Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Human Fragility and "Lifestyle Choices" - Revised

Update: I apologize if the initial draft of this post came across as too negative. First, I'm surprised to see that some people think I oppose adoption. It's one of the most wonderful things that anybody can do and I am a 100% supporter of it. Many of my favorite people adopt or were adopted, and I admire and respect all those who go through the selfless sacrifice of adoption. I have never said anything against adoption and I think it's a misreading of Kushiner's post, which I cited, to think he's down on adoption. Further, my post was NOT to bash single-parenthood or the diversity of situations that we end up in through the course of life. It was to challenge the idea that all "lifestyle choices" are equal. For example, some hold that a family with a mother and father is no better than any other form of raising children or reproducing. In reality, just as there are ideal ways to raise crops or animals, there are "ideal" situations that ought to be best for raising children or for maintaining relationships - not always possible, of course, as we all know - but to eliminate centuries of knowledge and experience to make all our "lifestyle choices" and divergent personal moral codes "equal" may be satisfying but is founded on error, especially for those choices that contradict basic moral standards. I cannot accept that all choices are equal.

That doesn't mean we should detest the teenage girl who becomes pregnant, or the unmarried couple, the gay couple, or the polygamist commune (well, maybe I'll make an exception for that one) - they all need love and friendship, even when we disagree with their choices. Even the man who abandons his wife and kids for a life of selfish excess. But somewhere along the way, there needs to be teaching from some source about right and wrong to help people make choices more consistent with God's will and plans for them. Someone needs to stand up and say all these choices are not equal, they are not all innocuous, and some are disastrous. To say it all doesn't matter really can be viewed as "stupid," in my opinion. OK, citing Kushiner's post probably wasn't the right way to make that point.

(Ideal is far from where any of us are. There is much that is "stupid" about how I've lived my life. There is nothing stupid about seeking to live the Gospel that Jesus taught. OK, I have a goal of becoming less stupid in how I live.)

I extended Kushiner's thought to the idea that there is also an ideal way for humans to live to have joy, and that ideal is based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
The scriptures teach that there is only one way to find true joy, and that the path is straight and narrow. Alternative choices can be made - oh, the terror of free will! (this does not mean that I am opposed to free will, but that it is a frightening and amazingly bold gift from God given how we all abuse it) - but they have consequences that are not easily avoided. They take us on other paths that lead to other destinations, to places where we are limited and less than we can be. The paths may start off with pleasure and attractions of all kind, but the hovel they lead us to is far from the mansions of eternal life that our Lord has in mind for us, if only we will choose Him.

There is only one path to Eternal Life, and that is through Jesus Christ.
You are free to disagree with that, but don't get vitriolic.


Another update: I'm also rather surprised to see (elsewhere) that I've now been accused of destroying free agency by passing laws to forbid moral choices I disagree with. Hello?? I certainly didn't say anything of the sort here. My general attitude is that once adults have made their choices, we should respect their decisions, though we may disagree. For example, one of my favorite people is gay. He's left the Church and doesn't consider himself Christian, and he knows that my moral views oppose homosexual behavior. But he's got his life and I've got mine, and we respect the decisions we each have made. I have no intent of changing his mind or arguing about religion and morality with him. I enjoy the opportunities to spend time with him and enjoy it when he can spend a few minutes around my family, and my boys know I think very highly of him. The personal choice he has made - or perhaps it wasn't truly a choice for him - is now none of my business. And let me tell you this: Based on who this person is as a whole, based on how he treats others, based on his integrity and kindness and love of other people, he is one of the best people around. That doesn't mean I want laws changed to encourage or reward behavior that I consider immoral or to take other steps to weaken the traditional family, but I have not advocated more laws to areas of moral agency. We do need laws to protect the victims of some of the choices people make (e.g., the unborn), but that was not an issue on this post.

23 comments:

jeff g said...

"there is only one way to find true joy, and that the path is straight and narrow"

Do we have any reason, whatsoever, to believe this other than blind ol' faith?

Anonymous said...

Wow; you judgemental idiot. Many within the Mormon faith adopt and give their children knowledge and understanding regarding their biological roots either via contact or simple discussion. How dare you judge them. May God heal your judgemental soul.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you aren't my father. Imagine teaching children not to respect or tolerate others. Mormons love "free agency" until somebody actually attempts to exercise it...

Anonymous said...

How can anyone argue that raising children in that enviroment isn't harmful to them?

Bored in Vernal said...

Jeff, don't you think this issue is a bit more complicated than what you've presented? I know of at least one case where a SSA person attempted a traditional marriage and was miserable; then made an "alternative lifestyle choice" which brought great joy.

Plus, diatribes like yours can have the effect of causing great pain to those who live in non-traditional families such as remarriage after the death of a spouse, blended families, etc.

It is nice that life has handed you a perfect traditional marriage with children. Please be sensitive to farmers who may live in Hawaii or Alaska, and plant their seeds at different times than you.

Tracy said...

Yes, adopting children is certainly a terrible thing to do, isn't it?

I somehow think you're going to be in for a rude awakening after you die and find out that Jesus isn't all that thrilled about how you spent so much time and energy berating others for their choices. What a sad way to live.

Anonymous said...

Reasoning along this path often leads to "punish (or control) them for their own good". I know of no word of God that gives us that (control/punish) authority. Yes to forced restitution & self-defense. No to orcing others to do good to others or refrain from doing harm to themselves. IMO forcing/preventing others to not harm themselves is a doctrine of Satan from the pre-existence.

Anonymous said...

I continue to be amazed at how people read something and come away thinking it means something other than what it actually says.

Anon at 8:12am wrote as if Jeff was speaking against adoption. Jeff did not say that.

Anon at 10:09am wrote as if Jeff was advocating not respecting or tolerating others. He did not.

Bored at 11:17am implies Jeff was speaking against remarriage or blended families. He did not.

Tracy at 11:41am wrote as if Jeff were speaking against adoption. I don't see where Jeff said or even implied that.

This looks like there was a "let's gang up on Jeff Lindsay" post over on one of the ex-mormon forums. You guys are putting words in his mouth and inventing offenses here so you can attack him. This is all so silly.

Proud Daughter of Eve said...

I *was* wondering where all this negativity came from. I mean, if these people all read his page regularly when they so clearly disagree with them then I feel sorry for them. Really, don't you have better things to do with youtime than seek out annoyance?

jeff g; obviously you and Jeff Lindsey have different definitions of joy. I think Jeff is using the "what brings us close to God brings us joy that will last long after we have shuffled off this mortal coil" definition. Again, there is disagreement about "what brings us close to God" but in our faith the family has been divinely instituted and SSM and other offshoots (though not adoption or infertility treatment) do not follow God's plan. What He will do about that is up to Him but that does not give us carte blanche to fudge the lines.

I can't speak for your faith but mine is far from blind. I pray, I seek and I ask. “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.”

jeff g said...

PDofE,

Your comment was even more of a faith statement than Jeff's post was. You can believe whatever you want, but without reason and evidence, what right do you have to called other people "stupid" for believing something which has just as much evidence to back it? Furthermore, what right do you have to legally impose restrictions on such lifestyles?

I'm not arguing for or against any particular life style. Rather, I'm simply pointing out that though you may think your faith is not blind, the rest of us have no reason whatsoever to believe that it is anything less than blind. When in public debate about public policy, only publicly available evidence should be admissible.

Anonymous said...

Blind faith isn't faith at all - it's mental laziness.

Walker said...

"When in public debate about public policy, only publicly available evidence should be admissible."

Sadly, "public policy" never has done much for private happiness. Salvation is, by its very nature, a subjective experience. No one else knows what its like to be saved besides you.

Nor can truth, the really worthwhile kind that changes lives, be "objectively" attained in any kind of Enlightenment sense. One must learn things for oneself. Yes, certain elements of the BOM, the gospel can (and should) be subjected to empirical scrutiny, but not the most important parts: the Atonement of Jesus Christ and a testimony of the Restored Church.

Nor do I think we are discussing legality here. At least I wouldn't be. We might as well say that it is mandatory to love your spouse.
We're talking about happiness--something that cannot be legislated but is nevertheless paramount in the human existence. I have yet to meet a single mother who is "happy" with her lot (and I've met my share)--this includes those who have lost their spouse to death. WHile obviously not their fault, we are not wrong in stating that such a situation is less than desirable.

The reaction to this post seems to sustain G.K. Chesterton's quip about supporting traditional paradigms: "The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice. Moral truisms have been so much disputed that they have begun to sparkle like so many brilliant paradoxes"

Or, so he later states, "Morality, like art, consists of drawing the line SOMEWHERE"

Anonymous said...

I am a divorced female raising a child alone. This was not my choice. If I could go back in time, knowing what the future held for me, I would still choose to have a child, Does that make me irresponsible or stupid? Life happens, we all have trials and burdens. Sometimes it is because of our own "stupid" choices, sometimes not. Life is about learning and growing. Every person's experience in this world is different. Maybe I could only learn what I need to know with this particular challange. I have made some "stupid" choices in my life, I'll probably make some more before I die. It's called being human.
What you are promoting is inherently un-Christian. Christlike love requires compassion,and empathy. Judge ye not...

Mormanity said...

Anon female at 5:50, the post, both in it's original form and as revised, was about the error in thinking that all choices were equally good. As you point out, it was not your choice to be a single mother. It sounds like your choice was to be a married mother. If one has the choice, I think one can make the case that it is, on the average, a better choice to raise a child with a mother and a father, and a variety of studies back that up. To acknowledge that having two parents can be better in several ways than one parent or no parents is not the same as attacking and belittling those who bravely and righteously face the challenges of single-parenthood, or of being a foster parent or guardian.

Tame One said...

I don't see how these people can get so bent out of shape over imagined wrongs. Sometimes the most spite and hate I see is in the intolerant response to someone who is accused of being "intolerant" for advocating a moral code. Or for saying that a traditional family is the healthiest ideal. Look out, baby!

Anonymous said...

I have to chime in here on something.... many say that there choices/values do not hurt others. The "values" on tv show sex and gay lovers on most shows. I know this can hurt others. My sister has fallen into satans trap thinking that none of it matters and she "experiments" with girls and guys alike. I love my sister, but her strive to be liked by everyone has made her make decisions that she will likely regret if she ever gets married, and will probably cause problems when that happens.... this being said, I know with all my heart(and if any of you knew my sister wouuld agree) that she would never had done any of these things if they were not so accepted in society. It brings me great sadness.

Bishop Rick said...

WOW, I'm sorry I missed the original post so I could have a better understanding of the complaints.

Regardless, I am one that has read Jeff's blog for a while and can say without reservation, that he would not be criticizing adoption or mixed families or any other marital circumstance beyond anyones control.

I don't always agree with what Jeff writes, but he is definitely not a bigot. He is just someone defending his faith and trying to propogate christian values.

Disagree with him, but don't accuse him of something he has not done or said.

Anonymous said...

Bishop Rick,

Your post defending Jeff just made me very happy. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

free will is the most amazing gift we have been given. It is about trying new actions you consider admirable and changing your will (desires) to foster those actions. Following Jesus Christ and living your life after such an admirable fellow is an amazing undertaking and is admirable itself. Respecting others' pursuit of happiness, their exercise of free will, is just as important in my opinion. Since religion is such a subjective and personal thing, the empirical evidence supporting a myriad of family systems (gay and hetero alike) should be considered when passing judgement on other's lives. Maybe you consider Jesus Christ to be the perfect person and believe that if you follow him, you will be ultimately happy. more power to you, you may be right. Personal revelation shouldn't move you to sit in judgement of others though.

Walker said...

"Following Jesus Christ and living your life after such an admirable fellow is an amazing undertaking and is admirable itself."

If Christ was not what he claims he was (the Messiah), he was no admirable fellow. Maniac, menace to society, fraud would be better descriptors.

We must remember--"Absolute truth requires absolute love and absolute patience." We CAN have both truth and love.

"Personal revelation shouldn't move you to sit in judgement of others though."

Yet this implies that personal revelation is ultimately innocuous, nothing more than an inclination or proclivity (albeit a deeply held one). Keeping the above quote in mind about absolute truth, to neutralize Mormonism to nothing more than a social system is tantamount to calling Mormonism a fraud (though one led by "good intentions").

PJ said...

I have to say that people bring their agendas to these forums and than cry foul when they don't like a topic. I was 19 and pregnant and realized it was best for the BABY to give him a mother and a FATHER! What a concept. I gave my child up for adoption. I was not LDS at the time but joined because of the adoptive family's loving NON-JUDGMENTAL example. Through the gospel I found a much greater joy than I could ever have found out in the 'real' world. I did not find Jeff's post to be offensive to me or to the choices I have made. I have been married for 20 years, have 4 kids and will always be eternally grateful to the gospel I have found. Sometimes greater freedom comes from pain and sacrifice and a more narrow path freely chosen.
So quit reading things into other posts that are simply not there.

Anonymous said...

I missed the original post as well. I would have to guess that the people reading it probably don't normally read Jeff's postings. Jeff is probably one of the least judgmental blog writers I read. He has a strong moral opinion, but definitely isn't against those of us who aren't living the 'ideal' life thru consequences to our actions or thru just life happenings. --Single Parent of Two

Anonymous said...

just started reading mormanity a bit // I like it / thanks! I will be back. Andy Jensen.