July 2016 Visiting Teaching Message: Our Potential for Parenthood

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This month’s visiting teaching message addresses a topic that might be hurtful to some sisters, if not framed carefully.
The lesson opens with this quote from Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

In light of the ultimate purpose of the great plan of happiness, I believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity.

Carefully consider the appropriateness of sharing this quote. Particularly if you are not an expert on the parenting or reproductive history of the sisters you teach. Did your sister have all of the children she wanted to have? Is she struggling with fertility now? Was she blessed with more children than she could safely parent? Did she lose any children to miscarriage or other circumstances? What about the members of our ward family that do not have children?

If you choose to use the above quote, a follow up question might be: “How does it feel to consider that you were a child, you are posterity, and you are one of the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven described by Elder Oaks?”

The scriptures do not contain any stories of Jesus as a father to biological children. Yet we refer to him as one in purpose with our Heavenly Father and hold him as the perfect exemplar for both men and women on earth. If Jesus never had children or posterity on earth, is our Savior impoverished on earth and in heaven?  Can we have the experiences essential to our salvation without becoming parents?

The lesson states,

Though not all of us become parents in this life, we can nurture children of every age. We enjoy the blessings of being part of Heavenly Father’s family, and we experience the joys and challenges of being part of an earthly family.

What can we learn from the example of Jesus Christ about how to nurture children of every age?

Children are often a topic of conversation in LDS culture. As the lesson states,“We believe in families, and we believe in children. …” Do these beliefs ever lead us to make a judgement about someone based on how many children they do or do not have? Is it ever kind, helpful or appropriate to ask someone about their family formation or planning?

For example: “How many children do you plan to have?” “When are you going to start having kids?” “When are you going to have another one?” “Why don’t you adopt or foster?” Who is the real mother/father?” How can we respond with love when someone asks an inappropriately intrusive, unkind, or hurtful question about our family formation or planning?

Finally, you might conclude with this poem, On Children by Kahlil Gibran, set to music by Sweet Honey in the Rock

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself
They come through you but they are not from you and though they are with you
They belong not to you
You can give them your love but not your thoughts
They have their own thoughts
You can house their bodies but not their souls
For their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow
Which you cannot visit not even in your dreams
You can strive to be like them
But you cannot make them just like you
Strive to be like them
But you cannot make them just like you

How can we strive to be like children without trying to make the children in our lives just like us?
How do we honor the divine in each of us?

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6 Responses

  1. That is one of my favorite poems!

  2. Kristine A says:

    I am nervous about being VT this month and Vting. This gives me hope for positive redirection. Thank you for this series.

  3. spunky says:

    Thank you so much for this. These messages have triggered me in the past and caused me to avoid church. If only all of these lessons were framed like your post!!!

    Thank you!!!

  4. Cruelest Month says:

    The visiting teaching messages this year seem especially triggering and hurtful to me. I am limitting my visiting teaching to these messages on the-exponent.

    • Gemma says:

      Seriously, whose idea was it to have 12 months of messages based on the Family Proclamation? This one is the most tone-deaf yet and I’ve been seriously considering asking to be released from VTing for the remainder of the year. Thanks to all the bloggers for finding ways to make the messages more inclusive.

  5. Elva Lee says:

    Thank you so much for sharing you thoughts and ideas about July message. In the ensign at the very bottom of the visiting teaching message there is a “Consider this” Followed by the question “In what ways is our earthly family like our heavenly family?” I like this question and the opportunity it opens to talk about our Heavenly Mother. And with that question being in the ensign many feel more open to talk about her when normally they may not. Thank you again for your post!

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