Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called Mormons by those of other faiths) believe strongly in the unit of the family and its fundamental role in society. Marriage and family are considered to be spheres of responsibility second only to one’s faithfulness and accountability to God. Mormon doctrine teaches that families can (and are meant to be) together forever and are part of God’s plan of salvation for His children.
The family has always been the fundamental unit of society, but society seems to be trying to change that. The family has been stretched and pulled to fit new definitions for a world that is changing faster than most of us can keep up. Mormons believe that the traditional view of the family, that of a man and woman who are legally married and raising their children together, is God’s definition and ultimately cannot be changed because it is an eternal principle. Some people may choose to define the family differently, but God’s definition is not going to change, because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (1 Nephi 10:18).
Latter-day Saints are strongly encouraged to get married and to have a family. Precautions should still be taken to make sure that two people are compatible and that they love each other. Total and eternal commitment on both sides is vital to an eternal marriage. Mormon doctrine teaches that if a couple is married in a temple of God, then that marriage is sealed together by the power of God for eternity, as long as both people keep the covenants they have made to God. All children born to a couple who have been sealed in a temple of God have the privilege and blessing of having those children sealed to them for eternity. If a family attends the temple after children have already been born or after children have been adopted, these children can still be sealed to their parents. The blessings that come to a family who has been sealed and are faithful to their covenants are beautiful and precious and give that family a foundation as well as walls, through the power of Jesus Christ, that protect them from the influences of the world.
God’s purpose in sending us here to earth was that we might obtain joy like unto His. The way that He has set up for us to do this is through keeping His commandments and having families. The greatest joys and blessings that can possibly be obtained in this life come through families. Likewise, the greatest pains and sorrows also come through families. Satan continually increases his attack upon the family, both generally and individually, because he seeks to frustrate God’s plan, which is to have us all return to Him again someday. This is another reason that Latter-day Saints put such a strong emphasis on the family. We are meant to strengthen one another and to help one another make God the center of our lives.
In 1995, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a proclamation to the world on the institution of the family. Called “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” this document is a strong reminder to the world of the responsibilities parents have to their children: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Our society continues to focus more on the individual. It is becoming increasingly hedonistic and tries to convince each individual to think about “me and what I want and need” instead of looking to others in their lives and trying to reach out and help meet those needs. While it is important for a person to take care of him- or herself, the whole gospel of Jesus Christ focuses on service to others, and the family is the highest place where we can serve.
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty 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. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
Parenthood carries heavy responsibilities, for which parents are held accountable to God. He wants to protect all of His children, and the commandments He gives are the formula to obtain these blessings. The strongest of families will be built upon faith in Jesus Christ, fidelity, work, and obedience.
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.
Mormon doctrine teaches that gender is an eternal characteristic and each gender has inherent skills and traits. These skills and traits are complementary. Thus, the best environment for a child is to be raised by his or her biological parents who love each other and can together provide a wholesome and fulfilling environment for their child. While it is a father’s main responsibility to provide for his family and to preside over it with love and it is the mother’s main responsibility to nurture the children of a family, Mormon doctrine teaches that each is essential, and that each parent must support the other in those responsibilities. Sometimes circumstances arise when a mother must work outside the home and cannot be there for her children all the time. This decision is between the mother and father and God.
The reason women are encouraged to stay home to raise and nurture their children is not because women are seen as being less capable than men in the work place, but is entirely because their skills enable them to provide the best environment for their children. No other influence in a child’s life will have more effect than what happens in his or her home. President David O. McKay stated that “no other success can compensate for failure in the home” (quoting J. E. McCulloch, Home: The Savior of Civilization , 42, in Conference Report, Apr. 1935, 116).
Latter-day Saint women are not encouraged to stay home and mother their children because they are not viewed as being capable of anything else, but because no other achievement could possibly mean more or have more of an influence on the world than to raise children in love and righteousness.
Many Latter-day Saint women pursue careers and have both families and careers. Others mother full time while still pursuing other interests and talents. Mormon women are, in general, very happy with their lives and find great fulfillment through their families.
Mormon doctrine teaches the importance of families spending time together. Every Monday evening is set aside for family night, and families are encouraged to also set aside this time as sacred. It is a chance to forget the busyness and problems of the world and to come together to focus on God and on each other.
Mormon families and marriages are successful when they focus on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all mankind and build on His commandments and gospel to become better people and to turn and serve those around you.