Thursday, November 21, 2013

Summun Bonum: Person vs. Product

This is another post from my first blog (which is now closed). I was reminded of it recently during a conversation with a family member.


He was so cute. I was pulling out of my parking spot at the grocery store the other day, and I saw a young father carrying his little boy toward their car.

“Bye,” I heard in a young clear voice. I turned and saw the little boy waving at me, smiling from ear to ear. “Bye,” he exuberantly called to me.  “Bye!” I smiled and waved back. So cute. My own children have done the same thing – waved at total strangers, pure joy on their face, not realizing that their parents would never dream of doing such a thing.

As I turned and saw the man and his son in my rear view mirror, other thoughts came unbidden into my mind. I thought about this beautiful little boy and the hopes and aspirations of his father for him and I wondered – what if this little boy turns out to be gay? How would his father feel about that? Would the beautiful exuberance I had just witnessed be someday crushed? Would this boy be rejected by his parents?

These thoughts quickly brought others to mind. Assuming this young father to be LDS, I wondered how this little boy would be raised. I wondered if the boy would be raised to go to Primary, to learn the words to “I Hope They Call Me On a Mission,” and “Army of Helaman”; to be a Cub Scout; to be a worthy deacon; to aspire to someday serve a mission; to be taught to believe that being a faithful Church member who “keeps the commandments” and “follows the prophet” represents the summum bonum of life, i.e., the highest good, the singular and most ultimate end which human beings ought to pursue.

I thought how this boy’s parents might sincerely believe that their job in life is to mold and shape this boy, to groom and prepare him for his mission in life, to – as it were – produce a young man who would fulfill all of their dreams as faithful parents in Zion. I wondered if they might teach him – as I once did with my own children – to pray that Heavenly Father would bless him with an opportunity to serve a mission, to get married in the temple to a noble and true companion and to then raise up his own children in light and truth.

My thoughts then came back to my original question: What if this boy is gay? For that matter, what if he’s not? How would this boy’s imagined life be different if, rather than looking at him as a “product” to be “produced,” he was looked upon by his parents as a unique person who had been brought into their lives to be loved and nurtured? To be discovered rather than molded? Whose individuality, mind, heart and spirit would be allowed to blossom and grow? Who would be valued as a person, rather than a product? Who would be loved for who he is, rather than forwhat he is?

The summum bonum of a Mormon parent: Is it to love unconditionally – as God in Heaven does – or to teach a child from an early age that acceptance and love is conditional upon obedience and conformity? To put it another way, is it to view their child as a person, or as a product?

I wondered, as I turned another corner and the little boy and his father disappeared from sight.

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