We were once asked what we thought was the most distinctive and amazing insight or perspective of the Restoration. The question came in writing and requested a one-page answer. Here is what we wrote. As you read it, think how astounding this doctrine is — and think how powerfully it should affect how we think of our children and how we parent them.
“Perhaps one of the most remarkable and distinctive beliefs of the Mormon church is that God has revealed information and insight that was lost about his plan for mankind, and about the family-centered purpose of this mortal existence.
“We believe that all of us once lived with our Heavenly Parents in a premortal life before this world was. There, as God’s spirit children, we developed and progressed until we were ready to enter this laboratory school of physical life. He knew us as individuals and sent us each into mortal circumstances where our challenges and opportunities would maximize our potential for growth. We understood, as spirits before coming here, that mortality would be full of risk and that pain and difficulty would be as much a part of it as the moments of fulfillment and joy.
“This mortal sojourn on a physical planet where we could learn by our experience and our agency was a key part of God’s plan for his family, and at its core was our opportunity to have and to live in families of our own where we could develop new levels of love, commitment and sacrifice.
“Thus, we recognize babies who are born into this world as our spiritual siblings who come from our common home with God and who each already has distinctive personalities and characters developed during the course of their pre-earth existence. As our literal spirit brothers and sisters, children are worthy of our respect and diligent care, and parents are their stewards, rather than their creators — who should do their best to discover who and what each of their children already is and to raise them accordingly. In this context, prayer for help in understanding and raising our children is a direct appeal to the real Parent, who knows them (and us) perfectly.
“The goal, in simple terms, is to return with our families to God’s family and to be, upon that return, resurrected beings who are a little more like him through the mortal experiences we have had and the choices we have made.
“Since we believe that all mankind are literally brothers and sisters, searching out our ancestors and filling in and linking up our family trees are like doing the research and making the contacts for a massive family reunion.
“In this everlasting perspective, marriage becomes profoundly important as the beginning of a new family that will last forever and that will be a sub-set of God’s family. Thus, marriages performed in our temples are not till death do us part but for time and all eternity. And no one is left out. All are part of families, of extended families and of Heavenly Father’s family. Those who, through life’s circumstances, find themselves without children or a lasting marriage relationship will have those opportunities in a later sphere of existence.
“No families on this earth are perfect, and all families have problems. The beauty of it is that we have eternity to improve and get it right. We like the old saying, ‘Everything will work out in the end, and if it hasn’t, it isn’t the end.’
“Because we see family life and commitment as central to life’s experience and God’s plan, the church puts great effort and resources into the support of families. Programs and activities for children, youths and families are extensive and absorb much of the resources, time and energy of the church’s all lay (volunteer) ministry. And for more than 100 years, the church has been gathering every genealogical and ancestral record available and making these available to any person anywhere who wants to trace his roots and connect to his broader family.
“Everything is different with this perspective! We view earth differently. We view challenges differently. We view marriage differently. And perhaps most profoundly of all, we view children and our role as parents differently.
“For us in the church, family is the core rather than the periphery. Children are the purpose rather than the sidelight. Work supports family rather than the other way around.
“And the default switch on having children is on rather than off — we assume we should unless the Spirit tells us to wait, or delay, or pause, or stop. We consult with God about our family planning rather than doing whatever seems convenient or pleasant to us.”
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com.