We do not get to choose our trials or our families.

May 19, 2007

by Josh

I’m 23 years old and I don’t forsee marriage and a family of my own for another decade or so. I am a Latter-day Saint, born and raised. As of late, however, I have not been attending my meetings and I don’t know if I will step inside a meetinghouse ever again. My conflicted feelings is a cross for me to bear. My Korean American heritage is also a cross for me to bear.

What about family? I think families are important and can be nurturing to an individual and a refuge from the world. What is important in a family to me is the trust and forgiveness that comes almost automatically. A family does not have to be perfect in order for it to work. The home can be a microcosm of Zion. Instead of waiting for Zion and the Second Coming to arrive, we have to strive towards a perfect if unattainable ideal. Everyone somehow fits in the pattern. There can be plenty. Resources, though finite, can be available for all if everyone is willing to share without expectation of compensation. I have not felt the truthfulness of the gospel in a long time but I do think that the home can be a temple if a family wants it to be. It takes blood, sweat, and tears to raise a famiy.

Though I have not raised a family myself, as a young adult I am beginning to understand the sacrifices that my parents have made for me. I’m Korean by birth, raised in New York and for the most part, the rumors are true: Korean youths and young adults feel an immense pressure to achieve academically and professionally. According to a recent CNN report, this pressure is the second leading cause of suicide among Asian American women from ages 15-24. We’re not all bad drivers nor are we all math whizzes. I honestly wouldn’t know a mathematical formula if it came up to me and gave me its calling card. First-generation immigrant kids from Asia have to reconcile two cultures that are diametrically opposed. American culture rewards individualism and celebrity while Asian culture emphasizes filial piety and humility. Korean families do not like to air out their dirty laundry; they like to keep to themselves. What’s worse is that a great deal of non-Asians have come to expect my ethnic group to succeed. How often have we heard those complimentary, if puzzling stereotypes? In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, one report hit a little too close to home, no pun intended: Virtually noone in the killer’s home neighborhood knew anything about his family.

Having said this, as an Asian American kid I feel conflicted in the love of and trust in my family with my seething resentment at feeling the need to measure up to my parents’ expectations of me. I sometimes ask myself, “how can I raise a family of my own when I’m still not sure if I was raised correctly?” I never liked having to live in two cultures. Do I follow a strict American culture or do I honor my Korean roots? Being unspotted from the world is hard enough but it’s even more complicated when you’re torn between your ethicity and your desire to be a normal American male.

I guess the best place to start is by asking myself what an all-knowing and benevolent God would do if he came down to earth and had to raise a family; by trying to do what God would do, one can make his home a temple on earth. I’d start by making sure my kids are certain of my love for them and to treat them fairly. I’d let them learn of the consequences of mistakes on their own and praise them amply when they make the right choices. I’d teach them to have empathy for others and to be grateful for what they have. I’d teach them to be open-minded and friendly to others.

I like to think, if there is a God, that he was once mortal and frail, like me. Was he imperfect? What of his family? Did they treat him well? Did he love them in return? Maybe all of the laws in the scriptures and the commandments given today are God’s life lessons. Maybe even if He wants to warn us, he stays his hand, knowing that we are capable of handling the situation, capable of learning from our mistakes.


One comment

  1. Josh, your post is very interesting and difficult for me to respond to because you touch on many topics, all of which I could reply to … and I tried, but I keep deleting everything because I’m over here writing War and Peace.

    Here are my two thoughts.

    1. Church: I don’t know why you aren’t going to your church meetings any more and it is none of my business and really, as someone who hasn’t been to church since I was at BYU 10 years ago I should be the last person to be saying this, however, if you are in Utah attending BYU I recommend you continue going to church and firesides and family home evening and all of that stuff, even if it is just for the social aspect. I stopped going to church while I was a BYU student and as a result I missed out on a lot of the college experience. I don’t regret where I am in my life today, but I do regret the college experience I decided, or rather, decided not to have. Regrets suck.

    2. With regard to being a parent, no parents are perfect … how can they be? Being a parent has got to be a great deal of work, however, I know a set of wonderful parents, who work very hard at being wonderful parents. They came from families that were not so great, possibly horrible. Yet they WORK HARD at being great parents and they find happiness in what it is they are building … something they’ve never experienced from their own growing up home lives. Call it what you want, i.e. God, Determination—we each have the ability to become the individual we want to be regardless of our pedigree, regardless of our genealogy.

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