The year I went to 4th grade we lived with my grandparents on their ranch in Northern Utah. I can’t think of a more fun place to be a kid than on a working farm, with so much to explore and do! One of the fun things I did was ride the tractor with my grandpa and uncle while they harvested the fields. They grew alfalfa to feed the cattle and wheat to sell at market. When wheat first begins to grow it looks much like wild grass, in fact there are many wild grasses that attempt to imitate wheat but cannot be eaten. As the summer turns brilliantly hot the mature wheat’s dense green turns to gold. Watching these fields sway in the wind is I’m sure what prompted Katharine Lee Bates, writer of America the Beautiful, to pen the lines, “Amber waves of grain.”
One that was barely recognizable was shown in the lighting sconces. They were reminiscent of wheat sheaves. When I saw them it reminded me of that year I spent on my grandparents’ farm and the eternal family they have built through the blessings of the temple.
The sheaves also reminded me of a phrase popular in Mormon culture, “All Safely Gathered In.” Many Mormons use this in reference to their families being united eternally, but it also can refer to a concept Mormons feel very strongly about: missionary work.
On a few occasions I have had those not of my faith ask why we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are such a missionary-minded people. Why should we care what other people believe and commit themselves to in this life? I can’t answer that question completely, but I will say that one of the reasons is because we are all a family.
Most, if not all, Christian religions believe that Adam and Eve were the first two people on earth, and as such are the genesis of mankind and the ultimate parents of us all. If that is true, then it means we are all literally brothers and sisters. In the Mormon faith, we also believe we are all the spirit children of God. Because our spirits were created by Him, we are of Him and have a spiritual heritage that is interrelated. We are all brothers and sisters of the flesh and brothers and sisters spiritually. (This is why you might often hear Mormons referring to each other as “Brother Smith” or “Sister Jones” when in fact they are not immediate siblings, nor is the person they are referring to a monk, nun, or priest as other faiths use those terms.) These connections bond us to each other, as do the common trials we face in this mortal life.
Another symbol I saw in the temple yesterday is one of linked circles, creating a chain. If you consider that each circle represents a person, an eternal being, then a chain would be started with the linking of two eternal beings together. In layman’s terms that is marriage, in Mormonism when that marriage takes place in a temple it is called a sealing. The sealing of a man and a woman is then seen as eternal upon conditions of faithfulness and desire. When a mother and father are sealed in a temple sealing, their children, usually then unborn, are then bonded to them as well [referred to as being “born in the covenant” (BIC)]. If those children are then married (sealed) in the temple later in life then they are bonded to their spouse and children for eternity.
Thus, a chain of interconnected circles is the perfect way to visually represent the connections made when families and generational ties are made eternal in the temple. Or even more precisely, because of in-laws and extended families, it is a net of interconnected circles.
Have you ever seen a net where just one thread breaks? There is a hole that can only be fixed if that circle or thread is mended. That is somewhat how Mormons feel about a family member that is not safely gathered in. They are missed, they cannot be replaced, there is a hole in the family. If all mankind is truly a family, then we want our giant net of interconnected circles (brothers and sisters) to be complete and whole. We don’t want anyone to be missing. This feeling comes out of responsibility but also, most importantly, out of love.
Mormons do their best to live as Christ counseled, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” When viewed in light of the knowledge of our giant human family, Christ is simply asking us to be a loving family. We feel that happiness is most likely to be found when living the principles of the gospel, those precepts that Jesus taught. We want everyone to enjoy the blessings and happiness we have found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. To seek out those that are interested in learning more and teaching them so they can make informed choices takes work, a special kind of work called missionary work.
So when when a Mormon missionary knocks on your door, or if your Mormon friend talks to you about our beliefs, please remember that we don’t share to add to the numbers of our church. You are a sister, or a brother, whom Christ has told us we should love, seek out, and welcome into the family so that we may all be safely gathered in.