Part of a Family

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You may be single, but you still have a family.

The Lord Sent Each of Us to a Family

Elder Gene R. Cook

“At times when one speaks of home and family, some who are single, widowed, a single parent, or a grandparent might be tempted to feel these teachings don’t apply to them. But may I remind all that when the Lord sent us here for our individual growth, he sent us to live with and be nurtured spiritually and temporally by a family. The Lord organized the whole earth this way. There is no other way to enter mortality. … It doesn’t matter if your parents or spouse or brothers or sisters are members, nonmembers, living, or dead, they are still your family. And if you are righteous and faithful to the end, no matter what your present status, you ultimately will be blessed as part of a family unit.” Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy, “Home and Family: A Divine Eternal Pattern,” Ensign, May 1984, 31; emphasis in original.

More on this topic: See Deena King, “The Proclamation on the Family: For Every One of Us,”Ensign, Dec. 2000, 20–21; Kandy Martin, “Are You a Mommy?”Ensign, July 1999, 28–29; Gene R. Cook, “Home and Family: A Divine Eternal Pattern,”Ensign, May 1984, 30–31. Visit www.lds.org or see Church magazines on CD.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Greg Newbold

Strengthening Relationships

As I saw the bishop come toward me the first week in my new ward, I prepared myself for his question. I have moved often enough to know what the first greetings usually are. In a kind and warmhearted way, the bishop extended his hand and introduced himself. After I told him my name, he looked around me as he asked, “Do you have a family?” Smiling brightly, I answered, “Yes! I have a wonderful family. I have outstanding parents, fabulous brothers, and terrific sisters.” The bishop looked confused and then carefully asked if I was married or had any children. I replied that I did not. I was coming into the ward on my own.

I could have also told the bishop about my grandparents, nephews, nieces, cousins, uncles, and aunts. However, it is sometimes easy to forget this family when telling someone I don’t have a husband or children. I never expected not to be married at my age, and my situation can be awkward and at times painful. But while the blessings of marriage and children have not yet come into my life, many other blessings have.

One of my greatest blessings is my family, and I do what I can to strengthen my relationships with them. Fortunately, I have a job that enables me to live close to many of my family members. While I am as busy as any member of my family, including those who are married with children, I do have a certain kind of freedom that not everyone has. In addition to attending family get-togethers, I am able to schedule time for events such as football games, school plays, and awards ceremonies as well as baptisms, blessings, and priesthood ordinations.

I also strengthen my relationships with my family members by praying for each of them. When I ask Heavenly Father to help them, I try to see them as He does. Consequently, I more readily recognize their strengths and become more tolerant of their weaknesses. The Holy Ghost helps me to see my own weaknesses and how I can work to change my actions to help build a more eternal family. Through prayer I am better prepared to receive personal revelation and learn how I can more effectively serve my family members.

I have developed closer relationships with family members through service, whether I am giving or receiving it. Being single, I have learned to rely on myself to handle most of the difficulties that come with daily living. It is often hard for me to ask my family for help, but when I have done so, my love and appreciation for them have grown. One sister who lives far away has helped me answer questions and solve problems as we talk on the telephone. Digging a trench in my yard with my brother led to a serious gospel discussion that helped me gain a new understanding and strengthened my testimony. Traveling with my grandmother gave me the opportunity to learn the life stories of family members, both living and those who had passed on long before. My neighbors were amazed at the transformation that took place in my backyard one Saturday morning as my family gathered together and had a family workday.

As I think about eternity, I know I cannot wait until I have a husband and children to build strong family relationships. I have a family now. Someday my future husband and children will benefit by the family unity I am helping to establish. I know that if I live worthily I will be able to meet Jesus Christ again, and on that day I want to be surrounded by all the members of my family.

Michele Burton is a member of the Lebanon Second Ward, Lebanon Oregon Stake.

Bridging the Distance

I grew up in a home that was filled with love, laughter, and lots of noise. Family dinners lasted for hours as we all talked about our day. Evenings were filled with pickup basketball, board games, and videos with popcorn. My siblings and I would stay up talking late into the night.

My career has taken me far from home since then. During my single years, until my recent marriage, I lived alone in an apartment where it was rather quiet—unless I talked to myself or my cat! Despite the distance, I have been able to maintain close ties with my family by engaging in a few simple activities:

Sending cards and letters. I don’t wait for special occasions to write cards to members of my family, and many times I feel prompted to write to a specific individual. I like to make cards rather than buy them. My family members seem to especially appreciate the cards I make out of family photographs, because these are more than just cards—they are tangible memories that can be saved. I also enjoy making cards out of construction paper for my nieces. Sometimes I include a surprise with their cards, such as pencils or stickers. My nieces love getting mail with their names on it, and often they will call to let me know they received their letter. This helps me feel more involved in their young lives.

Finding common interests. My father was a football coach, and my family has always loved watching football together. Now that we live in different locations, we hold a weekly football contest throughout the college season. My dad selects the games we are to follow, and we all pick our winners. Then we keep track of who wins the most games. We do this through e-mail, but the contest could also be modified and done by telephone. There is never a prize for the winner; we just enjoy the competition and keeping in touch. Other families could choose to follow a different sport or could read a book, see a movie, or do some other activity separately and then discuss it later by e-mail or telephone.

Creating a family newsletter. I help put together a family newsletter four times a year. Everyone writes an article about his or her family and sends it to me. I put the articles into a newsletter and add photographs and other items of interest. It’s always fun to read what everyone else is doing—it’s almost like talking with my family and hearing them tell stories. My brothers’ contributions always make me laugh.

Maintaining a family Web site. I have set up a Web site for my family, including members of my extended family. On the Web site we can download pictures and articles and even chats with one another. This is a great way to keep updated on each other’s lives.

Recording home videos or audiotapes. When I was living in Argentina and Mexico, my dad would send me videos of my niece so that I could see her growing and changing. Making and sending videos or audiotapes can be a fun alternative to sending cards or e-mails.

Of course, nothing compares to actually being with my family, so I try to schedule visits as often as I can. But during those times when we are far away from each other, we make the effort to stay in touch. That way, even when we are hundreds of miles apart, we still feel close.

Kristin Bayles Batchelor is a member of the Westfield Ward, Houston Texas North Stake.