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Will families be together forever?

By Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson

Picture by Jeff Belmonte from Cuiabá, Brazil – Flickr.

The following is taken from chapter 23 of the 2013 book Answering Mormons’ Questions: Ready Responses for Inquiring Latter-day Saints, pages 184-185. To purchase this valuable resource, click here.

Check out a two-part Viewpoint on Mormonism series airing August 24-25, 2020. Part 1   Part 2

Some Mormons have created a stereotype about the Christian’s view of  heaven, assuming it means sitting on a cloud, strumming a harp, and singing hymns to Jesus throughout eternity in a most boring fashion. While this is certainly not a completely accurate picture of heaven, perhaps the Latter-day Saint should consider Mormon 7:7 in the Book of Mormon. It reads, “And he [Jesus] have brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.”

In the mind of the Latter-day Saint, it makes sense that heaven includes the family unit. President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918) explained,

I have the glorious promise of the association of my loved ones throughout all eternity. In obedience to this work, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I shall gather around me my family, my children, my children’s children, until they become as numerous as the seed of Abraham, or as countless as the sands upon the seashore. For this is my right and privilege, and the right and privilege of every member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who holds the Priesthood and will magnify it in the sight of God. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 386)

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–1995) wrote,

Can anyone believing in eternal life doubt that the God of heaven would grant His sons and daughters that most precious  attribute of life, the love that finds its most meaningful expression in family relationships? No, reason demands that the family relationship shall continue after death. The human heart longs for it, and the God of heaven has revealed a way whereby it may be secured.”(“Why These Temples?” Ensign special edition, October 2010, p. 24)

Certainly Christians should invest heavily in their earthly families, but nowhere does the Bible teach that mom, dad, grandparents, children, or others will live together as a family unit in heaven. Jesus plainly explained the role of marriage and families in heaven in Matthew 22:23–30 and Mark 12:18–27. Answering the question posed to Him by the Sadducees, Jesus answered them,
“Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matt. 22:29–30).  Mormon apologist Gilbert Scharffs complains about those who use this passage to reject eternal marriage when he writes, “This verse does not say there won’t be any marriage in heaven, only
that marriages will not be performed there.”(The Missionary’s Little Book of Answers, p. 62).

This is nothing more than reading into a passage, as Scharffs provides no evidence to support his point. In Mormonism, dwelling together as a family unit presupposes that each member of the family was able to follow the whole law during their mortal probation. Mormonism teaches that only those who are truly obedient will qualify for the benefits of the celestial kingdom. According to President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972), “To enter the celestial and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept.”(Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 206).

For the sake of argument, suppose that keeping the whole law is possible. Where will all the billions and billions of family members from the beginning of time physically reside? Are we to assume that the God of Mormonism continues to reside with his extended earthly family? Does he worship the God who preceded him? And since Jesus is our spirit brother from the preexistence, will He become “Uncle Jesus” to the offspring of a Mormon who becomes a god? Will the heavenly Father be known as “Heavenly Grandfather” to these offspring? What about those members of a Mormon family who do not qualify for celestial glory? Mormonism teaches that a person can’t reach the celestial kingdom on the coattails of another faithful member; each person must individually qualify. Even if this concept ended up being true, the odds are that most LDS families will be incomplete because some of their loved ones will fail to live up to the proper standards during their mortal probation.

It is a misnomer to say that Christians don’t believe in an eternal family structure since all forgiven humans are a part of God’s family. As such, all redeemed believers will live in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God will be the focus of our attention in eternity, not us. Sadly, Christians will not experience eternity with unforgiven loved ones. However, in Mormon teaching this same situation exists. Faithful Mormons will not be joined by family members who were unfaithful in mortality. On the surface, the idea of eternal family units may sound very appealing to some, but once the LDS concept is carried to its logical conclusion, it breaks down quickly.

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