Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Siblings as Friends

                    We often take for granted our relationships with our brothers and sisters, and we sometimes take advantage of these relationships.  We sometimes treat the people we ought to love and respect the most in the most unkind ways.  I know that the family can be a source of strength and encouragement if and when brothers and sisters develop bonds of friendship and love.  I also know that these close bonds are not limited to relationships between siblings but can be found among other family members, such as cousins.  Strengthening family friendships can make the world a much better place.

                    Brothers and sisters can be best friends and have great impact on each other as shown by the following experience: "I walked into sacrament meeting late that Sunday, and as usual sat on the back row.  I didn't know it at the time, but when I walked out of that meeting I would be a different person.  It wasn't just an ordinary meeting - it was the missionary farewell for my brother who's a year older than I am.  He was the fourth one in the family to go on a mission, so it was nothing new to me, but I was closer to Chuck than the others….
                    "As the speakers in the meeting started talking, I thought about how much I would miss Chuck.  We'd grown up together.  In fact, we'd shared the same bedroom until just a year before when he had moved into mom's sewing room because I wouldn't keep the room clean.  We'd worked together almost every day of our lives since I was six years old….  But all of a sudden he'd be gone.  In two days he'd be in the MTC learning Spanish, and then on to Spain for two years to teach the gospel.
                    "I left my daydreaming as I heard Chuck's voice come over the loudspeaker.  He was always a joker and started this talk with a joke. That had everybody laughing.  Then he talked a little about Spain and what his mission would be like.  Then for a few seconds everything was quiet and Chuck's face clouded with emotion.  And he said, `I want to talk to my little brother Dean for a few minutes.
                    "`Throughout my life I've done everything I could to make my brother proud of me.  I've always kept the Word of Wisdom and been the best person I could.  And as I accept this call to serve the Lord on a mission, I hope that he'll be proud of me.'
                    "I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  He had been trying to make me proud of him?  …  For the first time since I was a kid tears filled my eyes and I started to cry….
                    "As Chuck talked, I thought back on our lives….  He'd always lived a Christlike life and been a good example of a member of the true Church of Jesus Christ.  Then I thought back on my own life and how I'd fallen short of his example.  He'd never put me down for my shortcomings, though.  Sitting in that sacrament meeting, I made a promise to myself that I would someday make my brother proud of me.
                    "It's been a year and half since that meeting, and I have not forgotten the promise I made.  I have turned my life around and am now serving a mission for my Heavenly Father - the best decision I have ever made in my life.  As I kneel every night in prayer, I thank the Lord for the great examples I have had in my life, like my brother, who have had the courage to live the teachings of the Church and act like the sons and daughters of God that they are" ("My Brother the Example," New Era, Nov. 1981, 6-7).

                    The friendship between these brothers benefited both of them.  The older brother did his best while trying to make his brother proud of him, and the younger brother had a wonderful example to follow.  We often forget that our brothers and sisters can be our closest and most reliable friends.  When we treat our siblings as we treat our best friends, we create more love, unity, and support within our families.

                    Brothers and sisters can form a natural support group for each other.  We can learn much from the situations in the scriptures, which tell of the great mutual blessings that come from love and respect between brothers and sisters.  The following stories from the scriptures provide examples of love and friendship between family members.

                    The first example is the story of Reuben and Joseph.  Jacob had twelve sons, Reuben was the oldest, and Joseph was the eleventh.  Joseph was the son of Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel.  Jacob had given Joseph a special item of clothing - a coat of many colors, and the ten older brothers were jealous of Joseph.  This story concerns a time when Jacob sent his ten oldest sons out with the flocks.  When he wanted to know how his sons were doing, he sent Joseph out to find them.  When the brothers saw Joseph coming, "they conspired against him to slay him.
                    "And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer [master of dreams] cometh.
                    "Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him:  and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
                    "And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
                    "And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again."
                    When Joseph joined his brothers, they stripped his coat of many colors off and put him in an empty and dry pit.  As they were eating their meal, a caravan of Ishmaelites went by with their camels taking spicery, balm, and myrrh to EgyptJudah suggested that they sell Joseph to a caravan and get some money for him.  The brothers - minus Reuben - discussed this idea.
                    When another caravan of Ishmaelite merchantmen came along, the brothers "lifted Joseph out of the pit." They sold Joseph "for twenty pieces of silver" - the price of a teenage slave, and Joseph was taken to Egypt
                    Reuben returned to the pit to save Joseph but found it empty.  "… he rent [tore] his clothes" and returned to where his brothers waited.  He said, "The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?" (Genesis 37:15-30)  In spite of Reuben's attempt to protect Joseph, the younger brother was sold to strangers.

                    The second example also concerns Joseph and his brothers.  The caravan merchants took seventeen-year-old Joseph to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar.  Joseph became a valuable asset to Potiphar and was given much authority; however, Potiphar's wife lusted after the young man.  As a result of her attempted entrapment, Joseph was thrown into prison for a couple of years.  There he again was a valuable asset to the jailer and given some authority.  He was released from the prison in order to interpret the Pharaoh's dream. Because he was able to correctly interpret the dream that warned about a future famine, Joseph became the most powerful man in Egypt next to the Pharaoh, and he supervised the gathering of food in preparation for a prophesied famine.  When the famine came, Joseph's older brothers went to Egypt to buy food and came face to face with Joseph.  They did not recognize him, but he recognized them.  After testing them a bit to see if they had changed at all, he revealed himself to them.

                    The brothers were concerned that Joseph would heap revenge on them, but Joseph said to them:  "Come near to me, I pray you….  I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
                    "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither:  for God did send me before you to preserve life.
                    "For these two years hath the famine been in the land:  and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
                    "And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
                    "So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God:  and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt
                    "Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto hi, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt:  come down unto me, tarry not:
                    "And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast:
                    "And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.
                    "And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you.
                    "And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen:  and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither.
                    "And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck.
                    "Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them:  and after that his brethren talked with him" (Genesis 45:1-15).  In spite of the hate and cruel treatment he received from his brothers, Joseph loved them and was able to save their lives and the lives of their families.

                    The third example is the story of Nephi and his brother Sam.  "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.
                    "And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit.  And it came to pass that he believed in my words" (1 Nephi 2:16-17).    Because Nephi loved his brothers enough to share his knowledge with them, he became a blessing in Sam's life and strengthened Sam to stay strong and obedient.

                    The fourth example comes from Church history and is the story of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.  Speaking of his brother Hyrum Smith, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote:
                    "Brother Hyrum, what a faithful heart you have got!" (quoted by Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1930, 93).

                    Throughout his life, Hyrum was a true friend and brother to Joseph.  After hearing Joseph's account of the First Vision, Hyrum made a commitment to help Joseph with his responsibilities.  He kept this commitment and always supported Joseph.  He became one of the first six members of the Church, and he always followed the counsel Joseph received through the Lord.

                    In June 1844 a mob was determined to take the life of Joseph Smith.  Hyrum Smith and others met with Joseph and carefully planned what he could do to avoid being killed.  But Joseph seemed more concerned for his brother Hyrum's safety than he was for his own, and he told Hyrum to take his family to Cincinnati.  Hyrum refused to leave, and he followed Joseph to the Carthage Jail.

                    On 27 June 1844 at about 5:00 P.M., a mob surrounded the jail.  Some of them went past the guard and up the stairs and began shooting through the door.  Others stayed outside and fired through the open windows.  Hyrum was standing by the door when a bullet struck him on the side of his nose.  He fell to the floor saying, `I am a dead man!'  When Hyrum fell, Joseph exclaimed, "Oh! My poor, dear brother Hyrum!" (History of the Church, 7:102).

                    As the mob continued to fire their guns, Joseph went to the window, where he was struck by four bullets.  As he died, he fell out of the window, exclaiming, "O Lord my God!" (Doctrine and Covenants 135:1).

                    Though Hyrum could have saved his own life, he chose to stay with his brother.  As Elder John Taylor wrote, "In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!(Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).

                    The relationships between brothers and sisters can be wonderful if we do those things that build strong relationships.  Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated:  "Continue building lasting, loving relationships for all family members.  Listen to one another, be united, work together, play together, pray together, study together.  Live celestial principles together, serve the Lord together" (Ensign, May 1985, 23).

                    I am grateful to be able to count my siblings among my closest friends.  We worked and played together while growing up, and we enjoy being together now.  We share our hardest trials and brightest triumphs with each other.  My siblings comprise a large part of my support group, and I am very grateful for them.  I became friends with my brothers and sisters as we worked together on the farm, and we are still friends in our older years.  When I travel Outside, I seldom have the time to visit friends, but I always make the time to visit one or more of my siblings.  My sister's husband passed away in September after years of health problems.  Several of her children told me, "Mom really appreciates the support of her brothers and sisters.  It means a lot to her."

                    I am grateful that my sons and daughters are friends and enjoy spending time together.  Recently, two daughters, one sons, and his wife met in St. George, Utah, to run a marathon together.  They then spent several more days enjoying the beauties of Zion National Park and boating on Lake Powell.  I recently saw a post on Facebook from one of them inquiring when they could get together again.  All six of my children enjoy being with their siblings. I often feel that I am on the outside looking in at their great relationships, but I am truly grateful that they love each other so much and enjoy being together.

                    I know the important of developing close friendships within our families.  I am grateful to know that my circle of friends includes my husband, my children, my siblings, and my nieces and nephews as well as many other people on my husband's side of the family.  I have a special place in my heart for each of my dear family members and count all of them as my friends.

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