BYU religious educator Jenet Erickson invited students to become one with Heavenly Father through family relationships and covenants during her devotional address on Nov. 8.
“Our individual agency endows us with the responsibility and privilege of becoming beings who can experience the deepest forms of connection,” Erickson said.
She explained how mothers establish a bond with the baby that seems to shape the foundation of identity and sense of well-being and how in a complementary way fathers relationships shape relational capacity, understanding of boundaries and emotional management.
“A father’s closeness offers daughters a deep experience of what protective male love feels like, strengthening her capacity for wise sexual decisions,” Erickson said.
According to Erickson, sexual union is designed to create and symbolize a union strong enough that a child’s heart can rely upon.
“Every infant’s primary task is to search out a face – the face that gazes back at them, on whom they fix their eyes. It is in connecting with another that we begin to know who we are,” Erickson said.
Erickson highlighted the importance of family relationships, saying that profound cycles of care and dependency continues as kids grow up to be the ones caring for their aging parents.
She also said making the choice to end marital relations that are abusive can be a courageous and beneficial decision, but it also can bring challenges to children that are raised without both parents, because “Children are, after all, the embodiment of their parents’ union,” Erickson said.
Erickson then spoke about the pandemic of loneliness, and how the increase of mental health challenges, individualism, decrease in marriage rate, social media and other factors seem to play a role with loneliness stemming from disruption in the family.
In regards to becoming a mother, Erickson said that she “ found out quickly how inadequate and sometimes false my love could be.” She explained how she found that she could use her little ones as a way to validate herself, especially in leaving her career to nurture them.
“Like a powerful mirror they exposed me to many weaknesses. Having a PhD in family science made my weaknesses seem even more pathetic,” Erickson said.
Erickson said that the celestial sphere is a place of profound intimacy where we will see others and be seen as they truly are, and that the commandments are to guide individuals to become beings of love as God is.
“I have learned through painful and joyful experience that when the love of God is the foundation for my identity, I no longer need to pressure, coerce, judge or extract validation from others in order to feel sufficient myself,” Erickson said.
According to Erickson, God wants to be in deep, abiding relationships with individuals. In His becoming one with His children, he opens the door for them to become one with him.
“His Covenant relationship with us is the truest intimacy,” said Erickson “It is the experience of perfect love with a being whom we know sees all that we are responsible for, in all our weakness and our sins, and reflects it back to us in the light of His purity, expands our agency, and leads us to a better way through His redeeming love,” Erickson said.
Erikson said some might feel less worthy because of struggles with being single, divorced, infertile, abuse, gender, or any other deviations from “the ideal.” Instead, she said, Heavenly Father invites all to come share their struggles with Him.
Erickson said the only way to overcome struggles and achieve perfection is through intimacy with Christ.
“We find that our perfectionism, our fearing and hiding from our nothingness, weaknesses, sin, and suffering only interferes with intimacy, blocking our ability to receive His love, and to see, know, and love others,” Erickson said.
Erickson said all are deeply relational beings, designed for love and connection with one another and with God. She said even though families fill a sacred role in the development and expression of this love, this isn’t where love begins or ends.
“This is what we are doing when we stand in the place of eternal brothers and sisters, receiving ordinances and making covenants in their behalf,” Erickson said. “This is what we are doing when we open our hearts to receive mission calls not knowing where or how we may be called to serve, just knowing that we yearn to bless our eternal brothers and sisters with the opportunity for covenant relationship with our Redeemer.”