Last week we wrote about the importance of distinguishing between people who are "interested" in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and should be invited to have the missionaries and those who are merely "curious" and need a thoughtful and well-worded answer to a question they have.
Often the quality of our answers to questions can determine whether someone comes to view the church favorably; and sometimes a clear and accurate answer can even help curiosity turn into interest.
A week ago, we offered the wording we use when we are asked (or challenged) with questions about whether Mormons are Christian.
When dealing with questions about family, the best language — and best back-up document — is the church's official "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." And let us share some additional language that may be useful when asked about polygamy and marriage — not "official" or church-recommended, just wording we have found to work fairly well with questions from the curious.
Mormons have a highly family-centric theology, believing that God is literally our spiritual father and that we lived as spirit persons with our heavenly parents before coming to this earth. Marriage and procreation provide the physical bodies that allow additional spiritual siblings to come from the spiritual pre-life into mortality. Hopefully, understanding that we have these beliefs makes it easier for others to see why we feel it is so important to protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and to understand that the church is not anti-gay but pro-marriage. Mormons are married with husband and wife as equal partners and believe that the family bonds and relationships formed here continue in the hereafter as part of the unity and progression of God's family. Wedding vows say, "For time and for all eternity," rather than "till death do you part," and the divorce rate among practicing Mormons is much lower than the national average.
Church members believe that it is within families that we learn our greatest lessons on love, sacrifice and other God-like attributes; and we think of our church as a support mechanism in building a happy and eternal family. Thus, families and extended families tend to be very close, holding weekly family home evenings and participating in all kinds of neighborhood church programs, including sports, arts and service activities for youths. Because of our eternal view of families, Mormons are also noted for a high level of interest in researching and connecting with ancestors and family roots.
For well more than 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not allowed polygamy, and has no connection to or allegiance with any splinter group that still practices plural marriage. While it is very hard to understand in today's context, in the early, pioneer-and-covered-wagon days of the church, polygamy existed on a limited basis, partially because the frontier life and the persecution that the church was suffering had reduced the number of active male members and there were women and children who needed to be taken care of. (The temporary practice was similar to certain Old Testament periods when God instituted polygamy to build up the numbers of his people during difficult times.)
Next week we will share some language you may wish to consider in answering questions about temples and "secrecy."
Richard and Linda are the founders of Joyschools.com and New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or at www.valuesparenting.com or read Linda's blog at http://www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html. Their three latest books are "The Entitlement Trap," "5 Spiritual Solutions" and "The Three Deceivers." Listen to their weekly radio show on Mondays at 4:30 at www.byuradio.org.