Friday, August 30, 2013

Controlling Parents and Mormon History

A Common Parenting/teaching Strategy for the pious has traditionally been to control the flow of information to the children.  The basic tenet is logical: if a kid has never heard of an activity, how can he/she participate? (this refers to intellectual activity as well as physical).

For those who believe that a strict code of morality is key to fulfilling our full potential for happiness (which I do), this method may seem very attractive.

This method, however, is only effective in training a certain type of person.

The Supposed-to's:

I was once a supposed-to. Success was in doing exactly what I was supposed to do. I had a healthy respect for authority and little-to-no desire for rebellion.

The controlling-style of parenting worked on me...sort of. I always considered myself a moral person, even when I was purposefully a dishonest, salacious, and condescending person.

As it turned out, my sense of morality was so tied to what others' expected of me that I began to believe that if I did not get caught, then it did not count.

Because of people like me, the method of control may actually appear to work much more effectively than it actually does. In any case, it does not work for the most inquisitive, deep thinkers among us (see Galileo).

The Information Age:

What used to work only for many, works for even fewer now.

Information is ubiquitous (it's everywhere). You can hide yourself from it if you are careful, but you cannot hide others from it for long. If an idea exists and someone wants to find out about it, all they have to do is ask.

At best, we can control only the most submissive people into happiness.

Mormon History:

Here is an example of the intent to lead others to happiness by in part limiting their understanding.

Many of the actual events of Mormon history are a big problem (read: obstacle to faith) for those in or seeking to know about the LDS Church. Those who have been given the charge to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ (those moral rules leading to happiness that I mentioned) and to keep the LDS Church organized know how hard the truth can be. The desire to control information is compelling, and such control may appear effective for a time.

But we can't hush it anymore. In many cases, it has become the elephant in the room. And it is becoming evident that dishonesty (even in the form of over-sheltering those we love) is not an effective tool for teaching truth.

What Now?

In the past, those who do not respond cordially to the traditional regulation approach were criticized as rebellious and unruly. Many of these people may find that they do not fit in and decide to disassociate themselves with the religion. Little saddens me more. I have come to believe that the LDS Church is suffering from a kind of genetic disease. While the core of the church (read: the Gospel of Jesus Christ) is still strong and true, many of the members are being blinded from a great potential leap in understanding and happiness. Many members are going through the motions of morality, but they still do not really understand how to be happy. Morality is not the end, but a means to the end.

Fortunately, there is a cure. As in the Book of Mormon parable of the Olive Tree (Jacob 5), the grafting in of wild branches may be enough to save the tree and bring forth good fruit. As a church community, we NEED those people that we have unintentionally pushed away. Those on whom the controlling method is least likely to work (the wild branches) are those that we in our culture need the most.

I believe that we are in possession of the process for obtaining true happiness, but we cannot TEACH the process until we understand it better ourselves.

All parents/teachers must become more capable and more knowledgeable.  We cannot avoid taboo topics anymore and hope for the best. We need to be able to ask hard questions (at home and in Sunday school), and we need to be okay if the answers do not really exist. A lack of answer is much better than a wrong answer. And if we do not involve ourselves in the discussion, then I am sure there are plenty of wrong answers out there ready to be accepted.

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