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Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Things We Say

by Kyle (bio)

A couple weeks ago in our ward, my wife was attending the Gospel Principles class where the topic of that week's lesson was on the the law of chastity and the atonement. I was not in the class; I was pacing the halls with my nine-month-old daughter trying to get her to sleep. But when the class was over my wife told me about the lesson.

The brother teaching the class said something during his discussion of the atonement that caused her to raise an eyebrow. What he said is something I've heard other people say before too, which to me means it's a saying that has been around for a while.

The teacher said: "I'd rather have my son come home in a coffin, than for him to lose his virtue on his mission."

Think about that for a second. This person, and those who've repeated it, if given the choice between death or sin for their child, would choose death.

I'm not saying the law of chastity isn't serious, but death? Really? Your own child, dead?

Here's why this one matters.

First, it is bad enough to hear a parent say that they'd choose death for their child over sin. As evidenced by the plan of salvation, that's not how our Heavenly Parents think, and I don't think it should be the way we think. God sent us here knowing that we would sin. But he also sent us here knowing that despite those sins, he has a way for us to be clean again. I've been a parent for nine months now (so I'm SUPER experienced), and there is nothing this little bundle of snot and boogers could do that would make me say, "I'd rather she come home in a coffin."

Second, what this says to the people in our congregations and classrooms who have been unvirtuous is that they are worthless; they should have just died. Even if repentance has already taken place, and forgiveness has already been given, the message is still there. A coffin would have been better than what you did.

That's not what the gospel is about. At least that's not how it was taught to me. Instead, it is about love. It's unconditional love from a Father in Heaven, who, knowing that his children would make mistakes (some really big mistakes), still sent his son to bleed and die for them so they can be forgiven. For me, the phrase this teacher used doesn't have a place in this gospel of love and repentance.

My wife talked to this teacher after the class was over and told him that his saying didn't really make sense in the discussion about the atonement. The teacher told her that he meant that he'd rather have him die than go through the pain of repentance (um … okay). After they spoke for a few minutes the teacher then said that maybe he shouldn't use that saying anymore, that he had never really thought about what message it sends.

The things we say matter. They matter when we are saying them in our own testimonies, teaching a class, or acting in any other leadership position (particularly as leaders in our own families). The things we say matter, and if we are just mindlessly repeating phrases or ideology that has been passed down for years, then we aren't helping anyone.

I would hope that if I found myself in the situation where my child had been unvirtuous, that my reaction wouldn't be to wish death instead of sin. Rather I hope what I would say is, "You are my child. I love you. Your Father in Heaven loves you, and your Savior bled for you because He loves you."

By the time some of you have reached the end of this post you will probably have found one or more sources for this phrase -- the oldest I can find is President Heber J. Grant -- and will say "Kyle, a prophet said this, so end of discussion." But let me remind you, that another prophet has recently said that Church leaders have made mistakes, and I believe this is one of them.

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