/> a mother's heart » Blog Archive » vision forum, patriarchy, and FLDS? oh my! part 8 (final)

I have been studying, reading, and contemplating this series for a few weeks now, and despite my nervousness at publishing it, I think it’s an important topic.  I include it on my blog because this group is infiltrating homeschooling communities across the country and not representing themselves accurately Biblically.  Please feel free to comment; if you disagree with me, that’s fine – but keep your comments clean, polite, and respectful.  Those who don’t will find their comments deleted at my discretion.  –Sue

If you’re new here and want to start at the beginning of this series, start reading here.

So Is VF a Christian Group?

The jury is still out on this one.  There are tenets of Christian faith (it is a Calvinist-based Dominionist offshoot), but the majority of Biblical scholars consider the group to be heretical.  The preponderance of emphasis placed on Old Testament living, laws, and ideas that are specific to the group (in some ways, almost secretive) not supported/refuted by New Testament scripture places it squarely in the “gnostic-type” heretical category.  Gnostics, just as a refresher, were an offshoot in the early first century who said (among other things) that they had a “special knowledge” that set them apart and made them “more Christian” than other Christ-followers.

What is appealing about joining a group like this?  I’ve pondered this one for some time now and can come up with one of three scenarios:

  1. The husband in the relationship is a control-freak who, based on his past and the baggage he brings to the relationship, needs absolute control over all circumstances in his life in order to feel secure.  The wife he marries will either marry him unknowingly (i.e., he keeps the control-side hidden during courtship) or comes from a chatoic background and sees his ability to be controlling as a “calming influence” in her life, one that’s a welcomed-change.
  2. The husband in the situation has an inferiority-complex and is drawn to the Patriarchal idea that the husband is always right, is never wrong, and can have absolute control over his family.  He might have abuse in his background that led him to feel this way, or have grown up with authoritarian parents who stripped him of all ability to make wise choices in his life, leaving him feeling as though he will never measure up.  His wife might play in to his inferiority complex by being particularly strong (or even abusive), and he sees this as an opportunity to “take control of his life.”
  3. The couple is drawn in, incrementally, to the structure and comfort of “old world values” that VF/IBLP seems to provide.  The catalogs and seminars are rife with imagery of pre-Industrial-Revolution America; a time when rebellion in teenagers and families falling apart was less-common (and/or less-publicized).  The husband might not have any baggage and this might be a joint-decision for he and his wife.  They may not have a huge amount of Biblical knowledge and put themselves at the mercy of the Bill Gothards and Doug Phillips of the movement, not understanding how things are being twisted out of context and warped beyond what God intended.  Like many groups that seek to promote a “counter-culture existence,” there’s a strong sense of camaraderie and belonging, and if in the group long enough, evidence of “shunning” for those who choose to leave.  This is oftentimes powerful motivation to “stay within the folds” and continue in this lifestyle, even if it’s not working for the family unit.

There are probably other extenuating circumstances and ways people get involved in VF/IBLP, but I think these are the major reasons.  Is abuse at the heart of every man who chooses to lead his family in patriarchial theology?  I don’t think it’s quite that dastardly.  But sometimes pride is a big stumbling block to admitting that one has gone down a wrong path, and someone without a desire to be abusive will continue on the path simply because it’s embarrassing or too humbling to make a U-turn.

So why did I spend all of this time writing about this?  Why did I focus so much on this heretical sect?  Partially because their words about debt, children, and values is so enticing.  Partially because their influence is hitting the homeschooling community hard right now.  And partially because my heart absolutely aches for women in this type of group.  They have little hope, little joy, and many burdens.  Their men are “faultless,” and they bear the brunt for everything wrong in their marriages and families.  I want them to know, even if it’s through words of a friend who might read this:  this isn’t all there is to life with God.  He has SO much more for you than this. If even one woman glimpses hope and finds strength to leave this sect, it’s worth it to me.  If even one person reads this and is dissuaded from getting further involved in VF and their political agenda, it’s worth it.

The things of God are not as burdensome as the things of man.  Ever.  If you doubt me, that’s fine – but give benefit of doubt to the Man Who said it (oh yeah, and He rose from the dead, so go with Him anyhow):

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

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  • jeanette

    ok-hope my tone comes thru properly in this comment! I don’t want you to think I’m being combative or argumentative…cuz I hope you know that’s not my way….

    one thing I really appreciated about our former pastor is that he would preach on a passage of Scripture and then say -don’t take my word for it ~research it yourself..see if you come up with the same conclusions! and he would give us reference after reference of scholars or books that he had consulted as well as original meanings of words in the passage. I really enjoyed doing the research myself and seeing if I agreed with him or not. :)

    I totally believe and trust that you have thoroughly researched this topic :) ..and because I’m familiar with some of it already, I’m in agreement with some of your conclusions….BUT, can you post what books/sites/etc you did your research from? I think it’s definitely important information or all of us to research!!

    As I already msg’d you, we are really interested in the information you posted about Ken Ham and his views…as we’ve been a fan of his for years.

    Thanks my friend!

  • http://www.mamasheartblog.com sue

    You beat me to the punch, Jeanette!

    I was just thinking this morning that I need to post a follow-up with my sources!

    Instead of that, I’ll post them here – I kind of feel like making another separate post might be beating a dead horse. 😉

    _Passionate Housewives Desperate for God_, Jennie Chancey & Stacey Macdonald, Vision Forum, Inc., 2007

    _Escape_, Carolyn Jessop, Broadway, 2008

    _Under the Banner of Heaven_, Jon Krakauer, Anchor, 2004

    _A Matter of Basic Principles_, Veinot, Veinot, & Henzel, Midwest Christian Outreach, 2003

    http://nolongerquivering.com/ (patriarchy/VF/IBLP info)

    http://www.quiveringdaughters.com/ (patriarchy/VF info)

    http://www.thatmom.com/ (patriarchy/VF info)

    http://jensgems.wordpress.com/ (personal experience w/ Doug Phillips)

    http://whitewashedfeminist.wordpress.com/ (VF info)


    http://www.tulipgirl.com/ (info on the Pearls)

    http://whynottrainachild.com/ (info on the Pearls)

    Theological conclusions drawn from my training at Asbury Seminary, MA, 1995

  • Carrie

    Really, really enjoyed this series, Sue. Lots to think about.

  • http://www.mamasheartblog.com sue

    Thanks, Carrie. I really appreciate the feedback!

  • http://www.jennylynnbabington.blogspot.com Jenny Babington

    Thank you so much for the courage to write all this. In my circles it seems that it is women who are first drawn to this teaching and bring it to their families rather than men. I have found that odd considering the teaching is so oppressive to women. Have you noticed the same trend at all and if so why do you think that is?

  • http://www.mamasheartblog.com sue

    Jenny –

    It IS oppressive to women, but I think part of why you might notice this trend has to do with what Staci Eldredge calls “the cry of a feminine heart.” So many women are tired of carrying the feminine AND masculine roles in their families – largely b/c so many of the husbands have abdicated their Biblical role and are happy to let someone else steer the ship. Maybe they weren’t taught how important it is, or maybe there’s something else that holds them back, but I think some women (many?) are drawn to this b/c it promises to give their feminine hearts and desires a chance to be just that and to goad the man in the family to pick up his responsibilities.

    Just a hunch, but having been in a place for much of my married life of having to make decisions for both of us (and thankfully no longer being in that place), I know I would’ve appreciated anything that would have promised to move my husband in to a place of responsibility.

  • I bought it…

    I’m the one who brought this into our home. I desperately wanted to be a “good” Christian, Wife, Mother, and homeschooler. I was absolutely drawn into the idea that I could become a “real woman” & my husband would “step up” and be a “real man”. In first reading so much of it sounds wonderful. I even felt enormous guilt for years that our quiver was not and never would be “full” (sterilization after multiple miscarriages).

    Like you said, when I really dug deep and read the Scripture they quote in context (or realize it is of the Law abolished by Christ’s death) I realized how unbiblical and lacking in His Grace it is.

    I praise God that my hubby really is an amazing husband and father – sans plumbing line! And that I learned that where I am is where He wants me. 😀

    Thank you for so eloquently expounding in a way I could not.

  • http://www.mamasheartblog.com sue

    You brought tears to my eyes with this comment, my friend. And I’m with you 100% on the crux of your note – God has given you the child(ren) He wants you to have, put you where He wants you, and has blessed you with a husband who loves you & your family. You are where you are meant to be. Revel in that freedom!

    May God continue to bless you in spades for your willingness to search the Word and find His plan for freedom in Christ!

    Your sister in faith,

  • bethany

    thank you SO much for writing this series. i recently left the church i grew up in as i discovered through much study that many of their teachings werem’t biblical. i then started attending a wonderful family-integrated church. unfortunately, the people there are huge fans of the pearls, vf, above rubies and other similar organizations. fortunately i was already aware of the issues with the pearls teachings but i was taken by vf and started thinking they were sort of wonderful! yikes! anyway, your series has greatly blessed me!

  • http://www.mamasheartblog.com sue

    Thank you for reading, Bethany. I hope you find a place to worship that will nurture the potential God has put in you and won’t chain you to rules and regs that were fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus. Blessings, friend!

  • Kath Stevenson

    I loved this article! I actually went to Bill Gothard’s seminars many years ago and for years tried to become this “submissive” woman that is brainwashed into your mind. I had been dating a “Godly” man for several years, who was very respected in the Christian community. I discovered that he was seeing both female (and male!) prostitutes and promptly moved out of state. And still I felt guilt when he begged me to stay telling me that “God wasn’t finished with him yet.” Well, God might not have been – but I definitely was!

    The older I became, the more I realized that I had been a leader since the age of 2 on the playground – organizing my friends. And I realized that God has not made over half the population stupid, mindless robots! God will speak to both men AND women and depending on their temperament and talents – speaks to each in different ways. But a union where only the man leads and hears God robs that marriage of 50% of it’s wisdom and gives God 50% less of an opportunity to be heard.

    My husband and I are a TEAM! We are BOTH leaders! He is a BRILLIANT man who is actually in the Aviation Hall of Fame. He is a genius in many areas, but he is NOT the best businessman. When we met, his aviation company was more than a million in debt and many individuals were stealing his designs. Within 5 years, we were completely debt-free. He credits me so many times with having the intuition necessary to save us from financial ruin. Sometimes there were fights, but now he TRUSTS my judgment – just as I trust his in so many areas. But we now know each other’s STRENGTHS. I believe with all my heart that God loves strong women if they have their eyes on Him.

  • http://www.mamasheartblog.com sue

    wow, Kath – what a great reminder that although we’re different, God speaks to both genders, especially in the context of marriage! :) Thank you for sharing that – it’s an awesome story. I’m so sorry for your previous pain, but I’m grateful that God gave you eyes to see your former boyfriend’s deception. That would have led to horrible heartbreak for you (and potentially, your kids, if you’d followed the Gothard-proscription for procreation) in later years.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I’m grateful for your presence here. :)

  • jeninoz

    Thank you for giving me something to think about. We are in Australia and homeschool. I like the Vision Forum site and lovely dolls for the girls but have yet to read or listen to any of their material.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jen –

    thanks for reading! I fully admit that the dolls and toys for kids is an appealing part of the VF site/catalog – it puts all of the “hard to find” toys in one place for us. Do what you will with the catalog; what my family does isn’t what I expect everyone else to do. :)

    Blessings as you raise & homeschool your family; we hope to be in your next of the woods in the next decade or so. :)

  • Jocelyn179

    Like you, I’m an educated, Christian, at-home, homeschooling mother.  And I have this horrified fascination with both the FLDS and Vision Forum.  I really appreciated your take on VF and the striking comparisons with FLDS.  While FLDS frighten me because of the abuse of children inherent in polygamy as practiced by them, at least they’re not trying to take over the world for their vision of God.  VF and their influence in homeschooling – particularly their skewed interpretation of US history – and their stated goal of raising up a generation of God’s soldiers who know the “Truth” and will bring a theocracy to power – now that really scares me.  But, like you said in explaining your introduction to the group, so much of what they do seems so sensible and sort of “warm and fuzzy” (the soft focus paintings of 19th-cenury garbed lovely flaxen-haired white children, etc., etc) on the surface.  The book “Quiverfull” by Kathryn Joyce gives a very good, fair assessment of who these folks are and it’s not at all warm and fuzzy beneath that soft-focus veneer.

  • http://www.mamasheartblog.com Sue

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Jocylyn!  I appreciate all of your comments, but especially the book suggestion.  I’ll stick it on my summer-reading list.  :)

  • Ted

    Hi Sue,

    You say you are not egalitarian so I was curious if you would call yourself a complementarian? 

    I find the work done by the council on biblical men and women to be quite solid.  (CBMW.org)  It shows the distinctiveness of men and women while not minimizing the fullness of each in Christ.

  • http://www.mamasheartblog.com Sue

    Hi Ted –

    Alas, I find myself not really fitting in to either the egalitarian camp nor the complementarian camp. While I probably am a little more comfortable with the latter, I’m uncomfortable with the idea that it’s a man-made system. I’m completely comfortable leading in a group setting and following through on my gifts (for which God has prepared me), but I’m going to choose to practice mutual submission with my husband. I guess for me, it’s a matter of following God wherever He leads and not paying much attention to labels. So right now, God has asked me to be faithful to my gifts of leadership and to practice them in our church and to submit to my husband, as appropriate. And I’m completely okay with the division in my life, even if it makes me hard to categorize. 😉

  • Pingback: Vision Forum, Patriarchy, and FLDS? Oh My! Part 8 | Rethinking Vision Forum()

  • Elle

    Beautifully written. My family was involved in the Gothard scene until I was 11. My parents marriage only lasted a few more years. I have been drawn to this lifestyle because of the emphasis on family. We felt enough reservation about vision forum to not proceed any further in that direction. You put into words what I couldn’t express. Thank You!

  • Mandi

    This is a beautiful ending to your series.  Thanks for taking the time to write it all out.  It so much mirrors my own hesitations and misgivings about VF.

  • agodlyhomemaker

    Having read your entire series I can say that you really don’t know what you are talking about. You are simply repeating comments from others and never truly found out anything. I found some of what you said very prideful and clueless.

  • http://www.mamasheartblog.com Sue

    thanks for your thoughts.  the beautiful thing is that we’re all entitled to our own opinions and our experiences differ – so our take-aways are different, as well.  peace be yours – and grace, too, through Jesus Christ.

  • Lisa

    Sue, thanks for your thoughts and review of Vision Forum.  Very enlightening, and gave me an understanding of a situation I had pondered for some time.  On the surface, these family situations can look picturesque.  Mayberry R.F.D.  Yet something feels amiss – and you’ve nailed it.  Loved your insights!

  • Crystal

    I respect your opinions on this topic, however, I do feel you have misunderstood some of what you read.  For instance, the book you refer to I believe I to have read.  In that particular book, they aren’t discouraging women from working from home.  In fact Proverbs 31 woman does work from home and is a smart business woman!!  Their true desire is to express that where you put your majority of time and effort is where your heart lies and as women we should be placing that effort in our support of our husbands, home and in our children.  I hope that makes sense to you.
    Second, in reference to widows.  The widows are to be cared for by the church community.  The unmarried are to remain under the headship of their father.  You see, the father not only answers to the Lord for his right and wrong doings, but he also answers to the Lord for the spiritual status of his wife and children.  Hence the need for him to be the spiritual head and lead the family…he is ultimately responsible.  As for women who are single mothers, I understand their need to work outside the home.  As long as they are able to keep their hearts in the home with their children, I believe you have to do what you must do to support your family as I believe any one of the people who authored the book, at VF or IBLP would understand and agree.  Never would they want a family hit by disaster to starve or be unable to live.
    Regarding VF, as with any book you would read, you must decipher and choose what aligns with what the Lord has placed on your heart.  I don’t agree with everything I read.  I have never agreed with a book completely other than the Holy Bible!  So, if you are looking for a book or a publisher that will be publishing books you will read and always agree with everything, you will be very disappointed!
    Finally, comparing IBLP and FLDS seems very unfair to IBLP.  IBLP does not condone polygamy in any way shape or form.  (For the record, I am not a member of any of these things….I do order items that interest me from VF, but I am no “member” to anything.)  We must remember that everyone will have differing views of how scripture is to be applied.  It really is up to the head of the household to decide with his family how those things in scripture that require personal preference and interpretation for application are applied to HIS family..head coverings for instance.  Some believe a veil is what is required, others believe having long hair is equivalent, while others yet believe it was a cultural thing at the time and no longer applies.  Again, up to the decision of the head of the household who would hopefully consult his helpmeet (wife) in this decision and both seek the Lord’s will in their decision.
    As for education, it is my understanding from research that none of these groups are opposed to women being educated and having a brain.  Their main concern is that they don’t want the daughter to begin placing all her efforts into further education when her God-given role is to be a helpmeet and that is where their heart and desires need to truly lie.
    I apologize for this long response, but I wanted to hopefully clarify for you.  I am a stay at home mom, I homeschool my (3) girls and no we will not be having any more biological children as I almost lost my life following my c-section with my third daughter…we will however consider adoption at some point because we do not feel our family is completely finished, we wear skirts/dresses as our way of glorifying the Lord from our heart to our dress and embracing the gender He created us to be (skirts was a decision we made before researching IBLP or VF) it does also align with modesty, but remember modesty must start from the heart…you can wear the most modest clothing and have the most immodest heart through words, actions and thoughts and it will do you no good, we believe in the headship of the father but never to an abusive extent (which is actually the man’s responsibility because remember he is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and abuse/neglect have no place when it comes to Christ).
    I pray this meets you with an open heart and mind.

    God Bless You,

  • Val

    The Word of God says that women are to submit. Submission is an act of love, not something that makes you become a doormat. Both and wife AND husband are to submit one to another. I happen to attend a church fellowship where many of the families are ATI families. Other than possibly being a little “too involved” in their older children’s lives (and their kids honestly don’t mind at all!), we have yet to see anything strange or “off.” Our chief elder always says that we can either take something from the Gothard seminars and learn from it or we can say, eh, not for me. And, by the way, this is also the Duggars’ view on it. They do not do EVERY SINGLE thing that Gothard preaches. You can learn some great things from his seminars, and you can also hear things that you just don’t agree on. Both are fine. The bottom line is that several million people have been to his seminars, and there are thousands upon thousands of people with wonderful testimonies from attending various IBLP sponsored things. The number of people who complain are VERY few compared to the huge number who have been really helped. We came into listening to this with a VERY leery heart. We didn’t trust any of it, and we were very cautious because of the garbage on the internet that we have read. We didn’t think we’d learn at thing, for sure. And, we were very wrong. We have learned some wonderful life principles that have really helped us out. People have to use their own brains and not just blindly follow whoever leads them. I would highly caution against slandering someone based on things that you’ve heard and not actually witnessed for yourself. That is not truth, and an untruth is not God’s way of doing things.