Growing up I had a pretty stereotypical LDS family. My parents were married in the temple, we had a medium sized family, and we all went to church together every week. Currently though, my parents are recently divorced and only half of my family is active. I remember singing the hymn “Families Can Be Together Forever” last year at church and starting to cry but was embarrassed for anyone to see. It once had brought me a lot of comfort to sing that song, but now it felt like a punch in the stomach. What do you do when your forever family falls apart?
I am not alone in having a unique family situation. Maybe you come from a one-parent household, or were raised by your grandparents, you might be the only member of the church in your family, or are unmarried by choice or lack of opportunity. It doesn’t mean that you or your family is less valued.
I completely understand what it feels like to hear lessons on families and marriage and feel discouraged. One thing that I realized when going through my parent’s divorce was that I could not find talks aimed at children of divorce. I could find talks aimed at divorced people or people struggling in their marriage, but what about the kids affected by it? I wanted advice on how to deal with the complex feelings of multiple Christmases, knowing my parents would never go on a mission together, saying goodbye to my childhood home, not feeling bitter or scared about marriage, and the idea of potential stepparents.
In our lessons, we need to be sensitive to these unique family situations. Neil L. Andersen said “We will continue to teach the Lord’s pattern for families, but now with millions of members and the diversity we have in the children of the Church, we need to be even more thoughtful and sensitive. Our Church culture and vernacular are at times quite unique. The Primary children are not going to stop singing ‘Families Can Be Together Forever,’ but when they sing, ‘I’m so glad when daddy comes home’ or ‘with father and mother leading the way,’ not all children will be singing about their own family.” The best thing you can do is state the doctrine and then acknowledge different situations. For me, knowing that I’m not alone in my struggles is very comforting. The more open and honest we are about them, the more we can lift and help each other.
In April General Conference, D. Todd Christofferson said: “To children whose family situation is troubled, we say, you yourself are no less for that. Challenges are at times an indication of the Lord’s trust in you. He can help you, directly and through others, to deal with what you face. You can become the generation, perhaps the first in your family, where the divine patterns that God has ordained for families truly take shape and bless all the generations after you.” If your family situation is less than ideal, or not what you imagined it to be, stay hopeful. Be hopeful in the fact that the pain will lessen over time and that Christ will be there every step of the way, walking beside you and cheering you on. Be hopeful in the fact that you can form your own family one day. Be hopeful in the fact that God loves you and listens to you, and that doesn’t change. You can change the conversation to help others feel more loved and included. That is what we all need.