Sunday, April 10

A "Sheltered" Life

I know some people who like to rant about those who live "sheltered" lives. Usually those ranting (in my presence) are unmarried or married with no children... and they are almost always talking about others - judging them or being intolerant of them. You don't see mothers or fathers of newborns talking about how they want to expose their baby to as many airborne pathogens as possible to quickly develop antibodies. As they look at others, they see huge character deficits. For whatever reason, they then quickly claim that living a "sheltered" life is the cause of many of the earth's ills - from inadvertently hurting others to malicious hatred, prejudice, and injustice.

I'm not exactly sure what qualifies as a "sheltered" life, but as I've spoken with those ardently opposed to living one, I think I've found some commonalities. A "sheltered" life, regardless of the location or condition of the world outside the home, is often described as living in the ideal home, with parents and family members who are active members of the Church, with parents who successfully create a Christlike atmosphere in their home - children who grow up in a home that looks towards the temple, follows the prophet, has Family Home Evening and family scripture study... and where love, peace, and harmony reign supreme.

From that perspective, I grew up in a "sheltered" home. And when I have kids, I will definitely do my best to keep them unspotted from the world - to teach them the things they need to know to be saved. ...and I join with the Brethren in hoping that every family could have the opportunity to learn about the Savior in the temple that is their home.

For some reason, some people I know equate good parenting with bad kids. But looking at scriptural examples that doesn't make sense. Adam and Eve were chosen to come to Earth for their righteousness and ability to be parents of the entire human race. They taught their children in about an ideal environment as possible - no peer pressure, no media, no outside influences but the prophet and his wife. Then Cain slew Abel. If parenting and childhood environments are directly related to choices, that means that Adam and Eve must have been atrociously awful parents. Going even further, a third of God's children rebelled against Him and left His presence to be devils, damning their progression for eternity. And God is the ideal parent.

I'm not sure why... but some of my friends think that living in an ideal home gives people fewer opportunities to gain a testimony, or fewer opportunities to learn to love others, or whatever... and is the cause of their poor spirituality. If the events of scriptures happened today, they would see Cain and claim that his choice to kill his brother could have been circumvented by "exposing him to the outside world" ... or that the devil and his angels may have been more willing to choose the right had they been nurtured in an environment where choosing the wrong was accepted.

That's bogus.

I grew up in an almost perfect environment - and I and every living being are proof that life will be absolutely miserable, painful, trying, and full of temptations and learning experiences no matter how I am raised.

I can be socially backwards whether or not I am home-schooled. I can be rebellious whether or not I have "strict" rules in my home. I can be apostate in my later years whether or not I was exposed to apostasy in my youth. In reality, it's up to me - not my environment - anyway.

The scriptures teach that positive learning environments have a lasting effect on children... "Train up a child in the way he should go... and when he is grown he shall not depart from it."

I am grateful for parents who love me unconditionally... who apply the gospel in our relationship and don't judge me for my failures. I learned to love others from their example. I learned to study the scriptures and to humbly kneel and pray each morning and night, watching them. I learned honesty and good works and faith and confidence and industry and a love of all things good... 

Someday I hope to be able to give my own children the same kind of home and childhood that I had - a (sheltered?) home that creates and nurtures the strength of faith to overcome all things, to fight suicidal depression, to rise from sin, and to move forward on the path. A home where God is central and the truth is taught by the Spirit. Safe, secure, peaceful, full of faith. Home can be a Heaven on Earth. I hope mine will be.


  1. So. I'm not quite clear on what your direction is here. Exposure to the world is kind of vague.

    I'm with you on the positive parenting.

    I'm not understanding exactly what we're against?

  2. I have heard similar things and notice from time to time that members of the church seem to be prejudiced against those that appear to be doing well creating a home that is conducive to the spirit. It seems that when the kids appear to follow the teachings in that home that others begin to grumble, I suspect wishing that things would be as well for them.
    I'm not sure what makes a difference in our kids but some seem families children seem to come out well and others not even if similar effort and emphasis is put on righteous things in the home.
    This is likely a situation where judging isn't helpful. If we could all be more humbel and look for ways to grow from other families regardless of their success that would help. If we could also learn to mourn with those that mourn over a wayward child and have joy with those who have a child who is aiming for the temple and beyond, that would help too.
    I think their complaints say less about those who are targeted and more about themselves.
    Lets target ourselves for change and mourn and joy, as appropriate, with our friends and neighbors without placing blame or hurting others or ourselves is my hope.

  3. You're speaking on a topic outside the realm of your expertise in regards to parenting and behavior/choices. That Cain slew Abel and that Adam and Eve were not "atrociously awful parents" does not refute the fact that, in your words, "parenting and childhood environments are directly related to choices". Behavior is the result of (a) a genetic endowment, (b) prior learning history, and (c) current environment; to make the claims you have made requires that you refute a rather lengthy scientific history that demonstrates explicitly how behavior is determined by these three variables, or in your words, "parenting and childhood environments".

    This is not an argument that Cain (or other people who commit crimes/sins) are to be excused nor is it an argument that poor parenting is to blame for homosexuality. Rather, I'm calling attention to the fact that our behavior is attributed not just to events within the mind (e.g., thoughts) but also to those events outside the mind. In the words of Steven J. Gould (The Mismeasure of Man): We pass through this world but once. Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.

    In your specific case (and in mine too, as it sounds like the conditions in which we were raised are similar), I cannot attribute the choices (i.e., my behavior) I've made (e.g., say no to drugs, stay in school, work hard, monogamy, etc) to any sort of inner state that makes me better than those who make different choices (i.e., behave differently) than I (e.g., to do drugs, drop out of school, promiscuous sexual activities, etc). Rather, my behavior, and your own behavior, has a causal relationship (not just a correlational relationship) with the environment.

    Many have a problem with this view because, as Skinner asserted that as "environmental contingencies now take over functions once attributed to autonomous man [i.e., states of mind, inner conditions, etc]… certain questions arise. I man then 'abolished'? It is the autonomous inner man who is abolished, and that is a step forward. But does man not then become merely a victim or passive observer of what is happening to him? He is indeed controlled by his environment, but we must remember that it is an environment largely of his own making. The evolution of a culture is a gigantic exercise in self-control. It is often said that a scientific view of man leads to wounded vanity, a sense of hopelessness, and nostalgia. But no theory changes what it is a theory about; man remains what he has always been. And a new theory may change what can be done with its subject matter. A scientific view of man offers exciting possibilities. We have not yet seen what man can make of man" (Beyond Freedom and Dignity, pp. 205-206).

  4. This has been on my mind a lot lately. The kind of parent I am. I am constantly wondering, am I too strict? Am I too free with the way I speak in front of my children sometimes? Am I being a good enough example. Always questioning myself, and always wondering if I am doing enough. I love my children, and I certainly will do all I can to "shelter" them from the world, and nurture their young testimonies, and instill in them a desire to serve, and to live a Christ-centered life. Thank you for your insights. I truly find your blog inspiring. I even linked back to you today in my blog post. Thank you for your example.

  5. I kinda get where you're coming from. I too grew up in a pretty well-insulated environment and Heaven knows how much good it did keeping me from struggling. My parents instilled good values and taught me the Gospel. There's nothing they could have done to keep me from being gay and there's little they could have done to keep me from acting on some of those tendencies. But that Gospel knowledge they instilled is what keeps me coming back to the Church. That's all we can do as parents: teach correct principles and provide an environment where testimonies can grow.

  6. I never grew up in a positive, nurturing environment. It has called for me, as well as my other siblings, to grow more emotionally and physically responsible for things we ought not to have had to as young children. There are a lot of damaged families like this.

    Families that are nurtured and cared for, as well as taught the gospel, are blessings! They aren't 'sheltered.' It is one of the ultimate gifts of love, security and self-confidence that any parent could instill in their children's lives. If anything, they were given more freedom.

  7. I agree. I think it is just plain stupid to judge a person by their home or how they were raised. They could have rotten parents and grow up just fine and they could have great parents and wind up rotten. The parenting and environment only go so far. What really ends up happening is that people make a choice about how they will act regardless of their backgrounds.

  8. I once had a friend express her concern that I was sheltering my kids because I wasn't allowing them to be exposed to foul language. Hmmmm. Didn't quite understand that one!

    I started reading your blog a few weeks ago. I appreciate your honest and faith promoting posts. I can feel your testimony. I am in awe at the strength you posess and your willingness to share your story with the world. You are truly making a difference! Although I'm not a good writer like you, I too enjoy sharing my beliefs through a blog. There's something exciting about sharing truth with others. It gives me happiness. Keep doing what you're doing!

  9. Ryan -

    I don't agree with Skinnerian psychology. Sharing my academic and other backgrounds here isn't really plausible, though... so I'll just say that I believe that "men are free according to the flesh... " and that ultimately I have the choice to choose the right regardless of past or current circumstances.

    My environment growing up had no solutions or culturally accepted actions for living with being attracted to guys. There was nothing about it, anywhere.I never had someone to turn to except for God. And ultimately I had a choice - the same choice that we all face... and one that is indicative of my inner self more than the outside world. I had to choose to follow God when the stakes became higher than my childhood faith could support... and when others could no longer teach me to walk in the light - hence the teaching that no man can live on borrowed light.

    Parenting does definitely have an impact on the actions of children. But environmental factors aren't exclusive. I'm a major anomaly in my environment, and always have been... and I feel that choice - and the theories supported by other groups of theorists - is a more accurate portrayal of life and development.

  10. Journey -

    We're against talking about how badly so-and-so is raising their children and how socially and emotionally stunted they are going to be because they don't swear, drink, watch violent or immoral movies, or do anything we think is "culturally enriching" but also directly conflicts with the standards of the Church as they see it. And we are for supporting people in the good that they do, no matter what.

  11. (G)MG - many often mistake Skinnerien psychology as a threat to choice or freedom "to choose the right." Radical behaviorism, as promulgated by Skinner, looks to the environment -- that which is measurable and observable -- for explanations of behavior. Part of the reason why Skinner seems like such a threat is that our culture is inundated with "mentalistic" explanations for why people do the things they do. In other words, people frequently confuse "behavior" with states of mind, states of being, etc. This is apparent when you discussed "culturally accepted actions for living with being attracted to guys" in you April 12 post at 7:50 am. Radical behaviorism doesn't touch the causes of attractions; it touches rather on behavior that is associated with such attractions be it church attendance, suicide, sexual activity, etc.

    So, what I was getting at with my earlier comment is that the choices you have made (e.g., to write this blog, to go to church, etc) have a causal relationship with events in the environment. For example, I'd be willing to wager you wouldn't write if people didn't read and/or respond; you wouldn't write if it didn't help someone move toward greater self control. As an example contrary to your experience, other gay Mormons attend church for a while but due to events in their environment (e.g., unkind words said at church) coupled with prior history, their choices are influenced. If it is good for people to attend church, as I assume you believe it is, it is important to understand the events in the environment that deter people from attending church so they are more likely to attend church.

    And if behavior is attributable more to the inner self than the outside world… why programmed consequences at church for certain types of behavior? Why have an Honor Code at BYU if behavior is only determined by internal states of mind and being (e.g., receiving blessings, spiritual manifestations, etc)?

  12. This post inspires me, and makes me feel better about my role as a parent. Thank you!

  13. I really appreciated this. From what you described, I was also raised in a 'sheltered' home. When I left home for college, I ended up rooming with several girls that had much lower standards than me. I often heard the phrases 'sheltered' and 'you're an adult now, your parents can't tell you what to do' and 'let us show you how fun __ can be.'

    It made me really sad, because I liked the way I was raised. I loved my parents and family, I didn't want to disappoint them, and I felt my life was more fulfilled because I had spent it doing positive, constructive things rather than parties, drinking, sleeping around, etc.

    But within only a few months, I was forcibly exposed daily to many things that I had previously avoided. I moved out after only 6 months, but even now I automatically think of the 'dirty jokes' in innocent phrases, have lyrics to horrible songs stuck in my head, and other things that I can't forget. I suppose that would have happened at some point, but keeping my mind and habits clean is much harder now after I lived in a 'non-sheltered' environment.

    In reference to being more ignorant, less capable, and socially awkward because of a 'sheltered' home (I've heard those a lot too)- I can vouch that it's not true for everyone. Maybe some parents are very extreme, but I feel like my parents taught me to be very capable and responsible.

    Right now I pay for my own college, where I get high grades, through jobs I've acquire through my own skills. I manage my own budget and time. I have lots of friends and I've had a few serious relationships. I don't believe I've missed out on anything. And yet, I know that my family and Heavenly Father love me.

    I'm sorry this is so long. But it's a very personal subject for me, and I'm very grateful when other people speak up about it. Thank you.

  14. Ah. I see. I understand now. I agree that it is just as foolish to say that someone who has the 'sheltered' life is socially inept as it is to say that someone who swears/has a tatoo/drinks is spiritually inept.

    I do think that I was much more self righteous before I realized that any sin separates me from God as much as anyone else. I needed to realize that the Atonement WAS for me even though I live[d] a good, stalwart life. And, that I'd made covenants whereas 'unsheltered' people have not.

    I think it's a matter of loving respect for all.

  15. actually, from what i understand, exposing your child to germs in controlled amounts is a really good idea. they build immunities.

    how do you feel about contradicting ideas?
    ie, if you believe evolution is false, is it okay to expose your kid to it?
    what about sheltering them from psychological pain by not letting them know that some people suffer?

  16. Michaelann:

    I think that looking at the teachings of the Church it's pretty easy to find answers. The scriptures talk about suffering, and we are commanded to succor those who stand in need. And teaching the truth is as simple as teaching the truth - and teaching theories or principles or ideas is similar. I don't think that children need to be consciously exposed to things that are outside of the gospel; there is so little time to teach them all the principles inside... and if they have a solid grasp they will be able to understand everything outside through that lens.

  17. I totally GET this!

    I was blessed to be raised in a sheltered home. I was also homeschooled.. double whammy! ;D I did, however, go to public school for part of my Jr. year, and all of my Sr. year (and, of course, I went on to college - which was NOTHING like HS). I had some AMAZING experiences which my fellow, "non-sheltered" friends and acquaintances could simply not attain, but totally and completely wished they could. It opened up my eyes and caused me to realize how incredibly blessed I was. The condition of my home was not always consistent... things changed A LOT over the years. But the sheltered years - were God sent miracles in my life; they got me though the tough times, and I will forever be thankful for them!

    PS I absolutely LOVE your blog! You are a very beautiful person! Thanks so much for sharing all of this with the rest of us! :D
    Corine :D

  18. Ryan -

    It's completely possible that most people are causally affected by others and outside circumstances toward actions and behaviors. I'm not. You may not believe that. But it means that the reason I write is only because I'm supposed to - because I felt prompted to write and continue to feel prompted to do so. If your definition of "outside forces" includes promptings and revelation from God, I can agree with you completely - man cannot act save he has opposition... save he were enticed by one choice or the other.

    And as far as standards and commandments, the scriptures repeat over and over that, while given behaviors and actions may be inherently good or evil, God giveth no physical commandment, but Spiritual. If you look at the internal changes - the becoming - that are designed by His teachings - you realize why each one exists... from the word of wisdom to the law of chastity. The BYU Honor Code is just the interpretation of students of the lowest common denominator of standards they wanted to see at their school - the external environment they wanted. But my case is different... which, at least in my case, shows that causation can't be completely due to external factors.

  19. I love the idea of homeschooling as long as the parent doing it is completely dedicated to the children's education (I've seen too many examples where they are not).

    In fact home schooling groups, (where multiple families work together) seem like a fantastic idea to me. Especially where the parents know a lot about different subjects. Madame Curie was part of one, in point of fact.

  20. I just want you to know how much I love and appreciate your example. No matter when I look at your blog, I find something that helps me and up-lifts me. So many of your posts, if not all of them, are for ALL of us. Thank you so much for this one! I didn't grow up "sheltered", but I try to raise my kids in the most Gospel oriented home possible. I'm a convert and was really sad to get criticism from my LDS in-laws for being "too committed to keeping the commandments" as far as the shows I watch, because I make making General Conference a priority, keep the Sabbath Day holy etc. This post gave me much needed encouragement!


Comment Rules:

(G)MG is how I write to you. Commenting is one way to write to me.

If you want your comment published: No swearing, graphic content, name-calling of any kind, or outbound links to anything but official Church sites.

In addition, comments must be 100% relevant, funny, uplifting, helpful, friendly... well-written, concise, and true. Disparaging comments often don't meet those standards. Comments on (G)MG are personal notes to me, not part of a comment war. You are not entitled to have your ideas hosted on my personal blog. There are a zillion places for that, and only one (G)MG.

And I'd suggest writing your comment in Word and pasting it. That way Blogger won't eat it if it's over the word limit.