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Ethics for Young Girls: Lesson 2: The Social Unit

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 18, 2012

Ethics for Young Girls

Young Woman’s Journal, 1900-1901

Lesson 2: The Social Unit

Ethics is the science of right living, yet it is a subject of which the masses of humanity know but little. The spirit of the Lord helps us to understand principles underlying the actions of men and women who live according to ethical laws. When one principle is found, which actuates many people to perform the same kind of act, we may call that principle a general motive of action, and it may be applied to most lives. Let us take a common occurrence for an illustration: Mrs. Jones nurses her baby because it is helpless; Mrs. French nurses her baby because it is helpless; another woman nurses her baby, etc.; another; another; another. From these observations, the general truth, most mothers nurse their babies because they are helpless, is obtained. This performance of duty on the part of the mother is certainly a right action; therefore, from these observations may be deduced an ethical law or principle which all mothers may apply in their lives. The statement of this law is: All mothers should nurse their babies because they are helpless.

It is the object of these lessons on ethics to give laws of right action which are the fundamental principles governing the most perfect lives.

The home is the unit of society; that is, it is the cornerstone of society. A collection of these little units, or families, form a village, town, city. A collection of towns forms a county; a number of counties, a state; a number of states, a country; countries, a continent; continents, the world; all the people in the world form what is known as society, which has its beginning in the unit family. If each of these little units works according to ethical law, society, the whole – made up of families – will very likely work according to the same law. For that reason these lessons will be upon home ethics.

At a certain period in the lives of all normal men and women, the sexes are drawn toward each other with irresistible power. What is the ethical meaning of this? It means simply that the God-given instinct to mate is developing. Why should He desire the union of the sexes? That the race may multiply and replenish the earth.

The young man and woman, after a courtship of happiness, become husband and wife. They are married for life by civil law, which is recognized by governments of all lands. They are married also by God in the Holy Temples. This marriage is binding for this life and for all eternity.

Thus with doubts and perplexities, love and faith, the little unit of society is established. Will it be a unit of peace and love?

The father, by virtue of his God-given rights, becomes the head, or authority of the home.

In each form of government throughout the world, there is but one chief authority. In Salt Lake City it is the mayor; in Utah, the governor; in the United States, the president; in England, the queen; in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the president.

When authority is divided between two heads, things do not get into working order; there is indefiniteness in work; one depends upon the other for the execution of work, and oftentimes neither does it. If you have ever worked on committees, you know how unsatisfactory are the results, unless there is a head to direct matters and apportion the work to be done.

All governments recognize the fact that divided authority is no authority; therefore one person is placed at the head of each department or government.

The same principle holds true in the home; and for that reason God placed husband at the head of the family, and He tells us that we should obey our husbands in righteousness.

As soon as young wives recognize this principle as an ethical law, much of the friction between husband and wife will vanish.

The husband of a strongminded woman once told her that her mother must be sent from his home. What a grief that was to her only a dutiful daughter can know.

It had always been a principle in her life that she must do as her husband desired, so she complied with her husband’s wish, and thereby preserved the unity of the home. Two years after, the husband saw his error and sent for his mother-in-law, and she is now a beloved member of his family. What the results would have been had she not complied with his wishes, we can all imagine.

As these talks are for young girls we will not treat more definitely of ethical relations of husband and wife, but will pass on to the relations between other members of the family. In general terms, however, it may be said, the right relations between husband and wife are based upon the following ethical principles: Trust, confidence, charity, justice; mellowing and beautifying these are love and sympathy.

Questions.

1. Define ethics as found in dictionaries.
2. What is your definition of ethics?
3. Name five social organizations based on ethics (e.g., the church, school).
4. Do parents ever cease to have authority in the home?
5. Name five duties wives owe their husbands.
6. Name five duties husbands owe their wives.
7. What is law as given in encyclopedias?
8. What is your idea of law?
9. Who is the chief authority in the home? The school? The ward? The state? The Young Ladies’ meetings?
10. What is one duty young ladies owe their presidents? One duty officers in Young Ladies’ meetings owe their presidents?
11. Name one duty that you all owe to those in authority over you.
12. What is the meaning of the word principle?
12. In order that a principle may become a factor in your lives, what must you do in regard to it?



8 Comments »

  1. The same principle holds true in the home; and for that reason God placed husband at the head of the family, and He tells us that we should obey our husbands in righteousness.

    As soon as young wives recognize this principle as an ethical law, much of the friction between husband and wife will vanish.

    My mom really tried to hammer this into me before I got married. Last year. It surprises me how much staying power this idea has.

    The husband of a strongminded woman once told her that her mother must be sent from his home. What a grief that was to her only a dutiful daughter can know.

    It had always been a principle in her life that she must do as her husband desired, so she complied with her husband’s wish, and thereby preserved the unity of the home. Two years after, the husband saw his error and sent for his mother-in-law, and she is now a beloved member of his family. What the results would have been had she not complied with his wishes, we can all imagine.

    Uhhh…?!

    Comment by E. Wallace — May 18, 2012 @ 7:36 am

  2. That was interesting, wasn’t it? Presiding as a matter of efficiency, without the slightest thought as to why, if there needs to be a head-of-household for efficiency, that head must be the man. It’s just taken for granted. And with these lessons being presented in almost a secular fashion, without any reference to priesthood or eternal-nature-of-gender or anything! (I’m not wanting to argue the rightness or wrongness of anything, just noting that the conclusion is the same, regardless of supporting “evidence,” then and now.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 18, 2012 @ 7:45 am

  3. That was fascinating. How glad I’m wasn’t born longer ago. Reading it was uncomfortable, but I’m glad about that. The story of the husband unilaterally sending away the wife’s mother especially interesting. The fact that the writer just asserted that the outcome would have been terrible had the wife protested or had and sway or influence over the husband is something that is really hard for me get the mindset of. I do know marriages that work like that now and what I know if them from the outside it is not good. I’m glad we live in different times. Thanks for posting this.

    Comment by Dovie — May 18, 2012 @ 9:41 am

  4. There’s something I’ve always wondered about. I know a family with about 12 kids. The oldest is a girl, and the second is a boy. They gave the boy a nickname that means boss. They intended from the first that the oldest boy would be the leader of the children and preside throughout life. The oldest girl was “under” him, only because he was a boy. She grew up taking orders from him as they groomed him to be the head.

    This has always bothered me. Why would he be the head of the children? It’s not a calling or covenant or anything except “boys rule”.

    He was a great leader, but the premise seems wrong to me.

    Comment by Carol — May 18, 2012 @ 10:17 am

  5. One of the reasons this is so uncomfortable for me to read is because it is so poorly written. This writer could have benefitted from some committee review (which he despises) before publication. Even running it past my twelve-year-old would have helped a great deal.

    I’m especially bewildered by his (I assume it is a man) “statement of a law” produced by the ridiculous logic about mothers nursing babies because they are helpless.

    Also, since when do “all governments recognize the fact that divided authority is no authority?” Isnt it a basic principle upon which the US was constituted that authority must be divided in order to protect the people?

    Comment by Diana — May 18, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  6. When authority is divided between two heads, things do not get into working order; there is indefiniteness in work; one depends upon the other for the execution of work, and oftentimes neither does it.

    So in other words, the man presides and the woman does all the work???

    As soon as young wives recognize this principle as an ethical law, much of the friction between husband and wife will vanish.

    Yeah, there’s nothing like having an entirely subservient slave at your beck and call.

    Name five duties husbands owe their wives.

    Evidently his first and greatest duty is to treat his wife like that afore-mentioned slave.

    Comment by Researcher — May 18, 2012 @ 11:40 am

  7. I probably should note the sex of all previous commenters and stay out of this!

    But . . .

    Why do mothers nurse their babies? I always figured there were two reasons: (1) babies get hungry; and (2) they’d all starve to death if their fathers nursed them.

    As to the mother-in-law story–I think the scriptural injunction to leave father and mother and cleave to spouse can be made applicable to both husband and wife, even though the verse in Genesis speaks only to the man. That’s good enough reason for both spouses to agree to set up housekeeping away from both set of parents. Now there might be perfect harmony in the home in the example, but it’s hard to imagine that the mother-in-law’s thumb doesn’t ride the scale once in a while.

    And now, excuse me while I go boss around my wife, in order that peace and love might abound.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 18, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

  8. Sorry for the late response, but I just read this and almost choked on my lunch. I tried to read it from the context of society in 1900 and the people I knew who were alive at that time.

    First impression – within the church, this shortly follows the rescission of polygamy. This lesson could be aimed at many young women who are now in exiled families where the head of the family is often absent. I have a great deal of respect for those single parent mothers who had to support themselves and take care of everything and then pretend to be dependent when hubby showed up.

    Second impression – like Diana, I was surprised at the lack of acknowledgment of any other branch of government. OTOH, maybe the author was just prescient about how giving congress any power can bring things to a complete stop.

    Thirdly – this strongly encourages complete and unquestioned obedience to every head all the way up the line. How might this attitude have played into upcoming world wars where such havoc comes from just following the leader? How is it to be interpretted relative to the progressive movements and the calling for voting rights that were ongoing in society? Or, how did it impact the formative years of men who would ultimately become leaders of the church?

    And, oh, yeah, that thing about nursing mothers was just bizarre.

    Comment by charlene — May 22, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

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