Forever Families?

By Sharon Lindbloom
1 April 2016

Last week (3/22/16) Mormon blogger and author Mette Ivie Harrison answered the question, “Do Mormons Still Practice Polygamy?” Her “short answer” was “No.” But she followed up with another 1,000 words explaining that, in some cases, the answer is “Yes.” These special cases involve plural marriage among Fundamentalist Mormons and smaller offshoot Mormon groups, and the mainstream LDS doctrine of celestial marriage. The answer to the question, Dr. Harrison said, “depends on what you mean by ‘Mormon’ and by ‘polygamy.’”

2014-lds-primary-clipart-1Regarding continuing polygamy within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today, Mette Ivie Harrison explained,

“There are some who claim that polygamy continues to be taught in mainstream LDS churches because D&C 132 is still part of LDS scripture and there has been no significant change in its wording about the practice of ‘celestial marriage.’ It is also true that LDS men whose wives have died can be sealed for time and all eternity to a second or even third wife within LDS temples, while women whose husbands have died can marry for ‘time only’ a second husband in the temple. Most of the LDS don’t spend a lot of time worrying about this, and assume that ‘God will work it out.’ The church has begun to allow descendants to seal women who have died to more than one husband after the death of the woman in question, confirming the idea that both men and women will be able to choose their eternal spouses in the after-life.”

To give this some context, a foundational doctrine in Mormonism is that “Families are Forever.” This doctrine drives all of Mormonism. It is the heart of the LDS gospel, and the end-goal of the Mormon concept of eternal life. Thirteenth Church president Ezra Taft Benson taught,

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints views the family as the most important organization in time and all eternity. The Church teaches that everything should center in and around the family. It stresses that the preservation of family life in time and eternity takes precedence above all other interests.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 489. See also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 179–90)

In a 2007 article written to young adults, LDS Seventy Earl C. Tingey explained:

“This is family. This is the gospel…Family is everything…The family is the heart and soul of the gospel. Through the family we progress into the eternities. An eternal marriage and family are worth any struggles.” (“Three Messages to Young Adults,” Ensign, April 2007, 39)

And Mormon Apostle L. Tom Perry taught,

“Eternal life is God’s greatest gift to His children, and it is obtained only through a family relationship. …The marriage covenant is essential for the Lord’s plan and is the purpose for which He created the heavens and the earth.” (“A Solemn Responsibility to Love and Care for Each Other,” Ensign, June 2006, 89)

rockwellMormonism’s “Forever Families” are created via LDS temple sealings, allegedly binding family members together in an eternal family relationship that cannot be broken; a Norman Rockwell-like image of a “forever family” is the eternal hope of every committed Mormon. But it’s an idealistic pipe dream that doesn’t stand up under the scrutiny of logical thinking (see “Can Families Really Be Together Forever?” and “Are Families Forever?”). And now Mette Ivie Harrison has directed a spotlight to yet another problem for Mormonism’s promises of “Forever Families.”

Dr. Harrison explained that, after being sealed in the temple to multiple people, “both men and women will be able to choose their eternal spouses in the after-life.”

If this is true LDS doctrine, what assurance — what hope — does a Mormon have right now that his or her family will be forever? None whatsoever. Apparently temple covenants and temple sealings are not eternally binding. A Mormon can make promises today, and change his or her mind in eternity if something better comes along.

If in the after-life a Mormon can choose a different spouse, this would dissolve one “forever family” and create a new one. But where do the kids go? Which forever family do they belong to? Is the Mormon heaven made up of blended families? Do the parents battle over custody and visitation rights?

Dr. Harrison says Mormons don’t worry about these things, assuming that God will work it all out. But Mormons ought to worry about them. A Mormon’s eternal hope is built on the promise and goal of “forever families” – it is the “heart and soul of the [LDS] gospel.” But if it’s not true, if it’s unattainable, then what?

While Bible-believing Christians look forward to spending eternity in the company of our loved-ones, the focus isn’t on our earthly families, but on God. He is our peace, He is our hope, He is our great reward. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

When the teachings of LDS leaders are pondered and followed to their logical conclusions, it’s discovered that Mormonism’s celestial kingdom will not be like a Norman Rockwell painting, but will instead be characterized by men and women swapping celestial spouses, by divorce, and by broken homes and families.

Mormons, think about these things. Worry about them. And consider trusting Jesus instead of breakable, impossible, and ineffectual temple covenants. Trust Jesus, because His promises are sure.