I’ve had several conversations with individuals who continue to attend the LDS church, even though they may have serious doubts about the theological/doctrinal claims, because they like the church’s emphasis on family.
For me, it is the church’s particular emphasis and teachings on family that first cracked open my nice comfortable safe belief in the church.
To be specific;
I find The Church’s focus on gender rolls, and the spiritual mandate to marry and have children extraordinarily damaging to individuals who do not fit so nice and neatly within that lifestyle. To be single or childless in the LDS community carries an enormous stigma, either pity for a failing that will only be rectified in the hereafter, or condemnation for a choice that will have eternal consequences. In a similar vein, the church, ignoring it’s own history with unconventional and controversial marriage practices (note attached photo), continues to foster prejudice against the homosexual community, a community in which family units of spouses and children are a major part.
Even for those who fit nicely within the heterosexual nuclear family model, I find the three hour church bloc (with it’s multiple meetings before and after) stressful on families with young children, likewise the church’s practice of extending labor intensive callings to parents with young children a harmful tendency that particularly adds to the duress of the wives/mothers in the family. Here I’m remembering a conversation with a ward member who counted it as a mark of his faithfulness that he rarely had an evening that he could spend at home with his wife and kids (four young children). This remark of his was concerning a “less active” member who had turned down a calling so as to spend evenings home with his family (that unenlightened man).
Particularly damaging is the teaching spread around (especially amongst the singles) that any two people can be compatible in marriage as long as they have a firm testimony of the Gospel. This rhetoric is stultifying (intentionally I’m sure) to any sort of spiritual questing/questioning as partners risks being legally and financially tied to someone with whom the only things they have in common are a bunch of children and a hefty mortgage. (Likewise, referencing Caroline’s excellent post, I think the imperative to not put off childbearing is an intentional step to lock couples into a situation in which it is harder and harder to get out of. Especially considering how many very very young kids at LDS collages get married within months or even weeks of knowing each other.)
Granted, there is much about the culture and teachings that encourage strong family bonds and togetherness and provides a valuable community, but these things are not at all particular to the LDS Church.
What is more common is Church membership throwing a wrench into family relationships; here I am thinking of a friend whose in-laws cut them out of the family will when she and her husband left the church. And of the High Counsel man who spoke this past Mother’s Day about how his mother threatened to kill herself if he got married in the temple. (However, his testimony was so strong he married in the temple anyways and mom had to be put on round the clock suicide watch for a week or so. Yah, that was a lovely Mother’s Day talk.)
What all this really brings to mind is what I have heard over and over again from the pulpit: This Church is not just another nice church where you hear helpful teachings. You belong to The Church because you believe it is the only true one.
And chances are, it may damage your family relationships.