Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
Note: This family home evening allows a parent whose spouse is not a member of the church to discuss temples with his or her children and to answer the children’s questions about their family’s eternity.
1. Attention activity: Ask each family member to draw or write some of the things that make their family special or happy. If you consider your family to be generally unhappy, remember that every family (at least those with a parent doing her best) has something happy. If necessary, pray in advance for insight into what is good about your family and then guide your children, through questions, to discovering these for themselves. For example: What do we do on Sundays? What game did we play last week? When Susy had trouble in school, how did we help?
2. Place the drawings and writings on a piece of poster board labeled “Our Special Family.”
3. Show a picture of the temple and share your feelings about temple work and families. If you’ve been through the temple, share how you feel when you go there. If you haven’t, share your testimony of what it means to a Latter-day Saint. Remember that temples join not just living members of a family, but all those who have gone before. Place the temple on the poster board.
4. Explain that even though you are not yet an eternal family, Heavenly Father loves your family and watches over it. He has promised that those of us who are worthy will have every blessing we’re entitled to. Share the following quote by Elder Richard G. Scott. (If your children are young, use portions or put it in your own words.)
“Throughout your life on earth, seek diligently to fulfill the fundamental purposes of this life through the ideal family. While you may not have yet reached that ideal, do all you can through obedience and faith in the Lord to consistently draw as close to it as you are able. Let nothing dissuade you from that objective. If it requires fundamental changes in your personal life, make them. When you have the required age and maturity, obtain all of the ordinances of the temple you can receive. If for the present, that does not include sealing in the temple to a righteous companion, live for it. Pray for it. Exercise faith that you will obtain it. Never do anything that would make you unworthy of it. If you have lost the vision of eternal marriage, rekindle it. If your dream requires patience, give it. As brothers, we prayed and worked for 30 years before our mother and our nonmember father were sealed in the temple. Don’t become overanxious. Do the best you can. We cannot say whether that blessing will be obtained on this side of the veil or beyond it, but the Lord will keep His promises. In His infinite wisdom, He will make possible all you qualify in worthiness to receive. Do not be discouraged. Living a pattern of life as close as possible to the ideal will provide much happiness, great satisfaction, and impressive growth while here on earth regardless of your current life circumstances.” (Richard G. Scott, “First Things First,” Ensign, May 2001, 6)
Point out that Elder Scott had to wait thirty years to see his parents sealed in the temple because his father wasn’t a member of the church. This didn’t keep him from becoming a general authority.
5. Help your children see what is good about the parent who is not a member. Express your appreciation for the aspects of the gospel the parent allows the family to live, and for his or her own celestial qualities. Remind them that Heavenly Father loves that parent as much as he loves the family members who are members of the church. If you aren't married to the children's father, still make an effort to show respect for him if it's at all possible. If it is not possible, help them to understand their Heavenly Father loves them and watches over this family.
6. Express your faith that even though you don’t know how Heavenly Father will arrange things in Heaven, you do know it will be fair and you will all be happy. Bear testimony of your faith in this.
7. When family members are unable to be sealed as an eternal family at this time, they still have a responsibility to work toward that goal. That means each family member should work to make their home as celestial as possible, to set a good example for the parent who is not a member, and to live the gospel the best they can.
8. Help your children make a chart in which they show ways they can make their family happier. Give each child file cards or hearts and ask them to write down one thing on each card they will do this week to make their family happier. Together, decorate a box with hearts. As each person finishes a goal, he should drop it into the box. It might be fun to continue this over time and see how long it takes to fill the box with loving actions.
9. Offer hope to your children and help them understand that the parent who is not a member is loved, valued, and important, as are they.
10. You may want to show them that temple blessings are being offered to your family members who have died, and assure them they can have the blessings of that extended family based on their own worthiness.
Note: Below is a link to a coloring page of the Palmyra temple. Click the thumbnail to be taken to a full picture that can be printed. This picture is based on a photograph taken by my husband, Lincoln Bittner, and was turned into a coloring page by BellaOnline’s Buddhism editor as a gift to us.