Things To Act
Thursday, March 04, 2004
In an earlier post, I asked “Theology: What do we really believe about marriage and families? What do these beliefs imply about how society and the state structure family relations?” This is my attempt at an answer.

Let’s start with the definition of family. Despite mushy inclusiveness (GS: “or even a single person living alone”) and exceptions, I find it simpler to think about family relationships in light of what we believe about eternity. Two types of family relationships exist in the eternities—husband/wife and parent/child. In the celestial kingdom, we believe, as I understand it, that though everyone will be connected via eternal family relationships, these interconnections will all be one or the other type of sealing—corresponding to the same types of sealings we perform in temples today.

The marriage seal exists only between a man and a woman. We do believe that a man can enter into more than one such sealed marriage relationship, though a woman cannot, for reasons never made clear. [That, incidentally, is why I can accept the Church’s vigorous support for marriage being between ‘a man and a woman’—because I suspect that our unspoken footnote is ‘of course, a man can enter into more than one marriage—just not presently.’ Anything else doesn’t seem to square with our doctrine].

The child-parent sealing exists between the child and an existing marriage seal. A child cannot (under normal circumstances) be sealed to only one parent—he must be sealed to both, in connection with their preexisting eternal marriage (complications about divorce and cancelled sealings omitted, largely because I suspect that final answers are available in the eternities but do not change the basic principles, regardless of the temporal uncertainty such cases inspire). This relationship can be entered into either through being born in the covenant, or through being adopted in/sealed later, which sealing confers the same blessings providing by being born in the covenant.

Thus, in the celestial kingdom, the average faithful member will be sealed to his parents, will be sealed to at least one wife (or to one husband), and will have some number of children sealed to that marriage relationship. Temporal family relationships other than those listed do not seem to have corresponding eternal consequence (hence, though I consider my brother a close family member, our ‘family’ relationship exists because we’re sealed to the same set of parents, not due to any connection simply between the two of us).

It also seems fairly obvious that the most important types of relationships recognized by family law are husband-wife and parent-child. As far as I know, very few legal rights or responsibilities accrue between my brother and myself by virtue of that relationship—whereas several legal assumptions are made about my relationship with my parents (inheritance, medical visitation, etc). Thus far, therefore, the basic superstructure of both the ecclesiastical and legal approaches to the family coincide. Before further analyzing the legal end, though, we’ll look at our specific beliefs about what each of these relationships entails (with an eye toward what the law should say about them).


Marriage is strongly encouraged in the scriptures.

And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him. (Moses 3:18)

Marriage is honourable in all (Hebrews 13:3)

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. (D&C 49:15)

marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God (Family Proclamation)

We also consider marriage to be necessary.

And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; (D&C 131:1)

Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. (Family Proclamation)

Marriage should be marked by love between spouses.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25)

Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else. (D&C 42:22)

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. (Family Proclamation)

Divorce Bad
Divorce is strongly discouraged.

What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Mark 10:9).
[other scriptures and teachings of the modern prophets are also relevant, but I think I’ll save a more detailed discussion for elsewhere]

Intergender necessary
Marriage involves the union of one person of each gender. We don’t fully know why this is necessary, other than that it is.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. (1 Cor 11:11)

Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. (Family Proclamation)

One purpose of marriage is to bring children into the world; mankind is under a commandment to do so.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28)

We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. (Family Proclamation)

Gender Roles in Marriage
Specific responsibilities in marriage are set forth, particularly that men are responsible to provide for their families.

Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken; (D&C 83)

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. (Family Proclamation)


Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. (Exodus 20:12)

CHILDREN, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
(Ephesians 6:1) (see also Col 3:20)


And again, verily I say unto you, that every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown; and let him labor in the church. (D&C 75:28)

All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age. (D&C 83:4)

And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion. (Alma 43:47)

Pray With
Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed. (3 Nephi 18:21) (see also D&C 23:6)

Fulfill Responsibilities
I would assume that this would include legal responsibilities (at least one of the current temple recommend questions seems to bear this out as well).

And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties. (D&C 20:47)

And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. (D&C 68:25)

But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth. (D&C 93:40)

And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another. (Mosiah 4:14-15)

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” (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to 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. (Family Proclamation)

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