Sunday, September 30, 2012

Disappointment

Disappointment is a recurring thing when you leave the church. First comes the big one--the disappointment that the church you've invested your life in is a crock of shit. That's pretty disappointing. Then you're disappointed at the way people react to your leaving--to their disappointment. It's just kind of a sad cycle of disappointment for everyone.

This has recently been thrown into sharp relief for me when I announced my engagement. My fiancé is, like me, an atheist. We have no interest in a temple wedding. We're not terribly invested in the concept of "marriage" at all--were it not for family pressure, we would probably wait a few more years and just live together for a few years first. We'd have a nice wedding when we're able to pay for it ourselves. But to keep the peace, we're doing it now. Four months from now, actually.

My mother's disappointment has been hard for me to deal with. Years ago she told me that her greatest wish for me was for me to get married in the temple to a worthy priesthood holder. Turns out I'm not doing that. I'm getting married in a courthouse to an atheist. The only thing worse, in her mind, would be "shacking up" together (which, ironically, would be my preference if I wasn't taking anything else under consideration). My fiancé was a worthy priesthood holder, at least until he left the church. I think he's a nicer person than most "worthy priesthood holders" I've known. He doesn't judge people. I'm never afraid to be myself or say what I'm thinking around him. That's a luxury that I never had with anyone else, least of all the Mormons I've known (including my family and the one Mormon guy I dated). I am far happier than I would be if I were living her dream for me. She says she's happy for me. But she's still disappointed. And that makes me sad. The librarians at my local library showed more excitement when they heard I was engaged than my own mother did. That stings.

I can't blame her too much--I'd probably react the same way if I were in her shoes. I blame the church. This sort of thing isn't exclusive to the Mormon church; former Catholics and Jews face the same problems, as do people from many other religious denominations. Ex-Mormons have a unique spin on it, because their families believe that they're sacrificing "eternal marriage" for "til death do you part." But the fundamental problem isn't all that different. You're getting married, but the package isn't good enough for your family.

So how do you deal with it? It's hard not to let it all get to me. I've found that the most helpful thing has been talking with my fiancé and sympathetic friends. It's nice to know that there are some people excited for me. It's also nice to feel like I'm not crazy.

Also, you just have to let some things go. I have to accept that my mom is only capable of being so happy for me, and be happy with that. In the end, I know that I'm making the right choice for me.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Freedom

A lot has happened since my last blog post. Most notably, I've graduated from BYU-Idaho (finally!!) and will be getting married in January to a wonderful man and fellow atheist that I met while we were both students there. I'm also coming up on the three-year anniversary of my apostasy. It feels like it's been a lot longer than that because so much has happened. I was thinking about that today, and about how much religion changes a person--whether you're joining or leaving one. A lot of things about me are the same as they always were, but the church was such a fundamental part of my life when I was a Mormon that I really couldn't help but change drastically when I extricated myself from it.

I often note to myself or others how much freedom I have now that I've left the church. A lot of that freedom has to do with ceasing to give a shit about the church's rules. Word of Wisdom? Fuck that, I love coffee--although I still get something of a rush when I go to Starbucks, like I'm getting away with something. It's fun that something so mundane to the rest of the world is so exciting to me. I haven't tried alcohol and I'm not hugely interested in it, although I'd like to try wine sooner or later. Law of Chastity? Fuck that, too. Both the WoW and LoC are examples of ways that the church infantilizes its members. Rejecting the church's rules means having to think things through for yourself. Coffee was a pretty easy thing for me to do. Alcohol is a bit more complicated in my mind, because I have alcoholic relatives and there's a lot of social stuff wrapped up in it as well, but I now trust myself to make mature and responsible decisions regarding it. The same is even more true of sex. I don't rely on an institution to make choices regarding my sex life for me. Back when I was in school, my roommates had a discussion about whether oral sex was okay for married couples to do. To Mormon me, deferring to the church on this matter would have made perfect sense. Now, it's none of their business. It's between me and whoever I'm having sex with; why the fuck would I ask some old guy at church whether oral sex is okay? And, by extension, on what planet should I care about what some old guy, or a panel of old guys, thinks about whether I've gone through some legal shenanigans before having sex? I'm a grown-up. I'm capable of making responsible decisions for myself.

That freedom--the freedom to make my own decisions--is particularly important to me, in part, because of my gender. Since leaving the church I've become adamantly pro-choice. I don't want the church making personal decisions for me, and I don't want the government or society making them for me either. It is my choice whether or not to get pregnant or stay pregnant, and anyone who wants to make that choice for me can fuck off. I don't care if you think that a blastocyst somehow qualifies as a person, or that deferring to someone else's preferences regarding abortion is "taking responsibility" for my actions. I'm not part of a cult anymore. I make my own choices now. The Mormon church and anyone else who presumes to dictate my choices can go fuck themselves.

Another aspect of my life where I feel significantly more free since leaving is intellectual, but still somewhat gendered. I've made posts about this topic in the past, so I'll be brief here--I'm a feminist, and I don't care what the church wants me to do with my life. Choosing not to have children does not mean that I'm "listening to Satan." Neither does choosing career over children. I'm getting married soon, but if I wasn't interested in marriage, there would be nothing wrong with me staying unmarried.

It's kind of an exhilarating feeling, actually. It's like I'm suddenly invulnerable. And, in a sense, I am--I'm immune to the church's coercive tactics. After all, telling me that I'm "listening to Satan" isn't very effective when Satan doesn't exist. You might as well tell me that Santa won't bring me any presents this Christmas.

This freedom is awesome. I wouldn't sacrifice it for anything. Church members are regularly told that the church is the only way to happiness, and that they're happier as members than they would be otherwise. As someone who's lived on both sides of the fence and was reasonably happy on their side, I am so much happier with a free mind. It's like waking up and winning the lottery every day.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Intellectual abuse

One of the things that I find most troubling about the LDS church is the intellectual abuse that it perpetrates on its members. This abuse is a product of the brainwashing that the church does, and it is incredibly harmful to the ability of its members to exercise unfettered critical thinking. Members are trained to constantly measure their own thoughts, opinions, and conclusions against the positions of the church and the teachings of its leaders. If the church has made no definite statement on a given subject, members may debate and think freely, but if the church does have some doctrine or position, then woe to the member who should dare to differ. In essence, the church undercuts the intellectual process. I have seen members develop sophisticated and compelling reasoning for some view that they may hold, and then drop it all without a second thought when they hear a prophet or apostle speak on the matter--even if that prophet's or apostle's justification (if any is provided at all) is weak or patently absurd. 

When I was a believing member of the church, the church was all-encompassing in my thinking. All my thoughts and conclusions had to fit into the framework of my belief. This is only natural, and all human beings do this--try to fit new thoughts and ideas into their existing perception of how the world may be. The troubling thing was and is that the church clothes itself in asserted moral superiority, and disagreeing with the church is not mere disagreement--it is immoral and a reflection on the individual's righteousness. Disagreement with or--heaven forbid--criticism of church leaders is a cardinal sin in Mormonism. Those who dare to criticize are automatically seen as at risk for apostasy--if they are not apostates already. This attitude stifles intellectual discourse and proper airing of ideas. The church sees itself as a unilateral giver of universal truth. Any who disagree are at best misguided by Satan, and at worst are his servants. 

All this means that any members who do question anything in the church or think anything that is not consistent with its official positions are made to feel guilty for their thoughts. It doesn't matter if the issue is something small and stupid like earrings or skirt length, or hugely important like gay marriage or the truth of the church itself. The concept and culpability of thoughtcrime is alive and well in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

ANNOUNCEMENT: URL change

please note that I am changing the URL of my blog to blissfulheretic.blogspot.com.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The meaning of meaning

The second Sunday after my deconversion was stake conference. Said deconversion took place late on a Monday night, and I had had a whole week to think about things. I was quite certain--let's say 97%--that the church was not true. (For reference, I'd now put that somewhere around 99.99%, give or take.) I had spent a lot of time online researching and reading exit stories. I had realized the implications of my lost testimony on the night of my deconversion. I didn't know whether to believe in God. My belief up to that point had been informed entirely by Mormonism, and I had no experience with God outside of that context.

I wanted to believe in God. Oh, how desperately I wanted to believe in God. That first night I cried and prayed myself to sleep. I didn't know what to do. I had a strong suspicion that there wasn't a God, but I didn't want to confront it. It was a giant pink elephant in the living room of my mind, and I really didn't want to deal with it. I wanted to just believe.

Those first few weeks after my deconversion were the most surreal experience of my life. It was as if I was a prisoner recently released from a life in prison. I didn't know what to think or how to handle this new perspective. It frightened and baffled me. Everything was new, and once I got past the initial fear I was like a kid in an intellectual candy shop. I was allowed to think about things that I hadn't been able to before. But at first, it was too scary. And one of the scariest things to think about was whether or not God existed.

The reason this was so frightening to contemplate was because God and Mormonism together had comprised the totality of my life's meaning. I didn't know how to think about life, the world, or even myself outside of that context. The world seemed so dark, empty, and meaningless without it. I had time to think about this on that Sunday afternoon, after stake conference had ended. One of my roommates was out of town and the other two were asleep. It was sunny outside and there was no snow on the ground yet, so I wrapped myself in a blanket and leaned on the railing outside my apartment, just like I had the night I lost my testimony.

I mulled over the idea of atheism in my mind as I watched the wind blow through the grass and the trees of my dorm's courtyard. I couldn't comprehend it. How could this beautiful, fascinating, complex world exist without some kind of divine being? How could my life have any meaning at all? I wanted to believe. I felt emotionally compelled to believe. But intellectually, I couldn't justify it. I was faced with Søren Kierkegaard's choice of whether to make a leap of faith, and I couldn't do it. I was caught between faith and doubt, and doubt was winning, even though I didn't want it to.

I came to no firm conclusions that day on the railing outside my apartment. I would work through this dilemma over the course of the following months. But that day, I couldn't even put a name to what I believed. I didn't believe--or disbelieve--anything. I didn't know what to believe, and it was uncomfortable. The reason this dilemma was so difficult was because I needed meaning in my life, and I didn't see how I could have it without God.

Human beings seem to have a compelling need for meaning. What they mean when they say "meaning" is very subjective, but the persistence of the question surely indicates that we need some kind of answer to it. Philosophically speaking, there are four basic answers to the question. All but one was incomprehensible to me as a newly minted apostate, because all four have fundamentally different conceptions of what the question is. Well-meaning people on Internet forums told me that I had to create my own meaning. They might as well have been speaking Klingon for all the sense that made to me. Meaning, to me, wasn't something you could just create out of your own fancies and preferences. It was supposed to be objective, immutable. I subscribed to the religious version of meaning. For something to have meaning, in my view, it had to fit into a bigger picture somehow. This view of meaning is very well articulated in a poem popular with Christians, the author of which I (regrettably) do not know:


My life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors,
He worketh steadily.
Oft times He weaveth sorrow,
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.

Not 'til the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
in the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
in the pattern He has planned.
He knows, He loves, He cares,
nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
who leave the choice with Him.

Meaning, for me, required my life to fit into "the big picture" in a predetermined way, just like the individual threads in a tapestry go together to make a picture. The proposition that one must create one's own meaning will make no sense to someone who thinks this way--after all, a bunch of threads all doing whatever they please is not going to make any kind of discernible picture on a tapestry.

I hinted at the second view of meaning earlier--this view questions the utility of "meaning of life" as a concept. It holds that the idea that life must have a "meaning" is, in itself, meaningless. In the first place, the question, "what is the meaning of life?" presumes a priori that life does, in fact, have a meaning. But does it? And in the second place, what does that mean? If you reject the existence of God and of any other overarching teleology, you can't have meaning in the tapestry sense. You have to come up with something else. This view holds that there is no such thing.

The third view, which is often confused with atheism itself, is nihilism. Nihilism holds that while the concept of "meaning" is coherent, no such meaning can or does exist. Many atheists do take this position, but not all do. When I subscribed to the tapestry view, I saw nihilism as the only alternate option. And justifiably so--if you reject the truth of the tapestry view, but still retain that definition of meaning, then you are faced with no meaning.

The fourth view is the humanist view. This is the "create your own meaning" view. And it requires a shift in one's understanding of the meaning of meaning (so to speak). Instead of a tapestry, the humanist view sees meaning as a sort of mosaic--there's no overarching picture, but it's still beautiful even in its chaos. And, as you would expect, definitions of meaning vary widely within humanism. This view is, in one sense, much more limited than the tapestry view because it is not objective or overarching, nor does it have any kind of ultimate end. It's temporary and subjective. But on the other, this same fact creates a great deal of freedom and flexibility as well. And it does require much more of the individual. It requires one to "know thyself," as the ancient Delphic oracle admonished. It requires one to work through the mire of epistemology and ethics, and it doesn't have easy answers.

I did not understand this distinction that first Sunday. I could only conceive of meaning in a limited way. I wanted to fit into something beyond my own control or will. In a way, I wanted to be enslaved to a "higher power"--it did not matter what God's plan was, so long as I fit into it somewhere. But I had already realized that I really had no interest in fitting into the Mormon conception of meaning. I have chosen the humanist view. Admittedly, this makes me something of a relativist. It entails a certain amount of epistemological ambiguity. I'm okay with that. But the important thing to understand--what I did not understand as I began my search for meaning without religion--is that before you can find the meaning of life, you have to know what that question means to you.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Family

Family is very important in the Mormon church. From a doctrinal standpoint, this makes a lot of sense. The essence of LDS theology is the belief that God is our Eternal Father, and that the purpose of this life is to prove ourselves worthy to become like him. Celestial marriage (what that means depends on which prophet you ask) is considered indispensable for salvation because the function of immortality--that is, being like God--is to create more worlds and populate them with one's spiritual offspring. (Naturally this necessitates polygamy in the Celestial Kingdom, but that is another issue entirely.) Since the purpose of this life is for all of Elohim's children to gain bodies and be tested for worthiness, the church teaches that everyone has the responsibility to assist in this plan by bringing as many spirits as possible into the world. That is the ostensible reason why Mormon families tend to be rather large, and why Mormons are encouraged to marry early and to have children as soon as possible after marriage. Many Mormons also believe that their families were constituted in the preexistence and that there are certain spirits who were meant to be in their families. It's common for members, especially women, to share stories of thinking at one point that they were done having children, but later realizing that there was still one or more spirits waiting to be a part of their family.

Because the family is so central to the LDS view of the very meaning of existence, the church places a great deal of emphasis on it. In 1995, the church issued a Proclamation on the Family that outlines the church's beliefs about the family and its role in this life and the next. Among other things, the Proclamation emphasizes traditional gender roles and sexual mores, as well as insisting that "God's commandment for his children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force." 

In recent years, the church has been trying to enhance its image as a "family" church. It has always been adamantly opposed to homosexuality and gay marriage, and it has received a lot of press for this since its involvement in Prop 8. Nary a conference goes by without a veiled reference to "the family" being under attack. The current threat is the gay rights movement, but historically the church has also identified feminism and interracial marriage as threats to the family. 

All this leads one to ask what exactly the LDS church means when they talk about "the family" When they state from the pulpit that "the family" is "under attack," what do they mean? Personally, I find it rather absurd when the church says that marriage and family are under attack when in fact they are actively trying to deny marriage and family to LGBT people. It is obvious that not all families are created equal in the church's eyes--gay parents, single parents, and working mothers are all considered threats to their ideal. 

"Family" is a loaded word, and not just in the LDS church. Politics is peppered with references to "family values" and such. That's not surprising--humans are social creatures by nature, and one's family is one's first social network and plays a vital role in human development. We tend to have strong emotions about our families as a result. This makes "family," with all its emotional baggage, an ideal word for manipulation. A common technique that coercive organizations use is thought-stopping. One thought-stopping technique is to use loaded language that elicits knee-jerk responses rather than promoting rational discourse. "Family" in Mormon-speak is one of these words. It means more to a Mormon than the dictionary definitions that can include a family with a married heterosexual couple and their children as well as a childless married couple or a family with gay parents. Family for Mormons is not just a group of people who are joined together by love and commitment; it is also a set of ideas. I outline some of these below.

  1. Mormons believe that the family was intended to be an eternal unit, and in order for this to happen one has to have certain ordinances performed in LDS temples. Only members can have these ordinances performed, and this means that the whole family must be Mormon. It means that if you are a member and single, you should only marry a member (and the church uses scare tactics and manipulation to convince people to do this). It means that if you are a convert, then you should convert your family as well. And it means that your most important priority in raising your children will be to keep them in the church. 
  2. Because Mormons see the family as the instrument that executes God's plan, they believe that they have an obligation to marry early and to have many children starting as early as possible. I discussed this and the damage it causes in my previous blog post
  3. Biologically speaking, only a male and a female can have children, and the LDS church makes much of this fact. Because having children is so central to their conception of existence--God's spirit children must be given bodies--the church defines family by these biological limitations. This is further fueled by the fact that the church subscribes to a very rigid view of gender and gender roles, insisting that children need both male and female parents. 
  4. Because women who work are likely to have children later and to have fewer of them, the LDS church emphasizes a traditional family model with a working father and a stay-at-home mother. As many of my previous posts have indicated, I have serious beef with the role that this creates for women. There is more to a woman than her reproductive capacity, and her choices in life should not be circumscribed by that. 
In sum, "the family" as defined by the church is in fact shorthand for a Mormon, heterosexual, patriarchal, traditional family unit. Such a narrow definition, with its emphasis on superficial and non-universal criteria, causes more important considerations to take a backseat. The church does not like a definition of marriage or family based on mutual love and commitment because such a definition is not exclusive to heterosexuals. Such a clinical focus on the family as an offspring-producing unit is ultimately harmful to the family as an instrument of human association and affection. Gay couples cannot marry, foster children are denied stable homes, young adults are pressured into early and unwise marriages, and young married couples are pressured to have children when whey may not be able to afford them and may not even want them. It is ironic that a loaded word that relies on legitimate emotions about family and its meaning actually undermines those very emotions in order to reduce the family to a coercive tool. I find this to be deeply disturbing. I love my own family very much, and the fact that the church essentially reduces it to a political tool is very bothersome to me--and I am a child of heterosexual parents in a church-sanctioned marriage. How much more does that undermining of what "family" really means apply to people whose families do not fit the church's political ideal, but are families nonetheless?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dick and Jane: or, The Marriage Trap

Meet Dick. Dick is a 21-year-old recently returned missionary. He was born and raised in the LDS church. He has been a valiant member of the church his whole life. He did well in school, advanced through the levels of the priesthood, graduated seminary with a nearly 100% attendance record, and served an honorable mission in Uganda. Dick does feel guilty because he can't seem to shake his masturbation habit and because he occasionally looks at pornography. Not very often--maybe once a month or so--so he rationalizes to himself that it's not a serious problem. But deep down he feels very guilty. He feels like he is betraying his priesthood and temple covenants.

On the whole, though, Dick is an ideal, squeaky-clean Mormon boy. He is returning for a second semester at BYU after he dutifully took two years away from his education for his mission. Although he only baptized four people while on his mission, he came away with a deep testimony of the gospel. He reads his well-worn scriptures daily and prays fervently. He is majoring in business at BYU (even though he'd much rather study physics) so that he will be able to provide for his future family. He serves in his student ward as a Sunday School teacher.

Dick's top priority right now, as per his former mission president's instructions, is to find a worthy young woman to be his eternal companion. He's been told by his bishop that it's his responsibility to date as much as he can. And so he does, looking for the girl who's meant to be his wife.

Meet Jane. Jane is a lovely girl. She worked her way through the Young Women program until she earned her medallion, graduated seminary with honors, and has a burning testimony of the gospel. Like Dick, she prays and reads her scriptures every day. She keeps her mind and body pure and innocent. She strongly believes that her greatest mission in life is to be a wife and mother--she can't wait to be a mommy. She's studying at BYU, but she hasn't declared a major yet. For one thing, she's hoping to be married soon, so she assumes that she doesn't need much in the way of higher education. And for another, she doesn't know what she would like to study, having focused all of her goals and dreams on her ideal of a fairytale wedding shortly followed by motherhood. She's taking light credit loads consisting of general studies supplemented by ballroom dancing and sewing classes. But although she does not devote much energy to her education, Jane is quite intelligent. She has an aptitude for math and a fascination with art (although she fastidiously avoids any paintings or statues of naked people). But because being a mother someday is so important to her, she devotes most of her time and energy to developing skills that will help her make a happy home. She loves the social life at BYU with all the handsome returned missionaries who seem so much nicer than the non-Mormon boys she knew in high school outside of Utah. She's had a series of boyfriends, but has lately begun to doubt herself because none of her relationships led to marriage. As a result, she immediately latches on to any man who expresses interest in her, convinced that this, at last, is "the one."

Dick and Jane meet when they are assigned to the same FHE group one semester. They start dating a few weeks into the semester. As with all her previous relationships, Jane hopes that this one will lead to a date at the temple. She enjoys planning not-so-hypothetical weddings with her roommates and browsing rings and dresses online. Dick, while still feeling unworthy because of his masturbation problem, is delighted to have found a special daughter of God, and he redoubles his efforts to keep himself pure for her. He slips up sometimes, but he is trying.

By Thanksgiving Dick and Jane are getting serious about each other. Jane has high hopes that Dick will propose any day. Dick is having a difficult time restraining himself sexually. They have very strong feelings for each other and are convinced that they are in love. Everyone around them is happy for them, and roommates are beginning to ask when the engagement will be. Reading a recent General Conference talk encouraging young adults, especially young men, not to hold off on marriage serves as the final push for Dick to propose to Jane just before the Christmas break.

After the engagement, Dick and Jane are showered with congratulations and well-wishes. They become stereotypical lovebirds--cooing at each other, playing with each others' hair, and generally being oblivious to everyone else around them (and rather annoying both sets of roommates). Their conversations consist primarily of flirting and wedding plans. After a long six months and several close calls with the Law of Chastity, the two are married in the Salt Lake Temple.

The first few months are divine. Dick and Jane are passionately in love with each other. Jane quits school and takes a job to help pay for Dick's tuition. She stops working, however, when after less than a year of marriage she finds that she is pregnant. Both she and Dick are overjoyed, but Jane especially is ecstatic because she is now beginning to fulfill her divine role as a woman.

More children follow, and soon it becomes apparent to both that married life is not the fairytale that they always thought it was. Jane's time is taken up with her growing number of children and they rarely have time alone together. When they are able to spend time together, they find that they have little to talk about. Dick has returned to his pornography habit to fill the emotional and sexual void created when the magic of his relationship with Jane faded. Jane wonders why her husband does not love her anymore--if he did love her, then obviously he wouldn't be seeking solace in the nasty videos that he watches when he thinks she's asleep. Jane invests herself more and more in her children, Dick more and more in his work. Dick is unhappy at a job that he finds boring and unstimulating, although it does provide well for his large family. Although she will never admit it to herself, Jane is unhappy with her life as well. Shortly after her youngest child begins school, she becomes seriously depressed and her doctor prescribes Prozac. To a casual observer, Dick and Jane have a wonderful life and a happy family. But both partners wonder if they're doing something wrong in their marriage that is keeping them from the happiness that they were promised.

Dick and Jane's story, while obviously fictional in this case, is one that repeats itself many times over in the Mormon church. Men and especially women are taught that having a family is the most important thing they will ever do in life--that it is a divine calling. It is common for returning missionaries to be told by their mission presidents that their next responsibility is to find a wife as soon as possible. Women are regularly taught in church that marriage and children are the most important priorities in their lives. Both are encouraged to interpret their feelings as "promptings of the Spirit," and they consequently mistake early infatuation with a relationship for the Spirit telling them that they have found the one that they are meant to be with for eternity. The increasing sexual tension in the relationship compounded with the expected abstinence prior to marriage places additional pressure on the couple to marry as soon as possible so that they can keep themselves "pure." As a result, it is extraordinarily common for Mormons to marry quite young and after dating only for a short period of time. After marrying and having children right away, many of these couples find that they have little in common besides the church. They may become depressed or feel like they are not righteous enough. Obviously this isn't the case all the time; sometimes couples get lucky, and some have enough presence of mind to avoid rushing into a marriage and children with someone they've only known for a few months. But it happens more than it should, and it is a direct result of the church's harmful teachings.

I've heard it argued that the church does not actually pressure its members into early marriage and children. But consider, for example, the oft-quoted Family Proclamation's statement that "God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force." This little quote is often cited in church lessons and BYU devotionals to urge the faithful to reproduce early and often. LDS prophets and other church leaders have made clear there insistence on this matter. In a 1987 General Conference address entitled "To the Fathers in Israel," Ezra Taft Benson quoted Spencer W. Kimball as he urged young couples not to wait to have children:
 "I have told tens of thousands of young folks that when they marry they should not wait for children until they have finished their schooling and financial desires. … They should live together normally and let the children come."
In the April 2011 General Conference, both Thomas S. Monson and Richard G. Scott urged young adults to marry. In "The Eternal Blessings of Marriage", Scott said, "If you are a young man of appropriate age and are not married, don’t waste time in idle pursuits. Get on with life and focus on getting married." In his address entitled "Priesthood Power," Monson, the man who speaks for God, scolded young men who postponed marriage:
"Now, I have thought a lot lately about you young men who are of an age to marry but who have not yet felt to do so. I see lovely young ladies who desire to be married and to raise families, and yet their opportunities are limited because so many young men are postponing marriage.
This is not a new situation. Much has been said concerning this matter by past Presidents of the Church. I share with you just one or two examples of their counsel.
Said President Harold B. Lee, 'We are not doing our duty as holders of the priesthood when we go beyond the marriageable age and withhold ourselves from an honorable marriage to these lovely women.'"
Monson then went on to urge unmarried men not to worry about financial considerations such as how to take care of a wife (as if women are incapable of taking care of themselves!) and to suggest that young men are simply "having a little too much fun being single." It is clear that the church puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on young adults to marry and produce offspring, and young members like Dick and Jane are the victims. People rush into marriage and children under the direction of church authorities and then wonder why they are not happy.