“Families are Forever.”
“No Success Can Compensate For Failure In The Home.”
“Families – It’s about Time.”
These family-related mottos are popular among latter-day saints because families are important to us, just as they are to many of our non-Mormon neighbors. But Mormons believe that the family unit can exist after death as well as in this life. As I discuss this particular teaching with non-Mormon friends, I’m surprised to find how many agree that they think that families should be together after this life as they are now.
I come from a loving family – my parents stayed married all their lives. I occasionally observed as a youth that I was rare among my circle of friends in that my parents were not divorced. (I was really not so unusual then, but it seems my children are more than I was.) I love and get along with my siblings. And I’m happily married after nearly 30 years. And I love my in-laws, too!
At least part of that family harmony comes from the perspective that a belief in eternal families brings to me. (And part of it is that I just have a wife and some great siblings who overlook my flaws.)
It’s not to say that a belief in eternal families solves all ills in a family relationship. Quite the contrary when a member of the family chooses a different path, one that leads him away from the eternal bonds that my church teaches. As my children have matured to adulthood, some have chosen to stay close to the church that is so important to me and others have not, and each has a different story to tell.
I heard a speaker once who suggested that in the hereafter the basic unit will not be a religious congregation, but a family. It occurred to me at that time that I needed to make efforts to help even those members of my family who walked a different way than I did to feel comfortable in my family. It was far more important to me to have my children active in my family.
Another friend read for me an interesting verse of scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants. There the Lord says that if we influence others righteously – with love and kindness rather than coercion or force – then “thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever” (D&C 121:46). He suggested that our dominion is our family, and if we are to have them eternally, it is because they choose to be with us, not because we force them there.
That lesson was one of many important lessons for me to learn in how to be a father, and it’s one, frankly, that I would have done well to learn earlier in my life. But, having been taught by one who understood its importance by his own experience, I sought to apply it in my life, and I’m forever grateful for the relationships I have with my children.