Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Eternal Identity and Purpose Found In The Family Proclamation

I am so pleased to introduce you to my dear friend Sheila.
When I met her, I was instantly smitten by her energy, her sincerity, and her gift of gab.
I think that you will be too.  She's not a blogger, but she's got a unique and wonderful testimony to share with us today.  Now sit back and enjoy...You'll be glad you did!

Here's Sheila!
~~~




I have a picture hanging in my office at work that states “A hundred years from now, it will not matter what car you drove, how big your house was, or how much money was in your bank account, but if you made a difference in the life of a child, you will have made a difference in this world.” It shows an infant’s hand holding an adult’s finger. I look at it frequently, and at the end of each workday, when my patients and staff have left and I consider how much work I could get done in my distraction-free office, it reminds me that my children are only this age once and that I have been blessed to be able to raise them for only a relatively brief time. This picture helps me keep my priorities straight: Family first.


My name is Sheila. I am a 41 year old part-time Doctor of Chiropractic, but more importantly, a full time wife and mother of two. When asked by my longtime friend Jocelyn to write about how "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," has helped me, I excitedly accepted the task. I am grateful to be able to add my testimony to others of this inspired work and I hope that as your read my thoughts on the sacredness of marriage and families you will feel the Holy Spirit confirm their truth to you. I will touch on how the Proclamation has affected me personally, its effects on my relationship with my husband and children, and its teachings on women's roles in the family.


"The Family: A Proclamation to the World" was first announced at the General Relief Society Broadcast on September 23, 1995. I happened to be visiting some friends in Utah and was fortunate enough to be attending in person and hear firsthand our prophet President Gordon B Hinckley announce this inspired proclamation and bear testimony of it. I didn’t realize its significance at the time but I was a witness to this simple yet life changing declaration.


The Proclamation teaches the critical importance of the family in our Heavenly Father’s plans for us. This is a long-running theme in the teachings of the Church. President Harold B. Lee, the 11th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, taught, “The most important of the Lord’s work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes” [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], 134]. “The family is the most important unit in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church exists to help families gain eternal blessings and exaltation.” [Chapter 36: The Family Can Be Eternal,” Gospel Principles, (2009), 207–11]


I believe that it is my role and my responsibility as a mother to raise my children and teach them their values, and that this vital work cannot be successfully delegated to a school, the government, or the pop star of the moment. It seems to me that some in our current generation have forgotten this. President Gerald Ford, whom I quite admired as a child, stated at a Eucharistic conference in 1976 that “There are no adequate substitutes for father, mother, and children bound together in a loving commitment to nurture and protect. No government, no matter how well-intentioned, can take the place of the family in the scheme of things.” LDS readers will remember a similar statement by President of the Church David O McKay: ‘No other success in life can compensate for failure in the home’ [Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 5; quoted from J. E. McCulloch, Home: The Savior of Civilization [1924], 42].” Although this statement was originally directed to fathers, it is equally applicable to motherhood and it has had a strong effect on how I live my life.


Here’s a scriptural account that had a powerful influence on how I view motherhood. “The Book of Mormon describes a group of 2,000 young men who rose to greatness because of the teachings of their mothers [Alma 53:16–23]. Led by the prophet Helaman, they went into battle against their enemies. They had learned to be honest, brave, and trustworthy from their mothers. Their mothers also taught them that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them [Alma 56:47]. They all survived the battle. They expressed faith in the teachings of
their mothers, saying, ‘We do not doubt our mothers knew it’ [Alma 56:48]. Every mother who has a testimony can have a profound effect on her children.” [Gospel Principles, (2009)] At two years old, my son Nicholas is now starting to get his own ideas, form his own opinions, and make decisions. It’s really startling how absolutely he believes what we teach him, how much he trusts us, and how much he wants our approval. I know that the little things I teach him every day, intentionally and not, will greatly influence who he grows up to be.


The Family Proclamation states “By divine design, mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” This really agrees with me. This simple statement on the altruism of mothers compels me to consider what it means to “nurture”. I found dictionary entries defining “nurture” as “to feed and protect: to nurture one's offspring,” “to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth,” “to cherish, foster, keep alive, the act or process of promoting the development,” and “to bring up; train; educate.” The dictionary also said “Synonyms: See nurse.” As a doctor, I found this striking. In a professional capacity, I really strive to have the best bedside manner, to relate to and understand my patients, and to take good care of them. I guess I “nurture” my patients.


In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we believe that families are the core experience of our Heavenly Father's plans for us, and I have found out through personal experience that the Church has put considerable resources into promoting families’ growth. I’ve known since I was quite young that if I wanted to have children, the only possible means would be through adoption. Dealing with this knowledge has been an ongoing challenge for most of my life. A few years after we were married, my husband and I decided to pursue adoption and were happy to find that the Church provides a lot of support for families such as ours, particularly financial support for the adoption process. While a typical adoption costs between $20,000 and $40,000, adoption costs through LDS Family Services are heavily subsidized by the Church, with fees based on a family’s income and capped at $10,000. The Church would like every couple who is able to righteously raise a family to be able to do so. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” [Psalm 127:3]. And the Church subsidizes each and every adoption because we believe that families are forever and that children need a family. As stated in the Proclamation, “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” It is that important to the Church. It is that important to Heavenly Father. And it is that important to me. 


The adoption process has been long and difficult, but so far we have been able to receive two beautiful children into our family, Nicholas (2) and Cheyanne (3 months). The effort required (we worked and waited 6 years to receive Nicholas) has given me an even greater motivation to be the best most nurturing mother and wife I can be, knowing my divine role in our Heavenly Father’s plan for each of us. “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” I know now and knew even then, that bearing a child does not automatically make you mother. It is the 18 years, it is the 50 years, after birth that shapes you and brings out those nurturing characteristics in a woman, in a mother.


The Family Proclamation states “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.” God knows that circumstances aren’t always ideal, and that we must adapt his Word to the situation at hand. My husband’s family growing up is a fine example. Ian and I both lost parents at a young age. I was 24 when my mother passed away, and he was 16 when his father died, leaving his wonderful mother, Helen, to raise five children ages 3-16 on her own. Fortuitously, she had earned her Masters in Education prior to this was able to provide for her family as well as nurture and raise her children in a Christ-centered home. Despite the challenges, his mother was able to raise five very successful, wonderful children.


Likewise my own circumstances have required some adaptation. I provided the primary income for our family while my husband earned his MBA at the University of Michigan and continue to do so while he works to get his startup company up and running. We’re currently both working hard towards Ian being the one to “provide the necessities of life” so I can focus on “the nurture of the children.” There have been challenges along the way, but I am blessed with a profession where I can be a part time professional, a full time mom, and still pay the bills. I will admit that when we had Nicholas it was difficult to cut my hours by 50% after having worked full time for over 10 years, but I would never trade all that time I have had with him for work. We make this work for us because we know that “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” I’m at the office a few hours a day a few days a week, and Ian works from home, getting most of his work done late at night. We schedule Nicholas’s and now Cheyanne’s naps so that they’re mostly asleep while I’m at the office. This arrangement works for us now, but I hope to be home with the children all of the time soon. Until then I’ll continue to support my husband in his work because I support, love, and trust him.


One line of the Proclamation has had a profound impact on my self-image: “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” This next bit is difficult for me to discuss, so please forgive me if it’s not as clear as I would like it to be. I learned at a young age of probable personal infertility issues. Later on, in my twenties, my doctors told me that I would never be able to bear my own biological children. This was devastating to me. I really did not feel like a woman or that I could be a mother. But after hearing and then reading and rereading this simple yet profound statement on gender I
knew otherwise. Our loving Heavenly Father created me a woman, and that is who I am. We lived with our Heavenly Father as spirits before coming to this Earth and even then, before we had breathed our first breath of air, the gender in which He created us was a defining characteristic. It is an eternal identity. We have many other characteristics as well, of course. A man might have a strong nurturing streak or a woman might be a bit of a tomboy, but none of these detract from fundamental gender. I was born a woman and I am a woman. God does not make mistakes with gender.


God does not make mistakes with gender. Even a few decades ago, this probably would have been considered a commonsense statement. Today there are those that feel they should have been born male or should have been born female and undertake medical procedures to change their gender. But I will repeat, the Lord does not make mistakes in reference with gender. If you are female, whether you are able bear children or not, you were meant to be female. If you were born a male, you are meant to be a male, despite any issues you might have. The timing of the Family Proclamation is evidence of its divine origin. The Lord in his wisdom knew that a time would soon come in which society debated the nature of gender and many would choose to wrest or discard the teaching of the Bible, and he chose to give us fresh wisdom and guidance in preparation for this time. He knew that there would soon come a day when the Church would have to take a stand in the national debate on marriage, as it has, and clearly told us that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.”


We’ve all heard the old adage “you can’t take it with you,” referring to our material goods when we pass on. I want you to know that there are some things - not of a material but of a spiritual nature - that you can take with you to the next life. And one of those things is your family. I believe that families are eternal and that if we live righteously, raise children in righteousness with Christ as the cornerstone of our family, and take all of the necessary steps, this blessing can be assured. Family relationships do proceed beyond the veil of this life on Earth. It is our duty to prepare ourselves and our families to receive this blessing of family relationships after returning to God’s presence.


As with any effort to do God’s work, we need to be prepared for opposition in raising our families. “I want you to know that Satan knows how important families are to our Heavenly Father’s plan. He seeks to destroy them by keeping us from drawing near to the Lord. He will tempt us to do things that will draw our families apart.” [Gospel Principles, (2009), 207–11] But with the Lord’s help we can succeed in raising our families in righteousness. We must remember D&C 25:10, “And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.”


I bear testimony that "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," is the inspired word of God written through true and living prophets who walk this earth. If we but follow the words and directions in this true Proclamation, we can return to live with Heavenly Father and our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ with our family and others we love. This is an inspired work and I encourage you to read this and other works received through our true Church. I hope you can find inspiration in some sentence, some portion, or all of the Family Proclamation as I have in realizing the significance of my gender as a female, and my divine role as a mother and a wife. I strive to continue to make a difference in the lives my children and husband every day just as the picture in my office reminds me. It is my hope that my testimony and thoughts here will make a difference to you in your life and evoke positive change and improvement as it has to mine.


This I say in the holy name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


~~~

I feel like I need to go back and read that again and again to catch all of the goodness in this wonderful testimony!  Thank you, Sheila, for sharing your experiences with us!

I think Sheila has given us a lot to think and write about today!
I hope that you will all comment and write your own posts.
And check out what they're talking about over at Chocolate On My Cranium today!


Also remember that you can still link-up your Photos by clicking here all the way until Friday.

And remember the party favors that are up for grabs this week:







16 X 20in Canvas print of LDS Temple

a canvas print of your choice
in the size of your choice
  Click here to see the pictures you can choose from...



Skittles and Scraps

a $50 Gift Certificate to the digi-scrapbooking site Skittles & Scraps!



a personalized glass photo keepsake necklace (or item of your choice)


Pyper Style Scripture Tote

Come what may poster

"Come What May And Love It." Print

RESERVED FOR - The Family Proclamation Celebration -  Fabric Covered Book of Mormon - Pocket Scriptures

Fabric-covered Book of Mormon (Pocket-sized)

16 comments:

  1. enjoyed reading of someone else's experience of the proclamation on the family...it's an inspired guide for everyone in all aspects of our family life.

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  2. Thank you for your inspired words.
    I have a son and a daughter and I love that they each have such a divine nature and destiny associated with Men and women and the differences because of there gender.
    I hope they truly always believe in their Eternal identity and purpose as a man and women on the earth today.

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  3. an awesome commnnt, it says? Well, you got an awesome woman who has made awesome statements that hardly need anything. excellent job, Sheila.

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  4. Wonderful post, thank you for sharing.

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  5. I too have seen that picture many times. I try to remind myself of this everytime I go to someones house that is big and would seem better for our family than the one we are in, or listen to them tell about the fun vacations that they have or many other silly things I could want. Not always easy for me.

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  6. Beautiful testimony on so many aspects of the proclamation.

    I too am touched by the stripling warriors...maybe it is because I have boys, but the story tears me up each time I read it. "Our mothers knew it".

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  7. That was amazing. It makes me so grateful that we have the Family Proclamation. And grateful for the Church and their assistance with adoption. And I love the Gerald Ford quote.

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  8. Absolutely wonderful! I LOVE what you said about gender! You're so right about the timing of the Proclamation. Gender lines are being blurred and it's sad to me to see so many people not taking joy in their gender differences.
    Thank you for your testimony!

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  9. I just want you to know how much I am enjoying your focus on the family proclaimation. You have had some wonderful posts so far and I find myself looking forward to each new post. Thanks for sharing this with all of us!!

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  10. I thought that was really great! I wonder sometimes how much of the "homosexual" debate is also about gender. I have heard people in homosexual relationships say, "Oh, we decided that I am the man and he is the woman in this relationship." It makes no sense to me! But it is truly amazing to look at who we are and know that we ARE exactly where we are supposed to be --- for an eternal purpose! Thank you!

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  11. I loved your touching story! What a testimony that God is mindful of you and each one of us! Thank you for sharing!

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  12. I don't know why I can't link to these posts! But here's my blog entry on being a WOMAN!!! LOVE it, right?

    teamchaffee (dot) blogspot (dot) com/2010/09/i-am-woman (dot) html

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  13. "I know now and knew even then, that bearing a child does not automatically make you mother. It is the 18 years, it is the 50 years, after birth that shapes you and brings out those nurturing characteristics in a woman, in a mother."

    GENIUS.

    Beautifully written, beautifully thoughts. Thank you, Sheila, for sharing your story and your testimony.

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  14. That was wonderful! Very good write up and testimony you have of the family! I love how bold and to the point it was. We need more of that when talking about gender, and families!!

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  15. Sheila, this is so beautiful! I especially appreciated hearing your testimony on the essential nature of your womanhood. That's really touching to me.

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