“The family is ordained of God.”
This simple, succinct, yet powerful statement seems to hinge on one word: “ordained.” What makes this word so significant, and what can it add to our understanding of the role and importance of the family?
Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary provides some insightful meanings for the word ordain. The first definition is, “to set; to establish in a particular office or order; hence, to invest with a ministerial function or sacerdotal power.” While this definition seems at first to apply to ordination to a clerical role, it also has pertinence to the institution of the family. For example, if God has “invest[ed the family] with a ministerial function,” then perhaps that means that He wants ministering in the Savior’s way to be an integral function and even a defining characteristic of families. After all, we know that “happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” And, President Russell M. Nelson has taught, “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.” Not only do family members minister to one another, but families can minister together to others around them. Think of the power that can bless our families when we seek to keep our covenants together!
The word sacerdotal isn’t a common one, but it is derived from the same roots as the word sacred (a word commonly used to describe things of God). Webster gives the following definition of sacerdotal: “Pertaining to priests or the priesthood; priestly; as sacerdotal dignity; sacerdotal functions or garments; sacerdotal character.” This may seem completely unrelated to the idea of the family at first, especially because priesthood power is often thought of in association with Church callings. However, President Dallin H. Oaks taught in 2005:
Priesthood authority functions in both the family and the Church. The priesthood is the power of God used to bless all of His children, male and female. . . . The blessings of the priesthood, such as baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, the temple endowment, and eternal marriage, are available to men and women alike. The authority of the priesthood functions in the family and in the Church, according to the principles the Lord has established.
In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn, “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage].” Later, the Lord explains, “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.” In other words, it is the keys of the priesthood, the power of God given to man, that enable the family unit to be eternal and endure forever.
What does this mean for us? We know that whenever the Lord gives us a commandment or a pattern, we are expected to follow it – “and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” Dr. Jason Carroll has observed:
As the Lord’s pattern for the family is altered and marriage is redefined or abandoned altogether in many countries, we’re starting to see patterns of family instability and decreased child well-being. As the wisdom of the world calls ‘evil good, and good evil,’ we would do well to look to the Lord’s pattern for preparing for a righteous marriage and strengthening the family as the fundamental unit of society.
Those who recognize and understand that the family is ordained of God, and act upon and live according to that knowledge, will bless and minister to those around them, do all they can to protect this institution as sacred and a gift from God, and have a vision to inspire them as they seek to strengthen their family.
Author Annalee Blonquist is an intern pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Mount Liberty College with a special interest in history, law and government.
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