Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Explaining the Importance of Marriage and Family

The last two Sundays, I substitute taught the 12-13 year old Sunday School class. These are the same children I taught a couple of years ago. Perhaps because the universe (or God) has a sense of humor, this time around I taught preparing to receive temple ordinances, and how to explain the importance of marriage and family to others.

The temple has been very rough for me since my divorce. It used to be the only place I felt at home, but having lost some of the covenants I made is especially painful when I attend the temple. Maybe it's ironic, having a divorced woman—and one who chose to file, no less—teach preparation for the temple and the importance of marriage and family. After all, from the outside, it could easily be said that I did not honor my covenants in the temple, and that I obviously don't value marriage or family all that much, since I gave them up. In many ways, it was a little humiliating to stand before these twelve- and thirteen-year-old boys and girls, as yet largely untouched by the pain of sacrifice and loss, and try to teach them something for which I'm a very shaky example.

When we prepare to go to the temple, it is little different than preparing to be baptized. Baptism is a covenant to obey the commandments of God, and to help bring others of His children back to Him (to "stand as a witness," if you will.) In the temple, we take another step along that path of ordinances and covenants, promising more specifically and deeply to be His disciples. Like with baptism, we are symbolically cleansed, and like with receipt of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we gain power to better navigate mortal life and better follow the commandments of God.

Then there is sealing. There, we covenant not only to help others come closer to God, but we covenant to connect our lives, our discipleship, permanently to another's. Although I made that covenant, I didn't keep in my life. Granted, it took a whole lot of wrestling before the Lord, and a personal commandment as clear as any others I have received for me to make that decision, but just like Nephi regarding Laban and later his brothers, knowing that it was commanded of the Lord doesn't erase the feeling of failure.

And yet, despite all that, maybe because of all that, I feel more strongly than before about the importance of a family with a mother and father, covenanted under the Lord.

You will hear, on the internet and in the media, that all families are created equal, that it doesn't matter how you choose to structure your family, the important thing is that they love each other and stay together. In a way, I agree with that. A family with "two mothers" or "two fathers" who love each other, parent together, and grow in unity is certainly better than a mother and father who fight, or a parent who abuses the other or the children, or cheats on their spouse, or neglects their responsibilities to provide and nurture their children. Just like it was better for me to end my marriage than raise my children in the environment which was my only other option. But best of all would have been a father who honored his covenants alongside me. Best of all is when a child can know where they came from, who the people responsible for giving them life really are.

I don't know all the whys and hows, but I don't doubt that there is something vital in the search to know and define oneself and in the struggle to understand and build a relationship with our Heavenly Parents that comes from knowing your earthly parents, even if those parents don't make good decisions, or want nothing to do with their children. I inherited certain traits from my parents, both good and bad, and by watching them develop or battle those traits, I have been given tools to handle myself in my life.

Of course, this isn't cut-and-dry, empirical evidence that can be applied exactly the same way to everyone. But, despite my scientific bent, I'm not limited only to that kind of evidence. I'm glad that I know both my mother and father, that those who gave me their genes were also willing and able to give me their love and knowledge about life. I know intuitively that it is good for my daughters to know their father, good and bad. I can't help but feel that those who think that marriage can be centered on physical attraction based "love" and desires of self-fulfillment, rather than on principles of sacrifice, patience, charity, and duty towards children will eventually reap the consequences of their opinions. Truthfully, parents who bring children into this life take on a role of substitute for our Heavenly Parents. They will be held accountable for how they use that power to create.

Who better to know the value of a family where both father and mother take responsibility and work together to raise their children and serve each other than one who has had to end it? My life is not the harmony I once believed, but because I live in dissonance, I rejoice in and know the harmony when I hear it. Because I know this value, I can testify of it to others, even if they discount my opinions because I have failed to live that way. I can stand in front of anyone, battered and scarred, and hold my chin high in testifying of the power of parents who commit themselves to something higher than their own desires. Maybe that's why I ended up teaching those lessons.

Maybe it wasn't the Lord's humor which led me to teach THOSE specific lessons, out of all the options. Maybe it was compassion.

1 comment :

  1. I love reading your comments on BCC, have some familiarity with your life as you've presented it online, and I almost always agree with your conclusions. Thank you for using your painful experiences (which would have made lesser people bitter) to so articulately and fearlessly defend the faith.


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