Mormon Parenting: Defining the church and ourselves

Published: Friday, May 25 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Is it just us, or do you get a little tired of our detractors and critics and the media at large defining our church, explaining our doctrine and expounding on our culture?

In this “Mormon Moment” when stimuli as varied as a presidential candidate and a Broadway musical turn people’s attention and curiosity toward The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it seems that everyone wants to have an opinion and every media source seems to want to explain Mormonism to the world.

Speaking for ourselves, we don’t mind either the attention or the curiosity; in fact we think it is perhaps part of the fulfillment of the prophecy about the LDS Church coming out of obscurity. What we do mind are all the self-styled experts who want to speak for the church and about the church even when they themselves are not practicing members. And we also mind it when writers and reporters and pundits do their stories without ever so much as talking with the church itself or even with any faithful members.

Wouldn’t the reading and watching and listening public be better served by reporting and stories that were accurate and that sought out input and information from people inside the church, from members who actually live the religion that the world seems so suddenly obsessed with?

If more journalists and commentators would take the time to really do their homework, to talk not only to the “official” church but to a few of its regular, everyday faithful members, they would portray us as less weird and more exceptional. Let us explain what we mean:

1. The “fruits” of the church deserve more attention — like the drastically lower divorce rate, longer lifespan, higher education and increased volunteerism of practicing members.

2. Hearing members explain their beliefs casts a much less “strange” light on our faith than reading “anti” literature or interviewing those who are disaffected or who have separated themselves.
3. Focusing on the actual lifestyles of practicing members would reveal how very family-centered our theology is and how much we prioritize finding balance in our professional and spiritual lives.
Now, some reporters try to do exactly what we are suggesting here. I (Richard) spent a couple of hours on the phone the other day with a New York Times reporter who I believe was making a sincere and honest attempt to write a story on how growing up and serving in the church has shaped Mitt Romney’s life (we can’t wait to read her story). And there are many others who similarly do their best to see the LDS Church from the inside out.

But unfortunately, there are many, many others who really seem to think “the Mormons are fair game” and who seem to feel that their reporting will be more sensational if they focus on sources “with an edge,” which often means sourcing our critics, our splinter groups and those who have completely or partly broken with the church for various reasons.

And we let them get away with it. Maybe we are a little too nice and a little too forgiving. If media wrote or reported the same kinds of things (or used the same flawed sources) about other religions, they would instantly be branded at best as politically incorrect and at worst as bigots.

So, let’s not take it anymore. We are not powerless. We have our blogs and our email lists and our own circles of interest. We can write letters to the editor and comment online about stories or reporting we feel misrepresents us. We can let our individual voices be heard and we can set the record straight whenever we have the opportunity. Sometimes the simplest way to do it is to send people to Mormon.org and suggest that they inform themselves rather than letting someone else do it for them.

Perhaps most important of all (and here is where we get back to parenting), we need to be sure we give the straight scoop to our own children and that we not only correct any false information they might be exposed to, but also tell them about our own testimonies and love for the church and be sure they know of its “fruits” and goodness in the world.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com.

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