Mormon Messages We Ought Not to Send

Disclaimer: I’m a Mormon. You can listen in if you want, but in this post I’m speaking to the Saints, as we call ourselves.

I realize that we are not, as a people, the only ones that get bent out of shape when others – especially others of our own faith – attempt to correct our vision. It’s a worldwide neurosis that anyone could be saying anything to us that might make us uncomfortable. I believe we should be better than that, given the number of places where rebuke is given in the scriptures. Is there any place you can think of where a righteous person took offense when someone falsely accused them? Contrast that with the many places where people said “hey, that’s not fair”, and are any of the speakers people you want to be?

On the subject of the viral Mormon Messages video that I won’t link to, but you know the one I mean (you have the Internet before you, therefore search it):

I’m a man, so I don’t get to have an opinion here (for reasons I find quite valid, actually), but the video falls under Internet Rule #4:

If it offended you, it’s not FOR you.

There’s another rule that applies here as well, not just to the Internet, and that is:

When faced with a difficult, even seriously unpleasant message, ask first: Is there anything I can learn from this to make myself a better person?

The message may be unfair. It may be unwise. It may be MEANT to be offensive. We, however, have the ultimate choice here. If there is anything that can make me better, I want it. If only one percent of a terribly unfair comment is accurate, I need to hear it. Before I protest, before I reject, before I complain to the entire planet that something someone said is Just Not Right, is there anything here I can do to improve?

And there always is.

All that said, it’s rare in my experience for so many people to so completely miss the point of something. Though it’s presumptuous of me, let me say this:

If you’re complaining about the message of this video, I wonder if you didn’t understand it.

I don’t know why the mother in that video didn’t have a husband to help. I don’t know why she chose to give in to her manipulative child (aren’t they all?). I don’t know why she had a to-do list. I don’t know why she cared if she scratched all the items off. I don’t know HOW she scratched them all off, either. I don’t know why she did her son’s science project instead of letting him fail. I don’t know what she was thinking when she agreed to watch the neighbor’s kid. I don’t know why she didn’t take the neighbor’s kid with her. I don’t know why she didn’t order a pizza. I don’t know why she didn’t take the unbaked casserole to the neighbors for them to cook. I don’t know why she didn’t at least call her cousin at the airport. I don’t know why, plans ruined but having a babysitter anyway, she didn’t go out for a beer (metaphorically speaking), since she had a free evening.

In every one of those instances – and I have both seen them and experienced them all (except for the beer) – I have made both the choice she made and a different choice on multiple occasions. I don’t know why she chose what she chose.

Here’s a secret: NEITHER DO YOU.

See, this wasn’t a video telling us what we should do, it was a video showing us what we do do, already. It wasn’t an exercise program, it was a diagnosis of a disease, with a prescription for medicine that will ease the pain of it.

We all have this in common, don’t we? We’ve all got to the end of a day where we have done the very best we felt we could, and still been hugely discouraged and disappointed in ourselves (and our results). If there is anything to get from the video, it is that this feeling is unjustified. We cannot know what our best was worth. We cannot know what the effects will be. We cannot know anything but whether we put in our best efforts and did what we felt was right. All else is hidden, though we often think we see it. We are wrong.

Not only are we not in control of victory or defeat, most of the time we do not even know which we are experiencing at any given moment.

If you don’t identify with the woman, exhausted and disappointed, on the couch at the end of the day, then go watch something else. If you do identify with her – and I personally did – hear the message: you don’t know all the good you did. Each life touches so many other lives. You, George Bailey, really have a wonderful life. This is the truth, and the discouragement you are feeling is a lie. See it. Recognize it. Rise above it.

Right now the Internet is filled with derision for the message of this short film. “Your needs are important,” say some, and “learn to say no,” call others and “those were your own choices” still others advise. Those of us on that couch, we do get that. Know what you’re saying to us when you give this advice? “You did wrong, and that’s why you’re sad.” That’s what we hear. But we didn’t do wrong, or at least, if we did, we did it with the best intentions according to the best information and knowledge and inspiration we had, to which you are not privy and which you cannot judge. And we’re disappointed and sad, and you are NOT HELPING. Exhorting us to greater selfishness is not wise. We already fear that we are too much inclined that way.

If I am to err, the scriptures are abundantly clear, I must err on the side of being kind to and serving others. I must, if I have to choose between equal claims of myself and others, choose them. WHEN I DO, I MUST NOT BELIEVE I HAVE FAILED. That is the dark side.

Know who is helping? President Hinckley. That’s why he gets to talk at the end of the video. He’s calling out the lie, pointing to it, shrinking it. He’s putting a jack under our flat and raising us up. He’s offering perspective. He isn’t saying that we did everything right – if you think that’s what this video is about then methinks thou dost protest too much – but he is saying that even we, who think we know all about ourselves, don’t know how to judge, and we should be willing to give ourselves some of the benefit of the doubt.

Much of the world didn’t hear that message. But some of us did. And some of us were profoundly grateful for it. Maybe it wasn’t for you. Maybe it was just for me. I’m glad; I needed to hear it.

Your message will come along, soon enough. Meanwhile, leave mine alone?

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16 Responses to Mormon Messages We Ought Not to Send

  1. Brittany says:

    Nicely put and resonating. Thanks

  2. Ashley says:

    Until I read this post I didn’t even know there was controversy about this Mormon message. What I did know was that in the middle of my messy house, parent teacher conferences, football practices, homework, reading, I was having. overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and this video helped me to remember what was the most important. It reminded me of my value to God and that no small sacrifice goes unnoticed in His eyes. I bawled like a baby and my heart was full of gratitude for his tender mercies when I feel like I’m drowning. Thank you!!

  3. Allie says:

    Who is offended by that video?? What possible offensive message could have been transmitted?

    The message I received was that even if we aren’t visibly championing causes and succeeding completely, we have no idea the awesome power our small actions have to achieve great things.
    Allie recently posted..#BanFakeMy Profile

  4. Debbie Swenson says:

    Thank you. The outcry against this video has saddened me. If people feel like “martyrs” it’s because the sacrifices they make are from a resenting feeling of duty, and not from feelings of love. Ask of the sacrifices Christ made were from love. That is the example we are asked to follow. And while the script we’ve written for our lives doesn’t always go as we’ve planned it, the one God has written for us will make us much more than we can make ourselves. We haven’t really “lost our lives” in His service if we resent giving it

  5. Marie Cella says:

    Thank you. I hope you get shared and read by every woman who took offense. We never knock ourselves out for nothing. Every smile , gesture, and act of service emulates Christ.

  6. KC says:

    You may know the feeling of a busy tiring day. But you do not know the feeling of being a woman in the LDS church. You don’t know the feeling of having rarely if ever been listened to or even thought of or asked in a matter of importance, simply for being a woman. You do not know what it is like to be a teenage girl looking for strong role models of how she would like to be in the world we now live in. You don’t realize the privilege in having plenty of men in positions of leadership, giving talks from their male perspective, often often about women, how special they are, how women are or should be… However well meaning and useful these talks can be, women do not have the representation you can be sure of having. The stories of how men are or should be will never come largely filtered through and from women for you, while men are not allowed or encouraged to be leaders except in their proper place. You hear from and see plenty of examples of actual men-You can look to many varied types of men in leadership and are sure to find a man to model yourself after. Women are repeatedly hearing of all sacrificing pioneer women, sharing husbands, sending them on missions, burying children, ironing until hands are bleeding, doing chores with never a complaint… but most often these stories come from men–Can not women tell their own stories as well? Needless sacrifices are not wise. And this video is not wise. Again–the needless sacrificing of sanity for what? Any actual good message from the video could have been shown in a more healthy way. Perhaps you need to check your offense at those who would see the video for what it is-an absolutely unwise example of needless suffering and self/family damaging behavior. With an inspirational and true message pasted over it.

    • CjLehi says:

      I just wanted to say, having now unearthed your comment from the bowels of my website’s very aggressive comment filter, that you took on a hard topic here, and I for one think you did it with great skill and compassion and understanding.

      I’m not offended. I refuse to be. But seeing a thing “for what it is” is too convenient, when that “is” excludes all other interpretations. I really tried not to do that. You certainly CAN interpret that video as being demeaning and dangerous. I freely admit it. But why WOULD you, when there are so many other options (just peruse the comments here for a few of them)?

      It has nothing to do with anyone but ourselves. My choosing to take offense harms ME. Why would I do that to myself? Why would anyone? All I’m saying–apparently poorly–is that it might be better to decide we’re not going to. Yes, as you point out, there is ample justification. But justified anger is still anger. It’s still an enemy of our souls. Why would we make place for it?

  7. Rachel says:

    This is really wonderful. Well said.

  8. Eric Schulzke says:

    By putting the prophet’s imprimatur in the coda, this video puts a stamp of approval on the choices the mom made that day. She doesn’t need that message. The message this woman needs is that she needs space, she needs to breathe. She needs to be with her children, not just pass them by. She needs to say no to demands to take dinners to people with one child and a husband capable of cooking spaghetti.

    This is an archetypal battle within the church. Far too many women (and men) think that you should never say no to a service request by the same logic that you should never say no to a calling. That’s bunk. Looking back on this day, his sister shouldn’t be thinking that she was obliged to say yes at every turn. She had a right and an obligation to protect her space, to be with her children and to visit with her cousin. She should look back at that day and say to herself, I need to be more assertive about things that matter most and are in my domain. She doesn’t need to be told that the prophet sanctions her supineness.

    • CjLehi says:

      Please read what I said carefully. I was and am at great pains to say over and over that I don’t know what she should have done. You don’t seem to have read that.

      I also say that you don’t know what she should have done. And you don’t, though you’re very sure you do, apparently.

      Where you saw a reinforcement of imbalanced gender roles, I saw a hand reached out to help those people who do make those sacrifices, helping them to understand the good inherent in them. That’s the point. If you want to be offended, no one can stop you. I just don’t see why you would. Heaven knows there’s plenty to be outraged by, but what a hard way to live.

      All I can do is point back to the ultimate source of wisdom in human relations, which is the scriptures, specifically those that refer to Christ. I read a great deal about doing unto others being the same as doing unto God; I read precious little where those who “protect their space” are acting as He would have us do. That’s all I can say about it. I don’t know what you should do. I don’t know what she should do.

      I only know what I should do.

  9. Caroline says:

    I was so grateful for that message also. I recently injured my back when my daughter was 8 months old. It was 6 months of laying down for fear of breaking my back to the point beyond repair. During this time my daughter turned 1 and I of course was devestated that I could give her the birthday party that all her friends had got for their 1st birthday. I watched that video the day after my surgery, and cried for being so foolish. My daughter didn’t have a conventional 6 months but she had a mom that loved her and was home everyday with her laying on the ground to play with her, some children never get that. She had a dad that took care of her had her mom to show her what a true “Prince Charming” looks like. She was able to experience the love of family and ward members coming over and helping every day, sacrificing like the woman in that video did in order to help and uplift us. I am so grateful that I saw that video and was reminded that I’m not a failure because I injured my back. My daughter may not have had the first birthday party I would have liked, but she had a first year of life that I am proud of; a year full of love!
    (This weekend, 2 weeks after my surgery, my sister surprised my daughter, husband, and myself with a 1st birthday party for our daughter. It was a luau, just like I had wanted, and it was perfect. Of course I cried being overwhelmed with the generosity of all that were there. I am grateful for my sister and for other women like the one in the video, that think of others needs and do their best to help lift their burdens!)

  10. Blue says:

    Well stated. Thank you!

  11. Alisa says:

    Oh, Thank You! Yes. Yes. And Yes!

  12. Mary Brasher says:

    That message was beautiful, and this blog is spot on.

  13. Pam DeGraw says:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. Well said. My daughters (3) all married with children felt the sweet uplifting. message of the. video as did I. One of my daughters shared the video and another commented on your blog post visa Facebook. WOW. The backlash and cruelty was astonishing. I am shocked by members being so unkind to fellow sisters of the same religion

  14. S Mallory says:

    I did get the video. I loved the message. And the next day I was able to share that video on another’s FB page who was disappointed and discouraged after her hectic day. She was so appreciative of its message. It helped her look at her day another way. Thank you for the message.

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