With the Church’s emphasis on eternal families, how do we reconcile the fact that some people are forced to choose between church participation and their parents, siblings, or spouse?
It’s an uncomfortable truth: sometimes it seems like our faith can drive a wedge between us and the people we care about. A son might be rejected by his parents for joining the Church against their wishes. A wife might feel pressured by her nonmember husband to stop practicing her beliefs. Though in many cases families can reach a middle ground of tolerance and respect, what about those instances when no such resolution can be found?
Prophets in both ancient and modern times have addressed this difficult dilemma from various angles. In President Ezra Taft Benson’s talk “The Great Commandment—Love the Lord,” the prophet counsels us on the principles that should guide our decisions. He clarifies that “we should give God, the Father of our spirits, an exclusive preeminence in our lives . . . ahead of all other ties that may bind us here or hereafter.”
Christ himself taught that our love for God must come before all else, and “he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:35–37).
Situations in which religious convictions lead to disowning or divorce are, of course, highly circumstantial, but the Apostle Paul indicated that spouses who are at religious variance shouldn’t let that rend their relationship apart, “for the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy . . . For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:12–14, 16).
President Benson also points out through many scriptural examples that it is not God or the Church that breaks families apart but, rather, family members who refuse to reconcile their differences. We cannot choose how others react to us openly living our beliefs. But we can do everything in our power to radiate the light of Christ through our examples, in hopes of drawing loved ones to—or back to—the faith.
However we handle our individual circumstances, God’s representatives have outlined priorities that can help us achieve the greatest possible happiness in our families on earth and in the eternities.
For more of President Benson’s counsel about how to love both God and our families, read “The Great Commandment—Love the Lord.”
—Alex Hugie, Mormon Insights
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Find more insights
To discover how one young adult dealt with the struggle of joining the Church amidst familial pressure not to, read the New Era article “You Don’t Know My Father.”
Consider an example of the Church’s efforts to prevent families from breaking apart: “Keeping Homes Intact: The LDS Church and the Children of Same-Sex Couples.”
To learn what modern-day prophets have to say about the importance of families, read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
See Mark 10:29–30 for what Christ promises those who put God first in their lives.