One of the major themes of April 2018 LDS General Conference was unity. I’ve been thinking about unity in various settings since General Conference, but lately what comes to mind is unity in the family.
Family unity can be fostered when children are very young. Some families have created a family motto, and others have designed a family crest to help children learn to be cohesive. I think most families develop traditions which unite the family. My own family did a lot of talking around the dinner table. No subject was taboo. Those discussions, coupled with family traditions and other things, helped us to work together and serve each other. We bonded through these things, and became bound together.
Girls and boys, young women and young men, sisters and brothers, we are on this journey together. In order to reach our sublime destiny, we need each other, and we need to be unified. … Miracles happen when the children of God work together guided by the Spirit to reach out to others in need.
(Sister Reyna I. Aburto, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, “With One Accord,” Apr. 2018 General Conference).
Sometimes reaching out to others in need doesn’t even require reaching very far — the person in need might be as close as our own family table. As a child, and later as a teenager, I wasn’t comfortable sharing certain portions of my life with my friends at school, in the neighborhood, or at church. I found, however, that I felt pretty comfortable sharing almost everything with my family.
Looking back, I think the only things I didn’t share were things that I thought might hurt a member of my family. My dad was ill when I was in high school, and I was very protective of him. If there were things I didn’t share, it was because I didn’t want to upset him. Other than that, I freely shared my life with my family. Those things that I thought might upset Dad, I shared with Mom or my siblings. I have always been grateful to have had that place to vent when I was growing up. My family was always there for me, working with me, teaching me, and reaching out to me.
I hope my children felt the same way when they were growing up. They were all pretty close. They would fight like cats and dogs, but when someone else outside the family caused hurt or pain, they always banded together to protect each other. They were unified and protective of each other.
As children grow up, move out, begin their own lives and their own families, and spread out over several states, the challenge to be unified becomes more difficult. Time and miles can get in the way if we aren’t careful. Technology is helpful to keep extended family in touch, but for daily life challenges, it’s pretty normal to turn inward to those immediate family members who live in our own household.
It’s certainly not wrong to want your own life without extended family looking over your shoulder all the time. I’m a firm believer that we each need to learn to stand on our own two feet. Independence and agency are critical gospel principles. On the other hand, there are times when reaching out to extended family members can be helpful in solving problems, as well as allowing the extended family opportunities for service and to mourn for those who mourn and comfort those in need of comfort. Sometimes we find similarities in our challenges with those of extended family members.
For instance, raising children always presents life challenges. While each child is different, and you never know from one minute to another what challenge your children will present you with, there are often very similar situations from one family to the next. Reaching out to extended family to vent about specific parenting issues can present solutions you had never considered. Moreover, each of these conversations brings a chance to bond more closely with extended family.
Families are forever. Eternal families are the core of LDS beliefs. We are human, and we all have issues from time to time with other family members. We need to do our best to resolve those issues as quickly as possible if we are to remain eternal families. I think we all understand that. What we sometimes forget, however, is that we also need to be sharing our lives with our extended family members in order to remain close.
The occasional family reunion or family get together is fine, but we need to go beyond that. Social media is great, but we need to go beyond that, too. Texting is wonderful, but we need to do better than that sometimes. There is nothing like an actual phone call to chat about our lives with family. There is also great benefit in pouring out your soul in an actual written letter to a family member—and that is quite the lost art. I have precious letters from family members written in days long gone. Those letters helped me grow as a person, and they sustained me through difficult moments in my life.
Family unity is more than just being civil to one another. Family unity is more than getting together every couple of years, or even once a year. Family unity is learning and growing together. Family unity is a perfect understanding of the eternal family unit. As I strive to get better at this, I hope you will as well. I just need a reminder once in a while. Maybe this article will serve as that reminder as I reread it in the future.
Because if we aren’t working on our family, then we are avoiding the core of our entire belief system.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.