Paragraph 3God's Plan of Happiness
“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”
A CLOSER LOOK
D&C 93:23, 29
Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit. … Man was also in the beginning with God.
The Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; and God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
All things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.
The Gods formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit (that is, the man’s spirit), and put it into him; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Job 38:4, 7
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? … When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
In him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
D&C 138:38, 55–56
In this vast congregation of the righteous, … I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God. Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.
The earth [will] be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.
You may wonder if God has an identity and purpose like this for you. You may feel that being a holy and trusted servant or being sealed to a beloved companion and having children may be out of your reach. When you look in the mirror, you may not see what I have described today. If that is the way you feel, I want you to take another look. Look into the mirror with the eye of faith and see in the mirror not only your face but also the face of the Lord Jesus Christ standing beside you with power and glory and never-ending, perfect love. He did not come to leave you out of His blessings. You are who you are because of who He is. You have eternal identity and purpose because Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer.
Elder Kim B. Clark, “Identity and Purpose in God’s Eternal Plan,” Brigham Young University Idaho, April 22, 2014.
“The gospel teaches us that we are the spirit children of heavenly parents. Before our mortal birth we had “a pre-existent, spiritual personality, as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father” … We were placed here on earth to progress toward our destiny of eternal life. These truths give us a unique perspective and different values to guide our decisions from those who doubt the existence of God and believe that life is the result of random processes.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, November 1993.
That Satan … was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor. But, behold, my Beloved Son … said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man [and] that I should give unto him mine own power, … I caused that he should be cast down; and he became Satan, yea, even the devil.
The Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.
He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.
This is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
2 Ne. 2:15–16, 27
To bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, … it must needs be that there was an opposition. … Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
It must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.
The gospel teaches us that we are the spirit children of heavenly parents. Before our mortal birth we had “a pre-existent, spiritual personality, as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father” (statement of the First Presidency, Improvement Era, Mar 1912, p. 417; also see Jer. 1:5). We were placed here on earth to progress toward our destiny of eternal life. These truths give us a unique perspective and different values to guide our decisions from those who doubt the existence of God and believe that life is the result of random processes.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” October 1993 General Conference.
“The Atonement allows for the family to be sealed together eternally. It allows for families to have eternal growth and perfection. The plan of happiness, also called the plan of salvation, was a plan created for families. The rising generation need to understand that the main pillars of our theology are centered in the family.”
Julie B. Beck, “Teaching the Doctrine of the Family,” Address to Seminary and Institute of Religion Teachers, 4 August 2009; printed in Ensign, Mar 2011.
Gen. 2:7; 3:19
The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. … Thou [wilt] return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
1 Cor. 15:44
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
2 Ne. 9:13
O how great the plan of our God! For on the other hand, the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous, and the grave deliver up the body of the righteous; and the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.
The spirit and the body are the soul of man. And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul. … Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory; for after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father.
Man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
Remarkable as your body is, its prime purpose, as stated earlier, is of even greater importance—to serve as tenement for your eternal spirit. Your spirit acquired your body and became a living soul to experience mortality and the associated trials and testing. Part of that testing is to determine if the appetites of your body can become mastered by the spirit that dwells within it. When we understand our nature and our purpose on earth and that our bodies are physical temples of God, we will realize that it is sacrilege to let anything enter that might defile the body.
President Russell M. Nelson, “Your Body: A Magnificent Gift to Cherish,” New Era, August 2019.
“Our soul is what’s at stake here—our spirit and our body. …The purchase price for our fullness of joy—body and spirit eternally united—is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of this world. We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, “Well, it’s my life,” or worse yet, “It’s my body.” It is not. “Ye are not your own,” Paul said. “Ye are bought with a price.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments,” BYU Devotional, January 1988; condensed version in “Personal Purity,” General Conference, April 1998.
In answer to why such seriousness, we answer that one toying with the God-given—and satanically coveted—body of another, toys with the very soul of that individual, toys with the central purpose and product of life, “the very key” to life, as Elder Boyd K. Packer once called it. In trivializing the soul of another (please include the word body there), we trivialize the Atonement that saved that soul and guaranteed its continued existence. And when one toys with the Son of Righteousness, the Day Star himself, one toys with white heat and a flame hotter and holier than the noonday sun. You cannot do so and not be burned. You cannot with impunity “crucify Christ afresh” (see Hebrews 6:6). Exploitation of the body (please include the word soul there) is, in the last analysis, an exploitation of him who is the Light and the Life of the world. Perhaps here Paul’s warning to the Corinthians takes on newer, higher meaning:
. . . Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore
glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. [1 Corinthians 6:13-20; emphasis added]
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments” BYU Devotional, 12 January 1988.
This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
He will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
If the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
Brothers and sisters, look above your trials. Try to forget your own pain as you work to alleviate the pain of others. Mingle together as opportunity affords. It is important that we do so. We need others to talk with and to share our feelings and faith with. Cultivate friends. Begin by being a good friend to others. Share your burdens with the Lord. He has said to each of us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” …
Qualify for a temple recommend and live worthy of it at all times and in all circumstances. I would think that every one of you would hold a temple recommend. If you do not, then resolve that you will get your lives in order and become eligible to go to the Lord’s house. Go to the temple on a regular schedule. There you may help those who are totally helpless to help themselves. And each time you go you will leave as a better man or woman than when you entered. …
Lose yourself in the service of others. As Jesus said, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life … shall find it” (Matt. 16:25). If you are fed up with your life, if you feel an oppressive loneliness, if you feel you are of no worth, go out and look up somebody who is in worse condition than you are—and you will find very many of them. Read to the blind, read to the aged, help those in distress, comfort those who are in sorrow. Give a little of your substance to those who are in need. Share and the world will become a sweeter, more delightful place for you. “Look to God and live” (Alma 37:47). There is so much to be done that can be wonderfully rewarding.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Conversation with Single Adults,” From an address delivered on 22 September 1996 at the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
Progress toward Eternal Life
Matt. 5:48 (3 Ne. 12:48)
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
1 Tim. 6:12
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.
If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
Continue in these things even unto the end, and you shall have a crown of eternal life at the right hand of my Father, who is full of grace and truth.
If ye are faithful ye shall be laden with many sheaves, and crowned with honor, and glory, and immortality, and eternal life.
Every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them; … I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundred-fold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.
Individual progression is fostered in the family, which is ‘central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.’ The home is to be God’s laboratory of love and service.”
President Russell M. Nelson, “Salvation and Exaltation,” Ensign, May 2008, 8.
“The gospel teaches us that we are the spirit children of heavenly parents. Before our mortal birth we had “a pre-existent, spiritual personality, as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father” (statement of the First Presidency, Improvement Era, Mar. 1912, p. 417; also see Jer. 1:5). We were placed here on earth to progress toward our destiny of eternal life. These truths give us a unique perspective and different values to guide our decisions from those who doubt the existence of God and believe that life is the result of random processes.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, November 1993.
We were created by loving heavenly parents to grow up to become like them. Male and female spirits were created to complement each other. That is why gender is not fluid in the eternities—because it provides the basis for the ultimate gift Heavenly Father can give, His kind of life. … All human beings are beloved spirit sons or daughters of heavenly parents with a divine nature and eternal destiny. The reason we have bodies is to build on that divine nature so we can ultimately realize our eternal destiny.
Elder Dale G. Renlund, “The Divine Purposes of Sexual Intimacy,” Ensign, August 2020.
Due to developmental and cultural diversity and variability, human potential is fundamentally pluralistic; in other words, human excellence is manifested in a dazzling array of achievements and accomplishments realized through a variety of developmental trajectories and pathways (Feldman, 2003). In this sense, individual talent development is intrinsically robust yet highly sensitive to environmental conditions. Human potential cannot be understood without looking at an increasingly distinct individuality. …
Rather than a fixed capacity, human potential is dynamic and changing, adaptive to environmental challenges and opportunities. With enabling or augmented conditions, such as technological support as well as synergistic power of people working together, individuals can stretch their limits and accomplish things they otherwise cannot.
Dai, D. Y. (2020). Rethinking Human Potential From a Talent Development Perspective. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 43(1), 19-37.
We’ll be reflecting on the year 2020 for many years to come. It’s something that our children and youth won’t ever forget, especially since their lives tend to revolve around their participation in school, religion and extracurricular activities. Whether it has been their inability to meet in person for secular activities, it’s no surprise that they’re also feeling disconnected to their regular religious experiences like seminary, youth night or Sunday school. Much of the “earthly experience” needed to “progress toward perfection” (paragraph 3, Family Proclamation) has certainly been put to the test.
This summer, the BBC reported that the pandemic’s disruption on our children may “follow them for the rest of their lives.” The article focuses on the negative impacts of the pandemic, like missing school, socializing and sports. It doesn’t, however, mention the effects of children and youth missing out on regular religious education and experiences, such as attending church or youth activities. It also doesn’t talk about the positive things come from increased home and family time. Ironically, these are the very things which provide youth with the most powerful protective influences they will ever experience in their young lives.
The Protective Influence of Religion
Most articles or reports in the media aren’t talking about the importance of religion in the lives of our children and youth. Yet, religious activity is more essential to their well-being than we may ever realize. One day, it will be interesting to look back and reflect on the impact the shutdowns have had on youth missing out on a year of their in-person Catholic parish programs, Jewish youth conventions, Muslim young women groups, Hindi youth summer camps, or Christian seminary or youth conferences. These in-person religious activities are some of the most powerful protective factors for adolescent success.
For example, in a study titled “Religiosity, self-control, and antisocial behavior: Religiosity as a promotive and protective factor” researchers Robert Laird, Loren Marks and Matthew Marrero explain that higher religiosity has been associated with more positive health outcomes and provides consistently lower rates of drug and alcohol abuse, risky sexual behavior and delinquency. They also note that “high levels of religiosity may protect individuals who are otherwise at risk of, or inclined to engage in, misbehavior or health-compromising behaviors.”
A Study of Jewish Teenagers
In one of the largest studies of its kind, nearly 18,000 Jewish teenagers were surveyed to determine the impact religion and religious activity had on their spiritual, emotional and social well-being (especially religious youth group activities). Among the findings:
- Jewish teens like their parents; they enjoy spending time with their family and often look to their parents for guidance and to demystify the world around them.
- For most teens surveyed, Jewish beliefs and practices are closely linked with their family relationships and loyalties.
- The respondents believe teens need help in coping with pressures like academic pressure, self-esteem issues and a fear of failure.
- Jewish teens see social media as a mixed blessing, saying it can both cause stress and help them deal with stress, as well as connect with friends and help change the world.
- Most crucially, the study found that teens active in a Jewish youth group (regardless of denomination) tend to flourish socially, emotionally and spiritually as compared with those who are not. They also report feeling more connected to being Jewish, have higher self-esteem and better relationships with family, friends and other adults, and feel empowered to make positive change in their world. (See “Study finds Jewish teens flourish socially, emotionally and spiritually when connected to youth groups“).
The Silver Lining
The findings of these studies can be very encouraging to people of all faiths. They help us better understand why participating in religious activities so positively affect the well-being of our children and youth. To be sure, during the pandemic the Come, Follow Me curriculum, online youth activities, quorum and class meetings, virtual worldwide youth devotionals, musical events, social media challenges and many more activities have provided children and youth with opportunities to virtually connect to their faith community. While the efforts have been significant, youth have undoubtedly suffered the consequences of losing in-person religious socialization and education, whether it be through daily seminary, weekly Sunday school classes, weekly youth nights or camps and conferences. Perhaps the silver lining in all of this that we can begin to see anew just how essential and protective these religious activities and education are in the lives of children and youth.
What remains to be studied is the influence religion (or the lack thereof) has had in shaping our children and youth’s post-pandemic lives. What effect did a parents’ religiosity have on their children during the pandemic? Which gospel traditions and daily religious habits were strengthened and which were weakened? What might the long-term effects of restrictions on religious education and activities have on our children and youth? How will this affect a young person’s future commitment to the gospel and membership in the Church? How many have been baptized or grown stronger in their faith during the pandemic–and how many have fallen away? While there is much to be researched, we can be hopeful knowing that any increased time engaging in church or family-based religious activities or traditions can follow (and bless) our children and youth for the rest of their lives.
I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
The Prophet Elijah was to plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to their fathers, foreshadowing the great work to be done in the temples of the Lord in the dispensation of the fulness of times, for the redemption of the dead, and the sealing of the children to their parents, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse and utterly wasted at his coming.
That same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.
If a man marry a wife by my word, … and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed … by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; … if ye abide in my covenant, … [it] shall be of full force when they are out of the world.
Family History, Significance
President Russell M. Nelson [has] cautioned: “We can be inspired all day long about temple and family history experiences others have had. But we must do something to actually experience the joy ourselves.” He continued, “I invite you to prayerfully consider what kind of sacrifice—preferably a sacrifice of time—you can make [to] do more temple and family history work.” As you accept President Nelson’s invitation, you will discover, gather, and connect your family. Additionally, blessings will flow to you and your family like the river spoken of by Ezekiel. You will find healing for that which needs healing.
Elder Dale G. Renlund, “Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing,” General Conference, April 2018.
“To you who have experienced the heartache of a divorce in your family or felt the agony of violated trust, please remember it begins again with you! One link in the chain of your generations may have been broken, but the other righteous links and what remains of the chain are nonetheless eternally important. You can add strength to your chain and perhaps even help to restore the broken links. That work will be accomplished one by one.”
Elder David A. Bednar, “A Welding Link” (worldwide devotional for young adults, Sept. 10, 2017).
Perhaps most humbling to me was to hear a single adult sister declare with the fire of pure testimony that the most important work we can do is to prepare for marriage and family. Although this is not her experience, she knows that family is the very heart of the work of salvation. “The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.” We honor the Father’s plan and glorify God when we strengthen and ennoble those relationships in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. We choose to live pure and virtuous lives so that when the opportunity comes, we are prepared to make that sacred covenant in the house of the Lord and keep it forever.
Carol F. McConkie, “Here to Serve a Righteous Cause,” General Conference October 2015.
Knowledge of family history … might serve as markers [for] a family’s level of intergenerational communication, family cohesiveness, the presence of intrafamilial support systems, high levels of narrative coconstruction and presence of rituals that maintain continuity despite inevitable ups and downs that occur in all people’s lives. … Knowledge of family history as an index of well-being and potential for resilience and/or positive change … is related strongly to so many well-established psychometric indicators of psychological well-being and good clinical outcome, attest to the potential of family knowledge as a clinically useful marker.
Knowledge of family history as a clinically useful index of psychological well-being and prognosis: A brief report. By: Duke, Marshall P., Lazarus, Amber, Fivush, Robyn, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 00333204, 20080601, Vol. 45, Issue 2
“Adolescents draw on family stories and traditions to construct a sense of self through exploring roles and value. … Family history knowledge may be most effective for influencing healthy differentiation (high autonomy and high relatedness) when parents overtly encourage personal role and values exploration when utilizing family history stories and activities. … family history knowledge contributes to increased commitment.”
Haydon, Clive Gordon, “The Relationship Between Identity Development and Family History Knowledge” (2010). All Theses and Dissertations. 2549.
As family professionals, many of us seek effective strategies that will help families: (a) create meaning, unity, and closeness; (b) maintain boundaries and a sense of family “we-ness” against an encroaching world; or (c) to restore a sense of coherence to family life. Extant data seem to indicate that effective family ritual may provide these desired outcomes. …
Studies from the past three decades that jointly and specifically address family and sacred ritual or practice … report of a positive correlation between marital satisfaction and family worship; … linkage of marital satisfaction with meaningful family rituals … finding that shared sacred activities may facilitate commitment and intimacy in marriage—and that family religious activities “represent a potentially unique pathway to facilitate family cohesion.” More recent studies indicate that couples who frequently engage in religious activities in the home report greater relationship satisfaction. …
These findings seem to mesh relatively well with other studies that show that meaningful family rituals are associated with positive outcomes, including higher relationship satisfaction and strong family identity … based on 15 years of interviewing exemplar Jewish families, here is what we do know. In this study, most of the Shabbat-observing families we interviewed … reported unity, meaning, and relational and sacred power that reportedly helped them preserve and enhance their family relationships across years and decades.
Marks, Loren D, Hatch, Trevan G, & Dollahite, David C. (2018). Sacred Practices and Family Processes in a Jewish Context: Shabbat as the Weekly Family Ritual Par Excellence. Family Process, 57(2), 448-461.
Parent religiosity and religious identity serve as important early resources upon which children draw in forming their own religious identity and practices, as well as shaping their behavior. … Parental religiosity is positively linked to family satisfaction and negatively linked to autonomy … [and provides] a protective influence. … Parents and children do live linked lives … [and] parents provide a considerable share of their children’s internalized values or “moral stock.” …This study reinforces the importance of considering linked lives in the development of youth, as well as the need to assess both direct and indirect religious influences.
Regnerus, M. D. (2003). Linked Lives, Faith, and Behavior: Intergenerational Religious Influence on Adolescent Delinquency. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42(2), 189-203.
In recent years, research has moved from focusing on the psychological and medical consequences of grieving to examining what constitutes vulnerability and resilience in bereavement. Our main finding is that strength of spiritual belief is an important prediction of bereavement outcome. People with low strength of belief resolved their grief more slowly during the first nine months but by 14 months had caught up with people with strong beliefs. Participants with no spiritual beliefs had higher grief scores than the remainder at the one month and 14 month follow up points. …
Spiritual beliefs may provide an existential framework in which grief is resolved more readily. Most spiritual beliefs, whether or not associated with religious practice, contain tenets about the course of human life and existence beyond it. Strong beliefs may be a proxy for better adjustment and less psychological distress.
Walsh, K., King, M., Jones, L., Tookman, A., & Blizard, R. (2002). Spiritual beliefs may affect outcome of bereavement: prospective study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 324(7353), 1551. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7353.1551
“Studies show that spirituality and religiosity are a significant coping factor for bereaved college students. In two studies with a total sample exceeding 1,000 college students, many students considered religion an important part of their lives and a useful source of coping with bereavement. A qualitative study confirmed that bereaved college students rated religion among their 10 most important coping resources. Thus, evidence indicates that spirituality and religiosity serve as an important coping factor for college students facing loss and bereavement.”
Hai, Audrey Hang, Currin-McCulloch, Jennifer, Franklin, Cynthia, & Cole, Jr, Allan Hugh. (2017). Spirituality/religiosity’s influence on college students’ adjustment to bereavement: A systematic review. Death Studies, 42(8), 1-520.
I have both thought about and studied what causes the hearts of the family to turn toward each other, and I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the most powerful forces is telling stories within our families. And I believe that developing a tradition of storytelling … will help turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the children’s hearts toward the parents. …
As families, we all have challenges. These challenges are meaningful. Families also have experiences to share and others to overcome. How appropriate that we forge together a reconciliation of all our present lives and our past. If we will tell stories, our love for one another will grow stronger, our family identity will run deeper, and our faith tradition will extend through generations.
Dollahite, D. (2004) “Forging Family Bonds Through Storytelling,” BYU scholars archive.
Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart. … He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Isa. 2:2–3 (Micah 4:1–2)
In the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
This greater priesthood administereth the gospel. … Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.
A baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead—for this ordinance belongeth to my house. … After you have had sufficient time to build a house to me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, [it] cannot be acceptable unto me. … How shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name? … Your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, … and endowment of [Zion] are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build. … I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy.
A man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage].
This is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.
The great latter-day work, include[es] the building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein.
Temples, Order of Heaven
To use the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the “office” of marriage, the “post of responsibility towards … mankind,” that this divine institution “from above, from God” occupies. It is the “link in the chain of the generations” both here and hereafter—the order of heaven.
A family built on the marriage of a man and woman supplies the best setting for God’s plan to thrive—the setting for the birth of children, who come in purity and innocence from God, and the environment for the learning and preparation they will need for a successful mortal life and eternal life in the world to come. …
Our claims for the role of marriage and family rest not on social science but on the truth that they are God’s creation. It is He who in the beginning created Adam and Eve in His image, male and female, and joined them as husband and wife to become “one flesh” and to multiply and replenish the earth. Each individual carries the divine image, but it is in the matrimonial union of male and female as one that we attain perhaps the most complete meaning of our having been made in the image of God—male and female.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Why Marriage, Why Family?” April 2015 General Conference
“Marriages and families are meant to be eternal. … They are the order of heaven. They are an echo of a celestial pattern and an emulation of God’s eternal family.”
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “In Praise of Those Who Save,” April 2016 General Conference
Every time we go to the temple, the ordinances reorient us to the natural order of the universe, including the natural order of marriage. Like the ancient mariner, we look to the heavens to get our bearings—and we do that through the temple. Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh Nibley wrote:
“The temple is built so as to represent the organizing principles of the universe. It is the school where mortals learn about these things. …
“… The earth temple [is] in the middle of everything, … around which all heavenly motions revolve, the knot that ties earth and heaven together.”
Thus, the temple has the power to etch God’s natural laws of marriage and family life into our hearts.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen, “Marriage, Family Law, and the Temple,” delivered at the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Annual Fireside in Salt Lake City on Jan. 31, 2014.
Family History, Spiritual Power
Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” … I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead. …
I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.
Elder David A. Bednar, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” General Conference, October 2011.
“Do you young people want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life? Immerse yourself in searching for your ancestors, prepare their names for the sacred vicarious ordinances available in the temple, and then go to the temple to stand as proxy for them to receive the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As you grow older, you will be able to participate in receiving the other ordinances as well. I can think of no greater protection from the influence of the adversary in your life.”
Elder Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Redeeming the Dead,” General Conference, October 2012.
As we participate in family history and temple work today, we also lay claim to “healing” blessings promised by prophets and apostles. These blessings are also breathtakingly amazing because of their scope, specificity, and consequence in mortality. This long list includes these blessings:
Increased understanding of the Savior and His atoning sacrifice;
Increased influence of the Holy Ghost to feel strength and direction for our own lives;
Increased faith, so that conversion to the Savior becomes deep and abiding;
Increased ability and motivation to learn and repent because of an understanding of who we are, where we come from, and a clearer vision of where we are going;
Increased refining, sanctifying, and moderating influences in our hearts;
Increased joy through an increased ability to feel the love of the Lord;
Increased family blessings, no matter our current, past, or future family situation or how imperfect our family tree may be;
Increased love and appreciation for ancestors and living relatives, so we no longer feel alone;
Increased power to discern that which needs healing and thus, with the Lord’s help, serve others;
Increased protection from temptations and the intensifying influence of the adversary; and
Increased assistance to mend troubled, broken, or anxious hearts and make the wounded whole.
If you have prayed for any of these blessings, participate in family history and temple work. As you do so, your prayers will be answered.
Elder Dale G. Renlund, “Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing,” General Conference, April 2018.
When I say families … I use the term the way the Lord uses it, as a synonym for kindred or multigenerational families, because everyone has a family. Our Heavenly Father’s plan for His children centers on this kind of family—with children who draw strength from ancestors many generations back and parents who seek to bless their posterity for generations to come.
Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Seventy, “Gathering, Healing, and Sealing Families,” given at the RootsTech Family History Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, on Feb. 14, 2015.
Parents, Spiritual Leadership
I have heard a few parents state that they don’t want to impose the gospel on their children but want them to make up their own minds about what they will believe and follow. They think that in this way they are allowing children to exercise their agency. What they forget is that the intelligent use of agency requires knowledge of the truth, of things as they really are (see D&C 93:24). Without that, young people can hardly be expected to understand and evaluate the alternatives that come before them. Parents should consider how the adversary approaches their children. He and his followers are not promoting objectivity but are vigorous, multimedia advocates of sin and selfishness.
Seeking to be neutral about the gospel is, in reality, to reject the existence of God and His authority. We must, rather, acknowledge Him and His omniscience if we want our children to see life’s choices clearly and be able to think for themselves. They should not have to learn by sad experience that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Discipline,” General Conference, October 2009.
“I begin with [two] examples which illustrate some mortal confusion between love and law:
A young adult in a cohabitation relationship tells grieving parents, “If you really loved me, you would accept me and my partner just like you accept your married children.”
A youth reacts to parental commands or pressure by declaring, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t force me.”
In these examples a person violating commandments asserts that parental love should override the commandments of divine law and the teachings of parents. … These persons disbelieve eternal laws which they consider contrary to their concept of the effect of God’s love. Persons who take this position do not understand the nature of God’s love or the purpose of His laws and commandments. The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God’s laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love. The same should be true of parental love and rules.”
President Dallin H. Oaks, “Love and the Law,” General Conference, October 2009.
The purpose of mortal families is to bring children into the world, to teach them what is right, and to prepare all family members for exaltation in eternal family relationships. The gospel plan contemplates the kind of family government, discipline, solidarity, and love that serve those ultimate goals. But even the love of family members is subject to the overriding first commandment, which is love of God (see Matt. 22:37–38), and the Savior’s directive, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). As Jesus taught, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks “Weightier Matters,” BYU Devotional, 9 February 1999.
“When faith and family relations are combined—when the power of religion is linked with the powerful social and emotional bonds inherent in family relationships. … Indeed, a core purpose of religion may be to help human beings address dualities inherent in life—including family life [and] … making sense of, wrestling with, and living with dualities is a vital and inherent aspect of living a joyous and healthy personal, marital, and familial life of faith.”
Dollahite, David C, Marks, Loren D, & Dalton, Hilary. (2018). Why Religion Helps and Harms Families: A Conceptual Model of a System of Dualities at the Nexus of Faith and Family Life. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 10(1), 219-241.
Religiosity had a positive, independent effect … associated with more positive interactions between family members … [and] across generations. …
Not only did religious parents demonstrate more positive family functioning in the first generation, but their children also demonstrated more positive family functioning in the next generation. [i.e.] positive marital interactions … family competencies through … positive romantic relationship interactions … positive parenting … [and] warm and supportive interactions with their parents. …
We found that G1 [Generation 1] religiosity was associated with G2 [Generation 2] religiosity. Specifically, when G1 was religious during G2 adolescence, G2 demonstrated higher levels of religiosity in adulthood … In short, children of religious parents appear to possess religious beliefs and practices during adolescence that are carried forth into adulthood. There appears to be a strong connection between religiosity in the family of origin and the beliefs and values of young adults. …
In sum, the results reported here provided compelling support for the idea that religiosity is linked across generations and may be an important resource for fostering positive family relationships in multiple generations.
Spilman, S. K., Neppl, T. K., Donnellan, M. B., Schofield, T. J., & Conger, R. D. (2013). Incorporating religiosity into a developmental model of positive family functioning across generations. Developmental psychology, 49(4), 762–774. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028418
“Intergenerational continuity in religiosity and its association with observed competency in romantic and parent-child relationships across two generations. … We found that parental religiosity assessed during the youth’s adolescence was positively related to the youth’s own religiosity during adolescence which, in turn, predicted their religiosity after the transition to adulthood. The findings also supported the theoretical model guiding the study, which proposes that religiosity acts as a personal resource that will be uniquely and positively associated with the quality of family relationships.”
Spilman, Sarah K, Neppl, Tricia K, Donnellan, M. Brent, Schofield, Thomas J, & Conger, Rand D. (2013). Incorporating religiosity into a developmental model of positive family functioning across generations. Developmental Psychology, 49(4), 762-774.
I will never forget the words spoken during the temple marriage of my youngest sister many years ago. The officiator looked around the beautiful room full of family and friends and then said the following:
When we come inside holy temples of God, we feel protected by their sacred, strong and solid walls. We might feel like we never want to leave such a beautiful place because it is so safe and protected from the world. However, please remember and take comfort in knowing that the covenants we make with our Heavenly Father, along with the symbols that we take with us and wear, are stronger than the walls of this temple.
I walked out of the temple that day a different person. Since then, every time I enter into a holy temple or see those strong granite walls, I am reminded that yes, the temple walls are strong, but my covenants are stronger. This has changed the way I view my temple covenants—especially in times of trouble. This knowledge gives me hope knowing that despite whatever chaos or challenges happen in my world, my covenants have been forged with a fire stronger than iron and are longer lasting than anything on earth.
How the Temple Helps Us to Conquer the World
All around the world, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are aching for temples to re-open. We are aching for peace and certainty. We have expressed an almost desperate need to be within those sacred walls. We want to be performing ordinances for our ancestors and experiencing the joy and peace that comes with this service in such a holy place. Why do we run to the temple in times of trouble? What is it about the temple that causes us to yearn so desperately to be inside, especially when our personal circumstances are unsettling?
Paragraph 3 of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” answers these questions in a very simple but profound way: “Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God.” We want to be inside the temple because it is the place where heaven and earth meet; it is the holiest place on earth where we can be in the presence of God. Elder David A. Bednar further explains:
Everything that is learned and all that is done in the temple emphasize the divinity of Jesus Christ and His role in Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness. … We do not come to the temple to hide from or escape the evils of the world. Rather, we come to the temple to conquer the world of evil. As we invite into our lives the “power of godliness” by receiving priesthood ordinances and making and keeping sacred covenants, we are blessed with strength beyond our own. (link)
And, from President Russell M. Nelson we learn:
Every woman and every man who makes covenants with God and keeps those covenants, and who participates worthily in priesthood ordinances, has direct access to the power of God. Those who are endowed in the house of the Lord receive a gift of God’s priesthood power by virtue of their covenant, along with a gift of knowledge to know how to draw upon that power. (link)
This direct access to power, even the power to “conquer the world of evil” as Elder Bednar says, is what drives us to want to be in our temples. It’s not that temples are beautiful inside and out (they are). It’s that we are given spiritual power beyond anything this world can offer inside those walls. Even after we leave, we bring the physical symbols of that spiritual power with us wherever we go.
In a study about the benefits of religious rituals and the role of religion in life, LDS researchers found that “religious rituals included greater spiritual growth, happier daily life, more focus and direction, and better personal behavior.” (link) Another study by BYU professors David Dollahite and Loren Marks found:
As more Americans continue to move away from an institutional approach to religion and spirituality to a more personal approach, it is important to explore the ways that personal perspectives about God influence various aspects of life. … Having experiences of God as a close confidant appeared to help participants trust that God was always someone to whom one could turn when life became difficult. (link)
Sustained by Temple Covenants
A foundation of faith is important during times of trouble. And times of trouble are not new. In fact, we can learn a lot from the early Saints’ earnestness in days and weeks preceding their forced exodus out of Nauvoo. In Daughters in My Kingdom, p. 29–30 we learn how spiritually sustaining temple covenants were to those people. There is much to learn from their story:
More than 5,000 Saints thronged the Nauvoo Temple after its dedication. …
The strength, power, and blessings of temple covenants [sustained] the Latter-day Saints during their journey [west], when they [suffered] cold, heat, hunger, poverty, sickness, accidents, and death.
Like many Relief Society sisters, Sarah Rich served as a temple worker. She spoke of her experience: “If it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple by … the Spirit of the Lord, our journey would have been like one taking a leap in the dark. … But we had faith in our Heavenly Father, … feeling that we were His chosen people … , and instead of sorrow, we felt to rejoice that the day of our deliverance had come.”
The exodus was not a “leap in the dark” for faithful Latter-day Saint women. They were sustained by their temple covenants. (link)
And so shall we. Just as in times of old, the Saints will move forward as we always have. We will rise to the occasion and work even harder at strengthening our faith. We will become better at teaching, testifying, and encouraging the rising generation to keep the commandments and to prepare for temple covenants and temple marriages. Because the future is bright in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Optimism About the Future
These words by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland should give us every reason to be optimistic about the future:
What a terrific time to be alive! The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most certain, the most secure, the most reliable, and the most rewarding truth on earth and in heaven, in time and in eternity. Nothing—not anything, not anyone, not any influence—will keep this Church from fulfilling its mission and realizing its destiny declared from before the foundation of the world.
Ours is that fail-safe, inexorable, indestructible dispensation of the fulness of the gospel. There is no need to be afraid or tentative about the future. …
If there are some bumps along the way while waiting to see every promise kept and every prophecy fulfilled, so be it. … Believe. Rise up. Be faithful. And make the most of the remarkable day in which we live!
“One scholar of early LDS history and doctrine, speaking of the canonized revelations and doctrines about marriage and family, said: “Marriage was the basis for human exaltation. . . . To those sealed by the priesthood, the promises were startling. . . . The great, godly power was procreation, the continuation of seed. The ultimate social order of heaven was familial. . . . To be exalted, men and women must be bound together. . . . The marriage revelation culminated the emergence of family theology. More than any other previous revelation, this one put family first.”
Dean M. Busby and David C. Dollahite, “The Strengths and Challenges of Contemporary Marriages of Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 59:1
You can make a difference in starting or restoring an eternal family:
“Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” Unfortunately, sometimes marriages end, families fall apart, or the links in the chain of an eternal family are broken. Through these “sacred ordinances and covenants,” it is “possible for individuals to return to the presence of God” regardless of their family circumstances. With God’s help, making and keeping those sacred covenants to the best of your ability can help you create, repair, or strengthen your family, in hopes of one day uniting them eternally.
Ensign, September 2020.