This Sunday I was asked to give a talk in our Sacrament Meeting at church. The topic was Celestial Families, something I feel strongly about! Feel free to read my thoughts on the topic:
Eestablishing and maintaining a celestial family.
-I’d like to add that I believe that a celestial home is never fully established. We each fall short, it is in our nature to sin. We are striving for the goal of a celestial home. If a celestial home is 100% attainable 100% of the time, my husband and I haven’t quite reached it yet in our home! Each action we all take in the home, whether positive or negative brings us closer or further from that goal. Some days we may feel we’ve succeeded in establishing a celestial environment and some days we may not. It’s best to remember that as long as we are, on average, moving upward nearing a celestial family and home we can go to bed at night satisfied with our efforts.
Brother Eran A. Call states in his talk, "The Home: A Refuge and a Sanctuary," The home is being threatened and challenged more today than ever before. Today less than half of the children born in the United States, and in many countries in the world, will spend their entire childhood in an intact family. Infidelity, divorce, abortion, and abandoned homes are on the increase. The father is rapidly losing his traditional role as caregiver, breadwinner, protector, moral educator, and head of the family. During 1960 to 1990, births outside of marriage in the United States increased 500 percent and divorce increased 400 percent. As Church members, we are not free from these sinful practices.” He states, “ The home and the family are the fundamental unit of society: as the homes are and families are so will be the community, the city, the state, and the nation.”
President Harold B. Lee said, “The greatest of the Lord’s work you brethren will ever do as fathers will be within the walls of your own home.” Similarly, President David O. McKay’s warned “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” I love that quote, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” No awards or high paying job can make up for a lack of involvement in the home.
He continues, “The poorest shack in which love prevails over a united family is of greater value to God and future humanity than any other riches. In such a home God can work miracles and will work miracles.”
“Our homes can be, and should be, a refuge and a sanctuary from the troubled world we live in; may they become such by striving daily to keep sacred the holy covenants we have made.”
The Family: A Proclamation to the World states, The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. 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.”
It continues, "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."
It does not say successful marriages and families are automatically formed upon marriage in the temple, or elsewhere. It does not say if your parents had a successful or unsuccessful marriage yours is bound to be the same way. And it doesn’t say it will always be easy. It provides ways for each of us to establish and maintain successful, gospel centered families, it’s a choice each couple can make, or not.
In order to build a celestial marriage and family the gospel must be central. The Lord must be welcomed into our home and play a role in our affairs. We must be willing to express faith through prayer and repentance. Without those key elements the spirit cannot abide in the home. I love that the list includes work and wholesome recreational activities! Marriage takes work! Albeit sometimes harder work than others it takes some sort of effort nonetheless.
Participating in wholesome recreational activities means having fun together! We find that spending time as a family brings us so much happiness. It allows us to grow as a unit, to be able to have learning experiences and bond together. It teaches us to compromise to participate in various activities that the other likes. We enjoy going out to eat together or going on a family walk. As our daughter grows we are finding that time together, just the three of us, allows us to determine what type of parenting style we want to use and what type of parents we want to be. Mostly, spending time having fun together brings us happiness. As we have been told, “Men are that they might have joy.” And, the family is central to God’s plan for us. I’d like to think that happiness in the family is also a large part of God’s plan.
Elder N. Eldon Tanner gave a talk in 1980 titled Celestial Marriages and Eternal Families. He said, “The happy home is one where the family lives together, works together, plays together, and prays together; where the parents show love and courtesy and demonstrate it to each other. Love is expressed often through actions and by the spoken word. We should not be like the Scotsman who, at the death of his wife, was receiving expressions of sympathy from his friends. One neighbor commented on what a fine person she was. He replied, “Aye, she was a good woman, and I came near telling her so once or twice.”
The proclamation states, “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” 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.”
We have been taught by ancient and modern prophets that “the establishment of a home is not only a privilege, but marriage and proper training of children is a duty of the highest order.” The prophets of Israel taught, “Ye shall teach your children [the commandments] when thou sittest in thine house.”
It is not simply enough to follow the commandment given to Adam and Eve to “multiply and replenish the earth.” As parents striving to create a celestial family we must ensure that our children are made aware and held to the commandments. They need to be taught the gospel and expected to abide by its teachings no matter the circumstances. It’s much easier to cave and allow children to go with the current trends and standards of their friends, but the Lord did not put us on the earth to be one in a crowd. We are not meant to be “just like the others.” As adults and as children we are held to a high standard. We are meant to be different. The Lord needs faithful, gospel sharing members. We each can be that by striving to build a celestial home and family.
Elder Tanner said, “Parents have a responsibility to teach their children the importance of keeping themselves clean and pure, with high moral standards, so they will be worthy of the kind of men and women with whom they want to associate and marry. It has been said that a man breeding livestock is very careful about what he allows in the pasture with his prize animals, but he lets his son or daughter go with anyone without checking on their credentials.”
I have such a strong testimony of the importance of marriage and family so much so that it’s what I decided to study in college. It saddens me to see how marriage is being placed behind so many other priorities.
An article was shared at our young married institute class in our last ward in Harrisonburg titled “Marry Young” by Julia Shaw. She discusses how marriages in pop culture just don’t last. Celebrities, as a whole, use marriage as a short term popularity booster, spend an immense amount of money on the wedding and are divorced a short time later. Shaw says, “pop culture tracks reality. Only 21 percent of millennials (those ages 18-29) are married, and the median age for marriage is the highest in generations: almost 27 for women and 29 for men. By comparison, 29 percent of Generation X, 42 percent of Boomers, and 54 percent of the Silent Generation (born 1928 through 1945) were married by that age.” What those statistics show is that fewer couples are getting married young.
She continues, “Marriage these days signals that you’ve figured out how to be a grown-up. You’ve played the field and backpacked Europe. You’ve “arrived,” having finished school, settled into a career path, bought a condo, figured out who you are, and found your soul mate. The fairytale wedding is your gateway into adult life. But in my experience, this idea about marriage as the end of the road is pretty misguided and means couples are missing out on a lot of the fun.”
I’d like to insert our own story here. Neither my husband nor I had graduated college when we got married. I graduated two months after we got married and he a little bit later. We had no idea what career path either of us would take, where we would live, and I don’t mean place I mean even state! We didn’t have a 5 year plan or even our own individual current plans. What we did have was the strong desire to do it together. What strongly influenced us to get married was the recognition that we would rather be married and struggle through any sort of trial including moves, job searches, potential financial difficulty than remain single and have it all figured it out. Getting married has been the greatest blessing of my life, followed closely behind by the birth of our daughter.
Shaw’s article goes on, “Marriage wasn’t something we did after we’d grown up—it was how we have grown up and grown together. We’ve endured the hardships of typical millennials: job searches, job losses, family deaths, family conflict, financial fears, and career concerns. The stability, companionship, and intimacy of marriage enabled us to overcome our challenges and develop as individuals and a couple. We learned how to be strong for one another, to comfort, to counsel, and to share our joys and not just our problems. For every troubling, vexing, perplexing question or decision, we offered each other advice, talked through the argument, and steered each other through the periods of self-doubt.. His good judgment makes it easy to share my burdens with him—and my good fortunes, too. Because your spouse knows the extent of your troubles, your successes become that much more meaningful. Being married young has afforded us unmatched companionship and support in any circumstance.
Sometimes people delay marriage because they are searching for the perfect soul mate. But that view has it backward. Your spouse becomes your soul mate after you've made those vows to each other in front of God and the people who matter to you. You don’t marry someone because he’s your soul mate; he becomes your soul mate because you married him.”
I’d like to reference Genesis 2:24 which reads,“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” I love the imagery of spouses becoming united, leaving the life they knew to create a new life together.
God also thinks highly of marriage in that the first two people he placed on earth were a couple, Adam and Eve. The Lord did not see it fit to leave Adam without a companion so he provided him a wife, Eve. I’ve always considered how Eve was created out of Adam’s rib. The rib comes from Adam’s side, not his front or back. This is a symbol that neither spouse is greater than the other, that they walk side by side in unity.
N. Eldon Tanner said, “It is important for us to understand, as we can learn from the scriptures, that God is eternal, that his creations are eternal, and that his truths are eternal. Therefore, when he gave Eve to Adam in marriage, that union would be eternal. Marriage as ordained of God and performed in his holy temples is eternal—not just until death.” It is hard to differentiate between a celestial family and an eternal family. A celestial family is one that is striving, on earth, to maintain that eternal bond in the next life.
Matthew 16: 19 reads, “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.” I am so thankful that the Lord has promised to reward our efforts in this life. Inasmuch as we strive for a celestial family on earth we will be blessed in the eternities to share forever with our families.
Elder Tanner continues, “Marriage performed by his authority in his holy temples, is eternal, and couples so united are sealed for time and all eternity, and their children are born in the covenant of the everlasting gospel. They will be an eternal family according to their faithfulness.” According to their faithfulness. This blessing is not a gimme. We have the potential to remain as a family for the eternities if we are faithful. Marriage is just the beginning of a long road ahead. It’s not something to check off the list! Having an eternal family includes daily efforts to return, together, to His presence.
I know that through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and through keeping the commandments of God and the covenants we make with him, we can each make our home a heaven on earth while we prepare ourselves and our children to return to our Heavenly Father. I have a strong testimony of the temple and of the ordinances preformed there. I am thankful for my membership in this church, for the knowledge of the gospel and especially for my Savior Jesus Christ. I am thankful to have a worthy priesthood holder who presides over our small family and cares for us. I feel very blessed to be sealed in the temple to my husband and daughter and am excited at the opportunity to live with them forever.