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Mormon Parenting: Defining the church personally for our children

Published: Friday, July 6 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Temple Square Christus

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The new website www.MormonBriefing.com answers commonly asked questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and gives reporters and journalists access to faithful “regular” members who have the opportunity to define the church to the world rather than having the world define it to them.

The first place anyone should go for answers about the church is to the church itself, specifically to Mormon.org and LDS.org. But when media or others want an additional source from practicing members, MormonBriefing.com is a good bet.

There is a menu item on the site called “defining the church,” and when you go to it you can respond to two questions and give your own personal answers, which may be posted on the site. It is a good exercise, particularly for parents who want to refine their personal answers — the answers they will give to their own children.

So, we went on the website and composed our own answers and thought you might be interested in what we said:

1. How would you define Mormonism?

“When we try to get at the core or the essence of Mormonism, two central focuses manifest themselves: 1. the church is Christ-centered, and 2. the church is family-centered. But the two are so interrelated and synergistic that they really form one center rather than two.

“Let us explain: We believe that each of us, and all humankind, lived before this world as spirit children of God. Physical mortality was designed by our Heavenly Father as a place where we could learn, through both difficult and joyful experience, to work and to choose and to love on a level not possible in our dependent, premortal, spiritual state. Central to that learning and to God’s plan were the responsibility of families, the commitments of marriage and the parenting of children.

“We understood the risks and worried that our inevitable mistakes and bad choices would make it impossible to return to God, where ‘no unclean thing can enter.’ The plan was completed and the dilemma solved by Jesus Christ, God’s first and only perfect Son and our eldest spiritual brother, who was willing and capable of atoning for our sins.

“The term ‘Mormonism’ sounds more like a movement than a church, and if it is taken that way then we could say that Mormonism is a cause or a movement devoted to the strengthening of families and to the bringing of souls to Christ.”

2. How has Mormonism defined you?

“Because we believe the teachings of the church are true, they literally influence everything we choose and everything we do. A couple of examples:

“When I (Richard) was serving my two-year, voluntary ‘mission’ in New York City, I became so aware of the family-root of most people’s problems that I decided to change my college major and go to Harvard Business School and pursue a career in politics to try to influence family policy. We did so, and a few years later, as we were preparing to run for the U.S. Congress, the church asked us to go to London for three years as a mission president directing the affairs of the church in southern England. It was during those years that we decided that the way to impact families most positively was through writing and speaking rather than elective office.

“We often think of our lives in two halves: the ‘inner,’ meaning what happens within our home and our family, and the ‘outer,’ which means our careers and our personal interests. The church and its teachings and its programs have helped us immeasurably with the ‘inner’ — with building our marriage and raising our nine children. In fact, that is an understatement — we don’t know how we could have managed our family and personal relationships without the church. And every decision and direction in our ‘outer’ has been influenced by our beliefs and by the priorities the church has taught us.”

Now that you’ve heard our responses, take a crack at your own definitions. Simply go to www.MormonBriefing.com, click on “Defining the Church” and submit your answers. They may be helpful to others who visit the website, and the effort you make to think through your responses will certainly be helpful to your children and give them a clearer impression of how you view the church and how it influences your life.

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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