I have a family. We are a family. I bore these children, made from my own flesh and blood. I labor for them. I love them. I nursed them. I nourish them.

But, when I listened to President’s Nelson’s talk on the Sunday Morning Session of General Conference, I heard how my labor, nursing, and nourishing would be all in vain if we did not all make and keep the prescribed covenants that his heaven requires. In short, we would not be together in his heaven, because, as he himself stated,

“Salvation is an individual matter, but exaltation is a family matter.”

Families Can’t Be Together Forever?

The faint tune, “Families Can Be Together Forever,” started to replay in my mind; the familiar hymn sung by children and adults alike frequently in our church echoes the Prophet’s words. Suddenly, I came to the realization that just as our church teaches that families can be together forever, it is also the only church that teaches that families *can’t* be together forever. This is a sad heaven.

Author Deborah, from Sisters Quorum, put this concept especially eloquently, when she stated,

“The term “sad heaven” may not be an official term used in formal LDS theology, but it’s one that members are increasingly using. One unique aspect of LDS faith is the concept of a tiered heaven, with the Celestial Kingdom considered the highest degree of glory and the place complete joy can be experienced. It all gets sticky—and feels less heavenly—when a family member opts to leave what President Russell M. Nelson calls the covenant path.”

Christ Taught Of Love First And Foremost

President Nelson went on to say,

“(Many) erroneously believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides a promise that all people will be with their loved ones after death….The Savior himself has made it abundantly clear that…much more is required if we want to have the high privilege of exaltation (to live as families in the afterlife.”

President Nelson, I don’t know about that. But what I do know is that Christ did say,

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another as I have loved you.”

(John 15:12)

I do know that Jesus taught of a heaven that leaves no one behind.

I do know that Jesus ministered to those who were un-ministerable.

I do know that Jesus embraced unconditional love.

Spiritual Coercion Is Not Of Christ

I also know that it is abusive to say and believe that your family will not be together when you die because of differences in beliefs, inability to conform, or unwillingness to make covenants. Life is not black and white. It is harmful to perpetuate this belief as universal truth.

As a single mother who has had no choice but to step away from the church for my own safety, my children (who still sometimes attend) are damaged and harmed when they hear this rhetoric, as it causes psychological trauma and is spiritually coercive and emotionally threatening. No mother should ever have to hear her child ask, “Why can’t we be in the same heaven, mommy?” It is not ok. And it is certainly not healthy. As a community health nurse, this is deeply concerning–ethically speaking, as it is indicative of an unhealthy institutional system. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints should not be in the business of spiritual alienation. But, as it appears, it most definitely is.

Heaven Will Be A Place Of Love Not Longing

I fully embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ, which is why I teach my children that nothing will separate us. Ever. Because this *is* what Christ taught. Heaven will be a place of love, not a place of longing. It will be a place of healing, not a place of hurting. It will be a place of well-being, not a place of wounding. It will be a place of peace, not a place of pain. It will be a place of tranquility, not a place of trauma. It will be a place of togetherness, not a place of terror. It will be a place of safety, not a place of separation. It will be a place of elation, not a place of encumbrance. It will be a place of goodness, not a place of grief.

A place where I can remember how I labored for my children. How I nursed each one. A place where I can continue to nourish them because they will be right there with me as a reminder of this love. A place where they can know that I am there always, because this is what children should know about the unmatched love their own parent has for them.

Yes, we will be together in my heaven. All of us. No matter what. Because, a sad heaven is not a place I want to go; our happy heaven is.

And we like our heaven better.

Lesley holds an RN, BSN from the University of Texas. Lesley has authored several published articles across a variety of platforms and is a frequent media contributor. She functions as a Community Health Nurse for vulnerable populations and serves as a survivor advocate for victims of abuse. She aims to raise awareness of the effects of trauma on individuals and how trauma impacts community systems. Lesley has certifications and training in Trauma-Informed Care, Community Advocacy, Faith and Spiritual Development, Familial Mental Health, Culturally Competent Care, Domestic Violence Awareness, and Resiliency Development. Lesley lives in Virginia with her 4 children and her really hyper chihuahua, named Chaos.

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