Family Is Central to God’s Plan
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” states that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129).
Life’s greatest joys are found in a loving family. This is so in spite of the many distractions and challenges of life. Strong family relationships require effort, but such effort can bring great happiness in this life and throughout eternity. Even in families where relationships are difficult or uncertain, the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide hope, comfort, and healing.
In our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness, a husband and wife can be together forever. The authority to unite families forever is called the sealing power. It is the same power that Jesus bestowed upon His Apostles during His ministry on earth (see Matthew 16:19). An eternal marriage is therefore called a sealing, and children born or adopted into such eternal marriages can also be sealed to their families forever.
Unlike marriages that last only “’til death do you part,” temple sealings ensure that death cannot separate loved ones. For marriage relationships to continue after death, those marriages must be sealed in the right place and with the right authority. The right place is the temple and the right authority is the priesthood of God (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:7, 15–19).
A husband and wife who are sealed in the temple make sacred covenants with the Lord and with each other. These covenants assure them that their relationship will continue after this life if they remain true to their commitments. They know that nothing, not even death, can separate them. Those who are married should consider their union as their most cherished earthly relationship, for a spouse is the only person other than the Lord whom we have been commanded to love with all our heart (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:22).
Eternal Marriage Is Essential
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) taught: “Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all decisions and has the most far-reaching effects, for it has to do not only with immediate happiness, but also with eternal joys. It affects not only the two people involved, but also their families, particularly their children and their children’s children, down through the latest generations” (“The Importance of Celestial Marriage,” Ensign, Oct. 1979, 3).
The covenant of eternal marriage is also essential for exaltation. Exaltation is eternal life—the kind of life God lives. He is perfect. He lives in great glory. He possesses all knowledge, all power, and all wisdom. He is kind, compassionate, and merciful. He is the Heavenly Father of every person on earth. We can someday become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.
Exaltation is the greatest gift that Heavenly Father can give His children (see Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). It is the reward for all those who prove faithful to the Lord. Those who do will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.
The Lord revealed through Joseph Smith:
“In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it” (Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–3).
As we faithfully honor our covenants, we can be assured that we can be with our loved ones forever. The Lord has promised:
“If a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; … and if [they] abide in my covenant, … it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:19).
The Lord is also mindful that not all of His children will have the opportunity to be married in this life. He has promised that all those who accept the gospel and strive to honor their covenants will have the opportunity to be married and have children either in this life or the next.
All Generations Are Connected
The family proclamation states that “the divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”
The sealing power also extends from parents to children, across all generations from the beginning of the world. President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) declared that children who are born in the covenant—and those who are sealed to their parents in the temple—“have claims upon the blessings of the gospel beyond what those not so born are entitled to receive. They may receive a greater guidance, a greater protection, a greater inspiration from the Spirit of the Lord; and then there is no power that can take them away from their parents” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie , 2:90).
Children born to parents who have been sealed in the temple are born in the covenant and thereby become part of an eternal family, based upon their faithfulness. Children who are not born in the covenant can also become part of an eternal family once their natural or adoptive parents have been sealed to one another. The ordinance of sealing children to parents is performed only in the temple. To extend these blessings to all people, those who are living are also able to perform proxy sealings in behalf of those who have died. In this way, all families may be together forever.
The promise that our families can be together after death brings more meaning in life. It encourages us to be faithful and loyal. It improves and enriches our family relationships. It helps us find joy and hope as we deal with the everyday challenges of life. And knowing that we can be together again brings comfort and peace as we deal with the suffering or death of loved ones.
The sealing ordinance is the crowning blessing of the temple. It is God’s greatest gift to His children because it enables us to return to live with Him and all of our loved ones forever. It offers marvelous blessings for this life and the next. It is a constant reminder that families are central to God’s plan and to our happiness here and in the eternities. It provides peace, hope, and joy for all who faithfully receive it.