Chapter 9: Sacred Family Relationships

During 2013, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

(Referring to a family reunion his family had in Brigham City, UT) President Snow continued: “This is the last family re-union we have reason to expect this side of the spirit world. May the God of our fathers help us to keep His laws, live honorable lives, preserve inviolate our virtue and integrity, listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, and seek diligently to purify ourselves, that not a single member of this family be lost by deviating from the straight and narrow path, but may we all prove ourselves worthy to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection, crowned with glory, perpetuating in immortality the family union, and continue to increase down through the endless ages of eternity.”

Mormonism teaches that families can be together forever. What that exactly means is unclear, as it appears to be left to the imagination of the individual Latter-day Saint. As Snow points out here, it’s possible for members of a family to not qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. Since everyone has skeletons in their family closet, which Mormon family would have every single member together in the same celestial kingdom? I once spoke to an elderly lady at the St. George temple who acknowledged that she had a wayward son. When I asked if he would be with her family into eternity, she thought he would, even though she admitted that he didn’t qualify at that time. How? If he didn’t take care of everything in this life, she said she would hold out hope that a merciful God would allow him to work it off in the next life. This defeats the purpose of Mormonism’s insistence that “now” is the time of salvation. The idea flies in the face of Alma 34:31ff in the Book of Mormon, which specifically says that no work is efficacious after this life. Yet the idyllic image of grandparents, parents, and children sitting around a Christmastime fireplace is what the LDS Church continues to perpetuate. Strive and strive harder, as chapters 6-8 in this manual insist, is this religion’s impossible mantra. It's a gospel where most people will fail compared to those who will succeed.

Teachings of Lorenzo Snow

Family relationships are sacred and can grow stronger in eternity.

Encourage marriage, … and impress upon [others] the sacredness of that relation and the obligation they are under to observe that great commandment which was given of God to our first parents, to multiply and replenish the earth [see Genesis 1:28]. This is all the more necessary, in view of the present tendency in the world to disregard that law and to dishonor the marriage covenant. It is saddening to note the frequency of divorces in the land and the growing inclination to look upon children as an encumbrance instead of as a precious heritage from the Lord.

We agree that there are too many broken marriages and even divorces in our land. The family is under attack in society today.

[The Lord] has shown us that if we are faithful we will associate with each other in an immortal and glorious state; that those connections formed here, that are of the most enduring character, shall exist in eternity.

The associations that are formed here, will be possessed by [us] in the eternal worlds. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers—yes, mothers who see their lovely ones expiring by their side, know that they will be theirs in the spirit world, and that they will have them as they lay them down. The wife when she sees her husband dying, when his life is ebbing away from him, she knows she will have him again, and she sees comfort, consolation and joy, that is given by the revelations of the Almighty, in that she will possess her husband in the eternal worlds. The same forms of relationship here will still exist beyond the veil; the ties here formed will grow stronger in the other life which is to come. And the Latter-day Saints feel an assurance, because God has given it unto them.

Christians believe in marriage and family relationships. Unlike Latter-day Saints, though, they do not believe the family unit continues into eternity. Many Mormons think less of Christianity for this belief, but I wonder if they have ever thought through the implications. If Mormonism is true, then as described earlier, is it really possible that every member will reside in celestial glory? But, for the sake of argument, suppose a family was able to get every member here. So as a man, I would be responsible to call my wife on Resurrection Day. Supposing my parents are good Saints as well, where will they be? Wouldn’t they be in their own realm? And my children, if they married worthy spouses…would they be with me? Or would they be in their own realm as well? Think about it, living for eternity in “heaven” appears to consist mainly of a husband and his wife. He will be responsible to create new children. The goal is “to have the pleasure of increasing in our posterity worlds without end” (p. 85). As chapter 5 in this manual admits, “the doctrine that we can become like our Heavenly Father” is taught in Mormonism.  Snow himself taught, “As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may be” (p. 83).

Think about it this way. Heavenly Father certainly doesn’t have his parents or grandparents with him in his kingdom. While Mormonism does teach that Elohim once served under his father, this took place before he became the god of this world. Thus, humans have a chance to “come in possession of the same glory and happiness that [Heavenly Father] possess” (p. 85). Mormonism says that humans can become like Elohim in the next life, if we keep the commandments and live faithfully as Latter-day Saints. If this is the case, then it doesn’t make sense that we will be sharing our next realm with anyone other than our wife (wives?) and the spirit children we produce in the next life, none of whom would be our children from this world.

Faithful Latter-day Saints who are unable to marry or raise children in this life will be able to receive all the blessings of exaltation in the life to come.

A lady came into our office the other day and asked to see me on a private matter. She informed me that she felt very badly, because her opportunities for getting a husband had not been favorable. … She wanted to know what her condition would be in the other life, if she did not succeed getting a husband in this life. I suppose this question arises in the hearts of our young people. … I desire to give a little explanation for the comfort and consolation of parties in this condition. There is no Latter-day Saint who dies after having lived a faithful life who will lose anything because of having failed to do certain things when opportunities were not furnished him or her. In other words, if a young man or a young woman has no opportunity of getting married, and they live faithful lives up to the time of their death, they will have all the blessings, exaltation and glory that any man or woman will have who had this opportunity and improved it. That is sure and positive. …

People who have no opportunity of marrying in this life, if they die in the Lord, will have means furnished them by which they can secure all the blessings necessary for persons in the married condition. The Lord is merciful and kind, and He is not unjust. There is no injustice in Him; yet we could scarcely look upon it as being just when a woman or a man dies without having had the opportunity of marrying if it could not be remedied in the other life. There would be injustice in that, and we know that the Lord is not an unjust being.

I find it amazing that nowhere in this section is there any encouragement for Latter-day Saints to get married in the temple. (This actually will happen in chapter 10, and I'll deal with these quotes at that time. Thus, it seems these several paragraphs dealing with excuses for those who never had a chance to get married is out of place.) Leaders from Joseph Smith on have made it clear that getting married in this life was crucial for those hoping for exaltation. It is the essential issue of this religion. Here are just a few quotes to support what is said in chapter 10:

Founder Joseph Smith: “Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resur­rection. But those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory” (History of the Church 5:391).

Apostle Orson Pratt: “Those who have not secured their marriage for eternity in this life, can never have it attended to hereafter; therefore, if they should through faithfulness even be saved, yet they would be no higher than the angels, and would be compelled to live separately and singly, and consequently without posterity, and would become ser­vants to all eternity, for those who are counted worthy to become kings and priests, and who will receive thrones and kingdoms, and an endless increase of posterity, and inherit a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (The Seer, p. 43).

President Brigham Young: “No man can be perfect without the woman, so no woman can be perfect without a man to lead her. I tell you the truth as it is in the bosom of eternity. If he wishes to be saved, he cannot be saved without a woman by his side” (this particular quote was cited by Spencer W. Kimball in The Miracle of Forgiveness,” p. 245).

President Joseph F. Smith: “We hold that no man who is marriageable is fully living his re­ligion who remains unmarried. He is doing a wrong to himself by retarding his progress, by narrowing his experiences, and to society by the undesirable example that he sets to others, as well as he, himself, being a dangerous factor in the community” (Gospel Doctrine, 1986, p. 275).

President Joseph F. Smith: “The house of the Lord is a house of order and not a house of con­fusion; and that means, that the man is not without the woman in the Lord, neither is the woman without the man in the Lord; and that no man can be saved and exalted in the kingdom of God with­out the woman, and no woman can reach perfection and exalta­tion in the kingdom of God, alone. That is what it means” (Conference Reports, April 1913, p. 118. See also The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles manual, 1979, p. 291).

Apostle Delbert L. Stapley: “No man can be saved and exalted in the kingdom of God without the woman, and no woman can reach perfection and exaltation in the kingdom of God alone” (Conference Reports, April 1957, p. 75).

Mormons to whom I speak typically believe that getting married in this life is what is required, not the next. Leaders have also stressed the importance of not just having a civil marriage but a temple marriage. For instance:

President Joseph Fielding Smith: “Another thing that we must not forget in this great plan of re­demption and exaltation is that a man must have a wife, and a woman a husband, to receive the fulness of exaltation. They must be sealed for time and for all eternity in a temple; then their union will last forever, and they cannot be separated because God has joined them together, as he taught the Pharisees” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:43-44. Italics in original).

Apostle Mark E. Petersen: “We must realize that we can no more have exaltation in the celes­tial kingdom without temple marriage than we can have member­ship in the Church without baptism” (October 31, 1962, “A Commitment to Temple Marriage,” BYU Speeches of the Year, p. 5).

A church manual: “To be exalted in the highest degree and continue eternally in family relationships, we must enter into ‘the new and everlast­ing covenant of marriage’ and be true to that covenant. In other words, temple marriage is a requirement for obtaining the highest degree of celestial glory” (True to the Faith, 2004, p. 93).

"Temple marriage" is used to show how this needs to happen in this life. Of this, there can be no argument. And what about those who “couldn’t” get married in this lefe, as Snow’s section talks about? Here are some quotes that support this idea brought up in this chapter:

President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Some who are not married, through no fault of their own, ask whether they will always be denied the highest degree of glory in that kingdom. I am confident that under the plan of a loving Father and a divine Redeemer, no blessing of which you are oth­erwise worthy will forever be denied you” (“Daughters of God,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1991, p. 98).

Apostle M. Russell Ballard: “I would rather be a woman not entering into marriage in mor­tality than a man. I would not want to stand before the Lord as a healthy, normal man and try to explain why I never married. Please understand that temple marriage is absolutely vital in our quest to inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom” (“Keep the Commandments – Beginning Right Now!,” BYU fireside address given September 6, 1987).

President Howard W. Hunter: “Man is not complete without woman. Neither can fill the measure of their creation without the other. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. Only through the new and everlasting covenant of marriage can they realize the fulness of eternal bless­ings. As a matter of priesthood responsibility, a man, under nor­mal circumstances, should not unduly postpone marriage. Breth­ren, the Lord has spoken plainly on this matter. It is your sacred and solemn responsibility to follow his counsel and the words of his prophets” (“Being a Righteous Husband and Father,” Ensign (Conference Edition), Nov.1994, p. 49).

In the Snow manual, two women are brought in: one who came to his office and Eliza R. Snow (quoted later). Generally, a woman is reliant on a man to ask her to marry him. If this is the case, it appears that Mormon men are under the gun. The line of reasoning used by Snow and these other leaders in these quotes begs the question: Who decides what is (or is not) a good excuse for not getting married in this lifetime. Every Mormon who doesn’t get married in this life can certainly claim that they weren’t “able” to get married. Consider several possibilities:

  • What if a person was a glutton and was so obese that she was not desirable?
  • What if a person didn’t bathe regularly or watch his personal appearance so that he was not desirable to someone form the opposite sex?
  • What if a man had personality quirks (couldn’t he have worked harder to overcome these traits?) that caused every woman to whom he proposed to reject him?
  • What if a woman had been proposed to—once, twice, or even three times—but she decided to wait for the “perfect” man to come along? (Before she knew it, it was too late.)

 Are these good excuses for generally not following the teachings of many LDS leaders? Who gets to decide? How many unmarried Mormons would want to claim that “opportunities were not furnished him or her”? This idea opens up a Pandora's Box of personal revelators coming up with their justifications. More description of this teaching in a current church manual ought to be provided so that Latter-day Saints don’t falsely assume that, somehow, they are OK in their singleness. Is temple marriage vital? Or is it not?

My sister Eliza R. Snow, I believe, was just as good a woman as any Latter-day Saint woman that ever lived, and she lived in an unmarried state until she was beyond the condition of raising a family. … I cannot for one moment imagine that she will lose a single thing on that account. It will be made up to her in the other life, and she will have just as great a kingdom as she would have had if she had had the opportunity in this life of raising a family.

Eliza Roxcy Snow (1804-1887) is listed as having “lived in an unmarried state until she was beyond the condition of raising a family.” However, Snow was married polygamously to Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith as well as second president Brigham Young. While a Mormon might quibble about the marriage to Smith, this is historically verified by books written by LDS academics, including Mormon Polygamy by Richard Van Wagoner and In Sacred Loneliness: The Sacred Wives of Joseph Smith by Todd Compton. As reported in Momron Enigma: Emma Hale Smith (written by two historians),  Emma knew of the marriage relationship between her husband and Eliza Snow; Emma reportedly used "a vulgar broomstick as an instrument of revenge; and the harsh treatment received at Emma's hands is said to have destoryed Eliza's hopes of becoming the mother of a prophet's son" (p. 134). According to Snow's nephew, Emma knocked "Eliza down the stairs with a broom, the fall resulting in a miscarriage for Eliza," who was pregnant with Joseph's child (p. 135). Whether or not this event happened in this way and Eliza suffered a miscarriage, nobody today knows for sure; however, is it possible Eliza had a chance to have children at the age of 39 with the Mormon prophet? Quite possibly. Regardless, having children with a man is not what qualifies a woman for the celestial kingdom; getting married to him does.

It is also a  fact that Snow married Young--who had more than four dozen wives--in 1866. The question is, whose wife will she be in eternity--Smith's or Young's? The answer would have to be to whomever she was married to for eternity, for a woman can only be sealed to one man. For Snow to use this example (and for it to be included in this manual) seems strange and definitely out of place, especially since she had been twice married!

When husband and wife enjoy a oneness of feeling, they encourage love and kindness in the home.

The editors now move to the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. Honestly, I would personally agree with much of what is said here, and not much of controversy is addressed.

See that the little, trifling misunderstandings in domestic concerns do not poison your happiness.

Isn’t that the truth?

If you ever secure a union in any family in Zion, if you ever secure that heavenly union which is necessary to exist there you have got to bind that family together in one, and there has got to be the Spirit of the Lord in the head of that family and he should possess that light and that intelligence which if carried out in the daily life and conduct of those individuals, will prove the salvation of that family, for he holds their salvation in his hands.

Children learn the gospel best when their parents seek inspiration and set good examples.

Strive to teach your children in such a way, both by example and precept, that they will unhesitatingly follow in your footsteps and become as valiant for the truth as you have been.

It is the business of the father to be qualified to teach and instruct his children, and to lay principles before them, so that by conforming to those instructions they can be the most happy that their natures are susceptible of in a state of childhood, while at the same time they learn the principles upon which they can gain the most happiness and enjoyment in a state of [adult]hood.

Our children, if we are diligent in cultivating in ourselves the pure principles of life and salvation, will grow up in the knowledge of these things and be able with greater facility than ourselves, to promote the order of heaven and establish happiness and peace around them.

I’m not sure how the father of a family “holds (the family’s) salvation in his hands.” In Mormonism, each person is responsible for his or her own salvation. Based on what he has said, it appears that he means that leading the family in the faith (especially the children) will very likely determine their religious beliefs down the road.