Happy Families

“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” – The Family: A Proclamation to the World

“Since ‘no other success can compensate for failure [in the home]’ ( J. E. McCulloch, Home: The Savior of Civilization (1924), 42), we must place high priority on our families. We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities. We establish a divine bond with each other as we approach God together through family prayer, gospel study, and Sunday worship.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Things That Matter Most,” Ensign, Nov. 2010

Related Articles and Links:

The Family: A Proclamation to the World
Mormon.org – Families
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Happiness in Family Life


Question box: Can a Mormon marry a Christian?

Question: Can a Mormon marry a Christian?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: First of all, Mormons are Christians, but I’ll respond to the question: can a Mormon marry a non-Mormon?. The answer is yes, but that’s not the whole story. Mormons can marry whomever they please in a legally-binding ceremony, and it will be recognized by the church as as valid marriage. But Mormons also have a ceremony unique to Mormonism called a “sealing”, where a Mormon couple can be married “for time and all eternity” (no “till death do you part” involved). These ceremonies are performed in temples, and like all temple ceremonies are only available to active Mormons. Being sealed is a very important thing in our religion, so interfaith marriages are usually the exception rather than the rule.

More on the subject of Mormons and marriage:
I’m in love with a Mormon: what now?

Can Mormons get divorced?

Why temple marriage?

Jeff Lindsay’s Love, Dating, Marriage, and Morality: The Latter-Day Saint Way

Mormon Mommy Blogs

I read a recent letter on salon.com last week entitled Why I can’t stop reading Mormon housewife blogs by Emily Matchar. She is a self-described atheist feminist career woman with no real interest in converting to Mormonism and no plans to settle down to start a family, but there was something in these “Mormon Mommy blogs” (a blog genre that features domestic arts, child-rearing, and stories from home life) that drew her to pore over them with great interest. The reason she gave for this reading addiction was that they are “weirdly uplifting.”

I found her article interesting for two reasons:

  1. As a Mormon with many Mormon friends, I am subscribed to a couple dozen Mormon Mommy blogs on Google Reader to keep up with the lives of my family and friends. As a consequence, under Google Reader’s “Recommended items” tab, I get referred to a handful more of these Mormon Mommy blogs every day: pictures of perfect strangers, children I have never met, stories of their MLK day outings, etc. Google thinks I’m looking for more like these, but I’m actually not interested in strangers’ personal lives, and I don’t typically see anything particularly magical in them.
  2. Ms. Matchar sees something uniquely appealing in these online scrapbooks. Something otherworldly. As she says, “Enter the Mormon bloggers, with their picture-perfect catalog lives. It is possible to be happy, they seem to whisper. We love our homes. We love our husbands.” It’s an angle on traditional womanhood that it seems was never examined in her years of modernist training.

I hadn’t considered her point of view until I read her article. You see, for me, these blogs represent reality. This is more or less home life as I lived it. I had a mom who stayed home to raise her kids. There were creative hand-sewn Halloween costumes, homemade quilts, sit-down breakfasts and dinners, and brown paper lunch sacks adorned with cleverly-coded nicknames for each of us 6 kids.

I had never really thought about a life that didn’t include some aspects of gardening, potty training, or cooking. Even as a man I have always planned on getting involved to some degree in domesticity as a husband and father. For me, the home life is the whole point!

I can certainly understand the predicament career women are in. Many of them need jobs, and they should be paid equally for equal work. A career is a laudable achievement for anyone and I’m pleased with how far our society has come in breaking such barriers. I would just caution anyone who carries the mindset that careers are the secret to ultimate joy and that men have selfishly reserved them for themselves through the centuries. I recently earned a masters degree and started my own career in earnest and…

…it’s not all that glamorous or exciting. It’s a good job; it suits me, and I’m certainly happy to have the income, the security and the professional challenge, but I don’t think I would be fulfilled if I made that the attribute that defined me. My job is really more of a means to my true end: a happy, healthy family life. And I believe it’s that attitude; that priority, so common in Mormonism, which fascinates Ms. Matchar.

Family Proclamation

Question: What is so special to you about The Family A Proclamation to the World? I would like to hear some ideas from you, to help me understand.

Picture of a Family Smiling TogetherI’d like to start with a brief summary of our relationship to God. Because in my opinion, that relationship is the key to understanding the purpose of life. One of our basic beliefs is that we are children of God. Before life began on the earth, we all lived with God as His spirit children. Our Heavenly Father presented a plan to us there. This plan was an opportunity to help all of us, His children, to learn, grow, and eventually become like Him. To quote a church article written several years ago, “We were given laws. We were commanded to walk in paths of truth and light and of virtue and integrity so that we could advance and progress. The ultimate goal held out to us was that if we were obedient in all things, eventually we would become like him. We would live in the eternal family unit as he lives in it, and we would have might, power, glory, and the omnipotent creative ability that he possesses. The name of the kind of life he lives is eternal life.” (“Households of Faith”, Ensign, April 1971, 4).

If our purpose in life is to eventually live as families as God does, then the need of the Proclamation to the World is clear. Families are the fundamental units of society. They are what children look to, to understand what is ‘normal’. They are what God has given us to understand what life will be like after we die. Since the definition of families in our world is becoming more obscure and confused, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made a statement clarifying the definition of family. In my opinion, The Family: A Proclamation to The World provides an answer to a lot of the confusion children are growing up with now. Below are nine issues in the world today that I think the Proclamation addresses.  You may click here to read The Family: A Proclamation to The World in its entirety.

  1. 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.” (3rd Paragraph)  “The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” (1st Paragraph)
    • Are families important?  Yes.  We lived as part of God’s family before we were born.  We live in families here.  We can live in families in the next life.  If we lose focus of what constitutes a family, then we lose focus of what we are aiming for in the next life.
  2. “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents…Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. (2nd Paragraph)
    • Did God mess up?  Was I supposed to be male/female instead of female/male?  No.  We were either a son or a daughter (male or female) when we lived as part of God’s family before we were born.  We were born on earth with that same gender, and that gender is essential in our family.  I want to point out that we’ve also been given varying talents and abilities. We are not limited in what we can do.  There are men who love music, art, dancing, etc.  Good.  There are women who love science, math, sports, etc.  That’s fine too.  Talents don’t constitute gender.
  3. “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife…We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” (4th Paragraph)
    • Do I need to be married?  I want to have a child.  Can’t I just make arrangements on my own?  No.  The very first commandment that God gave on earth was to have families.  In my opinion that shows just how important families are.
    • A man and a woman should be married before having intercourse or starting a family.  I’ve unfortunately seen two different shows in the past year or two where successful women have good careers and decided that they now want to have a child. So they ‘shop’ around for good genes.  Then they raise the child on their own.  What kind of family is that?  Poor kid.
  4. “We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.” (5th Paragraph)
    • I’m not ready for a child.  Can I get an abortion?  Getting an abortion is a serious matter.  Please read the Church’s official statement below (found here).
      • “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.  The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:
        • Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or
        • A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or
        • A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

        The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.  The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”

  5. “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children…Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” (6th Paragraph)
    • What does being a good mother/father mean?  Children look up to their parents’ example.  Parents are the most influential teachers children have.
    • Families are important to God.  He sends us innocent children who look to us for guidance.  He will hold us responsible for how well we fulfilled that trust.
  6. “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” (7th Paragraph)
    • Children don’t get to pick their families.  But they deserve good ones.
  7. “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.  Extended families should lend support when needed.” (7th Paragraph)
    • While fathers are given the responsibility to provide for their families and mothers to nuture their children, we adjust to make things work.
  8. “We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.” (8th Paragraph)
    • Once again, families are really important to God.  If we abuse or neglect family members, He will hold us accountable.
  9. “Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” (8th Paragraph)
    • Families are what God has given us to teach us about what kind of life we can have after we die.  If we destroy that perspective, our children will have a much harder time finding their way back to God.  Should we be surprised that  calamities will come as a result?

There are many different questions and answers that can be found by reading the Family Proclamation, but these are the ones that stood out to me the most.  I hope they help.  Our Father in Heaven loves us and wants to help us return to live with Him.  He has given us the Family Proclamation to clarify the importance of families in His plan for us, and the role they play in our lives and on into eternity.

I’m in Love with a Mormon. What Now?

We often receive questions from readers in our question box at right.  We have had several asking about romantic relationships between Mormons and non-Mormons and what they should do about it.  It’s our policy not to become involved in personal problems since we are not an advice column, but we do want to give some general principles touching this topic from an LDS perspective.  If you have a question that isn’t addressed here, ask about it in the comment section.

This was a question from a reader named Jim:

I have a general question…
I currently find myself in a rather difficult situation where I (a non member) of the Church of LDS have fallen for a devout believer. This is not a whimsical interest, we have known each other for nearly a year now, it is also a mutual interest, we have discussed our feelings for each and agree that there is a real potential for a relationship.

Now as I explained before she is a devout believer. This immediately creates some obvious obstacles given the fact that I am not a member, the main ones being:
No sex before marriage
No alcohol
No tea/coffee
Restricted activities on Sundays

Now I appreciate that these are only a few of the more general restrictions/guidelines that are in place. But we talked about them. Regarding the no sex before marriage I said why not give the relationship a go, then if in six months or so time we find out we are not that compatible, we could part, but if it is going very well we can continue. I have had sex before but have also been for long periods without it, and explained to her that if we were in a serious relationship that we both thought was heading somewhere I could handle holding off having sex until we were married.  As for the other things, I feel confident that we could work around them.

Anyway, just as it looked like we were reaching a situation where we might be about to give things a go, she told me about the temple, and how in order to be sealed/united together in this life and the next you need attend a ceremony there after your civil marriage ceremony in order for this to happen.  The catch…only LDS members can enter the temple.  Now this seems to have put the brakes on anything potentially happening between us. She’s of the view (as am I) that if we start dating it would become fairly serious and could well lead to marriage, but that as I am not a member we would not be able to be sealed united at her temple.  This idea crushes her I think.  She is also concerned about the difficulties of raising a family (she wants four children) that has a parent who is not a member of LDS.  She obviously wants to give her children the opportunity to join and is worried a non-member partner would make this difficult.  I have tried saying that I don’t think this would be such an issue, although not a member of LDS I do believe in god and live a clean lifestyle that would fit in with hers.

I think she is also worried that if she did have a crisis of faith, having a husband who was not a member would be difficult as he would not understand what she was going through and offer support/advice etc. on the subject.

So anyway, I have rambled on long enough, but I do have a couple of questions for you…
1) Is there any way of being sealed/united together in life without going through a temple
2) Are there strictly no exceptions whereby a non member could enter a temple?
3) And thirdly what sort of general advice could you give us concerning the situation we find ourselves in?

Thanks for your help


Here is my response:

Jim, thank you for your question. You seem to be very understanding and willing to be patient. I can’t say there are any easy answers, though.

1) Is there any way of being sealed/united together in life without going through a temple?

You can be united together in life without going through the temple, because the church recognizes all legal civil marriages as binding for the duration of life, “as long as you both shall live.” And such a relationship can be very rewarding, but the problem (as you already know) is that it falls short of the goal your paramour has dreamed of since she was young: “For time and for all eternity.”

It’s a powerful motivating force in my life.  My family plans on being together forever, and because of that we are interested in creating worthwhile bonds now.  It also helps us make good decisions in other areas of life, since we don’t want to diminish the family by letting our standards slip and losing our promise.  The promise is obtained through covenant with God and is known as “sealing.”

The ordinance of sealing is only performed in holy temples by men who have been authorized by God. It isn’t available anywhere else.

2) Are there strictly no exceptions whereby a non-member could enter a temple?

It’s a lovely thought to want to have this ceremony for the sake of your girlfriend, but even if you had the sealing, without you believing in it and devoting yourself to it, there is no more promise in it than a civil marriage.

Only those who have prepared themselves in every way may enter the temple, and this includes baptism for remission of sins by an authorized priest, and reception of the Holy Ghost. It also includes an interview with a Mormon bishop to ascertain faithfulness (do you hold to chastity, honesty, temperance, etc?). You must also be willing to enter into certain covenants with the Lord.

In short, even just being a member is not enough to enter the temple. I’m sorry. There are no exceptions allowing anyone unprepared (including non-members) into a temple.

3) And thirdly what sort of general advice could you give us concerning the situation we find ourselves in?

There are three distinct scenarios I can see. It depends on how strongly you and she are willing to pull.

  1. You marry civilly “until death do you part”
  2. You receive baptism and prepare yourself for eternal marriage.
  3. You split up.

#3 (split up) will happen if you decide against converting and she doesn’t give up her desire for eternal family. You might each still find a mate compatible with your ideals, so it’s not all bad, but obviously not what you want to hear.

#1 (civil marriage) is a possibility.  A quick visit to the local Justice of the Peace will have you married in the eyes of the law.  Plenty of latter-day saints belong to part-member families and many have found a way to “make it work,” but the heart of the issue isn’t the same as any other interfaith marriage.  It goes beyond being able to understand your spouse’s religion and deciding on where to take the kids on Sunday.  To a Mormon, marriage itself is a fundamental part of the gospel and the crowning glory associated with salvation.

She would see a civil marriage as compromising her long-standing commitment to herself and to God to be sealed for all eternity.  It would certainly be difficult for her, as you pointed out, Jim.  She may harbor secret hopes that you will eventually come around and join the Church after perhaps years of marriage; also, after your death she may wish to have you sealed to her by proxy — after a baptism for the dead. But even that is contingent on your posthumous desire for it. If you didn’t want it in life, it’s unlikely you’ll change your mind the minute you die. And without your permission, it will not be binding.

I do not endorse a civil interfaith marriage with a Mormon.  Not for you or anyone that is in any position to choose it.  The Mormon usually leads life pining for a relationship with eternal promise and despairing that it isn’t happening; often they let themselves slip away from God.  The non-Mormon feels constant pressure to convert and becomes annoyed that the problem doesn’t go away.  I’ve seen too many problem relationships.  If this heartache can be prevented, I advocate preventing it.

Such a marriage does not solve the problem you are facing right now, Jim.  It only delays solving it.  It will present you every morning with the same dilemma:  ask her to surrender hope for an eternal family, get yourself to convert, or dissolve the relationship.  Avoiding the question is to choose the first option.

#2 (eternal marriage) can happen if you allow yourself to investigate the religion seriously. This is the path that I advise. Invite the missionaries over for a few lessons and read the Book of Mormon with them.  After learning a bit more about the Church and understanding why we believe the things we do, you might find your original notions of Mormonism misplaced.  People usually find the missionaries’ lessons much more substantive and credible than they anticipate.

You indicated that you have faith in God, which is essential. Believe that He will answer your prayers, and ask Him whether you should join.  Believe that He will give you the desire for eternal family that will lead you to unite with her forever.

Jim, I hope I’ve added some clarity to your dilemma. I hope you can see it from her side as well. Meditate on it and pray for guidance. I know the Lord will answer. He answers my prayers frequently.

I’d also invite you to look around at our website. You might find some more answers there. And you are always welcome to email me directly. In fact, I’d very much like to know what you decide.