Archive for November 17th, 2008


Busy Day

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Today was a busy day for me in terms of church. I spoke in Sacrament meeting, and then taught a lesson during the next one hour block. One of the girls in my class, I say girls but she’s really around 19 or 20, jokingly asked if I was also teaching Relief Society, which is the final class for adult women in our three hour block. Then we had a good chuckle because the lesson was about the Second Coming and Millennium and that was the lesson I gave in Gospel Essentials, of course slightly different since they’re from different manuals.

My talk went well, I decided to share that my husband’s beliefs had lead him away from the church. I just felt that is was necessary to share that bit of information with the message I was trying to convey. As my friend Nancy said, I said just enough that could be public, without going into unnecessary private details. She also complemented me on the fact that I don’t wear my situation on my shoulder and allow it to shape or change me. Most did not know my circumstance.

I got many positive responses after my talk. One woman shared with me that she was in the exact same boat I am, and it had only been in the past five years of their marriage that her husband had returned to church. She also mentioned on the strength of my marriage to have my husband there today supporting me even though I was outing him, per say, and the difficulty of sharing what I did because so often those in my circumstance are just quiet.  A friend of mine said she wished she could have heard my talk as a teenager because she had a lot of anger since her parents were not  sealed together. Most just complemented me on my talk and said how strong I was or wonderful. I appreciated these thoughts because I felt naked, putting myself and family out there for others to know and judge.  One woman said she’d like to take Jon over her knee. She had once complemented Jon on what a wonderful father he was and that she’d watch him with our girls. She made a comment today in such a way that it seemed like she wouldn’t have told him he was a good father if she had known his beliefs, and that makes me sad because I don’t think having the priesthood makes you a wonderful father, it might add to it, but it’s not all you need to be a good father. Jon mentioned she might feel duped and didn’t feel offended by her comment.

A part of me is happy to have my situation out there. In a way I felt like I had to hide it or make it hush, hush, but in reality this is my life and I don’t wish to wear it on my shoulder, but I wish for people to know that it is possible to have a happy marriage,even in what are imperfect circumstances. I want to be an example to more than the few auxiliary leaders that knew about what was going on, I want to help others and connect to them in deeper ways. I want to weed out people who will just judge me and my family and allow true friendships to flourish.

One woman in my ward called and asked for a copy of my talk so she could reread it and send it to her children. She’s a convert to the church and her husband never converted before he died and she felt inspired and touched by what I said.

Also when the counselor who asked me to give my talk told his wife, who happens to be the  Relief Society president in our ward, that he had asked me to give a talk on Eternal Families, she mentioned that it was kinda cruel, or not nice to asked me, but he said I vindicated him.

This is the talk I gave. I learned a lot while I was writing it and I am happy that it helped so many, but more importantly that it helped me.
I hope I haven’t hyped it up too much. I was emotional during parts, so I’m sure that added to the spirit there, but I hope what I have to say is still helpful to all who take the time to read it.

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If I were to do a word association game and ask you to tell me the first word that pops into your head when I say the words Eternal Family, and you, the congregation, could respond I know there would be a number of of answers. Since you can’t respond I’d like to tell you some things I imagine might be said by members of this congregation.

Some might be: Temple, temple marriage, sealing, family, love, hope, joy, happiness, eternity.

Other answers might be: never or not for me.

Now I’ve listed two kinds of answers. Most of us would answer positively or give the normal by the book answers, but some of us might possibly think we are never going to have an eternal family, or that an eternal family isn’t for us because of our circumstances.

Eternal families are something offered to couples who have been married, or sealed, in the temple to their spouse, but it is not limited to just those who fit in the equation of how to more likely achieve an eternal family. The equation for an eternal family being, one worthy man sealed to one worthy woman, in the temple for time and eternity, and keeping those covenants throughout their mortal live. The last part, or keeping our covenants is the most important part of the equation.

Our church is made up of very many people and thus we have many people in many diverse circumstances and they may, or may not, fit into that ideal Eternal Family equation.

Some of us are single, which encompasses young singles, middle aged singles, older singles, divorced singles and widowed. Some of us are married, which include those who have been married in the temple and those who have not been able to go to the temple for various reasons. Some reasons possibly being we are converts and our spouses did not convert, or we just simply did not marry in the temple and we may or may not be preparing for being sealed to our spouse.

Some of us appear to be apart of the perfect equation, but worry about being able to achieve an eternal family because our own faith has wavered or our spouses faith has wavered or changed to such a degree that they are no longer keeping their covenants and we may not be with our family into the eternities. I fall into the last category, by way of a spouse who has changed his beliefs.

One thing I have learned and have a testimony of is that even through all this diversity and the appearance of not fitting perfectly into the Eternal Family equation, we are all promised blessings of an eternal family if we stay faithful and worthy.

Those of us in less than perfect circumstances don’t desire to be singled out or have sorrow or pity felt towards us, for we all are imperfect. What we desire is love and hope.

Elder M. Russel Ballard once said:

A family can live with Him only after a man and a woman are sealed in marriage for eternity by the power of the holy priesthood. We acknowledge that many in the Church desire this great blessing but see little evidence of its fulfillment in this life. Nevertheless, the promise of exaltation remains an attainable goal for each one of us. The prophets have stated clearly that no blessing will be withheld from any of God’s sons and daughters if they love Him, have faith in Him, keep His commandments, and endure faithfully to the end.

Equality through Diversity Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Equality through Diversity,” Ensign, Nov. 1993

President Howard W. Hunter said:

This is the church of Jesus Christ, not the church of marrieds or singles or any other group or individual. The gospel we preach is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which encompasses all the saving ordinances and covenants necessary to save and exalt every individual who is willing to accept Christ and keep the commandments that he and our Father in Heaven have given.

Each commandment given is for our benefit and happiness. To love and serve God and to love and serve his Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, should be our goal. Our focus of affection should be on these two holy Beings, and we should worship them with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. We should be engaged in assisting them in their divine purposes of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (See Moses 1:39.)

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May I hasten to add that no blessing, including that of eternal marriage and an eternal family, will be denied to any worthy individual. While it may take somewhat longer—perhaps even beyond this mortal life for some to achieve this blessing, it will not be denied. The Church Is for All People Howard W. Hunter, “The Church Is for All People,” Tambuli, Aug. 1990

So the apostles and prophets have stated that the blessings of eternal marriage, or family, will not be denied to any worthy individual.

I know many of us already knew that the blessings of eternal families will not be denied to us if we are worthy despite our imperfect circumstances. Even so it may seem hard for those who do not fit into the perfect equation for eternal families to have hope, but I dare say that it is up to all of us, whether we fit into the perfect equation or not, to individually prepare to be apart of our own eternal family.

President Hunter he also stated:

The atonement that Christ wrought was in behalf of every individual. However, each must work out his or her own salvation, for we are not saved collectively. While it is true that worthy couples will obtain exaltation in the celestial kingdom, each man and each woman sealed in an eternal relationship must be individually worthy of that blessing.

An eternal marriage will be composed of a worthy man and a worthy woman, both of whom have been individually baptized with water and with the Spirit; who have individually gone to the temple to receive their own endowments; who have individually pledged their fidelity to God and to their partner in the marriage covenant; and who have individually kept their covenants, doing all that God expected of them. The Church Is for All People Howard W. Hunter, “The Church Is for All People,” Tambuli, Aug. 1990

So we individually need to be committing ourselves to to Lord. We personally need to be applying the atonement and keeping the commandments. I want to emphasize once more what President Hunter said: The worthiness of one’s friends or family will not save him or her. There must be an individual effort.

We only have agency over ourselves, so it is only fair that we are judged individually on our worthiness in obtaining an Eternal Family.

So whether or not we fit into the perfect equation of eternal marriage and family doesn’t matter, we are all individually responsible for saving ourselves, and as parents we are responsible for teaching our young children.

But I’m going to be focusing on what, as an individual, is my part in my Eternal family.

First off, I am responsible for obeying the commandments of God.

When I think of obeying the commandments I think if all the things I need to be doing daily.

Praying to the Lord, seeking the scriptures, paying my tithes, living as purely as possible are all things I think of as living the commandments of our Heavenly Father.

Since I do have children, teaching my children the gospel of Christ also falls into obeying the commandments and things I need to be doing daily.

I know that I cannot save my family through my faith alone and thus want to teach my children so they can choose the gospel and save themselves. I also know, being from a family where not every sibling actively believes in the doctrines of the church, and having a husband who does not believe, that all I can do is be an example to my family, friends, and love ones and most importantly love them. I know the heartache of seeing someone you love depart or distance themselves from the church, but I also know that they have their own agency and all I can do is teach and be an example to them in hopes that they return and can be apart of my eternal family. Being an example and showing love are the best ways to teach or share the Gospel of Christ with a person.

Making and keeping individual covenants with the Lord is another way I try to become worthy for an eternal family.

President Howard W. Hunter noted:

I have always been impressed that the Lord deals with us personally, individually. We do many things in groups in the Church, … but … the most important things are done individually. We bless babies one at a time, even if they are twins or triplets. We baptize and confirm children one at a time. We take the sacrament, are ordained to the priesthood, or move through the ordinances of the temple as individuals—as one person developing a [personal] relationship with our Father in Heaven. … Heaven’s emphasis is on each individual, on every single person” (“Eternal Investments,” address to CES religious educators, 10 Feb. 1989, p. 4; emphasis added)

As young as eight, people are baptized into the church and receive the holy ghost. Baptism is the first covenant we make as an individual with the Lord. We then renew that covenant with the Lord each sabbath day by worthily partaking of the sacrament.

As we get older and grow within the gospel we go to the temple and individually make covenants with the Lord when we take out our endowments. Ideally, we then return to the temple to hear those covenants as we make them vicariously for those who have passed on.

For our families encompass more than just our spouse and children. Last week in a Relief Society discussion we were asked what tools we would want for those difficult times or when we are in the midst of spiritual storms and one of the sisters replied her mom. Our Eternal family encompasses our siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and all we are connected with.

Returning to the temple for endowment sessions helps me prepare for my Eternal family and gives those who have passed on a chance to be with their family eternally.

The last or the highest covenant called the new and everlasting covenant of celestial marriage is also made within the walls of the temple and between the Lord and an individual. When we are sealed in the temple of the Lord, we make covenants with the Lord, not with our spouse. As mortals we are imperfect and thus why we make the sealing covenant with the Lord, a perfect heavenly being, and not with our spouse, an imperfect mortal.

I had an institute teacher explain this relationship once as a triangle.

The Lord is at the top angle, while each spouse is at the bottom. The Lord brings us closer together and binds us together as we each, individually, come closer to the Lord and keep those covenants.

We are to try our very best to be prepared to make the new and everlasting covenant in this life, but if we are not given the opportunity the prophets have promised it in the life to come.

One of the most important elements of preparing myself for an eternal family is the Atonement of Christ, for without the atonement we would not be able to make and keep covenants with the Lord and would not be worthy to be in the presence of the Lord or our Eternal family.

We would not be able to repent of our sins and mishaps and we would be damned without the atonement.

The atonement is here for us to make use of everyday and is for everyone. The Atonement allows us to worthily renew our baptismal covenants to be cleansed once again to enter the presence of the Lord.

While I was preparing for this talk I found a scripture that sums up much of what I’ve been trying to say.

It’s found in 2 Nephi 10: 23-25

23 Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.

24 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.

25 Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen.

I know that all of us can become worthy for an eternal family, no matter our circumstances, I know each of us can and should have the same goal of obtaining an eternal family and some of the ways of ensuring life with our families in the eternities are through obedience to the commandments, making and keeping covenants with the Lord, and exercising the Atonement in our daily lives.