Happy, cohesive families are of central importance in the gospel of Jesus Christ and are the focus of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church.” The LDS Church provides much inspiration, guidance and support in order to create and sustain Mormon families.
Of primary importance is to get off to a good start. Mormon prophets have counseled that the most important decision members of the LDS Church will make in this life is to marry the right person at the right time in the right place. We expect to find the “right person” through inspiration from God, delivered to us by the Holy Ghost, who is our constant companion once we are baptized and continue to live worthy of his presence. This person might not be a “soul mate,” and there may not be one chosen person who is right for someone to marry, but we can expect guidance from above in making this important decision.
Mormons believe that families can be together forever. That is, the vows we take on earth can be binding in eternity. We believe in eternal marriage, and the eternal marriage ceremony is performed in Mormon temples. Getting to the temple is the goal of every active Latter-day Saint child and youth, and this goal encourages children to grow up with strong morals. To qualify to enter a House of God, one must be pure. The Mormon law of chastity is based on biblical law. Simply stated, it is abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage, and total fidelity inside of marriage, which is defined as the legal union of a man and a woman. A Mormon temple wedding is a beautiful, sacred event in one of the most transcendent places on earth, but it is only a beginning. Once entering into the sacred eternal marriage covenant, both spouses must continue to live worthily for the covenant to be binding in the eternities. Thus, Mormon couples work hard on their marriages (with a divorce rate of about 6.5%) and their personal worthiness.
The essence of happy Mormon marriages is charity and forgiveness extended over time. Mormons also like to have fun. Courting doesn’t end at marriage, and dating and wholesome recreation, time away from the kids are encouraged. Mormon families tend to be larger than those in most modern societies, wherein birth rates are plummeting. Our belief that we have always existed and that we come to earth from the presence of our Heavenly Father attunes us to the possibility that there are spirits waiting to take upon themselves physical bodies and come into our care. Mormons do use birth control—when to have children and how many is a personal choice between husband, wife, and the Lord—but abortion is considered a very serious sin. Even in cases of rape or incest, or endangerment to the mother, women should seek the counsel of the higher authorities in the LDS Church before making a decision to abort a child.
Once children come into a Mormon home, there are patterns and programs in place to help them to have their own spiritual experiences in order for them to develop a testimony (or witness) that Jesus is the Christ and to help them develop a closeness to Him. One is family prayer morning and night (in addition to individual prayers). Another is family scripture reading. Another is Family Home Evening. Family Home Evenings are usually held on Monday nights, and no other church activities are scheduled on Mondays. In communities with a high percentage of Mormons, there are community events planned especially for families. Although outside activities can be engaged in as a Family Home Evening, the typical event consists of an opening and closing prayer, singing of hymns, a lesson, an activity, and a snack. Family members rotate taking charge of these aspects of the night, and a five year old may give the lesson, and the whole family participate in making the snack. No interruptions are tolerated. If the phone rings, we don’t answer it.
Talent nights have always been a favorite format for our Family Home Evenings. Chaos sometimes reigns, so a sense of humor is mandatory.
On a more serious note, earthly trials can present opportunities for families to fast and pray together, to have productive emergency councils or even just planning nights. Mormons are expected to find their own spiritual anchors for their faith, and these can be discovered and nurtured within the four walls of the Mormon home.