Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Problems of the Age: 19: The Home

Problems of the Age: 19: The Home

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 19, 2011

For links to other parts of this series, see this chart.

For a statement on the unofficial nature (i.e., personal interpretation for discussion purposes, not necessarily representative of church doctrine) of these lessons, see this notice.


Dealing with Religious, Social and Economic Questions and Their Solution.
A Study for the Quorums and Classes of the Melchizedek Priesthood. 1917-1918.

By Dr. Joseph M. Tanner

XIX. – The Home

Abandonment. – Of all the old fashioned homes of the past generation it would be interesting to know what percentage is left, homes devoted to domestic industry and child life. Even the difference would not be so startling as the present movement to vacate home life. Word comes to us through public print, which is confirmed b individual observation, that in the great cities of the world the beautiful homes of the well-to-do along charming boulevards are empty because their inmates have abandoned them for hotel life. They were already devoid of child life, whose pleasures would have made them interesting as well as habitable. The Latter-day Saints, whose religious duty makes home life an obligation as well as a joy, little realize what the abandonment of the home means to the world at large. They hardly sense the change of this part of our social structure. World temptations will come to them with such striking force that many of them may find them quite overpowering. Against this and other insidious changes that the new age is bringing, they must brace themselves as if for a conflict in which they may lose. Too many will not believe the dangers till the jolt of a breakdown jars them by its destruction to their senses.

God Speaks. – A great struggle is on in the world, and our troubles will not end with the war. There are more terrible dangers ahead of us. Why do we not proclaim these dangers from the house tops? Why do we not tell the people at home what it all means? Do we not instinctively feel by the spirit that has instilled itself into our lives for nearly a century that the day of which God hath spoken is near. Why do we not speak aloud, and not move in silence in the presence of such catastrophes as are threatening the whole world? It is because we feel that God has the platform, that it becomes us to remain silent in the middle of his great judgments which the world has insisted on bringing upon itself. In the din of social uproar and confusion the world could not, would not, stop to listen, would not heed his voice when he had spoken. “Let the sin be upon us and our children” were the sentiments of those who defied God and crucified the Savior.

We need not feel surprised that in the raging conflict of social destruction one of the earliest of God-ordained institutions for the perpetuation of life and happiness – the home – should be threatened with annihilation in the great upheavals of the age. Is it all pessimism and despair when we draw in such dark coloring a world threatened and going to ruin? History and life teach us that only an infinitesimal part of sin is revealed to the public eye. If what we see is full of evil, what must be the secret, hidden conditions of life. If what we see annoys us, how would we feel if God permitted us to see it all. We are wholly incompetent to judge, but we may listen and speak of the things which God has declared. We have eyes to see and ears to hear the things that are flagrant. One of the great dangers to the home is the deterioration of the body. What is the evidence of competent witnesses in the courts of public opinion? Listen to the evidence of one of America’s greatest physicians, Dr. Howard: “Women don’t take care of themselves in regard to the changes of weather. They don’t get proper food. They overeat, and nowadays more and more or them over drink and over smoke.”

Some one has said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but this is much more true of women. The box of candy is one of the most acceptable strategies of courtship.

Effects of Home Abandonment. – Take any of the big restaurants; who fill them? They are crowded with women at the lunch hour. Crowded with the same sex at 4 p.m. for tea and sweetmeats. At the dinner hour and again after the theatre the restaurants are crowded again. There are now men with the women. We compare what is eaten in these places of mixed patronage with what is eaten in places exclusively patronized by men, and we’ll find proof of the contention that it is the women who overeat, and overeat heavy, indigestible food.

“This over indulgence, I believe, is one of the grave evils of the day, at any rate, here in America. It is bad for the present generation, and bad for the coming generation. We molly-coddle our women too much. We have let them live too long in a steam heated atmosphere.

“Some may object that I am putting undue emphasis upon the physical. But these objectors must remember that mental and moral man gets his strength and efficiency only from the physical man. Nature has no use for sickness. and remember that the greatest struggle for existence that the world has ever seen is going to begin when Verdun has passed into history. ‘If women could acquire the physical strength and could be disciplined – (make a note of that) and could be disciplined – they would dominate the earth. I believe it would be easier for them to acquire the necessary strength than for them to subject themselves to the necessary discipline.”

From such an indictment it is easy to believe that women are in not much better position to maintain a salutary home life than men. From almost every angle at which we look at home life there are to be seen serious symptoms of its decay.

Nowadays so many children are born out of the home, and left entirely to the care of mothers, that the element of mental life is constantly decreasing. The unmarried mother is not a disturbing factor here, as it is in many European countries. However, there is a growing disinclination everywhere to hold girls to the same accountability as there was a few years back. Today the unmarried mother is becoming more and more a problem to society. From the Chicago Sunday Herald of August 26, 1917, I quote the following: “the unmarried mother can scarcely be said to have won the approval of the modern world, but at least she is not greeted with the fury accorded her predecessors.”

Illegitimacy. – Dr. Werner of Columbia University recalls the fact that before the present war there were born in Germany 177,000 illegitimate children annually; in France, 80,000; in England, 38,000; in Sweden, 18,000; in little Norway, 5,000. In American cities the illegitimate birthrate is said to be about 3 percent of the total, but this is counterbalanced by the high divorce rate of one divorce to every twelve marriages.

Illegitimacy is now not only widespread, but a general effort is being made to eliminate the disgrace which attaches to the unmarried mother and to her child.

The Norwegian law of 1915, which aimed at giving every legitimate child two legal parents, inspired the recent Illinois attempt to deal with the situation. During 1913 France repealed the hard Napoleonic edict, which forbade all investigation into the paternity of children born out of wedlock.

The same social feeling itself in the abolition of the Austrian law, through which illegitimate children were excluded from family and relationship rights. The Muttershutz movement in Germany, and in Scandinavia, attempted in various legal ways to accomplish a similar end. The modern world is intent upon lessening the hardships which unmarried mothers so long endured.

The cruelties which aroused the protests of the men who saw the American revolution were, however, but a heritage of a more terrible time. Simple decapitation was considered a merciful punishment. Unmarried mothers were sometimes condemned to die on a bed of thorns. If the mother killed her child she was buried alive or drowned in a sack. If the child lived she had to undergo a humiliating church penance.

finally the world was aroused, and gradually the most savage forms of punishment were relinquished. The old laws were repealed, and toward the beginning of the nineteenth century homes of refuge and maternity houses began to appear in Europe testifying to the gradual approach of what we hope is a humane civilization. In parts of Europe today the government provides by law for the limitation of children by what is called a homeless process. Austria was not mentioned in the table above given, but it is said by public journalists that fully forty percent of its children are illegitimate. New York has recently been wrestling with the question of child birth control. A prominent woman was sent to prison because of her propaganda on that subject. The doctors had the question before them for discussion and were divided on it.

In modern cities the movement from homes to apartment houses has increased very rapidly within the past decade. Restaurants have greatly multiplied because of the increasing number of women to whom housekeeping has become an unbearable drudgery. Domestic science taught in our schools is not able to stay the movement “away from the home.” All these conditions are merely symptoms of a disease which is consuming home life. The situation is becoming so serious that thoughtful men are beginning to ask, ‘Is the home doomed?”

Dangers Outside the Home. – The sex instinct is a dominating force in all social life. It does not decrease and there is positive evidence that it is growing stronger. Will its legitimate exercise be confined as it properly should be to the home? If the home should go how shall this instinct be regulated? Will it be regulated at all? Will its exercise go on while men and women occupy separate homes? It begins to look as if illegitimate childbirth would not only be protected but encouraged as an effort to save the race. Would it be a less serious evil than race suicide? Approach the subject from any side and its perplexities increase. It seems idle to talk of any other form of marriage than monogamy. How could men be induced to marry more than one woman when they refuse the responsibility of one wife? It is a characteristic of the age to shirk responsibility. Men laugh at the thought of “a duty to marry.” In the eastern cities marriage by men before they have reached the age of 40 or 50 is very unpopular. We are told that men often marry late as a last resort. Such marriages too often mean childless homes. Women resent the charge that they are responsible for race suicide. They stoutly affirm that motherhood is after all the dearest thing to a woman’s heart. Against the dangers here described the Latter-day Saints are employing every means. Something must be done to save mankind from its own destruction. The destruction of 12,000,000 men to Europe in the war, compared with the destruction of the race through avoidable disease and prevention of life, is not so startling. When the two processes are combined it is not difficult to forecast the doom of the home. The evils of present conditions are not so menacing to the present generation as they will be to the succeeding ones. However, the world will experience in the immediate future a crisis of world sorrows and losses that will bring home to it universal calamities. There is too much of a French king’s consolation that things “will last our day.” Today we are confronted with the most wicked indifference to future generations. We seem to care absolutely nothing about the future. The sense of duty is being lost to the human race. How can he world hope to escape punishment for the sins of its own age?

Home a Burden. – Complaint is often made through public print that there is a growing callousness on the part of parents toward their children. They appear too often willing to part with them rather than with social pleasures with which children interfere. I pick up, as I write, the Chicago Sunday Tribune of August 26, 1917: “The Miller family wants to get rid of their baby,” says the paper. “Two weeks ago the parents applied to the court for leave to place their child for adoption, giving as a reason that they were unable to care for him, and also wanted to go to their home in Wausan, Wis. Mr. Miller said he is the son of a dentist in Wausan. He is employed in the wholesale establishment of Marshall Field & Co., at $12.00 a week.” they were severely reprimanded and decided to keep their child. Such conduct is a question of pleasure versus the home. What is the love for home life? The testimony is quite general that it is vanishing.


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