The Nature of Family

I just returned from a rather lengthy trip to Utah.  Not under the time constraints that usually keep my visits with my family short, I was able to spend a lot of time with family and friends, and have come up with a few conclusions, and of course a few questions. 

First, not to my surprise, but much to my delight, I reaffirmed my belief that there are very few worries, ills, and emotional pains that cannot be quickly cured by repeated loves, maulings, and  sticky kisses of guileless, exuberant, and utterly devoted nieces.  My little chunky-muffins think I am pretty much the coolest aunt in the world, due to my ability to cackle like an evil witch, give them horsey rides, bounce them on my feet, and dance like a maniac to the electronic disco track on their  keyboard.  I was rewarded with endless tight embraces, wet smoochies and, due to a recent "doggy" phase, the occasional lick.  Family can apparently bring you a peace and joy unparalleled anywhere else.  Don’t get me wrong, I love being with the adults too, but when the attention comes from the kids, it’s just heavenly. 

Second, everytime I  go home…despite the minor annoyances that come from adult children interacting with adult parents…I am struck by the fact that my parents’ home is a safe haven.  I’m world-wise enough to know that not every child has that safe haven, and I’m grateful to my parents for their steadiness and committment to the gospel in providing it.

Third, ward family may be a cliche, but I was struck by the way the ward rallied around my family.  My widowed aunt lives with my 98 year old grandma next door to my parents.  One night, my aunt became really ill, and had to go to the hospital to get rehydrated.  Someone in the ward drove down the street in the middle of the night and saw the ambulance at their house, and within minutes, the entire neighborhood was up, knocking on doors, calling the bishop at youth conference, and trying to call my parents on their new cell phone (which they have unfortunately not figured out how to answer yet.)  At church on Sunday, neighbor after neighbor stopped to express their love and concern to my quiet little unassuming Norwegian grandma.  From this family member 2000 miles away, I’m incredibly grateful that she has some family members out there keeping such a close eye on her. 

Fourth, I reconnected with so many old friends.  There is my college roommate, who despite living on the other coast, and despite her mothering duties for three extraordinarily active children, has had my back for thirteen years.  I had time to fly to Seattle and visit her and reaffirm that she’s essentially a sister, albeit one I see far too seldom.  I saw all my high school friends, and we had long talks about boys and babies and memories and gossip.  We’re all dealing with our very different adult lives, but 20 years of shared experiences keeps us close and still praying for each other.  Thank goodness for email. 

Finally, and much to my delight, I found out that my grandfather was ordained to the Melchezidek Priesthood by J. Golden Kimball.  Apparently, and according to an article in Dialogue, he was a close family friend.  So much is clear to me now.  I’m not a freak…writing for BCC was my destiny!!!

So, here are my questions…we speak so much about families being together forever, but I’m a little unclear on what that family is going to look like.  Do we essentially all pair off, with the odd single child glommed onto his/her parents by default?  Do we stay in giant family communes?  That would seem unwieldy, I want to be with my grandma, but she would want to be with he grandma, who I don’t know…and who knows, might not like?  This could go on forever.  I know we shouldn’t be dreaming about mansions above, but mine is a procreating family, and we’re going to need a mansion…a really really big one.  Are our eternal families limited to family…if our ward families sacrifice so much for each other, wouldn’t those bonds naturally continue in heaven as "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven"?  Also, heaven wouldn’t be heaven without those friends who act in all capacities as family.  Heaven wouldn’t be heaven without Miss Seattle laughing at my jokes and making me pancakes.  Besides, if friends come to visit, then apparently I’ll get to hang out with J. Golden Kimball when I go up to grandpa’s room to visit.  That really sounds like heaven. 


  1. The problems you reference in eternal logistics are largely based in our experiences with geography, to my mind; when everyone’s a thought away, actual location won’t particularly matter. Granted, if each person wanted to constantly be in the presence of his or her grandma, we’d hit some snags, but I figure we’ll be too busy for that.

    Great thoughts, though.

  2. Mardell says:

    Huge Families, now that is something I know a lot about. For my Grandfathers 80th birthday we all barely fit into the cultural hall. And we were not all there. Some times I love spending time with them and other times it seeems like a chore.
    But about eternal families I wonder if we will not all be on big family in heaven. Since we are all God’s children manybe we are just being sealed into his family. As Mormons we tend to focus on our little families, instead of the heavenly family we have. Now talk about a gigantic family!

  3. This is why the sealing ordinances never made sense to me. And studying their history made me realize that the generationally-sealed families weren’t what Joseph was after either.

    “Families are forever” are a great hook for missionary work and a great way to get people to go to the temple, but I’d bet the farm that family units will not be the same after this life.

  4. A. Gant says:

    The promise of Eternal Life has always been that we could become as God is now, a Heavenly Father and Mother to spirit offspring with eternal increase. To me that means the companionship of my wife and a spiritual connection to my past and future progeny. We will remember our pre-mortal life and understand our real relationship as spiritual brothers and sisters. So I think our Eternal family will be the physical companionship of our spouse along with the continued friendship and spiritual connection to those with whom we shared our mortality, our mortal children being the most special people to us and to whom we have been spiritually bonded for eternity. We only get the one life on earth and there are billions of spirits who will pass through mortality. Our connection and sealing to our children binds our shared mortal experience and will connect us in a way unique to all other of our spiritual brothers and sisters.

    I think for us there are more interesting questions to be asked than most other Christian religions because we believe that we will have a physical body for eternity. All the logistics of living an Eternal life with a physical presence are just one of those things we’ll find out about. I pretty sure we’re not all sitting around in white robes in nice houses just thinking about stuff with dumb smiles on our faces.

  5. Karen – this is just another testament that Seattle is true and that all BCC permabloggers are destined to reside here – bwah ha ha ha.

    As to the sealing of families: I’m decidedly against the whole exaltation as God the Fatherhood thing, so it is rather easy to conceive of a Celestial Kingdom where the same sociality exists as here.

  6. A., I think my conception is probably pretty close to yours, if we’re theoretically all connected to a spouse, our eternal family consists of that spouse, with some kind of close relationship maintained with other family members…Part of me does like the idea of giant communes though…grandma’s cooking, dad’s gardening, cousin so and so’s crazy stories constantly going on in the background, wiggly little babies to kiss at will….

    J., dude, I didn’t move to Seattle, I came and visited for three days. Keep up the bwah ha haing though, because it’s sort of weird and endearing. I am curious about your statement: “I’m decidedly against the whole exaltation as God the Fatherhood thing…” I’m sure that your use of the English language is much more sophisticated than mine…as you are living in Seattle…but I really don’t know what you mean by that.

  7. :) Many, if not most, Mormons believe that the destiny of exaltation is to play the Role of God the Father. I don’t think so. The former is dificult to reconcile with the concept of being sealed to anyone besides your spouse. I believe in a much more limited exaltation that yields something more comparable to our current society.

  8. I’m with Wanda. The more you study the sealing ordinances, their early history and purposes, and the connection with polygamy and the Old Testament, the less sense they make.

    But I think A. Gant’s opinion is the majority in the Church. It seems natural to assume we ought to have a closer connection to those we shared mortality with, and I think we will, if we have a connection anywhere. Of course, that sort of shoots down the idea that those who aren’t married or don’t have children in this life will have all the blessings in the next life. Missing out on forming those families in mortality will be a *huge* disadvantage in the life to come. I’m curious to see if the Atonement has anything to do with overcoming that disadvantage.

    I also don’t think we’ll ever become “like God is now.” That would mean begetting an Only Son, having the Only Son’s brother fall from Heaven to become the devil, and watching your Only Begotten Son die on a cross. Said Only Begotten Son will also claim that he has done nothing “save what he has seen his father do”. Since you didn’t carry out an Atonement, he can’t follow your example. Also, since you’ve had kids in mortality, the position of “Only Begotten” is already taken. Sorry, you can’t be God. You might be able to be God Junior, but not God the Man.

  9. A. Gant says:

    Just to clarify my position, I think the blessing of Eternal life includes the “potential” to become as God is now. I don’t think that means the exact duplication of events or creations of our Father in Heaven. What that means to me is the ongoing ability to progress and learn in the Celestial Kingdom. Since our concept of time isn’t relevant in eternity I think the magnitude of that blessing (the ability to continue to progress) is expressed to us in terms we understand . . that being to have the ability to become “as God is now”.

  10. I think I like Mardell’s thought in comment #2.

    Imagine the best family dinner you ever had, with everybody in high spirits and good humor. Now, transfer that to our Heavenly Parents’ dining room . . .

    I know, I know, it breaks down doctrinally and logistically, but still, I think it will feel like that.

  11. Hey J. Stapley, can you expand on the “same sociality” existing there as here? I’ve been curious about which sociality it will be – 19th century frontier America sociality? Twenty-first century SLC sociality? Twenty-first century first generation convert in the heart of Africa sociality? Abraham, the great sheikh of the desert sociality?

    Which sociality will be the celestial sociality?

  12. Mark, I really like your example. It makes me think I might want to go to the Celestial Kingdom after all.

    Karen, you are very lucky.

  13. Thanks annegb. I know.

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