One thing I used to be rather bothered by as a single member: some mixed messages I noticed hearing in my wards, in general conference, etc. Over time and with additional life experience and wisdom, I have come to learn that mixed messages and contradictions given at church simply indicate the need to balance multiple issues, needs, and priorities at the same time. None will be done perfectly. Most of these contradictions involve careers, money, debt, and working versus other family and church related duties. This is why “adulting” in an effective, responsible way is so challenging. Yet it can be done.
So now, rather than being bothered or upset by these seeming contradictions, I just look at these messages as important issues as a juggle needing balance, moderation, temperance and common sense. Here are a few of the church-based mixed messages and contradictions I have noticed over the years. I could have added quotes from general authorities to support each mixed message, but I didn’t in an effort to keep the points brief and concise. However, if you want to search out old general conference talks yourself on any of these subjects to bolster the points after reading this article, feel free.
4 Mixed Messages at Church:
*Stay out of debt, but have the wife stay at home and live on only one income. With the economic pressures and expenses today, only earning one income for a husband, wife, and a bunch of kids is increasingly difficult and rare. Interestingly, I noticed that the conference messages pushing for wives to stay home with the children were far more common from the 1980s and earlier and less so today. Part of that is probably connected to the need of single mothers to better be able to support themselves when they find themselves in that position. The rest likely relates to just how expensive everything has become in general. Nevertheless, the stay-at-home wife/mom is still understood to be the ideal for marriage and family life, even if only followed today by a select few. Conversely, church messages to get out of debt and stay out of debt are still regularly given to this day and probably always will be. This is truly a tricky issue for marriages and families today.
*Stay out of debt and provide for your family, but spend a lot of time with family members and doing your church callings. Earning money and paying off bills and debt requires a lot of time and energy. Yet…a popular church-based commercial a few years ago encouraged members to spend a lot of time with family members. The big quote in the commercials was: “Family. Isn’t it about…time?” In addition, we are also told that we are expected to “magnify” and “fulfill” our church callings as well, and that our church callings often require family member sacrifices. So, work, family, and callings. It’s hard to do them all and do them all well. Yet we are somehow expected to do this. Again, there is only so much time and energy to go around.
*Have a lot of children—as many as you can reasonably afford and as soon as you can without delay—but stay out of debt. I remember a talk by President Gordon B. Hinkley where he encouraged married couples to have as many children as they could reasonably afford. Other talks have said to not delay having children. OK. But again, we are also told to stay out of debt. Obviously, having and taking care of a bunch of children all costs a lot of money: food, clothing, shelter, etc. So, the more kids you have and the sooner you have them, the harder it is to stay out of debt. We are literally commanded to multiply and replenish the earth (to get married and have children—like Adam and Eve). We just need to somehow do so without racking up excessive debt. Good luck.
*Being married and having children is the ideal, but single members are just as important and loved as married members. One extremely difficult mixed message for single members is being told that God loves all of his children equally and we are all of immeasurable worth to him, but that marriage and family life is the highest ideal. Well, if living single is not living the ideal, doesn’t that mean that singles are somehow, “lesser” or “of a diminished status” somehow? Many singles have complained that they are treated that way. Especially when certain callings, service opportunities, and ward member status hasn’t been as available to single members the same as married members? It is hard for everyone to feel of equal worth when some lack having the family “spouse and children” ideal. This is a sticky, sensitive subject that needs to be talked about openly and more often. In other words, the church being pro-marriage and pro-family can also indirectly seem anti-single. The reality of this problem is unavoidable. Single members being unincluded, avoided, seen as lesser, or looked at suspiciously just adds to the stigma.
Like I mentioned before, these mixed messages require a balancing act. We are all to just do our best as we deal with these challenging issues. And because everyone’s particular situation and circumstances vary, it is not for us to be critical towards others. We just need to do our own personal, reasonable best to balance all of these issues and focus on that. That is all that is required. We just need to do the best we can with the tools and resources we have and the circumstances we encounter. In this spirit, I leave you with Christ’s parable of the talents, which captures the spirit of these points:
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he agave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
So, strive for the ideal of marriage and family life, but be kind, patient, and moderate to yourself and others in the process. Do the best you can and be kind and patient with yourself. It will all work out in the end. Because “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:11.
P.S. If you can questions, comments, or a future article request for me, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to email@example.com. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to firstname.lastname@example.org).