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The Mormon View of Family

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The Mormon View of Family

The Bottom-Line Guide to Mormonism, Part 10
Robert M. Bowman Jr.

Without a doubt, the main “selling point” or appeal of Mormonism is its emphasis on the family. Some aspects of LDS family life are indeed admirable. In a culture where marital fidelity is increasingly rare and same-sex marriage is gaining ground, we commend Mormons for their emphasis on the permanence of marriage and their rejection of homosexual unions. Our focus, however, is on whether the LDS doctrine of family—in particular, its concept of eternal families—is biblical. 

Historic Christian View of Family

LDS View of Family

Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the only “Son” by nature of God the Father

Jesus was just the first of God the Father’s billions of procreated spirit sons and daughters

All human beings, except Jesus Christ, begin to exist with their physical conception on earth

All human beings existed in the beginning with God as spirits, before the earth was created

Those saved by Christ through faith are “adopted” and given new life as God’s children

All human beings are God’s spirit children, sent to earth to become mortal as a stage toward godhood

The church is the spiritual family of all who truly believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible

The church is the formal institution through which human beings may unite their families

The head of God’s eternal family, which is the church, is Jesus Christ alone

The head of God’s eternal family, which is a patriarchal order, is Adam (under Christ)

Marriage is a temporal, earthly relationship that ends at death

Marriage, if done in a Mormon temple, can be for eternity

Family members saved through faith in Christ will be reunited in the resurrection

Family members will be reunited only if they attain exaltation through the LDS religion

Earthly family relationships will be transcended, not lost, in the resurrection

Earthly family relationships will be lost except for those attaining exaltation

The doctrinal foundation of the LDS view of family is decidedly unbiblical. Mormonism teaches that God the Father and his wife (our “heavenly mother”) are both exalted physical beings who physically procreated billions of spirit children in heaven. These include Jesus (their literal “firstborn”), all angels, Lucifer, all demons, and all who become humans here on earth. The Bible has no Heavenly Mother; it teaches that God alone created (not procreated) all spiritual creatures and human beings and that Jesus Christ is God’s only, eternal Son (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7; Is. 44:24; John 1:1-3, 14-18; 3:16-18). God is not by nature a physical being, but is an infinite Spirit, transcending the universe and present everywhere in it simultaneously (1 Kings 8:27; Ps. 139:7-10; Is. 31:3; 66:1; Jer. 23:23-24; John 4:20-24; Acts 7:48-49; 17:28). Human beings do not exist as spirits in heaven and then come to earth; this was true only of Jesus Christ (John 3:31; 13:3; 16:28; etc.). Rather, human beings’ existence begins with their physical formation (Gen. 2:7; Ps. 139:13-16). God knew us before we began to exist because God transcends time and knows everything and everyone from that eternal standpoint (Ps. 139:16; Jer. 1:5; Eph. 1:4). 

Only in the loosest sense, biblically speaking, can we describe all human beings as God’s “children.” Paul cited a pagan poet’s remark about all people being God’s “offspring” (Acts 17:28-29) as a metaphorical way of relating the biblical concept of being in God’s image to the Greek mind. In the Bible, to be in God’s “image” means to be a physical being representing the invisible God in this world—which is supremely true of the incarnate Jesus Christ (Col. 1:15). For Paul, only those who are “adopted” through faith in Christ and the indwelling of God’s Spirit are truly God’s children (Rom. 8:14-23, 29; Gal. 3:26; 4:4-7). If we have to be adopted, then we are not already God’s children. Likewise, John teaches that it is through receiving Jesus Christ by faith that we become God’s children (John 1:12-13). 

Essential to the LDS concept of family is their concept of a patriarchal order. This does not mean merely that men ought to be the spiritual leaders or authority figures in their homes. In LDS doctrine, “Father Adam” is and will be forever the patriarchal head of all exalted human beings (D&C 78:16; 107:54-55), with each family of exalted persons forming parts of a “patriarchal chain” under Adam. This idea is patently unbiblical, even though Mormons qualify it by stating that Adam is himself “under Christ.” Adam was the head of the fallen human race; Jesus Christ is alone the head of redeemed humanity, the church (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:10, 19; cf. Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45). The Bible assigns no special role whatsoever in eternity to Adam. 

As is well known, Mormons believe that when they are married in a special ceremony in one of the LDS temples, they are wed not just for time but for eternity. This “celestial marriage” offers hope of families united in heaven only if the family members become and remain faithful temple-going Mormons—something that only a small percentage of Mormons actually do. In any case, marriage for eternity has no biblical basis at all. The Bible says nothing about temple marriages or marriage for eternity. When the Sadducees asked Jesus a trick question about the eternal marital status of a woman who (incredibly) had married seven brothers in a row, Jesus replied that there will be no marriage in the resurrection; the cycle of birth, marriage, child-bearing, and death will be over (Luke 20:27-40). This does not mean that husbands and wives, parents and children will not be reunited in the age to come. If they are believers, they certainly will be reunited, and with a relationship that is more, not less, than their blood family ties. The grief of family separation will come to an end when God wipes every tear from our eyes and lives with us forever (Rev. 21:1-7). God extends this promise, based not on our satisfying the LDS Church’s list of obligations, but on his grace by which he saves all who put their trust in his one and only divine Son Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:25-30; Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:8-9; 1 John 5:11-13). 

The Mormon ideal of the earthly family pursuing exaltation together as a celestial, eternal family destined for godhood places unrealistic, inordinate expectations on Mormon families. Many of these expectations may sound fine taken one by one (attendance at church meetings, tithing, clean moral lifestyle, going on missions, etc.), but the sheer number of specific duties, rules, and taboos, and the pressure to have all family members fully in line with all these demands, often becomes unbearably burdensome. Prospective converts as well as members should not ignore the numerous testimonies of those who have tried to live the Mormon family life and found the experience damaging. You do not need to reject the good elements of Mormon family values to accept the liberating and refreshing biblical gospel of salvation. Adoption into God’s “family” is a gift freely given to all who truly trust in Christ alone for eternal life.