One unique aspect of Mormonism is the teaching that family life continues beyond the grave. Mormonism is a term people sometimes use to talk about the beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church.
Picture the last funeral you attended. You probably heard people say, “At least Mom and Dad are together again,” and “I’ll have my baby back when I get to Heaven.” The interesting thing is that these types of statements are often made by people who, when not grieving, think they don’t believe that God intended family life to be eternal.
Heaven Is for Families
Most people don’t want to live this life alone. They worry about not finding a spouse or having children. Yet, somehow, they think that even though they find it hard to be alone for the relatively short span of mortality, they will be perfectly happy being all alone in their mansion for eternity. It doesn’t seem likely, does it?
God said from the very beginning that we were intended to live as families. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18). If God said it wasn’t good for us to be alone, then it’s highly unlikely He would create a plan that required us to live in isolation forever, particularly since He has promised us that we will be happier than we could ever imagine in Heaven. Personally, I’m happiest when I’m with my family.
A number of years ago, my sister and I took a quick trip to Victoria, Canada, leaving all my children with my husband. It was beautiful, but every few minutes I’d find myself wishing my family could see what I was seeing. I enjoyed the trip, but I would have enjoyed it more if my husband and children had been there experiencing it with me. In the same way, Heaven will be a lot more fun if we’re together as a family. Who wants to live forever alone in the world, no matter how wonderful that world is?
“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), Jesus told His disciples. Marriage is bound on earth and for Christians, it is a religious sacrament. This means that if we seal up a family on earth, it is meant to continue into the eternities.
Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) marry in Mormon temples for time and all eternity, rather than just until death parts us. Mormon temples are the only places on earth where these eternal sealing ordinances can be performed. Scheduling the divorce right in the marriage ceremony simply takes something from it. No one would marry if the proposal was for a pre-arranged period of, perhaps, three years. We would be hurt that the person offering the proposal only wanted a temporary marriage and felt he could be very happy without you.
When we get to Heaven, we will still be ourselves. Everything in our minds and hearts will go with us, including our love for our families. For this reason, Mormons know we will still be in love with our spouses and still love our parents, our children, and our other family members, as long as we have continued to nourish and strengthen all those relationships. Mere friendship will not be enough for our hearts.
This is one of the reasons Mormons begin to prepare themselves to go to the temple. They love their families with all their hearts and know the temple is the pathway to an eternal family.
In a day when too many people don’t make family life a priority, it may seem odd that Mormons even want to be married forever. However, Mormons start out with an eternal commitment to their families. Knowing they are meant to be together forever, they avoid letting the little things become big things. Even the big things can be worked out when seen through an eternal lens.
There is a beautiful video of a Mormon couple (watch it at the end of the article) of a man who is lovingly caring for his wife, who has great disabilities, despite his own disabilities. When you know a marriage is forever, these kinds of challenges, which might seem to make ordinary marriage not worth continuing, are only a small moment. You are much more likely to stay married and loving when you know that in just a short time, from an eternal perspective, you’ll both be whole again. Mormons don’t divorce a spouse because he or she has Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, or something else that can impact the relationship but that is temporary.
When a Child Dies
Mormons take special comfort in knowing that when a child dies, it continues to be their child. Mormons believe they will be able to raise that child when they have finally joined him or her in Heaven. While nothing can make the pain of losing a child go away, knowing God has not taken that child from you forever is immensely comforting, allowing you to look forward with hope and joy.
“One night our little son Richard, who had a heart problem, awoke crying. The two of us heard it. Normally my wife always got up to take care of a crying baby, but this time I said, “I’ll take care of him.”
Because of his problem, when he began to cry, his little heart would pound very rapidly. He would throw up and soil the bed clothing. That night I held him very close to try to calm his racing heart and stop his crying as I changed his clothes and put on new bedsheets. I held him until he went to sleep. I didn’t know then that just a few months later he would pass away. I will always remember holding him in my arms in the middle of that night.
I remember well the day he passed away. As Jeanene and I drove from the hospital, we pulled over to the side of the road. I held her in my arms. Each of us cried some, but we realized that we would have him beyond the veil because of the covenants we had made in the temple. That made his loss somewhat easier to accept (Richard G. Scott, “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage,” April 2011 General Conference).
God is a God of perfect love and in that spirit of love, He gave us families and instructed us to make them a priority. Mormons understand He will not take them from us without giving us an opportunity to keep them forever.
Learn more about eternal families.