“2. Supporting Individuals and Families in the Work of Salvation and Exaltation,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).
“2. Supporting Individuals and Families,” General Handbook.
As a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ, you support individuals and families in accomplishing God’s work of salvation and exaltation (see 1.2). The ultimate purpose of this work is to help all of God’s children receive the blessings of eternal life and a fulness of joy.
Much of the work of salvation and exaltation is accomplished through the family. For all Church members, this work is centered in the home. This chapter will help you gain a vision of:
The role of the family in God’s plan.
The work of salvation and exaltation in the home.
The relationship between the home and the Church.
The family is ordained of God and is central to His plan. Each of us “is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents [with] a divine nature and destiny (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” ChurchofJesusChrist.org). We are part of their family. We lived with them before we were born on earth.
As part of His plan, Heavenly Father has established families on earth. He intends for families to bring us happiness. Families provide opportunities to learn, grow, serve, repent, and forgive. They can help us prepare for eternal life.
In this life, many people have limited opportunities for loving family relationships. No family is free from challenges, pain, and sorrow. Individuals and families exercise faith in the Lord and strive to live according to the truths He has revealed concerning the family. The Savior has promised that He will help bear the burdens of all who come unto Him (see Matthew 11:28–30).
Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness ensures that all His children will have the opportunity to accept His gospel and receive His greatest blessings (see Doctrine and Covenants 137:7–10). All who make and keep covenants with God can experience joy and “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23; see also Mosiah 2:41). God’s promise of eternal life includes eternal marriage, children, and all other blessings of an eternal family.
Eternal families are formed when Church members make covenants as they receive the sealing ordinances in the temple. The blessings of an eternal family are realized as members keep those covenants and repent when they fall short. Church leaders help members prepare to receive these ordinances and honor their covenants.
Each person may fulfill a number of roles in an eternal family. All family roles are sacred and important. These roles may include mother and father, daughter and son, sister and brother, aunt and uncle, and grandmother and grandfather. Fulfilling these roles in love helps God’s children progress toward eternal life.
An additional aspect of establishing eternal families is performing ordinances in the temple that allow members to be sealed to their deceased ancestors.
With an understanding of God’s plan, members seek the blessings of an eternal family. This includes preparing to become a worthy, loving spouse and parent.
One of the requirements for obtaining eternal life is for a man and a woman to enter the covenant of celestial marriage (see Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4). A couple makes this covenant when they receive the marriage sealing ordinance in the temple. This covenant is the foundation of an eternal family. When faithfully kept, it allows their marriage to endure forever. Ultimately, they can become like God (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:19–20).
God has commanded husbands and wives to cleave to each other (see Genesis 2:24; Doctrine and Covenants 42:22). In this context, the word cleave means to be completely devoted and faithful to someone. Married couples cleave together by loving and serving each other.
Cleaving also includes total fidelity between husband and wife. Physical intimacy between husband and wife is intended to be beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife. Tenderness and respect—not selfishness—should guide their intimate relationship.
God has commanded that sexual intimacy is to be reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. Remaining sexually pure before marriage and faithful within marriage helps individuals be truly happy and avoid spiritual, emotional, and physical harm. Parents and Church leaders are encouraged to do all they can to reinforce this teaching. (See 38.6.5.)
A couple seeks to be unified in establishing their family (see Genesis 2:24). Being united in marriage requires a full partnership, sharing responsibilities. A husband and wife are equal in God’s eyes. One should not dominate the other. Their decisions should be made in unity and love, with full participation of both.
Adam and Eve set an example for husbands and wives. They worked, prayed, and worshipped together (see Moses 5:1, 4). They taught their children the gospel and mourned together over their trials (see Moses 5:12, 27). They were united with each other and with God.
Before God’s children can receive “immortality and eternal life,” they must receive a mortal body (Moses 1:39). God’s first commandment to Adam and Eve as husband and wife was to have children (see Genesis 1:28). Latter-day prophets have taught that “God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”; see also Doctrine and Covenants 49:16–17).
It is a sacred privilege and responsibility for a husband and wife to care for the children they are able to bear or adopt. Adoptive parents have the same blessings and responsibilities as biological parents.
A loving husband and wife together provide the best setting for rearing and nurturing children. Individual circumstances may prevent parents from rearing their children together. However, the Lord will bless them as they seek His help and strive to keep their covenants with Him.
Parents have the vital responsibility to help their children prepare to receive the blessings of eternal life. They teach their children to love and serve God and others (see Matthew 22:36–40). They teach them to pray to Heavenly Father and study the word of God (see Alma 37:36–37, 44–46). They help their children understand the doctrine of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Doctrine and Covenants 68:25). They also help them prepare to make covenants as they receive the ordinances of salvation and exaltation.
“Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”). When there is not a husband or father in the home, the mother presides over the family.
Presiding in the family is the responsibility to help lead family members back to dwell in God’s presence. This is done by serving and teaching with gentleness, meekness, and pure love, following the example of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 20:26–28). Presiding in the family includes leading family members in regular prayer, gospel study, and other aspects of worship. Parents work in unity to fulfill these responsibilities.
“Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”). To nurture means to nourish, teach, and support, following the example of the Savior (see 3 Nephi 10:4). In unity with her husband, a mother helps her family learn gospel truths and develop faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Together they foster an environment of love in the family.
“In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”). They prayerfully counsel together and with the Lord. They make decisions together in unity and love, with full participation of both.
The First Presidency said, “The home is the basis of a righteous life” (First Presidency letter, Feb. 11, 1999). In their homes, individuals and families engage in the work of salvation and exaltation. This work consists of four divinely appointed responsibilities:
Living the gospel of Jesus Christ (see 1.2.1)
Caring for those in need (see 1.2.2)
Inviting all to receive the gospel (see 1.2.3)
Uniting families for eternity (see 1.2.4)
To support members in doing the work of salvation and exaltation at home, Church leaders encourage them to establish a home where the Spirit is present. They also encourage members to honor the Sabbath day, study and learn the gospel at home, and hold weekly home evening. Leaders give special emphasis to supporting individuals who may lack assistance or encouragement from family members.
Church members are encouraged to make their homes a place of spiritual strength and joy. They can invite the Spirit of the Lord into their homes through simple efforts. Every home can be a “house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:119).
God has commanded His children to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Church members gather on the Sabbath to partake of the sacrament in remembrance of Jesus Christ and His Atonement (see Doctrine and Covenants 59:12). The Sabbath is a day of gospel learning and teaching at church and at home. Members can be strengthened on the Sabbath as they engage in activities such as:
Personal worship through prayer and fasting.
Gospel study and learning.
Ministering and service to others.
Joyful family time.
Other appropriate gatherings.
Gospel teaching and learning are home-centered and Church-supported. Church leaders encourage all members to study the gospel at home on the Sabbath day and throughout the week. Gospel study at home strengthens individuals and families. It deepens conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
A study of the scriptures as outlined in Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families is the suggested course of gospel study at home. Come, Follow Me aligns lessons in Primary, Sunday School, Young Women, Aaronic Priesthood quorums, and seminary with gospel study in the home.
Individuals and families seek inspiration as they choose to study what will best meet their needs. In addition to the scripture passages suggested in Come, Follow Me, they might prayerfully consider studying:
The Book of Mormon and other scriptures.
General conference messages.
Church magazines and other edifying content.
Latter-day prophets have counseled Church members to hold a weekly home evening. This is a sacred time for individuals and families to learn the gospel, strengthen testimonies, build unity, and enjoy one another.
Home evening is flexible according to members’ circumstances. It may be held on the Sabbath or other days and times. It may include:
Gospel study and instruction (the Come, Follow Me materials may be used as desired).
Singing or playing hymns and Primary songs (see chapter 19).
Supporting family members in Children and Youth development.
A family council to set goals, resolve problems, and coordinate schedules.
Single members and others can gather in groups outside the normal Sabbath worship services to participate in home evening and strengthen one another through gospel study. Come, Follow Me may be a resource for those who desire to study together.
Leaders give special attention to helping those who are new to holding home evening and studying the gospel.
In addition to home evening, leaders encourage families to prioritize time together throughout the week. This could include sharing meals, working and serving together, and recreational activities.
To provide time for families to be together, leaders should keep Monday evenings free from Church meetings and activities.
Leaders encourage members to be consistent in holding home evening and spending time together as families (see Doctrine and Covenants 64:33).
Church leaders assist members who lack family support. Members who may need additional support include:
Children, youth, and adults whose families are not actively participating in Church meetings and activities.
Single adults of all ages, including single parents and widowed members.
Leaders help these members and their families have opportunities for fellowship, wholesome social experiences, and spiritual growth. Leaders encourage and assist them in their efforts to learn and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Leaders also give them opportunities to serve in the Church.
The work of salvation and exaltation is centered in the home and supported by the Church. The following principles apply in the relationship between the home and the Church.
Leaders and teachers honor the role of parents and assist them. Leaders and teachers establish and maintain effective communication with parents.
Leaders seek to ensure that Church meetings, activities, and programs support individuals and families in doing the work of salvation and exaltation in their homes.
Some Church meetings are essential in each ward or branch. These include sacrament meeting and the classes and quorum meetings held on the Sabbath. Many other meetings, activities, and programs are not essential. Leaders organize them as needed to help meet the needs of individuals and families. Leaders take into account local circumstances and resources.
Individuals and families consider their circumstances when making decisions about participating in Church programs that are not essential.
Church service and participation entail a measure of sacrifice. The Lord will bless members as they serve and sacrifice in His Church. However, the amount of time given to Church service should not detract from members’ ability to fulfill their responsibilities at home, at work, and elsewhere. Leaders and members should not be overwhelmed with too many Church responsibilities. Nor should they be asked to make excessive sacrifices to support Church programs or activities.
As members follow these principles and the promptings of the Spirit, Heavenly Father will bless their efforts.