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Latter-day Saint Beliefs on the Family: Mormons and Family
Mormon Beliefs on Family
Family is central to LDS doctrine. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints believe that the family was ordained or organized by God and is the basic unit of society. They believe marriage should be between a husband and wife and children are entitled to birth within the bonds of marriage. Furthermore, they believe that through sacred ceremonies performed in LDS temples, family relationships can last beyond the grave when participants live up to the promises made in the temple throughout their life.
Mormon Beliefs on Marriage
Mormons believe that marriages should only exist between one man and one woman. They also believe that sexual relations should only occur between a man and woman lawfully and legally wedded as husband and wife.
They believe that homosexual relations are grievous sins, but allow others, whether members of the faith or not, to make their own choices. (Mormons differentiate between same gender attraction and acting on that attraction. While having homosexual relations are believed to be sinful, the attractions themselves are not.)
Welcoming LGTB Members
Although homosexual relations are seen as serious sins, those who participate in such relations or feel same sex attractions, are still welcome to participate with their local congregations. In the fall of 2016, the church launched a website aimed at helping LGTB members to feel welcome. Click here to visit. While participating in certain ceremonies and sacraments require living up to certain standards, which include following the "Law of Chastity" which restricts all sexual relations to occurring within the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman, all are welcome to participate in worship services and be contributing members of their local congregations.
Family is Very Important to the Mormon People
The Family: A Proclamation to the World
Formal Statement of Mormon Doctrine on the Family
On September 23, 1995, Gordon B. Hinckley, then President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, colloquially known as the “Mormon church,” read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” at the General Relief Society Meeting in the Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Temple Square, in Salt Lake City Utah. A written version, signed by all 3 members of the First Presidency and the 12 members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—the governing bodies of the church, became available shortly thereafter. Although it has not (yet) been canonized, church leaders frequently quote from the document in sermons and it is considered the official stance of the church on marriage and family.
Families are Central to the Plan of Salvation
Life Before Earth
Members of the church believe that we lived with God, our Loving Father in Heaven before we came to this earth, as His spirt sons and daughters. They believe that God created our spirits in His own image, and that we learned and grew at His side and under His tutelage. In order to progress and become like God, we had to receive bodies and be given an opportunity to prove whether or not we would live up to the standards of godliness outside the presence of our Heavenly Father.
A great counsel was held and God’s plan presented. An earth would be created and we would receive mortal bodies that would be subject to disease, deformity, death and sorrow. We would be able to make choices and an atonement would be offered by Jesus Christ, God’s firstborn and our brother, to satisfy the demands of justice and make amends for our mistakes. However, this mercy would only be applied to us if we chose for it to be applied to us by obedience to His commandments.
Lucifer, another of God’s children, presented a plan in opposition to God’s plan. In his plan, all of God’s children would be forced back to God’s presence and the glory would be Satan’s. (Satan and Lucifer are the same being.) This plan would not work because it is through our choices and experience that we grow and become like our Father in Heaven. Jesus Christ offered to make the sacrifice necessary to allow us to repent of our sins, while offering God the glory of His great plan. A vote was taken and war raged between the two sides. Those in open rebellion to God and Jehovah’s plans were cast out of heaven, unable to further progress.
Under God’s direction, Jesus Christ and others created an earth on which we could dwell during our mortal probation. This spiritual-physical creation is described in the first chapters of Genesis. Adam and Eve were the first people to be placed on the earth. They communed with God and continued to learn, existing in a state of innocence. They were married as man and wife and commanded to multiply, replenish, fill and care for the earth. They were also told that if they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that they would no longer be able to live in God’s presence, as no imperfect being can dwell with God.
Lucifer came to Eve in the form of a snake and deceived her. As a result, she partook of the fruit. Adam then partook of the fruit in order to stay with Eve who would no longer be able to walk with God in the Garden of Eden. While we know that Adam and Eve were not unchaste as they were husband and wife, we do not know what act partaking of the fruit was symbolic of. Whatever that act was, it changed the nature of the earth. This is known as the Fall. The Fall completed the creation and allowed death to enter the world. Flaming cherubims were placed to guard the path to the tree of eternal life to permit mankind to exist in a state of probation, a time in which man could prepare to meet God. And, although they were no longer able to live in God’s presence, Adam and Eve were now able to have children.
Life after Death
After death, while the body is in the ground, the spirit finds itself either in a state of paradise or prison, depending on his or her actions in mortality. Spirits in paradise will teach the laws and principles of God to those in prison and learning will continue, as far as is possible without a physical body. Eventually, all will be brought before God for judgement and resurrected. At the resurrection, body and spirit will be perfected and inseparably re-connected. Those who were faithful to God’s commands and lived according to whatsoever light and truth was available to them, will be exalted—or, will live with God and be like Him. Other degrees of glory are available depending on the choices made in mortality.
Exaltation is a family matter. Arrangements will be made for those who did not have the opportunity to hear the gospel in this life or marry in this life to have those opportunities. However, no one can be exalted, unless married, or sealed, for time and all eternity in a temple of God.
The First Public Reading of the Family Proclamation
The Family Unit was Organized By God
The Family: A Proclamation to the World
It is from this perspective that “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was written. The document begins by explaining our Divine Nature. It states that we are each children of Heavenly Parents. It explains that we have a divine nature and that we are not truly at home here on this earth. It further explains that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
The second paragraph puts this earthly experience into perspective with the eternal timeline. It explains that we lived with God before this life. It describes how we accepted His plan for us, in hopes that we might become like Him and return to live with Him. And it states that by participating in ordinances available in the Holy Temples, family relationships could be continued in the hereafter, making it possible for us to once again live with God.
The proclamation continues by reminding us that the first commandment given to Adam and Eve was to become parents. It declares that the sacred powers used to create mortal bodies for God’s children should only be employed between man and his lawfully wedded wife. This is because this life is essential for our eternal progression. Children have the best chances of success in happy families with both a mother and a father where possible.
The proclamation declares that life is sacred. The power to give and take life belongs to God. Husbands and wives are permitted to act with co-creators with God in creating mortal bodies for His children, but only in the way authorized by God, as legal husband and wife. Husbands and wives also have a sacred responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. They are to work together to obtain exaltation as a family and will be held accountable for their obligations as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers.
The family is not a man-made institution, but was ordained and organized by God. God has defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Marriage of any other type will not last beyond the grave. As marriage is essential for exaltation, marriage and family life is an essential part of God’s plan for His children. And, as children have the best chance of obtaining exaltation when born into a family with a mother and father who honor marital vows with complete fidelity, we should seek to provide that ideal for our offspring.
The document continues by explaining that marriages and families are most successful when based on “principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” Families are most successful when based on the teachings of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Ideally, fathers are responsible for providing for, presiding over, and protecting their families and mothers are responsible for the nurture of children. However, parents should work together and extended family should lend support as necessary.
The Proclamation ends with a warning that those who violate these principles, abuse spouse or offspring, or fail to fulfill their familial responsibilities will stand before God. It also warns that “the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” Finally, the proclamation calls upon citizens and officers of government to do what they can “to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."
President Eyring of the LDS Church Addresses Religious Leaders of Various Faiths Who Gathered in the Vatican to Discuss the Importance of the Family
The Proclamation Presented in the Vatican
In November 2014, Pope Francis invited religious leaders from around the world to attend a 3 day interfaith dialogue on the family. Twenty three nations and fourteen different faiths were represented. President Henry B. Eyring, then first counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS Church, attended the conference. He shared the message of the Proclamation, which was well received by those in attendance.
Opposition from the LGTB community
One of the greatest sources of opposition to the proclamation comes from the LGTB community. They claim the teachings in the proclamation deny them basic human rights. However, members and leaders of the church maintain that marriage was instituted by God and cannot be redefined by man. They also maintain while feelings of same gender attraction are not choices or sins, acting on those feelings is a choice and is contrary to the laws of God.
They believe that homosexual physical attractions will not continue to exist in the next life and heterosexual marriage will be available to those who were righteous, but not given a chance to marry in this life. They hope that as many of their spirit brothers and sisters as possible will choose to follow the teachings outlined in the family proclamation, in order to reach their greatest potential in the hereafter. While they do not support homosexual marriages, they believe that everybody has their own agency and ability to make their own choices.
Members of the church do not believe that discrimination based on sexual orientation is appropriate. They believe that ALL life is sacred and do not condone suicide or actions that put others at risk of suicide or depression. Church leaders encourage members to live in harmony with those whose views differ in these and other issues.