Family in Crisis

Truly we are in extraordinary times.

Over the course of the past several weeks we have seen a daily barrage of breaking news, much of it life changing.

As of this writing it is still very uncertain what the outcome will be of the Coronavirus crisis in the United States.

Over the past several days many have been stunned as the public has rushed stores and cleared shelves of nearly every needful item.

Events of all kinds have been canceled. Schools are closed. Businesses are shutting down. People everywhere are getting ready to be isolated in their homes for several weeks.

Markets are crashing. Banks are shoring up their reserves. Governments are posturing, even threatening in some areas.

Social media is a mess of opinions and reactions.

As major sporting events and even church services cancel there is actual concern about what we are going to watch on television in the weeks ahead.

This is a crisis like no other we have seen in our lifetimes.

I think the closest comparisons are the events of 9/11 and the strange life we endured in the weeks following.

This is still very different, however.

The potential of severe illness and the danger that it represents to the elderly and those at risk due to underlying conditions is very real and require immediate action.

Jobs are quickly being lost, careers evaporated. Savings are being depleted. Bills are going unpaid. Uncertainty is all about us and it has happened so fast.

We are now in a very defensive posture, unsure how to move forward.

We have been told to prepare for such eventualities. We have been advised to store up food and supplies to last for periods of time such as this.

But when those preparations are made and every bit of information has been gathered we still have to go through whatever it is we have to go through.

That is what has me worried.

Without disclosing too much that is personal, I would tell you that before all this began we were already a family is crisis.

This backdrop of the Coronavirus has only added an interesting and scary twist to what was already unfolding for us.

From Utah to California, I sense for the first time in my comfortable life a real sense of danger.

The reality that we can be hurt by current events is before us. No one yet has become sick, nobody has died, and all tragedy in a physical sense has been avoided thus far.

But the specter of disaster is knocking at the door. For the first time in my life, I’m really a worried man.

I know the way through this. I have been taught.

Many others in our family past have had to face their own crises and from them we can learn.

Imagine what Gabriel Westover was feeling when he put two of his children on ships bound for the New World in the 1630s.

Or what his son Jonas Westover may have felt when his new home on Westover’s Plain in Simsbury, Connecticut burned to the ground during the King Phillips War.

Maybe we can understand family crisis better by contemplating the death of Alexander Westover that scattered his young family for more than a decade.

Or when Albert Smith withdrew from his family to serve in the Mormon Battalion for a period of a year as they sat on the plains ready to head west in 1847.

Pick a generation and you will find events that changed their lives: the American Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars I and II. Our family, whether they came from England, Scotland, Denmark or Croatia, were all in crisis as they made their way west. Their experiences call to us as we face our own trials.

I have some things to draw on that have been passed down the generations of family.

First, my taught and developed faith in Jesus Christ is being put to the test.

That’s on me.

Faith is a verb. It is work. Exercising faith, with the knowledge of God’s plan and that death is not the end of life, means I can gain perspective from the trials in which I pass.

Second, I believe we remain connected to our ancestors and that they love us. They are concerned for us and have lessons to teach us as we pass through our trials.

President Russell M. Nelson has said, “When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves. Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors through sacred ordinances of the temple…While temple and family history work has the power to bless those beyond the veil, it has an equal power to bless the living. It has a refining influence on those who are engaged in it. They are literally helping to exalt their families.”

I firmly believe that.

I have felt that and experienced that in my efforts to record our family history.

Over the course of the next few posts in this series on Family in Crisis I will be delving into the history of our family as they passed through the crises of their time.

I do not believe for one second that here in the 21st century we can fully comprehend all that they went through. Neither do I believe that the details of our trials are something they can understand.

But what they might have felt, how they may have exercised faith, what they could have done to endure it well can be instructive to us as we face our crisis.

These posts could well be lengthy. We lack, in most cases, their recording of history. But we can draw on professional histories of the events of their lives and match them to the outcomes our ancestors experienced.

I promise you it will be time well spent to explore these things. Stay tuned.

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