sacred sabbaths: the family

Jul 10, 2011

The lessons today in both Primary (our children’s program) and Relief Society (our organization for women) were about the family…its sacredness, its stewardships, its sovereignty, its power, its health, and its influence. Hence, this afternoon I have been thinking about both the family and my family.

The family is in in trouble. The institution of the family is constantly being attacked, denigrated, ignored, or damaged by numerous influences ranging from gas prices to technology and from UN treaties to obsession with having and doing more. Some attacks are obvious, some are subtle, regardless, they are present and they are effective. This leaves me with a choice…what do I do about it?

I clearly remember the day in September 1999 that I heard the Relief Society Declaration for the first time.

We are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction. As a worldwide sisterhood, we are united in our devotion to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Exemplar. We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who:

Increase our testimonies of Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study.

Seek spiritual strength by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Dedicate ourselves to strengthening marriages, families, and homes.

Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.

Delight in service and good works.

Love life and learning.

Stand for truth and righteousness.

Sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth.

Rejoice in the blessings of the temple, understand our divine destiny, and strive for exaltation.

As these words were read, I felt the Spirit of God powerfully throughout my whole being. I knew right then that one of my missions in life is to strengthen the family. I knew that my work as a doula is one part of that and that my focus in attending birthing families must be to help them become closer and more committed to one another through their birth. I also knew that being a doula was not the only thing God was calling me to do. I felt strongly that He had a work for me to do that would involve building, defending, and buttressing the families of this world.

Since that time, I have made it a priority of my life to strengthen families in my personal interactions with them, to help create community events that bless families lives, to work for legislation that is pro-family, and to further commit myself to my own family. This is not a task for the faint of heart. It is huge and I believe it is the greatest fight we can wage.

I recently went to the movie Thor with my mom. I wasn’t all that excited to see it and didn’t love it or anything, but I did take a valuable lesson away from it. If Thor’s brother, Loki, had felt loved and valued by his parents, he would not have started a war that caused the deaths of thousands (millions?) of people. His unfulfilled heart guided his choices to destroy his world and many others. As I thought about that, I thought of other wicked leaders who have caused countless deaths, despair, and sorrow. Many of them have admitted that their home lives were not nurturing and I have to believe that if they had been, their choices would have been very different.

So often in our daily lives and especially in Richard’s work with families, we see that the root problem in someone’s behavior is the lack of healthy family relationships, the lack of parental boundaries, the lack of love and acceptance in their lives. It doesn’t matter what the professionals do to fix the child…until the family is fixed, the professionals work is much like a band-aid on a hemorrhaging cut. It will never be enough.

So, what does this all mean for me? It means I must be first and foremost committed to being the kind of mother who binds her children to her with her love for them, her teachings to them, and her courage to choose the Lord’s way. My children need to know how I feel about them, what I believe, and what I place priority on. They need to know they can trust me to do and be what I say. They need to feel my love. They need to be able to feel God’s love for them through the spirit in our home. They need to know my role of mother is paramount in my life and that I LOVE being their mom.

It also means I need to continue to be a voice for the family, both in public and private. I need to help others catch a vision of what family life can be. I need to build families up and help them be as strong as they can be. I need to spread the message that the family unit is sovereign and each family has the right, authority, and stewardship to make decisions for their family. It means I need to join together with other people to create pro-family organizations, traditions, laws, and regulations.

My mom gave me the Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book for my 35th birthday and I love reading it. His lexicon is vast and his ability to make his point clearly is perhaps unsurpassed. In honor of the family, I would like to share some of my favorite quotes from this great speaker.

The human family – without the gospel or without strong families – is not going to go very far. Unless we can fix families, we can’t fix anything else. Most of the problems that are most vexing are things government can’t fix. They have to be fixed at a different level. That’s the urgency of our message. I’d rather have ten commandments than ten thousand federal regulations…Unless we rebuild marriages and families, then we really are just straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.

Looking beyond the family to other institutions, programs, or activities – which may be good and helpful in their spheres – can be disastrous. The family is still the most efficient means for producing human happiness and human goodness, as well as for preparing us for the world of immortality that is to follow.

Alas, in some families do go wretchedly wrong, but these gross failures are no reason to denigrate further the institution of the family. We should make course corrections and fix the leaks, not abandon ship!

The health of the family is a better barometer of things to come in our political and economic world than we care to admit. The malcontents and assassins and militants who will do so much to harm society tomorrow are already aflame in the overheated family furnaces of today. It could be said of our increasing social interdependency that never have so few been able to hurt so many so much.

Just as a giant solar flare reaching skyward from our sun ends up causing stormy weather on the earth, today’s failure – or success – in an obscure family thousands of miles away may touch us later far more than we know.

Society should focus anew on the headwaters – the family – where values can be taught, lived, experienced, and perpetuated. Otherwise…we will witness even more widespread flooding downstream, featuring more corruption and violence.

Why should it surprise us, by the way, that life’s most demanding tests as well as the most significant opportunities for growth in life usually occur within marriage and the family? How can revolving door relationships, by contrast, be as real a test of our capacity to love? Is being courteous, one time, to the stranger on the bus as difficult as being courteous to a family member who is competing for the bathroom morning after morning? Does fleeting disappointment with a fellow office worker compare to the betrayal of a spouse? Does a raise in pay even approach the lift we receive from rich family life?

As with all of the eternal virtues, the family garden is the best place in which to grow and nurture the capacity for long-suffering. Daily family life is filled with opportunities to extend love and mercy.

Sickness of spirit in a family is carried to the office or classroom just as surely as the flu.

Someday a real history can be written that will tell us how many misshapen mortals came from home fatally flawed and who then made the whole human family an enlarged before and on which they acted out the drama of that original deficiency.

The flame of family can warm us and at the same time be a perpetual pilot light to rekindle us.

In a world filled with much laboring and striving in parliaments, congresses, agencies, and corporate offices, God’s extraordinary work is most often done by ordinary people in the seeming obscurity of a home and family.

I am grateful for the reminder today to refocus my efforts on the family, both mine and others. Having come from a family that wasn’t always peaceful or safe, I am committed to helping families thrive and become forces for good in this world.

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  1. Grommer

    You seriously should write a book. It’s THAT good!

    • tracy

      Let me say once again…you are the only one who would buy it!

      Love you!

  2. Grommer

    And let me say, again, I would buy 100 and give them as gifts!