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eternal marriage

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As you probably know by now, my blog posts are usually the result of whatever has been bouncing around in my brain as of late. This week there has been a lot to choose from, but one thing seems to keep bubbling to the top. I will get to it…eventually.

A most amazing series of events transpired for us from July 4 to July 8. Much of it had to do with my daughter’s wedding that I wrote about last week, but not all of it. We also had a grand 4th of July family reunion at a “rustic” cabin in Midway on Tuesday. On Thursday we celebrated the 2nd birthday of our dazzling granddaughter with food and frolic in the mountains.

Friday night was the combined family dinner of the two halves of the marriage. It was an “anti-Montague/Capulet” experience. Our in-laws are lovely people, and they didn’t call off the wedding, so by all accounts, it was a huge success.

Saturday was THE day. A beautiful sealing service in the Payson temple, followed by a wonderful luncheon where love and good food was enjoyed. Including teary toasts and funny stories. The night culminated with a reception in Provo where hundreds of friends and family members from all over the country came to share their love and support of the newlyweds.  Other than Phoenix-like weather, it was a perfect day.

During the week, and since, I have felt so much gratitude to God, friends, and especially my family. With the exception of a missionary and a niece with a new job, the entire side of my family dropped what they were doing and came to share the moment with us. It was humbling.

The gratitude I felt both last week and this has helped force perspective on the ridiculous circus of disasters that has befallen us as of late. Stuff happens. Thankfully, the important stuff happens, too.

Yet even with so much to be grateful for, gratitude has not been my primary focus this past week, rather, I have been thinking about families:

Eternal families.

To put it in context, let me introduce you to a few people who are important to me:

Earl and LaVelta Patterson, and Horton and Marlene McBride. My EC’s parents, and my parents. Back in 1949 and 1956, respectively, these two couple both did something that would have an impact on their posterity for eternity.:Both couples were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple as husband and wife, by the authority and sealing power of the priesthood. Eternal Marriage. Temple Marriage. They created new family units: Families that have the potential to become Eternal Families. All four of them have passed on, but there are times I feel that they are privileged to witness holy events from the other side. They are mine, and Chrissie’s. They are ours. We are theirs.

In the picture at the top, you will see my goofy extended family: My big sister, and my little brother who were there for us last week, just as they are always there for us. Yes, my sister did break a hairbrush over my head, but that was years ago. They are sealed to me because we were born int the covenant that my parents made when they wed. Their children are theirs for the same reason. I intend on hanging out with them in the eternities.

Fast forward 30-40 years: Brad and Chrissie McBride followed our parents and entered the Mesa, Arizona temple. We were sealed by the same priesthood authority and sealing power to become a new family, complete with the same eternal promises.

Sure, we were a lot more attractive then, but our love has grown considerably as well. From this union there have come five kids – all of them sealed to us by virtue of their births into this Covenant Marriage. They are ours, we are theirs, and we intend on keeping them forever.

(Now we are getting to the really good part…)

In the past five years, three of our kids – now adults – have found the person they wanted to spend their eternity with, and married them. Not only did they marry them they did it in the right place, by the right authority.

I’ve heard many people describe the birth of their children as the greatest day of their lives, but my ranking skews a bit differently. I still consider July 18, 1986 to be the greatest day of my life – the day I married Chrissie. After that day, I consider the temple weddings of my children to be next in line.

Those temple weddings are not just weddings. They are not merely a tradition of men, or “’till death do us part,” the are eternal in nature. They are Godly. They are Celestial in potential. I admit that as I am privileged to sit in the temple and witness the ordinance and the covenants associated with the sealing, I am overwhelmed with emotion, but also feel a sense of peace – bordering on relief – that my precious charges have found their eternal companions. Their “EC’s” if you will.

***Important note: This is something that cannot happen ‘outside’ of the Church. Sure, you can be a spiritual person, but things such as these – eternal things – cannot happen anywhere other than in God’s temples. (More on this here.)

For some additional context, I refer you to President Eyring:

“Every priesthood effort and every priesthood ordinance is intended to help Heavenly Father’s children be changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ to become members of perfected family units. It follows that “the great work of every man is to believe the gospel, to keep the commandments, and to create and perfect an eternal family unit,” and to help others do the same.

Since that is true, everything we do should have celestial marriage as its focus and purpose. That means we must strive to be sealed to an eternal companion in the temple of God. We must also encourage others to make and keep the covenants that bind a husband and wife together, with their family, in this life and in the world to come.” (bold and italics added.  Link.)

“Everything we do.” Perhaps that is why I feel joy, peace and sense of relief every time someone I love makes those sacred covenants. It is a culmination of a lifetime of effort, faith and hope. It is also a commencement of sorts – the beginning of a new family, with new hopes, struggles and opportunities. A temple wedding is by no means the end of the road – it is the end of the search for a traveling companion with whom to continue the journey.

“Marriage is a principle that, when entered into, presents more challenges and blessings than any other. … Nothing will prepare mankind for exaltation in the kingdom of God as readily as faithfulness to the marriage covenant. Through this covenant, perhaps more than any other, we accomplish the perfect degree of the divine will. If properly received, this covenant can be the means by which man gains his greatest happiness. The greatest honors in this life and in the life to come—honor, dominion, and power in perfect love—are blessings that flow from it. These blessings of eternal glory are held in reserve for those who are willing to abide in this and all other covenants of the gospel.” (Joesph Fielding Smith)

I am aware and sensitive to the fact that not everyone has, will or can enjoy these promised blessings in this life. It is clear that there has been much written to help us better grapple with these exceptions. Sadly, I expect these challenges will become more prevalent as the adversary wages his relentless ‘war on the family.’ (link)

In the context of this conflict, each time a couple kneels across the altar in a temple and a new family unit is created, it is a victory. It is a “win” for God’s Plan of Happiness. It should be celebrated and cherished. President Russell M. Nelson said, “…celestial marriage brings greater possibilities for happiness than does any other relationship.” (link)

I want my kids to be happy. I want my siblings to be happy. I want Chrissie and I to be happy. A temple wedding is the safest place to begin.

Begin.

There is still a lot of road for my kids ahead. A bit less for us, but enough to keep it challenging, exciting, and wonderful. I want all of us who are sealed together to join together in the next life. All of us. They are mine, I am theirs, we are God’s. I cannot imagine it any other way.

PS: And to make it even richer, Taylor & Mallory are expecting a baby boy in December, and Alex and Madi are expecting a baby something in January.  (Yes, I am hogging all the blessings – please share my joy.)