Saturday, April 24, 2004

When families aren't forever 

by Unknown
Steve has asked me to guest blog for a bit. I think I'm supposed to be the voice of young single women in the church. I don't think I can speak for all of them, but I have a voice. By way of introduction, my name is Jennifer, I don't do anything special like run a magazine. I'm just trying to finish my graduate degree and I work in the primary presidency of my branch.

For my first post, I'd like to discuss the way we teach our children about families. There is an absence of material in the primary manuals for the many children who come from broken homes. This silence translates into insensitivity. My family had a lot of problems when I was growing up. My parents lived at opposite ends of the house and there was constant contention. I hated the primary song, "Families Can be Together Forever". Some Sundays it made me cry. I didn't want my family to be forever, not the way we were. I probably knew instinctually that our family would break up before we all died.

Almost twenty years have passed since my tenure in primary. I've worked in the primary of every ward I've attended for the past eight years. The lessons about families have not changed. The songs have not changed. At least now we have pictures of children and families that aren't white americans, finally. This year the primary theme is on eternal families. I looked for something in the materials that addresses our children who don't have two parents, or who live with extended family. There is nothing.

How does it feel to be a child who hears how wonderful heaven is because we'll have our families, but she has never met her father? Or, what must it be like for the child whose parents aren't members so they don't have a temple marriage? We teach them that they don't have an eternal family. They lose their families when they die. How many children have divorced parents? What about the children with one excommunicated parent? What do we teach them about their families? Nothing. Not one word. My parents finally divorced and I still don't know where that leaves me in terms of my eternal family. They broke their temple seal, so does that mean I'm not sealed to either of them? And what about my grandparents? Am I sealed to them? I can't answer their questions about non-traditional families because I don't know the answers. It shouldn't be this hard.

When it's my turn to do sharing time I try to be sensitive to the feelings of those from non-traditional-nuclear homes. But, I wish I had some help from the primary leaders in Salt Lake. I still find it hard to teach these "happy-happy-joy-joy" eternal family lessons. When will the church education catch up to the reality of what 'family' means to more and more children the whole world over?

I'm not sure what that would entail. At least we should have answers to questions about non-eternal families and what qualifies as such. I'm not suggesting the church stop teaching family principles. I just wish we could recognize that some lessons are insensitive. We should include something for the other children, those without eternal families. I still remember how sad those family lessons made me feel. I don't want to do the same thing to another child.
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