"And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; ...
... and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
When I was a young teenager, I realized that because of my impatience and temper I would never make a good mother. Steeped in a culture that rigidly emphasized motherhood as the measure of female worth, tall, gawky, and unattractive, I simply assumed I was not feminine enough to attract a man, nor compliant and sweet enough to mother innocent children. So I decided to focus on work, on the things that I COULD change.
It was in this mindset some years later that I received my Patriarchal Blessing. I won't share the details, but it gave very specific instructions and commandments from God which painted a picture of me as a stay-at-home mom, supporting my husband in his church and public service, raising many children and keeping the doors of my home open to all who needed a safe haven.
That blessing was life-changing for me. I could feel the weight of eternal commandment in it. I knew—and still know—that what was said was meant for me. So after a suitable period of mourning, wrestling, anger and denial, I chose to submit to the will of the Lord for me. This began a change that was almost a complete switch. I taught myself to accept being a mother, or more accurately, gave myself permission to mother. I mastered my temper, pondered for untold hours on how to parent, wrestled with myself, my own selfishness, and finally became someone whose first longing was to have a family: a righteous husband presiding in the home, and as many kids as the Lord saw fit to give me (hopefully at least 3-5.)
But then life happened. The man I had married who I thought was humbly seeking God's will began, gradually, to seek only his own. I thought he wanted children as I did, we made plans to foster children, planned for him to finish school so I could stay home with my children. But reality was that he didn't want children. My first pregnancy was a reason to become violent. He chased me out of the house, barefoot and crying, at five months pregnant. As I stood there in the middle of the street, several hundred feet from our house door, realizing I had nowhere to go, I knew how thoroughly I was trapped. So when he called my name and begged me to come back, I turned, trembling, and went back into the house.
To hear him speak, he did it all. But parenting was something I did, and he did when he wanted to. He would go and work on his hobbies, and I was the mother. Later, he took drastic steps which made the birth of our second daughter, six months after he left me, an inarguable miracle. In the process of him rejecting me, I realized that everything I had prepared for was lost.
But this is where the point of this really starts. I had walked through shadows I don't wish to relate to have my second daughter. As I looked into her eyes, blinking wide at the world I had brought her into, the weight of my choices came crashing down. I had given birth to two delicate, beautiful souls who would have to deal with a difficult situation their entire lives. I wanted and valued them even more because of the price I had paid to have them.
But the attention I had prepared to give them would necessarily be diminished by my need to also provide for them, particularly after I divorced. I would never be the stay-at-home mother I imagined, building a place of safety for my husband and passel of children. Rather, my daughters would have to go, cold and alone but for each other, into worlds from which I could not protect them. There were no white picket fences for any of us.
I can't explain how much pain that has given me, and still gives me when I allow myself to think about it.
The life for which I had worked decades was gone forever. I had done something so irrevocably bad, the promises of the Lord had been yanked from me. And that is a loss I have been unable to fully grieve. When I think I am over it, something reminds me of the deeply-buried pain.
The phrase "in saecula saeculorum" means, essentially, for a lifetime of lifetimes, but it has often been translated as "forever and ever," or "world without end." And that is my grief: world without end. It isn't only a few children I have lost. I have lost an entire hope for eternity. Whatever else I am, now, I do not feel like someone who could realize the blessings of an eternal partnership, nor do I feel as though it is possible for me to have the family I long for. But I cannot bring myself to do what so many of my sisters have done, and choose any other sort of marriage. Even if it is too late for me.
I do not trust that I will be anything more than a servant in the eternities, but I have tried my best to be satisfied with whatever lot the Lord sees fit for me. I want more, but I will submit to His will, whatever it is.
And that is the culmination of dealing with my grief. I am not infertile, nor married to a man who wants no children. I have not experienced years of trying and failing to be granted the blessing of guiding some sweet soul into this life. But I have experienced a thorough loss of my dreams for a family. So where do we go, those of us who know that we cannot live up to the commandment to "multiply and replenish"? It strikes deep into our hearts, undermining our faith in our ability to serve God, our understanding of the very foundations of who we are.
Some people do not value the children they have been given. They see a burden rather than a blessing, a necessity rather than a need. But for those of us whose children have been hard-earned, or who have no children at all, we can see the infinite precious worth of each child on this earth.
Never forget that our Savior is a "man of sorrows" and "acquainted with grief." His grief and His power are intricately intertwined. He has all power, because He has endured all grief. Do not let your grief lead you to bitterness. Rather, let it teach you compassion and power, in saecula saeculorum. Forever and ever.