“Our Heavenly Father established families to help us teach correct principles in a loving atmosphere,” starts this month’s Visiting Teaching message. I love this concept! “Family” can be a hard pill to swallow– we all know the traditional Mormon family set up, but in reality, families are much more complicated. I know a woman who won’t engage with her husband’s side of the family– it’s like a border that she doesn’t cross, and ignores any engagement he has with his family of origin. I know others who chose where to live based on where grandparents and other extended family live. I know families without marriage and without children. So– when I read this message, I became intrigued with the idea of “establishing families.” What does it mean to “establish” a family? To me, this implies that families are not necessarily perfectly natural, but have ties that are spiritual, social and otherwise. This is a way in which this message can apply to all of us in the families that we establish within our work, social, and church lives; it’s focus is not on those we relate to through marriage, adoption or biology.
Some time ago, I wrote this post that included a definition of family. I share a section of that previous post here:
Family is a rubbery term at best; even within the church, the definition of family comes in varied terms of a mortal family, an eternal family, a heavenly family, a ward family (wherein the bishop is the father of a ward) and for those in University wards, you may get “assigned” membership in FHE family groups. Even at work or in sports, a branch or a team can be described as a family unit. In consideration of this, you can see why I prefer the mathematical definition of the term “family”: a group of curves whose equations differ from a given equation in the values assigned to constraints in each curve.
In applying this concept to the more common definition of family, I am comfortable in defining family like this: A group of individuals who share values within constraints of a common group. The values are not necessarily perfectly matched but shared- as in a team, the team or the group is the commonality.
When we consider this, then we see that we are each in a family- whether it be a “traditional family,” a family made of social friends, a family connected by church or even a family where we are daughters and siblings. It is important to understand, that in every one of these situations, we take turns being the “parent;” that is to say, we take turns showing unconditional love to those in our company, even when they have offended us. You may be called as a Relief Society president, or a second counselor in the Young Women’s presidency, or even as a Visiting Teacher- in each of these cases, you will have the opportunity to parent those around you. We do this in love. We do NOT do this in power, obligation or dominion. It is offering the unconditional love, in the same way we receive unconditional love from our Heavenly Parents.
So let’s look at this in connection with this month’s home teaching message:
If we truly love our fellowmen, we extend ourselves to help “the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” For they who do these selfless acts of compassion and service, the same are disciples of Jesus Christ. – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
How can you better “parent” (love unconditionally) those you serve, work with and share friendship with love?
From this month’s formal message:
Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” Thomas S. Monson
When problems arise, how can we do better to focus on the person, rather than the issue at hand? (i.e how can we love unconditionally and serve in righteousness?)
Last but not least, I loved these two quotes about parenthood, especially when I think of parenthood as interacting and speaking with those in my company. My words can hurt my friends and have power in a way that changes my relationship with them. In this, I am a parent of myself and what I say. Consider this in light of these words:
“If you wonder what you’ll be like as a God, take a look at yourself as a parent. Parenthood is a position of power like God over weaker human beings.” – Jane Covey, To Fulfil Her Promise, pg 3.
I’ll be honest, when I first read the quote by Jane Covey, it stuck with me for– well, it’s still there. It’s had a huge impact on how I parent, and to be more patient when drilling my children in spelling words and multiplication facts, as well as being patient in dealing with bedtime and other things that can become complicated. The concept of the power and ultimate patience and love of God for me is utterly humbling, especially when I view it through the lens as a parent, teach, neighbor, and community member in an area where there are small children.
“Parents should let their children know that they as parents aren’t perfect. We should tell our children our mistakes occasionally, and be human about it, and say that we’d like to try to do better. Too many parents put up a front, and are afraid of admitting they can be wrong.” – Ann Madsen, To Fulfil Her Promise, pg.14.
I like this quote because it made me think of my interaction
with other church members, friends, and even my spouse. Am I humble and brave enough to admit I am wrong without blaming someone else? Am I truly showing unconditional love to my children, the friends I hold so dear, even my fellow bloggers, and my spouse? This is indeed a sacred duty. It is the duty to LOVE. Not the duty to show dominion or limit my love to a biological unit. The duty to love all those in my sphere– in the social, communal and professional families established in my life.
What does it mean to you to establish a family? How can loving unconditionally help you to be a better parent, friend, teacher, leader and overall human being?