Review: Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families

First disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Second disclaimer: I don’t have much to say that hasn’t been said on the Internet already, but that’s never stopped me before and it won’t stop me now.

Like Girls Who Chose God, the last collaboration from McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding, Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families is a statement of How We Could Be Different: it quotes both male and female church leaders in roughly equal measure; it talks openly about both Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother; it eschews broad stereotypes of parental roles; it features stunning artwork; and yet it still teaches core doctrine without even the smallest hint of heresy.

In short, I’d love it if this book were next year’s Primary manual, and embedded in that is my only critique: as light and fun the authors try to keep the prose–with families, you can build forts, read stories, have snowball fights, go to operas, and even take up zydeco dancing–the book is explicitly didactic, and as such reads slightly more like a manual written for adults on how to talk to their children about families, rather than a text meant to engage young children directly. (I’m no child development expert, but I have a hard time imagining myself sitting down to read a child a story about how “Here on Earth, we can hold family councils too”, and an even harder time imagining that child sitting still for it.)  Even some of the discussion questions, while a great way to make the book more interactive for younger readers, ring a little bit too much like the anodyne discussion starters in a Church manual. (“Why do we need both our spirits and our bodies?”)

Still, though, this is the kind of book I want to have around, so I can bask in the warm glow of its peaceful artwork or optimistic vision of families. This is a book, too, that Church members across the map of orthodoxy can connect to, and as such it’s probably even more important for adults than for the children in their lives, for the way it models a vision of an inclusive and affirming rhetoric of the importance of families and family life. Even better, the fact that it’s published by Deseret Book is enough to kindle a little bit of hope that someday, with enough faith and prayer and love and positive reinforcement to efforts like this, We Could Be Different.