Written by Mark Cares
The Not Even Once Club is the title of a 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 the 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 the commandments. “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). The commandments are God’s tool to show us our sins! He knows 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. That’s what the commandments do. They show us 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! This 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.
The book is attractively done: very colorful and well-illustrated. It is written by a prominent Mormon. You can download free posters which 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 all this can have on the 3 to 7-year-old children the book is intended for. It could easily implant and reinforce the possibility of perfectionism and all its attendant pressures and problems. Along with this, 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 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 point them to the fact that Jesus not even once sinned – and that he freely gives them his perfection. Already with small children, it is vital to have them focus on how Jesus has cleansed them from their sins rather than encouraging them to think they can remain clean themselves. Jesus, and not themselves, is what children always need to focus on. It’s all about Jesus.