Recently, my youngest sister posted two family photographs on Facebook. When they showed up on my news feed, I was instantly brought back to the circumstances associated with the time periods of each.
In the oldest photo, every member of our family was there. I was married and expecting my second child. We lived a state a way, but made a point of visiting once or twice a year; so the appointment at the photography studio was made for a time when I would be in town. Little did I know that that would be the last time I’d be included.
On another visit several years later, I noticed a new family portrait hanging on the wall. When I asked my mother why she didn’t wait until I was in town to have it taken, she hemmed and hawed but there was no reasonable response for why I wasn’t included. I felt sucker-punched at the sight of that photograph every time I walked passed it during subsequent visits home. It was yet another piece of evidence that I was an expendable member of the family.
It’s interesting to note that though the emotional draw to Mormonism is the promise of eternal families, our family is definitely not a good representation of that promise. We will never be the subjects of a “Forever Family” poster. Four of the eight married children have been divorced. My mother and step-father also later divorced. Many of our family relationships are strained or non-existent.
To be part of an organization, one must do as their told, when their told and what their told without question. To do otherwise, opens up the risk of being expelled whether it be from a job, a family or a legalistic church. There is no room for a differing opinion or paradigm. If one thinks outside the box of acceptable thoughts prescribed by the group, the risk of exclusion is real. Truths relevant to the group cannot be questioned or challenged. In the LDS community, leaders of the church encourage its members to seek personal revelation verifying the words spoken of by its leadership, but if a confirmation doesn’t come, the fault lies in the one seeking verification. That person either lacks faith and sincerity, or is listening to the wrong source because the words of the prophet are never to be questioned. The same hierarchy is alive and well in LDS stakes, wards and families. Never question the priesthood leader of the church or home. Strict obedience is key to exaltation. Submit or be destroyed.
So I have to ask myself: Do I want to hold fast to the notion that I’m missing out on being part of a forever family, or rest and rejoice in an eternal relationship with the Redeemer of the world? Do I wallow in the grief of being excluded from a mortal family, or live in gratitude for my inclusion in the family of God?
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name… (John 1:12)
The Word of God is very clear: those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer will live in the kingdom of God for eternity. Therefore, the only family that will last forever is God’s family!
For God so loved that world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosesoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
It is so freeing to let go of the false belief that I have to earn God’s love and vie for a place in His kingdom by performing good deeds, learning secret tokens, and submitting to the authority of men. The gift of grace that includes a place in the family of God trumps any earthly relationships. Do I want to spend eternity with my earthly family and friends? You bet! But that will depend on whether or not they accept God’s gracious gift, or continue in their attempts to get to heaven on their own merits.
And so I’m relegated to loving many members of my family from the peripheries, and leaving them to work out their own salvation and relationships with God. Since I traded my membership in the LDS church for a relationship with God, they consider me lost. The truth is: God has called me His. I am a Daughter of THE King, and never have to fear the loss of that title.
My Father who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:29)