Wherever there is the potential for joy, therein also lies the potential for pain. And so here we are on the eve of yet another mother’s day. After working with so many women (and men) over so many years – I have come to understand this is a complicated day. After all, we are women coming to the table with varying, complicated experiences. For many, mother’s day at church is one of the only places they find the edification, support and recognition so helpful in carrying on with the day-to-day struggles and challenges they inevitably face through parenting. It can also serve as a place to honor loving relationships and show gratitude. For others, mother’s day at church only serves as a sore reminder of hurtful relationships, unmet expectations or grief. Often mother’s day brings a mix of both positive and negative possibilities. So as we endeavor to approach this topic at church: how do we go about our messages in a way that can be inclusive and respectful to all? How do we celebrate with those who have joy, help carry burdens for those who find pain and simultaneously tolerate our own anxiety as others may feel, think and even worship differently than us on a day such as Mother’s Day? It is a challenge for sure – a challenge we could all ponder as we prepare the talks, lessons and comments we will share with one another.
I have these thoughts on my mind as I prepare my Relief Society lesson for tomorrow and this is what I have come up with. Please feel free to leave comments which would add to these ideas or point out things I might be leaving out. Thank you.
Sacred Family Relationships
Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow
My Favorite Quotes of the Lesson:
“Those connections formed here, that are of the most enduring character, shall exist in eternity.”
“See that the little, trifling misunderstandings in domestic concerns do not poison your happiness.”
“The Lord is merciful and kind, and He is not unjust. There is no injustice in Him.”
Words I picked out from Snow when it comes to functioning as a family: “be kindly and Godlike, gentle, kneel down in each other’s presence in prayer, be a source of comfort and welfare, manifest feelings of gratitude, affection, teach by example and precept, have faith, and be a source of energy.”
My Favorite Scriptures from the Lesson:
Bring up your children in light and truth. Doctrine & Covenants 93:40
And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted… And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew it was desirable above all other fruit. 1 Nephi 8:10-12
Questions to Ask Ourselves:
Did I notice that Snow mentions “connections,” when speaking of eternal relationships – not qualifying by family relationships only. What does this imply for the relationships in my life?
How does a lesson on family relationships become complicated when we all bring our varying stories to the table? Do I take time to think about all the different forms and shapes a family takes? Expectations that are and are not met? How do we factor in abusive or toxic relationships people may not want to have eternal associations with – yet feel bound by a sense of duty or expected forgiveness? What about homosexuality, infertility, being single in the church, pregnancy out of wedlock, not wanting pregnancy, etc., etc. etc. In what ways does the doctrine of eternal relationships help and comfort or pressure and scare me and others? How are we using this sacred doctrine to benefit our understanding, feel peace and grow closer to Heavenly Parents – instead of using it to self-depracate or measure ourselves against some unrealistic measuring stick that families are only of worth if they fit into a certain package?
What types of relational skills do I have and how do I build upon these? What role do each one of us play as we try to stay united as a family? What do I know about the terms “radical acceptance” or “differentiation” when it comes to psychological terms dealing with family systems? How do we balance unconditional love with boundaries also necessary to enjoy successful parenting, marriages and extended family relationships?
How do we know the difference between enduring small annoyances (healthy) and enduring ongoing abuse (unhealthy)?
How do we honor the institutions of marriage and family and teach about them to our children in a way that does not set them up for false expectations or a sense of lost identity if things don’t pan out as one would have wanted or hoped?
I know that the “tree of life” Lehi speaks of has specific symbology in LDS language. However, how do we expand this “tree” and “fruit” to include anything of value and worth which we wish to share with our loved ones?
Am I using anything in this lesson against myself inappropriately? How can I reframe my thoughts to allow for progress I’d like to make while celebrating how far I’ve already come?