An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

As a kid, my concept of heaven was a sort of Star Wars eternal battle against good and evil. I visualized myself serving God as a sort of messenger (i.e. ministering angel). The notion of becoming a god myself seemed arrogant—besides, I was a girl.

I’ve always been an independent person who needs solitude to replenish my spiritual and emotional well-being. Growing up, I valued home and family, and I wanted to be with my mother who died when I was ten. But my desire for a temple marriage didn’t surface until I had a houseful of kids. I adored my children and wanted to be with them forever. I even half wished they could remain innocent, young kids in our nuclear family—although I knew that wouldn’t have been fair to them.

With my children grown, I realize the notion of mothering my little brood of children for eternity is a myth. They are all capable adults caring for families and responsibilities of their own. Their idea of eternal family is being with their own children and having Granny and Granddad visit occasionally. Eternal family life, unless you factor in eternal procreation, is really eternal marriage. Here again I have a problem. Wife is a subordinate, care-giving role.

Another problem is that parent and child roles evolve throughout life. My mother died when she was younger than my youngest daughter. I can’t visualize a mother-daughter relationship with her. While my mother’s life was too short, my dad’s life was too long. Our roles reversed as I became his caregiver. While I would like to see my parents in heaven, I really can’t imagine myself as a child in their nuclear family. And where would George fit? How do we live with my family and his family and our kids and their families and their spouses’ families? I picture a sort of golden ant hill—with no place to hide.

The notion of eternal procreation makes the situation even worse. For several years the entrance to the women’s dressing room at the Jordan River Temple had a painting of Heavenly Mother surrounded by numberless offspring. The painting was removed several years ago—probably because of comments that Heavenly Mother’s face, which was intended, I’m sure, to radiate peace and joy in her posterity, actually resembled a woman who was stoned out of her skull and in great need for a room of her own— far from a multitude of little voices trilling, “Mom!”

Don’t get me wrong. I dearly love every member of my immediate family, most of my extended family, and even some of my in-laws. It’s not the people I have trouble with; it’s the relationships. I don’t really want to be anybody’s wife or mother or daughter forever and ever. Now, sister, I could handle. My brothers make few demands. For my money, being friends with George, our adult children, and our parents and other relatives is enough. Trying to restructure hierarchical family relationships sounds like a good way to turn heaven into hell.

Comments on: "Families Can Be Together Forever–But Is That Really a Good Idea?" (5)

  1. My, you’re at the top of the writing game this morning! Good essay. When I envision heaven, I do not see my parents together. Maybe once in awhile they stumble across one another passing between clouds, but otherwise, I picture my father with his bowling and pinocle friendss and my mother with her garden and quilting friends. I picture my deceased sister with her teen son; my brother’s teen son off with kids his own age, another sister’s adolescent son with his friends; my infant sister grown and off on her own, too. When I die, I don’t assume anyone will meet me at the pearly gates, but I do assume I shall pass through those gates. I expect I shall sigh with relief that I made it at all, let alone that I should recognize a blood relation.

  2. Mary Louise Bean said:

    The hive of ants is precious! You clarified it all with this one. Thanks. lou

  3. I love this essay! I have often thought similar thoughts. I figure it can’t be like family life here since it is always evolving into something different. I figure I will find out when I get to the other side. Meanwhile, I am pretty darn happy with my family off on their own and independent, productive members of society that I no longer have to be responsible for. Just wish my father was also independent. But that too will come and then I think I will be an independently happy family of my own. I can visit or have family visit but don’t have to live with them.

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