One of the “Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Family Home Evening” for the May 13-19, 2019 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families is to read, study, and discuss “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” (Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129). This proclamation was read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah. As the manual explains, it can help “clear up confusion and falsehood in the world’s messages regarding marriage and families.” One of the key lessons our family learned by pondering specific quotes from this apostolic document is the eternal definition it provides of the family.
“Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents”
This quotation teaches us that family is not a man-made concept that can be arbitrarily re-defined. Instead, the “THE FAMILY is ordained of God.” It is God’s way of establishing order, and “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” A heavenly family existed prior to the creation of the earth. As the proclamation explains, “IN THE PREMORTAL REALM, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection.” In the pre-existence, we were not forced—we were given the opportunity to choose to support “the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” We accepted then the challenge that Jesus reiterated in the Sermon on the Mount: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). In our first estate, we chose to come to earth and strive to become more like our Heavenly Father and our Heavenly Mother (“O My Father,” Hymns, no. 292).
“Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.”
As husband and wife in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were commanded: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). The family proclamation makes clear that this commandment “remains in force” for us today with the additional commandment that “the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” Key reasons for these commandments are that “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.” Parents are obligated to “rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.” The divine plan is for parents “to love and care for each other and for their children.” Earthly fathers and mothers are to “help one another as equal partners.” These are the ideal goals that we should have as families.
“Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”
Life on earth is an ongoing trail of trials between good and evil. Adam and Eve did not raise children who became perfect adults. Satan was allowed to tempt them, and they “began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish” (Moses 5:13). God continues to grant His children the right to choose how they will live their lives. All descendants of Adam and Eve have had to work for their daily bread and experience sickness, sorrow, and death.
Both my wife and I lost one of our parents as young children. After the death of my father, extended family—grandparents and an aunt and uncle and their children—stepped in to “lend support when needed.” My wife experienced the sudden deaths of her mother, her grandmother, and her younger sister after a tragic car crash. In her case, not only did extended family aid in her family’s recovery, but ward and stake members provided helping hands and daily ministering. The result of these experiences has affirmed for us the importance of maintaining and strengthening our family relationships with our children and grandchildren regardless of the adaptations they are facing in their lives. We strive to preserve our relationships and never reject or judge them. We love and care for them eternally.
“The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.”
This statement brings us great assurance. The proclamation clearly explains: “Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” Again, these statements reaffirm that the family is not something that terminates with death. The opportunities to perform vicarious temple work for our family members endorse the eternal nature of the family. The family is not just “the fundamental unit of society” for our lives as mortal beings. It was also an integral part of our pre-earth life. Additionally, the family should be an essential hope for the world to come.
Counsel from Our Prophet
As President Russell M. Nelson instructed at the April 2019 general conference: “Salvation is an individual matter, but exaltation is a family matter … So, what is required for a family to be exalted forever? We qualify for that privilege by making covenants with God, keeping those covenants, and receiving essential ordinances …The Savior invites all to follow Him into the waters of baptism and, in time, to make additional covenants with God in the temple and receive and be faithful to those further essential ordinances. All these are required if we want to be exalted with our families and with God forever” (“Come, Follow Me,” Ensign, May 2019).
We pray that God will help us to be steadfast in being covenant-keeping women and men who can be part of an eternal family. We take great comfort in the lyrics and melody of “Families Can Be Together Forever” (Hymns, no. 300).