Thursday, December 7, 2017

Accepting Role as Family Patriarch

Posted: 7 December 2017  
Updated: 22 Dec 17


Mormon General Conference

It is ironic that the original date of this post should coincide with the anniversary of my being confirmed a member of the Mormon Church as a boy in Phoenix, Arizona. This was the very day that Pearl Harbor was being bombed! I was 8 years old. 

Little did I know what "family patriarch" meant back then, but I soon learned that such a role was defined by the head of the Mormon Church, then considered by the membership to be the only legitimate earthly mouthpiece of God.


Mormon Father blessing his family

Well, that was then. Now it is different. I have four families, two of which (first and third) were born and raised in the Mormon culture. The other two are from different cultures, the second in a Jungian analytic society, the fourth in a Swedish charismatic Christian tradition. The genealogy of my third family goes all the way back to Joseph Knight, protector, patron and disciple of Joseph Smith, Jr., whose son Newell was the first Mormon bishop.

Back then, in my Mormon boyhood years, I learned that "patriarch" was defined in terms of a top down  'dominating' authority. These days I choose to redefine the role of family patriarch in terms of 'partnering', using a round table metaphor, where family members have an equal voice, choosing to relate to each other on the same level. 

One of my daughters-in-law sent me a standard 2-version dictionary definition for this role: 
pa·tri·archˈpātrēˌärk/noun

1. the male head of a family or tribe.
2. any of those biblical figures regarded as fathers of the human race, especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their forefathers, or the sons of Jacob.
We both agreed on the first definition, deliberately avoiding the second.
20, 22 Dec 17. I was motivated to accept this role of "family patriarch" (having avoided it for over 5 decades) because this current earthly life has simply put me into this position and because of recent comments by two people:

1) Ex-wife of my oldest son (mother of a grandson), during a recent crisis in the life of my youngest son and recent suicide of one of my active Mormon granddaughters, whose husband was/is a Mormon bishop. (See Comments)

2) Conversations with the chaplain of local VFW Post at the end of a recent six-week pilot dream work seminar for veterans suffering from PTSD nightmares. We discovered we are both great-grandfathers as well as family patriarchs and agreed to help each other become better grandparents. Whether we two old VFW veterans, at this stage of our lives, can function effectively in this capacity remains to be seen.


To be continued in Part 2: Sitting at the Family Round Table  

1 comment:

Beverly Menninger said...

Thank you for the "alert" that this round table is forming and discussion is welcome. I am pleased to hear the role of patriarch has been redefined in your heart and mind to include being a guardian and role model for the family, not an overpowering dominating force that unfortunately a church can create. My intent when first mentioning the role as a patriarch was as as a leader that guides the family through storms and trauma and leads them to higher ground! Of course that means there needs to be a certain level of awareness, ownership and well being in that patriarch! I have high hopes that you and your biological family can come to the table and have beautiful conversation that can create awakening, healing, evolution and support for the generations to come. It is also important for my generation of the family to recognize we are the up and coming elders and with the support of the current elders we need to take the reins to continue supporting this family toward greater healing. Unresolved hurt, trauma, emotions and spirit can manifest in so many ways including disease. As I shared with some through a letter written this summer, this family has mental health issues that can no longer be ignored with eyes and ears closed. Too many of the the younger generation are faced with dealing with their mental health issues alone and until now the elders have not known what to do and how to best support them. I sit, invited, at this table interested and willing to discuss what is needed, in our own development and movement forward and for the sake of my child and all of yours!
Gene, thank you for calling this meeting to order and I truly hope a discussion ensues. Love to all, Bev