Do Mom and Dad Know Best? : Parallels Between People of the Book of Ether and Generation X

May 28, 2013

This morning as I picked up my scriptures and began my study for the day, I turned to the frayed black ribbon sticking out between D&C and Mormon’s chapter of the Book of Mormon and returned to the tragedy of the Jaredites in Ether.

For those who aren’t familiar the Book of Mormon or Ether, the story of the Jaredites begins when the nations attempt to build the Tower of Babel to get themselves closer to God. The good citizens are few in number (Jared and his faithful brother among them) and wickedness abounds. God confounds the languages of the people as punishment —  by refusing to understand how to draw nearer to God, they are made to not understand each other, all except for Jared’s family. Jared and his family feel the need to leave their homeland, and Jared’s brother, being the faithful man that he is, goes to God for help and actually sees Him. God gives the blueprint, the tools, and the illumination necessary to get Jared’s people across oceans and to a better land.

The part of this record that I wish to focus on happens when they reach the new land and Jared is about to die.

In what may be known as the most damaging parental decision in the entire Book of Mormon, Jared, in spite of the concerns and fears of his other family members, invites the people to choose a king from among their sons. The sons of Jared’s brother, likely because of how well they were taught by their father and mother, refuse to take any sort of kingship, so the newly formed kingdom ends up in the hands of one of Jared’s sons, Orihah. All you need to know about Orihah is that he was a good king and did what the Lord asked of him, but that didn’t last for long.

As Orihah has children and they have children, a child named Corihor is eventually born into the line. As an adult, he rebels against his father and draws away many of the people. Soon, he captures his father and his father’s family and throws them into captivity. One of Corihor’s brothers, demanding vengeance, goes to war and gets the kingdom back, and Corihor repents of everything he did wrong, but, because children do what their parents do, Corihor’s son Noah rebels and takes half of his family with him. The kingdom is now divided.

In another horrendous example of pattern, years later, a man named Jared rebels against his father, the king. After going to war over the kingdom and losing, Jared is depressed. That’s when his daughter offers to dance before Akish, a friend of the king, and seduce/marry him in return for the king’s head. Jared prostitutes out his daughter for the fame and fortune of kingship, and Akish never actually brings him his father’s head because Omer is warned by God and flees. But Akish, newly married to Jared’s daughter, desires the kingdom and kills his father-in-law. He throws his own sons in prison because of envy and eventually, his entire people are killed off in the same despicable and deceptive ways.

I have always wondered why these chapters were included in the Book of Mormon. Yes, they tell a history, but I have always been disgusted by this family and how it destroyed itself for the power of rule. How is this relevant? I have asked. How could a family possibly do this to itself to get gain? In the context of the 21st Century, there are many ways that parents are destroying the futures of their children for selfish gains, and we are so blind that we often can’t even see it.

You should know that this blog post has been long in the making. You should know that I have started and stopped writing it at least 20 times because I’ve had no idea how to say what I feel like saying without personal anger getting in the way. But, without delaying any further, I’m just going to dive right into this:

The current generation of parents is destroying the future of my generation and the generations beneath mine, and unless they grow up and act like the adults that they are, they will eventually tear apart society without the help of the media or any other scapegoat we like to use these days.

Every single day I read the news and I’m reading about 15 year-old boys who kill their younger siblings, teenagers who think it’s perfectly acceptable and normal to get girls drunk, rape them, and spread videos and pictures like a contagion across the Internet, a tangible “look what I did to this slut — she had it coming,” and their parents are so distanced from their children that they don’t even it see it happening. In light of comments made by the A&F CEO, I read about parents who STILL think it’s perfectly acceptable to tell their kid that they are only worth it if they are a winner or popular or wearing the latest fashions. I read about parents who beat and kill their own children because they are sick of paying child support or sick of having to take care of someone other than themselves. I read about parents who don’t even give their child a chance but abort it the minute they know its tiny body is inside of them. I read about mothers who disappear for years to live secret, luxurious lives while their kids go to school every day thinking, “My mother left me. How could she possibly love me?” I read about Victoria’s Secret starting a line of lingerie for teenagers with degrading and extremely sexual messages written on them because apparently there is a market for teenagers and/or parents who are willing to go out of their way to buy clothing like that to prostitute their own children and basically say to them, “You are something to be desired after, a thing that can make other people happy with your body.” I read about parents who plan on surgically changing the sexuality of their two year old because she happened to say, “Mommy, can I be a boy?” while she was playing with her brother’s toys, and instead of giving her the chance to have a childhood, they’re making her something she is not before she even has any choice or idea of it.

This is what I read every single day. Consistently. And the problem is that people will blame these things on the gun or they’ll blame these things on the environment, but does anyone take a step back to think to themselves, “Gee, I wonder what parents are thinking. I wonder what this child’s family life was like. I wonder if his parents gave him enough attention. I wonder if her mother taught her right from wrong. I wonder if they spent their time with their kids instead of leaving them on their own in their bedrooms. I wonder what made this parent think that doing that was okay.”

The worst part about this whole thing is that everybody thinks they are immune from it. Everyone thinks that they are the best parent in the whole world, and while I cannot judge, I can certainly wonder. Some of the things I see in my own hometown from younger and middle-aged parents makes me feel sick to my stomach. Few people know this, but when I came back from BYU, many adults that I thought had my back and loved me didn’t even bother to say hello when they passed me in the hallway. It was like I was this disease that had suddenly drifted back. That made the loneliness so much worse than it was at the time. At a time when I needed advice and support from other people more than anything in the whole world, half of my town wouldn’t even bother to look at me. I had to rely solely on my own family. That’s kind of how it’s always been, though.

I’ve seen girls bully/look down on other girls, and coincidentally, the mother does the same thing. I’ve seen tight-knit cliques of kids who gossip and harass kids without many friends, and their moms, in the meantime, are gossiping with other wives of the town and excluding everybody else. I had a young woman leader who I never felt comfortable around because all she wanted to do was spend time with the popular girls and I wasn’t one of them. I have heard of a mom who absolutely refused to let one of the boys in the ward hold her new baby, and I suspect it’s because that child was bullied and excluded by everyone else because he was different. And then he had to get it from a parent, too, a young, selfish mother who treated him like he wasn’t worth the time of day.

I look back and I wonder how so many kids feel so entitled, and then I see what their parents do for them. You have parents buying their fifth graders cellphones with Internet access. You have parents allowing their very young children to be taken to PG-13 movies that glorify sex and violence, things they can’t even begin to comprehend yet. You have parents allowing their young daughters to get onto Facebook before they’re 13, and those young daughters, seeing the way that every other high school girl flaunts herself in her pictures, mimic it because they want the same kind of attention. You have young girls selling themselves online, either without supervision or without concern from their parents. “Like and share if you think I’m hot,” they say. You have parents dressing their young daughters in clothing that — no matter how many times feminists talk about the fact that girls should be able to wear whatever the heck they want — create incredibly damaging psychological dependencies. Girls depend on nice clothing for high self-esteem. On the other hand, you have pictures of very young girls making duck faces or dressing in clothes that don’t always cover their bodies and these pictures rotate around the Internet with thousands of comments such as “she’s going to grow up to be a prostitute” or “look at that ugly little toad” or “what makes her think she’s pretty.” How on earth did we ever let this behavior come this far? How on earth have these kids been allowed to do and say these things in their own homes?

The worst of it comes from kids I know who have ruined their lives because they have no one there to love or care for them. One of my dear friends is in jail right now for something horrendous. I’ve heard other parents trash talk him, say that he deserves it, and he does, but he never had a father who cared for him, never had a mother who gave him the time of day, never had legal guardians who treated him like an adult and a human being instead of holding everything in his past against him and treating him like an animal. These kids don’t end up in jail because their parents were fine and perfect. They end up hurt and scared because they feel abandoned or unloved for whatever reason.

And the thing is that while parents are objectifying or neglecting their children, this whole world is trying to murder the whole notion that having children is a good thing. Your baby is crying in the restaurant? Get out. We don’t want you here. You’re a mother? You’re distracted. We’re not hiring you. You want to be a mom? Wow, you just threw your whole life down the toilet for a few whiny brats.

How dare these people think and say these things. How dare you! You have no right to be born, have a childhood, grow into a strong independent adult, and then turn your back on every other kid in the world and say to them, “Children are awful. We need less of them.” You have absolutely no right to deny a kid the same opportunities and life that you have, and if you feel that there should be less children in this world, then maybe you should get on the fastest one-way trip out of it. I hear there are colonies being sent to Mars now.

Children are the future. They carry with them every experience, every bit of knowledge, every example, and every characteristic that we give them, and if we sit back and allow our children to think that they are entitled to everything they want, to think that bullying other kids is acceptable, to think that they are worthless or that their worth depends solely upon how they can contort or share their bodies, then we are the demons that are causing the problems of this world, not kids with guns, not bombs, not governments.

The people of Jared didn’t just die off because the government was corrupt. They died off because many of their parents were absolutely horrible examples to them and made stupid decisions based on what they felt was appropriate. They turned on and devoured each other. Can you not see that today? I can. I see the younger kids being so poorly prepared for an uncertain future, and I feel so horrible for them.

I was lucky enough to have amazing parents, but many kids aren’t ever that lucky. If we want to fix the problems of this world, we start by fixing the way our children are parented; otherwise, we’ll destroy ourselves.

Do Mom and Dad Know Best? : Parallels Between People of the Book of Ether and Generation X
My Name’s Ari, and I’m Human
Thoughts on the Atonement