The Mortal Family

A few days ago, while digging through some boxes of assorted junk, I came across an envelope of old family photos.  I opened it up and flipped through the pictures, expecting to see the same familiar images I’ve seen a hundred times, but instead I was surprised.  I’d never seen these pictures before.  These were the apocrypha to the canon of photos selected to be preserved in family albums.  After repeated viewings over the years, I had apparently developed an emotional immunity to the album pictures.  These newly discovered pictures, on the other hand, brought on the kind of sentimental nostalgia normally reserved for weddings and funerals.

My mother had carefully notated the back of each picture with the subjects’ names and ages–a practice she later abandoned.  “MC (5), blowing out candles.”  “MC (5) sharing watermelon with Brian (3).”  “MC (5) holding up fish he caught.”  The images were mostly of two particularly camera-worth events: birthdays and camping trips. Here’s Dad (beardless Dad!)  with a loaded baby carrier on his back, posing on a hiking trail.  Here’s Mom and Aunt Lisa; each with broad grins; each holding their newborn daughter.  Here’s David, tearing off the wrapping paper of his brand new, high tech Atari 2600.   Here’s Jeff, doing a wheelie on his bike, followed by MC, whose bike is held up by training wheels.

This was our family.  I say “was,” because this family no longer exists.  Day followed day, month followed month, and year followed year until gradually those relationships and interpersonal dynamics dissolved into the ether.  The atomized family unit, composed of Father, Mother, and Children has evolved and splintered into entirely new family units.  If you cut the limbs off certain species of starfish, each limb with regenerate an entirely new starfish.  Like the starfish, each part of my family has broken off and become a new whole.  And just like the starfish, the original unit has been destroyed in the process.

Looking at these old pictures, I’m reminded that “family” is a life phase.  It’s an abstraction, based on the relationships of the participants.  When those relationships evolve–when the roles that define the family are no longer relevant–the life phase ends.  The family ends.  Just like individual persons, families are mortal.

So when a Mormon tells you that families can be forever, he’s talking gibberish. Families can’t even survive time, let alone eternity.  A family dies long before the people who made up that family pass away. It makes little sense to speak of families persisting in some imaginary future afterlife.

3 Comments

Filed under Doctrines, Teachings, Policies and Traditions

3 Responses to The Mortal Family

  1. Cinepro

    Wait. You mean that scene in “Man’s Search for Happiness” where Grandpa’s shadow climbs the stairway to heaven and finds Grandma, dressed in white, waiting in the heavenly lounge with other beehive hairdooed ladies isn’t how it’s going to be?

    The “Families are Forever” campaign has always seemed like a matter of salesmanship over substance. If you just don’t think about it, it all seems to make such perfect sense. But even the simplest idea like how “old” we’re going to be after the resurrection is enough to negate the idea. (Sure, the ready answer is we’ll all kind of be the same age, but then who cares about being “together” as a family if we’re all the same age? Do I really want to hang out with my grandma, mom, wife, daughter, and granddaughter when they all look like they’re 23?)

  2. Seven

    Even when I was a believer I would wonder how exalted Mormons would even be “hanging out” with Grandma, daughter, granddaughter, etc. in the CK. Each of them will be off populating and creating their own planets with whatever Patriarch they are sealed to so they won’t even be on the same planet. Maybe their Godly powers will allow them to be everywhere at once. I’ve heard TBMs say that’s how polygamy will work in heaven so that all the wives are happy.

    Celestial marriage/procreation is the only part of Mormon belief on the family that’s “forever.”
    Sealing children to parents has no significance except a warm and fuzzy story to share or a marketing tool for converts.

    I like to imagine hanging a plaque for my home that says “Families are for Time.”

  3. Cinepro

    The funny thing is, the likely response to such observations is that “in heaven, things will be totally different when it comes to how we relate to others. We can’t understand it from our limited, mortal perspective.” But the whole message of “Families are Forever” is that heaven is similar to our mortal experience, and that we can understand it.

    Go figure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *