Friday, December 15, 2017

My Family's Imperfect Mormon Stats

If you have lived in areas that are thick with Mormon culture, you may have heard the term Mormon stats. No, this doesn't refer to statistics about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although, there are lots of those generated by the Church and other sources.

Rather, Mormon stats references the list of things many Mormons like to use to judge themselves and each other, such as:
  • Scouting rank / Young Womanhood award.
  • Missionary service.
  • Temple marriage.
  • Educational attainment.
  • Church leadership callings.
  • Career position.
  • Number of children.
  • Other markers of active participation in the Church and social success.
  • Children/grandchildren meeting or excelling in any of the above.
This isn't an exhaustive list. Other items may include the amount of family history work done, volume of food storage on hand, service projects completed, full-time mom at home, etc. Yet other factors may be regional or specific to certain subgroups.

I grew up in a family that had pretty great Mormon stats. My parents served in Church leadership positions, had successful careers, served missions, and had five Eagle Scout sons who all served full-time missions, married in the temple, raised (and are raising) great kids, have served faithfully in various Church callings, and have achieved well in education and career fields.

When my wife and I married I was pretty sure our family would follow a path similar to my parents. It hasn't been exactly like that. We love and cherish each of our five children, but as promised in my patriarchal blessing, they have brought us a variety of challenges. Each of our children is a unique and beautiful, yet flawed soul.

Among our kids we have Eagle Scouts, returned missionaries, college graduates, intelligence, talent, ingenuity, compassion, humor, and a host of other positive attributes. Our kids also have among them a variety of physical and mental health issues that make for some interesting (as in, perplexing) twists. Also, personal choices have occasionally led to spiritual and temporal challenges, some of them seemingly long-term.

Let's just say that I have accepted the fact that our family isn't going to have perfect Mormon stats. But maybe that's OK. After all, there are some pretty awesome parents whose families don't look quite like the cultural Mormon ideal. Among them are those we refer to as our Heavenly Parents. A third of Their children are in a permanent state of rebellion and many others cause plenty of sorrow.

Our kids really are wonderful people, even if they skew our Mormon stats a bit. Each is on their own journey that is intertwined with my journey, but my child's journey is not my journey. I think parents sometimes get messed up on this to the point that they want to force their children to do the "right" thing. Or maybe they just want their kids to make them look good socially.

None of the Mormon stat markers are bad. In fact, most of them very desirable. But the extent to which they are about social status in our minds is the same extent to which our thinking needs to be re-engineered to focus on those things that are truly important. I'm talking to myself here. I seem to like checklists and I feel like I have accomplished something when I check off an item on a list. But too close of a focus on a checklist can cause one to lose sight of core matters.

Our family is splendid. In its current state it has some distortions and cracks. But I don't expect it to forever remain in that state. I have full faith in Jesus Christ, the master craftsman who has the desire and the ability to make our family a perfect whole in His own way and time. Along the way we will do our best to do the right thing and to let the Savior do His work.

Regardless of where my family is with respect to Mormon stats, each of my children knows that I will always love them and that I will always be proud to be their dad. Even after this life passes.