Sunday, May 4, 2008

Spiritual Truths from the Temple and the 2008 BYU Women's Conference

I probably need to get over my aversion to these talks that have come along lately about making your home into a miniature temple, or Missionary Training Center. I need to channel those days as a newly married Molly, when I had uncontrollable urges to paint my bedroom all in off-white and gold, with vases on little tables and an oversized crystal chandelier above the bed.

The talk that set off my latest rant is the Thursday afternoon general session of the annual Women's Conference at Brigham Young University, given by Merrill J. Bateman of the Quorum of the Seventy and his wife Marilyn.


Elder Bateman suggested that our homes resemble the temple by speaking in soft, quiet voices, training children in their responsibilities like shifts of temple workers, beginning shifts with prayer, and keeping orderliness and cleanliness paramount.

Why do I think these talks are especially unhelpful for LDS mothers to hear? I can recognize the symbolism that connects the two. Homes and temples are both places of love and service. In both places, as Sister Bateman said, "we are engaged in the salvation of others." I agree, but at the same time I would like to immortalize the words of Chandelle who wrote in a comment at FMH:

"...a temple is tidy because it’s not populated by children who like to fingerpaint with their poop. because the ten-thousand people who go in and out of a temple do not eat three meals a day there. because dogs and their muddy paws are not allowed. because there are no beds to be made. because nobody goes there to study or read or sew or do pottery or play scrabble. because everybody comes in and leaves in the same clothing so there is no laundry. the temple is tidy because nobody lives there."

Actually, there is laundry, but volunteers and paid workers come in to do this work, to vacuum and to clean the toilets. I think it is unhelpful to take parents' attention away from the work of living and the salvation of their children to focus on superficial cleanliness or soft, quiet voices. Or even prayer. A pinnacle of frustration for me was a Ward Activity where a photographer was sent to each home to take a simple picture of the family kneeling in prayer. A nightmare of an hour passed during which the photographer never could snap a shot with everyone kneeling, closing eyes and folding arms at the same second. Our family simply could not pray in the true order of LDS family prayer!

I never experienced an enjoyable family home evening with my family of eight children until I finally learned that they would never sit quietly in rows listening to the lesson, like in the temple; and that that was not the goal of FHE. Probably the most spiritual and fondly remembered FHE we ever had was the one with the activity where all the small children piled on Dad and tried to displace him from his position lying on the couch. Totally spontaneous, loving and memorable. Quite loud. And not possible until Mom learned that home was different from the Temple in significant ways.

In her talk, Sister Bateman revealed that "Spiritual truths are not revealed to doubters. Faith is required to move forward." So, what is the spiritual truth behind the comparison between the home and the temple? How can we express this in a way that will be uplifting to families (especially women) rather than depressing? Those of you with more faith than I, help me out!

27 comments:

S.Faux said...

I think you are on target. The home-temple analogy falls apart if one pushes it too far. My home is a living area where both parents and children make mistakes, learn, yell, run, and literally bounce off each other. In fact, let me be more honest: in general bedlam runs amuck. Quiet? What is that?

Frankly, I would not have it any other way, but that's just me.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I understand that we should at least try to make sure that our homes are not a place of utter chaos, but I can't imagine having grown up in a home where we had to talk in low voices or open each chore with a word of prayer. I would prefer it if he had used a church building in his analogy, because all should be welcome in church, regardless of their background, circumstances, or obedience to the Gospel. At church, kids are always screaming and running around. In a typical sacrament meeting, there are numerous exits by people to accompany their screaming kids or empty their pressing bladders. One of the Young Women will probably come in with a skirt that's a little too short and the latest investigator reeks of B.O. and cigarette smoke. And just as sacrament is being passed, one of the pregnant Mia Maids sneaks in with her latest boyfriend.

I'm sure I could give an actual example in my home ward of any of the above. And while some of them wouldn't be admitted to the temple, why wouldn't they be welcome in our homes?

I'm sure this brother didn't mean any harm in his temple analogy and I do see the good in what he was probably trying to convey, but he may not have given enough thought to why having the perfect home is perhaps not so perfect after all. Most of the young moms I know don't need any more unattainable ideals to have to live up to.

E said...

I just think it is bizarre that anyone who has raised children, especially more than one, could even give this talk. The description you give of what was said is a description of a home that I think could not exist unless there is something seriously unhealthy going on. I feel fairly certain that when the Batemans were raising their children, their home did not meet the description you have given of a temple-like home.

lma said...

I'm really sorry to have to say this, because I really try to avoid the "c-word" in relation to any religion, so yell at me if you want, but this has to be said.

The ideal home life described in that talk fairly screams "cult", especially when it suggests that children be "trained" like temple workers. Human beings don't always speak in "soft, quiet voices", and life, whether we like it or not, is not orderly...and kids are not meant to work in "shifts". To try to force children, especially, but adults as well, into a constant environment of perfection is just not natural and more akin to the total control that cults try to have over their adherents.

I know that most Mormons and the church hierarchy hate being regarded as a cult. But if the powers that be want that sort of comparison to stop, they are going to have to quit delivering talks like this one.

Again, I apologize for the use of the c-word, but to someone on the outside, the suggestions in that talk fairly scream it from the ramparts.

M&M said...

I was there, and and I think we need to take it all in stride a bit more. To me, they aren't talking about whispering all day in our homes but about speaking in kind, 'soft answers' - not in anger and harshness. As for cleanliness, can we really argue against the fact that the whole 'everything in its place' adage helps children keep things more tidy? Let's not make this into more than it needs to be. I personally think a house of order is about a lot more than just cleanliness, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to keep our homes clean -- if for no other reason that our children learn to be disciplined and to clean up after themselves. If you listened to what he said, he was focused a lot on what children can learn from it all -- that they will be motivated to keep it clean if we work toward that goal. I have noticed that when *I* don't care about cleaning things up, neither do they.

But we don't need to take all of this counsel to an extreme and think that we can't make messes, or can't laugh and romp and play -- or that they were saying this! These people aren't ignorant of the realities of life, and I think we ought to just take what works for us and let it be.

This is like the criticism of Sister Beck's talk in my mind -- people criticized what wasn't there and made what she said a lot more extreme than it was intended. Like I said, I personally don't like 'house of order' limited to just cleanliness (and so in my world, I don't just limit the concept to cleanliness) but I think there is still value in the reminder that an effort to keep a clean house is worth it. It's just like any counsel we receive -- we search our hearts and the Spirit to see if there is anything applicable and do what we can. They aren't ever going to be able to cover a topic exhaustively, or get to the nuances that are always present in real life. That's our job.

M&M said...

when it suggests that children be "trained" like temple workers.

Did you actually hear the talk? He didn't say this AT ALL. He was simply using that as a loose analogy to teach children skills so that they can become independent in performing them.

kids are not meant to work in "shifts".

And all he was saying with this is that we should start and end our days with prayer as a family.

Seriously, folks, y'all are overreacting to what was actually SAID.

Maraiya said...

BiV -

Maraiya said...

Sorry to hear that you're sick today.

Maraiya said...

Darn that blog to blog virus!

Maraiya said...

I hope you feel better soon!

Maraiya said...

Your poor, poor husband.

Maraiya said...

(BTW, can you tell I'm supposed to be working?!?!)

Maraiya said...

I just thought I would take a moment

Maraiya said...

to support your comment addiction

Maraiya said...

as you so readily fed mine yesterday.

Maraiya said...

BTW,

Maraiya said...

in case you don't hear it enough,

Maraiya said...

you are a brilliant,

Maraiya said...

well-read,

Maraiya said...

fabulous

Maraiya said...

and compassionate

Maraiya said...

woman.

Maraiya said...

But your word verification sucks! :)

Maraiya said...

And on topic. I'm not to sure about the address but I haven't read it in full to comment. I know that of all the talks at General Conference, I love Elder Ballards in the last session. He seemed so realistic and so clear and had instructions for everyone (mom, children, dad and church) on how to make young families (or families period) run more smoothly.

Maraiya said...

I also (just trying to continue to boost comment count) know that I try to leave what bugs me and what I disagree and keep what is useful to me. This may make me a bit of a cafeteria Mormon but, imo, I follow everything that is important. In this vein, I remember Pres. Benson's quote, "When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities." (The Great Commandment - Love the Lord, Ensign, May 1988.)

If our homes *are* meant to be like the temple, then continually striving to put God first will make it so. If it doesn't (make it a temple), then our home will be whatever God wants it to be.

Eve said...

My comments are all tentative, since I haven't heard or read the talk, but yeah, my impression is that this isn't quite my model for living. (This from a recovering neat freak with no kids!)

My best memories of growing up in my parents' (messy, un-temple-like) house involve sitting around the kitchen making unhealthy food or the living room playing eternal rounds of Trivial Pursuit IV and endlessly, endlessly making smart remarks and goofing off. Silly arguments, shriekingly loud laughter, and general ridiculousness prevailed. Those are my best memories of time with my siblings. I'm afraid they have nothing to do with a temple atmosphere, and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

Lisa said...

I didn't hear the talk, but I'm going to comment anyway. I agree with M&M {I believe it was M&M}. I think of the temple as a safe place, a place to get away from the world, a sanctuary. I think of my home in this way too. My home is my sanctuary and my safe place. My home, like the the temple, is where I can go to unwind and relax and rejuvenate. My home is not clean. Well, I do clean, but it is cluttered. {My home would never pass any spotless standards. When I do clean, it stays clean during the night when everyone is sleeping. Then the next day, within minutes of waking up, it is as if I had never, ever cleaned.}
And another thing, I feel the Spirit in the temple, and I feel the presence of the Lord and His love. If this can accomplished in my home, then I can reasonanbly compare my home to the temple, even though my home is very lived in and gives residence to a 3-year-old tornado.