Those who wish, rightly or wrongly, to step out of all this [the life of the family], do definitely wish to step into a narrower world. They are dismayed and terrified by the largeness and variety of the family… I do not say, for a moment, that the flight to this narrower life may not be the right thing for the individual, any more than I say the same thing about flight into a monastery. But I do say that anything is bad and artificial which tends to make these people succumb to the strange delusion that they are stepping into a world which is actually larger and more varied than their own. The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born.

– Gilbert K Chesterton, “On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family,” Heretics (New York: John Lane company, 1905 [twelfth edition, 1919]).

Chesterton is quite right about marriages and families–it may well because of the dynamic he describes that family is one of the workshops of making true Christians.

I seems too, though, that Chesterton’s description fits well with the religious communities in which Latter-day Saints find ourselves. We do not pick them, and we cannot move between them at will. We are simply placed with a group of people, with whom we must put up, and who must put up with us. We bear their weaknesses and follies as they bear ours.

We can choose–and many do–to find other communities. But we must be wary that these freely-chosen associations do not steal us away from those into which God has placed us: our family and our “ward family.” There is something about associations that we cannot change simply when they cease to please us, or “meet our needs,” or when they seem to be more trouble than they are worth.

Where would be if Jesus had taken that option?

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Family and Church community