Wednesday, November 26

The Stories That Bind Us

Bob & Lorry Reid, 1944
my maternal grandparents

A few months ago, a friend shared a NYTimes article with me by this title "The stories that bind." The author asked, "What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?"

The article goes on to share what a psychologist who studies this question at Emory University has discovered, “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.” The article's author refers to this as having a strong family narrative, especially one where the ups and downs are known.

I love stories about my family and learning new ones as I've begun to research my family. It's become a passion of mine in the past couple years so teaching about it in Sharing Time today was a great opportunity!

The Primary theme this year is "Families are Forever" and the scripture is Malachi 4:6 "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." I have thought a lot about this scripture this year. In my faith, we speak of and read in the scriptures a lot about the condition of our hearts. Are they soft and humble, teachable - or are they hard and prideful, leaning to their own understanding? I love the imagery of generations of hearts being "turned" to one another! How comforting it is to me to think that the love I have for my parents, grandparents, husband, and children extends generations before me and will extend beyond me into the future. 

I have been blessed with a couple of experiences where I have felt the presence of a deceased loved one. I have listened to others relate their experiences and love feeling it is a reality. I feel my ancestors want to be known and remembered and that they are assisting the family history work to find them and other loved ones. In short, I feel connected to them by working with them to connect our family through the generations.

Mormons are big on family history research and doing proxy ordinance work (baptisms, endowments, eternal marriages) for the dead in the temple. We believe that through restored priesthood keys given by particular holy men of Biblical times to the prophet Joseph Smith and his counselors, families can be bound together as eternal family units. It fulfills a promise given by Jesus Christ that "whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). We believe those who are deceased go to heaven and continue learning and progressing if they so choose and that one of the great works in heaven is that of missionary work to share God's plan for our eternal happiness and progression. Of course, each person dead or alive has the choice accept or reject that message and these ordinances, but the act of us searching them out and doing that work in the temple knits our heart to theirs. What brings more joy than feeling love for another person and being able to do something for them? Doing temple work for the deceased also causes us to return to the temple where we can retreat from the pace of life and stand in holy places to be taught of God's plan and feel His love for us and our families.

I love how I feel when I am in the temple. I feel great peace and a renewed desire to become the best version of my self. Sometimes I have received answers to questions I'd been praying about. Who wouldn't want to spend time reflecting and pondering in a room like this?!

Celestial room of the Vancouver Temple

Going back to the lesson I shared today with the children, the theme of this month is "Priesthood ordinances and temple work bless my family" and the theme this week is "Family history work connects me to my ancestors." How grateful I am for these annual outlines the church provides!

The outline shared a story about how one family has felt connected through the generations by a shared love of music. It got me thinking about what connected me to my ancestors? For some who know a lot about their ancestors, this might be easy, but I don't know a lot about my ancestors. 

My maternal grandmother, Lucretia Lorene Agee Reid, was the first one in our family to really begin collecting stories and information about our ancestors. When Lorry was a young mother, she began looking for a church to join and raise her young family in. She was introduced to the LDS church and joined but her husband never has joined. He has always been very supportive of her and their kids' participation and the lifestyle that brought. At some point, she learned about family history work and began working on hers.

Back row: Karen, Kim, Gigi (my mom), and Judy
Front row: Jeff (mom's twin), Lorry, Sue, Bob

My Grandpa Bob, however, caught the family history bug from his wife. As my mom is currently compiling his life story for his 90th birthday, I took the chance to ask him why he started doing family history work. It was all Lorry in the beginning until he'd retired and had more time to explore it on his own. The two of them began doing family history research before the ease of today's personal computers and the explosion of the information age. Over the decades, they have provided our family with an impressive start on our family tree. I believe some lines they've researched go back to the 1500s! With four to six generations per 100 years, that's over 25 generations now linked together. Add the four generations of their descendants continuing to grow and the number of people my grandparents have connected me to are in the thousands! 

While one family's shared heritage may be a love of music, one of mine from "Grandma Honey" is a love of family history work. She inspired my mom who began audio recording the life histories of the older generations, collecting pictures, and doing more research. When I was a little girl in the 1980s, I remember summer visits to my great grandparents' home in Grande Ronde, Oregon. Us kids would be sent outside, sometimes to pick berries or beans, while Mom interviewed and recorded those life histories. 

Dad, Mom, me, Chad
Ben, Brooks, Chris - ca.1984

My mom introduced my dad to the church as they were dating. She has helped his family begin finding and recording the names, details and stories of their family tree. While my dad isn't a big researcher yet, he and his dad created one of my prized possessions - a large Bare family tree which I got framed. 

Family history work requires the talents and inspiration of many kinds of people. Some are researchers, some are artists, some are story tellers, photographers, scrapbookers - it takes all kinds to bind us together! My mom's and Grandma Honey's enthusiasm for family history has rubbed off on me and my siblings in different ways with our various talents and circumstances. I am so blessed to have them all in my life! 

As I've been helping with my grandpa's life story, I have loved learning about his life and what made him into the good man he has become. I am so happy to have these stories to share with my children about growing up during the Great Depression, working hard as a youth to pay for his own clothes and entertainment, his desire to get an education to increase his opportunities, was a meticulous family budgeter, and what it looks like to be a good husband, father, employee, and involved citizen. He saw challenges and hardships along the way and was resilient and compassionate. He lost one daughter to leukemia at age 11 and was a devoted caregiver to Grandma Honey in her declining years. 

I truly feel that these are indeed stories that will bind us, knit our hearts together.