by Joshua J
Families are a big part of the teachings and doctrines of the Church, and for good reason. For many people, our families can be where we get our greatest love and support. It can also be where we experience the greatest pain and trauma. We all want to have a home filled with love and peace and there are things we can do to make this more likely. As we establish our families, we can find more success if we follow the Family: Proclamation to World and make sure our “marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
But despite our best efforts, that might not be God’s plan for us. God may not want us to have a happy family, or at least not in this life. The Proclamation also states: “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” We know this intuitively. We have all heard testimonies of valuable lessons learned from the death of a loved one, a difficult divorce, infertility, or a lifetime of being single. There are similar threads of learning to accept God’s will. God uses a variety of circumstances to help form us into who He wants us to be.
While we can acknowledge God’s will in the context of trials, somehow we have difficulties putting that in the context of families. If God wanted us to have traditional families, he would have given them to us. He wouldn’t have had anyone be orphaned, infertile, gay or die before their kids reached maturity. Yet He obviously does. I understand teaching God wants us to do everything we can to make our family as happy as possible, but why do we make it sound like the only way we can learn and grow is through families?
There are lots of hymns that touch on this principle, but one that really sticks out to me isn’t actually in the hymnbook, but it has been used in primary programs and has been suggested as one to add. It is “The Family is of God”. The chorus goes:
God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be—The Family is of God
This is how He shares His love
God always shows us love, even when we don’t have a family. Yes, He shows His love when we are surrounded by a loving family, but sometimes, He shows his love by taking away our family. Sometimes, He tells us not to have a family or leave the family we have. Sometimes, He leads us and guides us to have untraditional families. Sometimes, He allows us to be abused and hurt by our family. Sometimes, it is when we don’t have a loving family that He helps us become what He wants us to be.
I happen to have a great family. Both as a child and now as an adult my family has been ideal in almost every interpretation. However, the energy for this post comes from the years of learning to deal with the very real possibility that God may not even want me to have a family.
You see, I am gay. For decades, I cried, wondering why God would do this to me. What is my purpose being on Earth if I could never get married? It took me years of deep soul searching and wrestling with God before I began to get peace on this topic. As I reached out to others, I saw so many examples of valient women and men who sought and followed God’s will in a variety of different directions. I’ve also heard from people who got married when they weren’t ready and regretted it. I’ve learned that cookie cutter answers only work for cookies. I’ve come to know God as a God who is intimately involved in our lives. For me, God had a very special woman He wanted me to marry and have a family with, but I realize I am a big exception.
Elder Oaks taught that men with same-sex attraction should not get married until they have “shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God.” For an overwhelming majority of gay men (and I assume similar advice goes for gay women) this will never happen. Not only will it never happen, it can be psychologically damaging to even try. Many gay members of the Church yearn for a traditional marriage. We have grown up singing the same hymns and primary songs as everyone else. Yet, for most gay members, the counsel is to not get married. For many members of the Church this realization is devastating.
We need to seek out God’s will for us and be willing to follow it regardless of what culture, or even primary songs, may say. It takes faith and it takes guts. While we should all be strong and follow God’s will, it is harder when we have to go against whatever else is saying. It can rekindle wounds to constantly hear how God gave those He loves families, when we don’t have one, and it can bring little comfort to be told someday we will.
It takes faith to not pursue a family with someone we shouldn’t. It takes faith to leave a family that isn’t good for us. It takes faith to continue on when our family is taken from us. We should celebrate these sacrifices as much as we celebrate those who sacrifice to form traditional families. We can celebrate healthy, happy families while recognizing the reality that many people do not have them. God does not want us all to have families. He always shows His love and helps all of us be who he wants us to be with or without families. This is a true and correct principle and we need to make sure that truth is reflected in our hymns. We need hymns that give us courage to accept God’s will no matter what, even if it means turning away from a traditional family.