New Pew Study

July 1, 2007 | 96 comments
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See here.

What happens as the gap between the beliefs/behaviors of the larger culture and the Church widens? What happens to Church culture, policies, programs, General Conference talks, missionary work, etc. when 40% of births are to unmarried women? Where in less than a generation there is a double-digit decrease in the percentage of people who think that children are important to a successful marriage? Where most people don’t think that premarital sex is wrong?

I hope the questions about don’t sound like hand-wringing about moral decline. They aren’t. They are serious questions about what could/should/would/shouldn’t change in the Church in the face of those changes:

(How) do you talk about chastity differently if most of your Beehives were born out-of-wedlock? (How) do you do missionary work differently if most of your contacts are cohabitating? (How) do you talk about children in General Conference if most of society doesn’t think that they are important to a successful marriage? (How) do you talk about SSA in YM/YW if many of their friends are being raised by gay couples? (How) do you teach your own children how to be a Saint in a culture where the moral standards of the church are not the norm?

96 Responses to New Pew Study

  1. R. Gary on July 1, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I believe the LDS Church and its leaders will continue to teach modesty, chastity, marriage, and fidelity, all of which will lead to celestial families “that [the] church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” (D&C 109:73), thus inviting all men and women everywhere to come unto Christ.

  2. Julie M. Smith on July 1, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    R. Gary, of course the Church should continue to teach chastity. The question is: how do you do that when the family structure of the class members is in violation of that law?

    Many of the manuals now say things like, “Be sensitive to the needs of children in your class who (don’t have a father in the home, whatever)” but I’m wondering what exactly it looks like in practice to be sensitive to those needs.

  3. Tito on July 1, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    An example of this dilemma happened on my mission when there was some genuine concern over singing in Primary, “I’m so glad when daddy comes home,” or “Love is Spoken Here,” when half of the kids (at least) didn’t have dads in the home and for most of them love was hardly the language of their home; many of the kids came from fairly abusive homes.

    So, how do you most sensitively and effectively teach and encourage an ideal when, for many, that ideal is far from their reality?

  4. Julie M. Smith on July 1, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Tito, that’s exactly what I want to talk about here.

    Oddly enough, my husband dealt with this issue this very morning. He’s the nursery leader. The lesson is “I Belong to a Family.” It includes this:

    “Note to the teacher: Be sensitive to the family situations of the children in your class. Help the children understand that the important thing about a family is not the number of people in the family, but that the family members love each other and take care of each other.”

    Instead of giving the kids a picture of the “standard” family to color, he’s bringing a collection of mommy figures, daddy figures, brothers, sisters, etc. for the kids to select from and glue onto their own paper.

    I think it is easier at this age, though. What is harder is communicating to a YW or YM how important the law of chastity is for them to follow without introducing contempt or disdain or disrespect in them for their parents if the parents aren’t living that law. Or making them feel like “damaged goods” if they are the result of such a union.

  5. Jacob J on July 1, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    I worried about this every time I directed “I’m so glad when daddy comes home” in Primary and I worry about it every year when the “father-son” campout comes around. So far, I have muscled through my empathetic discomfort, knowing that there is no way I can shield kids from the problem of not having a dad at home. The song in Primary is probably the least of their concerns. In those cases, it was still a problem for a small minority of the kids. I think it is a different story if it gets to be that a significant portion of the children. Not sure what I would do in this situation, but I suspect I would not sing the song anymore.

    There is also a big difference between some of the problems you raise because some of them have to do with innocent bystandards and others have to do with people living in defiance of gospel principles. A child without a father, or a young woman born out of wedlock did nothing wrong. If you are teaching people the gospel who think pre-marital sex is fine, the course is pretty clear, teach the gospel principles. In the case where there is overlap (teaching a youth about chastity when his/her parents are living together out of wedlock), I also think you have to side on the side of boldly declaring the standards. Often it seems like the kids who have experienced the problems of divorce will be most receptive to a lesson on the importance of fidelity and marraige. So, in the end, I don’t know that societal decline will make a huge difference to how we do things.

  6. a spectator on July 1, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    When we sing “Daddy’s Homecoming,” I add verses such as: “I’m so glad when uncle comes home,” “I’m so glad when grandpa…,” and “I’m so glad when my friend…” to try to cover my bases. But I agree–primary is pretty easy.

    I will be interested to see other people’s suggestions.

    I taught youth Sunday School in a branch in which all of the kids were converts, most were part-member or the only member of their families, and many came from what we would call “broken” or “unwhole” families. Yet, they all recognized the ideal that was discussed at Chruch was exactly that: an ideal. It was their ideal, too. While their families may have had more ground to cover getting there (like getting married), than mine did (not creating a family, but having a loving home), we were certainly all on the same journey.

    I do wonder, though, maybe years and years of Sundays spent realizing the inadequacies of your own family can be wearing. Again, I look forward to reading everyone’s ideas.

  7. Beijing on July 1, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    I think the key is creating a space for honest questions. If you as a teacher have made it clear that you will slap down all gray-area questions by flat-out restating black-and-white rules and moving on, then the kids won’t feel comfortable bringing up their tender personal situations that don’t fit the norm. When they ask a question, answer with sympathy (a hug, or at least some good eye contact and saying “I can see that has been bothering you”) and a sincere question: “is there someone in your life who’s going through that?” “do you have any theories?”.

    And take your time answering. It may take someone their whole life to process why their life is the way it is. Don’t feel like you have to wrap up all loose ends in a tidy, instantaneous response. Tidy, instantaneous responses include but are not limited to: “pray about it and listen to the spirit,” “it will work out in the millennium,” and “Heavenly Father will take care of it.” A better response would be, “I don’t know. I’ll keep looking for answers. If either of us gets any closer to an answer, let’s let each other know.”

    Another good thing to do is to have adults whose lives don’t fit the norm or haven’t always fit the norm get involved with the kids and be honest about their life situations. Even if there’s only one adult child of divorce in the congregation and several young children of divorce, it will help them feel like they are not alone. The situation doesn’t have to match exactly, but a story that ends with “and then we joined the church, and everything about our family got much better” is not going to comfort someone whose life story is “I was born in the church, and things haven’t been good in my family.”

  8. ed42 on July 1, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Turn this question on it’s head: What happens as the gap between the beliefs/behaviors of the church members and nation (concerning the Just War doctrines of the BoM and D&C) widen?

    According to local and national polls, the national population (without knowing it) generally (or at least more so than Utahn – according to the Dan Jones polls) supports defensive wars, while the Utahns generally favor the actions of Bush.

  9. Bruce V C on July 1, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    As a convert, I don’t think the message nor the presentation thereof should change at all. Of course some issues need tact, but that should be the case anyway. Bluntness and detail about certain matters is, I think, best left to discussion in councils and committees and the like.

    I was born out of wedlock. I didn’t even know my father’s name until I was fifteen. Only a few months after contacting him for the first time, I joined the Church. I appreciate the frankness that the missionaries used in teaching the law of chastity. It was difficult to accept as truth at first, but looking back, I realize that I would have appreciated softening far less. (Cf. http://www.zionsbest.com/face.html — especially the part about President Monson.)

    Take a look at what the handbook says about baptizing people born out of polygamous marriages. Or the policy with regard to Middle Eastern converts from Islam ( http://theboard.byu.edu/index.php?area=viewall&id=21850 ). While one must obey the command to honor Father and Mother. At the same time, one may need to repudiate some or many of their teachings and practices, and maybe even say goodbye for a season.

    The great thing about the gospel of Jesus Christ is that generational curses just don’t work like they used to, and that children can break the cycle of their family’s false concepts, accept correct knowledge about God, repent, and be joined with the house of Israel. People can also apostatize just as readily. This is made clear in the Book of Mormon many times.

    Another example: I went on exchanges often after I was baptized. We met a woman who was living with her boyfriend. Obviously, she resisted when the missionaries brought up the law of chastity—and they did so more sharply each time. I thought to myself often that they should just not worry about it too much (while at the same time mildly asserting the policy of not baptizing cohabiting couples). To be blunt, I was glad I kept my mouth shut. She was baptized a fortnight later, twenty minutes after being married to her boyfriend by the mission president. Her new husband was not far behind. She later told in fast and testimony meeting how grateful she was that the missionaries /were/ direct about this.

    On a more general level, this is simply a sign of the times. When I read “he who is not with me is against me,” I read that the distinction of who’s on what side is simply going to become clearer and clearer. It’s a PR difficulty, but I think polarization like this is just an essential part of missionary work. At the same time, I also believe that people will eventually see the unhappiness that comes from carelessness about family, and, eventually, the church, if we stay firm, will be the only anchor and hope left. I think this is what Pres. Packer meant when he said that high moral standards would not repel growth, but accelerate it.

  10. Bruce V C on July 1, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    I forgot to add: I think Betty Stevensen (from the Frontline special) is a good example of what should happen, especially when she talks about performing temple work, which I didn’t consider.

  11. Wilfried on July 1, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Yes, Julie, you’re tackling here a difficult but needed topic. I have been teaching Sunday School to the 14-15 year olds in my Belgian ward this past year. A dozen great kids. Except one, all from broken, divorced or recomposed families, a few with one or both “adulterous” parents (all initially converts). So, yes, I echo your questions. How do you read the New Testament with them, and Christ’s words about the condemnation of adultery? How do you discuss the ideal family and the norms of the Church, without loading them with uneasiness and guilt about their own family situation?

    One way is to avoid the topics at first. More important is to make the group feel comfortable with the teacher, focus on items that are easy to discuss and that make the lessons simply enjoyable. The lesson plans allow for choices. Slowly win their confidence so they open up and are ready to discuss more. When more touchy topics come up, I think we must simply recognize the realities they live in, admit the challenges. Beijing (7) gave some excellent advice.

    Also, let’s not underestimate the healing power of discussion between children themselves. Quite often some know better than us how to assess the problems they experience and how to cope with them. One thing is ironically positive in that respect: they are not alone anymore in the challenges they face. I’ve seen some of my Sunday school kids achieve more in terms of comfort and solutions while conversing between themselves in a corner of the hall, or… taking a walk together outside during church services.

  12. FoxyJ on July 1, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    I first ran into some of these issues when I was called as a Primary president a few years ago. We lived in a small ward in Utah where most families were very “traditional” and active in the church. Despite that, there were a few kids that came from different living situations and I realized the importance of accomodating them. For example, we had two kids that only came every other Sunday when they were there visiting their dad. We always juggled speaking assignments and talks so that they could participate on the Sundays they were there; I didn’t want them to always feel like visitors. Another time we had a family move in that had a lot of issues and had been inactive for a long time. One of the hardest things was the fact that the oldest girl felt left out in class because the other kids had so many years of teaching at home and at church to give them knowledge in things she knew nothing about (they were 10). Those situations were challenging in different ways. Like Primary materials urge, it’s important to “be sensitive”. I like things like making sure we talk about “parents” rather “mom and dad” or the example used of bringing figures that will allow children to create their own families rather than have to make do with the preassigned example that might not fit their reality. Be sensitive to kid’s questions and take their concerns seriously. If you don’t know, tell them honestly and try and find the answer together with them. We had a kid once get very concerned during a lesson because they realized that since their grandpa smoked he wasn’t going to the Celestial kingdom. I actually talked with the kid a bit and turned that one over to the parents to answer, but sometimes the parents aren’t available.

    My three-year-old just brought home a paper telling me she has to give a talk on how our family follows Christ. A few months ago my husband moved out and stopped going to church. When I first saw the topic, my heart sank, because I know my daughter is aware that our family is not like it used to be and that her father isn’t making the sorts of choices that other fathers at church do. Then I remembered all the positive things we do as a family, like pray, go to church (even if it’s not the “right one”), love each other, etc. A focus on the positive is always good. If children have family members that are not active or even members, encourage them to love their families anyways.

  13. Clair on July 1, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    I don’t know the ultimate answer to these questions, but I hope the primary children will not stop singing, “I’m so glad when Daddy comes home.” Dads need to hear that, and be reminded of it. And they need those great big kisses.

    My dad died when I was 4, too young to feel grief about it. But I knew I didn’t have a dad like most other kids did. I remember singing the Daddy song in primary, and understanding what it meant. It is a happy song, and that happiness can spread into any real-life situation at home. It never bothered me.

    As an adult, I haven’t always been a regular home teacher, but I’m glad the quorum leaders didn’t stop talking about home teaching when I walked into the room. Etc.

  14. Marjorie Conder on July 1, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    About 10 years ago when I first started a calling in the Primary Pres., which would last for eight years, I first encountered many of these issues in ways I had never had to think seriously about before. I was downright shocked, sitting in ward council, in our very nice ward, to realize the convoluted and even bizarre situations some children (mostly inactives–so invisible to me before then) lived in. We beat the bushes every month, visiting every inactive kid and their parents and in time because of this we were confronting another situation I had never considered.

    In our 10 yo class 4 of the 5 kids came from totally inactive situations and most did not even have any idea how to pray. I quietly moved the one active kid up to the next class (so she could get the lessons she was scheduled to get) and then called a woman who had grown up as a “norphan” (with no visible support in the Church) to teach the other 4. I gave her a CTR manual (for the younger kids which basically teaches how to be a Latter-day Saint) the Valiant manual, the Gospel Principles manual, and the FHE Resource Book and told her to teach whatever she wanted and talk about whatever she preceived these kids needing. It worked very well and got at least some of these kids up to spead so they could give prayers and talks and didn’t sense such a large gap between themselves and the rest of the Primary. Partly because they were living in unstable families only one of these children (now a Priest) still attends our ward. I still hold my breath for this remarkable young man, but I think he is going to make it.

  15. Ben Huff on July 1, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Great topic, Julie! I do want to say, though, that this is partly an issue for our society as a whole, and we are not alone. While the number of people who either decisively reject or just don’t care much about values we hold dear has grown a lot relative to a few years ago, there also seems to be a pretty strong polarity developing. The more people become lackadaisical about ideals of marriage, family, and sexuality, the more obvious the problems become (in both prevalence and severity) to those who are paying a little bit of attention. So while I do think it is important for us to show attention to the situations of those we deal with in these conversations, we also need to maintain our solidarity with others who are holding firm. There are plenty of places for people to go if what they want to hear is that this stuff is not a big deal. What’s the point of becoming one more?

  16. Ben Huff on July 1, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    The father of a kid in my primary class, who lives in another state, and initially was very critical (in the church hallway, that very day!) of the kids’ decision (brother and sister) to get baptized, recently came to the father and son campout and seemed to really enjoy and appreciate it. So there’s hope : )

  17. Ivan Wolfe on July 1, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    What happens as the gap between the beliefs/behaviors of the larger culture and the Church widens?

    Well, interestingly enough, the church will become more successful. Successful churches maintain a high degree of tension with the surrounding culture, whereas denominations in decline (in nearly every case, the so-called “mainstream” or “mainline” churches) lose market share and members because of their accommodation with the surrounding culture. As The Churching of America puts it:
    Humans want their religion to be sufficiently potent, vivid, and compelling so that it can offer them rewards of great magnitude. People seek a religion that is capable of miracles and that imparts order and sanity to the human condition. The religious organizations that maximize these aspects of religion, however, also demand the highest price in terms of what the individual must do to qualify for these rewards

    Tact is always called for, but maintaining the standards and not softening them is what most church goers usually want and one of the LDS church’s great strengths.

  18. bbell on July 1, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    Amen to number 17.

  19. Geoff B on July 1, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    It is certainly true that many specifics of worship in Church have changed over time. Think about how we deal with race, the handicapped and the deaf, for example, compared to 50 years ago. So, Julie is right to wonder what will happen regarding those born out of wedlock or to same-sex situations.

    Having said that, I tend to agree with Ivan’s point in #17 that the most successful churches are those that offer clear moral absolutes in a time of chaos. I come from a divorced family, and I yearned for a stable marriage, and I have one. I believe all of us have a desire to purse the ideal, even if we can’t do it, but Church is a place where we learn of the ideal and try our best to teach it and pursue it.

  20. Ray on July 1, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    I echo what others have said. As a primary and Seminary teacher in three different decades, I have taught literally hundreds of children and adolescents in the Church, and there is one constant for almost all of them. Almost without exception, they want to be taught an ideal that will help them be happy – either as happy as their own family example or happier than that example. That applies to BIC kids from traditional families just as much as kids from any other situation. Of course, we need to be sensitive, but we can’t teach the ideal to some and a compromise to others – ironically, simply because those others haven’t experienced the ideal.

    This same issue applies just as much to YSA & SA members. How do you discuss the ideal family, when there is a significant percentage of adults in the congregation who are divorced, separated or never married (be they gay or straight)? How do you teach adults to honor parents who were abusive – especially if they were sexually abusive? How do you teach respect for Priesthood authority to adults whose fathers (active, inactive or non-member) exercised unrighteous dominion – or whose mothers were critical of all men? What about the women married to active men who don’t feel loved and respected and valued – or are abused in some way themselves? How do you teach respect for modern prophets to a Black investigator who risked her life for equal civil rights and has a testimony of the Gospel and the Book of Mormon but has a hard time accepting pre-1978 church history?

    You do it by being open and empathetic and aware and sensitive – and direct and frank and bold and unyielding – and, most importantly, in tune with the Spirit. There is no collective magic bullet for all; there only is a caring heart and open mind and spirit for each individual. At least, that’s my experience.

  21. rk on July 1, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    I’d like to believe #17, but that doesn’t seem to have happened in Europe. Any thoughts from our European brothers and sisters?

  22. Ivan Wolfe on July 1, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    rk –

    I’m not sure what the referent for “it” is, but (hoping this isn’t a threadjack), I’ll try to guess:

    1. Read Finke and Stark’s book The Churching of America (I’ve read the original twice and am 3/4 of the way through the revised edition). I can’t summarize their entire argument in a blog comment. However, what I quoted above is empirically verifiable. The statistics back it up.

    2. Finke and Stark do talk about how Europe has some differences, mostly because there are a lot more church/state entanglements in Europe. The USA has (basically, with some caveats) a free market economy when it comes to religious choice. So in the USA, it’s very true: High tension religious bodies do better overall, whereas low tension “mainline” churches lose “market share” and membership (well, except for those that are so high tension they kill themselves to join the aliens in the comet’s tail). They also discuss how since there’s more competition in the USA for religion, that leads to higher overall adherence, whereas areas (like Europe) with more tightly regulated religious markets tend to have rather low overall adherence rates in general.

  23. J. Nelson-Seawright on July 1, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    “(How) do you talk about chastity differently if most of your Beehives were born out-of-wedlock? (How) do you do missionary work differently if most of your contacts are cohabitating?”

    These are emerging issues in the U.S., but they have been the norm from the very beginning of the church’s presence in Latin America and Africa. Obviously, these have not prevented church growth, although the differences in social expectations do prevent some otherwise interested investigators from joining the church — sometimes, indeed, from even having the option, given the unmanageability of divorce and formal marriage for many in the region.

    Regarding how missionary work is done in this context, the pattern I am aware of is that formal marriage occupies a far more central role in the missionary teaching effort than it otherwise would. Missionaries address the need to legalize family structures early — often as early as the second discussion. They push the issue often thereafter. They not infrequently fund marriage licenses and so forth. Thus legal marriage becomes a part of the baptismal process, not infrequently overshadowing the baptism itself.

  24. Matt W. on July 1, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    66% Percent of my ward either only has one parent or only has one parent who is a member.

    I recently got released from Sunday School teaching the 16-18 year olds, and my wife got released from YW president. I was typically pretty strait forward when discussing the law of chastitiy and the fairly real and obvious reasons for obeying the law of chastitiy. I also frankly told the kids they didn’t have to make the mistakes their parents made. That may sound bad, but all teenagers think their parents are idiots, and this is actually a bit of reassurance I have found that most teenagers want to hear.

  25. Greg B. on July 1, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Re: #24 “I also frankly told the kids they didn’t have to make the mistakes their parents made.” I agree, but my father was the product pre-marital sex–and he, nor I, would exist if his biological parents had not engaged in a teenage romp. One or more of your quick 16 year-olds will recognize that they would not exist without the “sin” of their parents.

  26. Norbert on July 2, 2007 at 1:45 am

    “I also frankly told the kids they didn’t have to make the mistakes their parents made. That may sound bad, but all teenagers think their parents are idiots, and this is actually a bit of reassurance I have found that most teenagers want to hear.”

    This is nonsense and inconsistent with the responsibility we have to reinforce the commandment to honor our parents.

    The teachings of the gospel are intended for us to evaluate our own behavior, not to evaluate others. Christ’s example was to give loads of leeway in evaluating the behavior of others. This attitude is the first thing we should teach youth, through example and instruction, and then deal with the issues as they come up.

    This is an inherent problem with defining ourselves by the ‘high degree of tension with the surrounding culture.’ In the end, it may be successful, but it isn’t really the point. We should spend less time evaluating our society and more time evaluating our own hearts. If a student has a question about how the principles apply to their loved ones, that can be dealt with individually with compassion and empathy. In my years working with youth, I have never apologized for the scriptural teachings of the gospel, but I have had this conversation many many times. FoxyJ is right on: ‘A focus on the positive is always good. If children have family members that are not active or even members, encourage them to love their families anyways.’

  27. Alison Moore Smith on July 2, 2007 at 3:27 am

    Some years ago I wrote about something related. I taught the Laurels class and realized that less than 10% of the girls lived in a home with both their parents who were sealed in the temple.

    The truth is that sometimes the billions of temple marriage lessons were painful to these kids, because they did not have these lovely, little, sealed families. But I think, BECAUSE of that, they were doubly important. They didn’t have the models at home to reinforce the marriage God wanted for each of us. So, when they were sad about their current state, I stressed the fact that they all had these wonderful choices still to come in their lives. They had the opportunity to CHOOSE to have a temple marriage, as God outlined.

    Tact and care are essential. But dumbing down the gospel to match everyone’s reality doesn’t serve anyone.

  28. ukann on July 2, 2007 at 4:00 am

    I first entered an LDS church as a 14 year old kid from the wrong side of town. My father had died some 3 years earlier and my life was dreadful. In today’s terms I would have been taken into care. I had a mother who emotionally and pysically abused me and there was appalling neglect. The first hymn I sang in an LDS church was “There is beauty all around when there’s love at home”. The dichotomy couldn’t have been wider. However – I loved the words of the song. It gave me a sense of purpose, I was taught that I had a choice. I set my sights higher – and eventually I did achieve that love at home, in a home of my own.

  29. Adam Greenwood on July 2, 2007 at 7:25 am

    I think an excess of sensitivity and not enough focus on *what should be* is part of the reason for the state we’re in. Go ahead and wring your hands.

  30. Adam Greenwood on July 2, 2007 at 7:34 am

    1) Talk about marriage as an oasis of stability and decency in a fickle, me-centered world.
    2) Be excited about the opportunities people have to be a leaven in their mutating, amorphous family relationships and to do something better themselves with their own family.

    Where most people don’t think that premarital sex is wrong?
    This has been the case for decades, I believe.

  31. Matt W. on July 2, 2007 at 7:37 am

    #25, As we believe in a pre-mortal existance, your statement is false.

    #26- This has nothing to do with not honoring your parents. You can honor someone and still choose to do things differently. You can love your family and still not slosh down coffee with them in the morning or tell them it’s just a-ok if they get drunk and screw cheerleaders. I am in a world where we too often think all we can be is only as good as the dead beat dad who just left one of my kids high and dry and told her he didn’t love her and wanted nothing to do with her because he didn’t want to pay child support, or the mom who beats the crap out of the other kids I teach, so CPS had to come and take her away… I’d much rather honor fatherhood and motherhood, and maybe come up short the people that failed to come even close to it. I’ll keep teaching my kids they have agency and you keep teaching yours what you want though. (And yes, we do also spend a lot of time on forgiveness and love too.)

  32. Peter LLC on July 2, 2007 at 7:40 am

    #21, #22

    Finke and Stark call “high tension” churches sects, and at least in Austria, where the Jehovah’s Witnesses are one, they are doing much better than the LDS church, which is an officially recognized religion. But legal definitions aside, locals view both churches with more or less equal amounts of tension, so it’s something of a mystery why the one sect should prosper while the other founders. Given that both churches have to navigate the same culture of church-state entanglements, I doubt that the supposed lack of a free market market for religion goes very far in explaining these differences and especially not those between the US and Europe. The Mormons have never done well here. In 1997 a second stake was created in Austria, and although there wasn’t the membership to justify it, leaders outlined at the time a sort of “if we build it, they will come” reasoning that has yet to come to fruition.

  33. anon on July 2, 2007 at 7:50 am

    I think it’s also important to focus on the quality of interactions and relationships we should be striving for in our families, not just the externally observable facts of marriage and sealing. The “billions of temple marriage lessons” Alison mentions were painful to me because although my parents were married in the temple, their marriage was pretty cold and my mother was emotionally and physically abusive to her children, while attending the temple regularly. Everyone can try to be more Christlike in their interactions with family members, and I think that’s what we should work on most–after all, the teenager who treats her mother with even more scorn than most teenagers treat their mothers because she disapproves of her mother’s marital status is not really moving herself or her mother closer to receiving the blessings of the gospel and the temple. The teen who manages to be consistently (or even inconsistently, as the definition of “teen” requires) loving and helpful in his family, regardless of its composition or circumstance, will do far more to convince his parent(s) that it might be worth trying to live gospel standards.

  34. Y Stephenson on July 2, 2007 at 9:34 am

    The question I would like to see addressed by some kind of study would not be a comparison between youth and age at one specific point in time as much as in the longer view. If this poll had been taken in the 1960s would the dispariety in attitudes between the generation be the same? Do people change as they grow in life experience? It seems pretty clear that children are more influenced by their parents than they are any other single factor in their lives. It has been demonstrated that children who spend time between active grandparents who take them to church and parents who are inactive and not interested are more likely to grow up and follow the path their parents have modeld rather than the one they followed while in their grandparent’s care.

    I served in Autstria many years ago. The problems of cohabitation and premarital sex were a huge challenge even then. We are just catching up to Europe in terms of the prevalence of these attitudes. I remember when the mission goal for baptisms was 250 and we didn’t even meet that. There were no missionaries east of Vienna. There wasn’t even one stake then. The growth there is extremely slow. It is not uncommon and is often expected that sex will be part of a first date. I guess one needs to ask what would Jesus do and look at his example in the gospels. He didn’t water down his message for anyone. On the other hand he didn’t condemn them either. He treated them with respect and gave the them opportunity to repent. It is the spirit that comforts and converts and that will inspire teachers and leaders to do and say the right things. Often times we worry about what someone will think if we are forthright about our teachings or if they come to church and it is not very reverent or the testimony bearing isn’t the kind we like best. But the importance of the spirit they feel in the meeting or in the presence of the teacher or other leader cannot be overstated. Of course one must seek the spirit and not take it lightly. They need to know the people they teach and the challenges they face and ask for guidance with those things in mind.

    I expect the Jehovas Wittnesses are more successfull in Austria because they do not bend. Becauce they are not recognized by the state people don’t have to register as Jehovas Wittnesses they can registar as being without religious belief and escape all of the state constraints put on the religious or just leave their names on the Catholic rolls (although they probably wouldn’t because then they would still be subject to the church tax). The Catholic church deals with these issues by encouraging people to confess their sins and then forgiving them of each one individually as it arises. They don’t care if people cohabit as long as they don’t get divorced. Our standard is a bit higher.

  35. bbell on July 2, 2007 at 10:25 am

    I have thought some about this and I do believe that its important not to water down the gospel message regardless of the composition of your ward or class.

    My ward youth program is almost exclusively made up of BIC kids. maybe 2-4 out of 40-50 are not currently in temple sealed homes.

    A few years ago I was teaching YM and one of these non BIC kids started asking lots of hard questions about his circumstances due to the lesson. I told him that I could not water down the gospel message and to come with me after class to talk to the bishop and myself about his circumstances in private. Needless to say that was a very productive discussion. Last night this same YM now 19 was having a discussion with the bishop about putting in his mission papers.

    So to me the answer to the question is 2 fold.

    1. Do not water down the gospel message to be PC.
    2. Show an increase of love and concern to those kids in less then ideal family circumstances

  36. Ugly Mahana on July 2, 2007 at 10:36 am

    “The teachings of the gospel are intended for us to evaluate our own behavior, not to evaluate others. Christ’s example was to give loads of leeway in evaluating the behavior of others.”

    Brillaint point, Norbert. I want to emphasize it, so I will not water it down possible exceptions that are actually the application of different principles.

    ‘Judge not that ye be not judged.’

  37. Norbert on July 2, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Matt W: I regret the tone of my comment.

    I agree that agency is key and clear distinctions about righteousness are essential. I question your assumption that ‘all teenagers think their parents are idiots, and this is actually a bit of reassurance I have found that most teenagers want to hear.’ In my experience, even those with the extremely problematic parents want to find something to love, and we should help them find the way to negotiate that space between having standards and loving and honoring some aspect of their parents whenever possible.

  38. Matt W. on July 2, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Norbert: You make a good point, and I too regret the tone of my comment. I did perhaps come on to strong with the “all teenagers…” bit. Anytime someone says all of anything think something, an alarm goes of somewhere. Thanks for raising that alarm in this instance.

    It is important that we honor the good in the parents, but also maintain the standards, as you say. The problem is that “not judging ” is impossible, because withholding judgement is a judgement in and of itself.

    I also think we need to negotiate the space between honoring our parents and saying it’s not ok to do the bad things they’ve done.

    Is there a way to say “You being born was not a mistake, but the way you were brought into the world was a mistake. You deserved a better life than I gave you, and I want you and your children to have a better life than I had.”? (Personally, I can only see this coming from the parent, and don’t see how it can come from the teacher without being sinister. That is why I water it down in my class by just talking in generalities about agency and the “mistakes of our parents.”)

  39. MrClark on July 2, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    #17 said it well. My hope is that as the disparity between the Church and the world grows, the Church will grow in places where growth is slow right now: namely Europe.

  40. Adam Greenwood on July 2, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Talk about beauty from ashes, Matt W., but that its not for us to make ashes to tempt God. Decent people make beauty, not ashes.

  41. ronito on July 2, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Where most people don’t think that premarital sex is wrong?
    This has been the case for decades, I believe.

    You must mean hundreds of years really.

  42. Paul Mouritsen on July 2, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    In my own ward, we have quite a number of members who are cohabiting. Most are inactive, but some attend church now and then and even take the sacrament. No one says anything to them partly because, at least in some cases, there are children involved. Unless a member asks for a temple recommend, we do not really inquire into their moral character.

    The disappearance of church discipline, not just in our own church but in most protestant churches as well, has contributed to the decline in sexual morality. I have great respect for the Jehovah Witnesses and some of the holiness-pentacostal churches that have had the courage to swim against the current.

  43. bbell on July 2, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Final point.

    Kids in less then ideal circumstances need to hear that by living the gospel they can hopefully avoid some of the problems that befell their parents.

    If they do not hear about the LOC and proper marriage and family formation at church where are they going to hear it? School? From their friend? TV?

    I have 2 older cousins that were raised by a mom who was in and out of marriages. They went to church anyway and learned from their YW leaders about the LOC and proper family formation. As a result they committed themselves to a Temple marriage. 15 years later and about 10 kids they are thankful that they attended church, found positive role models, and did not repeat the mistakes of their parents.

    It would be a shame if we went all soft and squishy and doomed even more kids to the cultural rot that so many find themselves in.

  44. John Mansfield on July 2, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Gospel teaching showing people a better way is nothing new, of course, but the point that this post brought up is a little different. It is the condition where the ideals that we teach in church differ not only from the reality of the lives of many, but also from the ideals of the society we’re embedded in.

  45. kristine N on July 2, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Great point, Norbert.

    I expect the Jehovas Wittnesses are more successful in Austria because they do not bend.

    I’ve also heard Jehova’s Witnesses are more successful throughout Europe because during WWII they stood up to Germans more than Mormons did. Not sure how true that is, though.

  46. Greg B. on July 2, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Matt W., re: #25 & 31: Believing in the pre-mortal existance of our spirits does not require us to deny human biology. Sorry mate, but your body–a therefore a good portion of who you are–is the product of one egg and one sperm.

  47. Y Stephenson on July 2, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    #45 It is absolutely true. Many Jehovahs Witnhesses spent WWII in prison camps because they would not cooperate with the Nazis. They were quite couageous. Because we believe in obeying the law of the land we were more passive and two young men in Germany were executed for making anti government fliers using the church copy machine. They were not only executed they were excommunicated. I’m not sure how it came about they were discovered by the Nazis. However, David O. McKay had there blessings restored after the he became prophet after the war.

  48. Jim Cobabe on July 2, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Sometimes I despair at the confusion reflected in discussions like this. The correct principles are so clear and unambiguous. How do we manage to lose focus so easily?

    I spent significant time during the SS lesson on Sunday, talking with 16-18 year-olds about “In the world, but not of the world”. It is an important concept that too many of us seem to find easy to ignore, in our overriding concern for sensitivity.

    From that perspective, it is easy to see that living “in the world” is a precarious balancing act. Living the gospel of Christ demands that we bring light unto a dark world. We must not presume to merge our standards to blend and peacefully coexist with worldly ideas. The contrast between “God and mammon” should dominate our perception of the world.

    Remember too that any practice which compromises the strength of correct principles upon which the gospel is founded, does not and cannot ever best represent true love and compassion for others. We serve best by challenging ourselves and others to keep God’s commands. Thus we can be lifted up together, and continue to make positive progress against worldly challenges.

  49. Y Stephenson on July 2, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    Sorry to speak about Europe again, but I didn’t want to leave any false impressions. Austria is a tradition bound country. During WWWII most of the people who lived there had no problem with the Nazis. Hitler was born and raised in Austria. Virtualy all of the Jews living in Austria died before the war ended. I met members of the church there who had been in the Hitler Youth and the SS before they met the missionaries. I think there are other factors that impinge on the growth of the church in that part of the world, not the least of which is the anti-American feeling caused by the Iraq war and other policies that are unpopular in Western and MIddle Europe.

    The gospel does change lives. It changes behaviors. The fact that our faithful youth set a good example to those around them and are cheeful about their lives and prosepects for the future is a great teacher in and of itself.

  50. John Williams on July 2, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    “I think there are other factors that impinge on the growth of the church in that part of the world, not the least of which is the anti-American feeling caused by the Iraq war and other policies that are unpopular in Western and MIddle Europe.”

    In light of the fact that missionary work has been difficult in western Europe for decades (or maybe even for a century), I think this is a ridiculous statement.

  51. a spectator on July 2, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    “I think this is a ridiculous statement.”

    ahhhh–just the tact we were looking for–see you in youth Sunday School!

  52. adcama on July 2, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Jim Cobabe –

    I didn’t see you address how you would teach your 16-18 year olds the law of chastity if half of them were already pregnant? How about teaching the church’s stance on SSM to an adult class containing numerous SS couples?

    I don’t buy the stance that you wouldn’t approach these topics in a more sensitive way than you otherwise might. I also don’t buy your argument that in order to be sensitive, you must automatically compromise “the strength of correct principles upon which the gospel is founded.” I can think of several non-principle compromising things I’d consider doing differently in such situations – begging the question, will/should such sensitivity become more of an institutional norm as societal norms change….

  53. Norbert on July 2, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    In all these cases, the gospel message should not be diluted, but the focus should be on the gospel issues, not the social issues. The law of chastity is a covenant we make with God, not a way to avoid getting a disease or a means of enhancing self-esteem, or whatever. For every ‘avoid the troubles of the sinners’ speech there are a million examples of sinners without any more problems than the saints. Lets teach the gospel as the gospel, not helpful living hints.

  54. Bob on July 2, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    #50: Anti-American is not the whole reason, but plays a large part.
    General: Why does ‘sensitivity’ rub many of you raw, when it is used so often in the Manuals? Where in the Manuals does it say ‘be hard hitting’?

  55. Jim Cobabe on July 2, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    We preach unity among the community of Saints and tolerance toward the personal differences that are inevitable in the beliefs and conduct of a diverse population. Tolerance obviously requires a non-contentious manner of relating toward one another’s differences. But tolerance does not require abandoning one’s standards or one’s opinions on political or public policy choices. Tolerance is a way of reacting to diversity, not a command to insulate it from examination.

    Strong calls for diversity in the public sector sometimes have the effect of pressuring those holding majority opinions to abandon fundamental values to accommodate the diverse positions of those in the minority. Usually this does not substitute a minority value for a majority one. Rather, it seeks to achieve “diversity” by abandoning the official value position altogether, so that no one’s value will be contradicted by an official or semiofficial position. The result of this abandonment is not a diversity of values but an official anarchy of values.

    (Dallin Oaks speech, “Weightier Matters”, 9 Feb 1999)

  56. Matt Evans on July 3, 2007 at 12:12 am

    One set of answers to Julie’s questions would be to look at the way the church handled the Word of Wisdom in the 1950s, say. The situations for chastity and smoking have simply reversed. Society used to support us on chastity and oppose us on smoking, now it supports us on smoking and opposes us on chastity. I don’t know how tender teachers would have been when teaching the Word of Wisdom, even though many girls would have had parents who drank or smoked, or who may have drank or smoked themselves.

  57. Bob on July 3, 2007 at 10:47 am

    #55 Are you saying we should “Preach Tolerance” of kids from broken homes? That we should not “abandon the official value”
    just because they “value” their broken homes?
    #56 My Dad took me to PH meetings, and couldn’t wait until they were over, so he and his friend could go behind the chapel and have a smoke (1950s).
    The Bishop walked by and said, ” I wish you would stop dong that so I could make you Elders”, and walked on. Stuff like that is what I think Julie is looking for.

  58. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 11:01 am

    I appreciate that contribution, J. Cobabe.

  59. Rand on July 3, 2007 at 11:44 am

    I believe that the bar will be continually raised. We have done it with the missionaries, and it will continue to be raised for the membership. I think the “Brethren” will continue to teach deeper and more difficult principles. The why’s of the gospel will begin to be taught more deeply and powerfully.

  60. Jim Cobabe on July 3, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    More inspired counsel that is pertinent to the questions of this discussion.

    Richard G. Scott, “Removing Barriers to Happiness,” Ensign, May 1998, 85

    “I suggest that you place the highest priority on your membership in the Church of Jesus Christ. Measure whatever anyone else asks you to do, whether it be from your family, loved ones, your cultural heritage, or traditions you have inherited—measure everything against the teachings of the Savior. Where you find a variance from those teachings, set that matter aside and do not pursue it. It will not bring you happiness”

    I encourage you who have already made correct cultural choices to help others to do likewise. Teach them to recognize the long-term blessings of peace and happiness that come from a decision to place Father in Heaven, His plan, and His Son at the center of their priorities. Follow Ammon’s example. He patiently taught King Lamoni to recognize and to abandon incorrect traditions. Many were blessed by his decision to discard them. Ammon taught truth so clearly that Lamoni was touched by the Spirit and desired to give up all of his false traditions (see Alma 18:24–41; Alma 19:35–36).

  61. Mark N. on July 3, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    What happens as the gap between the beliefs/behaviors of the church members and nation (concerning the Just War doctrines of the BoM and D&C) widen?

    Which gap do you perceive as being wider: the one between the beliefs and behaviors of the members (as regards Just War doctrines) and those of the non-members, or the gap between what is taught in the scriptures about Just War and the beliefs and behaviors of the members?

    I don’t think I can make an attempt to threadjack any more overt than this. :-)

  62. adcama on July 3, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Jim Cobabe-

    The quotes you’ve posted are nice and all, but I don’t think they’ve answered the question I posed in #52. How would your teaching of the L of C be different if you had a class of 16-18 year olds who were already pregnant? Would you focus on the fact that fornication is second only to murder and the fact those who have premarital sex have offended God or would you look at focusing on the power of the atonement and maybe trying to taylor the class to make your participants want to strive for the best possible life outside of “the ideal”, which for them may consist of an unwed young mother and her unborn baby?

    You seem to be feel that sensitivity automatically equates to principle/value abandonment. I don’t agree, nor do I think sensitivity and teaching principles/values are mutually exclusive. My opinion is that we shouldn’t stop teaching correct principles – I hope that’s clear, but don’t you think dismissing sensitivity entirely because it might get in the way of making unrelenting, painfully obvious points to those who are in a situation that (perhaps uncontrollably and unalterably) differs from “the ideal” starts to become a bit cruel?

  63. Y Stephenson on July 3, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    50 “In light of the fact that missionary work has been difficult in western Europe for decades (or maybe even for a century), I think this is a ridiculous statement” A century goes back to the turn of the 20th. It has not been that difficult since then. In fact it was quite successfull. During that time period and in the late 19th century converts were encouraged to leave their homeland and gather to Zion. Sometimes entire communities migrated. They didn’t stay there and build the church in their homeland. Had they stayed the picture would be a lot different. In the 1950’s Spencer W. Kimball went to Europe and gave a talk in which he said it wasn’t nessesary to leave but encouraged people to stay where they were and build Zion there. Unfortunately in the late 1950’s and early 1960s the missionaries baptized a lot of people in Europe many of which were not true converts. Since then things have slowed down. The Johovas Wittnesses and fundamentalist Christians in Eastern Europe work against the missionaries by telling people that we are an American church while they have allegience only to God and national boundries are not important to them. Our emphasis on America as a promised land is something they use against us.

    62 It has been my personal observation that as the standards (I use that term loosly) of the world become more permissive the church standards become less so. This is particulararly noticable in dress standards. It seems to me that the way to teach L of C to anyone is to be honest and unappoligetic about what the standards are. That doesn’t mean we don’t love the sinner, but they must know what behaviors are acceptable and which are not. I am reminded of a pregnant young woman who came to our ward for a few months before her child was born. She was living with her aunt. She gave the baby up for adoption. But before that the YW leaders and her peers took her into their group and loved her. They made a quilt for the baby. It was amazing. It didn’t corrupt a single one of the other girls it taught them something they couldn’t have learned any other way.

  64. John Williams on July 3, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Y Stephenson,

    Well, we’d have to look at some hard numbers to settle this. I wonder how many people were baptized annually in western Europe from 1907 – 2007. I doubt the picture is as rosy as you claim but hey if you can point me to the numbers I’ll admit I’m wrong. Don’t forget about Gordon B. Hinckley serving in Great Britain in the 1930s… if I remember correctly he didn’t have a lot of baptisms there.

    In any event, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. We weren’t exactly baptizing like crazy in the Old World before that. So I think it’s absurd that you tried to link low Mormon baptism numbers to George W. Bush.

  65. Gavin Guillaume on July 3, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    John –

    My in-laws were mission presidents in Europe between 2001 and 2004. That time period is too limited to develop a statistical trend, but it does at least provide the basis for their anecdotal experience — which was that the Iraq War made it much tougher to do missionary work. I don’t have hard numbers from them, just their own experience that Dubya didn’t help matters.

  66. John Williams on July 3, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Gavin,

    I was a Mormon missionary in western Europe during the Clinton administration, and well, people weren’t exactly lining up to become Mormons. I think the problem is that western Europe is just very secular. Sure, they hate George Bush, but that’s not the reason they don’t want to become Mormon.

  67. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    I was a Clinton-era western European missionary too. Secularism and anti-Americanism both played a role, I thought, the former more than the latter.

  68. jimbob on July 3, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I can’t speak to all the questions in your last paragraph, Julie, but I can speak to a couple from an anecdotal point of view. Not long ago I was in a branch where the majority of active YW were pregnant before becoming laurels and the majority of the active YM were incarcerated before they left the 11th grade. Virtually none knew who their fathers were. Many of the mothers were really trying, but couldn’t really “compete with the streets,” as the branch president used to say.

    (How) do you talk about chastity differently if most of your Beehives were born out-of-wedlock?

    We didn’t pull any punches, for sure. We made certain everyone was very clear on the basics of the law of chastity, but I think we tried to do it in such a way as to indicate we weren’t looking to judge their families–only that this is what God required. Looking back, from a statistical point of view, we did no good whatsoever, as most of them now are unwed mothers and delinquent fathers.

    (How) do you teach your own children how to be a Saint in a culture where the moral standards of the church are not the norm?

    Because the examples of decadent living were so apparent in our branch (moderately-active crack addicts were not uncommon, for example), I think we pointed to real-world examples of the benefits of living the gospel. It was pretty useful from a WoW point of view, I think.

  69. Bob on July 3, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    #66/67: ‘Secular’?, I don’t know the answer here, but I will paint with a BIG brush: Any Mormon with a Degree has a big % of secular to them. The Beehive and all that. It seems Europeans should fine something they like about this part of ‘Mormons’? They seem open to ‘Corporate America'(?)

  70. John Williams on July 3, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    “#66/67: ‘Secular’?, I don’t know the answer here, but I will paint with a BIG brush: Any Mormon with a Degree has a big % of secular to them. The Beehive and all that. It seems Europeans should fine something they like about this part of ‘Mormons’? They seem open to ‘Corporate America’(?)”

    I meant “secular” in the sense that they don’t believe in religion.

  71. Y Stephenson on July 3, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Let’s face it, once all the blood of Israel left Europe there weren’t very many receptive people left. It is tough. No question about it. The hold tradition i.e. My grandfther was Catholic, my father was Catholic and I am Catholic as well I was born Catholic and I will die Catholic, has on society is very strong as it can have an affect on all aspects of life social, religious and professional. My landlady’s priest came to her house and told her she should kick us out. She didn’t. But the Catholic owned place where we did our laundry said we couldn’t do it there anymore. We had talks with the Mayor over a few things and he kicked us out of his office. The Elders went to the cemetary on All Saints Day and got arrested for handing out tracts. Tradition is probably the main reason why the work goes so slowly in Austria.

    64 You are the one blaming Bush, not me. Americans haven’t been popular in Europe for a long time! Never the less I think it is fair to say that our immage in the world has suffered in the last four years. Give me a few weeks and I might be able to can get you some statistics.

  72. Ardis Parshall on July 3, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    Let’s face it, once all the blood of Israel left Europe there weren’t very many receptive people left.

    On behalf of the tens of thousands of faithful Saints who live throughout Europe today, who fill the stakes and serve in more temples than the eastern two-thirds of the United States and most of the rest of the world had only a generation ago, and all the missionaries — including me — who have labored there with the finest and most responsive souls without feeling the slightest hint of working in a picked-over vineyard, may I suggest, with the best of intentions and softest of tones, that you are [deleted by admin]

  73. Ray on July 3, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Thanks, Ardis. I was thinking of a way to say the same thing without being edited. :-)

  74. Y Stephenson on July 3, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    “Let’s face it, once all the blood of Israel left Europe there weren’t very many receptive people left.” My goodness that was supposed to be a joke. Had I realised that would be so sensitive, I certainly would never have said it, and I will be more careful in the future.

  75. Ray on July 3, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Y, I know smiley faces are looked down on by many, but they serve a useful function whenever humor is not clear. :-) Given the tone of some comments on blogs, it’s hard sometimes to distinguish subtle humor.

  76. Ardis Parshall on July 3, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    The idea that all the blood of Israel had been found and that the peoples of Europe had had their chance can be read in the reports of missionaries as far back as Brigham Young’s day, and I suppose it has been a handy excuse for unsuccessful/discouraged missionaries ever since. Condemning someone who doesn’t respond well to being interrupted at dinner by a jaded pair of tracting missionaries who barely speak your language? It is funny in a sad way to note how seriously some feel about having completed the harvest when you consider how few individuals ever have a direct opportunity to hear the gospel in any meaningful way.

  77. Ray on July 3, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    To me, that’s one of the most amazing things about the restored Gospel – that others aren’t punished eternally for our inability to communicate with them adequately. I like the fact that we aren’t, either. I just wish everyone understood that better.

  78. Bob on July 3, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    #70: you can be/are both. I hope we are seeing the ‘secular’ side of Rommy, while still knowing he has a religious side. I do not buy Europe is not religious! There are churches everywhere. The whole Middle Ages were about religion They have a Pope, The Thorvaldsen Christus,God save the Queen!”.

  79. Jim Cobabe on July 3, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    #52

    I can think of several non-principle compromising things I’d consider doing differently in such situations – begging the question, will/should such sensitivity become more of an institutional norm as societal norms change….

    The cite I included from Elder Richard G. Scott’s general conference talk specifically addressed this question. Recommended reading: “Removing Barriers to Happiness”

    I think we as teachers in the Church do not have permission to make concessions to “societal norms” that conflict with the laws of God. If such changes are needed, God will so direct. To reiterate from Elder Scott:

    “…measure everything against the teachings of the Savior. Where you find a variance from those teachings, set that matter aside and do not pursue it. It will not bring you happiness”

    #62

    You seem to be feel that sensitivity automatically equates to principle/value abandonment.

    I made no such assertion.

    To the contrary, perhaps the point of contention is that you and others feel that undeviating dedication to correct principles automatically precludes sensitivity to individual circumstances. This is not necessarily true, and to so generalize is a vast oversimplification and overstatement of the concern.

    In my teaching assignments, my first and last hope is always a desire to be directed by inspiration from Heavenly Father. Dogmatic, unfeeling, and dispassionate rote recitation cannot effectively satisfy individual needs, not in any teaching situation. Concern for this point has long been reflected in teacher training materials. My argument would be that the Church has always addressed these concerns, for as long as I can remember.

    I agree with the concern that misapplication of some ideas might prove to be insensitive to the needs of certain individuals, under certain conditions. Of course, this is precisely the reason people like Elder Oaks and Elder Scott spend time discussing these issues.

    The bottom line for Gospel teachers is and has always been this —

    You may adapt the lessons according to the needs and circumstances of those you teach.

    (Teaching, No Greater Call; pg. 102)

  80. Jim Cobabe on July 4, 2007 at 12:19 am

    Julie, I think some of us feel like “damaged goods” because we are. We need to be taught what it takes to effectively repair the damage.

  81. Norbert on July 4, 2007 at 1:52 am

    ‘The Elders went to the cemetary on All Saints Day and got arrested for handing out tracts.’

    [THREADJACK] The fact that missionaries were proselyting in a cemetary on All Saints Day is completely shocking. They should have been arrested, at least, for being so offensive. This sort of lack of cultural understanding explains something about the efforts to preach the gospel in Europe as well.

  82. Wilfried on July 4, 2007 at 5:01 am

    Amen, Norbert.

    Ardis said (76): “It is funny in a sad way to note how seriously some feel about having completed the harvest when you consider how few individuals ever have a direct opportunity to hear the gospel in any meaningful way.”

    Absolutely so. We have no statistics, but I would presume that maybe 1 in 10,000 Europeans ever had this opportunity (counting population versus raw estimate of appropriate, serious Gospel presentations given). And we cannot expect that all those who get these presentations would also join the Church. I met the missionaries when I was 17 (and it was a miracle that I did obtain a presentation of the Gospel back then in June 1964). Since then, over about four decades of living in Belgium, my wife and I have never seen missionaries in our street and, had we not become members ourselves, we would never have known Mormons in our own social circles. What can you expect of the proselyting system we use? Tens of millions of Europeans simply have no idea what the Church represents. The word Mormon may just evoke a few vague negative images in their mind, and I am afraid we are not using our potential to counter that imagery. I am convinced there is still a wide harvest out there. In particular because so many people are desirous to give meaning to their life and their families in a world such as ours.

  83. Michael Closson on July 4, 2007 at 9:57 am

    \”(How) do you talk about chastity differently if most of your Beehives were born out-of-wedlock? (How) do you do missionary work differently if most of your contacts are cohabitating? (How) do you talk about children in General Conference if most of society doesn’t think that they are important to a successful marriage? (How) do you talk about SSA in YM/YW if many of their friends are being raised by gay couples? (How) do you teach your own children how to be a Saint in a culture where the moral standards of the church are not the norm?\”

    I think these issues exist today but in different forms. A large majority of the population don\’t see any problem with word of wisdom issues, yet we still teach it. There is an urgency about law of chastity issues that doesn\’t seem to exist in other areas. Also, there is a difference between accepting an ideology and committing a sin. Sure many people don\’t have the same values, but we are all subject to the wages of sin.

  84. Naismith on July 4, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    “I think some of us feel like “damaged goods” because we are. We need to be taught what it takes to effectively repair the damage.”

    I think Julie’s point was that a child born out of wedlock or a victim of rape is *totally innocent* of any sin, and yet might be made to feel like damaged goods.

    Making them feel welcome without lowering standards and ideals is the challenge.

  85. adcama on July 4, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Jim Cobabe –

    I tried to make it clear how I feel about teaching correct principles. I’m confused as to why you would still sincerely think that my position is that “undeviating dedication to correct principles automatically precludes sensitivity to individual circumstances.” As I stated in #62, “….sensitivity and teaching principles/values are (NOT) mutually exclusive.”

    Oversimplifying? Actually the oversimplification at issue here came right from your first post….you said that you “despair at the confusion reflected in discussions like this. The correct principles are so clear and unambiguous. How do we manage to lose focus so easily?” The impression I took from that comment was what actually made me pipe in here….it seemed to me that your comment was precisely “dogmatic, unfeeling, and dispassionate rote recitation of doctrine.”

    From Elder Scott’s talk “measure everything against the teachings of the Savior” – perhaps we’re on the same page in this regard. The Savior is the Example….and He often adapted the core principles so that those listening could better understand (this is emphasized with one of your official quotes – “you may adapt the lessons according to the needs and circumstances of those you teach.”) I think such adaptation is requisite when the majority of church members in a given area (or perhaps generally) are in “less than ideal” situations. That’s actually kinda my point if you go back and read my comments. I’m glad you finally came around :)

  86. rk on July 4, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    I’m sorry that I brought up Europe in #21.

    Wilfried,

    I agree with you that we should not give up on Europe. Missionary work there was really hard, but people there still deserve to hear the gospel. Many are looking for something, but they just don’t know what.

    I remember teaching a woman who wished she had been taught the law of chastity before she had her first encounter at 14. That experience made me realize that there are people out there who are sinning ignorantly and they just don’t know any better. They need to be warned. There are people in Europe who can and will accept the gospel. We just can’t give up before we find them.

  87. Wilfried on July 4, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    “I’m sorry that I brought up Europe in #21.”

    Never be sorry for bringing a little international dimension in any post…

  88. Bob on July 4, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    #86: Wilfried: “Missionary work there was really hard, but people there still deserve to hear the gospel.” You please tell us (maybe again), why it is hard. It seems they are open to American Basketball, McDonalds, music, TV, etc. Why not ‘The Gospel’? 95% of the Gospel is Christian stuff they already believe and live by. Have they rejected the Gospel…or the Church?

  89. Ray on July 4, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Bob, Yes and Yes. I would argue that they might believe and live a lot of Christ-centered teachings, but they don’t accept much of the Gospel (the “Good News”). There is a HUGE difference, IMO, between accepting Jesus as the Redeemer of the world and a personal Savior and agreeing with us as to what that means. I believe the “Gospel” is all about what that means, and the Christian world has rejected the core meaning almost completely.

    FWIW, I think the biggest hindrance the Church has in Europe and other Christian areas is that the people tend to have reached conclusions already about what it means to be Christian and aren’t looking for a different definition. They are satisfied; all is well, at least spiritually. Who wants to be told that he has to pay tithing, attend church 2-10 times as many hours per week, give up tea and coffee and alcohol, adopt a whole new eternal paradigm, etc. when she already believes she has been saved and isn’t eligible for anything more? That describes a large percentage of Americans, as well.

  90. rk on July 4, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    #88
    Watching or playing basketball and eating a BgMac are a lot more fun than paying tithing, living the law of chastity, giving up alcohol, tea and tobacco.

  91. rk on July 4, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Wilfried #87

    I didn’t mean that to be a thread jack.

    #88
    Watching or playing basketball and eating a BgMac are a lot more fun than paying tithing, living the law of chastity, giving up alcohol, tea and tobacco.

    I agree with #89

  92. Bob on July 4, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    #89: Well that sounds good, but ‘satified’ leaves out the whole Protestant Movement of Europe, It leaves out the success of JWs and SDAs. But most importantly, you leave out David Greenwood, who says we fail because we are too soft on people!

  93. Wilfried on July 5, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Bob (88), you refer to 86 and say: “Wilfried: “Missionary work there was really hard, but people there still deserve to hear the gospel.” You please tell us (maybe again), why it is hard.”

    Confusion there: I did not make that statement, it was rk.

    But in connection with the latest comments, let’s not oversimplify. Europe counts more than 700 million people. A fair number are no doubt satisfied with their life and “aren’t looking for a different definition”. But the crumbling of traditional religions (mainly Catholic and major protestant churches) has opened the way, for millions of others, for the search for something else. New religions and philosophies are attracting hundreds of thousands, grassroot renewal within traditional structures has given birth to new forms of religiosity, and millions are involved in cultural, social and humanitarian activities and projects in order to give sense to their life. Idealism is far from dead, especially when you look at the sprawling activities and projects scores of young people are involved in. It would be too easy and self-indulging to say that we have no success because of the fault, immorality or hedonism of “the others”. The fault is ours. As I explained in comment 82, we just fail in reaching sufficient people to achive significant success in proportion to the whole population.

    There still is an enormous potential for the Church in Europe.

    And so, to tie back to Julie’s original theme: “What happens as the gap between the beliefs/behaviors of the larger culture and the Church widens?” I believe that in Europe there still is a portion of the population (only 1% is already 7 million…) waiting to hear the message of the Church, because these people do not want to follow the loosening norms of a larger culture.

  94. Bob on July 5, 2007 at 10:55 am

    #93: Again thanks Wilfried, you have moved the postings back to a higher level. Or as has been said: “If you want to meet on common grounds, move to higher grounds”.

  95. Ray on July 5, 2007 at 11:41 am

    To add to my last comment: What I said about attitudes notwithstanding, I also think the fault is ours – not our missionaries’ but ours. As a whole, we members still place the major responsibility for finding and identifying potential converts on the missionaries – so we have 50,000-60,000 missionaries world-wide, while the JW’s (for example) have millions. If we understood and lived the principles outlined in Preach My Gospel better, we would have as many missionaries as any religion in the world – and the results would be very different. “They know not where to find it” indicts those who have it but aren’t sharing it – in effect hiding it from view.

  96. Y Stephenson on July 5, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    I’m going to stick my toe back in the water. There are many people in Europe (meaning the continent not including Scandinavia, geographically speaking) and all over the world who have been prepared to receive the gospel and the church has been growing. In the October 2006 Ensign there is a series of charts showing where the members of the church live. This is a world map. It is instructive. The population of the church has been growing at a rate of about 40% a decade. In some countries it is a lot a more and some it is less. In the countries that have slower or no native population growth the church grows more slowly. Countries where the native birthrate us under 2 have a population crisis. As a result, there are fewer young people in succeeding generations. Since a lot of the growth in many places in the world is among young people the shrinking pool of youth impacts the number that are available to be baptized. There are many factors that influence rates of baptism in any given place at any time. Now I am going to make a big leap here because the subject is supposed to be dealing with a world where values are changing. It is my firm belief that the value system of any place or any time is less important than other factors, whatever they are, and they are many. Churches that have tried to adapt to the changing values of some in society have not fared particularly well. So it doesn’t matter what situation a person who comes to church young or old or whatever, the message has to be the same. That is the values have to be the same. That is why the church had to be restored, in addition to the loss of authority the message had changed. It wasn’t the same church anymore.

    But, sometimes members of the church treat single women and their children differently than they might married women and their children or widows and their children. I think it would be better to treat them all the same. But, if sometimes we don’t do that, perhaps it is because we are embarrassed and don’t know what to say. Maybe we are disappointed because we expected something different from someone we have a relationship with. It can be quite difficult. But if we try to change the message and treat people differently they will see it as discrimination or some such thing and it will be more difficult to reach them. We need to think more about them than we do about our own discomfort.