Book Review: Our Heavenly Families, Our Earthly Families
McArthur Krishna, Bethany Brady Spalding, and Caitlin Connolly. Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2016. Available August 22. But you can pre-order today!
“….my body is the temple my Father gave to me.” sang the children a few weeks ago in my Primary music lesson. “The songbook has ‘Father’ printed in it,” I say, “but we know it took more than just Heavenly Father to create us. Who else helped him?”
Crickets. Blank looks. An older boy, a visitor, lets out a guess, “Jesus?”
My 5-year-old on the front row pipes in, “Heavenly Mother!”
In that teaching moment, I wished I had brought my copy of Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families to Primary with me, because the authors and artist who created this book do a beautiful job of describing the divine origins of the human family: a Heavenly Mother and Father who worked together in creating us, our earth, and the plan for us to return to Them, with Jesus Christ as our brother and Savior, and who continue to watch over and care for us.
One of the first things I loved about this book was how I didn’t have to add in my own gender inclusions when reading aloud to my child; they were already present in the text! In the most logical way, Heavenly Mother is named, credited and included in every place She should be. This sweet book takes a monumental step in showing how comfortable it can be to include Her presence and influence in reverent language when describing our relationships with Deity, right down to the pronouns.
Each page is a self-contained study in comparing similar features of our Heavenly and earthly families, with discussion questions, a quote from an LDS General Authority, and accompanying art work. Topics include: Families are Divine, Families Begin with Parents, Families thrive with love, Families forgive and others. These little lessons would be perfect to dole out one at a time for Family Home Evening, a Primary Sharing Time, or in talks and messages.
I appreciated how conscientious the authors were to model earthly parents as equal partners without gender-role stereotypes. Mom can fly airplanes. Dad can carry in groceries. Parents share jobs at home. They are purposefully inclusive of a variety of child-raising possibilities, “To begin life, everyone needs a mother and father. But here on earth, all of our families look different. Some children live with one parent, some live with two, and some have even more grown-ups who take care of them.” the variety of ways children can join a family, “giving birth, adopting, marrying someone who has children, or caring for others’ children. ” and later, “It’s exciting to belong to a big, quirky family!”
The text is warm and cheery, using lots of fun words that will make kids and parents giggle: colorful plants, splashing in puddles, comfort food, math equations, let Mom sleep in, build a fort, grubby jobs, pillow fights, zydeco dancing, tuba performance, put a worm on a hook. The artwork matches the text for brightness, and depicts playful and sweet moments in family life.
The discussion questions raise wonderful points about stewardship and love: “How can you treat everyone as your brother and sister? How can you help care for the home your Heavenly Parents gave you — the earth? How do you show your family love?”
There are some who believe that to speak of Heavenly Mother is irreverent, and that She shouldn’t be referred to for fear of desecrating Her name. This notion is as faulty as it is disconsolate. There is great wisdom in sharing this book with children as they grow so they learn how to speak of Heavenly Mother with love and reverence rather than avoidance. I believe this book will successfully shape the collective narrative our children hear toward a more loving, inclusive conversation about our Divine Mother. The creators of the book have shared the answers to their prayers, and generously offer their interpretations and insights with utmost sincerity. A loving discourse about Her, and a longing to know more about Her may bring about powerful personal revelation, written onto the hearts of those who ask. If reading it spurs us on to do some additional seeking and praying, we may be rewarded with unique revelations of our own as to Her divinity and ongoing presence in our lives, as there are yet many dimensions of Her left to be unfolded.
Today, and for the Primary program later this year, my Primary children will sing, “…my body is the temple my Parents gave to me.” and I will show them these pictures and ask these questions. One little word improves the song to include the other half of the Heavenly pair who created us. It’s a small and simple thing, but I believe it will bring to pass a great many things.