Annual Fathers Conference - Not Priesthood Session of General Conference

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds a general conference session for men* in conjunction with their Semiannual General Conference. At the request of a friend, I recently took the opportunity to attend an Annual Fathers Conference sponsored by a group that partners with dads. The Fathers Conference ran from 8:45 am to 3 pm (the men's session of conference runs for two hours). The Fathers Conference was quite a bit more liberal than the Mens Conference of the Mormon Church; however, I was surprised by the similarity of topics presented at both. Below I discuss the Mormon Mens Conference (also called the Priesthood Session of Conference, the most recent of which was October 2009 - the videos are available here) along with topics presented and then I review the Fathers Conference and conclude by describing one of the classes in detail while contrasting the Mormon world view with what was taught.

During the Mormon Mens Conference millions of Mormon men across the world gather at churches to listen to speakers from the Church's leadership. This group of men, ages 12 and up, receive a wide variety of advice. Including topics such as:

  • Advice to strengthen the relationships between Fathers, Mothers, Sons and Daughters

  • Helping children achieve their potential as competent adults

  • Recommendations on how to be prepared for emergencies

  • Advice on priorities and time management

  • Principles of surviving in a tough economy

  • Anger Management Principles

  • Suggestions on how to use technology wisely in the home

  • Direction on the signs of abuse

  • Information about divorce

  • Reminders on the standards of sexual purity

  • Recommendations to aspire to as much education as possible (including technical training)

  • and much more...

At the Tenth Annual Midwest Fathers Conference there were four Workshop Sessions with sixteen different classes (perhaps I should state here that this conference is not associated with any religious group). I estimate there were about 120 men in attendance. I will include the titles of the classes and in paranthesis a description, if needed:

  • The Child is Father to Man: Fathers and Sons Together (Using the hero's journey as a guide to raising a son)

  • Fathers Forum (a discussion group)

  • Anatomy of a Divorce (Legal issues)

  • Fantastic Father: The Seven Traits of a Great Dad

  • Twenty-First Century Elders (Grandparent's involvement)

  • Dads and Daughters

  • Getting to Yes by Saying No

  • Taming Technology in Your Home

  • Stress and Emotional Management for Fathers (Including anger management)

  • Fathers and Daughters: Building a Relationship for Life

  • My Dad, My Teacher

  • What Do I Say Now? (Answering questions about sexual development and reproduction)

  • Navigating Divorce Without Losing Your Sanity

  • Take the Kids to the Park or Mow the Lawn? Time Management for Dads

  • Fathers Facing Challenges Together

I find it interesting that the topics are quite similar. Mormons don't claim to have a monopoly on truth as found in the article of faith that states "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things". I attended four workshop sessions and enjoyed each. The most interesting of which was What Do I Say Now? taught by a sex education teacher from the local school district.

I knew I was in for a different experience when I entered the classroom with only 14 people in the room and a packet on the table titled, "SEX is not a dirty word: Talking to your children about sex directly impacts their decision-making about sexual activity". I took a deep breath and sat down. I was by far the youngest father in the group and from what I know I had the youngest children.

The teacher's approach was very direct. She quoted some studies that showed communization on this topic is still lacking. And that "kids who feel they can talk with their parents about sex are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors as teens than kids who do not feel they can talk with their parents about the subject." The teacher encouraged us as Fathers to explore our feelings about sex by writing a letter to your child. The title of the letter states:
Think about your values, thoughts, and experiences regarding sex. Write a letter
to your child about sexual curiosity, self-respect, healthy decision making, and
physical and emotional consequences. Reflect on the idea that your child is a
miracle, of infinite worth, unique, and entitled to respect.

I thought this was a sound idea. Why not figure out my own stand on these issues so that I am prepared to answer questions as my children have them?

She continued by describing the following age appropriate discussion highlights:
When your child is young, talk about love and relationships. Talk about
respecting other people and respecting yourself.
When your son or daughter becomes a pre-teen, you should talk about puberty,
your values on dating, and honor their interest or disinterest in human

When your son or daughter is a teenager, the conversation continues. And you
should keep talking as he or she gets older about sex, relationships, and making
healthy choices. Feelings about sex, discuss responsiblities and consequences
that come from being sexually active, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted
To conclude she had the group work on Pressure Lines and Refusal Skills. Her premise was that if we don't give our children the skills to refuse then it will be more difficult to do so. I include the instructions from the excercise.

Instructions: Preson A wants to have sex, Person B does not want to risk pregnancy or disease in any way and does not want to have sex. Work with your group to come up with an effective next line in this dialogue and then pass the sheet to the next group. Please write clearly so others can read your handwriting.
Person A: "Let's just do it and get it over with. If we're careful, we shouldn't have anything to worry about."
Person B:
Person A:
Person B:
Person A:
Person B:

In the end, I thought it was a pretty good experience. I have some new ideas about how to talk with my own children -especially the concept of practicing refusal skills. Anyway, I will be writing up a letter to think through this topic and to be prepared for when my children are ready to learn. Mr. Boyd Packer wrote:
One of the major difficulties, and one of the monumental dangers, of sex
education courses in public schools is that they disregard this significant
principle of teaching. They tell all before the youngster is ready, and in so
doing, they often wreak havoc with the spiritual, emotional, and moral stability
of the students. They open them to great jeopardy. Things should be done in the
season thereof, and there is a time for all things. A wise teacher and a wise
parent will be alert to that fact.
At the conclusion of the What Do I Say Next? class, the question that went unanswered was how much to tell the child and when. Fortunately, as parents if we prepare ourselves and nurture our children we should be available to answer any questions our children have.

A review of literature from the mid 1970s reveals that a large debate had occured about sex education - specifically if it should be presented in the home or at school? There are articles from Gordon B. Hinckley and many others about sex education and how parents should be responsible to teach their children. An article that was most helpful was written in July of 1975 by a Victor Brown, Jr. titled Two Views of Sexuality.

Most interestingly, both the sex education teacher and Brown agree that children should know the appropriate terms for both sexes, parents should model appropriate affection for each other, and to begin age appropriate discussions with your children at an early age. The Family Home Evening Manual includes some good instructions on what to teach (it even includes anatomically correct words, read it here. Also, LightPlanet has some great information here.

The Fathers Conference and the Priesthood Session in conference held quite a few similarities. If you are a parent with children, how have you organized the teaching of Chastity to your children?

* Please note their is a Womens conference a couple weeks before the general conference.

1 comment:

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