Today’s guest post is from Brother Sky.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on a trend I’ve noticed in middle-aged Mormons (40s/50s) that I know (I reside within that age demographic and so am friends with more of these folks than the younger singles/marrieds or the elderly). When we have conversations about family, specifically siblings, I’ve found that a majority of the LDS folks I talk to in this age range don’t feel particularly close to their siblings. I also noticed this trend when I was single for a while in my forties. Many of the women I dated mentioned not being close to their siblings, not talking to them regularly, not living near them and not particularly missing them.
The people I know/dated is an extremely small sample size, so I’m not going to make an argument about trends, etc. What I am interested in is how Mormons think about the eternal family and what they think about when they hear that phrase. In my experience, the eternal family is usually spoken/thought of (here, for instance) as a kind of linear, generational unit that descends from Adam and Eve and is connected to, finally, all other families, meaning that the entire human family is sealed together.
Often, though, when we discuss family at church, we focus on (quite reasonably, IMO) the so-called nuclear family: Men are encouraged to be good fathers and women good mothers, children should be taught to be good, upstanding people who make appropriate moral choices. Notwithstanding the problematic rhetoric surrounding LDS views of gender roles, what I don’t hear a lot about is how we should treat our siblings, unless it’s in the context of teaching our young children how to get along with/not beat up on their own brothers and sisters. I rarely hear talk about how to maintain family ties with grown siblings; siblings who may have left the church, moved away, whatever.
Again, a fair amount of the people I’ve talked to about this who are about my age seem to have experienced a kind of benign and perhaps to-be-expected distance as they and their siblings grew up and each got started on their own paths towards adulthood. We have all, to a greater or lesser degree, experienced this movement outward from the primary family, but the kind of distance, emotional and otherwise, that it often appears to increase between siblings leads me to a few questions:
- How important is it to you to maintain close emotional ties between you and your grown siblings?
- If you’re not close to your grown siblings, how do the teachings of the temple about sealings/eternal families affect you? Do you find such teachings painful? Hopeful? Healing?
- If you are a parent, did you try to cultivate a closeness among your children with the hope that they’d remain close in the years to come? Was that an important parental goal?