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Friday, June 29, 2012

The Illusion of Choice

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Having an investment banking background helped me not be shocked by the graphic above, but seeing all the brands on one graphic caught my attention. How many of us realize only ten companies control a majority of the products in our local grocery store? Do we realize that when we narrow down our candy bar choice to Peanut M&M's, Snickers or Twix, it doesn't matter to MARS what we buy. To MARS, we don't have a choice. This is called the illusion of choice.

I've been thinking about how this graphic relates to the free agency of our children, more specifically the free agency of my eleven year-old daughter who turns twelve today. Thinking back to my own youth, the pressure to follow the prescribed path - priesthood, group dating, eagle scout, testimony, mission, temple marriage - was ever-present and weighty. I had some flexibility, but it was expected my decisions would lead to me "choosing MARS."

The problem was not with my feet - they were on the path - but with my heart. I played the part when I had to, and hit all the milestones, but ultimately satisfied my desire for what I thought was "real choice" by looking outside the walls of my home and ward. This mindset - that real choice does not exist within the church - continued until just a few years ago when I realized I could change my approach.

Back to my twelve year-old, Ella. My wife and I are concerned she'll feel the same way I did. Which is why we look for every opportunity to teach Ella that the illusion of choice doesn't have to exist. Imagine flipping the graphic the other way - with the companies on the outside - and I think you'll get the point. Each of the companies could represent one of the commandments, or a particular milestone or church doctrine you find important or appealing, and the products could be representative of the many ways we can obey the commandments, reach the milestone or follow the doctrine.

Let's play the example out with one aspect of our faith my wife and I consider to be important and would like to pass on to our children - a belief in the divine nature of our Heavenly Parents. Let's pretend Ella is having a difficult time developing a close relationship with her Heavenly Father because she feels He is distant and doesn't understand her. Well, we might suggest she try developing a closer relationship with her Heavenly Mother in order to feel closer to her Heavenly Father.

Recognizing the woman in the divine is very much in-line with past and present church doctrine, despite a silence around Heavenly Mother in church meetings and manuals. As AskMormonGirl lays out nicely in this recent post, there is absolutely no doctrinal basis for the prohibition of discussion of Heavenly Mother (this BYU Studies paper on the topic is a must-read). Knowing that a belief in Heavenly Mother is acceptable might also help Ella feel more connected to her Heavenly Father and cause her to overcome her roadblock.

Returning to the graphic, my wife and I think it’s vital that at some point our children come to understand what they find most desirable about their faith (the companies) in order to then seek out and search among the many real choices afforded them (the products) to find something that works for them. Said another way, telling our children what we expect the outcome of their choices to be, and then hoping they get there, could negate each of their individual spiritual journeys in finding their way to God.

What say ye, MMM readers?

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