Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Redeeming Our Ancestors (and Others) through Our Actions in This Life

A friend of mine once said:

The Old Testament says Yahweh will visit the sins of the fathers on their children unto the third and the fourth generation. But if we arise and atone, we redeem the fathers from that curse.  

I know that part of who I am is inherited from those who came before me - my ancestors. Thus, what I do is (in part) a result of what they did. Thus, they are partially responsible for me. Thus, one of the ways I can "redeem" them is to act in such a way that their actions (in helping to create me) result in good through me. Thus, I must be willing to overlook and "forgive" the ruinous elements of what they gave me while recognizing and maximizing the goodness they left for and in me. Thus, as I look at my own descendants, I hope they can take what I leave for them (take what I gave to them in helping to create them), be charitable in how they view me and have the ultimate result be good through them.

In popular terms, this is like "leave the world a better place than it was when you arrived" - but it adds a personal element of gratitude for our ancestors' role in making it possible for us to do that and a humility to hope that our own descendants will be charitable in how they view our efforts and strive to "redeem" us in the exact same way - by making our lives ultimately meaningful on a scale larger and more lasting than just what we lived on our own in mortality.

If you take this concept and insert "Joseph Smith" or "Brigham Young" or anyone else in my communal heritage, the same concept applies. It's an interesting exercise, and I recommend everyone go ahead and do it. Re-read the first two paragraphs with the suggested change, then do it again and insert anyone from your personal or communal past instead of "ancestors".

Did you have an abusive parent - a mean teacher - a petty Home Teacher - an unsympathetic Bishop? Try inserting their name. Do you have someone now who will need to be "redeemed" in the future by someone else - perhaps your own descendants? Try inserting their name.

Reaching this general attitude has freed me from SO much stress and potential anger and bitterness and wasted energy. It's one aspect of how I personally view the term "Saviors on Mount Zion" - those who lose their own lives, in a sense, in an effort to "redeem the world". I also have no problem applying that term to anyone, anywhere - like Mother Theresa or the Assemblies of God missionary I met years ago who helps establish safe houses for girls in third world countries who desperately need them. I believe they are "redeeming the dead" in a very important, powerful way. 


Patty said...

Having seen in my own life how the sins (or honest mistakes) of prior generations can wreak havoc in a person's life, it's so reassuring to know that we aren't bound by the things we grew up with, and we can pass on a better legacy to those who come after. I think redemption, in part, is to see succeeding generations learn better ways to love.

Anonymous said...

One of your loveliest comments Papa. As a therapist I have struggled to honour our parents with the truth. For many years I was given to understand from those in authority in the church that I was somehow undermining the kingdom. That is no longer the case.It's nice to have lived that long.