Why Eternal Families?

[ 20 ] Comments

by RI Editors

We are a church that is all about families. We readily admit that. We talk a lot about reading scriptures together, attending church together, praying together, even eating together. What is it that prayer, scriptures and church attendance is supposed to bring? They aren’t the end goal, they are steps in the process to become an eternal family.

Does being an eternal family mean that in our resurrected bodies we’ll sit on our celestial sofa watching AFV reruns and arguing over who gets the last piece of cake? Or will we be an eternal family because we won’t argue over the last piece of cake because there will be infinite pieces of cake? Or will we each have a mansion in heaven and live there alone with entire cakes to ourselves on separate clouds, and that’s how we’ll maintain peace?

We get so focused on family that I wonder if we miss the whole point. We have Family Home Evening lessons with paper chain object lessons showing how each member of the family is a link in the chain and we want to get back to Heavenly Father with our chain intact. We go to the temple to ensure that even the long since deceased members of our family are included in eternity. We go to great lengths to preserve and research family histories. Why?

What is family for and what is the advantage to it lasting forever?

20 Responses to Why Eternal Families?

  1. ji says:

    I don’t think it is all about eternal families — I think it is all about faith in Jesus Christ — eternal families are a blessing, to be sure, but a person who gets the ordinances with an eye solely to being with his or her family forever will fail in that quest — but the man or woman who develops a real and abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will have every blessing that is imaginable, and more.

  2. Susanne says:

    Personally, my opinion is that ‘eternal families’ is more about helping to save ALL of Heavenly Father’s children than having us all live in family units. The best way to motivate us to get the work done, though, is simply through family ties — the people we love the most.

    I don’t believe Heavenly Father will feel His work is perfect or done without His entire family accounted for, just as I wouldn’t feel ‘done’ without all of my family members there.

  3. Brittany says:

    I think that the focus on spending time together as a family is because strong families create strong followers of Christ. Growing up in a Christ-centered home can give an individual a good foundation, and being a spouse and parent provides a lot of opportunities for developing Christlike qualities. I think eternal marriage is the most important part of it, since it makes sense to me that exalted beings would live and work most closely with their sealed spouse–couples as far as you see in two mirrors facing each other. I think, as was brought up in the comments on the post about polygamy and exaltation, that what matters most is making and keeping sealing covenants, and, right now, to whom is less important. It wouldn’t be just for one member of a marriage to be withheld blessings because of the choices of the other.

  4. MSKeller says:

    Frankly, I don’t think we have any more idea of what eternity will truly be like than a fish understands what it would be like when he is given lungs and legs and allowed to live on land. It will be what will allow us joy. That is enough. While I have a very curious mind, I still don’t believe we can even begin to concieve of the feelings, the responsibilities or the emotions that will follow us.

    I just want to know all truth. (Superpower wish)

    • Ray says:

      Well said, MS.

      The next life is one area where I am perfectly at ease admitting that I see through a glass, darkly – but I do believe in the importance of families, parenthood and childhood.

      I think we miss a lot, however, when we focus so obsessively on our immediate families that we lose sight of the extended family of God – and I love that we all are said to be brothers and sisters. When we really catch that vision (that family includes my children AND the beggar on the street corner in exactly the same way and to the exact same degree), the world will change and Zion will appear.

      • MSKeller says:

        I completely agree Ray. While I adore the concept of ‘eternal families’ from the perspective of a woman whose first temple marriage (with four beautiful children) dissolved, it is a difficult concept to continue looking at as the ‘end all-be all’. There was more mourning and loss from that vision of what I always thought my life would be (throughout the eternties) than for the singular marriage to my childhood sweetheart.

        There still is, if I’m honest with myself, even though I’m now sealed to a delightful man. That sweet nuclear family hope has vanished. Now it is all sorts of connections and reconnections and new inserts (bonus children as well as countless extensions on both sides). Our vision has grown greatly of what a ‘family unit’ consists of.

        . . . and it is good. (Mostly.)

  5. Ray says:

    (The collective) we think of eternal families, and we tend to envision the perfect ideal of our imagination. In practical terms, that means we have adopted, in our own uniquely Mormon way, the Protestant idea of rest and peace and grapes and harps – only with our children gathered around us in an ideal FHE that last forever.

    The problem is, that’s not life – either in the here and now or how we read of God’s life. Jacob 5 tells of the Lord of the vineyard getting into the muck and the dung in order to try to save the trees – and not succeeding a lot of the time. Moses 6-7 shows a God who weeps for the iniquity he sees among his children – and eternity shakes while the devil laughs. That image can shattering emotionally, without a belief that charity really is LONG-suffering and God really does have “all eternity” at their disposal to accomplish their work and glory – but it is the most complete picture we have of what it will be like to be Heavenly Parents. It won’t be rosy on a rosy basis; in fact, it will be painful – but it will be worth it in the end.

    In our vision of eternity, my mortal children won’t be sitting around me listening to a lesson; they will be somewhere (on a planet with me or somewhere else) overseeing, in some way, the growth and development of other spirit children engaged in their own eternal progression. I am a bit heterodox in the sense that I believe in a Council of the Gods arrangement that models how I read the first chapters of Genesis and the PofGP (and that, as part of that creative council, I will work with my mortal children, their spouses and other gods in the eternal Plan of Salvation), but, with or without that paradigm, I will NOT live with my mortal children forever as their actively involved parent. In the traditional view, my wife and I will be “raising” our children, and our mortal children will be doing the same thing with theirs – and, perhaps, ne’er the two shall meet. I don’t see it that way, but it is the most common view in the Church, I think.

    This is deep stuff, but the key for me is quite simple:

    Families are important and, in some vital way, eternal.

    I believe that with all my heart.

    • MSKeller says:

      But. . . there is no ‘end’ . . . so when is it ‘worth it’? I love my family, truly deeply and honestly, but the image of trying to take care of billions of their needs forever?, well, makes me want to just crawl up under the covers and hide.

      I guess my vision of heaven is mountains to climb, projects to do, endless hours to learn, and now and again a visit with those I adore to check in with their successes and challenges.

    • templegoer says:

      As ever Ray, you have clarified something that has been on my mind for years. I too suspect that eternal life will be about facilitating the godhood of others, in order for them to enjoy the kind of relationship with our Heavenly Father that we will then have. I’m confident that this will be work that will increase my capacity for relationship with God. My brain just did a loop.

  6. Ray says:

    I didn’t get into my full view, MS – and your description matches my view quite nicely, fwiw.

  7. Julia says:

    I think that like many abuse survivors, the “sealed forever” part of doctrine can be pretty painful. I was talking to another incest survivor, who is also a member of the church who was “born in the covenant,” I realized just how much of my ambivalence about the idea of families, siblings and parents who are “sealed,” impacts my faith. Even though my father has been excommunicated, I still have nightmares where I wake up to find myself learning that he has had his temple blessings restored, and I am once more chained to him, in some way, for eternity.

    In the group of LDS incest survivors that I would consider my close friends, most of us have had times where we have been inactive, resigned church membership, or been excommunicated. She recently resigned her membership in the LDS church. She had expected to feel more relieved, more disconnected. She was molested by an uncle, who is still an active member, sealed to her mother through her grandparent’s sealing, and sealed to her by her parent’s sealing. Her nightmare, the one that has her calling me at 4:00 am some mornings, is chain link, pulled tight enough together that her link is pushed up against her uncle’s with no way to run away. I honestly think that she resigned her membership because she had so many lessons that taught how important sealings are, and didn’t include the idea that God isn’t a jerk. I don’t believe our Heavenly Parents will force us to spend eternity bound to those who hurt us, or to those who we don’t want to check in with.

    I like to think that I am at the place where I am okay with the way things are, and then at some point I have to fill out a church form, and I have to write *his* name, because even though he has been excommunicated, my church records are still linked to his, because I was “born under the covenant” and I have several rough weeks, wondering when I will stop having my nightmares about being sealed for eternity.

    I do understand about teaching to the ideal. I understand that for many people, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, lessons about temple marriage and eternal families, are beautiful reminders of the reasons that it is worth enduring to the end. I know that those things are also nightmares for others. Many of us stay away if we know it is coming, but some lessons take unexpected turns. Sometimes I slip away, and sometimes I am prompted to share something that someone else needs to hear. When I am hurting, I turn to others who understand, and hope that the sweetness of this part of the gospel eventually becomes part of my life.

    • Paul says:

      Julia, you wrote, ” I don’t believe our Heavenly Parents will force us to spend eternity bound to those who hurt us, or to those who we don’t want to check in with.” I agree 100%.

  8. Paul says:

    I have strong feelings about this subject, and waited a while to respond. (Perhaps I’m late enough that no one is following this thread anymore.)

    I think there are several things at work:

    One: Joseph felt strongly about sealing, but it’s clear from my reading that the church’s view of eternal families has changed a bit over time. It seemed in Joseph’s time there seemed to be value in being sealed to him (or to a prophet), that the blessings were in the sealing, not necessarily in the “family”.

    I think this view is propagated in our present treatment of divorce when it comes to temple covenants. Women who are divorced do not have their sealings canceled until they are ready to be resealed to someone else. It is as if it is more important to be sealed to someone than not at all. I have a personal view about this, and I post it as my personal view only. I believe that the Lord will sort out the relationship issues in the eternities. We will not be shackled to someone for the eternities who will make us unhappy or harm us. If we have been worthy and our partners have not, then the unworthy partners will not be in the same kingdom. That does not rob the worthy partners of the blessings of the sealing. Somehow (and here I am a fish imagining what it is like to have lungs) the Lord will sort out the relationships.

    Two: One purpose of preaching eternal families is to help us to have the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, the sealing ordinance, required for admission to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. As I indicated above, I believe the ordinance itself is what is most important, even more important than the relationship. That is not to say the relationship is not important, but victims of bad relationships for which they have no responsibility will not, in my view, be robbed of the blessings of the ordinance.

    Three: The vision of eternal families as we now frequently discuss it in the church can encourage us to improve our relationships in our earthly families, to live worthy of the eternal relationships we hope for. This is certainly true in my marriage as my wife and I rely on the “long view” at times when we face decisions and difficulties in our family and in our marriage. That long view helps us to put petty differences into perspective (and allows more differences to be “petty” when compared with eternal yardsticks). As a result, our earthly marriage can be improved as we seek to live worthy of the eternal covenant we’ve made.

    On the flip side, however, when our children chose to walk away from the gospel as some of ours have done, this same desire to have a heaven on earth in our family is severely tested. Hearing anyone talk of “all our children gone on missions or married in the temple” is like swallowing glass. Sitting through missionary farewells (we recently had a “triple” in our ward) can be painful, even though we have a missionary serving, because we’re reminded of those who will not serve.

    Which brings me to number four: faith in the blessings of the sealing can extend to our children. Joseph Smith taught that when we are sealed to our children, they will be entitled to eternal blessings that they may not realize or understand now but that they will receive in the eternities by virtue of their being sealed to worthy parents. (Sorry, I can’t give you a link.) That teaching gives me great comfort, even though I don’t understand how it works. (More fish lungs…)

    Finally, number five: I believe that we’ll be happy in the eternities. Only those who are consigned to outer darkness will be unhappy. Even those in the telestial kingdom will be happy, I think. I don’t subscribe to the notion that we’ll be sad in the Celestial Kingdom if someone we love is not there. I don’t know how that works, since I can’t imagine not being sad, but I cannot fathom eternal sadness in that place. Further, I think those people who are in the Terrestrial Kingdom will be happy there, too. What we’re doing in those places? I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

    • Julia says:

      Funny that we both waited, and responded at the same time.

      I agree that there are many things we don’t understand eternally. I do think there are things we can do to be sensitive to the huge variety of experiences of church members, worldwide, to teach more thinks is in a fish/lungs manner.

    • Ramona Gordy says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful insights they have touched me. As a recent convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS, this concept of the Eternal Family has been a learning process for me. In my life, the word that describes my family and my husbands family is “scattered”. We are both adult “orphans”, at times estranged from our brothers and sisters.

      So when I was taught by the Missionary’s the principle of the Eternal Family, I was first intrigued by the thought of being sealed to my husband forever, and I purposed in my heart to explore that and what I learned is that I had the potential to be a better wife than I thought I was, and my husband could be a better husband too. (Hopefully before we die). We are a work in progress.

      In searching for and assembling a “Family Tree” and then having the courage to do the vicarious work; the baptism’s, the preparatory work for the endowment and even the sealing of our parents, I have learned about love and forgiveness, which for me is the “key” to it all. I have found that each time I find a name, a story comes with that name and a person is evolved and then I can “see” our family coming closer, not only behind the veil but in this life. There is a bond that is building now between long lost brothers and sisters, we have something to share, and that is love for each other, memories long forgotten.

      My husband and I have no children together and that has always saddened me, and I hope that in a future world, I will have children, so I believe that eternal families hold that possibility. But for the most part, I am excited about the future.
      Revelations 21:4-5 is a great motivator for me:

      4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

      5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

  9. templegoer says:

    I too have waited to respond, as I can be pretty ambivalent about all this particularly when I attend the temple as it stirs up all my past abusive experience. Attending the temple at all is pure obedience for me, and I’m often not capable of it.
    But the comments here have been Balm of Gilead to me, particularly as my family are in the process of a terrible rift that it seems impossible to heal from where I’m standing. Attending church often makes it worse, but I too gain strength from knowing that my husband and children are my eternal kindred, whatever choices they make. This makes it easier to overcome the moment and try to see us on an eternal journey, and act accordingly (sometimes).
    Interestingly, when I received my patriarchal blessing, I was told that I had a ‘goodly parent’ referring to my mother who stuck around to raise us whilst my father did not. I was tortured at the time by divided loyalties, and that along with further experience helped me to draw a line in the sand which has enabled me to protect myself from further abusive experience. That has been an enormous blessing in my life and the lives of my children.
    My love and respect goes out to each of you whose only desire is to be a ‘healer of the breach’.

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