There is an interesting thread over at the Millennial Star on the topic of generalizations and how making them can often offend others who feel they are being targeted for not fitting some generalized ideal. One of the examples given is statements that past presidents of the Church have made about the morality of birth control measures. Apparently, on a previous thread someone had made strong statements against birth control based upon prophetic utterance, and someone decided that a finger was being pointed at them.
This brings up a whole host of questions in my mind. When is it appropriate to get offended by someone? Is judging others a sin? If so, is it a minor sin like drinking a Coke, or a major sin like lying or stealing? How important is it to tippy-toe around gospel topics in fear of offending someone, keeping in mind that in a sufficiently large group it is almost certain that someone will be easily offended?
And how about birth control? Is it more acceptable to the Lord today than it used to be? It is clear that the prophets don’t speak out against it in the same strong and clear language that they used to. It is a fact that Americans in general, and American Latter-day Saints in particular don’t have as many children per family as they once did. Is this a decline in fertility, or are their social and cultural reasons for this? And what might those reasons be? Are Latter-day Saints who claim to be the Lord’s covenant people justified in adopting so closely the culture of the greater society? Does American affluence and materialism have anything to do with this? Why can so many poor families living in Mexico afford large families, while many relatively wealthy families in the USA struggle to support even small families? Is it a difference in the value that the respective cultures place upon children and family life? Or are there other, more important reasons?
Finally, how important is personal revelation in considering these topics? When a person is faced with a decision whether or not gospel teaching applies to his specific situation, should his first assumption be that he is an exception to the rule. Or should he assume that the rule applies to him unless he receives specific revelation that it does not?
I find these questions interesting because my own lifestyle has deviated substantially from the gospel ideal in a number of areas. For instance, I was the stay-at-home parent throughout the years that my children were being reared while my wife earned the living. There were substantial economic and health reasons for this; but had there been no divine assurance that I was pursuing a course that was pleasing to my Father in Heaven, could I have justified my deviating from the ideal family based upon my own logic and reasoning alone? My life has deviated from the gospel ideal in a number of other ways too. Should I be content that my individual situation justifies me, or do I need to repent? Can I even know without personal revelation? Repentance is never easy, and sometimes it is not even possible in the sense that we cannot always undo damage that we have done. But rationalizations don’t always bring about desired results either.
At the end of the day, I cannot imagine being wise enough to make life’s choices without personal revelation. I know that there are many in the world who seem to do just fine without it, but I would feel hopelessly incompetent without the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I barely feel competent much of the time as it is. Life can seem so overwhelming. Without my faith in Christ and his prophets, I would be utterly lost.