Sometimes in our busy, over-scheduled world, we have to remind ourselves what really matters. Most people say family is their highest priority, but in the pressure of day-to-day demands, it is challenging to put family first and think about the needs of spouses and children ahead of all the other needs and craziness we deal with every day.
Occasionally, we have to pause and think about what we believe and then strive a little harder to apply it.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable and distinctive beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that God has revealed previously lost information and insight about his plan for mankind and 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. 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 experience and agency, was a key part of God’s plan for his family. 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 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 — stewards who should do their best to discover who and what each of their children already is and to raise all of them accordingly. In this context, praying 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 people are literally brothers and sisters, searching out our ancestors and filling in and linking up our family trees is like doing the research and making the contacts for a massive spiritual family reunion.
In this everlasting perspective, marriage becomes profoundly important as the beginning of a new family that will last forever and be a sub-set of God’s family. Thus, marriages performed in our temples are not “'til 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.
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, youth and families are extensive and absorb much of the resources, time and energy of the church’s lay (volunteer) ministry. For more than 100 years, the church has been gathering every genealogical and ancestral record available and makes these available to people anywhere who want to trace their roots and connect to their broader family.
There are many important things in our lives, but let’s remind ourselves now and then that both here and in the eternities, family is what matters most.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."