Has Christianity caused more conflict in the world than it has solved? Christianity typically is thought of as promoting peace, bringing happiness into people’s lives, and making the world a better place. The whole point of church is to teach a person to better themselves. But is this really the case? Is it better for people to figure out what is best for them personally or is it better for a God to tell them what to do. I personally have gone through my own faith transition. I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by two extremely devoted parents. Close to a year ago, I found myself doubting many of the things I had learned throughout my childhood. These doubts lead me to further research, only to come to the conclusion that this organization is not something I wished to remain a part of.
Although I had been taught that this religion and this religion only could bring me the happiness I desired in my life, I found that after leaving this church, I was much happier, more confident, and had an overwhelming feeling of liberation. This experience has led me to wonder if mine was just a rarity, while most people would be much happier practicing a religion? Or does religion typically cause more turmoil than good? While this is a very broad topic, I decided to focus primarily on the Mormon religion, as it is one I am most familiar with. And rather than discussing every aspect of religion on a life, I would like to research how it affects families because that had been the biggest transition in my life as I made my faith change.
Having good family relationships is one of the most appealing and heavily promoted aspects of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Family is one of the core doctrines in the Mormon religion. “The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” (“The Family”). Not only does the church encourage having a family, but it teaches that without one, you can not go to heaven. “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase” (Smith). To enter into the highest degree of glory
By emphasizing how critical families are, the church simultaneously promotes taking care of and loving your family. “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘“Children are an heritage of the Lord”’ (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.” (“The Family”). This makes sense to me. Why would you not work hard on the most important thing in the universe?
Beyond simply teaching the principle that spending time with your family is important, the church has made very specific changes to put this principle into practice. Firstly, they created the Family Home Evening program that urges families to set aside time each week to spend growing closer with one another. “First Presidency began a Churchwide effort to strengthen the family. They called on parents in the Church to gather their children once each week for a “Home Evening.” Families were to take time to pray and sing together, read the scriptures, teach the gospel to one another, and participate in other activities that would build family unity.” (“Family Home Evening”).
Along with this, they shorted the previously 3-hour church meetings by 1 hour, hoping the members would use this time to spend studying church principles with their families in the Come Follow Me program. I know that the Church definitely cares about it’s members and wants them and their families to be happy. Another way The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints promotes families is by teaching that the members should be learning about their ancestors. They believe “The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave” (The Family). In the restored Church today, members of the Church continue to trace their family lines of descent, in part to properly identify deceased ancestors so they can perform saving ordinances in their ancestors’ behalf.
These ordinances are valid for those deceased persons who accept the gospel of Jesus Christ in the spirit world (Smith). It has also created “The largest depositories of American genealogy information” (Von Hoffman). There is no doubt about the fact that the Church places great importance on families and gives its members many different ways to strengthen them. Family is never something that will come easily or that there is one correct way to keep a family happy and whole. Sometimes the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints can pull families apart rather than bring them closer together. The church teaches there is one exemplar family type to have. “‘Through the restored gospel we learn there is an ideal family,”’ Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches. “‘It is a family composed of a righteous Melchizedek Priesthood bearer with a righteous wife sealed to him and children born in the covenant or sealed to them.”’(“Today’s Family”).
Although the church recognizes that this specific family type is not always attainable; however, it does not always support those who do not fit this cookie-cutter mold. The most prevalent example of this is the churches opposition to same-sex couples. “In Mormondom, homosexuality is literally unspeakable; there is no greater taboo in this institution, in which even relatively benign substances such as caffeine are forbidden” (Rosman). The church has taken a firm stance that anyone experiencing same-sex attraction may not be married, nor have any form of romantic or sexual relationship with one another. “We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife” (The Family). It does not seem quite fair that the people who never chose to be gay should be punished by not being allowed to experience the same things in the church that straight members can; such as, important temple ordinances, marriage, a family, and eternal salvation.
Some families take it as far as enrolling their children in reparative therapy to correct their child’s sin (Rosman). Along with gay marriage, there are other forms of inequality. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has frequently been criticized for not treating women equally to men. Historically, the church practiced polygamy. “Latter-day Saints believe that during the mid-1800s, some Church leaders and members were commanded by God to enter into the practice of plural marriage, also known as polygamy, or the marriage of one man to more than one woman” (“Polygamy and Mormons”). To me this is very concerning and portrays women as being inferior to men. Another concern is that the church teaches a woman’s primary responsibility in this life is to have and take care of children. It is the man’s responsibility to have a job (“The Family”). This clearly does not leave room for many different types of people.
What happens to the women who do not want to play “subordinate roles of women”? (“EDUCATED”). Or what about the women who cannot conceive children? If you are not the type of girl to want to be a house wife, is there room for you in this religion? Similarly, other non traditional families can feel like they are not as good as those who have managed to obtain the ideal family type. “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”(“The Family”). By putting such a strong emphasis on a child having both a father and mother, it creates feelings of inadequacy in those who are unable to provide this for their families.
Another large factor and the one I relate most to personally is that many families are pulled apart if a child strays from the gospel. Church doctrine tells that mothers and fathers are accountable for their children’s wrongdoings if they did not teach their children well enough. (“The Family”). This can cause quite a bit of tension between parents and their children. In my own experience I was feeling trapped because I was not wishing to hurt my parents by leaving the church; rather, my goal was to live my life in a way I believed to be correct. On the other hand, my parents were extremely distressed due to the fact that they felt responsible for my salvation. Although the church does a lot for families; however, there is not only one type of family and trying to shove different family types into the same cookie cutter mold does not always produce the best results.
It would be very difficult to come to a conclusion on whether religion is overall a force of good or bad in this world. For many people, they can live perfectly happy lives with their religion and others find life better without it. In the end it boils down to the individual and what is best for them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not perfect, nor is anything else. There will never be a perfect family, no matter what belief system you follow. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints places great value on families, but does not do the best job of including everyone. But at least they are trying their best and hoping to make others happier in the process.