The Eternal Family

“The Resurrection of Children” by Vicki Walker at www.vickiwalkerart.com

I was introduced to the concept of eternal families when I met with the missionaries for the first time many years ago before I joined the Church. The idea of it both fascinated and excited me in a way I’ve never experienced before. Not that I realized this right then, but as the Elders were teaching me, the Spirit was so strong, and I instantly felt this divine teaching to be true. Suddenly, the realization that families are eternal provided me with a sense of connection not only to the family I have here in my earthly estate but also with the family members that lived and passed on before my time here and those who are yet to arrive. My family connections did not begin here, nor will they end here. I am so grateful for having a testimony of the Lord’s plan of salvation. It has given me an eternal perspective and patience, especially when I must endure challenging or tragic moments that life has a way of throwing at me from time to time. It also helps me to be aware that I am not alone.

I have a family–an extensive and eternal family–who love me and whom I’ve been blessed to be a part of. I look forward to someday being able to reunite with each of them. Oh, the stories we each will have to share about our time temporarily away from one another. We will literally have a lifetime of experiences to talk about. Our successes, our failures, our joys, our fears, and we can even discover how alike or different each of us is from one another in the way we lived during our mortality.

The following article from Merrill J. Bateman teaches us the key purpose of God’s plan of salvation and how the formation of eternal families helps us to achieve exaltation. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you are unfamiliar with the plan of salvation and want to learn more about it, visit the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or contact us, and we can connect you with your local missionaries.

~Emilia Julian

The following article was written by Merrill J. Bateman, former President of Brigham Young University, on January 6, 1998.

Almost three years ago in a Saturday evening session of a stake conference in New York, I listened intently to a young Hispanic sister bear her testimony. As a recent convert she bore witness of the promptings and feelings that occurred during her conversion. She stated:

When the missionaries knocked on my door, I saw the smiles on their faces and felt the firm grip of their handshakes. They said they had a message that would bring happiness into my life. At the conclusion of the first lesson they turned to Moroni’s promise in the Book of Mormon. I was surprised. They did not ask me to believe their words. Instead, the missionaries challenged me to find out for myself the truthfulness of the gospel through prayer and the Holy Ghost. Later, as I listened to the missionaries explain the plan of salvation, I suddenly felt a confirming witness that I was more than a speck in the universe. My life was important not only to me but to a loving Heavenly Father and his Son. They knew me! There was purpose to life, and God had a plan for me to achieve that purpose. I could never feel worthless again!

The truth of the young sister’s testimony burned within me that evening. I knew then and know now, as do you, that there is purpose to life, that God has a plan of happiness designed for all of his children. The plan includes a premortal existence in which men and women were begotten spirits, “born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body to undergo an experience in mortality” (“The Origin of Man,” November 1909, in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75], 4:205). Individuals were blessed with the gift of agency in pre-earth life just as they are here. Those spirits who were obedient to law gained knowledge and intelligence and were rewarded with a second estate. One’s progress depended on the choices made (see Abraham 3:22–26, Moses 4:1–4, Revelations 12:3–9). Agency always has been an integral part of the plan (see D&C 93:30–31, 38).

Mortality and the Formation of Eternal Families

The plan includes an earthly or temporal sojourn as well. During this state we receive a physical body with procreative powers and the opportunity to form eternal families of our own. The power to create new life is given to men and women for a season, and they are tested as to how they will use this sacred power. By the time death occurs, the power is removed. For those who are obedient to eternal law, the procreative power is restored in the Resurrection. For those who are disobedient to righteous principles and are unrepentant, the power is never returned (see D&C 131:1–4; 132:22, 25).

A key purpose of God’s plan is the formation of eternal families. It is within the family that exaltation is achieved. My remarks today center on the importance of the family and its eternal nature. I am aware that some individuals do not have the opportunity to marry in mortality. For those who remain single on earth, there is still much that can be done to develop one’s talents, to help others, and to prepare for the blessings that will come. For the promise is that no blessing will be withheld eternally if a person is worthy (see Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Harold B. Lee [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], p. 256).

The creation of the earth, the fall of Adam, and the atonement of Christ are essential elements or pillars in the Father’s plan for the progress and development of his children. This is true not only for the salvation of the individual but for the exaltation of the family. The earth’s creation provided a new state of existence apart from our spiritual home, and mortality’s probationary test is qualitatively different from the premortal one. It differs in that we are expected to live by faith. A veil has been drawn over our minds, and we remember little or nothing of life with our Heavenly Parents. In the words of Ecclesiastes, “There is no remembrance of former things” (Ecclesiastes 1:11). In Paul’s words, “For now we see through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Through faith, assurances come (see JST Hebrews 11:1). But diligence and obedience are required to hear and feel the still small voice.

The test in mortality also differs because the physical body is subject to a new set of desires and temptations. Mortals by nature have an “inherent . . . inclination to succumb to the lusts . . . of the flesh [and] the allurement of worldly things” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], p. 781, s.v. “temptation”; see also Alma 42:10). The earthly test is whether we will yield to the seductions of nature or to the “enticings of the Holy Spirit,” which changes our nature “through the atonement of Christ” (Mosiah 3:19). Alma’s counsel to Shiblon was to “bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love” (Alma 38:12). As children and parents, a new family setting allows us to love, trust, care, and serve in a different environment.

The fall of Adam made it possible for children to be born and, therefore, families to be created (see 2 Nephi 2:23, 25). The atonement of Christ opens the door of salvation for the individual and for exaltation for the family (see D&C 131:1–4, 132:22). The three doctrinal pillars of the plan of salvation are intimately involved in the creation of new eternal families and their extension into the eternities.

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