Reed H. Bradford, “Teachings about the Family,” in Latter-day Saint Essentials: Readings from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. John W. Welch and Devan Jensen (Provo, UT: BYU Studies and the Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2002), 154–7.
Teachings about the Family
The basic unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the family: “The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place nor fulfill its essential functions” (McKay, Preface). Within the family, people experience most of life’s greatest joys and greatest sorrows. The family relationships of every person on earth are of cardinal importance, and of all the social organizations created for human beings, only the family is intended to continue into the next life.
Families on Earth Are an Extension of the Family of God.
According to the LDS concept of the family, every person is a child of heavenly parents as well as mortal parents. Each individual was created spiritually and physically in the image of God and Christ (Moses 2:27; 3:5). The First Presidency has declared, “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity” (Messages of the First Presidency, 4:203). Everyone, before coming to this earth, lived with Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and each was loved and taught by them as a member of their eternal family. Birth unites the spirit with a physical body so that together they can “receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 93:33; cf. 2 Ne. 2:25).
Marriage Is Ordained of God.
“Whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man” (D&C 49:15). The marriage sanctioned by God provides men and women with the opportunity to fulfill their divine potentials. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11). Husbands and wives are unique in some ways and free to develop their eternal gifts, yet as coequals in the sight of their heavenly parents they are one in the divine goals they pursue, in their devotion to eternal principles and ordinances, in their obedience to the Lord, and in their divine love for each other. When a man and woman who have been sealed together in a temple are united spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically, taking full responsibility for nurturing each other, they are truly married. Together they strive to emulate the prototype of the heavenly home from which they came. The Church teaches them to complement, support, and enrich one another.
The Family Can Become an Eternal Unit.
Worthy members can be sealed by the power of the priesthood in holy temples for time and eternity either in or after marriage. At the time of their temple sealing, both husband and wife enter “an order of the priesthood [called] the new and everlasting covenant of marriage” (D&C 131:1–4). Without worthiness and authority, a marriage cannot endure eternally and is “of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead” (D&C 132:7). If a husband and wife are faithful to their temple marriage, they will continue as co-creators in God’s celestial kingdom through the eternities. They will administer the affairs of their family in unity with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Regarding members of the Church not born into such homes or not married in this life through no fault of their own, President Spencer W. Kimball taught that those “who would have responded if they had [had] an appropriate opportunity—will receive all those blessings in the world to come” (Kimball, p. 295).
The Power to Create Life Is a Gift from God.
Because the procreative powers come from God, sexual purity is spiritual and mental, as well as physical and emotional. Jesus said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart. Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart” (3 Ne. 12:28–29). chastity is sacred (cf. Jacob 2:28).
Procreation Is a Commandment of God.
Through the sexual experience, husbands and wives enrich their marriage and create physical bodies for spirits to come to earth to achieve divine purposes. Latter-day Saints strive to create a home life dedicated to fulfilling these purposes. It is both a joy and a responsibility for parents to bring heavenly spirits into this world. Adam and Eve were commanded to “be fruitful, and multiply” (Gen. 1:22). Latter-day revelation has given the same instructions. Church members are taught not to postpone or refuse to have children for selfish or materialistic reasons. On questions such as how many children a couple will have, the spacing of children, and birth control, Latter-day Saints are instructed to use their agency, selecting a course as husband and wife in accordance with divine principles and seeking confirmation from the Holy Spirit.
Parents Are Responsible for Teaching Their Children the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Inasmuch as parents have children . . . that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost . . . the sin be upon the heads of the parents. . . . And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (D&C 68:25, 28). Parents are admonished to be examples to their children, realizing that their children are also their spirit brothers and sisters.
An Environment of Love Is Necessary for Rearing Children.
The spirit of a righteous home is love. The Lord said, “Thou shalt live together in love” (D&C 42:45)—love of heavenly parents, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; of husband and wife; and of parents for children, children for parents, and siblings for each other.
Making One’s Home a Place of Peace and Joy Takes Effort.
The effort that goes into making a peaceful home requires consistent planning, prayer, and cooperation. The Church encourages families to hold weekly family home evenings, in which all members of the family study eternal gospel principles and ordinances and do things together that bring them joy. Two Church Presidents have stated, “The most important of the Lord’s work [you] will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own homes” (Lee, p. 7), and “No other success can compensate for failure in the home” (McKay, p. iii).
Worthy Family Members Look Forward with Faith and Hope to Eternal Family Relationships.
Earthly families and with ancestors and descendants expect to live again as extended families with loved ones who have died. They become those “who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name, . . . and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true” (D&C 76:51, 53).
The Righteous Are Blessed.
All righteous individuals, who maintain personal worthiness, love, and faithfulness, are promised the riches of eternity, which include the eventual blessings of being sealed to other family members who also qualify for celestial blessings.
Benson, Ezra Taft. God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, pp. 167–273. Salt Lake City, 1974.
James R. Clark, ed., Messages of the First Presidency, 5 vols. Salt Lake City, 1965–75.
Kimball, Spencer W. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball. Salt Lake City, 1982.
Lee, Harold B. Strengthening the Home (pamphlet). Salt Lake City, 1973.
McConkie, Oscar W., Jr. “LDS Concept of the Family.” Journal of the Collegium Aesculapium 2 (July 1984): 46–51.
McKay, David O. Family Home Evening Manual. Salt Lake City, 1965.
White, O. Kendall, Jr. “Ideology of the Family in Nineteenth-Century Mormonism.” Sociological Spectrum 6 (1986): 289–306.
REED H. BRADFORD