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Abuse IS compulsive behavior, an addiction if you will. Or at least it was for me. I wasn’t able to stop the cycle of abuse in my life until I began participating the Addiction Recovery Program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Nine years ago, I was very aware of the fact that I was not the type of mother I wanted to be. My older children, aged eight and ten, were no longer as cute and cuddly as they once were. They no longer accepted my authority without question. I lost my temper frequently, often yelling things I later regretted. I sometimes disciplined out of anger.

My poor parenting was not for lack of trying, nor was it because I didn’t know better. I knew exactly how it felt to be the recipient of parental anger. I felt horrible exposing my children to this kind of life style. I knew intellectually how to be a good parent. The scriptures and other publications of my church were filled with parenting instructions. I collected these teachings in a notebook and studied them often. I prayed frequently, fervently asking that God would help me be a better mom.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t overcome my incorrect “programming.” When I got upset, my instincts took over and I parented the way I had been parented. I can remember many times a critical thought would enter my head and I would tell myself, “I’m not going to say those words.” Minutes later, I would hear those exact words come out of my mouth, directed at one of my children. I had no control over my actions. I had lost the ability to choose, what we call my “free agency.”

When I first attended an Addiction Recovery Meeting, I went to support a friend who was not a member of our Church. We went for three or four weeks. When she stopped going, so did I.

Looking back, I am frustrated at my own stupidity. After attending the first meeting, I wrote in my journal that I thought the meetings could help me with my parenting “issues”. Months later the Holy Ghost made it clear to me that I needed to participate in the Addiction Recovery Meetings. Unfortunately, I resisted His promptings. I felt odd attending when I did not have a clear-cut chemical addiction like the others I had observed at the meetings.

A few months later, while re-reading “Codependency, No More” by Melody Beattie, I was surprised to discover that I was once again engaging in codependent behavior—this time with my children. I also learned, or rather relearned because I had to have read it before, that codependency was an addiction. The author recommended attending a twelve-step meeting.

I started to attend the weekly meetings and study the manual on my own. In the introduction of the Addiction Recovery Manal, there’s a quote from President Boyd K. Packer that states “Addiction has the capacity to disconnect the human will and nullify moral agency. It can rob one of the power to decide.” My abusive behavior patterns had become as powerful as any of the chemical addictions I heard other members talk about. I was in the right place.

I learned through “working” the ARP program that the key, at least for me, to overcoming the cycle of abuse was repentance and forgiveness, in that order. In Step 4, participants attempt to write a “searching and fearless written moral inventory of [themselves].” Of course, as I worked on my inventory, I wrote a lot about my dysfunctional childhood. But that wasn’t what brought healing.

The turning point happened one day while I was talking to a friend. She had worked a 12 Step program. When she talked about her experience with Step 4, she used the phrase, “I could see how the Lord would think that was a sin.” I pondered this phrase for quite some time. I eventually morphed it into a statement I could understand better: “If the Lord had been me at that moment how would He have reacted?” You always hear the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” It had never occurred to me to apply this phrase to my past. When I did, it was life changing.

Despite the dysfunctionality in my home growing up, I did not rebel. I did not fight back. I didn’t even intentionally say unkind things. I did not feel the need to repent for my reactions to abuse. I really didn’t think on Judgement Day that my behavior would have been viewed in a negative light. I had accepted the world’s opinion that it was okay to have negative feelings towards others who abused me.

However, this way of thinking did not bring healing.

If the Savior had been in me, He would have reacted differently. He would have continued to behave in a loving manner towards His abusers. He would have made a greater effort to teach them the error of their ways. He would not have employed the negative defense mechanisms that I had.

Because my behavior was not what the Savior would have done, I repented. I went through my whole life, every event that caused an emotional reaction, and asked myself, “How would the Savior had acted in this instance?” If Jesus would have acted differently that I did, then I asked Him for forgiveness.

As I received forgiveness for my un-Christ-like behavior, something very unexpected happened: my ability to forgive my abuser increased. For years I had struggled to forgive and had not been able to. I finally made progress. It was easier to forgive when I acknowledged my own wrong doing, behavior that wasn’t necessarily wrong—it just wasn’t what Christ would have done.

As I repented and forgave, my pain lessened. I finally found the healing I had been searching for. As my internal anger lessened, so did my external anger. My ability to parent the way I wanted to parent increased. With the Lord’s help I was able to significantly slow down and lessen the cycle of abuse.

Am I a perfect parent? Of course not. Ask my seventeen-year-old—he’ll set you straight. Have I complete forgiven everything about my past abuse? No. Sometimes things do pop up.

The ARP manual uses an image of a tornado (page 47). Sometimes we can be caught up in destructive forces that move us around but each time, we are on a higher level. We have improved and made progress even if we do, at times, come back to old behaviors and thought processes. Sometimes my instinct still kicks in and I behave in an un-Christ-like manner. Sometimes I do feel anger about past abuse. But as I continually repent and forgive, I am moving upward in the tornado, and the time between occurrences increases. No tornado last forever.

I have faith that one day the tornado will stop, and I will be completely free from the cycle of abuse.

 

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scar

I can remember exactly where I was when Richard G. Scott gave his conference talk entitled “Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse.”  I was lying on the strip of grass between the HFAC and Wilkenson Center at BYU. I was listening to the Session on my “Walkman” radio. I can even remember what I was wearing.

Why can I remember so many details? Because this talk touched me as no other talk had before or since.  I grew up in a home where I was exposed to physical and emotional abuse on a fairly regular basis. The abuse was mild compared to the horror stories you sometimes read in the newspapers. However, even “mild abuse” can have a negative impact on the rest of our lives. Elder Scott’s talk gave me hope of a better life. He promised me that there was a way “to overcome the destructive results of others’ acts against your will.” He also taught “You are free to determine to overcome the harmful results of abuse.”

I recently reread Elder Scott’s talk as part of the Gospel Study section for the 12th principle in the Support Guide: Help for Spouses and Family of Those in Recovery, the manual used in the Spouse and Family Support Groups (SFSG) offered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reading the talk again filled me with regret, regret that I didn’t take his talk more seriously, that I didn’t try harder to follow his counsel earlier in my life. I could have healed a lot faster and saved myself a lot of pain and heart ache.

For example, multiple times throughout his talk Elder Scott counsels victims of abuse to meet with their Priesthood leaders.  He said a Bishop could help teach us, bring greater understanding and healing. He could help us draw closer to the healing power of our Savior’s love. Elder Scott said he can help us identify good friends.  A Bishop could also receive revelation in our behalf. 

I did go see a bishop about my past just a few years later. Unfortunately, I did not trust him and so the visit did me no good. The bishop recommended I go to counseling. I refused. He shared his experiences with abuse—he had been the abuser and now sincerely regretted his behavior. His honesty could have helped me feel compassion for my abuser and help me forgive, but my heart was too hard. I left his office feeling discouraged and ashamed. I made no further attempt to seek the help of a priesthood leader, for many years.

Contrast that visit to my last experience with my Priesthood leader. This summer I had what I have come to refer to as a “personal crisis.” Not too surprisingly, abuse was a factor. As I prayed for help, the Holy Ghost told me multiple times to ask my bishop for help. Asking for help is very hard for me but I knew that this was what the Lord wanted me to do.  I experienced difficulty setting an appointment. First, the executive secretary forgot about my request to meet with the Bishop. But I persisted and asked again. Then Bishop had to cancel my appointment because he broke his leg. Again, I persisted. I sent him an email explaining what I needed to talk to him about.

When he finally could meet with me, he gave me great counsel. This time, I followed. He’s the one that suggested I attend the SFSG meetings. He told me that the meetings could help me better apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ to my life, which would then make it easier for me to forgive. He was right. These meetings have really blessed my life. But Bishop didn’t stop there. He wanted to meet with me frequently. During our visits, he often asked, “What can I do to help?” I could tell he really cared about me and I was not the least bit embarrassed that I had talked to him.

In his talk, Elder Scott gave a warning about “two improper therapeutic practices.” He also advised us to see a mental health professional recommended by our bishop. I really wish I had studied his talk more in depth because I have had some pretty negative experiences with counselors. These counselors were not ones that my bishop recommended and as Elder Scott cautioned they “caused [me] more harm than good.

I have since learned that there are good counselors who actually can do a great deal of good. But we need to seek them out. Our Bishops and LDS Family Services are the best places to start. The SFSG manual actually gives really good advice on how to select good “support people” including professional counselors. The manual states often takes multiple tries to find the right one.

Elder Scott recommends that “repair of damage inflicted by abuse should be done privately, confidentially, with a trusted priesthood leader and, where needed, the qualified professional he recommends.” I wish I had done as Elder Scott suggested. In my earlier years, I was not “private” about my past. I would talk to anyone who would listen about the trials I had been through. This practice scared people away, preventing needed friendships and delayed my healing. I like Elder Scott’s analogy: “if someone intentionally poured a bucket of filth on your carpet, would you invite the neighbors to determine each ingredient that contributed to the ugly stain? Of course not. With the help of an expert, you would privately restore its cleanliness.”  

I wish I had remembered Elder Scott’s comparison of healing scars from abuse to recovery from massive surgery. Patience is required. This is another principle that the SFSG manual teaches. It takes time to heal.  I was often discouraged by the pain that I felt. I knew that the Lord could take it from me, but He didn’t. Or at least He didn’t on my time table.

Looking back, I see that the Lord didn’t take my pain away when I wanted Him to because He was respecting my agency. I wasn’t ready to give it up. I see now that I needed to go through some experiences in order to soften my heart. I now see the wisdom in the Lord’s time table. True, following Elder Scott’s counsel at the time that he gave it might have sped up the process. But if that had happened, others wouldn’t be able to learn from my mistakes.

Elder Scott’s talk can be found at: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1992/04/healing-the-tragic-scars-of-abuse?lang=eng

 

pexels-photo-206959.jpegSo I have been thinking more about Eve. Little strange, but I’m sure it has to do with the fact that I have been going to the temple more frequently. We are taught about Eve and her experiences in the Temple Endowment session because her life represents the life of all women.  Jeffrey R. Holland, one of our Twelve Apostles, said, “Because we [are] born into [a] fallen world and because we too would transgress the laws of God, we also were sentenced to the same penalties that Adam and Eve faced”(“Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” General Conference April 2015).

I have been thinking a lot about one of these “penalties.” After the Fall, Eve is told about the negative consequences that will come into her life because of her choice to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. Listed with these “penalties” is the statement that her husband, Adam, will rule over her (Moses 4:22, Genesis 3:16).

That statement makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. According to the internet, rule means “exercise ultimate power or authority over.” While I recognize and respect the differences between genders and their roles, I do not believe that one gender has superiority over the other in any way. A husband does not have the right to tell his wife what to do simply because he is a man.

Thankfully, modern day revelation clarifies that “rule” means to preside. President Spence W. Kimball, a prophet from my childhood, said, “I have a question about the word rule. It gives the wrong impression. I would prefer to use the word preside because that’s what he does. A righteous husband presides over his wife and family.” (Ensign, Mar. 1976, p. 72.). One source I read defined “preside” as Christ-like Leadership (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2001/06/questions-and-answers/what-does-presiding-in-the-home-mean?lang=eng ).

I have always believed that a man’s responsibility to preside, or to act like Christ would, in the home was part of the Priesthood that he holds, not because of his gender. Adam had the priesthood in the Garden of Eden. Joseph Smith taught that Adam received the Priesthood “in the Creation” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [1979], 157). Therefore, Adam already had “responsibility” to preside as the Christ-like leader in their home.  So if this is true, then the statement that Adam was to preside over Eve was a reminder, not a penalty imposed because Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

So why does the Lord remind Eve that Adam was to rule over her after she partook of the fruit? I think it was because she chose to eat of the fruit without Adam.

Years ago, my stake president taught me something that changed what I thought the word “preside” meant. Prior to his talk, I thought that presiding in the home meant that the husband had the final say in decisions that affected the whole family. Early in our marriage, there were a number of things my husband did that I did not agree with. In his defense, he did not act until I said, “Go ahead, but I think you’re making a mistake.” Still to this day, I resent those choices.

Our Stake President taught us that a marriage should function in the same way that the leading Councils of our Church do. All decisions by these Councils, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles, are made unanimously. If they can’t come to an agreement, a decision isn’t made. The matter continues to be discussed. This practice is by divine decree (see D&C  107:27).

Recently, I was asked to read two articles from the Ensign, a monthly magazine published by our Church, about the importance of counseling together (The Links are below).  Just like our Stake President, the article taught that all decisions made by Councils, including a Family Council made up of a husband and wife, need to be made together, in unison. The articles also taught that there should be full participation by all members of the council, and that one of the members of the council should be the Holy Ghost.

Perhaps this was why the last time I went to the temple and watched the portrayal of the events in the Garden of Eden, I noticed that when Eve ate of the Forbidden Fruit Adam wasn’t with her. His absence had more meaning for me this time. I doubt that Adam would have knowingly sent Eve off to perform such an important act by herself. Eve made this choice alone.

I’m sure that this is why, the next time Eve spoke with God face to face he reminded her of Adam’s role as the presiding, Christ-like leader in the home. This reminder was not a punishment for her choice, nor was it even a naturally occurring negative consequence of the Fall. The reminder to recognize Adam as the presiding figure in the home was to help them both fulfill their divine potential, not because Eve needed increased supervision after a poor choice.

 My sister and I discussed some of these things the other day. Not too surprisingly, she also has issues with being “ruled” over. We were raised by the same father who did not treat his daughters much differently from his sons. The girls hunted, fished, and worked on cars as much if not more than the boys.

My husband overheard some of the conversation and he and I continued to talk about the subject later while cooking dinner. I made a comment about the challenges of being married to a “Vest woman” (my maiden name). My 19 year old daughter asked me what I meant. I struggled to explain myself and finally came up with “Vest women are more independent than most women.”

“Why is that a problem?” my daughter asked. “I thought that’s what guys liked.”

After commenting on the quality of men she has been hanging out with, my husband said, “Men need to be needed.”

Eve did exactly what she was supposed to do. She has been praised by many of our church leaders for her inspired choice. Recently, President Russel M. Nelson said, “We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.” Eve, like most women, was perfectly capable of doing what needed to be done. But by acting alone, she denied Adam the opportunity to be needed.

https://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/06/obtaining-the-spirit-through-counseling-together?lang=eng#note7-

https://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/06/counseling-together-in-marriage?lang=eng

paddleball

Yesterday, during my personal scripture study, I came across a story that intrigued me. The wife of one of our former church leaders, Marion G. Romney, had suffered a serious stroke and sustained considerable brain damage. The doctors offered to keep her alive by artificial means but did not recommend it. Her life was literally in her husband’s hands. Pres. Romney was hesitant to pray for her recovery. The account I read stated, “Because of his earlier unsuccessful experience of praying that he and Ida might have children, he knew that he could never ask in prayer for something that was not in harmony with the will of the Lord.” Instead he prayed, fasted, and studied the scriptures fervently so that he might know the Lord’s will. Finally, months later, he felt that the Lord revealed His will to him and he could pray for his wife’s recovery. He concluded his prayer with the phrase, “They will be done.” The Lord then told him, “It is not contrary to my will that Ida be healed.” Pres. Romney left for the hospital immediately, and give his wife a priesthood blessing. His wife began to recover from that point on (http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=729).

I had never considered asking to know the Lord’s will before I prayed for blessings. I always prayed to know the Lord’s will when I was faced with an important decision, and I had frequently used the knowledge that sometimes the Lord’s will is sometimes different than ours to comfort myself after a prayer hadn’t been answered the way I wanted. The idea of learning the Lord’s will before asking for something had never really occurred to me. I wondered if doing things this way would save me a lot of disappointment.

Soon, I needed to pick my five year old up from school. Because my husband had the car that day, I walked, pushing my four month old in front of me in her stroller. At school, my five year old excitedly showed me a paddle ball that she had earned by good behavior. She continued to try to strike the ball with the paddle as we started to walk home. We hadn’t gone too far when she exclaimed, “My ball’s gone!” The string had broken, probably the last time she hit it with the paddle.

At the time we were standing on the sidewalk near a large grassy area. Snow covered the ground in some areas. I knew it would be difficult to find the ball, however I had experienced a number of miraculous recoveries in my life and so I had confidence that we could find the ball and told her so. We hadn’t looked very long, before she came to me and said, “Mom we need to say a prayer so Heavenly Father can help us find the ball.” Of course, I agreed. She knelt down in the snow, and I crouched beside her.

After we prayed, we started looking. As I looked, I continued to pray. I really wanted my daughter’s prayers to be answered so that she might have a faith-promoting experience. I had had many such events in my life, including one when I wasn’t much older than her. A beloved ring was found months later, outside in the mud. But I also remembered the few times that I had not been able to find important items in spite of many fervent prayers. I know all too well, that sometimes Heavenly Father tests our faith in ways that make it seem He isn’t listening.

Was this one of those times? I had a hard time believing that He would test the faith of a five year old. I thought about the story I had read earlier, so I began to pray to know the Lord’s will. I thought I felt that the Lord wanted her to find the ring, but I wasn’t sure. In the past I have sometimes mistaken my own desires for the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I really wanted her to find the ball, so I doubted my ability to hear the still small voice. Still, I continued to pray.

After about an hour, I told her to go sit by the stroller and watch her sister so I can look further into the grass. The ball could have gone pretty far if she had hit it hard and we had already looked everywhere close to the side walk and on the sidewalk itself. As I looked, I heard my daughter start to cry. As I continued to look, her tears turned to sobs. The sound broke my heart.

Eventually, even though I really wanted to find her ball for her, I knew we needed to go. I was very tired. My neck and back hurt from looking at the ground so much. The baby was hungry. I finally had to tell my daughter we had to go home.

As we walked home, she continued to cry. I tried to comfort her. I told her that even though the Lord always answers our prayers, sometimes He does it in a way that’s different from what we want. I told her that maybe He didn’t answer her prayer to find the ball because He wanted her to go to the store and buy a better one. This did not seem to please her as much as I thought it would so I told her that we could go back and look some more once the snow had melted.

When we got home, she continued to cry for a little while. Eventually she returned to her cheerful self. But I was still troubled. The image of her sobbing on the sidewalk kept returning to my thoughts. I continued to pray for to know the Lord’s will. I wanted an answer like President Romney received. I was willing to go back to that field with a grass rake and stay there all day if I had to, but I didn’t want to do this unless the Lord told me my efforts would be successful. If this was an experience to test our faith, I did not want to spend more looking for it. To continue to try would only upset my little girl even more. If God wasn’t going to help her find her ball, I wanted her to forget about the experience as soon as possible.

By the next morning, I still had not gotten the answer I was looking for. I decided to talk to my husband about it, mainly because I realized I was over reacting. Fully aware that my post-partum depression often distorted my thoughts, I knew I needed another opinion from someone who was “sane.” I told him the details, and had him read the story about President Romney. My husband is a good man, but there are times when I wished he took his religion more seriously.  Recently I had become very frustrated about this, most likely because I become very critical when I’m depressed. As I explained my distress to my husband, I couldn’t help adding somewhat sarcastically, “Here’s your chance to use your Priesthood as head of the household and receive revelation for the family.”

My husband thought for a moment and said, “We need to see what she thinks the Lord wants her to do.” He called my daughter into our room, and asked her a few questions. He repeated what I had taught her about how God answers prayers, and then explained that she needed to find out what Heavenly Father wanted. He told her, “God wants you to be happy.” He told her like I had that we would go to the store and buy her a new one if that was what God wanted us to. As he talked to her, God touched my heart and I knew these were His words, not my husbands.

My husband helped my little girl pray, and then instructed her to sit quietly.  After a few moments, he asked, “What does God want you to do?”

She surprised me by saying, “Find the ball.” I thought for sure since she wasn’t upset anymore that she would accept a replacement without being troubled that her prayer wasn’t answered, especially since my husband had explained it so well.

We returned to the grassy field. Her older sister came with us. I was a little concerned to see that the snow had not melted completely. My husband and I began to walk through the grass. Only a few minutes had passed before my seven year old yelled, “I found it.” I looked to where she pointed—a spot on the sidewalk in plain sight.

I know I had looked there the day before. We had walked by that part of the side walk a number of times. If it had been there the day before, I truly don’t understand how I could not have seen it. And I also didn’t understand how the twenty or so kids who walked by there on their way home from school had not seen it and picked it up. This patch of sidewalk was almost right across the street from the school.

I’m still not exactly sure which lesson I was supposed to learn from this experience. But I know I will never forget the importance of learning the will of Our Father or the power of a child’s prayer.

“Addiction surrenders later freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will.”

Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1988, 7.

I admit I have often wondered why the Addiction Recovery Program I attend claims to be of worth to family and friends of those who suffer from addiction, not just the addicts themselves. So much of the material is directed toward those with addictions. Recently, I’ve realized that it is helpful to truly understand what is going on in the lives of our loved ones.

For example, this quote which is found in Step 1 of the manual, has brought be great comfort. Often times, I find myself thinking, “If this person really loved me or cared about me at all, he or she would stop the behaviors that causes me so much pain.” After re-reading this statement, I realized that it’s not about the strength of their love for me. The addicts I care about literally can’t control that aspect of their lives. In fact, depending on the strength of their addiction, some addicts can’t control any part of their lives. This quote has helped me not take their destructive behavior personally, and that has helped ease some of the pain.

two-thousand-stripling-warriors-39660-tablet

The story of the 2000 stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon has been my favorite since I read it as a teenager. The story is about a group of young men who chose to go to war to protect their families. Their fathers had made a covenant with God not to take up arms again after their conversion to Christianity. The young men went to war so that their fathers would not have to break their covenant.

I’ll admit I have often wondered why it was so important for these men to keep their promise. Surely, the Lord would have understood that circumstances had changed. In fact, in other places in the scriptures, God commands fathers to protect their wives and children.

Recently, one of our Twelve Apostles, Richard G. Scott, explained why it was so important for these men to not go to war. He said, “It is a fundamental truth that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed. We can become virtuous and pure. However, sometimes our poor choices leave us with long-term consequences. One of the vital steps to complete repentance is to bear the short- and long-term consequences of our past sins. Their past choices had exposed these Ammonite fathers to a carnal appetite that could again become a point of vulnerability that Satan would attempt to exploit. . . [The Ammonite fathers] needed taller and wider fortifications between their faithful lives and the unrighteous behavior of their past.”

When I read his comments, I thought about some of the people I had met through the Addiction Recovery Program meetings I attended. I have seen a number of people relapse into their addictions because they refused to give up their associations with people who practiced their addiction. These people failed to build fortifications between their new lives and the behaviors of the past. They wanted to be strong enough not to drink or smoke even though they are around people who were drinking and smoking. They became discouraged when they failed to live up to their expectations, and eventually some of them gave up entirely.

I thought about how his advice related to my own addictions. In the past I had felt a little guilty about my tendency to end relationships if I started to recognize symptoms of codependency. Now, I see that I was building “wider fortifications.” I’m just not strong enough to be friends with someone who is also codependent without relapsing into unhealthy behavior. I have also felt bad about my inability to resist sugar when it is readily available in my house. I thought it was unfair to ask my family to do without because of my addiction. After reading Elder Scott’s talk, I am reconsidering the items I have in my home.

Baby The world teaches birth control. Tragically, many of our sisters subscribe to its . . . practices when they could easily provide earthly tabernacles for more of our Father’s children. We know that every spirit assigned to this earth will come, whether through us or someone else. There are couples in the Church who think they are getting along just fine with their limited families but who will someday suffer the pains of remorse when they meet the spirits that might have been part of their posterity. The first commandment given to man was to multiply and replenish the earth with children. That commandment has never been altered, modified, or cancelled. The Lord did not say to multiply and replenish the earth if it is convenient, or if you are wealthy, or after you have gotten your schooling, or when there is peace on earth, or until you have four children. The Bible says, ‘Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: … Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. …’ (Ps. 127:3, 5.)

Ezra Taft Benson, Relief Society Magazine, December 1952, p. 793

I offer this quote as an explanation for a number of things. First, this quote is indirectly to blame for the fact that I have not updated my blog for a couple of months. After much prayer and consideration, my husband and I decided that our family was not complete. Thankfully, the Lord agreed and we will welcome our fifth child into the world at the end of the summer. I have not been able to think of anything important to say for a while since I have had a very hard time focusing on anything lately thanks to hormones, fatigue, and lack of sleep.

Second, President Benson eloquently answers the question, “Why would a 40 year old woman who already had her hands full with four wonderful children want to have another one, especially when for most of her life she thought four children was the perfect family size?” Quite simply, it just didn’t feel right. For a while I suspected that my reluctance to admit I was done was the fact that I enjoy caring for small children—Not a good reason to have another child. Babies grow up to be teenagers.

When I came across this quote a couple years ago, it touched me to the point that tears ran down my face. The thought of meeting children in the next life who could have been a part of my family but weren’t, really bothered me. What if one such spirit was placed in a family who did not want them or could not love them the way that I could have? I gave the matter a lot of thought and came to the conclusion: We were missing someone.

I’m not saying everyone needs to have a large family. I like that President Benson says: “easily provide.” A family size that is “easy” for one mother may be a nightmare for another. We need to be careful not to judge one another. The decision to have or not to have a child is between the husband, wife, and the Lord.