Mormon Family Beliefs
For Mormons, life and the gospel is all about family. From God as our eternal father to the fathers in their own homes, families help to define this Christian religion. Mormon is a nickname sometimes applied to the members The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it is not accurately applied to the Church itself.
Mormons believe God is literally their Father in Heaven and all of us on earth are literally His children. This sets the entire world as a family unit, with all of us related to one another and therefore responsible for the well-being of all others.
When God created the Earth, He sent Adam to be the first man, but promptly explained that it was not good for him to be alone. He then created Eve, to marry Adam. With this act, He created the first family, instructing the husband and wife to have children. This set a pattern for the future of the world, a pattern in which people would come to earth as part of a family.
While most religions consider families to be an important part of God’s plan, for Mormons, this teaching holds additional power. Mormons believe God does not believe in divorce, except under certain very serious situation, such as abuse, and that He would therefore not build divorce into His eternal plan for His children. Scheduling a marriage to end at the death of one spouse is to schedule a divorce. God made us to love our spouses and our children in a powerful way that was meant to last forever.
Mormons believe Heaven will bring us greater happiness than we could ever imagine. How many of us could be happy without our families? Do we really want to spend eternity without those we love the most? God knows we won’t want to. If we’ve worked hard to develop a loving and successful family, He knows we will arrive in Heaven longing to have them share our joy with them.
The Book of Mormon, which the Mormons use as a companion volume to the Bible, contains a vision given to a prophet named Lehi. Lehi saw a tree that was filled with an extraordinary fruit, greater and sweeter than any other, with the power to bring great joy to those who partook of it. This tree represented God’s teachings. The very first thing Lehi did after partaking was to look around for his family. He wanted them to have the joy he was experiencing. This vision is very representative of how all of us who love our families will feel when we enter God’s presence. We will want our families to share in the experience with us, not as people we vaguely remember, but as our families. We cannot be completely happy without them.
Mormon marriages that are performed in the Mormon temple are for eternity, not just for this life. Children born to those marriages are automatically “sealed” or joined to their parents and to each other for eternity. Children who are adopted after the parents are sealed, or who were born before the parents chose a temple marriage, are sealed to their parents in a special temple ceremony. This sealing also joins the family to their ancestors, creating a strong sense of eternal connection to those who came before us and providing a reminder that God created us to be one family with Him as the Father.
Because Mormons know families are forever, they have a particularly strong motivation to work hard at family life. Husbands and wives set aside time to build their marriages and they make sure they also have time for their children. They create meaningful experiences that build eternal memories. They make sure their family is strong enough to last forever.
One way they do this is through shared religious experiences. Mormon parents are taught they have a responsibility to teach their children the gospel and even children and teens are encouraged to be a meaningful part of their family spiritual growth. Mormons begin and end each day with prayer—personal prayers, husband and wife prayer, and family prayer. They have daily scripture study—personal, family, and sometimes couple study as well. One evening a week they set aside time for just family—no friends, no television, no outside world. This special Mormon tradition is called Family Home Evening, a practice some other religions are beginning to adopt.
Many family home evenings begin with a special dinner. Then the family gathers for a carefully planned evening of spirituality and fun. Most families alternate assignments so that every family member has a special responsibility for making the evening a success, with younger children partnering with parents or older siblings. In this way, even children learn to give public prayers, lead music, conduct a meeting, and teach a lesson. These skills help them in their secular lives but also prepare them for future church service.
The meeting often starts with a song and a prayer. Family business is conducted and then someone gives a lesson. This lesson can be on a gospel principle or it can address a family need. One week it might be on the atonement of Jesus Christ, and another on the need for the siblings to reduce the tendency to bicker. This allows the family to learn that the gospel is personal and that it is not just theoretical. It is meant to improve our own lives and can be applied to each of us.
After the lesson, families have a service project or play games together. They close with a song, a prayer, and a special dessert. No matter how busy lives get, the family knows they will have this one evening to be together.
Naturally, Mormon families attempt to spend more time than just that one evening together. They are taught to make their families a priority and so they are always seeking ways to be together.
Mormons do not drop their children off at church or send them off to a nursery the entire length of Sunday worship. Church lasts three hours, divided into three “blocks” of time. The longest block is the worship service, which focuses on taking the Sacrament (communion). For this meeting, the entire family is together, even babies and toddlers. While this makes for a somewhat noisy meeting, despite the best efforts of parents, it means children have a chance to witness adult worship and to follow their parents’ example. For most children, it is also a long period of time in which to snuggle up against a parent for a quiet hour or so. After this service, family members do divide up into classes meant for their own needs.
Mormons consider members of their ward (congregation) to be family as well. They speak of the ward family and learn to help watch over and care for each other. One way this is done is through home and visiting teachers. Each family is assigned two men who visit monthly. This is a friendly visit in which the home teachers and the family develop a friendship. If the family has a particular need, they know they can turn to their home teachers if their own family can’t meet it. A home teacher will monitor for both temporal and spiritual needs. A man who loses his job might need help feeding his family, something the church can help with. The home teachers would pass along this concern. Home teachers help organize service projects the family needs done—painting, help with a move, or other temporal needs.
Women are assigned a set of two visiting teachers, both women. They also visit monthly but their visit is specific to the adult women of the home. They monitor the woman’s special needs, such as a meal that might need to be sent in during illness, or help with a special needs child. A woman who is new to the area and far from family feels secure knowing she has instant friends and someone to call on when she’s lonely or in need.
Beyond official assignments, though, members watch out for each other and help as needed. They provide a back-up family for those living away from home and a built-in sense of community in a new area.
God as their father, their earthly families as eternal units, and their wards as extended family help Mormons to understand how much God loves them and how carefully He has planned their eternal lives.