“Lesson 21 Class Preparation Material: The Doctrine of Eternal Marriage and Family,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)
“Lesson 21 Class Preparation Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material
In 1831 a recently baptized Church member named Leman Copley visited the Prophet Joseph Smith. Leman had previously been a member of the Shakers, a religious sect that rejected marriage and believed that total celibacy (abstaining from sexual relations) was the highest form of Christian devotion. Following Leman’s visit, the Prophet Joseph Smith asked the Lord about the Shakers’ teachings and received the revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 49. (You may find it helpful to read the introduction for that section.) Consider marking words and phrases in the following scripture passage that teach the Lord’s doctrine of marriage.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why marriage is ordained of God. Consider marking what stands out to you from his statement.
Two compelling doctrinal reasons help us to understand why eternal marriage is essential to the Father’s plan.
Reason 1: The natures of male and female spirits complete and perfect each other, and therefore men and women are intended to progress together toward exaltation. …
… The unique combination of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional capacities of both males and females were needed to implement the plan of happiness. Alone, neither the man nor the woman could fulfill the purposes of his or her creation. …
Reason 2: By divine design, both a man and a woman are needed to bring children into mortality and to provide the best setting for the rearing and nurturing of children.
The commandment given anciently to Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force today. … Thus, marriage between a man and a woman is the authorized channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality. …
A home with a loving and loyal husband and wife is the supreme setting in which children can be reared in love and righteousness and in which the spiritual and physical needs of children can be met. Just as the unique characteristics of both males and females contribute to the completeness of a marriage relationship, so those same characteristics are vital to the rearing, nurturing, and teaching of children. (David A. Bednar, “Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Ensign, June 2006, 83–84)
In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith began to teach more widely the doctrine of eternal marriage. This was a new and astounding doctrine to the Saints. Most of them believed that marriage ended at death.
Elder Parley P. Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described how he felt when the Prophet taught him about the possibility of eternal marriage.
It was from [Joseph Smith] that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity. … It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore. …
I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. , 260)
In 1843 the Prophet dictated the revelation now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 132, which included the doctrine of eternal marriage.
President Russell M. Nelson explained:
To qualify for eternal life, we must make an eternal and everlasting covenant with our Heavenly Father [see Doctrine and Covenants 132:19]. This means that a temple marriage is not only between husband and wife; it embraces a partnership with God [see Matthew 19:6]. …
… When a family is sealed in the temple, that family may become as eternal as the kingdom of God itself [see Doctrine and Covenants 132:19–20]. (Russell M. Nelson, “Celestial Marriage,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 92–93)
The blessings of eternal marriage are not just for the next life. Those who strive to keep their covenants faithfully can enjoy the blessings of eternal marriage in this life as well. President Thomas S. Monson taught:
If you choose wisely and if you are committed to the success of your marriage, there is nothing in this life which will bring you greater happiness. (“Priesthood Power,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 67)
Some Church members have questions about circumstances that do not enable individuals to experience the blessings of eternal marriage and family now. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed this matter:
To declare the fundamental truths relative to marriage and family is not to overlook or diminish the sacrifices and successes of those for whom the ideal is not a present reality. Some of you are denied the blessing of marriage for reasons including a lack of viable prospects, same-sex attraction, physical or mental impairments, or simply a fear of failure that, for the moment at least, overshadows faith. Or you may have married, but that marriage ended, and you are left to manage alone what two together can barely sustain. Some of you who are married cannot bear children despite overwhelming desires and pleading prayers.
… With confidence we testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has anticipated and, in the end, will compensate all deprivation and loss for those who turn to Him. No one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has for His children. (D. Todd Christofferson, “Why Marriage, Why Family,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 52)
As the Restoration continues to unfold, the Lord has inspired His prophets to emphasize the doctrine of marriage and family. In the September 1995 general Relief Society meeting, President Gordon B. Hinckley read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The conclusion of the proclamation teaches why we must stand up for the Lord’s doctrine of marriage and family.
We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society. (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” ChurchofJesusChrist.org)
Sister Julie B. Beck, former Relief Society General President, explained the need to study the doctrine of the family found in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
This generation will be called upon to defend the doctrine of the family as never before. If they don’t know it, they can’t defend it. …
President [Spencer W.] Kimball said:
“Many of the social restraints which in the past have helped to reinforce and to shore up the family are dissolving and disappearing. The time will come when only those who believe deeply and actively in the family will be able to preserve their families in the midst of the gathering evil around us” [Spencer W. Kimball, “Families Can Be Eternal,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, 4]. (Julie B. Beck, “Teaching the Doctrine of the Family,” Ensign, Mar. 2011, 17)
Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, former Young Women General President, taught:
We need to boldly defend the Lord’s revealed doctrines describing marriage, families, the divine roles of men and women, and the importance of homes as sacred places—even when the world is shouting in our ears that these principles are outdated, limiting, or no longer relevant. Everyone, no matter what their marital circumstance or number of children, can be defenders of the Lord’s plan described in the family proclamation. If it is the Lord’s plan, it should also be our plan! …
… Let us be defenders of marriage as the Lord has ordained it while continuing to show love and compassion for those with differing views. (Bonnie L. Oscarson, “Defenders of the Family Proclamation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 15)