakes so far into the ground that the stake itself gets buried and lost - and ignoring other tent stakes that ought to be driven in the ground, as well, to make the tent more secure. That can result in a lop-sided, distorted tent - one in which many faithful members can't find comfort and rest.


ji said...

A simple truth can be so over-emphasized that it becomes untrue. All truth is balanced with other truth in a great and beautiful whole. Some truths are more important than others. Some truths are more important to me, in my current circumstance, than they are to you, in yours.

Anonymous said...

I know a lot of young people who would resonate with your story, good young people who have just found the scrutiny unbearable, including my three children. I'm just hoping what they have been taught at home will prevail.