Is your community mostly LDS (Mormon)? Do your children have any non-LDS friends? Do you have any non-LDS family members? If so, how do you teach your children to interact with those non-LDS classmates / family? If not, how are you exposing them to people of other faiths? I ask because one of the things I love about reading your blog is how church and life seem to intersect so well- and I have found that to be the case with many LDS friends – they truly socialize and participate in the church throughout the week. Whereas, for many, church is just on Sunday and does not seep into the “rest” of life. However, the flip side of that is that the LDS communities can sometimes seem very insular to those outside the faith. What are your thoughts, and how to do you maintain a balance?

Growing up we moved around a lot.  I remember feeling different when we moved from Utah (predominantly LDS) to Virginia (where we were the only LDS kids at our school).  I liked having the opportunity to be different and to stand up for what I believed at times.  I liked being the only Mormon and explaining my beliefs to my friends, as well as learning all about theirs.  I remember living in Boston in college thinking to myself that I’d love to raise my family in a diverse community.  I genuinely like to talk about my religion as well as being exposed to others.  There are so many faithful, wonderful people out there.

But here we are in a pocket of the desert with a whole slew of LDS people.  And I love it.  We are surrounded by people with wonderful values and our kids have friends I couldn’t choose better if I tried.  BUT it is so much more difficult to branch out of our religion here, and I want that for my kids.  You are right, Mormon church and life do intersect so well.  We see each other on Sunday, we have meetings mid-week, we visit teach each other and home teach each other.  It is wonderful but it does make it more difficult to branch out. 

Dave and I really encourage our kids to reach out to all the kids in their classes.  They all have good friends who are not of our same faith and we adore them.  But we should do better at this.  I would so love to live in a more diverse area for so many reasons.  But we are also trying to “bloom where we’re planted.”  We do feel like we are meant to be in this area and we are so happy here.  We just have to be more proactive about helping our kids see the wonderful and diverse differences that we can find.

I would love to know what you do on Sunday to make it a special day,
other than going to church. Do you have certain things you do or don’t
do.  How old were your kids when you started teaching them that Sunday is
a special day? 

I think as parents we set the spirit in our home on Sunday so if we treat it reverently, our children will as well.  I don’t think it’s something you “start teaching,” rather just something you live.  We’ve tried a myriad of things to reiterate the importance of Sundays and always keep re-working.  One of the most important things I tell my kids is what my Dad showed me in the scriptures long, long ago:  “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).  Sunday is a gift.  Not just a day full of rules and things you “can’t” do, but a precious gift of time to do things to re-connect with God.

I think the biggest thing that helps is when I put on Sunday, classical, beautiful music on all day.  It makes the feeling in our home so different from every other day when the kids have all kinds of other music blasting through.

We always have our Family Home Evening on Sunday as well (we do our activity on Monday night, but lesson and “family business” after church on Sunday).  More about our Family Home Evenings here.  I love that that gives us more of an opportunity for “together time.”  We also do our Family Testimony Meetings on Fast Sundays and I have to say that I adore “Fasting Club.”

Another thing that sets apart Sundays is that we cook together in the kitchen a bunch too.  (see this post)

Please do not think we are perfect on Sunday because we are SO not.  There is fighting.  There is whining. There is “checking the scores” on important sports games.  But we do really try to set apart that gift of a day to be together, to renew our covenants with God, and to plan for the week and to work on becoming more of who God wants us to be.

I was thinking of you as I was sitting in church, this past Sunday. I was watching the family in front of me, two parents and 5 kids (ages: 4yrs – 15yrs.) The parents were sitting on the ends of the pew, with all the kids in between them. I know you’ve mentioned how Dave is your #1, but did you sit next to him in church when the kids were younger? Do you sit next to him now? (when he’s not traveling, of course) I felt so terrible for the Mom who had to do all the work of watching the two youngest kids. Meanwhile the Dad sat contently; unphased, listening to the speakers.

The goal is always to sit together because I like Dave…a lot.  But when our kids were younger sometimes I would laugh because we were that family you mentioned…three kids were piled on my lap and two clamoring next to me and Dave was sitting thoughtfully listening to the speaker.  There have been other times when Dave’s the one being mauled by the kids.  We just do what works, and I sure like it when it works out that I can link my arm with his and listen thoughtfully to the words of wisdom being shared.

I wonder if you and your family, being LDS, are in favor of the type of “family” portrayed in “Sister Wives” – that is, where one husband is “married” to 4 or 5 wives and has multiple children by each of them. Are they just a rogue “sect” of LDS that is not accepted by the “mainstream” LDS adherents? How would you feel if one of your children decided to enter into that type of lifestyle? Would you accept their choice?  I just can’t get past the moral (or actually) immoral aspects of having multiple “partners” – even if all parties are consenting adults. I still see it as something that God would not be pleased with. Your thoughts please.

Absolutely not.  I have never seen that show, so I’m not entirely sure what religion that is, but it is not LDS.  There are lots of break-away religions that believe in polygamy, but the Mormon church discontinued polygamy in 1890.  Read much more about that here (along with other Mormon responses on the topic).  One of my very most favorite things about my religion is how important family is, as well as marriage with one man and one woman.  Read about the “Family Proclamation” here.  (I LOVE THE FAMILY PROCLAMATION 🙂

How do you address modesty? I have 5 kids and two of them are girls.
So far, we haven’t had a problem with teaching modesty, but I’m a little
anxious for when my oldest reaches her teenage years and has friends
who may push limits.

I have a favorite video about this that I LOVE.  I don’t want to sit and tell my kids “you can do this, you can’t do this,” etc.  I want to explain things and let them make decisions.  Obviously as parents of young children we make the decisions…we buy the clothes, the food, we all go to church together, etc.  But I hope that as our kids grow Dave and I can help them make decisions that will ultimately make them happy.  Max and Elle are already making such good ones.  If we explain why we love when they choose modest clothing the whole “big picture” makes so much more sense than when we just set rules and that’s the end.

Anyway, this video is AWESOME.  Click here for the link, then click on that little “watch video” thing up in the right corner.

My 14-year-old daughter has been dating this boy for the last month.
They are pretty steady and when I saw your post for valentine’s day and I
saw your reaction when Elle got a nice attention
{in this post}, I wondered what you
think about this. We are LDS and even thought I keep reminding her that
maybe this isn’t the right thing to do
{in the Mormon (LDS) religion youth are strongly encouraged to wait ’til they are 16 to date}, she says that it makes her

Max and Elle have had crushes on other kids, and they sometimes hang out together in humongous groups, but never alone and at this point wouldn’t be caught dead calling anyone a boyfriend or girlfriend.  If they did want to “date” at this point I think I would again go back to talking about the “big picture” and whip out our little Strength of Youth booklet (click here to see it…oh man can I just say how much I LOVE these youth standards?) and talk about WHY Heavenly Father would encourage those kinds of dating relationships to wait for a while. 

My kids are still young, so I still have a lot to learn on this topic.  I’m sure this reader would love advice from anyone out there who would be willing to share it.


I’m so happy people ask about my religion aned I’m happy to share.  Please keep the questions coming if you still have them.  I wanted to also point out a new website that has been put together by conscientious, experienced members of the church (including my parents) who are worried that media and external sources are defining the church rather than the actual members.  Because Mitt Romney is running for President, the church gets hundreds of media requests every day.  This brand new site defines Mormonism by it’s members.

The site is here.  Click on “facts” and “answers” first if that interests you, and then go to “defining the church” to read what people have put in so far.  If you are so inclined and are LDS please feel free to add your own definition of Mormonism.

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  1. This was really insightful with links to good information! I've been so impressed with your family and intrigued by LDS and this clarified my questions. Thank you for being open, thoughtful and forthcoming! Have a great weekend!

  2. I continue to amaze myself that I am drawn to blogs written by members of the Church of LDS, and have enjoyed reading yours for awhile! I am not LDS (Catholic), but grew up in a community with a large following, and many of my friends were members. Consequently, I spent a lot of my time at the church myself! I couldn't agree with the 1st poster more, in that what is truly appealing is the intersection of religion and everyday, family life. Thank you for your perspective.

  3. Thank you so much for your blog! I am really inspired by your family and hopefully one day I'll be able to do half as good a job as you do haha 🙂

  4. I'm a non-practicing Christian (Catholic actually) and need to thank you for your post and link! I had a whole different view about Mormons so it's great to read all this. I love how the emphasis of your religion is on family, and being open and accepting.

    As a bit a of curiosity, do many people of your church have big families like yours? Yes, 5 children is big to me. It's just curiosity, hope you don't mind!

    I have a few more questions, but I'll ask them another day! Thanks again, and I do look forward reading more about you and your family!

  5. You did a great job of answering this week's Q&A.

    Just a few questions about Sundays – Do you play sports on a Sunday? Also, how do you make it mainly a family-centred day, what do you do for example if your Children's friends ask them to play out on a Sunday? (I think in the UK we don't mix with with our neighbours all that much)

    What fo you do (or did) if your children play up in sacrament meeting? Also, at what age do you encourage to sit through the meeting without colouring

    Hope you're having a nice holiday at Bear Lake:)

  6. In response to the comment above the has some great audio conversations on 'Gospel Solutions for the Family' & I found an Awesome one about Reverence in sacrament. (sorry can't figure out how to post the link using my phone).I feel like I'm becoming a better parent listening to those & of coarse reading your blog Shawni 😉 P.s. I remember you saying awhile ago that you feel you want to move somewhere a lot where there's more diversity. I found that funny because I read your blog & think I'd like to live somewhere like that a really awesome community with lots of good people who share your standards. You don't have to be on edge so much about who your kids are associating with at school. I have an almost 4 yr old & I'm scared to death of sending him to school because I hear all the bad rough things that kids in out neighborhood say & do & we live in a pretty hood neighborhood. It's just the culture here. Anyway just thought it was interesting that the grass is always greener hey 🙂

  7. My husband grew up LDS, and all of his sisters still are. I have to say, of all the people in the world the LDS families in our area, my sister in laws, and from what I see in your family, you all are the most genuine, family oriented, and just all around wonderful people to be around. Growing up in the "bible belt" here in TX and being a Christian, that's something I wish I could say more about our faith. The LDS faith, dedication, and family orientation are such amazing standards to bring a family up in. I look to you all as I raise our little family. Thank you for all of your encouragement and dedication to your faith and family!

  8. As a person who values family and faith, I love reading your blog and learning more about your faith. I think your religion sounds so great, I hope to raise my little family with the same values and your blog is so helpful.

  9. You are doing a great work, my dear! Thank you for your example of honesty, faithfulness, and just trying to do what's right. It is making a difference to those you are associating with (seen and unseen). Keep it up!

  10. Maybe one of the reasons you love the "one many one woman" definition of marriage so much is because you live in a community where you see how great that arrangement is all around you each and every day. I live in much more diverse bay area and can say I love "one woman one woman" and "one man one man" marriages also and see so many inspiring examples of wonderful kinds of families. Our boys have great friends whose parents are the same gender. I'm sorry your kids don't; I bet it would change your perspective if you had that in your life since you have such a big, open heart.

  11. What would you do if one of your kids turned out to be homosexual? Where do you stand on the homosexual equality matter, and what do you teach your kids about it?

  12. Thanks for your great answers and lovely example. I am LDS (even live in in your city) and enjoy reading your great answers to questions like these. Have a great weekend.

  13. Thank you for your wonderful insights in family life. I think your family and the standards you raise them to are beautiful and having read a lot about the LDS faith, I really think most of the standards are exactly what is needed in this world.
    Nevertheless, I found it quite disturbing to read what the LDS church has to say about homosexuality. Homosexuality is not a desease or sickness and does not need to be cured.
    Anyway, thank you for being such an inspiration!

  14. It's nappy time in our home and I had looked forward all day to reading your q&a post. I am a mom of 4.5 all very small and 3 of which are silly & loud &adorable boys. I sometimes feel overwhelmed at the task of raising my little army of missionaries. Your posts are so encouraging & inspiring. They make me feel like yes…I can do this. I just wanted to thank you. I also was wondering what music you play on Sundays my husband & I feel as though we have warn out our usuals / favorites for the sabbath day..that they no longer hold the magical powers of calmness in the early hours before church.

  15. Loved this post. Isn't it great that we don't all have to agree with each other regarding religion, sexual orientation, race etc and can still be kind and understanding of each others choices?

    You are an amazing woman to have put these views "out there" and I hope others will continue to respect your views as I know you do theirs.

    Enjoy your summer!;)

  16. My question was featured and I can't help but feel so cool!! (especially since I love your blog and count myself amongst your numerous readers) By the way, I was at "Mormon Night at the Padres" a few weeks ago, here in San Diego. As I was walking to my seat, I saw a rather tall gentleman with a very pretty wife and small children in tow. I kept looking at him because he looked very familiar, like I knew him from somewhere (college? mission field? church?etc)…and then it dawned on me. It was your brother, Noah. I think this is what happens when I read your blog faithfully…..I start thinking I know your family, in real lifew. 🙂

  17. I know you allow your kids to have sleepovers on special occasions, but when those sleepovers happen are they only in your own home? What is your take on sleepovers at other family members homes (Aunts, Cousins, Grandparents, etc.)? If you do allow them to go to family members homes over night at what age did you start letting them? My daughter is only 2 and my mother in law already wants her to start spending the night with her 4 year old cousin at her house. My husband thinks it's perfectly fine, but I really don't feel comfortable with it for a few reasons but especially because she is so young.

  18. I am not sure if you know that two of the ads on your blog are from the Obama campaign against Mitt Romney and his view on planned parenting and Roe vs. Wade. I don't want to jump to conclusions about your politics and I am not sure what control you have over your blogger ads but I just thought I would let you know.

  19. Hi Shawni

    I have been reading your blog for a while now and I absolutely love it.

    I first started browsing for the photography and now I love it for the content.

    I am not LDS so I am super thankful that you posted this as it cleared up a massive misconception for me.

    There is some stuff I'm not sure I'm convinced of regarding LDS but what I do know is that I love the values. Especially the importance placed on family. I often discuss this with people and they always end up cracking a joke about 'sister wives'. Up until now I have never had a valid reply to their comments. After reading this post I will confidently be able to advise them that polygamy was outlawed in 1890.

    Although I don't see myself converting to LDS any time soon I do enjoy learning about it as there are parts of the religion that I really admire. Thanks for a great Q & A post.

    PS. After writing this I went back to read the existing comments to see if I wanted to add anything that had been mentioned there. Although the 'conversation' got a little bit out of hand with regard to the homosexuality issue I would be interested in hearing your views on some of the points raised if you are willing to share them – especially that one about the civil ceremony penality. I hadn't heard about that one (I do not live in the US) so would be interested to hear the rationale behind it.

  20. "There are lots of break-away religions that believe in polygamy, but the Mormon church discontinued polygamy in 1890. Read much more about that here (along with other Mormon responses on the topic). "

    Shawni, I think the link ("here") is messed up. It goes to another post on your blog. Could you edit/repost it? I'd be interested in reading LDS responses to polygamy.


  21. I have erased a few of the comments here because this blog is not the place where I'd like to harbor hostile arguments!

    I did replace the link on polygamy that I had put in wrong. Hope that helps.

  22. Sad. Didn't put anything particularly hostile here! But anyways, the only points I wanted to make originally was that I like that Mormonism doesn't believe in original sin and emphasizes family a lot.

    As for the polygamy thing, it's in the Bible. We don't practice anymore. We also don't marry our cousins or sell our daughters. I don't understand why it's so hard for people to grasp that Mormons have also abandoned certain practices.

    I'm a Modern Orthodox Jew and I live in the Gilbert area (high LDS population) and I have yet to have a conversation with a member who doesn't sound preachy (which is why I typically avoid them)! So good job and thanks for the insight!

  23. Wow, really interesting and you thoughtfully answered a lot of my questions I have had. I think its great that you encourage your kids to accept and reach out to others that are from different religious backgrounds. I am a Christian but have a huge amount of respect for Mormons, sounds like you guys have some pretty fantastic values.

    I am 22 and I also think its great that you are encouraging your daughter to hold off on dating. I wish my mom had encouraged me more to do that. Plenty of time later on in life to deal with boys!

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