I’ve posted previously concerning the need to watch our language. And I’m not talking profanity here. The words we use reflect our thinking. The words we use reveal how we think about our world.
Such is the case with the increasingly common expression family of one.
OK, yeah, I get it. No one wants to risk giving offense. Everyone wants to be sensitive. So when a culture that revolves around family has ever more adherents who have no family of their own, it’s not hard to see why an expression like family of one is growing in popularity among the accepted.
I wish that phrase could find the next bus, train, ship, or plane out of town. And I prefer it to take whichever one leaves first.
Getting back to basics
How do we support the family when our language supports a watered-down notion of what it means to be a family? Every reference to family I see in the scriptures, in the General Handbook of Instructions, and in the words of modern-day prophets and apostles points offers no accommodation for a “family” of just one person. Whether that is a husband and wife, or a couple with one or more children, or a single parent with one or more children, a family by definition requires at least two people.
That means there is no such thing as a family of one.
I don’t want people who want to interact with me walking around on eggshells in an effort to avoid offending me somehow. I’d rather have them display sensitivity by seeking to understand my situation as a single adult.
And I’d rather that we all use language that reflects our shared commitment to support the family as the basic unit of eternity.
Confrontation can bring . . . blessings?
Really believing that requires us to take action when we see this “sensitive” expression appear. My most recent experience involves my stake president.
Recently my stake president spoke in the sacrament meeting in my ward. And he used those three little infamous words. I knew he is usually at the stake center on Wednesdays to give temple recommend interviews, so I decided to appear and confront him about it.
After explaining my concern to him, I emphasized that I wasn’t attempting to trap him in a corner. I sought understanding. Why would he use that expression? And how does that expression strengthen the family?
I suppose a man in his position could have responded in several different ways. The route he chose amazed and humbled me.
When challenged with a question of propriety on his part, he immediately went back to basics. He began thinking out loud as he worked his way through a rational approach consistent with the scriptures and the teachings of modern prophets. When he reached a conclusion that a family of one wasn’t consistent with the idea of the family which Church leaders support, he immediately admitted his mistake and apologized.
My respect for this man grew exponentially. Clearly in his heart was a desire to do whatever was right.
Repeating my earlier assertion that I wasn’t looking to back him into a corner, I asked him why he used the phrase. He again meandered his way to the final answer: It just slipped out. He wasn’t watching his words as carefully as I was.
He then turned the question on me regarding what language we should use. I have no problem with the idea that a family requires more than one person. Ideally we should all be helping everyone to make and keep as many sacred covenants as we can. With respect to singles, that means supporting them and walking with them in their journey to make eternal marriage covenants.
My stake president then did just that with me. He asked me about my dating life, and we had a frank discussion about my own obstacles and what I could do to overcome them. He then asked if he could give me a priesthood blessing. I consented, and the blessing I received strengthened and encouraged me.
This is what it means for married members to walk with the singles. This is what supporting one another in our eternal journey is all about. And that’s something that eggshell expressions like family of one will never achieve.
Helping one another
It all starts with vision. But whether it involves building Zion or loving our neighbor, we will communicate and reinforce whatever vision we have with words. That’s why language matters. When it comes to supporting the family, let’s boldly support the eternal ideal. Let’s project an image based on the ideal definition. And then let’s all help one another in our individual journeys to make that definition as real as we can in our own lives.
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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