This is a letter the author sent his own family out of worries facing many homes today, as American divisions threaten to estrange our own closest relationships.
Dear family –
I’ve been thinking about a great statement Evan McMullin made in a presentation I attended, that has a lot of relevance to lots of families right now. He said, “there are going to be a variety of things Americans are going to disagree on – and that’s okay. But there are some things we can’t disagree on.” He then went on to tack through the foundations of our country – democracy, truth, liberty, law, etc.
In a similar way, there are many things we’re going to continue disagreeing on as a family. We’re not going to agree as a family on the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccinations. For some of us, they will be received as an inspired blessing that makes us feel less at risk; for others, these same vaccines will be seen as something that makes us feel more at risk, and not a rightful way to demonstrate faith.
Likewise, we’re not going to agree on the larger question of how much to trust these larger companies and the honesty of our larger regulatory systems. Or whether the offerings in our larger medical system deserve our collective confidence – and ought to be widely embraced as “modern miracles.”
We just won’t. We’ve had different experiences, and arrived at different sincerely-held conclusions. We’re also not going to agree about former President Trump or current President Biden, and who would have been worse for America (a very hard question, in my mind). Or about public schooling vs. home schooling, best ways to raise children, how to best spend money, entertainment, Lebron v. Michael, dietary choices, the scope of current threats to America, and how soon to anticipate the fulfillment of prophecy.
I’ve been thinking about all this because it sometimes seems to be lingering in the air in our conversations. After all, that’s a whole lot of disagreements! And they are things that very much rile up and estrange people (and families) in our country today.
Let’s not allow that to happen to us. We’ve already felt that temptation. But we don’t have to succumb, as long as we don’t forget all the more important things that unite us: everything that our wonderful parents continue to remind us about – Christ, eternity, ordinances, priesthood, and family forever.
As important as all those other questions might feel in the present moment, none of them are core doctrines and central to our salvation. All of them are secondary questions about which thoughtful, sincere followers of Christ disagree – and will likely disagree until He comes.
And we probably will too, right? Maybe that’s okay. I’m writing to reaffirm my commitment to respect your own space to decide what you believe about any of that – and how you’re going to live. Even if we might – and will – come down in different places, I have no doubt that your final decisions on all this are informed by lots of thought, and your own faith in God and what he wants you to do.
Hopefully our personal decisions can continue to be informed by our continuing conversations together as a family too. Since we care about each other, hopefully there will always still be room to broach questions about temporal matters, and even sometimes dive deep together.
For my part, I want to always be open to being wrong, and to see and hear more truth. When I sense hesitancy on your part to explore something, I also want to try hard to respect that boundary and be sensitive. And in the reverse direction, please know you’re welcome to always bring up any of that with me – especially if there is ever frustration you feel.
Let’s not allow that to linger. We’ve seen in so many families the long-term heartache in that. And we’ve seen wonderful other examples of what that kind of deeper unity as a family can look like, even amidst other differences. My friend Tom Christofferson speaks about a time when his own family was wrestling over some differences in perspective even more serious than what we’ve faced. As he recounts:
One night, Mom and Dad asked all the boys and their spouses to put their kids to bed and come into their room to have a family meeting. We had prayer together, and then our dad talked about his concern that we would be unified as a family and have loyalty to each other.” Mom told us, ‘I’ve realized that there is no perfect family, but I believe we can be perfect in our love for each other.’ And then she turned to my brothers and sisters-in-law and said, ‘The most important lesson your kids will learn from the way that our family treats their Uncle Tom is that nothing they can ever do will take them outside the circle of our family’s love.’ That set the tone for everything that happened in our family after that—we were going to love and enjoy each other wherever anybody was in their journey, and we were going to be loyal and united as a family. (emphasis my own)
I love that. And I hope that can be how you all feel about me – and how we feel about each other. Let’s insist on a family unity that is legit – not one that covers up real differences, or pretends they are not there…but rather, one that transcends those differences – and supersedes them, unafraid to explore them together too in an atmosphere of respect and love. Whatever you or I might think of vaccinations, Pharma, chiropractors, Trump, or the keto diet, none of that is as important as what we think of Christ.
Everything pales in comparison to our commitment to the covenant path.