Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Touch of Human Kindness

Several years ago I was given a copy of a BYU education week address given/written by Elder Bruce C. Hafen and Sister Marie K. Hafen called "The Touch of Human Kindness: Women and the Moral Center of Gravity." I highly recommend you read it; it is excellent. This post summarizes some of the key points of the full article. But as a side note I can say I have personally met the Hafens, although they likely do not recall meeting me. As a BYU student I worked with the catering services and served them on many occasions. Once while manning a punch bowl the Hafens asked me a few questions about my experiences as a student. I found them to be very kind in all of my interactions with them.

"What is happening to us? We are now living through the biggest change in attitudes about family life in five centuries. An Atlantic Monthly writer believes today's massive family disintegration is part of what he calls "the Great Disruption," a wave of history as big as the shift from the age of agriculture to the Industrial Revolution some 200 years ago.2 And so today, many people are skeptical about the very idea of "belonging" to a family. After long seeing family bonds as valuable ties that bind, some now see those ties as sheer bondage.

"It feels like vast forces are eroding our foundations of personal peace, love, and human attachments. Whatever held family relationships together suddenly feels weaker now. At times it feels like a kind of ecological disaster, as if a vital organism somewhere in the environment is disappearing...

"Let's consider now four ways in which modern society has devalued that nurturing. Perhaps seeing more closely what we're losing will help us regain it..."

1. Motherhood:
"The critics who moved mothers from dependence to independence skipped the fertile middle ground of interdependence. Those who moved mothers from selflessness to selfishness skipped the fertile middle ground of self-chosen sacrifice that contributes to a woman's personal growth. Because of these excesses, debates about the value of motherhood have, ironically, caused the general society to discount not only mothers but women in general."

2. Sexual Behavior: "In the rush toward women's sexual liberation, we seem no longer to expect men to marry. So we've given up not only the double sexual standard but also the power of marriage to tame the male wanderlust. And the losers in this hasty bargaining were not men but women-and, even more so, children."

3. Marriage Bonds: "Our antimarriage culture now literally throws out our babies with the bath water of resentment toward the very idea of marital commitment. As you know, rates of divorce and illegitimacy have raged out of control for years. We live in "fatherless America," with a third of all children in this country now born out of wedlock, and over fifty percent of new marriages expected to end in divorce."

4. Nurturing Human Relationships: "If the adversary can convince LDS women to criticize each other rather than connect with and support each other, he wins the day by driving wedges into natural, womanly relationships of strength. Some of these wedges come from rigid women, who are too narrow in the degree of personal choice and diversity they will tolerate in other LDS women. At the other extreme, some wedges come from LDS women who dangle one foot in Zion and the other foot in Babylon, not wanting to be thought weird by their non-LDS friends."

Scripture of the Day: John 14:15


  1. This sounds great. Thanks for the reference. This may have some of my new favorite quotes in it.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I can't wait to read the article. They are all very important, but #4 caught my attention. I am the RS Presidency in my ward, and in on of my lessons I really tried to talk about uniting one another and be proud of other sisters accomplishments and also to lift and strengthen one another. I think this is so important and if we as women are able to this we can work miracles together.

  3. I enjoyed reading the article, but I also think it is a bit disheartening how families and womanhood are currently viewed--or at least how some people are trying to have them viewed. The UN treaty CEDAW would even eliminate the words "mother" and "motherhood" from all international documents as they are believed to be "demeaning" to women. How evil is that!? So far our senate has not ratified it but Obama supports it so that might change. I think it is good to get articles like this one you posted out in circulation as one way to fight what is happening.

    On a happier note, I too have met the Hafens. We met in Galilee in Israel as we were staying at the same hotel. They came up and started talking with us (my daughters had on BYU-Hawaii shirts). After visiting for about 20 minutes I asked him what his name was. When he told me I was embarrassed. Hey, but at least I recognized his name, even if I didn't recognize his face. :-)

  4. Does anyone have a video or audio copy of this wonderful talk? It seems to have disappeared from and the internet? Thanks, Joe


Comments are much appreciated!