This is the fourth in a series of posts that examines the topic of Mormon spirituality, or how we respond to the Divine in personal living. Readers can find the first here, the second here, and the third here. There will be one final consecutive subject covered. The purpose of the series is to explain why Mormons are the way they are and what that has to do with religion and doctrine. It was inspired by critics who seem to misunderstand or question the inner spirituality of Mormons as materialists or shallow.
Many people who hear that “Families can be together forever” recognize it as an important Mormon teaching. It has been said that Mormons were concerned about the concept of “family values” before it became a political catch phrase. There is the vague notion that we are all related to God as sons and daughters, and therefore brothers and sisters to each other. This amounts to an expectation of large familes. What is less thought about is exactly how central the family is to the Mormon theology of Salvation.
The idea of family is not just about some kind of cosmic emotional connection to a Higher Power. Rather, the family cements each person to God in a way that goes beyond simple relatedness. The power of the Atonement is fully crystallized when humans become part of a structure patterned after an eternal organization. To not become part of that pre-existing community is to keep from reaching the full potential of the individual. Damnation is to be single and without family.
Because of the great religious and moral importance of family, it becomes necessary to pay attention to the Proclamation to the World on the subject. Particularly, we should seriously consider the final declaration:
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets
This is more than words that can be lightly ignored. To understand the full meaning of the warnings, it is necessary to realize family existed before the physical world was created. Every spirit that eventually came to earth had a direct relationship to God our Heavenly Father. After much debate, and the loss of many to a dark fate from their own choices, those who decided to participate in mortality left the comforts of spiritual adolescence in hopes of a greater maturity. The risks involved were as enormous as the rewards. From Abraham 3: 24 – 26 we read:
24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
Once we came to earth and gained a body, our true test began. From the start of the mortal probation with the first souls there were commandments and covenants associated with the family unit of father, mother, and children. Genesis Chapter 1: 27 reads, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” They were commanded to be fruitful and multiply; or simply put have children. It wasn’t just the mother or father these words were directed, but both together sharing responsibilities. Later, after they had eaten of the forbidden fruit and became truly capable of procreation, the relationships were made even more concrete. As Genesis 3: 16-17 explains:
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Men and women are supposed to be together. He continues and explains that divorce should be a last resort because of faithlessness and immorality rather than no-fault decisions. Jesus’ blessing of the children continues the theme of the sacred nature of families. Children are the foundation of Heaven. Mention of marriage and children both go with a warning that treating the institution of family with impunity can have spiritually disastrous results. Any deviation from this would have to be strictly at the command of God’s instructions. That includes taking on additional wives or not starting a family at all.
Children are equally to show respect for the family before leaving to start their own. One of the Ten Commandments specifically states, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” The promises for showing proper respect for parents extend far beyond long life on a tract of earth. Again, this ideal of family life doesn’t make much sense outside of an agrarian society. Very few parents these days have the ability to hand down anything to the next generation. There aren’t the same kinds of ties to blood that used to exist.
Looking past the material aspects of the commandment, there are still some grand spiritual promises behind the words. The Prophet Ether in the Book of Mormon explains how the house of Israel and the seed of Joseph would be blessed after the great judgement. Family inheritance reaches beyond our short lives and into eternity. In Ether 13: 5 – 9, he talks about the Old and New Jerusalem as places of residence for those saved by the blood of Christ:
5 And he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come—after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord; and it should be built unto the house of Israel.
6 And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph, for which things there has been a type.
7 For as Joseph brought his father down into the land of Egypt, even so he died there; wherefore, the Lord brought a remnant of the seed of Joseph out of the land of Jerusalem, that he might be merciful unto the seed of Joseph that they should perish not, even as he was merciful unto the father of Joseph that he should perish not.
8 Wherefore, the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old; and they shall no more be confounded, until the end come when the earth shall pass away.
9 And there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new.
Such lavish inheritance come from, as stated above, the House of Israel as given to the patriarch Abraham. His sons and grandsons were equally covenanted that they would receive lands set apart for the faithful. It would not end with them, but through their blood dynasty the whole of humanity would be saved.
The key to partaking in the promises made to the Hebrew family is though Jesus Christ. The Atonement allowed all sins to be forgiven and a new covenant administered to the whole human family. The blood of Jesus becomes the power of adoption through faith and repentance. Baptism acts as the birthing process where a new spiritual creature emerges from the womb of mortality.
In Galatians 3: 26-29 Paul explains:
26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
With Christ, the uniting of the eternal family can return full circle. Receiving the inheritance of the second estate as discussed in our pre-earth life becomes a real hope. Paul states in Ephesians 3: 14 -15 with traces of emotion, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” The Temple is where the eternal bonds of mother, father, children and God come together. A link is created not only between those now living, but the whole of generations both past and present.
Joseph Smith in D & C 128: 15 – 18 explains:
15 And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.
16 And now, in relation to the baptism for the dead, I will give you another quotation of Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:29: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?”
17 And again, in connection with this quotation I will give you a quotation from one of the prophets, who had his eye fixed on the restoration of the priesthood, the glories to be revealed in the last days, and in an especial manner this most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel, namely, the baptism for the dead; for Malachi says, last chapter, verses 5th and 6th: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
18 I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
Before we can save the generations past and future, we must be sealed to our own families. The marriage between man and woman is the start of eternal progression. Adam and Eve were archetypes, as Christ’s atonement had become the sealing mechanism. With the creation of family comes the ultimate expression of the joy of the Gospel. Becoming sealed together, as D & C 132:19 indicates, will bring blessings that mortals can hardly comprehend:
19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
The prophet Ezra Taft Benson stated in terms similar to the Proclamation on the Family:
In an eternal sense, salvation is a family affair. God holds parents responsible for their stewardship in rearing their family. It is a most sacred responsibility.
Today we are aware of great problems in our society. The most obvious are sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, drug abuse, alcoholism, vandalism, pornography, and violence.
These grave problems are symptoms of failure in the home—the disregarding of principles and practices established by God in the very beginning.
Because some parents have departed from the principles the Lord gave for happiness and success, many families throughout the world are undergoing great stress and trauma. Many parents have been enticed to abandon their responsibilities in the home to seek after an elusive “self-fulfillment.” Some have abdicated parental responsibilities for pursuit of material things, unwilling to postpone personal gratification in the interest of their children’s welfare.
It is time to awaken to the fact that there are deliberate efforts to restructure the family along the lines of humanistic values. Images of the family and of love as depicted in television and film often portray a philosophy contrary to the commandments of God.
Innocent-sounding phrases are now used to give approval to sinful practices. Thus, the term “alternative life-style” is used to justify adultery and homosexuality, “freedom of choice” to justify abortion, “meaningful relationship” and “self-fulfillment” to justify sex outside of marriage.
If we continue with present trends, we can expect to have more emotionally disturbed young people, more divorce, more depression, and more suicide.
The family is the most effective place to instill lasting values in its members. Where family life is strong and based on principles and practices of the gospel of Jesus Christ, these problems do not as readily appear.
My message is to return to the God-ordained fundamentals that will ensure love, stability, and happiness in our homes.
Ezra Taft Benson, “Salvation—A Family Affair,” Ensign, Jul 1992, 2
Protecting what is called “family values” is essential to God’s plan of Salvation. It is not something we can tinker with and expect no consequences. The Scriptures are clear that the very purpose of existence is tied to marriage and family. Any person, community, or nation that does not protect the family will ultimately have to answer to God. Before that happens, a society that doesn’t respect the institution of traditional marriage and rearing of children has been warned by prophecy of disaster.
While being appreciative and respectful of the wonderful work that went into this post, I found it to be trying to connect numerous thoughts and doctrines through the use of speculative ‘connector’ assumptions. The overall effect is to present an argument that has many holes that are filled with cultural practices. For example, you state:
“before we can save the generation past and future, we must be sealed to our own families”
This is not true. I joined the church as a convert and have no other members in my family. I am not sealed to any of them. Also, as a gay man living the Law of Celibacy, I have never been married nor had children. I am sealed to no one. And yet, I am strongly involved in family history work and have sealed together many of my distant ancestors.
I accept that I will be unmarried in the eternies due to how I was created by the Lord with my orientation. Does that mean the work I am doing in the Temple sealing together my generations past is invalid?
“the marriage between man and woman is the start of eternal progression”
This is not correct. The start of eternal progression is faith, repentance, baptism, adn the gift of the Holy Ghost. These thing are individual thing and are not conditioned upon marriage. The marriage between man and woman is better defined as a major higher step towards exaltation, not eternal progression.
A third example:
“children are the foundation of heaven”
We are not physical children in heaven but are adults. Helping God to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man does not automatically mean heaven is full of children. Projecting the biological structure of parents and children we have here on earth into the eternities has no scriptural basis.
Sorry about the grammatical errors. I am typing on my iPad and the comment input section is not iPad friendly.
I guess I don’t agree they are “connector” assumptions, but the very substance of Mormon doctrine. I sought to make sure what I quoted above was both specific and detailed. If you have other assumptions, using scriptures and authority, that differs from this then I would like to explore those.
Let me point some things out real quick to each of your arguments. Your first one against the need to be sealed to our own families is perhaps the one I think has most substance. That one is not very well said and there is room for an improved explanation or alteration. The sealing you did are not invalid, but that really isn’t the more complicated point. I want to say more, but it would take a lot of writing. Start with reading the whole of D & C 128 as a starting place to where I was going with that comment. Maybe we don’t have to be sealed to your own family, but you have to be sealed to somebody. Parley P. Pratt, I believe, explored the idea of an unbroken chain of the Human family.
As to your next point about the start Eternal Progression is faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost is valid enough depending on personal assumptions. To be more accurate they are the gates to the Celestial Kingdom, but not the first step to Exaltation that I believe is also Eternal Progression. It is more or less a question of definition. What are the differences between the two? To quote again:
“. . . if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood. . . and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.”
I disagree with your last paragraph because I believe the very idea of Heaven is Family in the “traditional” sense of man, women, children. As Jesus said in Matt. 19:13-15 about children:
“13¶Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.b
14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
15And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.”
Its a matter of interpretation for sure, but not one that can be easily dismissed as an assumption when connected to other Scriptures and authoritative statements. I believe there is stronger proof that there is children in Heaven than there is a Mother in Heaven, and yet no Mormons I know refute the latter. Since we are to become like God and He is married and has children, it only makes sense to me that includes becoming parents for Eternity, “which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.”
This ties into your comment about the life God lives just to add my own thoughts as it is somewhat relevant. Eternal is one of the names/titles God gives to describe himself. If “eternal life” is the kind of life God lives and describes the kind of life God wants all his children to have, and further if eternal damnation is the kind of punishment delivered by one whose name is eternal, what does that make eternal marraige? It’s not really an original point… but I’ve seen the the word Eternal used to describe both the life and type of punishment proscribed by God. But I don’t think I’ve ever clearly seen it spelled out with regard to marriage. It stands to reason Eternal Marriage describes the kind of relationship God lives in…
I would like to suggest . . . Families are not forever. Children grow up and become adults. My little rascal bear is now a professional musician and she is going to either graduate business school or law school. She might have a boyfriend I don’t know about. (It gives me just a little taste of what I put my father-in-law through). My sensitive little Vishmopf has become a beast and a Sherpa on the hiking trail, a fierce competitor on the athletics field, and is on his way to a promising career as a scientist, if the Marine Corp doesn’t get him first. I look at the pictures of them when they were small and wonder where did those two cute little children of mine go? . . .
I’m one of the lucky few. A good friend and also a Bishop I know both had sons who committed suicide. My cousin murdered several people, mostly criminals and was eventually killed by the police. Another relative has a son now out of prison for crystal meth addiction and violent conflict with the police. He might repent but he will never be what he might have been. Another friend had to send her teenage son away when his drug addiction pushed him to the point of life-threatening physical violence against her new husband. I would have to take my shoes off to count on my fingers and toes the number of unplanned pregnancies among my cousins, although most of them are doing better now. A cousin smoked so many cigarettes that she was dead from emphysema by age 40 and her sister is in prison for a gambling addiction that led to fraud and theft. They were all such precious little children once, part of a forever family.
Childhood is a beautiful but fleeting moment in life. I regret every minute I spent doing church work and everything else not directly necessary to their nurturing and protection. I wonder if the reason the cliché is so often repeated at church, families are forever, is to pull the wool over parents eyes long enough to get us to do the work of the kingdom at the expense of time spent with our children. They say, you will be with your children for millions of years so surely you can spare a Sunday afternoon visiting inactives who don’t want to be bothered, or any of a thousand other chores that seemed so important at the time and never amounted to a pile of pigeon poop. If I was the Prophet, every night would be family home evening and no parents of children would have any calling in the church not directly connected to teaching or doing activities with their children. Because families are not forever. Painfully fleeting, in fact. [edited for content]
I’m sorry you feel that way. Millions of Mormons, and dare I say, hundreds of millions of people throughout history disagree.
Your observation that children grow-up is certainly not novel. I do not consider my parents and my brothers and sisters to cease being my family when they start their own. The same goes for my children. That’s the beauty of the doctrine of eternal families — if you can grasp it.
[Don’t] deprive millions of souls and their posterity down unto the 3rd and 4th generation valuable learning opportunities and experiences that are laying the foundation not only for a fulfilled life now, but for joyful life in the family unit in the eternities.
[edited for content]
The interesting thing is that the Lord is aware of all of meld rum’s problems. If she/he would turn to the Lord, there would be comfort. It doesn’t matter in the long run what we think of the lord’s plan. The clay cannot tell the potter what to do.
I feel like you have not grasped what I am saying. Your children and siblings do not cease to be your family when they grow up. That is not what I said. But they do cease to be children. They become adults who are not just big children and that changes the very nature of the relationship in the family. Eventually, we become elderly and increasingly more like children in not good ways. Our adult children become our care-givers and often ignore or exploit us. Sometimes it seems like it takes forever for the old folks to die off and give us some relief (and the money).
Siblings are still family. But, for example, the close relationship between my brother and I was changed forever when we both got married and placed another person between us. We are never going to be the pair of fun-loving somewhat rowdy, immature, inseparable and intensely loyal adolescents we once were. (Some people are undoubtedly glad of it). We would have died for each other without a moment’s hesitation. Those precious moments and feelings are gone forever. His 3 sons have a special relationship that does not include him, or me or even my son. That will end all too soon.
I never experienced any conflict with my brother until after we were married and the only major topic we disagree upon is religion. He used to be the renegade and I was the stick-in-the-mud. My opinions insult him to the point that he has kicked me out of the church . . . I am learning to keep my mouth shut about religion around him and have forgiven him. Tragically, my father and his brother, both active members who served in Bishoprics, were very close until my aunt died and my mother did not get along with the woman my uncle remarried. After months of feuding and then decades of shunning, two old men were sneaking around on their wives just trying to see each other one more time before they died. My mother passed away first and my father buried her in the same cemetery as his brother is buried, directly against her wishes. I imagine more sparks will fly on resurrection morning. So just how is this forever family business going to work out for my dad and mom, my uncle and two wives?
I see hypocrisy when people sit for hours in church meetings listening to sermons about spending more time with their families. Doesn’t it make more sense to take your kids and walk out of every such sermon and play with them on the front lawn? Especially if they are squawking for attention? If they ever assign me to speak in sacrament meeting on that topic I will stand up and dismiss the congregation for the duration of my talk to spend with their family. I see hypocrisy when the children of devoted church leaders go off the rails at a season when their parents spent enormous amounts of time and energy on church callings . . . I see hypocrisy when they call men with young families to positions in a . . . family-centered church that are as time-consuming as a full-time job and expect their wives to buck up and promise them blessings that are not based on the law of the harvest. I see hypocrisy when people who leave the church report that they seem to have so much more time to spend with their family.
Since life is so short and fleeting, I tried to make the best of it when my children were growing.. Childhood is especially valuable and I tried to keep church from interfering with it. In my experience this conflicts with the expectations of the church repeatedly. And to top it off, now that my children will be gone in a few more months, I do not have a church calling at all . . .
[edited for content]
Agreed in principle.
But exactly what is the Lord’s plan?
Some think the LDS church is nearly perfect; has all the answers for every question.
Some think thatlife is complex and difficult and there are no easy answers to many questions.
Was it the Lord’s plan for my aunt and uncle both to be spending 40-60 hours a week with 6 children from two marriages while my cousin started smoking pot at age 12 and commit criminal acts after that and eventually find himself among the worst of criminals? I think maybe not.
I have not found it that easy and on some matters the LDS church has done the devils work as much as anything.
Meldrum, it sounds like you have had it pretty rough. You probably know that most people go through rough periods in their lives. I certainly have. The solution for me was to turn to the Lord and trust in Him to provide me a way out. And He did. That way out was to get baptized, to receive the M. Priesthood and to go to the temple, where I eventually got married with my wonderful wife. I literally feel like I have been liberated from jail. And it came by following the prophets.
You will have your own road. My advice is: turn to the Lord for answers. He will help you.
In the meantime, I must ask you a favor. Please go to the upper left hand side of this blog. Read the “Comments Policy.” This is a blog dedicated to people who believe in the Church and want to discuss it with other people who believe in the Church. If you want to talk about how the LDS church has done the “devil’s work” there are literally thousands of other places you can do that. This is not one of them.
Please focus comments on positive aspects of the Church if you would like to leave a comment. Otherwise, I will need to start deleting your comments. Thanks for understanding.
I appreciate the sentiments expressed in Jettboy’s post regarding families. Although I am still single, I have siblings and their families and my parents and I feel our relationships are so important.
Meldrum- Wise counsel mingled with so much bitter sorrow. I am sorry you have had these heartbreaking horrible experiences. We can learn form what you have experienced. Christ will help you bear these burdens. Often times we cannot control conditions, such has mental illness, especially mixed with temptations of Satan. Merciful G-d knows what is in the heart of your wayward loved ones. As best as you can, leave these judgements and burdens at Christ’s feet. You do your part to love and to forgive. Most importantly, forgive your self, we all have regrets and make mistakes. We do the best we can. I know this is hard, and I am preaching to myself here too.
I hear what you are saying and I agree with much of what you are saying. Families ARE Forever; because this is so, our family relationships should be even better and more Christlike than if the family was an earthly institution only. We should treat this statement as an admonishment in importance, not as an excuse to neglect. Prideful petty bickering, shunning and quarreling is not what the Lord intended in Forever Families. I think in the next life, we will see reality with heavenly eyes and not waste time at the resurrection bickering with one another, but instead shed repentant tears at how we treated those who we should have been kindest to.
As David O McKay has spoken, “No success can compensate for failure in the home”. Some of us take this to mean that he meant careers and making money. I think one could apply these prophetic words to mean aspiring to church careers as well. Wise counsel is found in Elder Ballard’s talk ‘O Be Wise’ (see: http://lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/o-be-wise?lang=eng ). Often times men and women get caught in their pride when called to a prominent calling. In their zeal, they take for granted the people who matter most, not the ward members, but their earthly families. How many of us will neglect the needs of family to serve our ward/stake members? I believe those who do, are seeking after the praise of others, and in doing so receive that reward in this life. Successful Ward or Stake service does not guarantee our families will be successful. Successful family relationships are built on the quality of home life experienced. It is physically impossible for both parents or a single parent at the church for hours on end while their kids are doing whatever at home alone. That is the reality.
How do we do it all when we have so much we have to do?
We need to simplify. THis means less meetings.
We need to learn to say the word NO when the burdens are damaging relationships.
Members of the church need to become independent and do more for themselves. Everyone needs to realize we all are busy. I often think what some of them would do if they did not have ward members to rely on. I think they might have developed backbone and learned some self-reliance. We need to allow others to learn the lessons and reap the blessings of self-reliance. We need to not jump in to do too much.
Shaming is damaging.
IN the Temple we promise to build up the kingdom, we do not build up the kingdom by neglecting our most precious part of the kingdom, our own families. The Kingdom of G-d is not your ward it is your individual heart and then your family first.
LIke Elder Ballard has so wisely counseled prioritize. Sometimes family is most important, other times a church assignment and other times career. We need to rely on the Lord and our own common sense to discern what is the priority for the moment.
PS- Jettboy, I loved your post. Thank you.
Excellent comment. Amen.
Just a foot note: President McKay was talking about himself when he made the famous quote concerning failure in the home. Two McKay brothers raised their large families of about 20 kids next door to each other. President McKay was often traveling for the church and his less-gifted but gentle brother backed him up at home. All of the children considered both men to be their fathers but in different ways. The best and brightest of the McKay flock was the oldest girl named Fawn. Her academic accomplishments in Utah were unmatched. She went east to school, married a Jewish guy named Brodie, and wrote one of the most influential critical histories of the LDS church. From the perspective of 40 years, we can begin to grasp that the good President McKay did may eventually be eclipsed by the harm done by the work of his daughter-like niece. She continues to have much influence especially outside of the church, while his work especially his seeking the middle way in the correlation movement is largely forgotten.
I had a feeling that the family one would be the most controversial. There are some things I didn’t add because it would have not contributed to the point of this series, even if the inclusions are important. I understand families have problems, even the best ones whose children turn out relatively normal and faithful have dark days. Sometimes there are families that end up complete failures. Its called life. However, if you don’t believe that families can be “forever” then its not understanding a major theology of Mormonism.
Eternal Family is a matter of Mormon doctrine, and not opinion. We may be adults and grow up, but we are still called in the Scriptures “Children of God” because that is the basic premise of our relationship to the Divine. Call it a spiritual or literal family, it doesn’t matter. Mormonism takes the idea of family seriously no matter how things might turn out in morality. Its not as if God hasn’t had children (all of us at one time or another, and still others permanently) mess up and turn rotten. His response? Except for those who rebelled against Him before this life and a handful during, He stretches his arms out still in hopes they will repent. No one is perfect, and that is why we have the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That said, there is no reason I can think of to give up our divine right of Salvation out of disappointments sometimes out of our control.
When I think of family I think of parents and children and perhaps an older relative. That is how it is depicted in popular contemporary Mormonism. I do not believe that kind of family lasts forever. What we imagine in heaven is not this at all. We will all presumably be adults in our prime, whatever that means. Those who lost children to death may have the chance to raise them, that hopefully won’t take forever either. In this sense family is not forever, it is extremely transient and precious.
Another kind of relationship, similar to brothers and sisters who remain best friends in adulthood and that continues on, seems plausible. We call it family at the risk of confusing it with what I am thinking of above. This is a fundamental belief of many religions, and is not distinctive for us. Relationships with our spouse where we become “one” are part of the Mormon equation and I find more difficult to fathom. The older I get and the more my wife and I change, the less alike we become and it takes more effort to even keep the marriage together, in my experience. We are not alone in this. I guess if the woman is totally subservient to the man and does the vast majority of the changing and compromising then near-perfect unity might be possible. Most men are probably not this flexible. I don’t know about women but my wife pretty much does as she pleases.
The way I see it LDS theology does not hold family relationships permanent unless these relationships are uplifting and nurturing. Heaven will not be a place where people who happen to share genetic material (and who hate each other and have spent decades fighting with each other and are much happier apart) are forced to be together. The most likely person to kill a woman is her husband. Do murdered wives stay with their husbands if they have been sealed to them?
That was the easy question. What about the . . . Mormon types who think they are on the fast track to the C-Kingdom (and in most ways actually are) and have driven their children away by degrees by their over-bearing, heavy handed tactics? . . . What about a typically softer . . . Mormon who is not that bad but one visit a year is plenty?
One of the most damaging aspects of the current way this “families are forever” theme is preached is what often is heard by teenagers from broken homes or from interdenominational families. This is a growing group and even now represents the majority of the youth in many wards. They are basically told at church that unless their parents get their act together and are sealed in the temple they will not be together as a family. In many instances this is obviously never going to happen. Since independence and separation are big issues of adolescence, this can be extremely toxic to youth of this age. I volunteered to be a coach at the local Baptist church and part of my duty was to deliver a little message from the minister which was often Christ centered while about 30% of the athletes were Jewish. One day after the message this little girl on my team told me that she was half Christian and half Jewish and believed in Jesus half of the time. . .
Another confusing area is the distinction between the responsibility to teach children and the responsibility that we don’t have for their free choices. This is extremely difficult since we all have faults and sometimes our children tend to magnify them. We really can not save our children nor our ancestors and I can’t see how a just God can punish them for my iniquities. Yet this contradicts the obvious fact that children do suffer the consequences of their parents wickedness unto the fourth generation or more. When do our parents cease to be responsible for the mistakes and weaknesses they inflicted upon us and the responsibility to repent and change is shifted entirely to us? What if these responsibilities are not met to varying degrees over generations? I have a friend whose father beat him severely and repeatedly as a boy and he has struggled with alcoholism for about 40 years. Lost his job, family, marriage, membership in the church for a time, etc. The father is remorseful and has tried to repent. This is easy since the son is now way stronger than the father and he couldn’t beat him if he tried. The drinking ceases for months at a time but relapses are frequent. He has cirrhosis now and is slowly dying from it. Will they be together?
Ps I don’t know the difference between doctrine and opinion (and opinion masquerading as doctrine) since so much of what I was taught was doctrine turned out to be opinion. (I guess it never was doctrine?) Doctrine I take it is supposed to have some level of credibility or infallibility and opinion is perhaps 10 to 50% accurate? Virtually everything on the computer is opinion in my opinion. I leave doctrine to the tabernacle and speculation to the computer.
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Interesting comment. I think most of your questions are unanswerable in this life. Sealings are not automatic. There is an LDS concept called “THe Holy Spirit of Promise” which is not widely taught see: http://lds.org/scriptures/gs/holy-spirit-of-promise?lang=eng Basically all sealings are worthless unless they are “approved” of by G-d. Perhaps, if this doctrine were preached more from the pulpit, some people would not take their forever family for granted.
I speculate, those who act unrighteously towards those whom they are sealed too lose that blessing. Of course, one cannot judge as this is G-d’s duty and I do not know how much the Atonement mixed with repentance and forgiveness will play into each individual case.
The doctrine of forever families gives me hope adn comfort “I will see and be with” ( whatever that concept entails in the next life) those, whom I love, who have passed away. I do believe the departed spirits of those whom we love are our guardian angels who watch over and plead with us in this life to overcome the weaknesses we genetically share. I also believe thru our righteous endeavors and overcoming these weaknesses, we in turn “release” our dead and enable them to progress in next life. Of course, I cannot back any of this with scripture, I think this is how we help to “save our dead” and not just thru temple ordinances, which are essential.