Love is the Ladder

by G.G. Vandagriff

Inasmuch as February is the month when our hearts turn to thoughts of love, it is appropriate to remind ourselves of the big picture, from a family history perspective. Alice Walker said, “Love is the ladder that reaches through time . . .” I like that description of our pedigree. We all have a past made up of love stories. Down through the ages there was love, a love between people of different places, different tongues, and different times. That love ultimately created the person that is you.

Every name on your pedigree tells a different story. You have thousands of stories in you. What are they?

Some of us may be from less than perfect families. Maybe we don’t share the LDS ideal of having Mormon pioneer heritage. That doesn’t mean our stories are any less valuable or important. Struggle is part of the human condition. Struggle creates many kinds of strife that may be reflected in our family trees. While some of my ancestors tried to cope with mental illness, others’ trials were in the form of premature death of spouses or infants, and still others coped with privation on the frontier. Just as there was at one time love in every generation, there was also trial. Love is the great means of exaltation and trial is the great means of humility. In each of our lives there is both. It is important to remember that these two things do not cancel each other out, but coexist.

We have wisdom and knowledge and the saving ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it has been restored in these latter days. These gifts allow us a perspective denied to most of our ancestors. What would their lives have been like had they had the blessings we enjoy? Pondering on that question is an interesting exercise. Part of our debt to them for enduring what they endured so that we could exist at this place in this time involves giving them the opportunity to enjoy those blessings. We hold a gift of love in our hands so precious it is impossible to estimate its value. We can literally change the course of the rivers of sorrow that have run through the lives of our ancestors by giving them free access to the healing waters of the atonement.

A friend of mine who had endured an emotionally brutal childhood with parents who eventually divorced, dutifully, but without much hope, performed their marriage sealing by proxy in the temple. She, with her low expectations, felt nothing. But her son-in-law who was present and not burdened with her emotional baggage was overcome by the spirit. Through many tears he related to her that her parents had been present and had accepted the ordinance. Familiar with the family history, he told her that he couldn’t explain how this had come to be, he only knew that it was. My friend was incredulous that her parents could not only have accepted the gospel, but that they could have been reconciled to the extent that they wished to be together for eternity.

We own the commodity of hope. It is ours to give. If we also have the greater gift of charity, we will endow that gift of hope upon all those we can find in that great ladder of love that extends beyond us into eternity.


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