The Vanishing Mothers

In the wake of all of these feel-good posts about mothers and motherhood (or parenthood), I thought someone should write something deflating. Happy to oblige.

When I was in law school, I audited a class called “The Swedish Welfare State,” which was taught by Professor Nils Mattson from Uppsala University in Sweden. Professor Mattson was quite proud of the employment opportunities available to Swedish women, bragging that Sweden was far ahead of the United States. Indeed.

As it happens, my wife was a missionary in Sweden, and at that very moment some of her friends there were stuggling mightily. In particular, one couple (whom I subsequently met and respect very much) had a number of small children and were attempting to follow then-President Benson’s counsel to have the mother stay at home. The father was a carpenter, and he was finding it impossible to earn enough to support the family. Of course, they could have elected to have fewer children, as most Swedish families have done, and the mother was certainly capable of leaving the home and adding to the family’s income. But these choices only serve to highlight the problem: most women in Sweden at that time could not stay home and raise a large family without immense personal sacrifice. Indeed, when I asked Professor Mattson about my wife’s friends, he acknowledged with some sadness that their preferred lifestyle was available only to the wealthiest families in Sweden.

Now, 15 years later, the United States has inched closer to Sweden as the number of mothers in the workforce has increased. For many of these mothers, even those who are married, staying at home is not a viable option. As observed by Elizabeth Warren in this interview with Bill Moyers, “one-income families have been left in the dust.” They are at the “ragged edge of the middle class.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, we see that being a stay-at-home mother is now becoming fashionable among people with means: “For the majority of women, working outside the home is still the norm and often a necessity. But for women who have the financial support of a spouse and can get by without a regular paycheck of their own, leaving the workforce to become a full-time mom is an attractive option, experts say.”

In the U.S. version of the Church, whether mothers stay at home with their children is increasingly decided by economics, not prophetic proclamation. In many instances, the decision to enter the workforce is not about self actualization or professional fulfillment, but economic survival (or at least the perception of need). I admire women who forego careers to stay at home with their children, but I worry that my daughters will not have that option.

304 comments for “The Vanishing Mothers

  1. May 9, 2005 at 12:39 pm

    That “ragged” edge looks to be very interesting however. My guess is that it is highly populated by Mormons, Christians, etc. who are trying to preserve the role of Mom. You know society has shifted when you have to say “stay at home mother/mom” to clarify what you mean rather than just “mom”.

  2. Elisabeth
    May 9, 2005 at 12:46 pm

    In Boston and its various suburbs, the affluent SAHM with the Bugaboo stroller is becoming a high-society icon, while the secretaries and cleaning staff drudge away at boring 9-5 jobs to help support their families.

    My mother didn’t work when her children were at home, and so my father, who had dropped out of high school when he was 14 years old, supported four children on odd jobs as he completed his education and found a steady job. We were really, really poor, but our parents taught us to work hard, to appreciate good books and music, and to value education (something my father learned the hard way).

    My personal feelings on this are that families can get along pretty well without a lot of “necessities” past food and shelter. It may be embarrassing for your kids to shop at DI, but I think more families could find a way to allow one parent to be at home with the children.

  3. Matt Evans
    May 9, 2005 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks for bringing this up, Gordon. Two-income families drive up the costs of housing, and all other scarce resources, making life harder on those committed to living on a single income.

    The two-income bias manifests itself in other ways, too. When I was exploring the possibility of working for a non-profit, I learned the intricacies of Harvard Law School’s relatively generous student-loan forgiveness program. Their program, however, doesn’t consider a spouse’s income, and won’t consider her a dependent even if she cares for our children full-time, but the program does deduct child-care expenses. In other words, if two lawyers marry, and one works for a non-profit earning $50,000 a year and the other is in private practice earning $150,000 per year, HLS looks only at the income of the applicant working for the non-profit and, if their childcare expenses for two children were $16,000 per year, the program deducts half of it from the applicant’s salary, treating the applicant as having the salary-equivalent of $42,000.

    If I took the exact same $50,000 job, and my wife provided round-the-clock childcare, they would treat my salary as being $50,000, because I have no child-care expenses in their eyes, even though our household income is 75% lower than the comparison couple. I sent Harvard a long and detailed letter pointing out that their formula penalizes me for effectively hiring my kids’ mother, rather than a child-care service, to care for them, and that I’d come out ahead in their system if my wife received money for caring for other kids and we used that money to have someone else watch ours, but it was all for naught. They continue to deduct child-care expenses but won’t consider a spouse to be a dependent or a child-care provider.

  4. May 9, 2005 at 12:51 pm

    And this just in…an op-ed claiming that being a mother increases brain power! Alas, the loss of intellect & growth due to overly-worked (outside of the home) mothers.

  5. Steve Evans
    May 9, 2005 at 1:12 pm

    Those Swedes… always screwing things up for the rest of us. Curse them, their avant-garde put-it-together furniture and their tasty meatballs!

    I agree that it’s a trap. I wish people could have whatever lifestyle they choose without suffering for it, as single-income families do. But what else would you propose, Gordon? Making it more difficult for women to work? Un-levelling the playing field more that currently? Subsidies by the gov’t for one-income families? All of those options appear unsavory to me. It seems to me that what is really going on here is just our values clashing with a widespread trend, and there’s not much to be done.

  6. Melissa Fox
    May 9, 2005 at 1:17 pm

    The thing that bothers me the most about women working outside the home is that it emphasizes the dependency of those who choose not to. A woman (or man) who stays home with her children doesn’t exist legally. There is no Social Security, no credit, no guarantee that if the provider dies or divorces there will be the basic necessities in life.

    Perhaps if we did something to make staying home more affordable — ie, wouldn’t it be nice to get a stipend for being a parent?? — more would choose to do so?

  7. May 9, 2005 at 1:32 pm

    Steve: “It seems to me that what is really going on here is just our values clashing with a widespread trend, and there’s not much to be done.”

    I feel a sense of resignation about this, too. I don’t believe that this sort of thing “just happens” because there are lots of policies (see Matt’s comment and Melissa’s comment) that encourage two-income families, but I am not sure anything meaningful can be done to stem the tide.

    Gee, I hope I am not required to offer a proposal before I can post something like this. Maybe I should have put the word “lament” in the title.

  8. Kaimi
    May 9, 2005 at 1:32 pm

    And the fish, Steve. Don’t forget the fish. Those little plastic-wrapped, bright-red, chewy wacky little abominations . . .

  9. Jack
    May 9, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    You know it’s funny,

    Most folks around here are thumbs down on President Benson–that know nothing-thick headed-flag waving-bircher. It makes it real easy to dismiss his counsel when he’s pegged as a right wing–green thumbed–conspiracy theorist. But, wouldn’t it be funny if the “mothers come home” counsel had just as much to do with saving our financial necks as with anything else? I find it shameful that the old adage “hit’em in the pocket book where it really hurts” is proving to be the wake up call for the saints as well as the rest of the world.

  10. Frank McIntyre
    May 9, 2005 at 2:07 pm

    1. Sweden’s employment growth for a couple decades was entirely the result of moving women from caring for their own children and elderly to working for the local government caring for other people’s children and elderly. It is one of the more enjoyable papers we read in my Public Economics class.

    2. Low income women have pretty much always been employed (not all of them, but a lot of them). The 70’s expansion in women working was largely the result of high income women joining the low-income women in the labor market.

    3. Elixabeth Warren is consistently good at providing flashy quotes. Often, though, she seems to let the rhetoric get ahead of the reality. Whether at the “ragged edge” or not, the 21st century middle class in America is a pretty plush material existence in the broad sweep of countries and across time..

    4. Social Security explicitly provides, as I recall, for widows and orphans. There are also provisions for disability. The EITC explicity provides payments to those below the middle class, based on having dependent children, as long as someone in the family is employed.

  11. John Morley
    May 9, 2005 at 2:08 pm

    Matt, I was about to say that HLS’s policy makes sense until I reread your post. If HLS took the spouse’s wage income into account, its policy would make sense. In that kind of a system, treating spouses who work at home and spouses who work in the market equally would require giving only the spouse who works in the market the child care credit. Since HLS doesn’t consider a spouse’s income, though, the policy is clearly unfair.

  12. Kristine
    May 9, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    “Most folks around here are thumbs down on President Benson–that know nothing-thick headed-flag waving-bircher.”

    Um, Jack, I’m pretty sure those are the most scornful words *ever* spoken about President Benson on this site. I probably disagree with him about as many things as anybody here, but I really object to that level of derision, and I think it’s unfair (to put it extremely politely) of you to characterize “most folks around here” as thinking that way.

  13. Seth Rogers
    May 9, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    What about Reagan’s crusade against “Cadillac-driving welfare mommas?”

    It seems to me that if we really supported stay-at-home motherhood, we wouldn’t have the attitude that welfare mothers are getting a “free ride” (at least not all of them). Is it really possible to have stay-at-home mothers today without state intervention?

  14. Ana
    May 9, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    I just have to say this. Even when we work, we haven’t disappeared. We’re still mothers.

    And sometimes even *with* immense personal sacrifice, staying at home cannot be done unless you like those charming calls from creditors, intrusive interviews with WIC, green shag carpet in your home, broken-down cars and total inability to save or plan for the future.

    Jack, every time a General Authority speaks about moms and the work vs. home debate, he leaves a place for women who truly need to work for financial reasons — even President Benson. Please don’t try to close that up by telling us we’d *really* be better off if we all stayed at home and that we’re willing to obey only when it doesn’t hurt. We’ve done more than just the math. We’ve said the prayers, skipped the meals, made the drives to the temple to try to make sure we’re not really screwing up. If we’ve made mistakes, we’ll answer for them, but other people absolutely cannot judge that.

    Maybe it’s just my feminine divine nature showing its monthly force, but sometimes I feel like telling people to butt out.

  15. May 9, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    Another fact to consider is that our government does, like it or not, practice social engineering.

    We have a federal tax code that encourages two-income families. For example, one can deduct child care expenses incurred while both parents are working (or in school, I believe). My wife does not work, and cares for our children full-time, and we receive no tax benefits for this (other than not paying taxes on income we’re not earning). This is a method of social engineering.

    I look around the neighborhoods in my area, and I see couples that both “need” to work in order to support their chosen lifestyle (two new cars, buying cars for their children, two satellite dishes on the roof, nice vacations, fancy clothes, etc.). I’m convinced that while there are those moms who need to work–there always have been, always will be those moms–many couples convince themselves of a “need” to have two incomes in order to help finance a chosen lifestyle. President Hinckley has alluded to this on occasion.

  16. JKS
    May 9, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    There is no Social Security, no credit, no guarantee that if the provider dies or divorces there will be the basic necessities in life.

    Melissa, you are unfortunately misinformed. As long as you have a marriage that lasts more than 10 years, as SAH spouse is eligible for their own social security stipend in the amount of 50% of the spouses earned social security stipend (even if you are divorced).
    Credit can be obtained by nonwage earners (even children). I’m not saying that you can get a mortgage by yourself (since income is usually a huge factor there), but by establishing credit history (having your name on loans and credit cards) you establish your credit. My credit score is high and I can apply for and obtain credit.

  17. Elisabeth
    May 9, 2005 at 3:56 pm

    Reading over my post (#2), I’d like to second Ana’s thoughts (#14), and also add that it’s disconcerting that this issue is following the age-old pattern of blaming mothers and holding them responsible for all kinds of social ills. In this case, conspicuous consumption and overspending.

    Why not blame the fathers for not providing enough for their families’ needs? Seems like the fathers might be falling down on the job here, since their main role (as articulated specifically in the Proclamation on the Family) is to provide for their families.

    Why can’t we hold the fathers responsible for not making enough money to support their families, so that their wives feel compelled (or choose) to work outside the home?

  18. annegb
    May 9, 2005 at 3:59 pm

    Twenty-five years ago, when I moved into my neighborhood, I was the only working mother, and I only worked part time for about a year. It was mostly great, we tended each other’s kids, took them to the pool, somebody was always available to mother them.

    Now there’s only a couple of us home during the day and we try to keep an eye on kids and the neighborhood. It’s sort of like a ghost town during the day. It’s kind of sad.

    I am non-judgmental about women wanting to work, but I feel sorry for those women who have four or five kids, work full time, come home and have to do laundry and cook and clean. They look perpetually exhausted. I don’t feel like I’m being slighted if I can’t get as much social security as I could have if I worked. I think I’m lucky. Some of my friends choose to work, but most of them have to, especially as their kids get in middle school and high school and they really need the money. Believe me, they would rather stay home.

    Which is sad, because kids need you more when they’re in those grades.

  19. May 9, 2005 at 4:17 pm

    Why can’t we hold the fathers responsible for not making enough money to support their families, so that their wives feel compelled (or choose) to work outside the home?

    Wait — so now fathers are worthy of condemnation because their single income can’t keep up with an economic structure increasingly geared for and assumptive of a double-income household?

    Classy. Really classy.

    I guess I’d better get a second fulltime job to get out from under this condemnation. (But then I get to be one of those distant workoholic fathers who never has time for his family, don’t I?

  20. Elisabeth
    May 9, 2005 at 4:25 pm

    Hey, OTALN –

    Welcome to the reality of being a woman – you’re criticized as lazy and unambitious if you don’t work outside the home, but then you’re criticized as a bad mother and responsible for the breakdown of the family if you do work outside the home. It’s a no-win situation.

    And, obviously, the “blame” for the need for both the mother and father to work outside the home is a product of multiple variables. The decision of who should work and who shouldn’t definitely fits under the category of “do not judge”, or as Ana so eloquently put it, “butt out”.

  21. May 9, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    re: #17.

    Elisabeth, ask Kaimi to provide you the exact link (He is the equivalent of institutional memory at T&S); but there have already been plenty of laments re: the “force” of the Proclamation (and the New Testament, via Paul, btw) on “forcing” LDS fathers into careers as lawyers, doctors, dentists & bankers in order to be able to provide the 1 income earning family/mother at home.

    Your solution of blaming fathers because ‘historically’ mothers/women were blamed for societal ills rings awfully hollow.

  22. May 9, 2005 at 4:31 pm


    So…men are reduced to non-participants? i.e. Nathan is a man, so he should shut up? Again…seems like you engage in the same behavior you dislike being dished out.

  23. Steve Evans
    May 9, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    Lyle is back in action! It’s been a year, man, welcome back.

    Elisabeth: it’s TOTAL Nathan. To refer to him otherwise is sub-total.

  24. May 9, 2005 at 4:36 pm

    Yes, Steve…I have a blog; and maybe now I will learn how to use it. Yes, after 1 year…my spotty attendance as a former T&S Excommunicant, currently mostly inactive T&S disfellowshipped is pretty much over. I think.

  25. Steve Evans
    May 9, 2005 at 4:36 pm

    What’s a value spundit?

  26. Kaimi
    May 9, 2005 at 4:37 pm

    Dude, Steve, don’t you know _anything_? A value spundit is a spundit that’s on sale. Duh.

  27. Elisabeth
    May 9, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    Well, I missed that post on T&S about forcing fathers into high paying careers, but it does sound like a good one.

    If you read my post carefully, you’d see that I’m not blaming fathers OR mothers for anything. But I do think that child care and career decisions should be made by the individuals who are directly affected by them. It’s not a man vs. woman issue. It’s a family issue.

  28. Steve Evans
    May 9, 2005 at 4:40 pm


  29. May 9, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    [is the title still smashed together? or is steve making a funny?]

  30. Kaimi
    May 9, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    It’s okay, Steve. I know you’re busy, being the spawn of Satan, and so you haven’t had time to drop by Home Depot lately.

  31. Jack
    May 9, 2005 at 4:49 pm


    Sorry. Next time I’ll say “There’s a FEW folks around here”. Would that be less offensive to you? And those “scornful words” aren’t about Pres. Benson–by the way.

    Ana, I hear you. I grew up in a single parent home.

  32. Ana
    May 9, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    Lyle, back up the truck. No man OR woman ought to have any input on this decision except in their own families. My husband had significant input on the decision in our family. Nobody else has any business. Maybe I could make an exception for a compassionate, open-minded priesthood leader with relevant stewardship, but even he could not make or judge the final decision. Just give counsel.

    Also, while Elisabeth’s welcome-to-my-world post resounds with me, I don’t think she really meant we ought to blame men. Seems more like a rhetorical tool than a real proposal. I certainly don’t want my husband blamed for my being in the workplace right now. For one thing, I think we’ve made the right decision, and there’s no blame to be had. For another thing, he’s just trying to follow prophetic counsel to get all the education he can. (I told him I’d get him a vanity plate for his new car that says PHD2B, but he declined.)

  33. Jonathan Green
    May 9, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    It’s not a matter of either men or women being at fault. It’s the whole system that forces everybody into a no-win situation, a system that hopes the oppressed will attack each other (see above) rather than notice what’s really being done to them.

    Since it’s a systematic thing, I blame Frank.

  34. May 9, 2005 at 5:05 pm

    Ana: “every time a General Authority speaks about moms and the work vs. home debate, he leaves a place for women who truly need to work for financial reasons – even President Benson.”

    Some of the comments (e.g., Bonjo #15) seem to suggest that many women who work don’t really need to work. The implication for my original post is that for many the decision to work is a lifestyle choice. Of course, this must be true, at least in a trivial sense: you could live in a smaller house, buy cheaper food, fewer clothes, etc. Or more dramatically, you could go without many things completely, living on the edge of survival waiting for things to break your way. What does the Lord demand of mothers?

    Surely, at some point, do the material sacrifices that accompany stay-at-home motherhood are outweighed by the benefits of the same. Frank (#10) implies that we should make this calculation by comparing ourselves to others “in the broad sweep of countries and across time.” I doubt that this is true, and I hope that it is not. We are not required to be like the Four Yorkshiremen.

    If living on one income places you at the “ragged edge of that middle class” when living on two incomes would reduce stress and provide more opportunities for your family — a contestable proposition, by the way, because two incomes often requires two cars, child care, wardrobe expenses, etc. that eat into the supplemental contribution of the second income — I doubt that the Lord would object on grounds that the the pioneers didn’t have cable. If having two parents working outside the home is objectionable, it is objectionable because it does not add value to the family. In my view, the thing that has changed most dramatically since President Benson’s talk is the comparative state of one-income families in the U.S., and I think that the “exceptions” to his rule of staying at home should be more numerous today.

  35. Miranda PJ
    May 9, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    Seth, there was a time when women could not enter the workforce without government intervention. If we have now reached a point where women cannot stay home without government intervention, then we have taken a step backwards.

  36. Kristine
    May 9, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    Jack, sorry to belabor the point, but no, that’s not less offensive, because I don’t think there’s *anyone* around here who is comfortable with using such derisive words about the prophet. (And I understand that you don’t personally think that way about President Benson). Nor do I think there’s anyone here who dismissed his advice as lightly as would be convenient for your tarring with a broad brush. Be careful when you go around putting words in people’s mouths and passing judgment on their attentiveness to prophetic counsel.

  37. Jenn
    May 9, 2005 at 5:29 pm

    Miranda — I couldn’t agree more! But at the same time, I want to be able to make the choice to stay home and have kids (if I ever get married), and not have to doom myself to a life of poverty. Is this a pipe dream??

  38. Matt Evans
    May 9, 2005 at 5:29 pm

    “the thing that has changed most dramatically since President Benson?s talk is the comparative state of one-income families in the U.S., and I think that the ?exceptions? to his rule of staying at home should be more numerous today”

    Gordon, President Benson gave two examples of luxuries that do not merit a working mother: sweaters and music lessons. My mom always assumed Benson used the word sweater in the early-20th century meaning, using it more like how jacket or coat are used today. Regardless of what he meant by ‘sweater,’ he established a relatively fixed standard. No matter how the comparative purchasing power shifts between one and two income families, Benson thinks children need time with their mother more than they need sweaters or music lessons, and those items, and items like them, should be treated as luxuries to be purchased only after parents have secured for their children that which is more valuable. Benson is ultimately making a statement about the relative importance of competing goods, and saying that maternal attention and accessibility is more important than sweaters or music lessons (let alone items less valuable than these, like cable, video games or DVDs), and that families with working mothers should not purchase these things because that money should instead be used in ways that will increase maternal accessibility (either by working less or by saving money to hasten the day she is able to quit altogether).

  39. Ana
    May 9, 2005 at 5:37 pm

    We did live in a smaller house, buy cheaper food, fewer clothes. I was a freelance writer and editor working from home, usually bringing in several hundred dollars a month, but that income was not dependable. We still couldn’t make it. It’s ironic that I can’t really work “just enough” to get by in that way. Without full-time, it’s debt, welfare, misery and shame. With full-time, it’s two dependable cars, an updated 3 bedroom house, cell phones (provided by the employer), an appropriate work wardrobe. (No cable. I’m philosophically opposed.) I worry that people judge me for that. I worry way too much about what other people think, actually, and maybe that’s why I feel so defensive sometimes.Yet if you saw our lifestyle without knowing who was bringing home the bacon, I feel pretty sure that you would not think we were materialistic or consumption-oriented. It’s pretty modest.

    But I also worry about how other moms feel who are going without the things I have in order to stay at home. A friend of mine with 3 kids whose husband is a school teacher and who stays home recently visted to see our new house. (We’re just renting! It’s not even really ours!) I’m fairly certain it made her depressed. Here I am making the choice she feels she should not make, and living in more pleasant circumstances. It’s not fair. I don’t have an answer for that, except that I think it’s a crime and a shame that we don’t pay her husband more appropriately to teach a class full of fourth graders.

    I don’t disagree that more mothers probably should stay at home. I just don’t think we can look at any one mother and say, “It should be you.” There’s too much we can’t know.

    What does the Lord demand of mothers? In regards to work, he requires that we think carefully, pray fervently, listen intently. And obey optmistically — after the thought, prayer, and listening. And be kind to ourselves, and to each other.

  40. Ana
    May 9, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    Oh, and I nearly forgot: Benefits! Many, many women I know work so their families can have health insurance. That cannot be ignored.

  41. Frank McIntyre
    May 9, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    “If having two parents working outside the home is objectionable, it is objectionable because it does not add value to the family.”

    Sure, and cable does not add enough value to make up for loss of hours of parental input. So, yes, the pioneers did without cable and an American family can do the same and still achieve personal fulfillment. Look, I am not saying we should live in caves. I am saying that it is foolhardy to index your consumption to that of your neighbors, or those who you want to make your neighbors, rather than living simply and focusing on what matters most in life.

    Mostly though, I was noting that Warren gets a little overwrought about the horrors of being on the edge of middle class. The edge of middle class is a perfectly respectable place to be that is fully conducive to a lifetime of happiness. A person who is not happy there would also very likely not be happy with more money. The same is not true of poverty, but that is not what we are talking about.

  42. Maud Browder
    May 9, 2005 at 5:43 pm

    Hello all,

    This is my first comment. But I just wanted to say that no, it’s not a pipe drem. We can stay at home and the Lord will bless us for our efforts. If you have faith you will find the right guy yet, Jenn, don’t worry there’s a guy for you somewhere). And if you wan t to stay at home, you just need to make choices about how to doso. Just have some faith. That’s all thanlks.

  43. Ana
    May 9, 2005 at 5:46 pm

    The edge of the middle class is horrible precisely because of its precarious proximity to poverty. (Oh, I’m channelling Elder Maxwell now.) If your transmission goes out, if your child breaks a limb, if your grandmother dies and you want to go to her funeral, you have no way to handle those things. You pray those things don’t happen, and you avoid thinking about anything worse.

  44. Jack
    May 9, 2005 at 5:54 pm


    You’re right, I should be more respectful. Sorry. It’s just that some of us name calling conservatives (notice I said “some”) have developed too thick a skin when it comes to, er, name calling.

    I’m with Frank. Get your sweaters at D.I. Trade a service for music lessons. Check your entertainment from the library. It works!

  45. annegb
    May 9, 2005 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Maud, it’s scary to post for the first time, huh? This is a good blog, I hope you come back…and don’t be dismayed if nobody responds to your post, as my friend (Marta, I think) said, ” this is the nicest bunch of people to completely ignore me.”

    I think a lot of women in the 1800’s worked their tails off to help provide things for their kids, they just did it differently, they had to churn butter or knit or something. Now the work is different.

    I think music lessons are a necessity, not a luxury.

    Marian D. Hanks told me once, I know I’ve said this before, that from the pulpit, the brethren must speak in generalities, but they realize that each situation must be taken individually.

    There are fine busy women who work outside the home with wonderful families, and others who stay home with screwed up kids and marriages.

    It’s the nature of life to be complicated, messy, with no easy answers. It’s how we grow. Our challenge is not to decide how anybody else should act, our challenge is to work on ourselves. That’s a lot harder than figuring out how the rest of the world should live.

  46. Kristine
    May 9, 2005 at 6:10 pm


    anne–those last two paragraphs are the most sensible things anybody’s said in a good long while. Amen and hallelujah.

  47. Ana
    May 9, 2005 at 6:19 pm

    Anne, I’m applauding with Kristine.

    Maud, yes, sometimes. I stayed home with my boys for five years. During those years we struggled, and I had chances to work and thought it might be good. I prayed, and the answer was a resounding no. Once, after I didn’t listen very well, I actually accepted a part-time editing job and then had to call back and rescind my acceptance because I just felt so sick about it. When I stayed home, I was staying home on faith. It worked because it was what God wanted me to do then.

    Now, it’s a different time. And I’m doing a different thing because of my faith in a God who answers my prayers. Sometimes faith doesn’t mean you get to do what you want. But it always means you can accomplish what the Lord wants you to do.

  48. Matt Evans
    May 9, 2005 at 6:23 pm

    Anne (and Kristine too, I suppose),

    While it’s true that parental accessibility isn’t a perfect indicator of child outcomes, it’s kind of like pointing out that some non-smokers die at 55 while some chain smokers live to 95. That fact doesn’t tell us how long George Burns might have lived had he not smoked, or that my neighbor’s heart disease woudn’t have advanced more quickly had he smoked. Parental involvement is good for children, and smoking is bad for your health.

  49. Matt Evans
    May 9, 2005 at 6:33 pm

    Reading my comment, I wish I’d used a different example than smoking. I should have compared the benefits of parental accessibility to a healthy diet. I believe that analogy is more apt.

  50. Mimi
    May 9, 2005 at 7:11 pm

    Wait a minute, Matt Evans, when you say “parental accessibility”, what do you really mean by that? It seems from many of the above comments and from some of yours earlier, what you might mean is “maternal accessibility.” Isn’t that what this discussion is about? Somehow, there’s something about a SAHM that makes it ok to have a virtually absent father (long work hours as a lawyer, investment banker, consultant or in a church callings)? I find this discussion and one over on FMW depressing. It seems like a lot of dads, in their roles as providers, must of necessity work really long hours. Sometimes, this amount of time could be shortened in some way, other times not. But I don’t want my husband to be an absent father, nor do I want the onus of primary (meaing almost all the time) nurturer, and so I really balk at the reality of what a SAHM (in the US) looks like.

    What I find intriguing about Sweden is the incentives they have in place to help the father be actively involved in parenting and help the mother to have a career. I’ve only read academic research about it, never having primary experience there. But, it seems about right to me. Structure society in ways that create disincentives for overly lengthy work weeks, and create incentives for fathers to have oppotunitites to be more involved in parenting. And help mothers so that they can continue to have career jobs (flexible, part time) during child bearing years. I don’t think that all women have it in them to use Rosalynde’s solution of sheer will power in deciding to mother well or in Julie in Austin’s solution to find divine help in their career areas through their mothering and housekeeing activities. And if children are well provided for from both parents, then I don’t see anything wrong with having societal structured opportunities to enable families to choose a less rigid mother=nurturer, father=provider model.

  51. marta
    May 9, 2005 at 7:16 pm

    Hi Maud, I must remind anne that I was quoting Kacy, who is in all ways more amusing than I. Welcome, and well said. Though, as Ana has patiently and persistently pointed out (Ana, it’s catching), frequently it is not merely a matter of belt tightening, it is sometimes a matter of having something to eat after one has fed one’s children.

    Kristine, anne often says the most sensible thing anyone has said in a good long while. It is lovely to see it acknowledged. Hallelujah and amen.

  52. Rosalynde Welch
    May 9, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    Two cars have been mentioned a number of times as one of the manifold vices of a consumerist two-income family. But unless one lives in an urban area, two cars seem to me MORE necessary for a SAHM-family in the suburbs than for a working mother-family. To leave a mother stranded at home all day with small children and no means of transportation seems more than a little a bit beyond the pale of simple living.

  53. Matt Evans
    May 9, 2005 at 7:25 pm

    Hi Mimi,

    My comments referring to maternal accessibility were interpreting President Benson’s famous talk. When I was speaking for myself, I broadened the term to parental accessibility because I think it’s more accurate (and less controversial). There are probably few people who doubt that children need parental time and attention more than they need cable TV, video games, music lessons or sweaters. Whether children need the attention of one parent more than the other, on the other hand, is not something I’m prepared to defend, so I didn’t mirror Benson.

  54. May 9, 2005 at 8:19 pm


    I agree with you, I have turned down employment opportunities that would have been financially more beneficial than my current position. Why? I want to see my family sometimes, and I also want the ability to serve in the church.

    We’re not starving, but we do go without some things. I drive an old (but reliable) car. We don’t have a satellite dish on our roof. My wife has said many times that she’d rather have me home more often, with my current salary which is sufficient to support our family, than have me on the road and/or working 80 hours a week to bring in twice as much.

    #52… I don’t think two cars are a vice, but when I see my neighbors with a brand new Volvo and a brand new Mercedes, and then they complain about how they have to work so much….

    I think the argument of keeping our material consumption in “check” applies to both husbands and wives.

  55. yossarian
    May 9, 2005 at 8:28 pm

    Women being able to stay at home with children and not bring in income was a short term blip on the economic horizon. At the turn of last century most people were engaged in agriuculture, and the women did stay in the home, to work and add to the family enterprise. The children also usually labored to help the family economics. As the industrialized part of the economy became more dominant, there was also lower productivity and transportation was slower, resulting in more domestic demand for domestic products. As these situations were ameliorated by better transportation, productivity, and the globalization (or regionalization) of markets, the value of unskilled and semi-skilled labor decreased while the value of skilled and specialized labor increased. As a result of this median wages for workers have declined when indexed for inflation over the past 35-40 years, while some costs such as health care and housing have skyrocketed.
    What have people done to compete? They have added women to the workforce to make up for their diminished earning capacity. Many, if not most women work strictly for the paycheck and not for any wish for a career or empowerment, mostly because most women do not have jobs that fit the idea of a “career.” That is, they are not professionals or skilled laborer’s for the most part but fill the lower strata of the economic chain. This is why the implicit criticism of some within the church (and some un-nuanced statements from the Bretheren) hurt some women so much. In their wildest dreams some women wish to stay home with their children but find it financially impossible due to circumstances beyond their control.
    Our sisters who sacrifice their own wishes for the loving and caring of their families deserve gratitude, respect, and awe, not snide assertions that they are a little unrighteous or that they don’t listen to the prophet.

  56. Katie
    May 9, 2005 at 8:44 pm

    In the months since I have discovered Time and Seasons I have noticed a distinct pattern. The posts about women and their role, whether it be feminism, family size, motherhood, ect., seem to disproportionately get the most and most fervent comments. As soon as a post about the roles of women is posted, zoom, passionate arguments begin to fly.

    Some people will argue that women’s issues are cut and dry. The prophets have spoken and the counsel is easy to discern. The passionate debating on this site certainly says otherwise. It has caused me to reflect on the profound tension that exists for Mormons of this day and age about the place of women. There is tension between, “women get as much education as you can,” and “women stay home,” between “men and women are equals,” and “men are the head of the household,” between the singing of “Love at Home,” and the squirming children in the pews, between the ideal of families and the reality of day to day life, between what is heard over the pulpit and what is heard in the temple, between what church leaders say and what one feels in their heart.

    I am not interested in arguing whether tension really needs to exist in the example I have given. The bottom line is that it does exist. I only wish to point out that there is so much for both men and women to make sense of. Obviously it is not an easy task and many have come to different conclusions as witnessed by the posts on this site.

    A few weeks ago Elder Oaks gave a CES fireside on dating. It is too bad that the posters of T&S are not young single adults, for if there was ever a more blog worthy talk, I would be hard pressed to find it. Elder Oaks laid out the way dating should be, and had my ward rolling in the aisles with laughter. At the end of the talk he said, “Now, please do not write me any letters.” He explained that after talks like the one he just gave people always sent him letters asking if they were the exception to the rule. Elder Oaks said that every case was different and it was up to the individual to figure out what to do. He said a very profound thing, “I am a General Authority, and I give general counsel.” General counsel, that is all we ever get. It would be much easier to get a rule for every specific family. But it is up to each and every couple to receive the counsel, to pray about it, and to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

  57. Tim
    May 9, 2005 at 8:59 pm

    I mostly agree with Katie, but the counsel from the Church leaders is hardly “cut and dry” on this issue. I think another tension is that the teachings of Church leaders are in danger of becoming too far removed from the actual practices of the members, particularly on birth control and also on women and careers. Many women in our ward work outside the home, and don’t seem to feel particularly guilty about it.

    I think then the problem becomes that the Church leaders are telling us to live up to an unattainable and unrealistic ideal, so the alternatives for members are to feel guilty for not living up to the impossible ideal or to tune out things the Church says that they don’t agree with.

    As far as material wealth goes, an interesting question is to look at the Church leaders themselves. Almost all of these men had very demanding, lucrative careers before they became General Authorities. Almost all of them are (or were) wealthy men. I wonder how their lifestyles reflect the average Church member, and if we as men should follow in their footsteps in choosing and excelling in our careers.

  58. Katie
    May 9, 2005 at 9:11 pm

    Just to clarify-I myself am not saying that the counsel is cut and dry. I am saying that some people say it is, but I would argue that it is in reality general counsel; counsel we should find the principle in and than it apply it to our specific home situations.

  59. Miranda PJ
    May 9, 2005 at 9:33 pm

    Jenn, being a stay at home mother outside of poverty is not a pipe dream, but you make sacrifices. I’m able to stay home. We afford music lessons, a family computer, two cars that are quite used, and I buy kid’s clothing on ebay. The big tradeoff is that I’m in a small town where you can still get a house for 100k. I’m still not resigned to being a blue collar wife, though. Maybe if my husband would go to law school…

  60. Frank McIntyre
    May 9, 2005 at 10:00 pm


    If having a transmission go out means you lack the resources to fix it, this sounds like lower class, not the lower middle class. So maybe we’re just arguing over semantics of what it means to be “middle class”. I am not referring to the economic situation you are desciribing, but rather to a somewhat higher one.

  61. Haifa
    May 9, 2005 at 10:03 pm

    What I find more offensive than mothers working outside the home to earn extra money is families who systematically abuse church and state welfare so that the father can go to ______ school (fill in the blank with medical, law, business, graduate, etc.) so that the father can make big money so that the mother can stay home with the children. No one is entitled to be a doctor or lawyer. Living off the backs of others so that families can start having children earlier and mothers can stay at home with those children is wrong. Where I live, there are several young LDS families who work the welfare system so that they can own a house/condo, have two cars, cell phones, satellite TV, etc. but still qualify for WIC and bishop storehouse orders. They even meet together and share secrets on how to bilk the system–after they have gone to the temple to confirm that their thievery is what the Lord would have them do. (After all, isn’t most inspiration really justification?)

    I believe the issue here is not about whether a mother should/must work outside the home. It is about entitlement. We (me too) feel that we are owed at least a middle class life. Re-read the posts above. Those of you who have lived outside the U.S. will recognize the sentiment as you picture scenes of dirt floors and dirty children, dead dogs and decaying buildings.

    One of the largest and most disconcerting surprises in the hereafter for both the haves and the have nots will, in my opinion, be the uprooting of the sense of entitlement. We are not entitled to be comfortable. We are not entitled to be strong or right. And we are certainly not entitled to be mothers.

  62. May 9, 2005 at 10:23 pm

    Amen, Katie!

    I have only been viewing and sometimes posting on T&S for the last couple of months, but everytime SAHM’s are brought up, I feel compelled to speak out. I am a SAHM and it has been discouraging to see how bitter the debate can be between working moms (and single or childless people who presume to understand the situation) and SAHM’s. I feel that I must be some sort of freak anomaly to be a happy and financially stable stay-at-home-mom. But here, I feel I have to defend being a SAHM and refute the idea that it is impossible and unrealistic. I also agree with earlier statements that men have an equal responsibility in making this possible. I am glad that I married a man to whom it was important that I be able to stay at home with our children. He therefore worked to gain an education and work in a career that would provide that lifestyle. You don’t have to work 80-hrs a week to make it possible, you just have to make it a priority from early on in choosing a career path and living situation. I wish more young men were taught that it is part of their responsibility to choose a career that is able to support a family. By the way, we do have one car, my husband commutes to work with another man in our ward, I have the car every other day and it works just fine for our needs.

  63. Jack
    May 9, 2005 at 10:29 pm


    I agree with you on the “entitlement” question. We’re basically a bunch of spoiled brats.

    On the other hand, I don’t have too much of a problem with some folks getting federal assistence for schooling. Goodness only knows how those pursuing a career in medicine will we be raped by the federal government by way of income tax–that is, after they’ve paid off their loans. I also don’t mind some of my tax money going toward the building of stable and useful careers–and more so, stable families.

  64. May 9, 2005 at 10:36 pm

    Haifa, I have to agree with Jack on the “free money earned by the sweat of their brow that will continue to be paid out by the future sweat of their brow” that the government gives out to those who qualify during their higher education, but using church welfare without a real and desperate need that could not be avoided is deplorable.

  65. May 9, 2005 at 10:37 pm

    Haifa, I have to agree with Jack on the “free money earned by the sweat of their brow that will continue to be paid out by the future sweat of their brow” that the government gives out to those who qualify during their higher education, but using church welfare without a real and desperate need that could not be avoided is deplorable.

  66. lyle
    May 9, 2005 at 11:22 pm

    Haifa: No, you aren’t entitled to being a mother. As a man (right?) you are out of luck on that front. However, do such people as you describe really exist? I don’t know anyone who gets help from the Bishop’s storehouse and lives the lifestyle you describe…nor have ever heard such a tale. The closest would be a missionary companion; who had kids during his BYU undergrad days, and either the state or fed govt picked up the health insurance for his wife & newborn kids. You got a problem with that? I don’t. Frankly, every speck of tax dollars that is a positive prop to families sounds like Gospel to me.

  67. 'Rosalynde Welch
    May 9, 2005 at 11:32 pm

    Matt (#3): Do we have numbers to show that it’s the two-income household that’s been driving housing? (Frank?) It seems to me that it’s more a function of a growing disparity between urban/suburban schools, and the ensuing bidding wars to secure a spot in a desirable school district. Your line of argument wants to have it both ways, I think: on the one hand, it’s argued, two income families have all the disposable income to drive up housing prices, etc, but on the other hand the working mother brings in a very small net gain after second car, childcare, wardrobe, gas, meals, etc, are factored in. So which is it?

    Lyle (#4): My friend, did you actually read that editorial? It said nothing about working mothers deriving fewer mental benefits from motherhood than SAHM mothers. (It did suggest that exhaustion can compromise the gains–but the SAHM of four children under the age of six will be more exhausted than the working mother of two school-agers hands down.) (I’m skeptical about the whole thing–I think “pregnancy brain” is crock, but “mommy smarts” seems suspicious, too.)(As some sort of real gain in IQ, that is; as I’ve said elsewhere, I think parenting *methods* can improve professional endeavors.)

    Ana (#14): “Even when we work, we haven’t disappeared.” Very well said, Ana. In fact, mothers may be more visible to men than ever, now that they’re colleagues in the professional workplace and the breastpumping room is down the hall. As Frank points out, many (most?) women have always worked–just not in the rarefied realms of the knowledge-, opinion- and policy-shapers.

    Mimi (#50): Nicely argued. I think I can safely say that if society were structured in the way that you suggest—with free, high-quality childcare available for my children, with a rewarding, flexible and part-time academic position available for me, and with … well, *something* to make it possible for my doctor husband to work less than eighty hours a week—many of my personal dilemmas would dissipate. I suspect that a number of economic dilemmas would crop up in their places, however. It’s difficult for a non-specialist like me to get un-spun information, but it’s my understanding that the Swedish welfare state itself has a few structural problems.

    Audrey (#62): “I must be some sort of freak anomaly to be a happy and financially stable stay-at-home-mom.” Count me in as another freaky anomaly, then! (And I couldn’t be in better company!) You’re right about the bitterness among women that fuels the mommy wars. On T&S, though, or at least on this thread, most of the bitterness seems to be crystallize between working men and working women–perhaps, at root, a professional turf battle of the sexes?

  68. May 10, 2005 at 12:25 am

    Rosalynde: “with free, high-quality childcare available for my children”

    Free? I should ask Frank to take you to the woodshed for a quick Milton Friedman lecture. There is no such thing as a free healthcare, not in Sweden or anywhere else.

    Haifa, I had the same response as Lyle. I have lived in a lot of places, and almost always been closely associated with graduate students, but I have never witnessed the circumstances you describe. Nor have I ever heard of such a situation.

  69. Rosalynde Welch
    May 10, 2005 at 12:33 am

    Gordon, I was talking about childcare, not healthcare–but you’re right: even when parents don’t have to pay for it, it’s not free. That’s what I meant when I said that the Swedish welfare state has some structural problems of its own, as its generous welfare benefits get to the bottom of national coffers.

  70. Tim
    May 10, 2005 at 6:16 am

    Rosalynde makes and interesting point about the debate here being between working men vs. working women and not SAHMs vs. working women. T&S seems to be dominated by men (founded by men, most permanent bloggers are men), and working women, especially women in lucrative careers, are definitely a threat to men on many different levels.

    Anyway, in my brief experience here at T&S, I have found it refreshing that women are pretty supportive of each other’s decisions, and found it pretty typical of Mormon men that most of the comments from men here show little support for “women’s” issues. That is probably an overgeneralization, but a trend I’ve noticed in the past few weeks.

  71. lyle
    May 10, 2005 at 7:39 am

    Rosalynde: Yes, I read it. Granted, I did put the sensationalized spin on it, but I do think that it stated that raising children raised IQ due to some mystical connection; that is, before it equivocated its initial point to death. I’m not suspicious of that at all. Makes sense that fulfilling a “primary” purpose/responsibilit would provide benefits.

    Tim: “Women’s” issues are not just what NOW says. Anyways, I think your trend fails. The women folk may be more “polite” with each other’s points of view, but I don’t see any failure by the men to be “supportive,” esp. in the individual context where it matters most; i.e. what they do in their own families.

    Case in point: Education. Education isn’t a “woman’s issue.” The Prophet’s have said it, and I haven’t seen any men, or women, diss it. Me and my wife don’t have kids yet; but I’ve encouraged and supported her to get as much education as she can; formal or not.

  72. Matt Evans
    May 10, 2005 at 7:40 am

    Rosalynde, I wasn’t one of the commenters to point out that it costs money for a mother to enter the workforce, but even though that’s true, I trust that they earn more money than it costs them to earn it. Now that they have more money than they otherwise would, they have greater purchasing power for housing, etc. Because there’s a fixed supply of land, we compete against each other for it, and families with two incomes have greater purchasing power than they would with one income, making them stronger competitors in the market. This increases the pressure on other mothers to enter the workforce to keep up, which increases the pressure on more mothers to enter the workforce, etc. It’s the same way that one family can improve their view at the football game by standing up, but their standing up impedes the view of those behind them, who must now stand to have the view they did before, which impedes the view of those behind them, and so on, until everyone in the stadium is standing to have the same view they had at the beginning when everyone was sitting. Then someone realizes they could see better if only they stood on their seat. . .

  73. John Mansfield
    May 10, 2005 at 8:03 am

    There are great differences in the costs of living across the U.S. I moved recently from an area where a five bedroom house on a half acre lot cost less than half what a small rowhouse goes for where I live now. In my former community, I had a half-mile walk to work; I walked home most days for lunch with my wife and children. Now, I drive twenty-five miles each way; my youngest child has played far fewer rounds of dominos with me than his older brothers. Guess in which community the two-income family is the norm and in which it isn’t.

    Why would I make such a move? I left the area with the largest job losses over the last five years and went to the area with the largest gains. I feel like a passive twig caught in a flow, and aim to regain a measure of control and return to the vast portion of the country where people don’t subject themselves to quarter million dollar debts and greater.

    While the costs in different regions vary greatly, it doesn’t seem that income at the lower levels changes so much. Even in wealthy cities, there is only so much people can earn at the lowest rungs as long as immigrants are there to fill the gaps.

    These economic forces on Church units are interesting to see. The Santa Monica stake membership when we were there was about a third of its peak. We lived in a ward of old people dying off month by month and wondering why their children had to live elsewhere and no more young families moved in. The lesson to me was that defending your property values may be a hollow gain. I visited over a dozen wards surrounding Washington, D.C. and many of those in the inner suburbs also appear to no longer receive many young families.

  74. May 10, 2005 at 8:10 am

    It’s the nature of life to be complicated, messy, with no easy answers. It’s how we grow. Our challenge is not to decide how anybody else should act, our challenge is to work on ourselves. That’s a lot harder than figuring out how the rest of the world should live.

    Just wanted to repeat that.

    For what it is worth, I grew up in trailer parks in the late 60s. My lifestyle was better than the typical lifestyle of the 1930s and 1940s.

    A lot to think about here.

    BTW, a surgeon in Europe makes about $60k a year. If he or she moves to England and works in private practice, with lots of overtime, and is in the top 1%, they might make as much as $150k a year (I sat next to a recruiter during one lunch in Paris, it was interesting).

    A big change in our day and age is that there is little effective home industry. As I was waiting for trial to start, while the judge disposed of her motion docket, a poor lady was trying to sell an annuity worth 15k to 20k (depending on how you valued it) for $5k to start a home ebay business. The judge refused to allow the annuity company to purchase it. The woman, who was thin at the point of malnourishment, from a trailer park, was trying to find a stay-at-home job of some sort where she could add to the family economy (the way people used to with home gardening, canning and other home industry).

    It was wrenching to watch. Home industry isn’t. When we can our own jams and jellies, they cost more than buying them, and are a luxury item, not a savings (though, when we get the fruit for “free” from our garden or friends, the cost is equal, not greater than purchase). My mother was able to make my shirts in the best of current styles and materials and to save money. Local fabric stores are break-even affairs (assuming your labor is free and there is no cost to buy a sewing machine or surger) when compared with Wal-Mart (or Costco or Target).

    Well, I’m off to work. I make half of what I could, but I get more time with my kids and some flexibility. I know that my current job choice means I’m probably stuck at b.v. even with the results I get (do you know any other defense litigator with 18 zeros on the year before June?). I find it hard, but I can’t give up the time with my kids.

    But it seems so painful for everyone else (in their circumstances, not in my family — my kids like me ;) ).

    Interesting thread.

  75. Frank McIntyre
    May 10, 2005 at 8:15 am


    The key to what you have decribed is to have a certain amount of inelasticity in the supply of housing, so that increasing demand drives up prices but doesn’t make much more available. This is more true in some places than in others, but is as often as not probably related to zoning prohibitions on adding housing as anything else. Obviously, it will always be expensive to live next to the high value spots, and two-earner households will exacerbate that trend. Palo Alto, for example, is quite hard on one income. But one can go north or south and find somewhat better deals.


    What Sweden has done is pay mothers to leave their children so that they can go take care of other women’s children. And the same for caring fro the elderly. Obviously, the pay going to those workers is taxed out of the salaries of the other workers.

    My wife and I essentially do a non-forced version of the same. We share my professional income and she cares for the children during the day. Esentially the family unit “McIntyre” pays her out of our income to care for the children. And because they are her children, they matter a great deal to her and so she does a much better job of it than she would with other people’s children. How much do we pay her? We could call it any amount we want, since she is both the payer and the earner and the income is untaxed (and untithed).

  76. May 10, 2005 at 8:41 am

    Frank: “This is more true in some places than in others, but is as often as not probably related to zoning prohibitions on adding housing as anything else.”

    People with children shop for school districts. In places where I have lived, this factor more than anything drives differences in housing prices. I am not sure that makes Matt’s point, but it places limits on the attractiveness of going north or south that are not related to zoning.

  77. Julie K
    May 10, 2005 at 8:48 am

    I’ve tried to keep quiet, but I just can’t. It’s too important.
    Why don’t discussions here about women in the workforce ever include the impact it all has on their children?
    I financed part of my education by substitute teaching grades pre-K thru 9 in a large, public, upper-middle class, suburban school district.
    My experience there cut a wide swath through the various classroom offerings. In addition to normal academic subjects I also subbed for special ed which includes behavior disorder, autistic, hearing impaired, remedial resource rooms, etc.
    I have also been a GED tutor for adolescents in court-appointed drug rehab.
    I have seen and worked with today’s kids up-close and personal–and not just in a church setting.
    Something is very different in their world. Something is missing.
    It’s their parents.
    I want to echo the counsel for mothers to stay home and literally *raise their children* out of the morass that is our current society.
    The book “Home-Alone America” by Mary Eberstadt is a good resource to help explain what I have witnessed first-hand—the real stuff that does’t make the headlines. In it you’ll find the *specifics* that the General Authorities could quote if they wanted to back up their *generalities*.

  78. Jonathan Green
    May 10, 2005 at 8:52 am

    Matt, I’m hoping that the spectacle of a medievalist performing economic analysis in public will finally prompt Frank to offer some informed comment on your theory of dual incomes leading to a worsened housing situation for single-income families. Here’s the counter-arguments I can come up with:

    1. More people working > increased per capita productivity and a larger economic pie > everybody wins!
    2. The housing supply is not limited. In fact, I understand that there are millions of houses built every month! More money spent on housing creates a larger housing market, and dual-income families have to sell their houses to someone in order to move into their built-to-order McMansions.
    3. More education and career opportunities for women results in fewer children, which mitigates the demand for family housing and slots in the best schools.
    4. Median incomes have been stagnant for a while now, and other forms of inflation well under control, at the same time that big-city and coastal housing prices have exploded far beyond the pace of women entering the workforce. Something else is driving the bubble.

    I suspect that what is driving the demand for housing is not the extra income that comes from having dual incomes (which could just as well go towards extra Caribbean cruises or Cuban cigars), but rather the perception that not getting your kids into the top school (in the best district in a tony part of town) is preparing them for failure in a winner-take-all society.

    That’s what I come up with, at least. Frank, can you stand to grade one more short-answer essay at the moment?

  79. Jonathan Green
    May 10, 2005 at 8:56 am

    Never mind. While I was writing my comment, the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones were finally waking up. Thanks for you thoughts, Frank, and any others you care to add.

  80. Matt Evans
    May 10, 2005 at 9:09 am

    Frank, wouldn’t those with less relative purchasing power be disadvantaged even for products with elastic supply, like cars, clothes and food, or newly-available housing? It seems that without perfect price discrimination, prices will rise to capture some of the new purchasing power.

  81. kris
    May 10, 2005 at 9:21 am

    Frank — I’m very interested in how you pay your wife. Does she actually receive a salary, which then helps to pay the mortgage, utilities, etc. Or does she receive an allotment that is used for the family’s needs ie. groceries, swimming lessons, new shoes, etc. This is an interesting idea to me; my husband is the wage earner, my job is to take care of the children. We share the housework, although I do more, simply because I have more opportunity to do it as I am at home more than he is. The money is “ours” but I see your system as being potentially different — could you elaborate some more?

  82. ed
    May 10, 2005 at 9:22 am

    Matt, if the supply is elastic then the price is determined by the cost of production, because if there are profits to be made then new entrants will enter the market until price is driven back down to marginal cost.

    Don’t believe anyone who tells you they understand why housing prices have gone up so much lately. Economists just don’t undestand short term price movements in these asset markets that well. Relative prices vs. rents are weirdly out of whack at the moment. (We don’t really know what is going on with the stock market either.)

    Longer term, however, I think that Frank is on to something about zoning and other regulations. Here’s a recent paper that makes that case:

  83. Matt Evans
    May 10, 2005 at 9:29 am

    Jonathan, I wasn’t attributing the current housing boom to two-income families. The real estate boom has been fueled by historically low interest rates. I claimed that those with increased purchasing power (such as two-income families) cause relative prices to rise, regardless of what the other variables are doing. Whether there’s a housing boom or bust, two-income families make prices higher than they would otherwise be, placing single-income families at a relative disadvantage.

  84. Doc-Kwadwo
    May 10, 2005 at 9:37 am

    We are in the very throes of this dilemma at my house. We just had our first kid (six weeks ago today), and my wife and I are wrestling with her impending return to work. Alas, I am in medical school, and her work is a necessity to keep us afloat and in health insurance. Currently, ALL of the other married, LDS students at my school are on Medicaid and accepting welfare. Except us, and we are catching plenty of crap.

    My wife and I were both raised with the understanding that state assistance was an absolute last resort, after exhausting all family and church possibilities, and we are receiving considerable flack for not “setting our pride aside” and going on welfare. (That particular comment to my wife really pissed me off, and I am doing a lot of praying between now and next Sunday. I don’t want to kick people in the shins during sacrament meeting…)

    We are not not at all thrilled to have our neighbors assist in watching our long-awaited little girl, but in our minds, it is better than that alternative, and we feel that it is the right thing to do, at least until we can make other arrangements.

    I am not about to get into the “We are commanded to…” arguments that everyone seems to want to toss our way, because we truly feel that we are following counsel… we just understand that counsel differently than our church friends seem to.

    (The irony in all of this? We were the only ones in our cohort not to vote Fiscal-Responsibility-Republican last year, and yet we are the only ones unwilling to do the welfare thing. Not a judgement, just an observation. Well, maybe a little judgement, but I am praying to get rid of it… anyway, go friggin’ figure.)

    Sorry to vent, it is a fresh issue and we are struggling mightily.

  85. Matt Evans
    May 10, 2005 at 9:40 am

    Thanks Ed, reading your comment I realized that the cases I’m most familiar with (I read several hundred pages of battling economists arguing about the pricing strategies of DirecTV and Dish Network, and I’ve also read a lot about the pricing strategies of retail and grocery stores — chains charge different prices in different stores) assumed that the market wasn’t perfectly elastic. (Are any markets truly elastic? Or is the elastic market a useful fiction like the friction-less world of elementary physics?)

    But how elastic can the real estate market be? The amount of land within 20 miles of Washington DC is a constant.

  86. May 10, 2005 at 10:08 am

    Julie K, I hear you! I posted some of this on a different thread:

    Unlike most of my friends growing up, my mother chose to work outside of the home?not out of neccessity. My father was a successful engineer, my mother worked in a fabric store. She was a very outgoing person and enjoyed the social interaction. As the oldest of five children I became a virtual third-parent, this led to my own struggles with depression and emotional eating. I have met so many people like myself whose families have suffered spiritually and emotionally by not having at least one full-time parent. After high school I became good friends with the daughter of my high-school seminary president. Through this friendship, I witnessed the inner workings of a family that I didn’t think could exist. Their mother was home and made their lunch, she was home when they got home from school, they had family scripture study in the morning and family prayer at night. The feeling of love and warmth in their home was amazing and tangible. It was a gathering place for all their children’s friends, everyone was welcome anytime, and friends who visited wanted to be there as much as possible. I am so thankful that I had this example for a few short years before I moved on and later married to show me what life can be like I really follow the teachings of the gospel and the counsel of our church leaders. I must say that this is also based on the great emotional and spiritual health of both parents.

    The real question to ponder is in making the decision to work or not is, in twenty years, will my children feel that they were loved and given all of the spiritual and emotional support they needed? As a former career girl turned stay-at-home-mom, I feel that unless I had a nanny (which would fly in the face of needing to work) my children would lack in some ways if I were to work outside the home. Its a tough job, but I believe that I am an eternal being, and that this life is not the only opportunity I have to further my education. I do believe however, that raising wonderful loved children in this day and age, with all of my talents and intelligence (even though I do get bored/frustrated/emotional/etc) is a wonderful and worthwhile calling that I feel privileged to have.

    I don’t think people want to hear it. I think that people who are both working assume that their children are “OK” and that people make too much of children needing a stay-at-home parent. The positive effects of having a SAHM won’t ever be seen or realized by those who don’t do it, while the negative effects of both parents in the workplace probably won’t be seen until their children are teenagers and adults.

    Let me just say, if your child comes to you and asks for family home evening, scripture study, or family prayer, don’t get defensive and feel that you’re being criticized. Please take it as a wake-up call, and do it.

  87. May 10, 2005 at 10:11 am

    Jonathan: Did you read Julie K’s post, #77 (right before yours). I’m just an econ minor, but:

    1. The housing supply within specific zip codes & school districts is limited, due not only to space but also zoning requirements. Ever try to get a variance from a local zoning board? Or subdivide your lot? Don’t count on it.
    2. Yes, lots of new homes are built. Have you looked at the min-max price ranges on this new construction? At least in Utah & PA (my observation points), newly built homes are all fairly expensive and _not_ starter homes suitable for a 1 income household. That is…unless you are below the poverty line & qualify for government housing.
    3. More education & working women may increase less children, but…there is a time lag factor that I think you are omitting.

    Matt’s point seems to remain: Two income families drive up housing costs. I’ll add to that by opining that it also increases inflationary pressures, maintains a permanent sub-prime working class working jobs that pay less, regardless of education (# of mothers in Utah doing low paying telemarketing anyone?), and most importantly: Julie K’s point: Mothers outside the homes subject their children to a loss that society & economics can’t seem to quantify, yet seems to be crushing the spirit of these children.

    I work with a part-member family in inner city Philadephia. The kids are members; the parents are not. Both parents work. The kids receive very minimal parental supervision. They get almost as much parental supervision from me…and I only see them 1-2 days of the week. You can’t tell me that this is a good situation or that their isn’t a “cost” that society may/may not have to pay for the way these kids are being raised. If we’re lucky, they will obey the law & go to church occasionally & get an education. If not…they will become an increasing drain on the public coffers because their parents didn’t educate them.

  88. ed
    May 10, 2005 at 10:12 am

    Matt: I’d say markets for most goods are pretty elastic in the long run. For example, consider anything you can buy at Wal-mart. Many goods are elastic in the short run as well if there are good substitutes available (for example, a shortage in Sony televisions probably won’t make the price go up, because people will just buy other brands instead.) The supply of land is certainly an exception.

    I’ve heard the theory that most expensive metropolitan areas in the country are all geographically constrained by being up against an ocean or lake or other natural barier. (I wonder if this implies a future of super high home prices in Salt Lake City?)

    I wonder about the idea that two-income families are actually hurting one-income families by pricing them out of the housing market. If this is true, is this the same for all inelastic goods or is housing special? I’ll have to think about this some more. It’s also worth noting that working mothers might lower the cost of the goods that they themselves produce.

  89. ed
    May 10, 2005 at 10:16 am

    lyle: “Have you looked at the min-max price ranges on this new construction? At least in Utah & PA (my observation points), newly built homes are all fairly expensive and _not_ starter homes suitable for a 1 income household.”

    This is irrelevant. An increase in the supply of homes will lower the cost of existing homes as well. You can buy a starter home from someone who is trading up to one of the nice new homes.

    The problem is that, in many places, sufficient new homes are NOT being built, both because attractive land is scarce and because of regulations and zoning.

  90. Kaimi
    May 10, 2005 at 10:16 am

    (#84): “I don?t want to kick people in the shins during sacrament meeting.”

    Agreed. The proper time to kick them in the shin is either before or after sacrament meeting. During sacrament meeting, you need to limit yourself to angry looks and lobbed spitballs.

  91. Matt Evans
    May 10, 2005 at 10:26 am

    Ed, I just wanted to clarify that I haven’t claimed that one-income families have been priced “out of the housing market,” only that two-income families’ greater purchasing power increases housing prices.

    Lyle, I think your counter-examples are good, and would like to add one more distinction: the new homes are not being built in the cities. They’re being built away from the cities on the ragged edges of the exurbs. It costs less money to buy a place in the exurbs, but a lot more travelling time and money to get to the city’s offices and attractions. You’ve got to pay the price either way.

  92. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 10:57 am

    This thread has produced all kinds of interesting viewpoints, which have been made some interesting reading. I agree that society seems to be moving in a direction where those in the middle class will have to face the prospect of mothers working simply to remain solvent- I mean, after all, this is not a third world country where we even have the option of putting a shanty-roof over our heads.

    Although my wife’s family did live in a tent for three years during an economic downturn. That was interesting. Not something I think we should be driven to do just to keep Mom at home- especially with 5 kids as they had. But they had fun camping out for three years.

    Still- it is amazing how expensive it has become to live in this and other economically similarly situated countries. You’d think that with all the wealth in this country, we could find some way to make life more manageable for those who do exist on the middle class’s ragged edges- a way that does not require the Dad to be a professional working horrendous hours (doing that!), or to work two or even three jobs (been there, done that!) or the mom to work outside the home.

    As to the commenter who said something about lazy dad needing to get another job- it doesn’t help. As an undergraduate student, I worked 40 hours a week at a local bank. I also was an early morning custodian at the same time, getting about 20 hours a week. 60 hours a week + full time school + no transportation because I wanted my wife to have the car. That cost us. That cost my health. I worked cleaning toilets from 4am-8am. I went to school from 8:00 am – noon. I worked again from 1:00 pm until 9:00 pm (and a full day on Saturdays- 8:00 am – 5:00 pm), and then had homework, family, and church obligations to keep me busy until I dropped dead at midnight. All done so my wife could stay at home, which is what she wanted to do. I would not have had a problem with her working, but I want to do all in my power to support whatever decision she makes along those lines, be that a decision to work or to stay home. And even with me working 2 jobs and going to school, we still lived beyond the ragged edge of middle class, directly in the zone of poverty (at least by this country’s standards).

    This is a very personal decision for each family to make on its own, hopefully with no added pressure from criticism by those who should love us the most- our family and church family. But we should at least recognize that the social system in this and other Western countries does make it very difficult for mothers to stay at home, which means we should have more reason to respect the choices that those around us make for the benefit of their own families.

  93. Jonathan Green
    May 10, 2005 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for the informative responses so far. Continuing my informal schooling in economics, I have another question: How does “dual-income families place single-income families at a relative disadvantage [for housing]” differ from the statement “rich people hurt poor people by pricing them out of the market”? Is there a substantive difference between the two statements, or does the former just replace an uncomfortable argument about class with a more familiar argument about gender roles? If every family only had one income, wouldn’t we still have the same conflict, only along class lines rather than under the rubric of “vanishing mothers”?

    Matt, I’m intentionally misquoting you a bit for the sake of getting you to clarify your position. While I still disagree, I’m not in a position to argue the point.

  94. May 10, 2005 at 11:06 am

    Ed: You are making an unwarranted assumption:

    i.e. that folks are buying up into more expensive homes. Maybe some are; but it certainly isn’t a 1:1 ratio. This also discounts those that are buying up investment properties to rent out, rather than buying a newer home. Yes, even in the U.S. some folks are still saving (via real estate investment) rather than spending (buying a new McMansion).

  95. ed
    May 10, 2005 at 11:17 am

    Matt: “[O]ne-income families have been priced “out of the housing market,” only that two-income families’ greater purchasing power increases housing prices.”

    Yes, I agree. Imagine there are only two goods: land, and widgets. If all women start producing widgets instead of raising the kids, we have twice as many widgets as before, but the same amount of land. So we would expect that the price of land to fall relative to widgets. In other words, we would have to give up more widgets to get the same amount of land as before. On the bright side, we would have to give up less land to get the same number of widgets!

    What is not clear is if this extra production of widgets hurts women who choose to stay home (although it will almost certainly change their tradeoff between consuming land and consuming widgets.) It’s far from obvious to me that it does. Of course, our conclusions change if we add taxes, school districts, risk, social status, etc.

  96. Eve
    May 10, 2005 at 11:30 am


    I agree. And, yes, there are people living the life Haifa describes. Several in my ward, in fact. One family in particular just bought a new mini van, have their children enrolled in classes at the YMCA, live in a decent house and receive welfare. The thick irony of it all is that I have heard these stay-at-home-wife-of-grad-student-welfare moms talk about how they hate going to the government offices to get their welfare checks because the “element” is so unsavory. Truly rich.

    There is no excuse for stealing money from others. And whoever thinks stealing from the state as opposed to the church is ok is flat wrong. I have a huge problem with people letting the state pick up health insurance and other benefits while they drive cars, talk on cell phones, buy new clothes, fly to visit family at Christmas, watch cable. That the tax dollars ostensibly go to propping up the family is inapposite, and any argument based on that ground is disingenuous. In fact, church counsel is to the exact contrary. We should provide for ourselves, turn to family, turn to the church, and then turn to the state. Read Marion G. Romney’s talks on this issue, for starters.

    Are there extreme examples of hardship where welfare (church or state is warranted), of course. But, at least from my perspective, those extremes have been watered down in the name of money and family.

  97. May 10, 2005 at 11:47 am

    Eve: Disingenuous? Inapposit[ive]? How so?

    First: what you have described seems to be a fairly rare situation; one limited to families where one of the parents is getting an advanced degree. What do you want these folks to do? They are simply using the existing laws to make the best family life they can. If you have a problem with the law, blame Congress & write your elected reps. a letter.

    Second: At best, all you have done is set up a conflict between Pres. Romney’s counsel on which source of support to turn to first and the counsel of other Apostles who have stated not to put off having a family/getting married. At worst, you are placing primacy on Pres. Romney’s counsel, subordinating all other doctrines, and declaring that you aren’t a good Mormon unless you follow his counsel first.

  98. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 11:53 am


    Did we read the same post by Eve? Reading your response, I am not sure we did.

  99. May 10, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    There is a post on Millenial* regarding the most difficult commandment to follow being forgiveness. I personally find the most difficult commandment to follow is to “judge not”. I don’t know in what year Marion G. Romney’s talk was given, but in my former calling within the Relief Society presidency, (I was just released) we were told to encourage families who were struggling (and there are several in our ward) to seek out government assistance if they qualified, particularly WIC. It is no sin to use government assistance that you honestly qualify for.

  100. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 12:04 pm

    I think that we should each find a way that suits us, and stick to it. And not worry about what our neighbors are doing that suits them.

  101. May 10, 2005 at 12:06 pm

    …particularly if you are using it to better your life and get out of the situation that you are in. I have never had the need to use any church or state welfare, but I have seen people in some crazy dire straits for being too proud to use what is there for them.

  102. May 10, 2005 at 12:12 pm

    …I must now become a vanishing mother. Too bad I can’t type and clean the kitchen at the same time, but one must take advantage of naptime when one has a toddler who is fascinated by dirty utensils and the way the dishwasher rack rolls in and out.

  103. May 10, 2005 at 12:15 pm

    Jordan: How so? Eve seems to be accusing folks of “stealing,” because they must not be turning to their extended families and the Church (presumably) because they are using Government Welfare. I’m addressing her usage of Pres. Romney’s advice, which is one of the basis for her stealing conclusion. Did I miss something?

  104. Eve
    May 10, 2005 at 12:17 pm


    Your logic could be applied to a number of “legal” actions that the church counsels against — gambling, smoking, drinking, opening shop on the Sabbath. If we were counseled to merely take advantage of the existing laws, we would have little need for prophesy.

    I agree that there is an apparent tension between the counsel to multiply and replenish and the counsel to avoid debt. I also agree that that tension need not be resolved in a zero sum fashion. But you are missing the point.

    As Haifa put it, no one is entitled to be a doctor et. al. And certainly no one is entitled to live like a doctor while in medical school. If that means the wife has to work while the husband studies for his profession, or vice versa, and the child has to be tended by a family member or neighbor until the husband finishes school, then that is the way it goes. I think the original post was about mothers working outside the home, no? And this subtopic is about how mothers who have husbands who are in graduate school feel entitled to have children, stay at home, and live off the government’s/church’s dole, no? You may not have a problem with that decision, but the gospel does.

  105. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 12:20 pm

    I guess so, if you are so certain. But I must have missed something, because I didn’t see anything rising to the level of “subordinating” some doctrines to other doctrines. I miss things often.

  106. Mark B.
    May 10, 2005 at 12:22 pm

    By the way, Lyle, inapposite is a word, but I’ve never heard “inappositive.” I’d be interested in hearing what it means.

    I think that what sticks in my craw, and probably others’, is the image of the person in graduate/professional school whose family is on Medicaid and receiving food stamps. Those aren’t people who are down on their luck, or whom illness or unemployment or some other sling or arrow of outrageous fortune have laid low–instead, those are people who are gifted enough to get into graduate/professional school, who have made a decision to defer their earning an income so they can prepare themselves to earn a greater income in the future, and who seem to be financing their rise to the top of that economic hill on the backs of others who pay taxes. And some of those who pay taxes will never come near that economic hill, much less to the top of it.

    Now, one can say that it’s legal, and the law permits it. Well, if that’s the standard, why not go to Las Vegas and finance your education at the baccarat table or the video poker machine. I don’t think that “it’s legal” is the standard by which one should live his life.

  107. Frank McIntyre
    May 10, 2005 at 12:26 pm


    We have no formal arrangement since we have no seperation of income in our family. It is just one pot and one checking account and one set of bills. My wife and I both understand what her staying home makes possible, and what my working makes possible. Being an economist I often tend to be less attached to ascribing value to things based on the associated paycheck, than some people. That is because I see a paycheck as the outcome of supply and demand, rather than a statement of worth or value.


    1. If the problem is not land but good schools, then I would think that implies that the market is far more elastic, since it is easier to hire better teachers than to create more land.

    2. I doubt the parents are getting a good return if they are sending mom into the work force so that the kids can get a mildly better education. There are plenty of perfectly good schools that are not top flight but that do the job reasonably well. When supplemented with a strong home support there is no reason to fear them. The really crummy schools are in inner city areas where the crime rates are so high the parents probably would not want to live there anyway.

    3. In Utah anyway, the growing number of charter schools pretty much cut the link between local zoning and school funding. In other areas, private schools serve the same purpose.

  108. John
    May 10, 2005 at 12:26 pm


    Interesting comments and welcome back to T&S. Last I heard, u had quit law school and headed off to Iraq. Not to digress from the discussion, but what was your experience in Iraq like? What are you currently doing? Feel free to give us an update :)

  109. Bill
    May 10, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    Bravo, Eve, Shame, Lyle

  110. Ashley Crandell
    May 10, 2005 at 12:38 pm

    #84 (Doc-Kwadwo)– My husband and I had our first two children while he was in med school; our health insurance through the medical school was excellent and I viewed it as being one of the few financial benefits of starting our family during that time. I assumed good health insurance was standard for med schools to offer; not so, I guess?
    And I wondered: what do you think of living off of student loans? That was our decision, for better or worse. I stayed home, but my husband graduated with significantly more debt than we would have had, had I worked.
    Does “staying afloat” mean staying free from debt?

  111. May 10, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    Eve: No one is entitled to anything. So what? I refer you to the parable of the talents. Should the families in question simply bury their talents? Not sure that follows Jesus’ counsel.

    Jordan: let’s play the following hypothetical:

    1. LDS family #1 sends husband to medical school. Wife stays home. They use Medicaid to pay for their health insurance (other than than picked up by the Medical Schools required insurance program; which gets paid for in his tuition, which they pay for by taking out huge student loans). They get “welfare” (whatever that is supposed to mean. Do you mean unemployment benefits? What?). They are following Pres. Benson’s counsel to keep the Mother in the home.

    2. LDS family #2, husband gets into medical school, but they decide they can’t afford it without taking advantage of Government programs such as welfare, medicaid, etc. So, wife leaves the home to make the money needed to pay basic costs & loans cover the rest. They are following Pres. Romney’s counsel to not take Government welfare until you have exhausted extended family/church help [Note, this is a big presumption (that family/church were _not_ used first), and one that I don’t think anyone outside of Family #2 can adequately answer…including both Eve & I].

    Eve seems to be suggesting that only Family #2 is an obedient Mormon family. To me, that seems like placing Pres. Romney’s counsel as more important than Pres. Bensons.

    First, that seems wrong because one was the President of the Church. In case of doubt, follow the President, not the Counselor.
    Second, re: Eve’s point re: my logic applies to gambling and other ‘legal’ actions also. Yes? So what? You seem to be arguing that everyone on Welfare is either a thief; or a thief if they could choose another lifestyle that didn’t _require_ welfare. I’m not sure how gambling makes one a thief…only less obedient.

    Sum: At best…conflict counsel. At worst…placing the non-Presidential counsel over the Presidentail counsel. If there is any “thievery” going on…it is that of the families who rob their children of having a mother in the home unless _required_ to by economic choices that were not the result of extravagant/non-necessary lifestyles/purchases.

  112. May 10, 2005 at 12:45 pm

    To add to Frank’s point #2:

    Perhaps folks might want to consider the marginal increase in utility from being in “the” best school district in the area vs. a private school vs. “a” school district where housing is affordable & the mother doesn’t have to work. My guess is that the children would be better off, and better educated, by going to the lower quality public school, living in the slightly “poorer” neighborhood, and having a mother at home. Who was it that said that the mother is the most important/influential educational force in a child’s life? Seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul (and a lesser amount at that) to make “mom” work to place the kid in a private school or “good” school district.

  113. Jack
    May 10, 2005 at 12:51 pm

    Dost mine eyes deceive me ? Or am I actually reading that a conservative supports the family being on welfare in order to keep the mother at home and that a liberal supports the mother working in order to keep the family off of welfare? Fun…

  114. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 12:55 pm

    good hypos, Lyle, but I don’t see how they follow from Eve’s frustrated expression.

    I still hold to the theory that the Jones do what the Jones do, the Smiths do what the Smiths do, and the Fowles do what the Fowles do and we are each happy because we are living a life suited to our particular needs.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that some lifestyle choices are becoming more difficult to maintain because of the reasons mentioned by Gordon up above. I admire both “sides” in this silly debate- I stand in awe of mom’s who pull off working and raising a family, and I heart stay-at-home-moms for their efforts. Because in the end, Mom is mom is mom and each mom (for the most part) does the best she can given the circumstances of her family and her own God-given constitution.

  115. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    Oops- that should be:

    “I stand in awe of moms.” No apostrophe. I just committed one of my own pet peeves.

  116. Greg Call
    May 10, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    Just to add to the data, and to get President Romney out of the line of fire, here is one of the more “official” Church statements on welfare:

    “The responsibility for each member’s spiritual, social, emotional, physical, or economic well-being rests first, upon himself, second, upon his family, and third, upon the Church. Members of the Church are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent to the extent of their ability. (See D&C 78:13–14.)

    “No true Latter-day Saint, while physically or emotionally able, will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Lord and with his own labors, he will work to the extent of his ability to supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life. (Gen. 3:19; 1 Tim. 5:8; and Philip. 2:12.)

    “As guided by the Spirit of the Lord and through applying these principles, each member of the Church should make his own decision as to what assistance he accepts, be it from governmental or other source. In this way, independence, self-respect, dignity, and self-reliance will be fostered, and free agency maintained.” (The Presiding Bishopric, September 1977.)

    And here’s then-Elder Benson:

    “Occasionally, we receive questions as to the propriety of Church members receiving government assistance instead of Church assistance. Let me restate what is a fundamental principle. Individuals, to the extent possible, should provide for their own needs. Where the individual is unable to care for himself, his family should assist. Where the family is not able to provide, the Church should render assistance, not the government. We accept the basic principle that “though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.”

    “Latter-day Saints should not receive unearned welfare assistance from local or national agencies. This includes food stamps. Priesthood and Relief Society leaders should urge members to accept the Church welfare program and earn through the program that which they need, even though they may receive less food and money. By doing so, members will be spiritually strengthened, and they will maintain their dignity and self-respect.

    “Last year in the United States alone over $98 billion was distributed in unearned government transfer payments and other aid to millions of men and women who most often did nothing for what they received. This character-weakening government dole is repeated in almost every nation of the world. We encourage Latter-day Saints everywhere to remain free of government assistance. Work for what you receive.”

  117. May 10, 2005 at 1:01 pm


    You are correct. Except we need a new rubric/paradigm. Yes, I prefer lower government spending in general. However, I have no problem with government spending that supports my values; i.e. freedom for everyone (i.e. Iraqi’s) and supports a culture of life & family. I evaluate political issues based on the effect they have on: agency & family values. Period.

    Jordan: Perhaps there is more hype than disagreement. I tend to make mountains of mole hills. I’m with you re: each family should choose on their own. However, I was pointing out what I (mistakenly?) saw as an attack on those families that are attempting to follow Prophetic counsel.

  118. AMW
    May 10, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    I’m a working mom (have worked full-time for about 27 years). We live in the Boston suburbs where my husband’s teaching salary wouldn’t be sufficient to support us.

    What I see missing from all of the hand-wringing on this topic is the reality that the vast majority of LDS families around the world don’t live in areas where there’s the luxury of living on one income.

    In our area there are families in wards and branches (including our own) where both parents must work to provide food, clothing and shelter. Boston has one of the highest housing costs in the country and there’s no sign that’s changing dramatically any time soon. In the nonprofit agency where I work we have staff members whose families include parents with more than one fulltime job each — just so that they can afford to rent an apartment within reasonable distance from public transportation and provide the necessities of life for their kids.

    It seems to me that the debate of whether moms stay at home rests either with the mostly upper middle class, highly educated church members, or with those of more moderate means who don’t live in an urban environment.

    To lots of the families I see sitting in the audience of our stake conference, the luxury of having a husband with a sufficiently lucrative career to allow mom to stay at home is simply out of reach.

    I echo those who advise us all to hold judgment on those around us making different decision than our own with regard to this issue.

  119. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 1:08 pm


    I always wondered how that advice played out for students who are facing a choice between six figure debt for their education and less if they use welfare to subsidize during school. Neither source of “income” is money earned.

    Barring Eve’s example of a family who receives welfare and still splurges on “luxury” items, why is it so wrong for the run-of-the-mill poor graduate student who does not buy much extra to use welfare while in school to avoid crippling debt? President Benson’s advice was given in a day when education seems to have been much less costly.

    I know what President Benson said, and I want to follow it. But does taking welfare to improve your situation really have the same “character-weakening” effect as that referred to by President Benson? What do you think?

  120. May 10, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    To modernize a bit, let’s see what the Church currently says (not changed much):

    Government assistance is the receipt of funds or other resources from government agencies without any requirement to work for the aid. Church members are taught that they are responsible for their own well-being and that of their families. While physically able, they are not to voluntarily shift that burden to others, including government. When a family’s resources are insufficient, extended family should help as they are able. When family resources are exhausted, resources of the Church may be utilized. In some cases, individual members may decide to receive assistance from a government. Whatever sources of assistance are used, members should avoid becoming dependent and strive to become self-reliant. Where possible, those receiving assistance should work in return for assistance provided.,11666,2595-1-1101-2,00.html

  121. Rosalynde Welch
    May 10, 2005 at 1:24 pm

    It seems utterly clear to me that the no-government-assistance meme is receding from prophetic counsel (and LDS practice) much more quickly than the mothers-in-the-home meme. (Greg’s quotes are going on thirty years–and that’s old, believe me, I know.) I literally can’t remember ever hearing over the pulpit even implied counsel to avoid government subsidies; these days, “self reliance” discussion seems invariably concerned with “spiritual self reliance,” whatever that means. Then again, I think characterizing social programs as “stealing” is beyond absurd, so I’m obviously coming from a different place than other commenters.

  122. May 10, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    re: Eve’s comments. I’m not defending any family that lives “in luxury” off of welfare. Only that we don’t know to what extent they have extended family to lean on and/or whether they have tried Church assistance or not, or even whether they would qualify for Church assistance.

    re: student loans vs. welfare. The current counsel stated above says “individuals may choose” to receive government assistance, and to “strive to become self-reliant.” Well…sounds like a graduate student family to me. Such a family is striving to become self-reliant. The counsel also says “work in return for assistance provided” where possible. Given that welfare doesn’t have such provisions, the fact that the graduate student family is likely to have increased earning potential, i.e. will be taxed at a higher marginal rate after graduation, seems to qualify as paying back.

    Frankly, not taking student loans or welfare, where legal, seems financially irresponsible. From God’s perspective, increased intelligence is increased glory, right? He also seems to like mothers in the home. And Ceaser certainly doesn’t have a problem with “loaning” money out, whether via student loans or welfare, esp. where it results in a salary that can be taxed latter on down the line. So…where is the beef? [The proceeding may have been brought to you by the chik-a-filet chickens]

  123. Greg Call
    May 10, 2005 at 1:26 pm


    Hey, don’t try to make me actually give an opinion on this! I posted those quotes, but I don’t have any real answers. This is another one of those times where the principles we believe appear hard to reconcile (get all the education you can/don’t go into debt/don’t delay having children/one parent should stay home/don’t use government assistance). We prayerfully do our best, and let others do the same. I can tell you what I did, but I’m not sure it was right.

  124. Rosalynde Welch
    May 10, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    Well, lyle seems to have just proved me wrong with a single link! Thanks, lyle. Am I alone in feeling that this counsel is entirely absent from over-the-pulpit teaching?

  125. greenfrog
    May 10, 2005 at 1:26 pm


    What justifies a male leaving his home to provide for his family? Have we improperly bought into the economic advantages provided by concentrations of labor? I’m confident that if I were to re-arrange my family’s situation such that I could earn a living out of my basement, my kids would see a great deal more of me than they do at present. Is there a productive way to evaluate this kind of question?

  126. May 10, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    Student loans?

    “Get all the education you can. I repeat, I do not care what you want to be as long as it is honorable. A car mechanic, a brick layer, a plumber, an electrician, a doctor, a lawyer, a merchant, but not a thief. But whatever you are, take the opportunity to train for it and make the best of that opportunity. Society will reward you according to your worth as it perceives that worth. Now is the great day of preparation for each of you. If it means sacrifice, then sacrifice. That sacrifice will become the best investment you have ever made, for you will reap returns from it all the days of your lives” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 172–173).,11666,2884-1-1161-1,00.html
    “I do not mean to say that all debt is bad,” Elder Ezra Taft Benson said in 1962. “Of course not. Sound business debt and reasonable debt for education are elements of growth. Sound mortgage credit is a real help to a family that must borrow for a home. …

    “If you must incur debt to meet the reasonable necessities of life—such as buying a house and furniture—then, I implore you as you value your solvency and happiness, buy within your means.

    “So, use credit wisely—to acquire an education, a farm, to own a home.

    “But resist the temptation to plunge into a property far more pretentious or spacious than you really need” (“The Dangerous Threat of Increasing Indebtedness,” The Instructor, May 1962, 159, 162).

  127. Greg Call
    May 10, 2005 at 1:36 pm


    I agree with you both that the emphasis on self-reliance has shifted and that characterizing the use of government aid as “stealing” is absurd. Lyle’s quote shows, though, that there is still the notion of first self, then family, then church, then government.

  128. May 10, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    Rosalynde: If you follow the link, you will note that it is in the “Help for Leaders” section; i.e. it is out there, but not exactly easy to find or probably going to be accessed by everyone.
    So, your statement re: decreased emphasis is certainly true (whether or not “silence” re: doctrine/counsel means much…as discussed in another T&S thread last week).

    Jordan/Greg: If we are going to hang the hat on “unearned”; then what about law (any graduate) school loan forgiveness programs? what about scholarships; esp. those that are means based? Is anyone suggesting that using a Pell Grant to pay for their tuition is “stealing”? How does one “earn” assistance from the government? Isn’t it the government’s decision in deciding who to help whether or not they have “earned” that aid?

  129. Eve
    May 10, 2005 at 1:58 pm

    It seems utterly clear to me that it “seems utterly clear [to some] that the no-government-assistance meme is receding from prophetic counsel (and LDS practice) much more quickly than the mothers-in-the-home meme” is an ad hoc justification for a practice which some on this board have engaged in some form or fashion. Does relative silence or less direction on a point of doctrine equal recession when the principle has been clearly set forth and practiced for years?

    Lyle, the parable of talents is a false comparison here. But if you’d like to go with it, the comparison would lead to the following result. People who have two talents should not go to professional/graduate school on the backs of others so that they can make ten talents some day.

    Further, your argument that people who don’t take out loans or welfare are somehow financially irresponsible is, you know, absurd. First of all, there is a large difference between a loan and welfare. I don’t think I have stated anywhere that people should not take out student loans that they plan to pay back. The idea that the subsequent taxing is some form of repayment of welfare, however, lacks merit. Anyone who has studied tax knows that the tax burden falls on the middle class. What about the average Joe who funded the schooling? How is he ever going to be paid back?

  130. Eve
    May 10, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    I cannot speak for others, but what I characterized as “stealing” is the using of welfare, not loans, to subsidize anything more than a basic existence. If someone uses welfare and pays $100 a month for a cell phone, that is stealing.

  131. Rosalynde Welch
    May 10, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    “Does relative silence or less direction on a point of doctrine equal recession when the principle has been clearly set forth and practiced for years? ”

    Uh, yes. Quite clearly. I think it is competely fair and broadly agreed that the leadership uses current general conferences to emphasize the doctrines and and practices that are currently of greatest importance to the membership of the church.

  132. Ashley Crandell
    May 10, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    This is probably beside the point of your rhetorical question “how does one ‘earn’ assistance from the government?–but I know of one assistance program based on the premise that awardees will work in return for the money, the Nat’l Health Service Corps (administered under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services). They pay for tuition + stipend; in return the scholar (doctor, nurse, etc.) works in an area of the country designated as “medically underserved” after their training is completed.

    I wonder if this could/should be the model for more gov’t assistance programs; it certainly encourages(forces?) students who accept the assistance to make socially responsible choices, at least for a time.

  133. Ashley Crandell
    May 10, 2005 at 2:16 pm

    Sorry–my comment #132 was responding to Lyle’s comment #128.

  134. Doc-Kwadwo
    May 10, 2005 at 2:19 pm

    #110 (Ashley)

    Glad to know that others have had kids in med school and survived…

    Unfortunately, the health insurance through my medical school is horrible, and almost as expensive as COBRA (which is a lot). I, too, assumed that good health insurance would be standard for med schools to offer, and I was wrong. They are trying to change things, but I doubt it will happen during the rest of my tenure here.

    AS far as education loans, we are already pretty loan heavy, (alas), and I am trying to get a military scholarship to cover the last few years of the slog and help to free my wife to stay with our girl. That would be worth it in spades.

    Alas, in our situation, “staying afloat” means keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table. Staying free from educational debt? Too late. And we aren’t living large, here, either. As my kid sister pointed out last night on the phone, it would be a different situation entirely if my wife was working to make that BMW payment and send us to Cabo over Spring Break. We’re just trying to do what we understand to be the right thing, and taking heat for it.

    Lyle, most of the loan forgiveness programs with which I am familiar require something specific of the recipient (working for a time in a less-desirable geographic region, for example, or in an underserved area). That is far from stealing. In fact, it can be very hard-earned… and a much different animal than welfare. Even the loan payoff programs for physicians will require them to work at the same hospital (usually far from where they would CHOOSE to live) for a period of time. I don’t see the overlap at all.

  135. May 10, 2005 at 2:23 pm

    Just to second Rosalynde on the above question, a good case in point would be interracial marriage. Church leaders frequently spoke against it pre-OD2. Since then, there have been no statements made against it or in acceptance of it. They simply stopped talking about.

    And I think most would agree the church’s current policy is not against interracial marriages.

  136. Eve
    May 10, 2005 at 2:27 pm

    So we can ignore counsel, or at least put it low on the priority list, unless and until it resurfaces in a recent GC? Good to know. How recent need it be? I have been going about this obedience thing all wrong. Ten Commandments subsumed by the latest talk on missionary work? Let’s see, I haven’t heard the brethren talk on gambling in a —doh!—President Hinckley, why did you have resurrect that receding counsel?! I was so loving my Texas Hold em with the boys. Guess I will have to wait another few years for that issue to fall off the circuit and then I can enjoy my Thursday nights again.

  137. Doc-Kwadwo
    May 10, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    One of the med student wives in our branch is fond of telling everyone how financially prosperous her parents are, and how big their house is back home, and about all the trips they take, etc. etc.

    They happen to be one of the families on Medicaid and food stamps, etc. OK, maybe it ain’t stealing, but it sticks pretty firmly in my craw, I’ll tell you that much.

    For me, that is contradictory to the self-family-church-state flow chart.

    I hear from my classmates that they will be paying plenty of taxes later on, after medical school, to make up for whatever they took during the lean years. I see the argument, and I understand it, but I don’t buy it. And I hate that it’s hard to say “Hey, whatever helps you sleep at night” without sounding judgemental, you know?

  138. Doc-Kwadwo
    May 10, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    Uh, that should be “judgmental.” Don’t judge me by my extra e’s.

  139. Paul
    May 10, 2005 at 2:33 pm

    Eric, I guess that is why the church has things like official declarations, so that when doctrine changes, and practices that flow therefrom change, the church body will know. The idea that silence or less emphasis is somehow a formal shift is silly. It may be the markings of change and an eventual formal shift, and it may not.

  140. Frank McIntyre
    May 10, 2005 at 2:33 pm

    And yet, Rosalynde, when President Hinckley got up and reiterated the Church’s views on gambling, one got the distinct impression that he thought we should already know this because the Church had spoken out about it in the past. It seemed to me, perhaps not to others, that by forcing him to reiterate this topic, we lost out on another sermon he could have given. Just as the Nephites had to listen to talks on sin from Jacob because they refused to heed past counsel. So I agree that GC is a forum for emphasizing currently important teachings, but we should not then turn around and use that to systematically ignore older teachings, since in so doing we slow progression by causing the leaders to have to spend their time re-teaching that which we should already have learned.

    On the other hand, if a teaching completely disappears from the landscape of General Conference and Church publications for several decades, then that seems like useful information about what matters and what matters less right now.

  141. Frank McIntyre
    May 10, 2005 at 2:37 pm


    Actually, just to be argumentative, I recall interracial marriage coming up (I think) in a footnote in one of Elder Nelson’s talks when I was in college. Elder Nelson always puts the best stuff in footnotes. Like the one about dinosaurs…

    Obviously, though, one footnote does not refute your larger point.

  142. May 10, 2005 at 2:39 pm

    Eve: I’ll let someone else address your tax “burden” argument. Last time I checked, the wealthy paid the greatest % of taxes. Regardless, tax dollars do not belong to Joe Middle, or Upper, Class. They belong to the government. The government decides who qualifies. And…when individuals pay the money back latter…there is nothing absurd about it. In fact, unemployment benefits are based on this exact concept. I don’t happen to know if welfare is, but…the analogy holds. Those doctors will be paying out plenty in taxes latter, at a higher percentage (35%) than the middle class.

    Again, if you don’t like it…do something about it; but don’t accuse others of theft. If you think it really is theft, report the thieves to the local Welfare office. I’m sure that the Welfare authorities would love to crack down on any fraud going on. In fact, under the Qui Tam provisions, you would be known as a relator, and would actually get a % of the money the government recovers from the “theives.” I can refer you to a good attorney in that area of the law if you’d like; although you would probably find out that they weren’t interested because your theory doesn’t hold water. My personal, not legal, opinion.

    re: “justifying” comments by those who are abusing/using the system. Rong answer. I took out student loans for my education, and serve in the National Guard. Don’t throw stones where they will just bounce off. :)

    Ashley/Doc: I wasn’t suggesting that loan forgiveness programs were theft; simply that they were “earned.” Personally, sounds swimming that individuals should have to pay back the benefits they use. As I told Eve…write your elected reps.

  143. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 2:42 pm

    Note that I am not saying anything about either student loans or welfare, just trying to understand why some people are so bent against government assistance but seem to not have a problem with crippling debt (yes, I know, even if it is for “educational purposes.”)

    If having the government assistance will help alleviate future debt, and your family is unwilling/unable to help you, and you don’t feel like you ought to go asking for fast offering money to subsidize your education, why not take welfare and have less debt, taking advantage of a program put into place by the government? I really think that there is a difference between this scenario and “going on the dole” as President Benson counseled against. You aren’t getting something for nothing- you are returning value for value received.

    A government and society is, or at least should be, interested in the education level of its citizens. By educating yourself, you add value to society. You add more tax base to society. Hopefully you use your newfound skills to do more than glut yourself with money- you give back to the community. Especially if you were on welfare during school, you could feel a moral obligation to give something back to the community. So you get community aid, and you give back to the community. How is that stealing? And why is that worse than going to your bishop for some extra money?

    I don’t know all the aspects of the history behind our nation’s welfare assistance. What I do know is that it has changed and evolved over the years such that the welfare discussed by President Benson may be entirely different that what we are discussing here.

    Perhaps the key is in idleness. The Lord expects us not to be idle and to be self-sufficient- isn’t that the principle behind the preaching? If government aid is used towards the end of self-sufficiency and effects a net gain, then isn’t that in keeping with the principle.

    All of this is said, of course, with the realization that we all come from different backgrounds with various ideologies (although mostly of the LDS faith). We all have preferences and different needs for our families. This means that if you know someone on welfare, perhaps you should back off and realize that they are not necessarily trying to glut themselves on the labors of others. Good for them for feeling an upward reach and finding a means to meet it! Conversely, those who refuse to get on welfare and will not do so because of their strong feelings against it should also be respected and loved. Good for them for sticking to their guns and honoring their own values over the urgings of others! We need both types in the Church.

    Both will turn out to be self-reliant, and hopefully both sorts will give something back to the community. Those who had welfare, because they pretty much owe it, and those who didn’t because we all live here together.

    Interesting how these discussions evolve- I always like reading them with a sense of picqued curiousity for where the discussion will head and what paths it will meander down before slowly dying.

  144. Mark B.
    May 10, 2005 at 2:44 pm

    One of the difficulties with the whole “no government assistance” line is in deciding what in fact constitutes government assistance.

    I borrowed government insured student loans. Without the government guarantee, no banker would have thought me a decent credit risk, and I wouldn’t have got the money. And, interest on the loans was paid by the government while I was in school.

    My dad went to school on the GI bill. I suppose that we can say that his three years in the army, and especially six months on the front lines in France earned him that money. But it was government assistance, without which he couldn’t have afforded the tuition.

    Businesses get tax credits for various types of investments or expenditures. Is this govenment assistance?

    I went to public schools. Was that government assistance?

  145. Russ Frandsen
    May 10, 2005 at 2:47 pm

    There will never by free high quality child care. It is economically impossible. Demand would always outstrip supply. Government sponsored child care is of course paid by tax dollars.

  146. Rosalynde Welch
    May 10, 2005 at 2:48 pm

    Frank, I take your point. Eve’s hyperbole aside, of course one oughtn’t justify doing something one believes to be wrong by timing its last appearance in GC.

    I’m only arguing what you say in your final paragraph: “On the other hand, if a teaching completely disappears from the landscape of General Conference and Church publications for several decades, then that seems like useful information about what matters and what matters less right now.” On this basis, consumer and credit card debt seem to be much higher than government welfare on the current list of financial ills.

  147. May 10, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Eve: how is going to graduate school/magnifying your talents, done on the backs of others, simply by using government welfare? Hate to break the news to you, but whether you like it or not, the government has a welfare program. They have laws on how to qualify; and how it is to be used. If you are a U.S. citizen, you can’t say that the welfare program is being “done” on your back because you are part of the democratic process. It is done on the backs of “everyone.” Everyone pays the taxes.

    I don’t know your situation…but you come off sounding either jealous that your morals won’t let you follow the welfare using students path; or angry that they can do so. If that latter…report them as I suggested. :)

    Note, re: Gambling, see, and you’ll see the most recent against gambling. :)

  148. Paul
    May 10, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Lyle, I don’t know you from Adam, but I am curious if you are married with children. You do not have to answer, but you argue as if you are not.

    Eve, I think you are being hyperbolic, and I hope it is on purpose, because I agree with your ovearching message.

    Rosalynde, I am a relative newcommer to this board, but Eve seems to have struck a chord with you. If anything, Lyle’s post in 147 seems more appropriate to you, if in reverse.

  149. May 10, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Paul: I hope you get to meet Adam. He is currently in Oregon; but one of the finest men I’ve ever met. I don’t currently have kids; but should within the next year [unless you count the two teenagers that I was assigned as my family by the Branch President. I pay some of their expenses; but not most]. And, as I stated, I joined the National Guard, worked, got a partial scholarship, and took out some student loans to pay for my education and provide for my family.

    I agree with the core of what Eve is saying; just not the overreaching. I don’t think having a cell phone is theft. But…I’m sure I have some conservative friends who would love to start a new campaign against Welfare moms with Cell phones, since the Welfare moms with Cadillacs theory seems to have been anecdotal at best.

  150. Eve
    May 10, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Doc, that is really what it is all about. Whatever gets all of us through the night, is all right, is all right. John Lennon nailed it.

    Rosy, me thinketh …. well, you know the rest. You are the literary one of the group.

    Lyle, for the last time, I am not arguing whether the actions are legal or not, I am saying they are wrong, along with a slew of other legal-but-proscribed-by-doctrine actions. You sound like a scribe/pharisee parsing words, commandments, and law to reach a conclusion you like.

    I agree that these are difficult issues. The rising cost of tuition will make them more difficult in the future. Nevertheless, the cell-phone-toting-stay-at-home mother who drives a car from her house to the government building to receive welfare to prop up her chosen lifestyle is not following the doctrine of the church as it currently exists. Take away the cell phone and the car and the house, and I probably have a different opinion.

  151. Rosalynde Welch
    May 10, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    Wow, Paul, you really must be a newcomer! You should see me when I *really* get worked up! ;-> (winking face; self-deprecating my own tendency to get rather comically overwrought.)

  152. annegb
    May 10, 2005 at 3:14 pm

    The church now accepts credit cards for magazine subscriptions and at Beehive clothing. Doesn’t that imply approval? Or grudging acceptance?

    My mother lived on welfare all her life, she always had money for cigarettes and booze, but her children went hungry and without anything most kids take for granted. I swore I would never live like that and it’s very hard for me to accept even the smallest favor, without feeling awful.

    That being said, I think everybody needs a hyacinth to feed their soul. I’m not advocating people getting rich off welfare, but if I see somebody that I know is on welfare going to a movie, say, or buying a new shirt, I’m not going to jump on a bandwagon against them. I’m not talking about career welfare people like my mother.

    I think we’ve gotten off the subject. Gordon’s last sentence was “I admire women who choose to stay home, but I worry that my daughters won’t have option.” So do I, Gordon. I worry so much about this younger generation; for instance, my husband is in sales. He does well, but for the new youngsters coming in, it’s almost impossible for them to make a living. It is a different world.

  153. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 3:21 pm


    It’s hard for me to understand how you can say that about someone unless you know all the details about them, including the thoughts and intents of their hearts. There may be much we don’t know about that cell-phone toting driving-the-car-to-the-welfare-building living-in-a-house-long-before-she-should-while-hubby-or-she-or-both-are-in-gradschool stay-at-home mom that would redeem them in our eyes if we did know it.

  154. Mark B.
    May 10, 2005 at 3:22 pm

    There’s a big difference between credit card debt and credit card use.

    The card is an extremely useful payment mechanism, but an unbelievely lousy way to borrow money. I haven’t heard any condemnations of using plastic instead of paper to make payments–it’s running the tab to “live beyond one’s means” that receives, and deserves, condemnation.

  155. annegb
    May 10, 2005 at 3:27 pm

    The act deserves condemnation, maybe. We better be careful who we condemn. That’s a pretty strong word.

  156. May 10, 2005 at 3:36 pm

    “legal-but-proscribed-by-doctrine actions”

    Hm, sounds like “parsing words, commandments, and law to reach a conclusion you like.” I’ll leave out the pejoratives though.

    Also, how do you define doctrine? Some folks aren’t even sure Mormons have “doctrine” per se. If you are claiming that Pres. Romney’s counsel (and the cite I pulled above from the Church’s website) are doctrine…that is a plausible interpretation. However…it seems far more realistic to call it counsel & advice. So, perhaps you are talking about “legal-but-advised against actions”? Or better yet, “legal, expressly authorized and approved by congress, who makes the laws of the land that LDS folks believe in obeying-but-counseled against relying upon in the first place”?

    Are you going to suggest that I don’t take tax write-off’s next? That they are somehow immoral?

  157. Eve
    May 10, 2005 at 3:39 pm

    annegb, I agree. Despite my hyperbole, I never feel comfortable making individual judgments. But in my area, there are at least 30 women, maybe as high as 50, that fit the cell-phone-welfare mom description. The trend bothers me and I think it is wrong.

  158. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 3:39 pm

    Yes we do have a doctrine. Bruce R. McConkie wrote it.

  159. May 10, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    Jordan: How do you say “cad’ in Yiddish? lol…

    Esp. after the recent articles in the T&S links section detailing how Mormon Doctrine was published & re-published with less than Prophetic approval.

  160. annegb
    May 10, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    Yeah, it says in the front of the book that it doesn’t represent official doctrine of the LDS Church. I lost trust in him after I read what he wrote about blacks and the priesthood in earlier editions.

    Now that’s threadjacking.

    Joseph F. Smith (or Fielding, I get mixed up), in one of the Doctrines of Salvation, said that man would never walk on the moon.

    Nobody’s perfect.

  161. Jordan
    May 10, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    I don’t know. What does “cad” mean in English?

  162. May 10, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    I’m not actually sure. I use it to say hilarious/droll, in a friendly sort of joking way. :)

  163. annegb
    May 10, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    Completely off the subject, but I’ve spent the last few days subbing at a desk job for a sick friend. What a cheap thrill. I can see how you guys with those boring jobs keep on blogging away. I thought I used to spend a lot of time on the computer, but now I see I was an amateur. However you spell it. I’ve been all over the place on these blogs. Who knew?

  164. N Miller
    May 10, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    That which comes over the pulpit is inspired and directly relates what we as general latter-day saints need to focus on because we have either lost focus, don’t have enough information to live the principle correctly, or to simply reemphasize recent teachings. If we haven’t heard about mothers needing to be in the home, it’s not that it is not important or correct doctrine, rather it may not be what we need to be reminded of, at least not at that time. Maybe we as latter-day saints generally don’t have a problem as identified in this post. Who am I to say that there is a problem based off of what I see? The Lord will inspire the brethren to teach it when he sees fit, in his time and his way. But that doesn’t change the doctrine and principles that have been taught in the past and guide our life today.

    I will say, however, how awful I would feel if, due to similar feelings found in this post, I decided to send my wife out in the workforce (becuase I felt justified in it because it hasn’t been preached specifically over the pulpit for many years and I wanted a bigger house and new car, not because of personal inspiration), then in the next general conference President Hinckley explained the principle of mothers in the home, citing president Kimballs words of 25 years ago in the talk. I would probably weep over disobedience and putting my wants in front of my childrens (and my wife’s!).

  165. May 10, 2005 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks Julie K. and Audrey for your comments.

    This counsel is often preached and discussed. When it comes to women working outside the home, we have received the general counsel. Our stake president confided that in one of his regular meetings with general authorities, it was emphasised to him that while there are exceptions, the preaching of the exception swallows the rule. The direction he received was to preach the rule and let individual families determine by personal revelation if they are the exception.

  166. May 10, 2005 at 6:00 pm

    Is accepting a tax break wrong? What if it’s a tax break based on the idea that you have children, and therefore more expenses? If the government for some reason decided to provide the $1000 child tax credit as a “dependent assistance payment” that was not deducted from taxes, but issued separately based on applying and proving qualifications, would that make it welfare? Should faithful members of the church who qualified for such a payment turn it down, since it is “government assistance”?

    As much as I dislike it as a political conservative, we are living in a much more socialized nation than I would want. The government takes in more than King Noah in taxes, and not only does it waste a massive amount of it, but it also provides some concrete benefits to different groups based on strict sets of qualifications. Student loans, Medicare, Medicaid, and all manner of tax breaks for different expenses from charitable contributions to dependent care.

    Ultimately, those who accept tax credits and tax deductions they qualify for, but do not accept payments, subsidies, and other benefits they qualify for, are drawing an arbitrary line. I don’t think the church can or has drawn a bright line through the convoluted landscape of federal programs to delineate what is acceptable to receive and what is not. Everybody is playing by the same rules, and most people are paying taxes to fund the system.

    If you don’t like it, make your voice heard at the ballot box. But can you really blame someone for taking advantage of the same government programs they will spend a fortune on for the rest of their lives?

  167. Paul
    May 10, 2005 at 6:07 pm


    Actually, the distinction is simpler than you suggest. Tax credits/deductions are based on the money one earns. Welfare comes from the money others have earned. I don’t think the church has ever venutred to give tax advice (but I could be wrong). Welfare advice abounds in church teachings.

  168. Jonathan Green
    May 10, 2005 at 6:34 pm

    Paul: No. The EIC and expanded child tax credit are refundable, meaning you’ll get something even if you owe no taxes. (For that, may Clinton be forever blessed.) The EIC at least is structured to reward work: up to a point, around $14,000 or so, you receive more money for earning more income; it phases out slowly after that.

  169. Jonathan Green
    May 10, 2005 at 6:46 pm

    Doc-Kwadwo, do you see now why people in your ward are a bit sensitive about the issue?

    Look, I’m sorry that someone made a crack about swallowing your pride. It wasn’t nice.

    On the other hand, you can read several examples above of what I have to put up with: accusations of dishonesty and theft for having a couple kids born on Medicaid and for shopping with WIC while I was in grad school. Those programs made half my children possible, and paid for medical care that we couldn’t afford at the time, and got us through a tough financial year, and now I feel rather protective about them. And I feel defensive, knowing that there are people who, in a weird twist on the game of keeping up with the Joneses, are above all concerned that the Joneses never enjoy anything nice while subsisting on a limited income and doing whatever it takes to keep their kids insured.

  170. Paul
    May 10, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    Jonathan, I know that. But you are receiving your own money back. Not someone else’s. In my opinion, that is a large difference.

  171. lyle
    May 10, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    Thanks Jonathan. Far more eloquent than I.

  172. Eve
    May 10, 2005 at 7:03 pm

    And, Jonathan, thank you for revealing your bias. I think your want to feel “protective of [wellfare]” is what the psychologists call cognitive dissonance.

  173. lyle
    May 10, 2005 at 7:14 pm

    Eve: You still haven’t answered whether or not you feel that “righteous” Saints are entitled, by your interpretation of Mormon Doctrine, to claim tax credits, tax deductions, or the Earned Income Credit (EIC). Until you do, your argument suggests that you feel such is unrighteous because it is “unearned” welfare assistance from the Government.

    Paul: Read Jonathan’s post again. The EIC is received whether or not you had any income; i.e. you are not “receiving your own money back,” because you didn’t have to put any money into the tax pool to begin with! Hence, under Eve’s definition, this is state welfare that the Saints shouldn’t accept or they are stealing from the righteous middle class.

    To quote the IRS for you:

    If eligible [i.e. you have kids and earned under 30k/year if married filing jointly], you can claim the EIC to get a refund even if you have no tax witheld from your pay or owe no tax. For example, if you have no tax withheld in 2004 and owe no tax but are eligible for a credit of $791, you must file a 2004 1040 to get the $791.

  174. lyle
    May 10, 2005 at 7:16 pm

    P.s. to eve: You haven’t revealed your own bias. Jonathan took lawful, legal and moral advantage of the tax and welfare laws. I don’t as to the welfare laws. And you? To adapt the song, “don’t buy cell phones, don’t drive minivans [on welfare dollars], what do you do? Sudden innuendo follows…must be something inside.” [from a classic 80s tune]

  175. May 10, 2005 at 7:54 pm

    My point about the line being fuzzy gains more power when you ignore the year-to-year distinction. How is a tax credit I get for meeting some arbitrary criteria that our democracy has set different than me getting Medicaid health insurance while I am a student? In the first example, I am (generally) getting money back that I have paid into the system that year, while in the second example, I am getting money back that I paid into the system last year, or will pay next year. Saying it is a refund out of your own money is merely an accounting trick; the money taken out of your paycheck goes into a pool of dollars out of which the tax credit comes (remember those checks most people got after the tax cut?).

    Isn’t the whole point of insurance to pay in when we don’t need the help so that when we do need the help, we get it?

  176. Julie in Austin
    May 10, 2005 at 8:07 pm

    I’m late, I know, but I want to respond to AMW in #118:

    I am unpersuaded by your scenario of ‘urban saints’. Living in Boston (or San Francisco, etc.) is not a necessity. We would have loved to stay in the Bay Area, but there’s no way we could have done it on one income, so we MOVED to Texas, where 110K gets you 1500 square feet in a safe, decent neighborhood 20 minutes from a major city.

    So to me, saying ‘they have to work 2 full jobs just to cover the rent’ sounds just like ‘but they have to work 2 full jobs just to cover the boat payment.’

    Again, I don’t care what anyone else does. I barely have enough energy to make my own decisions. But I’m getting weary of all of the mothers who *have* to work, when what they mean is ‘I am working because I want stuff.’ (‘Stuff’ includes location.) I wonder if they are not being honest with themselves, or they just aren’t being honest with me.

  177. Jonathan Green
    May 10, 2005 at 8:32 pm

    Eve, I’m not “revealing my bias.” I’m telling you exactly what I think, so that you don’t have to engage your powers of interpretation at all or search for a psychological diagnosis. I’ve insured my kids with Medicaid in the past. I thought it was nice. I want the program to stay around so other people can experience how nice it is. I vote for politicians who think the same way I do. I have plenty of problems, but cognitive dissonance is not one of them.

    If it helps you feel better, I don’t have a cellphone.

  178. AMW
    May 10, 2005 at 8:42 pm

    Julie in #176:

    I guess you missed my last sentence about suspending judgment. So be it.

    It’s important to realize there are realities besides your own. I think, as many others have pointed out in this thread, that everyone must make the best decisions they can based on their individual circumstances. Your inference that our family’s decisions were based on greed was offensive.

    If everyone were in your socio-economic group I’m sure your logic would be an excellent model to follow. What about the faithful church member who works in a Boston hotel because that’s the job he can get to support his family, but it’s not enough to pay for much beyond rent and utilities for their two bedroom apartment?

    It sounds like you’ve never met any LDS folks with limited financial resources who live in urban areas because that’s where the jobs are that match their, in some cases, limited work skills and abilities. Many don’t have the financial resources to pick up and move, even if there were jobs available outside city centers where the rent would be less expensive.

  179. Tim
    May 10, 2005 at 8:43 pm

    I went to college in Utah with a lot of students who had no qualms about having babies on the government’s dime. These student/parents didn’t even hesitate to take advantage of this kind of government assistance, mostly because this assistance helped them fulfill their goals of not delaying having children until they finished their education. I think that Medicaid paid for over half of the births in the local hospital because of all the students. I thought it was lame at the time, but I guess maybe we should be subsidizing this kind of health care. These parents usually cared a lot about their kids and brought them up well, but I think the Church should say something along the lines of not delaying having kids, but don’t expect the government to pay for your kid to be born.

  180. Julie in Austin
    May 10, 2005 at 9:21 pm


    You misread me. I wasn’t talking about your family being greedy (I didn’t, in fact, use the word ‘greedy’), I was reflecting on this statement that you made in #118:

    “In our area there are families in wards and branches (including our own) where both parents must work to provide food, clothing and shelter.”

    and suggesting that the ‘must’ in that sentence more correctly means ‘must work if they want to continue living in an area with staggering housing prices’ which puts rather a different spin on it.

    You ask, “What about the faithful church member who works in a Boston hotel because that’s the job he can get to support his family, but it’s not enough to pay for much beyond rent and utilities for their two bedroom apartment?”

    That faithful Church member might consider working in a hotel in Omaha or Atlanta or some other place where housing a fraction (as in, perhaps, 1/6) of what it is in Boston.

    Please elaborate on the low-skill jobs available in urban areas that aren’t found where housing is lower. There are, to follow your example, hotels in every major and minor city and village in this country.

    Again, this wasn’t about *your* family but rather the generic familes you mentioned in the quote above.

    At the same time, it still surprises me that ‘have to work’ is used to mean ‘have to work so I can live in the city I want to live in.’

  181. Julie in Austin
    May 10, 2005 at 9:23 pm

    AMW, one more thought. You wrote, “Many don’t have the financial resources to pick up and move, even if there were jobs available outside city centers where the rent would be less expensive.”

    This is unsupportable. I’ve moved, with and without children, with and without a spouse, by small sedan and by move-completely-paid-for-by-Fortune-500-company, and I can say without doubt that if someone is paying Boston rents but ‘cannot afford’ to move somewhere cheaper, what they need more than anything else is financial counseling, because they don’t understand the numbers involved. (And the sure knowledge that they have claim on the Elders Quorum ;) )

  182. Kristine
    May 10, 2005 at 9:26 pm

    Julie, I think a lot of people don’t think that it’s a matter of what city one *wants* to live in–they live in Boston because that’s where they were born, or where they happened to end up. The take-the-bull-by-the-horns-make-a-rational-decision-about-where-to-live mentality is, to some extent, an artifact of privilege and education. There are many people who really don’t have any sense of what the world is like beyond the boundaries of the town they live in.

  183. Jack
    May 10, 2005 at 9:29 pm


    Carl Jung might say that you’re well on your way to becoming fully intergrated. And as a side note: thank goodness for medicaid. My family would have been in debt for decades because of the life-saving medical procedures that my daughter went through.

  184. AMW
    May 10, 2005 at 9:33 pm

    You didn’t respond to my point about financial circumstances limiting the options of families who work in urban environments who simply don’t have the resources to relocate. You seem to make the assumption that all families are like your own — that it’s simply a matter of not choosing to live in an area where housing prices are high. That’s a simplistic way of framing this issue.

  185. Julie in Austin
    May 10, 2005 at 9:35 pm


    I think that we’ve had this conversation before, and I appreciate your point. (Although I wonder about the veracity of it to some extent: my impression having worked in service-sector jobs in school and knowing people in wards in three states in similar jobs is that they have *fewer* problems up and moving than the middle class and are in fact more transient.)

    Also remember our context here: we have a hypothetical LDS family sitting down and thinking, “Gee, we don’t really want Mom to work, but we have no choice.” Is it completely unreasonable for us out here in Blogland to suggest to them that they consider moving?

    Our secondary context is my suspicion that some percentage (NOT ALL!!!) of LDS women claiming they *have* to work (again, if you want to work, that’s your own business; I’m talking about those who think they *have* to work) are acting under the assuption that living in Boston is a necessity when it clearly is not.

  186. Julie in Austin
    May 10, 2005 at 9:36 pm

    AMW–I think you missed #181.

  187. AMW
    May 10, 2005 at 9:40 pm


    Because you and your family were able to move relocate to an area of your choice does not mean that it’s possible for all families. Didn’t your husband have a job before your relocated? Don’t you have an automobile? Not all families in reduced circumstances here can afford a car. Not all families in less than privileged circumstances have the resources or connections to job search in another area. Many families live hand to mouth, not because they lack discipline or an undertanding of how the math works but because their earning power doesn’t match the cost of living.

  188. May 10, 2005 at 9:45 pm

    This discussion has been most enlightening. I really had no idea that the practice of getting on Medicare and WIC was so widespread among graduate students, especially among Mormon graduate students. (My apologies to Haifa for doubting that assertion.)

    While some people in this discussion make no distinction between tax deductions and food stamps, that sort of distinction would have been quite accepted during my formative years in the Church (1980s). Indeed, at that time, Mormons still had a strong anti-welfare ethic, but I have perceived a loosening of such thought during the past two decades.

    I am still uncomfortable with the notion of graduate students as welfare recipients, though I have a hard time articulating my objection in a manner that would be persuasive to Jonathan Green, for example. Jonathan writes that Medicare enabled him to have children during graduate school. In my day, besides walking to school uphill both directions through shoulder high snow, we were counseled by President Benson not to accept any form of government assistance for education, including grants and loans. He counseled students to work and save until they had enough, then go to school. Even in the early 1980s, this seemed pretty extreme — after all, BYU had an entire office devoted to the acquisition of such money — but that gives you some sense of the teachings of the times.

    I offer this in much the same spirit as I offered the original post, suggesting that the times they are a changing and may be forcing changes in behavior that we old timers find quite startling. But comparing the choices of young men and women today with those that I made 20 years ago looks increasingly like apples and oranges.

  189. Julie in Austin
    May 10, 2005 at 9:47 pm


    Give me a little credit; I have in fact done the move where you put everything you own in an unreliable car and show up in a new state with no housing, job, or connections.

    Ah-ha, you will say: but you did have a car!

    To which I will respond: take the &(*@$ bus and get out of Boston.

    Again, you say that “their earning power doesn’t match the cost of living,” but the only ‘solution’ you offer is for the families to buckle under and work multiple jobs until the end of time. Is it so unreasonable to suggest that it makes more sense to move? I find it hard to believe that our family here can meet next month’s exhorbinant Boston rent but cannot, for example, take a bus, get a ride, rent a car, take the train, buy a really cheap car, or heaven forbid get Church welfare to finance a move that puts them in a position to have a chance to get out of their grinding poverty.

  190. AMW
    May 10, 2005 at 10:09 pm

    It’s not my “solution,” it’s the reality I have observed first hand. I don’t see what’s mystifying about housing costs and expenses associated with raising a family in this area making it untenable to pick up and relocate without savings, a job, housing or other connections (church membership notwithstanding).

  191. Greg Call
    May 10, 2005 at 10:12 pm


    I think you’re being a bit unreasonable here. Is living near one’s family a mere luxury? What if one has nearby relatives that need support, or give needed support? What if you are, say, a public union member that only has five more years of work before pension eligibility? What if one has a real spiritual and emotional attachment to the soil where one grew up? I don’t have much sympathy for couples that need two incomes so they can live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but I don’t think it’s always as easy as you make it sound to take a Greyhound to some faraway inexpensive place.

  192. RoAnn
    May 10, 2005 at 10:12 pm

    Very interesting, very LONG thread. It seems to have a couple of sub-topics that could be on their own.
    Re: families accepting government “help.” When we moved to the England in the 70’s with our five children, I was “shocked” to see that many of the members were living in government subsidized houseing, and receiving a weekly sum of money for each child they had–and the Church approved!
    That was the beginning of my education in how our Church leaders have wisely chosen to look carefully at what government resources are available to families, and to not automatically condemn them all as the kind of “welfare” assistance which President Benson decried. We ended up (as long term residents) accepting the child allowances for our children, because they seemed to replace the tax deduction which the U.S. government gives their taxpayers. You pay a very high tax rate in the U.K. We couldn’t deduct for children, or for tithing. So we felt it only fair that we take advantage of the child allowances. (Jonathan Stone made a similar point in #166.)
    Re: moving so the mother can stay home. Kristine’s point (#182) is one I agree with:”There are many people who really don’t have any sense of what the world is like beyond the boundaries of the town they live in.” However, I also agree with all that Julie in Austin has said about the distinction between wants and needs. Maybe we need to educate members more on all the options, including those which might include moving away from family and friends.

  193. Julie in Austin
    May 10, 2005 at 10:26 pm


    Please remember that my point is NOT ‘no LDS mother should work just so she can live in Boston’ but rather ‘don’t say you have to work when what you mean is that you choose to work so you can live in Boston.’ I see the latter as a slap in the face to women who *really* have to work (as in, single mothers, for whom there is no place in the world they could move that would end their need to work). The scenarios you mention are interesting: I could certainly see someone saying ‘I work so that we can afford to live near my parents.’ or, “I work so we can afford to stay here until my husband gets his pension in five year.” I am just pleading for some intellectual honesty here: if you mean ‘I choose to work so I can afford to live in a place where I have an emotional attachment to the soil,’ then say that. Don’t say, “I have to work.” Because you don’t. Just be honest.

    AMW wrote, “I don’t see what’s mystifying about housing costs and expenses associated with raising a family in this area making it untenable to pick up and relocate without savings, a job, housing or other connections (church membership notwithstanding).”

    It is mystifying to me, so you’ll have to explain it better if you want me to agree with you. Because I have (more than once) in fact relocated without savings, a job, housing, or other connections, I cannot see why you think this is impossible.

  194. RoAnn
    May 10, 2005 at 10:27 pm

    I see your point Greg. Certainly it won’t always be possible to move. But I think many times it is not even considered as an option–when it might well be the best thing to do. One of our sons thought he and his wife would live out their lives in the Seattle area, where his wife had grown up. But our son lost his job in the dotcom bust, and after his wife supported him while he completed more schooling, he finally got a job in another state, where he could make enough for his wife to stay home to take care of the children they hope they will eventually be blessed with. Sure it’s tough being away from family. But for them (and I emphasize FOR THEM) it was a decision made prayerfully and with the support of saddened, but understanding, extended family members.

  195. May 10, 2005 at 10:36 pm

    I am unpersuaded by your scenario of ‘urban saints’. Living in Boston (or San Francisco, etc.) is not a necessity. We would have loved to stay in the Bay Area, but there’s no way we could have done it on one income, so we MOVED to Texas, where 110K gets you 1500 square feet in a safe, decent neighborhood 20 minutes from a major city.

    Or, you can move to Plano and out of the high priced Austin area, where $140k gets you 2400 square feet with some of the best schools in the country (and homes in that price ratio at all size spectrums). The extra square feet are useful when you get houseguests who stay for a year or more.

    And yes, I miss mountains and oceans and the things I grew up with, but my kids have stability and good schools and I’ve a job that lets me see them, with a commute that is only fifteen minutes or so.

    Though I should note that the Church has advised women to have job skills and to keep them up, knowing that the vast majority of married women will need to support themselves at some point.

    Just a note on the debate that exploded since my last post.

  196. May 10, 2005 at 10:38 pm

    Quite possibly the most nit-picking, yet special, onymous Mormon group blog in history.

    Very appropriate to this thread.

  197. May 10, 2005 at 10:45 pm

    Gordon, you said the distinction used to be very clear between food stamps and tax deductions. While the two extremes are still very different, my point is that the increasing (and irreversible) trend toward increased government budgets and benefits adds a multitude of gray between these extremes.

    Let’s look at healthcare as an example, since Medicaid has been discussed here. What if Hillary Clinton had succeeded, and we had universal healthcare provided by the government? Would we be required as Latter-day Saints to reject this “welfare” program and pay for our own, private insurance?

    You may say this is different. “Welfare is when you get something you’re not paying for, but universal healthcare I would be paying for, out of my taxes,” you might say. Except that would only be the case if your annual medical expenses under universal healthcare never exceeded your annual tax bill, or the portion of your tax bill that goes toward healthcare. If you go one dollar over that, you are now getting something for nothing, from other hard-working people.

    It would be insurance, which means that not everybody gets their value back, and some people get back more in a year than they pay in. But would anybody on this blog seriously oppose accepting universal healthcare if it were adopted by the government? I oppose it, but if it happened, I certainly wouldn’t turn it down. Especially since our society would adapt to it, and employers would cease providing health insurance.

    What’s my point? That our society taxes us to provide benefits, and one of those benefits is health insurance for the poor, meaning those that don’t make much money. Graduate students are not excluded. And in the case of most graduate students, they will go on to pay far more into the Medicaid system during the subsequent 40 years of work than they ever got out of it. Is it really so different than universal healthcare? The number of social programs is increasing, and I don’t think there’s any going back.

  198. May 10, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    Taking unfair advantage of post 86, Audrey Stone, who said:

    Through this friendship, I witnessed the inner workings of a family that I didn’t think could exist. Their mother was home and made their lunch, she was home when they got home from school, they had family scripture study in the morning and family prayer at night. The feeling of love and warmth in their home was amazing and tangible. It was a gathering place for all their children’s friends, everyone was welcome anytime, and friends who visited wanted to be there as much as possible. I am so thankful that I had this example for a few short years before I moved on and later married to show me what life can be like I really follow the teachings of the gospel and the counsel of our church leaders. I must say that this is also based on the great emotional and spiritual health of both parents.

    The backfire on this for me is as a SAHM, I hate that I’m supposed to justify my existence by producing these huge tangible results, far and above other real moms who have paying jobs. I’m only getting a couple more hours a day with kids. Let’s argue instead the case for the mediocre mom–I tell my older kids to make their own lunches half because I think it’s good for them, and half because I’m tapped out trying to get everyone out to their various schools in the morning. I’m there interacting with them, but questioning at times the value of interacting with tired, imperfect human me. I lack the knack of making my place the “it” house for the neighborhood. Tangible-to-outsiders love and warmth, isn’t it enough that we get along? We get prayers but not devotionals, my scripture study but not theirs, outings but not difficult-to-arrange playdates, meals on time but not everything put away. If you’ve put together a public relations dream of a family, great for you–but don’t write that into the general job description. We’re too busy flunking kindergarten, losing our research papers, and reviewing table manners so the loud kid will shut up and let the quiet kid finish a sentence, against a background of economic chaos. Yet I believe this too is a holy work, mediocre and earnest and awkward, with no proof it is making a difference except to the God who only knows.

    While the Moms who are working are turning out kids at piano recitals, can I just say I chose, this too is legitimate childrearing?

  199. Bill
    May 10, 2005 at 11:02 pm

    When we lived in Alaska people urged us to sign up for our dividend from the state permanent fund. However, since one had to certify that one intended to remain an Alaska resident indefinitely, my parents decided to forgo this significant financial windfall for the three years we lived there, since they knew they were planning to leave as soon as the military transferred them to a new base. Of course, most other base residents, including many church members signed right up, not scrupling to eventually “change their intentions”. Although this decision was perhaps financially irresponsible, I don’t think my parents regretted it.

    Eve’s original comment was criticizing not those like Jonathan Green, who don’t even have cell phones, but exploiters of the system who use the government’s money to fund expenses of a certain category, so they can splurge on expenses in other categories. Of course we know that there are wildly varying interpretations of the difference between wants and needs, and that delayed gratification is no longer in vogue in a country with a neglible savings rate. But taking advantage of every legal means to improve the bottom line is not always moral, as can be seen in countless instances such as wealthy retirees cashing their SS checks, or investment bankers signing up for unemployment benefits in between jobs. People who argue otherwise have not read Cesar Birotteau.

  200. Julie in Austin
    May 10, 2005 at 11:06 pm

    Johnna Cornett

    BRAVO! An excellent articulation of what, I think, a lot of SAHMs feel.

    (There was this great Ensign article a million years ago, BTW, that had this famous line: “Only lazy women do all of their own housework.” In other words, part of your job description should be to make your kids make their own dang lunches.)

  201. May 10, 2005 at 11:16 pm

    Bill, I agree with almost everything you said. But you criticize “wealthy retirees cashing their SS checks”? This is exaclty the point I am making. Is it wrong for us, no matter how wealthy, to benefit from a government program? If I lose 6% of my paycheck for my entire life to Social Security, you are saying it is wrong for me to cash the check they send me, in accordance with the specific intent of the program, merely because I saved enough privately for retirement? Are you saying that the wealthy and those that plan ahead more effectively than others should lose the money they have poured in to SS over the years?

    What is wrong with benefitting from a government program that I am forced, against my will, to pay into for my entire life? I will have no guilt cashing my SS checks when I retire, regardless of my financial state. I am paying for the program, and the intent of the program is to pay me something back when I qualify.

  202. lyle
    May 10, 2005 at 11:16 pm

    Julie: Is that why my mom had us start doing our own laundry after we got baptised at age 8? :)

  203. lyle
    May 10, 2005 at 11:19 pm

    I’m with Jonathan, again, re: social security for the wealthy. However, if I find myself in said situation, it sounds like it will just mean a larger fast offering or donations to the PEF.

    Perhaps that is what this discussion needs, or could use an explicit acknowledgement of:

    we are supposed to be consecrating our lives to building God’s kingdom. Do the choices mentioned above move one towards consecration or against?

  204. Audrey Stone
    May 10, 2005 at 11:36 pm

    In defense of the “Oh-so-hard-I-just-don’t-even-want-to-hear-it-or-I’ll-break-down” family eutopia that I described, I would like to say that their house was never perfectly clean and there was always an element of chaos with people coming and going. Never once did I refer to the physical environment of this home. I don’t know if I stated it, but they had a very modest home (probably built in the 40’s or 50’s–originally one-bedroom) which they slowly over time saved up to very slowly remodel and expand. The Dad worked as a seminary teacher and had a part-time seasonal job selling suits to missionaries.

    They just had a feeling, a harmony that I don’t think that any of them were ever conscious of or consciously strived for. It was there because the Spirit was in their home, they were all just doing their best, imperfectly, one day at a time, and I’m sure that it took years to develop and achieve. Maybe you have it and are just not conscious of it?

    I didn’t mention it to depress those who feel they are not living up to their own expectations, I simply find joy in the idea that it can happen and I don’t have to believe that my life will be an eternal miserable and chaotic existence as a SAHM. I’m not perfect, but I won’t give in to typical SAHM negativity, you can’t make me, I choose the way I want to live!

    (Did I also mention that I’m an organizational freak–and maybe that helps me achieve a little more than I could otherwise?)

  205. Bill
    May 10, 2005 at 11:45 pm

    The Social Security program was created with the intent of reducing poverty among America’s elderly. Later, survivor’s benefits for spouse and children and disability benefits were added to protect other vulnerable groups. Wealthy retirees already have plenty of security, which is why I have long supported means testing as a necessary but not sufficient part of entitlement reform.

  206. RoAnn
    May 10, 2005 at 11:58 pm

    Re Consecration: I liked Lyle’s follow-up to Jonathan’s post #201. If we are retired and live in a country that required us to pay in, we can take back what we qualify for, and if we have excess because we saved on our own, we can pay more fast offerings, contribute to the PEF and get involved in worthy local charities, and go on couple missions! And maybe even help a child with moving expenses so they can live in a place where they can afford to live on one salary?
    Re Audrey’s comment #204: Yes, let’s lighten up, SAHMs! Why should we find it so hard to see examples as encouragement, instead of guilt trips? “This is the day which the Lord hath made;we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

  207. Soyde River
    May 11, 2005 at 12:46 am

    When we file our taxes, we are entitled to take the exemptions etc. that the law allows.

    “Every man is entitled if he can to arrange his affairs, so that the tax attaching under the appropriate acts is less than it otherwise would be. If he succeds in ordering them as to achieve that result, ………..however unappreciative the commissioner may be of his ingenuity, he cannot be compelled to pay an increased tax.” Lord Tomlin, Duke of Westminster

    I believe that Judge Learned Hand in the US said approximately the same thing.

    By extension, Bill would have us believe this is immoral.

    If we are forced to pay money into Social Security, then we are entitled to the benefits that Social Security may provide. What we do with the money we so derive will be up to us…and we will all face our Maker and have to render an account of how we used our worldly goods. “Wo unto the rich who will not give their substance to the poor.”

  208. Soyde River
    May 11, 2005 at 1:31 am

    In the previous post, I identified Lord Tomlin as the Duke of Westminster. Apparently he was ruling on a case of Inland Revenue (Britain’s IRS) vs. the Duke of Westminster. Britain’s House of Lords occupies the place the Supreme Court does here.

  209. Jonathan Green
    May 11, 2005 at 8:39 am

    Bill, thanks for the comments that stretch onto multiple lines. While I agree that the wealthy don’t need Social Security, adding means testing is a way to turn it into a program more easily tarred with the designation of “welfare,” which has scary connotations for some people, and makes the program assailable in the same way that Medicaid and other programs get targetted. If the wealthy willingly decline their checks, great. If they don’t, it’s a smal price to pay for keeping support from all levels of society.

    Gordon: Medicare is the program that will pay for your health care in ca. 25 years and has recently had a costly drug benefit added to it. Medicaid is the program that provides health insurance to the poor, and faces cutbacks. (Also, we didn’t get food stamps, although we possibly could have, and I wouldn’t have felt bad about it, and we didn’t receive ‘welfare’ in the sense of cash assistance, and we didn’t live in Section 8 housing–let’s keep the terminology straight, it’s important.)

    Growing up, I ingested the same opprobrium towards government welfare programs that you mention, but over time I’ve decided that it’s silly, a way to make poor people feel bad about the government helping them, when few others have to deal with the same moral burden for snacking on government largesse. I didn’t feel bad about using WIC or Medicaid as a graduate student because my family qualified for them in every way. My parents have been supportive, but they had other kids in school and on missions (and who’s going to pay the hefty monthly premiums for health insurance on the private market in lieu of Medicaid, or cover that appendectomy if you don’t have insurance?). Overall, we lived very modestly. We didn’t have any school loans. I was not within a year or two of landing a fat paycheck (and even if I was, I don’t think relying on future income is a great idea).

    With WIC and Medicaid, we could maintain financial independence from my parents, stay out of debt, not delay having children, and survive on one income. There were trade-offs, of course: it meant deciding to ignore some statements made by Benson as an apostle and other general authorities of the earlier 20th century. Since I’d already decided to ignore Benson’s 70’s-era views of government, for example, as his informed but not doctrinally binding opinion, it was not a hard step to take.

  210. Elisabeth
    May 11, 2005 at 9:02 am

    I grew up in a country that provided “free” medical care to its citizens. It wasn’t the best system in the world, but at least my parents, poor as they were, never had to worry about paying out of pocket for routine medical expenses. I see nothing wrong with someone of modest means taking advantage of government programs to subsidize or pay for health care expenses.

  211. Jordan
    May 11, 2005 at 9:11 am


    Your situation sounds very similar to how mine was in grad school. And your reasoning almost exactly parallels mine. I remember when my wife first approached me about WIC, etc., I was very much against it because of the opprobrium instilled in me from a young age against such programs. But after considering it and consulting with local church leaders, I could not responsibly refuse the help.

  212. annegb
    May 11, 2005 at 9:17 am

    LOL!!! I entertained myself with blogging all day yesterday at the library and you guys are still on this subject this morning. I’m, uh, surprised.

  213. Jonathan Green
    May 11, 2005 at 9:38 am

    There’s an underlying theme, I think, in Gordon’s concern about grad student families on Medicaid, and Eve’s concern about welfare recipients with cell phones, and Bill’s relief that I don’t have one, and Julie in Austin’s suggestion that people should move to less expensive cities. Namely, everybody, even the poor, makes choices based on their everyday economic reality, and everyone’s priorities are different. Every form of assistance to the poor, from church welfare to cash assistance to the EIC, gives people greater economic agency, but has limited power to alter their priorities.

    A food-stamp recipient might rationally decide that the grocery money freed up by government aid is best spent on a cell phone. A dual-income family in Boston might decide that having Mom work is a small price to pay for being close to friends and family and the Red Sox.

    That’s one reason that WIC and Medicaid also come with educational components; the government wants the people it helps to make good choices in how to use their increased economic agency. (And that’s one of the reasons for the sense of irritation that grad-student families sometimes have with those programs, as mentioned in passing somewhere far above; we know what the food pyramid looks like, thank you. We’re just poor, not stupid. Just give us the money and we’ll handle the rest.)

    So I think Julie is right that families who choose to live in Boston are not compelled to have both parents working, and that some people who are unhappy in that situation could benefit from more information about conditions elsewhere–but I think a lot of the people who choose to stay are using the language of compulsion to explain what is actually a rational economic choice; staying in Boston, for whatever reason, is a higher priority than making do with one income.

    In our case, Medicaid and WIC were simply economic background phenomena. They changed our economic context for the better, giving us more means to accomplish our own priorities. I don’t think we lived luxuriously–we still have a couple items of furniture retrieved from the nearest dumpster–but someone else might decide otherwise, or find that our priorities are misplaced. I don’t think there can be general agreement on which spending categories are legitimate and which are not. You can choose to help people, and you can try to educate them and influence their priorities, but you can’t take away their economic agency.

  214. Jordan
    May 11, 2005 at 9:46 am

    Well said, Jonathan.

  215. Jonathan Green
    May 11, 2005 at 9:54 am

    A couple last words:

    Gordon, Haifa was not asserting merely that lots of LDS grad student families are on WIC or Medicaid or whatever. They are, and it’s a useful fact to know. Instead, Haifa’s main point was a hateful rant about widespread welfare fraud and abuse among LDS grad students. I spent several years living in close association with LDS grad students, and I never saw a case of people abusing the system, unless one defines accepting the benefits for which one qualfies as abusing the system. There’s no need to apologize for doubting an ugly distortion.

    Jordan, thanks for mentioning that. One of the great frustrations of being a grad student dad is that most grad schools just don’t understand how their students can have families, while a lot of people at church just don’t understand how families can still have one or both parents in grad school.

  216. GL
    May 11, 2005 at 11:08 am

    Jonathan, I know this is late in the discussion and may have been addressed already, but I would be interested in knowing the following:

    1) What type of grad program were you in?

    2) Were u eligible for additional student and/or private loans? Any other form of financial assistance?

    2) Was any part-time work available as a teaching assistant, intern, etc??

    3) Did u qualify for any scholarships, fellowships, etc?

    4) Was there any employment available to you to attend school full-time and work at the same time?

    5) Did u have any family members that could have loaned u the money?

    6) Did u have any assets you could sell, that u did not necessarily have to depend on?

    I know these are very personal, so I understand if you don’t want to answer them. But I am personally trying to get a better grasp of circumstances that grad students face that would necessitate the use of welfare and/or medicaid (albeit, assistance that they are in fact qualified for).

  217. claire
    May 11, 2005 at 11:09 am

    Just had to correct someone’s assertion re: housing prices in Omaha and Atlanta being a fraction of those in Boston. I can’t speak to Omaha, and granted Boston is worse, but housing prices in Atlanta (and it’s many fast growing suburbs) are horrific. You’d have to go at least 25 miles out of the city to find a (detached, three bedroom 2 bath) house under 200,000 that is not within blocks of a crack house.

  218. May 11, 2005 at 11:19 am

    Claire: your comment re “within blocks of a crack house” are very significant. While I understand there is somewhat of a gender divide on this topic; why do LDS families insist on living in “safe” neighborhoods? From my point of view, safe seems to have much more to do with avoiding living near “poor” people than actually avoiding areas of criminal activity/actual physical danger.

    There are plenty of places that LDS families _could_ live in major cities if they want to stay near family/city jobs. They just have to be willing to move into a neighborhood that actually _needs_ people of good heart; who can move in, help clean up the neighborhood and be a positive presence.

    Why is there crime in the cities? Because all the average, law-abiding, middle class folks leave and refuse to move back in. This is the equivalent of clear-cutting a hillside & then claiming to be amazed when a rainstorm creates a mudslide of “crime”.

  219. Ana
    May 11, 2005 at 11:23 am

    Lyle, I’m not in a major city, but last night I dropped off one of our Young Women at a place other than her home, which is in a neighborhood I would not choose to live in. Her mother has sent her to be with someone else for a week because last week, her uncle was shot in this home. It’s not a safe place. No one wants their children in a place like that.

  220. Jordan
    May 11, 2005 at 11:31 am


    When you have kids, you may think about this a bit differently. Then again, maybe not. All I know is that I would be devastated if I lost a child in my quest to personally improve a bad neighborhood- that cost is too high.

    Safe neighborhoods are very important- not to avoid “poor” people, but to strengthen the chance that my children won’t be hit by stray gunfire or kidnapped/raped by some crackhead in a drug haze. I’m all for being a positive presence in a neighborhood, but not at the expense of greater risk to my offspring’s life and limb.

    Interesting how the discussion meanders, isn’t it?

  221. claire
    May 11, 2005 at 11:40 am

    Lyle, such an interesting comment on the gender divide. I’d say it has a lot to do with what the actual topic of this thread is. If women (like me) are they ones at home during the day, they might be a bit more particular about where they live.

    I do live in the city. We love it. We choose to live in a much smaller house than we could buy in the suburbs because we like the city, the diversity our kids see at school, in the neighborhood and yes, even at church (in our ward, white people are the minority, but not by much). We do this also to keep my husband’s commute to a reasonable length (20 min each way usually) so he can co-parent our children, and he does (he isenough a part of their lives that the kids call me daddy by accident on a regular basis).

    However, there are many neighborhoods that I visit in my chuch calling that I would not live in, and I’m not ashamed to say it. They schools are failing, many of the houses are condemned, the streets are filled with people apparently aimlessly walking around, and the crime rates are atrocious. Why would I choose to raise a family there, when we are blessed to have a reasonable alternative?

    I agree with you in principle, Lyle. Our stake, which takes up all of the ‘inside the perimeter (beltroute interstate) of Atlanta and many chunks outside of it, is losing strong families with primary and youth aged children to the suburbs like crazy. My daughter has to go to another ward for Activity Days because she is the only active girl ages 8-11 in our ward. The suburbs have better schools, bigger houses, less crime so that’s where just about everyone who can moves when their kids get to be school aged and they are on their third child. From the looks of things, my daughter could be one of two or three YW in a ward that has over a million people living in its boundaries.

  222. Julie in Austin
    May 11, 2005 at 11:49 am


    thanks for the info on Atlanta; I think I was relying on out-of-date info that Atlanta was one of the least expensive metropolitan areas in the country. So just substitute [city with least expensive housing] where I wrote Atlanta and let’s take it from there.

    In a later comment, Claire, I think you hit the nail on the head with your reference to schools: I notice that the real exodus by those who can afford to move comes when they face putting a child in poor-performing schools. It is amazing to think of the changes that would occur in this country if we had school choice (not that I am convinced that school choice would be a good thing, but I think we underestimate how many decisions and consequences result from parents moving to high-performing school districts).

  223. May 11, 2005 at 12:11 pm


    Many districts already have school choice. Ours, in an outlying Dallas suburb, has for several years. If a school doesn’t have enough parents who want their kids to go there, they make the school into a magnet school. We have three gifted and talented elementaries, a classical magnet, and two math & science magnets, all of which are thriving, and all of which are older schools in run-down areas. My daughters are enrolled at one of them, and I’ve been very impressed with both the school and the system. I’ve been very thankful at how well they’ve managed a large, not terribly wealthy district with comfortably middle-class neighborhoods, some very low-income urban neighborhoods, and many ESL students and kept consistently decent schools all-around.

    Not all parents are as pleased as I am, and I hear complaints from time to time about what a pain it is to fill out the school choice form every year and wait to see if your kids will get into the neighborhood school (and I’ve heard a few complaints about the kids who get bused in, which somehow generally sound like code words for “we hate diversity”), but they do well with what they’ve got, in my opinion.

  224. May 11, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    Jordan: My wife certainly sees things differently. However, I don’t think it is a “personal quest” to improve bad neighborhood X. I do think it is part of our calling to be a light unto the world; and to spread the leaven _evenly_ out rather than clumping it all together; whether that be in Utah, or in “safe” neighborhoods.

    Also, say we have three neighborhoods: A, B & Z.

    A = crime rate of 1 violent crime per day per 1000 people.
    B = .1 VC per day per 1000.
    Z = .01 VC per day per 1000.

    Yes, if you move into A rather than B, you are increasing, by 10 fold, the chance that a violent crime will occur, to someone, within that 1000 population. However, what about the change your “new” presence has in that neighborhood? Let’s say your presence decreases the crime rate by 1%. Well, you’ve instantly made the _entire_ neighborhood safer. So, there is a higher risk to you, but the increased benefit of safety is shared by _all_. And I’m not even going into possibly synergistic effects; i.e. if your neighboors get motivated to clean up their yards because you keep yours clean and/or if you own a handgun & folks learn not to mess with your household.

    Most importantly:
    1. Were are you more likely to have missionary & service opportunities? A, B, or Z?
    2. If you die…so what? Where is Death’s sting to the faithful LDS family? Sure, no one wants to see a life cut short by violence, or injury inflicted. However…that can happen anywhere, regardless of where you live. Why not trust in God and do his work rather than trusting in the Arm of Flesh and cowering in a nice safe suburban neighborhood (which has its own hidden, less obvious, crime problems)?

  225. Paul
    May 11, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    Lyle, thank you. I am a tax lawyer, but I apprectiate the reference to the code. There is a difference between wellfare and EIC, in my opinion. I doubt I will persuade those who believe otherwise, as this seems to be a very polarizing debate, but one can go online and run some searches and find the basics of the argument I would make. I am done with this thread.

  226. May 11, 2005 at 12:36 pm

    Jonathan, Thanks for taking the time to explain your thoughts on all of this. Very helpful. I think your priorities comment was spot on. When I read your story, I see lots of values in play: (1) get an education; (2) don’t put off having children; (3) be self-sufficient; (4) provide for your family; (5) don’t leave your children in someone else’s care. Pursuing all of these values simultaneously may be impossible, which raises the question of priority. The question I am still puzzling is whether the Church has or should express some guidance on the ordering of those priorities or whether such ordering is inherently individual.

    (By the way, I know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, but I was typing furiously fast on limited connectivity time last night and mistyped.)

  227. Eve
    May 11, 2005 at 12:42 pm

    I worked while my husband went to med school. He had a significant scholarship, which obviously helped. We had a child during his last year of school and now have three. We had one car while he was in school and while I worked. (In fact, we had one car for a long time after I stopped working and started staying home with our children.) We carpooled most days or I would ride the bus. I would stay at work until late if he had to be at school until late. We did not own a cell phone. We lived in an apartment without cable. We ate a lot of pasta and canned tomato sauce. When we had our fist baby, I left my job and we purchased private insurance until my husband started working. Things were tight, but we did not depend on the sweat of another’s brow to propel ourselves forward or enjoy more than we earned. Where I come from, that is wrong.

    I think most people agree that it is wrong too. But justification is a funny thing. It makes the most ferocious defenders out of folks.

    That is where I come from.

  228. May 11, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    Hm…then since I have nothing to justify???

  229. Randy B.
    May 11, 2005 at 12:52 pm

    To continue the Claire/Lyle threadjack a bit . . .

    One bit of irony here, in Atlanta, is the fact that the large gay population has had a lot to do with the improved livability of the city. The gay community has been a driving force behind the move back into and revitalization of downtown (and, as a result, the crazy housing prices “ITP”–inside the perimeter). Some of this is due no doubt to the fact that school quality is less of a pressing concern for many of these folks.

    For those with kids, Julie and Claire are absolutely right–the key driver here is the schools. My wife and I lived in downtown Atlanta for nearly 6 years. We have 3 kids with one more on the way. We loved living downtown, but we couldn’t find a realistic, long-term solution to the school issue. As a result, we ended up moving to the ‘burbs a couple of weeks ago. It was a sad day in many respects, but our kids are now slated to go to some of the best public schools in the state, and they are part of a primary with 120+ kids. (Though, they still miss their few old friends and primary teachers terribly.) I suppose if I were more Christ-like, as Lyle suggests, I would have more patience and understanding and work to solve Atlanta’s serious problems from the inside out. I guess I’m just not there yet. But even those (like Claire) who have chosen to stay intown aren’t exactly seeking out sketchy places to live in hopes of having a positive influence on their neighbors. And does anyone really think we ought to? Are there any limiting principles?

    There was a small religious movement in Atlanta about 25 years ago called “Where Would Jesus Live?” A handful of people decided to move to intown neighborhoods that had been left to decay with the thought that if Jesus had to pick a place to live, that is where he would go. One of the neighborhoods they picked–Grant Park (our former neighborhood)–is now a wonderful place to live, though it still has a long way to go, particularly with respect to the schools. I don’t know how much of an impact these well-intentioned people had. If I had to guess, I would say that it pales in comparison to the impact from my wonderful gay neighbors.

  230. N Miller
    May 11, 2005 at 12:56 pm

    I am curious how many of you out there went to school full time and, where able (as some schools won’t let you), had a full time job while your spouse was at home with your child/children and did not recieve any help from the government through all of it?

  231. Jordan
    May 11, 2005 at 1:10 pm

    Do pell-grants count as the sort of help from the government we are discussing?

    As a full-time undergrad student taking 14-18 credits/semester, I worked 40 hours a week in a bank and 20 hours a week cleaning toilets, while going to school full-time. We did not receive any government aid (unless the measly pell grant of $750 counts) during that time. My wife was a stay-at-home mom with our (then) infant son. That was at BYU.

  232. GL
    May 11, 2005 at 1:27 pm

    As is apparent on this Board, everyone’s situation is different.

    I actually went to grad school full-time while the wife stayed at home and somewhat hedged the costs of higher education by doing the following:

    1) Planned financially for grad school by working and saving and was able to have a small cushion prior to starting grad school. I definitely think this is easier said than done. Personally, I don’t think ppl should go to grad school unless your finances are in order, you have some work experience, and have savings of at least $1-2k.

    2) Chose an affordable school. There were options to go to a more prestigious school, but $150k in debt out of school didn’t seem very reasonable so I chose the more affordable, less prestigious school with a more manageable debt load upon graduation. If this option wasn’t available, I personally would have probably reconsidered even going to grad school.

    3) Did everything in undergrad and in terms of work experience, etc… to insure that I would be qualified for a scholarship.

    4) Worked summers either as an intern, summer associate, research assistant, etc.

    5) Worked part-time while going to school full-time during years it was permissible in the grad program to supplement our income.

    6) Continually sought scholarships through various grad school activities, orgs, essay writing contests, etc..

    7) Participated in various school programs and events aimed at providing small grants, etc…

    8) Actually took out more student loans at one point when things were tight, but thought it was ok since I was going to a more affordable grad school.

    9) Went without a car the entire first year of the program and stayed in a studio apartment.

    Just to reiterate, I am sure everyone’s situation is different and I am sure my perspective would have been totally different if I didn’t have these various components to hedge against the high costs of grad school or in the alternative, was looking at a $150k debt load. In the same vein though, I would be interested in seeing the actual circumstances (in particular from Jonathan’s perspective) where grad students absent some of the above are by necessity or choice for that matter, seek low-income or welfare assistance.

  233. seven bohanan
    May 11, 2005 at 1:38 pm

    I come to this debate late, but my experience is similar to GL/Eve’s husband/Jordan/(anyone else I left out). I agree that one should not plan to go to graduate school, get married, and have children at the same time unless one has some type of financial plan to meet that goal, which, in my modest opinion, should include little to no government money.

    N. Miller, I worked summers and part time during law school while my wife stayed at home with our daughter. Like GL, I chose to go to a less prestigious law school to save money and looked for every opportunity to earn income to avoid debt and government help. But, I did not work full time. Several of my Mormon law school friends did and it about did them in.

  234. Stephanie
    May 11, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    This was (is) an interesting post. It’s a bit sad that some of us are looking to strangers reading this blog for reassurance that they did the right thing. Who cares what other people think? As long as you’re happy, and not a deranged idiot hurting other people, let’s give each other a break.

    And, I very respectfully wish the Church leaders would stop encouraging 21 year olds to have kids while they are still in school. Why are they encouraging people to take on the huge financial reponsibilities of having a family before they are able to support themselves?

  235. GL
    May 11, 2005 at 1:53 pm


    I agree and again want to express that everyone’s situation is different and be sensitive to that. But from my perspective, I think grad students have much more control over their financial destinies going into programs than opposed to during and/or after. IMHO, if you aren’t financially prepared to go to grad school, the choice is easy, work for a couple of years until you are or don’t go. In economic terms, the least cost avoider (as to having to seek government assistance) seems to be on the prospective student. Contrast this with a single mother, who again IMHO (definitely subject to argument) has less decision-making over her financial destiny.

  236. Stephanie
    May 11, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    So then what does “do not delay children” mean? Do not delay children while you are in college? Do not delay children after you graduate from college? What about graduate school? Don’t get married until you’re ready to have children fairly shortly after you get married? This is confusing. If the Church leaders can’t be more specific, then we’re going to have all kinds of issues deciding what to do, right? I mean, if we’re told to follow the prophet, and the prophet is telling us to get an education, but don’t delay having children, how do you work with that? Go on welfare to pay for the kids you have when you’re still in school? Don’t get married or have kids until you’re done with school?

    As long as there is no specific rule (i.e., you must have children within the first two years of marriage), then it would seem to me that there is a lot of leeway in carrying out the competing goals of having children and becoming financially stable. Why do we feel the need to judge others so harshly on this? We’re all trying to do the right thing here (or maybe I’m assuming too much).

  237. GL
    May 11, 2005 at 2:29 pm


    I don’t have any easy answers for you and again, apologize if you feel others are being judged. I will reiterate this again, everyone has their own situation and circumstance. I guess my best advice (albeit largely empty advice) is to take comfort in the fact that our leaders have been there and understand (some here would probably say “somewhat”) the magnitude of pressures we are experiencing.

    Don L. Searle, “Elder Dallin H. Oaks: ‘It Begins by Following the Other Apostles,’ ” Ensign, June 1984, 15

  238. annegb
    May 11, 2005 at 2:33 pm

    Go, Stephanie.

  239. Jordan
    May 11, 2005 at 2:42 pm

    The harsh judgments pronounced on this thread confirm the wisdom in advising members who do turn to government for assistance to keep quiet about it so that they do not get unfairly judged by their own brothers and sisters in the ward family. It is a shame that the source to which we should turn for support is the source that will judge us the most harshly for doing something, the status of which under certain circumstances really could be said to be up in the air, to help a young family through graduate school.

    It’s too bad we have to keep so many secrets from each other. It’s too bad that many people have been and will continue to have to harbor secret feelings of shame and guilt for accepting assistance which I know was encouraged to members of my wards by my graduate school Bishops and Stake Presidents instead of using fast offering funds.

    I have some advice: when it comes to how our friends and neighbors are funding their graduate education and keeping their young families fed and clothed, unless they are doing something blatantly illegal, why don’t we just mind our own business?

    I think the same advice applies in the context of working moms/stay at home moms.

    Western society today is expensive. People can choose to live one way or the other, and each could still be within the bounds the Lord has set for his people. We don’t know all the personal circumstances involved in everyone else’s choices! So how can we accuse others of stealing or not planning wisely or whatever? Rhetorical questions….

  240. Julie in Austin
    May 11, 2005 at 2:45 pm


    Very interesting, thank you. Have you noticed any of what I predicted (that is, that people make housing choices based on school options) or does that not happen since people have to reapply each year (if I understand you correctly on that)?

  241. GL
    May 11, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    I commend u on your sound advice and actually agree with it.

    The fact of the matter remains that there should be some attention brought to the possibility that there are a subset of grad students (albeit LDS) abusing, misusing, etc… government assistance to further their own personal private education and/or gain whether it be purposefully or not; outside and completely dissimilar to your particular circumstance and situation whereupon you were duly and (in my opinion) appropriately advised to do so.

    Case in point, there is a prominent business school in our Stake (I won’t mention which one). A number of the MBA students (including LDS) live in very expensive town-houses ($1500-$2k a month), drive very nice cars, and frequent summer vacation resorts. Most of these students had very significant high paying salary jobs prior to starting the program and will definitely be making $100k post-grad. Yet at the same time, a number of these same students are actively using low-income and government assistance programs. The circle continues as applications and “know-how” for assistance are then handed down from graduating students to incoming students.

    Most of this is kept on the DL, not necessarily for the reasons you extrapolated upon (i.e. shame) but again, IMHO, for the fact that may be somewhat ethically questionable (from an outside observer of couse, since again, every one has their own personal situation).

    But as you articulated, it really comes down to personal choice right? Or is it the pessimist in me that is jealous that I didn’t figure the system out while I was in grad school? Rhetorical as well.

  242. Stephanie
    May 11, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    I’m frustrated with some of the sentiments expressed on this thread because it’s apparent to me that:
    (1) the GA’s are not very clear on these very high stakes issues, and
    (2) members aren’t comfortable coming up with their own way of dealing with the ambiguities posed by the GA’s statements, so we all judge people who seem to deviate from the ideal situation of having lots of smiling kids with a rich husband and a beautiful wife who stays home and makes nice crafts at Enrichment night, and
    (3) the people who do listen and act on the advice of the GA’s as far as not delaying children usually have major financial struggles – is this part of our lot in living in this lone and dreary world? Look at the Church leaders themselves – many of them are well off – either from wealthy families or through sacrificing family time to excel in well paid jobs.

    Again, these are all personal issues and each individual has his or her own way of figuring things out and how to provide best for their families. We have so many more similarities than differences – but I guess the similarities don’t make for a controversial discussion.

  243. seven bohanan
    May 11, 2005 at 3:20 pm

    Jordan, I guess that is the point of the whole thread. We shouldn’t judge.

    But, working moms have a harder time hiding their sources of income than welfare moms. So is taking welfare really just the choice families make when they want to appear like they are following the dictates of leaders? They are not delaying families, the mothers are not working outside of the home, and the husbands are getting as much education as possible. Only they and perhaps the bishop know that they are on welfare, unless they publish it. To me, appearance is much more important to the welfare mom than the working mom, and, again to me, the working mom undergoes much more scorn than the welfare mom because the welfare mom can keep her welfare a virtual secret. Seems like a classic pot/kettle scenario. From what I have read on this board, all the pots think they are right and all the kettles think they are right. I am not sure either side is right, per se, but it seems to me that neither is innocent of casting stones.

  244. seven bohanan
    May 11, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    GL, are you serious about the MBA students??? If so, wow!! I am without words to respond. How do you think the non-mormon public would respond, or do all the MBA students in your area live the same duplicitous life?

  245. Jordan
    May 11, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    The fact of the matter remains that there should be some attention brought to the possibility that there are a subset of grad students (albeit LDS) abusing, misusing, etc… government assistance to further their own personal private education and/or gain whether it be purposefully or not

    So what? That is not our problem, nor does it really even deserve our comment. If these students are sinning/misusing/abusing things in a way that offends the Church or the Lord, let the judges in Israel bring it to their attention.

  246. Stephanie
    May 11, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    I think we all need a group hug. Jordan – you’re awesome. You did what was best for your family, and everything worked out. Julie in Austin – I admire your spunk and conviction (and your clean floors sans Cheerios). Rosalynde – you’re brilliant, you should publish your stories. And I hope you get more time with your husband as he finishes school/internship/residency. Eve, Jonathan Green, everyone else who struggles or is concerned with these issues – as long as you are truly faithful and praying to do the right thing, I know everything will work out in the end, and we’ll find peace with the tough decisions we make in life.

    Anyway, this post may sound naive and stupid, but I mean it – I wish you guys the best. And I’m happy that you love your kids so much and are concerned about making all the right decisions to show them how much you love them and to create for them the most perfect environment to grow up in that you possibly can. It gives me hope for the future that you are investing so much of yourselves into your children. I’m sure they appreciate all your efforts and all the love you share with them.

  247. Bill
    May 11, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you GL, for pointing to the situation that rankles some of us who don’t think that, just because you’re going to be paying a lot of taxes later on, that it is ethical to use assistance that you don’t need. Of course, there are some who think they need the fancy cars (which they call “reliable cars”) and vacations. I agree with most of what Jonathan Green said about economic agency, but I don’t equate it with morality.

    When I was a graduate student I could easily (and legally) have taken out low-interest and deferred-interest student loans (which I didn’t need, although, perhaps I could have needed had I only altered my spending habits), invested them at a higher rate of return. Of course I would really have been investing other income freed-up by the loan, since the loan would have to be allocated to certain expenses, and other money would have been fungible. Perhaps it was economically irresponsible not to engage in such a scheme, especially since I would have been paying taxes on the profits. Although, luckily for me, there would have been no payroll tax.

    Which brings me back to social security which was never intended as a retirement plan, but as a safety net for the most vulnerable. Retirement plans are 401Ks, IRAs, other tax-advantaged savings programs and pensions. Of course, just like in the 1930s when many lost all their savings, today we have people whose 401Ks were all in Enron stock, or who had the misfortune to work for Lucent, United Airlines, the steel companies, and other former stalwarts of corporate America that are now defaulting on their pension obligations. Who could begrudge such people their social security? It is a little obscene, however, for the CEOs who presided over such declines while taking very good care of themselves to cash social security checks, however legal.

    I would personally be happy never to receive any of the money I contribute to Social Security unless I happen to find myself below the poverty line after retirement.

  248. N Miller
    May 11, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    Stephanie –

    I am not sure where you are getting your facts on 242 #3. I was in school in utah (not BYU) and sure, there were many students that were “poor” and I am sure that they struggled. In fact, many of them simply did without “things” to follow what the prophets have stated about having kids. When do you have enough money to have kids? Who decides that level? These families will go out into the world, poor according to some standards, but due to the fact that they have largely had to work hard up to this point to make ends meet, they will continue to work hard and become successful at whatever they do. What is successful? Rich? Good kids? Happy spouse? That definition differs among all of us and therefore we will never come to the bottom of that one.

    Concerning the “rich” GA’s. Who are you to say that they didn’t spend time with family or that they didn’t earn it themselves. In fact listening to the Hinckley family, the only family I can remember hearing directly how family life was, they had a marvelous family life and their dad seemed to be around often.

    Additionally, you note that the GA’s are generally all well off. Of course they are, there is a principle that is not discussed often, but if you want to do the work of the Lord, you have to be in a position to do so. Can the man who has to work two jobs to make ends meet have the time able to be a bishop of a ward? If a couple doesn’t have the ability to take three years off to serve as mission presidents, how can they? Of course there are exceptions to this from time to time, but generally speaking, to do the work they have to be in a position to do so. Does that mean the man who works two jobs and no time to be bishop is less righteous? No, of course not. He just is unable to serve in that calling and has every right to go to the celestial kingdom. Therefore, our leaders are usually in a position to handle the financial burdens of being in church leadership. If the Lord wants someone to be a bishop, RS president, or Primary teacher, he will open the way to make it possible. All he needs is a willing and committed heart.

  249. May 11, 2005 at 4:08 pm

    Julie, yes, people still make choices based on the nearest (or “neighborhood”) school, since they have first priority to get in during the choice period, and having an “exemplary”-rated school next door does drive up home values. But I do think some of that is tempered by the magnet system and by busing (each campus must reflect the racial/economic makeup of the district as a whole, so in areas that are mostly white, middle-class, the difference is made up and the schools are on more equal ground, at least demographically).

  250. May 11, 2005 at 4:11 pm

    Bill, et al:

    If you have a problem, go talk to your Bishop, the local newspaper, and your elected officials if you think that there is welfare fraud going on. If you aren’t willing to do so, then you obviously are not informed enough to know if what is going on is wrong or to take action when you suspect such. Didn’t someone say that all evil needs to triumph is for good folks to do nothing? Well…the only folks taking action and doing any soul searching here seem to be those that are raising Children up to the Lord while Magnifying their talents. They are certainly doing something to make the world a better place.

    GL talks about MBA students abusing the system. Well, I’m in Philadelphia & the inner city branch I attend is about 20% Wharton/UPenn MBA students. So, if there is some sin going to, please do tell and I’ll make sure to let the Branch President know. Failing that…maybe Spitzer is looking for another group to sue. :)

  251. seven bohanan
    May 11, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    lyle, be careful what you ask for. I think the media has cited this blog a time or two before. I know I would be embarrassed if my non-member friends came to me and said, “Hey, I just read an article in the paper about how Mormon grad students are living the good life and taking welfare.” Something grimy about that story, isn’t there?

  252. May 11, 2005 at 4:37 pm

    Seven: Maybe. Only if there is real welfare abuse though. Which is exactly why I’m suggesting it. Because when there are _real_ consequences on the line, my suspicion is that folks will quiet themselves and take no action; not out of a desire to avoid “embarrassment” for the Church, but because they would be embarrassed when they find out their claims are unfounded, judgmental and just plain wrong.

  253. May 11, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    Bill, the intent of Social Security is irrelevant to what the program actually is. Who are you to say that Social Security is “intended” for the poor? If that is the case, why does it send checks to the rich? Just because you think it should only be for the poor doesn’t make that the “intent.”

    When SS was instituted, the life expectancy was 64. So if you think everybody should live by what you say the original intent of the program was, then nobody should cash any checks they receive before one year after the current life expectancy (around 76 today, I believe). Anybody cashing a SS check younger than 77 is wicked and abusing the system! They should be out working!

    Whatever you say the intent of the SS system was when it was instituted, it has come a long way since then. The current program is not intended to help only the poor. If it was, then the wealthy would be excluded. They are not. Therefore, the program is intended to include the wealthy. You can’t change the program by wishing and blogging; you can only change it by getting Congress to change the law. Until then, Social Security is for everyone.

    How independent are we supposed to be from the government we pay for? Should we accept any benefits paid for by tax dollars? Roads? Schools? National defense? Training programs? Healthcare? Scholarships? School vouchers? Are benefits in kind okay, but benefits in cash not? People who try to make the acceptance of government assistance a black & white issue are ignoring the fact that there is a broad spectrum of government-provided benefits given to various parts of society for different reasons. There is a lot of gray which makes it foolish to get too judgmental about what benefits others choose to take advantage of.

  254. Bill
    May 11, 2005 at 5:46 pm

    Jonathan Stone,

    I am in favor of raising the retirement age as a necessary, but not sufficient part of entitlement reform.

  255. May 11, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    Bill, you missed my point.

    I too am in favor of raising the retirement age, and I agree that it is a necessary but insufficient part of entitlement reform. But until the retirement age is raised, I will collect the benefits that the law stipulates I am entitled to.

    As much as any person might disagree with government policy, it does not make it wrong to follow it. After all, if I think taxes are too high, can I pay less than required? Of course not. If I think the retirement age is too low, I am not obligated to leave my check uncashed. If, heaven forbid, healthcare is universally provided by the government, I am also not morally obligated to turn it down and pay for private healthcare out of my own pocket, or force my family to pay if I can’t afford it, or ask the Church to pay if my family can’t afford it.

  256. JKS
    May 11, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    Jonathan Stone,
    I agree….and so does most of America. Not many are turning down Child Tax Credits, Dependent Tax Credits, Education Tax Credits etc. Even Bill seems not to mind deferring his tax bill with 401Ks, etc.
    And I wonder if Bill takes the same position with moneylenders. People with poor credit have higher interest rates than people with good credit. Yet people with poor credit are the ones who need lower interest rates the most! Does he turn down the 5.1% mortgage loan and insist that they offer him a higher rate?
    It no longer matters what the original intention of social security was. It is what it is now. It provides some life insurance, some disability insurance and retirement pensions. Your benefits are somewhat dependent on what you paid into the system. That is the plan as it stands now. I am a part of it.

    You said “When I was a graduate student I could easily (and legally) have taken out low-interest and deferred-interest student loans (which I didn’t need, although, perhaps I could have needed had I only altered my spending habits), invested them at a higher rate of return.” Perhaps what really held you back was the risk involved. Investing on margin is not my idea of financial stability. Or perhaps it was another financial idea, staying away from debt except for a mortgage, education and absolute necessities and tipped the scales against what little financial gain you might make.

  257. JKS
    May 11, 2005 at 7:47 pm

    This thread reminds me of a conversation I had with a convert friend (married to a church member and had a couple kids) as I explained the church’s positions and what was encouraged.
    I remember I had to tell her.
    “Well, the church tells us to not wait too long to get married (and who can really wait that long once they find that special someone and there’s that pesky chastity commandment), not wait too long to have kids, to get as much education as we can, to have lots of kids, to have moms stay home to take care of them, to stay out of debt, to be self sufficient, to pay tithing and fast offerings. Now, if you happen to have the perfect timeline, meet your spouse just before you graduate from college (where you’ve had great part-time jobs that put you through school, so you both graduate and get great jobs, get married the day you get that great paying job right out of college, then you can easily jump into parenthood and be a SAHM. But most people’s lives don’t work that way. If you meet your spouse early you have to make some adjustments. If you choose to start college after marriage and kids, you have to make some decisions. Every person’s life is different and they need to prayerfully make the right choices for them and for their family about what to do.”
    And I told her everyone I knew made a different decision. Some got married in college and waited to have kids. Some got married and had kids and never did college. Some wait to get married. SOme had kids and the mom worked for a while and quit when the husband finished college. Some husbands worked 2 jobs. Some husbands and wives work opposite hours. SOme had family help and lived at home. Some have major debt problems. Some got divorced.
    I know of only ONE couple that met her last year of school and they got married right after her graduation her husband was recently graduated with a great job and they bought a house and they soon had a baby and she became a SAHM. Once….out of how many people… couple didn’t have to make the hard choices of which do we choose to do now vs. later, which is more important right now, which would the Lord have us do.

  258. Rosalynde Welch
    May 11, 2005 at 8:39 pm

    For what it’s worth, it’s not only eligible LDS graduate student families that enroll in government programs. At UCSD, every eligible student family whose insurance situation I knew about had their kids in Healthy Families, a low-cost, state-subsidized health plan. Indeed, every graduate student handbook and list of resources that I ever encountered directed students immediately to Healthy Families. See, for example, here (scroll down a bit for the reference to HF).

  259. annegb
    May 11, 2005 at 9:42 pm

    JKS, as usual, good post.

  260. Jonathan Green
    May 11, 2005 at 10:45 pm

    Speaking of vanishing mothers, I couldn’t respond more quickly to all the insightful comments because I was at home watching small children today while my wife chaperoned our oldest on a field trip.
    GL, I’d love to walk through the financial details of my graduate education, but I think the conversation has moved on; some other time, maybe. I think one issue that might be rearing its ugly head again has to do with disciplinary boundaries–expectations and experiences for grad students in professional programs can be very different from students in science and engineering, I’m told, and different still for students in humanities (like me) and social sciences. What makes sense for a 2- or 3-year law degree or MBA might not make sense for someone on the long march towards a Ph.D.
    Rosalynde, Healthy Families is what California calls its version of the Clinton-era expansion of Medicaid, right? It seems to have different names but similar functionality in every state.
    Bill, when you write, “People who argue otherwise have not read Cesar Birotteau,” I can only say: you’re pretty cool.

  261. Bill
    May 12, 2005 at 12:19 am

    In all my comments, I was only arguing for the (apparently provocative) possibility that what is legal and what is moral are not always equivalent. What is legal is fairly clearcut, while what is moral is subject to each individual conscience, and while we can speak in general terms about conceptions of morality, we rarely have enough information to judge others, as has been wisely pointed out. I mentioned Cesar Birotteau because in that Balzac novel, the title character, after having been forced into bankruptcy partly through his own imprudence, partly through the unscrupulous acts of others, heroically insists on paying back all his creditors, even though he was not legally obligated to do so. Here’s a plot summary for the time-constrained:

    I don’t really think that people who are eligible for government assistance

  262. Bill
    May 12, 2005 at 1:54 am

    Looks like 261 was posted before it was quite finished.

    I was going to say that I don’t think it’s a grave sin to take all the tax breaks you’re entitled to or to cash whatever check the government sends your way; only that in a few cases it can present a sorry spectacle, especially when programs intended for those in need become entitlements for those who are really not in need (by contrast, of those eligible for the EIC, about 25% don’t claim it, probably through lack of awareness)

    I even support universal health coverage, at least for catastrophic and preventive care, if not for every elective procedure and newest pharmaceutical that’s only marginally more effective than the previous generation.

    And, JKS, I did trade on margin when I was a graduate student, and still do. Just not with student loan money.

  263. Bill
    May 12, 2005 at 2:03 am

    Incidentally, Andrew Sullivan had an interesting comment on Social Security where he references this article:

    by Mickey Kaus who explains how means-testing doesn’t turn social security into welfare, and mentions the Australian system where

    “the top quarter of recipients gets no benefits at all. Zero. The bottom half gets full benefits. The people in between get in between. Now that’s a means test! Not coincidentally, after means-testing was introduced in the 1980s, Australia’s pension system cost a little more than half what ours costs, in terms of GDP.”

  264. May 12, 2005 at 5:06 am

    If you die…so what?

    Interesting, I’ll note David O McKay’s wife, in her eighties, remarked that she had still not “gotten over” the pain of burying her son.

    I’ll also note that when I tutored in the writing lab at BYU I had a friend whose parents were heroic in their determination to keep her in the public schools. So she became property of a gang. They were without mercy in the way they beat her. But she said being property wasn’t so bad because if she could avoid her owners no one else beat on her. She declined to discuss the sexual exploitation issues.

    There is more than just death, and more than just mild risk in some situations.

    I’ve been thinking on this subject ever since comparing the early Decker clan to the Cannon clan. The one started wealthy and gave away everything while constantly moving at Brigham Young’s direction to support colonizing efforts. The other was no where near as wealthy in the beginning, but wisely focused on wealth building and Salt Lake.

    Anyway, the direct risk factors in some decisions, in some places, are far different that the appearance of the statistics. I guess I should be heroic, but I chose to have my daughter in a school where no one claims to own her. Though, my youngest is in a program where she is the only blond and only about 10% of the kids are white.

    And my friend seems to have come out of her experiences well, so for some people the heroism of the parents, sacrificing their children, may not harm the kids at all.

    Many personal choices in there.

    Well, back to bed. Just couldn’t sleep. My youngest found the video with a clip of Jessica on it and insisted on watching it last night.

    If a kid dies, no big thing, right?

  265. lyle
    May 12, 2005 at 8:30 am

    In the eternal measure of things…no big deal. Yup. Fun in the intermim? Nope. Yet is being a disciple of Christ, even when it carries increased risk, a ‘fun’ propositioN?

  266. Jordan
    May 12, 2005 at 8:37 am

    Lyle- this is insane. Being a disciple of Christ does not mean we have to offer our children up on some inner city altar. But I am getting too side-tracked.

  267. seven bohanan
    May 12, 2005 at 9:28 am

    Thought the article above was relevant.

    As to post #258, the “every one else does it, so what’s the big deal?” reasoning is hallow to me and does not address the underlying issue.

  268. May 12, 2005 at 9:29 am

    Jordan: So, the Atonement and God sending his son into an unsafe neighborhood where he would be abused & eventually killed was insane?

  269. annegb
    May 12, 2005 at 9:29 am

    “People who argue otherwise have not read Caeser Bitterou (However you spell it)”

    HUH??? Who has heard of this guy? I think that’s called esoteric. How relevant is that? And cool?

    That is what is wrong with this blog, but I’m part of it. I love to throw in the little esoteric thing that says I am cooler, smarter, and more educated and well read than the rest of you, so bow down at my altar. A game of one-up-manship that is furthering contention, not dialogue.

    I’m pretty sure God’s first question when we die is not going to be who that guy with the funny name is and have you read him. We are forgetting the second commandment here.
    And again, another morning, still on the same subject. What is up with this?

  270. Branson
    May 12, 2005 at 9:46 am

    I live in Houston, home of 3 law schools, 3 medical schools, and multiple MBA and graduate programs. The medical center in Houston is world renowned and draws students and practitioners from all over to study and work. Over the last 10 years, the influx of LDS students, from an anecdotal viewpoint, has vastly increased, probably due to the higher value of the dollar and the job opportunities in Texas. Whatever the reason, the numbers have swelled.

    During the same time, the practice of LDS grad students receiving welfare has become commonplace, coordinated, and sophisticated. It reminds me of the network that the Hispanic immigrants have in the Spanish-speaking stake in Houston — new arrivals learn where to go for their fake ss card, fake driver’s license, and fake id from their church family.

    I personally am still not decided on whether LDS grad students on welfare is good, bad, or irrelevant. But, the Stake President over the area that encompasses most of these students has voiced his disapproval of the practice. I have personally heard him say as much. Of course, that means little in the grand scheme, but thought it was pertinent to this debate.

  271. Jordan
    May 12, 2005 at 9:53 am


    Of course not. And I hardly think that is a valid analogy.

    God has not asked each of us to sacrifice our offspring. It is not necessary. Analogizing the risk to your family of living in a unsafe neighborhood to Heavenly Father sending his son to die for us makes no sense and is not something we have been asked to do. If I feel called by the spirit of revelation to put my family in such a situation, then of course I would prayerfully consider it. But otherwise, this is just not a duty we have- to subject our children to risk.

    I don’t think that being a disciple of Christ normally requires us to put our families in unsafe situations. In fact, I think being a wise patriarch requires the opposite. Of course this is all subject to personal revelation regarding what the Lord wants from each individual family. Maybe some will be called, as was Abraham, to sacrifice offspring in such a manner. Otherwise, I do not believe that my discipleship requires me to live in unsafe neighborhoods and subject my family to that kind of risk.

    and now look where this thread has gone. It’s far, far away from where it started. Time to lay it to rest.

  272. GL
    May 12, 2005 at 11:11 am

    seven: “are u serious?” Yes, see Branson’s recent post.

    Jordon: “So what? That is not our problem, nor does it really even deserve our comment. If these students are sinning/misusing/abusing things in a way that offends the Church or the Lord, let the judges in Israel bring it to their attention.”

    Why so defensive? I completely respect and highly admire your individual decision and would probably have done so under similar circumstances.

    I think where our thinking clearly diverges is that I believe there is a p-o-t-e-n-t-ia-l problem that needs to be openly discussed, whether it be here informally or more formally for that matter. In fact, Branson’s insight concerning the Stake President’s disapproval of Houston grads using welfare seems to be a signal that there are some leaders in the Church that have already concluded that it is OUR problem.

    As to whether it is right or not, I’m very similar to Branson in that I personally don’t know whether LDS grad students on welfare is good or bad, but I do think it is very relevant, especially when there seems to be a changing attitude or cultural among LDS (and non LDS) grad students with respect to assistance. See Gordon Smith’s embedded post about this changing attitude and acceptance.

    Re: Lyle (correct me if I am wrong Lyle). I think what his previous posts are saying in pertinent part, is not to be so quick to diss or judge the ghetto. Crime should absolutely be a variable when determining where to live, especially when u have young children, but crime does not discriminate. After living in a somewhat urban setting for a number of years, I find it strange that I often receive more discontent over the Mark Hacking or Smart story than say a local gang shooting down the street (maybe not the best example).

    I think the ironic thing with respect to this discussion is that there seems to be various justifications expressed (seemingly valid) for the use of assistance among grad students, but when it comes to whether one should actually live in areas that are primarily supported and benefit from such assistance, the dialogue seems to be strongly to the contrary.

  273. seven bohanan
    May 12, 2005 at 11:31 am

    I stand informed, though still surprised. In re-reading some of the posts above, I noted that one poster said that s/he was shocked at the disdain the LDS grads on welfare openly verbalized toward the “element” that they had to wade through to pick up their checks. To me, and if true, that attitude is another example of the conflict GL raises in his post. It also seems elitist at best and racist at worst, or am I missing something?

  274. May 12, 2005 at 11:58 am

    GL: Fair enough read. Happily, I’m consistent and not conflicted as you note some folks seem to be. Although, re: Church leaders…Jordan’s Stake Pres. in Michigan supported students using welfare programs. 1 in MI pro, 1 in TX anti. Maybe this has more to do with politics/regions than gospel/any official church stance?

  275. M Youmans
    May 12, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    I don’t see what the problem is with accepting government assistance when you’re working your butt off in graduate school and trying at the same time to have the wife be with the kids. And so what if you want to live in a middle class neighborhood. So what if you want a cell phone and drive an SUV. And it really shouldn’t be anybody’s business what extra, not to mention legal, help you receive for a temporary period of time to be able to do those things.

    Seven: The fact of the matter is the most unsavory people go to collect welfare. Many (most?) who go to those places have lived on welfare for years and will continue to do so. A young LDS couple feeling out of place in that atmosphere doesn’t surprise me a bit. It’s a temporary thing for them and they aren’t used to being with the crowd that typically goes for the welfare check. I’m sorry, I don’t know where you’re coming from on this one man.

  276. GL
    May 12, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    M Youmans,

    Interesting response. I personally appreciate your candor, it really goes back to maybe there really is a cultural acceptance emerging.

  277. M Youmans
    May 12, 2005 at 12:39 pm

    GL: Look, I’m not talking about driving the Escalade and the Lexus, having $150+ cell phone plans, HDTV, etc. But everyone determines wants and needs differently, no? I mean, all I’m saying is a couple that has one or both in grad school wanting to live in a safe neighborhood, have cars and cell communication, etc., should be able to depend on the government for a time until they can pay for all those things and then some with their own income. The exorbitant amount of taxes would be repayment basically.

  278. GL
    May 12, 2005 at 12:54 pm

    “The exorbitant amount of taxes would be repayment basically.”

    I’ve actually considered this justification.

    I feel as though even I am becoming culturally and attitudinally (word?) swayed.

  279. M Youmans
    May 12, 2005 at 1:00 pm

    I’m beyond considering – lol. If you want attitudinally to be a word, I’m fine with it.

  280. May 12, 2005 at 1:11 pm


    Interesting, when we had our house guest for over a year, we felt a cell phone was essential for him (and added one to our plan for him to use).

    They can be pretty cheap, especially if you use them only for 911 access.

  281. M Youmans
    May 12, 2005 at 1:20 pm

    Yeah, I have no problem putting cell phone in the “need” category.

  282. Jordan
    May 12, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    GL- (re 272(!!)):

    That was not meant defensively- it was meant just to say that all of this debate over people’s personal decisions (of which I have also been a part…*shame*) is kind of silly.

    But no defensive moves intended at all towards you. Honestly.

  283. seven bohanan
    May 12, 2005 at 2:27 pm

    Youmans, come on now. You are making me covetous. After reading this post, I am thinking about ways to milk the system now since I missed out as a grad student. Any ideas? It is about time for Caesar to start rendering what is mine unto me!!

  284. M Youmans
    May 12, 2005 at 2:45 pm

    Seven: I have no idea when you went to graduate school, but I’m sorry you didn’t take advantage of what was (possibly) rightfully yours.

    Why so sour man? “Milk the system”? If you want to call it that then fine. I say, grab the cow’s teets while they are full my friend, and milk away. I think many people use this phrase too oftenbut… don’t hate the player, hate the game.

  285. GL
    May 12, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    Again Youmans, I’m very impressed with your open tenacity on the subject.

    In fact, I’m on my way to get a large milk-shake.

  286. Branson
    May 12, 2005 at 3:44 pm

    “They can be pretty cheap, especially if you use them only for 911 access.”

    I love the literal irony in this line. I can just see an LDS grad student welfare mom calling an ambulance on her cell phone to beckon emergency medical services for which she will never pay. I know Stephen didn’t intend such an image, but that is what came to mind. Again, not mine to judge, but ironic.

  287. seven bohanan
    May 12, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    Youmans, I wish I had your (and the majority of this board’s?) sense of entitlement. Who knows how much farther along I could be, and with less effort?

  288. M Youmans
    May 12, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    Got Medicaid? What’s the deal with having a cell phone and not being able to receive legal gov’t assistance for, let’s say, medical care while one is in grad school?

  289. May 12, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    seven: “with less effort”?

    What are you talking about? For example, I spent about 20 hours on my taxes this year filling out forms, addendums, etc. to qualify for different tax deductions, credits, etc. While I’ve not gone the medicaid/welfare route; i’m sure there are plenty of forms to fill out to determine if you qualify or not. Frankly, those that criticize those using legal (and thus moral, per the 13th Article of Faith) methods to gain government benefits, whether tax breaks or welfare aid…seem the lazy/less effort crowd to me.

  290. Bill
    May 12, 2005 at 4:04 pm


    That’s a very strange reading of the 13th Article of Faith

    It didn’t take many years for the cell phone to become a need. I still get along without one, but increasingly, not having a cell phone is becoming the luxury.

  291. Minerva
    May 12, 2005 at 4:11 pm


    I think I know who you are. I love finding people I know on the bloggernacle…especially since I use a pseudonym and nobody knows who I am!

  292. annegb
    May 12, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    Minerva, that was totally off the subject, but it was a nice comment. I mean, geez, could you guys be any meaner? Who died and made you God?

  293. May 12, 2005 at 4:49 pm


    1. LDS folks believe in following and sustaining the law.
    2. Following and sustaining the law is morally correct.

    ergo, if you are using a government program, i.e. a law, correctly, it is a moral action.

    What’s strange about that?

    “if you are LDS and not obeying the law, then you are acting immorally”
    is the same as saying,
    “if you are LDS and acting morally, you must be obeying the law.”

    Regardless, the _point_ is the same: it takes work to legally and lawfully participate in government programs, whether they are tax credits/deductions, welfare or medicaid.

    [I’m sure the more logic/philosophically inclined here can help point out how my logic is not formally correct; or better yet, how to rework it/what steps I’m missing to correct the flaw (if any)]

  294. May 12, 2005 at 6:25 pm

    Lyle, you are incorrect. Because we believe in sustaining the law, acting morally = acting legally. However, it does not follow that acting legally = acting morally.

    Getting an abortion is legal. That doesn’t make it moral.

  295. May 12, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    To all the self-righteous parents in this discussion who have sworn off government assistance and criticize others for not doing the same, I would like to ask if you send your children to public school, or private school?

    If you send more than one child to public school and you aren’t in one of the highest tax brackets, chances are pretty good that your children’s education is costing the government more than you are paying in taxes. The top 5% of wagearners pay over 50% of the taxes, so if you’re not in the top 5%, chances are you’re getting more from the government than you’re giving.

    Either swear off government assistance that you aren’t paying for and start homeschooling your children right now, or start paying the government the difference. Or, you could stop throwing stones.

  296. Soyde River
    May 12, 2005 at 6:49 pm

    Apparently, the mothers vanished from this thread about 150 posts ago, to be replaced by arguments over the nanny state.

    That’s the problem with day care (lol).

  297. May 12, 2005 at 7:10 pm

    True, Soyde. This thread is in its last breath.

    I actually oppose the nanny state, and think we have far too many entitlements. But I’m not sure how much use there is in opposing it by telling people not to use the services the government provides.

  298. May 12, 2005 at 8:08 pm

    I love the literal irony in this line. I can just see an LDS grad student welfare mom calling an ambulance on her cell phone to beckon emergency medical services for which she will never pay. I know Stephen didn’t intend such an image,

    But isn’t it better for her to be able to call …


  299. JKS
    May 12, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    Jonathan STone,
    The majority of public education is funded by property taxes.
    My only other problem with your argument is that free public education is not a benefit for parents. It is a benefit for every child in the country. So when childless people complain that they are paying for public schools without getting benefits, I have to remind them that they themselves received the offer of free education (if they were in the country) and should not consider denying children of today that same benefit.
    The idea of free public education was never the idea to free parents of the burden of educational costs. It was a value decision that every child/person deserves the opportunity to be educated through the 12th grade level.

  300. May 12, 2005 at 9:12 pm

    JKS, good point about the property taxes, but I’ll still wager that most people with more than one child in public school at once are paying less in property taxes than the cost of their children’s education. Especially when you deduct the value of other services received in return for the same taxes.

    I don’t quibble with your point that public education is for the children. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is government assistance for something that parents would be responsible for if the government did not provide it.

    My argument isn’t in the details. My point is that the vast majority of people in this country, including most of the people in this thread who have criticized others who participate in various government assistance programs like Medicaid, receive more from the government than they pay. National defense, public schooling, public universities, roads, whatever–the fact is, the rich pay a vastly disproportionate share of the costs of government programs.

    This significance of this is that many people in this thread have implied that accepting help from a government program that you haven’t payed for in your taxes in a given year is immoral and stealing from the hard-working middle class. But most people in the middle and lower class are getting more than they are putting in. I’m not criticizing it; I’m criticizing those who think they are somehow not guilty of receiving more than they’re giving.

  301. May 13, 2005 at 3:21 am

    But most people in the middle and lower class are getting more than they are putting in

    That is dependent on how you evaluate wealth transfers and market issues and economic rents.

    Back to bed, was just gotten up to change a toner cartridge.

  302. Julie K
    May 13, 2005 at 7:09 am

    Is there going to be live streaming video of the ceremony when Gordon gets his
    Certificate of Achievement for his 300+ comment-generating post? :)

  303. May 14, 2005 at 8:28 am

    Wow, and this one isn’t likely to be eaten by server issues either. Who would have thought this post would break 300 — and no SSM comment padding to it. That is another interesting note.

  304. Soyde River
    May 14, 2005 at 9:24 am

    I want my Mommy!

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