The Not Even Once Club is the title of a new children’s book published and promoted by Deseret Books. It is written by Wendy Nelson, wife of one of the 12 apostles of the LDS Church. The cover sleeve states that she was a professor of marriage and family therapy for 25 years. In addition, she has held a number of prominent positions in the LDS Church including chairing the BYU Women’s Conference. In other words, she is a highly credentialed LDS author.
So what is this book about? The cover sleeve says: “The Not Even Once Club is an adorable and appealing way to engage children in a story that will help them choose for themselves to keep the commandments and to never break them. Not even once.” Really???? Yes, that is really what it is about.
One of the most tragic of its many fatal flaws is the failure of the LDS Church to understand the main reason why God gave us the commandments. “By the law is the knowledge of sin”. The commandments are God’s tool to show us our sins! He knows that we need to see our sinfulness before we will see our need for a Savior. A man doesn’t yell for help until he realizes he’s drowning. Likewise people don’t yell for a Savior until they see they are drowning in sin. The commandments show us how much we sin – they show us that we are drowning in sin. The last thing the Lord intended when he gave the commandments was for people to create “Not Even Once Clubs”.
The Not Even Once Club is tragically true to its name in one way. Not once is Jesus or God mentioned. That probably shouldn’t be surprising seeing that its whole premise is that children can keep the commandments perfectly. It’s not surprising but it is sad.
I can see this book becoming very popular. It is attractively done: very colorful and well-illustrated. It is written by a prominent Mormon. You can download free posters that reinforce its message. I can envision those posters hanging in many a child’s room. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear about “Not Even Once Clubs” springing up in LDS neighborhoods.
But just stop and think about the effect that all this can have on the 3 to 7 year old children that this book is intended for. It could easily implant and reinforce the possibility of perfectionism and all its attendant pressures and problems. Along with that it could produce a large self-righteous streak that will grow stronger and stronger as the children grow up. Or else it could drive children to despair when they recognize that they sinned and broke the promise of the “Not Even Once Club”.
Already with small children, it is so much better to honestly talk about how they sin and their need for a Savior. Already with small children, it is so much better to focus them on the fact that Jesus not even once sinned – and that he freely gives them his perfection. Already with small children, it is vital to focus them on how Jesus has cleansed them from their sins rather than encouraging them to think that they can remain clean themselves. Jesus, and not themselves, is what children also need to focus on. It’s all about Jesus.