The Church of the Nuclear Family of Latter-day Saints?
Lately I’ve felt like I’m hearing too much about “the family” at church, so I was pleased to see the topic of Sabbath observance during the 3rd hour at the ward I attended on August 9. Something basic about living the gospel and focusing on spiritual development was just what I wanted to hear. The lesson was part video from Salt Lake City, and part discussion facilitated by the ward’s bishop. In the video a few apostles made brief remarks, followed by a slide with a question, which the bishop encouraged the class to discuss.
I liked that the material presented was about principles and not about specifics on what to do and not to do on the Sabbath – they seem to trust church members to use the spirit to guide their Sabbath observance. Elder Ballard remarked that the reason for a lesson on this topic was to make the Sabbath a time when people can have spiritual experiences to strengthen their faith. Yes! I am on board with that.
However, Elder Bednar took the discussion in a direction I did not expect. He said the whole point of the gospel is for a man and woman to be sealed and happy at home, using a quote from Elder Packer to support this. He presented the following graphic:
This graphic was on a handout, which contained the following bullet points:
- Children of members and converts are baptized, endowed, sealed to their spouse, and have children, who repeat this cycle.
- Learning and living the gospel of Jesus Christ in the home is essential in creating multigenerational families
- The Sabbath day can and should be an important time for gospel learning
Elder Bednar said breakdowns in the cycle usually happen between points A and B, and this happens because of poor gospel teaching in the home. I did a double-take at the graphic, and even now, a week later, I am still disbelieving my eyes and ears. The whole point of the gospel is for people to be sealed? I thought the whole point was to have that mighty change of heart that makes us disciples of Christ. But this almost makes it seem like Christ exists in the service of creating families.
I don’t doubt that teaching children correct principles at home matters a lot, and I realize that being sealed together as families is a treasured part of Church teachings and ordinances for many Church members. But I must say that the idea that creating a spiral of nuclear families, one giving rise to the other throughout time, is the whole point of the gospel is new to me. Have I not been paying attention in the 30 years since I was baptized? Or is this a new teaching? If something as basic (and mundane) as Sabbath observance can be hijacked into a discussion about the family, and if Christ exists to enable a cycle of sealing, then this is a different Church than I thought I belonged to.