The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, are unique in teaching a great truth that most people understand at the deepest level of their hearts, but deny in ordinary times. When people are facing the death of a loved one, they will frequently say something like, “Mom and Dad are together again.” “I’ll see my son again when I die. He’s in Heaven waiting for me.” When we are grieving, God testifies to our hearts the comforting truth that families are meant to be forever.
The gospel is infinitely logical, loving, and fair. One of God’s very first acts when the world was created was to give Adam a wife, and to instruct them to have a family. This emphasizes the eternal significance of marriage and parenthood. God strongly taught the sanctity of marriage and placed in our hearts a powerful love for family. He taught that our earthly covenants can carry on into Heaven:
“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19).”
We are taught that in Heaven, we will be happier than we could ever imagine. Who among us has ever been entirely happy when our families were not with us? When we see a beautiful sight, the first thing we wish for is that our families could see it also. When something wonderful happens, we want to share it with them first. How then, could a loving God welcome us to Heaven and instruct us, as our first Heavenly commandment, to fall out of love with our families and to be content to be alone forever? Would He yank children from our hearts and spouses from our lives?
Or would He give us an opportunity to have them with us forever if we love them enough to do whatever it takes to keep them? Do we love our families enough to keep God’s commandments and thus receive from Him a great gift of eternity with our parents, spouses, and children?
Mormons believe that a kind and loving God will allow us the opportunity to have our families with us forever, and that He has placed this knowledge in our hearts to be accessed when we need it most.
Mormons believe the family is the central unit of God’s creation and that we must make our families a priority. Preparation for this begins in childhood, when we learn to honor and obey parents and to treat siblings, grandparents, and other relatives kindly. Being a part of a family helps us to learn social skills, unselfishness, and Christ-like behavior.
Mormon children are taught that their bodies are temples, created by God in His own image, and must be treated with dignity and respect. They learn to eat in a healthy way through a health code known as the Word of Wisdom. This code prohibits alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs. It encourages the use of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, a method of eating recognized by doctors today as being wise, but considered odd in the time the revelation was given. This sets the stage for later teachings concerning bodies and families.
As they get older, they learn their bodies must not be used in morally inappropriate ways. They learn to dress modestly in order to show respect for the body God gave them. The dress code is for both men and women and both are expected to wear clothing that covers the back, stomach, knees, and shoulders, and is not low-cut, tight, or extreme.
(Read more about Mormon dress standards.)
Teenagers are taught that showing respect for their bodies also means sexual activity is to be reserved for marriage, as a way of showing respect to our future spouse and to the marriage covenant. To assist them in maintaining sexual purity, they are taught not to date until they are at least sixteen years old and that it is perfectly acceptable not to date as a teenager if they choose. Teens are taught to date in groups and to date a variety of people, rather than developing exclusive relationships at a young age. By planning their dates to be wholesome and to include family activities, teenagers find it easier to maintain high moral standards.
(Learn more about Mormon dating.)
In a booklet called, For the Strength of Youth, teens begin to learn how to prepare for an eternal marriage, one that will last forever though life’s trials. The booklet says:
“Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife. God has commanded that sexual intimacy be reserved for marriage.”
They are given instructions in appropriate relationships between men and women prior to marriage. When these commandments are followed, a man and a woman can enter into God’s temple to be married for eternity. This is the only place an eternal marriage can occur. They do so knowing they have remained pure for their spouse and have shown respect for the gifts God gave them. Mormons teach that marriage is between a man and a women. Today, God also requires marriage to be between just one man and one woman. Polygamy, while sometimes ordained by God for short times and to accomplish specific goals, has not been commanded for more than 100 years.
Mormons consider both marriage and parenthood sacred. The Family: A Proclamation to the World, explains:
“The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”
Mormons believe that parenthood must be carried out within the marriage relationship. However, Mormons also teach:
“When husband and wife are physically able, they have the privilege and responsibility to bring children into the world and to nurture them. The decision of how many children to have and when to have them is a private matter for the husband and wife.” (See Birth Control, LDS.org Study by Topic.) Mormons are taught to consider the mother’s health and the financial ability of the family to provide basic necessities. Decisions concerning birth control are left to the married couple, although elective abortion is not to be used as a form of birth control.
Marriage has great spiritual power in its ability to help us reach our full potential. It improves our ability to be unselfish, gives us a support system for our goals, and helps us prepare to live with God again.