Language reflects thinking
Now this isn’t the f-bomb many of you are thinking of. This was in sacrament meeting, after all, and the speaker radiated mainstream Mormondom. But how can you understand what I’m talking about without me being just as profane? Since I can’t think of any other way to do it, here goes. The f-bomb she dropped was family ward.
Yes, that phrase is profane. Words mean things. Language matters. And anyone who thinks it doesn’t — that this is just some petty concern — just doesn’t understand how language works and its effect upon people.
Simply put, the language we use reflects the way we think. It expresses culture. And as we’ve discussed often on the broadcast, the traditional culture of the LDS community has revolved around being married with kids. Some singles have kids, but by definition no single is married. So using a phrase like family ward just perpetuates a culture which excludes singles.
The nature of language
This isn’t something that’s just in the heads of LDS singles. Nor is it solely a product of how singles think, something that can be corrected with a change in perspective. For those who think it is, let me tell you about the cookie jar.
Yes, I said the cookie jar. Why do we call the cookie jar a cookie jar? The simple truth is because it’s a jar in which we place cookies. If you take the lid off a cookie jar, you expect cookies to be inside. That’s why it’s called a cookie jar. If there were peanuts inside, you’d call it a peanut jar. If there were bolts inside, you’d call it a bolt jar. That’s just the nature of language. Calling a container a cookie jar is like saying that is where cookies belong.
Family ward works the same way. It says families belong in that congregation, implying that people without full families don’t belong. Again, this isn’t just in singles’ heads. It’s the nature of language, which reflects how we think. And I’ve seen that play out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered marrieds who merely tolerated my presence in their ward. Their attitude definitely said, “You can come here if you want, but you really belong over there in that singles ward. If you do go there and get married, then you can come back and join us here in the main group.”
A higher level of thinking
As I sat there in sacrament meeting, I wondered how I should approach the speaker about her f-bomb. I didn’t really know her personally, nor did I have much opportunity to know her. She and her husband has just moved into the ward. As young as they are, I wanted to believe she said what she said out of ignorance.
In the end, I felt good about approaching her through an email message to her husband. I tried to be delicate and firm at the same time, in the end offering the suggestion to replace that f-bomb with general membership ward or, if that was too much of a mouthful, shorten it to general ward. I also expressed willingness to entertain other suggestions.
I never got a reply to the email. But I can surmise based on comments she made in later weeks in Sunday School that she realized how insensitive she’d been and wanted to change. And I felt satisfied with that.
If you’re still using that vile expression, please stop droppin’ f-bombs. The language we use will reflect what we truly embrace in our thinking. Let’s embrace a more inclusive culture within our LDS community by using language that reflects truly inclusive thinking. When we do, we’ll grow from seeing each other more as God sees us. We’ll benefit more from the contributions we make into each other’s lives. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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