Strengthening My Mormon Faith at a Protestant Youth Rally
Growing up being one of the few Mormons in our small community of Green Hill, Alabama, I often had the opportunity to attend meetings and activities of other churches in the area. In Green Hill, church is a big deal. Everyone went to church. Religion was often a topic of discussion in school. I was always excited when friends would invite me to attend meetings at their church, because I always learned new things. Bringing a Mormon perspective to a protestant meeting is something I highly recommend trying.
I can remember attending a large youth rally with several of my friends who were members of another denomination. There were youth from all over the Shoals area of Northwest Alabama attending the meeting. There were certainly more young people there than I had ever seen in any of our own youth meetings. I remember the speaker was dynamic and entertaining, but in his sermon he used an object lesson that made me realize the uniqueness and the beauty of my own personal religious beliefs.
They handed out note cards to all of the teenagers in the congregation. We each got three note cards and were instructed to write the three most important things in our lives. I wrote “my relationship with God” on one, “My Scriptures” on the second, and “My family”. These were three of the most important things I had in my life as a teenager.
The speaker said, “Look at your cards. If any of your cards have any physical objects, including houses, cars, books, etc… tear it up… your things were stolen from you… or your house burned down to the ground. You don’t have it anymore.” I looked at the card with “My Scriptures” written on it. How sad it would be to lose such a precious possession.
Then he said something that alarmed me greatly. “If you have written your family on of your cards, tear it up, because your family was all killed in a car accident, they’re gone.” My jaw dropped, my hands froze. I looked at the card that said, “My family” and thought about the scenario of them no longer with me. My mother had passed away just a few months before. During that time, I thought constantly about the death of my mother. Even though she was no longer with us on earth, I knew that our family could and would be reunited once again.
This speaker went on to say make the point that the only thing that matters is God, and yes, this is true, but what I understood from what this man was telling me was that after death, your family is unimportant. In essence, the relationship I had with my mother was meaningless, because she was now dead and we’ll never be together again. I honestly felt like jumping up from my seat, grabbing the microphone, and preaching to these impressionable teenagers that there is a way prepared for us to be with our families once again after death! What a sad existence it would be to believe that the relationships we have cultivated as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, etc., would all end after this life is over.
With so many people believing that the family is just a temporary institution, no wonder we are experiencing record high divorce rates! When problems arise in a marriage, rather than work on it to improve, so many see it as a paper plate. When you dirty it up or wear it out, you just throw it away and get yourself a new one! In contrast, imagine a couple who is deeply in love, who has been obedient to the commandments of the Lord thus far in their lives, and decide to start a family together. While some couples may go into their marriage with an exit strategy in mind already, this couple goes into it knowing that their relationship with one another will last forever. So, they love each other more, they serve each other more, and they help each other more. When problems arise, they will work harder to find solutions, because they know that their ultimate goal together is to be sealed to one another for all eternity.
I think Parley P. Pratt, an early apostle of our Church said it best when he stated:
“I received from [Joseph Smith] the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the very foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness.
“Till then I had learned to esteem kindred affections and sympathies as appertaining solely to this transitory state, as something from which the heart must be entirely weaned, in order to be fitted for its heavenly state.
“It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.
“It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love.
“I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean. I felt that God was my heavenly Father indeed; that Jesus was my brother, and that the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion; a kind of ministering angel, given to me as a comfort, and a crown of glory for ever and ever. In short, I could now love with the spirit and with the understanding also.
“Yet, at that time, my dearly beloved brother, Joseph Smith, had . . . merely lifted a corner of the veil and given me a single glance into eternity.”
(Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Deseret Book Co., 1968, 297-298)
How beautiful and right it is to know that families can be together forever! What a significant and magnificent revelation to the world! I honestly believe that your family can be together as well. How terrible it would be to look at my son, Logan, and my wife, Anna, and not know whether or not they would be mine forever.
Your Friendly Mormon Neighbor