Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Forever Sentimentality


Sometimes I wonder why people are inspired or comforted by the Church's teachings that "families can be together forever" when so many of those same people have multiple people in their own families they can't stand.  The song is so often sung about that idea but in reality may can hardly spend any earthly length of time with these people.  Let alone eternity.  Not that we have to all be best, and closest friends all the time...... but the sentimental belief of being together forever, combined with the sometimes total abhorrence at the thought of practical application of the belief is well... curious.      

Don't get me wrong, it's pretty clear that much of life's learning experiences and chances for growth, forgiveness, and Gospel learning happens in the family unit.  The up's and downs and battles can and do give way to growth or learning and potentially a healthy family relationship.  However it doesn't always head that direction.  I've noticed this quite a bit as I've overheard some conversations at work the past while.  It all got me thinking.  Why be so assured and comforted by something or some sentimental belief, when in reality you would be miserable if the belief were made reality?

I think the Gospel is the best, and our only hope.  It can help things heal, and restore a brighter perspective.   As I research the families together forever teaching I find that there was a very interesting change made to how we view it.  It was not always like we teach it now, which is that we get sealed in a chain link fashion according to biology or genetics as far back as records permit.  Often without any knowledge of where it began.  It used to be that people were sealed to dispensation heads, like to Joseph Smith (The Words of Joseph Smith at page 297).  See image and description by Orson Hyde here, for how the family structure was taught to be organized.

Brigham Young as well as many others were sealed to Joseph.  Not because Joseph was the biological father, but because he was the "father" of a dispensation.  Joseph, Adam, Abraham, Enoch, Lehi etc.. these "fathers"  would be main branches shown in the image above, and others sealed to them forming other or sub branches.  This view would make those who qualify into a completely different post mortal "family structure" than how we currently view things.  Receiving the Gospel, and personal righteousness would seal you to that kind of a family structure.  Genealogical lines, based on biological relationships or adoption, certainly have an important place, but were not taught as the basis for the family structure of heaven.

Being sealed to a dispensation head ensured that you were connected to the living vine.  Whereas the current chain link view may seal biological lines together as far back as records permit, but a broken link here or there (or a unconnected beginning link) would void the whole rest of the chain.  Everyone would then need to be regrafted into the True vine to have life or be part of a living branch.  As I understand it, that is why the original teaching had people being sealed to dispensation heads instead of just ancestors who's connection (or lack of) to heaven was either uncertain, or unknown.

The practice changed
when Wilford Woodruff discontinued the prior, and replaced it with what we have today.  This is a fascinating change with some interesting implications.

It puzzles me when someone carries the belief and sentimentality about the sealing ordinance and the idea that families can be together forever; and yet even being together on holidays is unpleasant for them.  It may be denied, defended, hidden,...etc.  but by the time the holidays are over it's usually at least a little evident.

The family is said to be one of the best places to learn charity and forgiveness.  I've heard that many times but, I see why.  It is a unique atmosphere where weaknesses and wounds go way way back.  But the potential blessings go far forward too.  Family is of God.  I love my family.

Deep down, I think we love our families.  It just sometimes gets messy over the years, because life is tough on all of us.  So I have hope for the family, but I wonder if in the end our idea of the family will undergo some alterations.  If Joseph and Orson are correct, it will look like the above diagram, rather than our family tree pictures in the living room.

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