See this page in the original 1992 publication.

[This entry consists of two articles: Family: Teachings About the Family Family: Family Life

The first article presents the major teachings about the family that tend to set Latter-day Saints apart from other people and focuses on latter-day scriptures and teachings of Church leaders. The second article provides a substantial explanation of the way in which families experience Church membership together, including the fact that the standard orientation of Church programs is toward families. The family is central to LDS theology, religion, society, and culture. In addition to the articles appearing below, see Children; Fatherhood; Marriage; Motherhood; and Mother in Israel. Regarding specific Church policies and practices concerning the family, see Abuse, Spouse and Child; Adoption of Children; Birth Control; Divorce; Family Home Evening; and Family Prayer.]

Family: Teachings About the Family


The basic unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the family: "The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place nor fulfill its essential functions" (McKay, Preface). Within the family, people experience most of life's greatest joys and greatest sorrows. The family relationships of every person on earth are of cardinal importance, and of all the social organizations created for human beings, only the family is intended to continue into the next life.

FAMILIES ON EARTH ARE AN EXTENSION OF THE FAMILY OF GOD. According to the LDS concept of the family, every person is a child of heavenly parents as well as mortal parents. Each individual was created spiritually and physically in the image of God and Christ (Moses 2:27;3:5). The First Presidency has declared, "All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity" (MFP 4:203). Everyone, before coming to this earth, lived with Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and each was loved and taught by them as a member of their eternal family (see Premortal Life). Birth unites the spirit with a physical body so that together they can "receive a fulness of joy" (D&C 93:33; cf. 2 Ne. 2:25).

MARRIAGE IS ORDAINED OF GOD. "Whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man" (D&C 49:15). The marriage sanctioned by God provides men and women with the opportunity to fulfill their divine potentials. "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:11). Husbands and wives are unique in some ways and free to develop their eternal gifts, yet as coequals in the sight of their heavenly parents they are one in the divine goals they pursue, in their devotion to eternal principles and ordinances, in their obedience to the Lord, and in their divine love for each other. When a man and woman who have been sealed together in a temple are united spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically, taking full responsibility for nurturing each other, they are truly married. Together they strive to emulate the prototype of the heavenly home from which they came. The Church teaches them to complement, support, and enrich one another.

THE FAMILY CAN BECOME AN ETERNAL UNIT. Worthy members can be sealed by the power of the priesthood in holy temples for time and eternity either in or after marriage. At the time of their temple sealing, both husband and wife enter "an order of the priesthood [called] the new and everlasting covenant of marriage" (D&C 131:1-4). Without worthiness and authority, a marriage cannot endure eternally and is "of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead" (D&C 132:7). If a husband and wife are faithful to their temple marriage, they will continue as co-creators in God's Celestial Kingdom through the eternities. They will administer the affairs of their family in unity with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Regarding members of the Church not born into such homes or not married in this life through no fault of their own, President Spencer W. Kimball taught that those "who would have responded if they had [had] an appropriate opportunity-will receive all those blessings in the world to come" (Kimball, p. 295).

THE POWER TO CREATE LIFE IS A GIFT FROM GOD. Because the procreative powers come from God, sexual purity is spiritual and mental, as well as physical and emotional (see Sexuality). Jesus said, "Whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart. Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart" (3 Ne. 12:28-29). chastity is sacred (cf. Jacob 2:28).

PROCREATION IS A COMMANDMENT OF GOD. Through the sexual experience, husbands and wives enrich their marriage and create physical bodies for spirits to come to earth to achieve divine purposes. Latter-day Saints strive to create a home life dedicated to fulfilling these purposes. It is both a joy and a responsibility for parents to bring heavenly spirits into this world. Adam and Eve were commanded to "be fruitful, and multiply" (Gen. 1:22). Latter-day revelation has given the same instructions. Church members are taught not to postpone or refuse to have children for selfish or materialistic reasons. On questions such as how many children a couple will have, the spacing of children, and birth control, Latter-day Saints are instructed to use their agency, selecting a course as husband and wife in accordance with divine principles and seeking confirmation from the Holy Spirit.

PARENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR TEACHING THEIR CHILDREN THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST. "Inasmuch as parents have children…that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost…the sin be upon the heads of the parents…. And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord" (D&C 68:25, 28). Parents are admonished to be examples to their children, realizing that their children are also their spirit brothers and sisters.

AN ENVIRONMENT OF LOVE IS NECESSARY FOR REARING CHILDREN. The spirit of a righteous home is love. The Lord said, "Thou shalt live together in love" (D&C 42:45)-love of heavenly parents, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; of husband and wife; and of parents for children, children for parents, and siblings for each other.

MAKING ONE'S HOME A PLACE OF PEACE AND JOY TAKES EFFORT. The effort that goes into making a peaceful home requires consistent planning, prayer, and cooperation. The Church encourages families to hold weekly family home evenings, in which all members of the family study eternal gospel principles and ordinances and do things together that bring them joy. Two Church Presidents have stated, "The most important of the Lord's work [you] will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own homes" (Lee, p. 7), and "No other success can compensate for failure in the home" (McKay, p. iii).

WORTHY FAMILY MEMBERS LOOK FORWARD WITH FAITH AND HOPE TO ETERNAL FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS. Earthly families and with ancestors and descendants expect to live again as extended families with loved ones who have died. They become those "who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name,…and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true" (D&C 76:51, 53).

THE RIGHTEOUS ARE BLESSED. All righteous individuals, who maintain personal worthiness, love, and faithfulness, are promised the riches of eternity, which include the eventual blessings of being sealed to other family members who also qualify for celestial blessings.


Benson, Ezra Taft. God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, pp. 167-273. Salt Lake City, 1974.

Kimball, Spencer W. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball. Salt Lake City, 1982.

Lee, Harold B. Strengthening the Home (pamphlet). Salt Lake City, 1973.

McConkie, Oscar W., Jr. "LDS Concept of the Family." Journal of the Collegium Aesculapium 2 (July 1984):46-51.

McKay, David O. Family Home Evening Manual. Salt Lake City, 1965.

White, O. Kendall, Jr. "Ideology of the Family in Nineteenth-Century Mormonism." Sociological Spectrum 6 (1986):289-306.

Wilkins, Richard G. "The Principles of the Proclamation: Ten Years of Hope." BYU Studies 44:3 (2005):4-37.


Family: Family Life


FAMILY DEMOGRAPHICS. The inherent emphasis on family in Latter-day Saint theology is expressed in demographic patterns that are different for Mormons compared to the general population. First, Mormon fertility rates have consistently been higher than national averages. Utah has traditionally had the highest fertility rate of any state in the Union due to the high percentage of Latter-day Saints in the state (approximately 70 percent).

Research shows that the larger than average family size among Latter-day Saints is not due to their reluctance to use various methods of birth control. Heaton and Calkins' research (1983) shows that in a national sample they are just as likely to use modern birth control methods as are the rest of the nation. But for Latter-day Saints, contraceptives often are not used until after child rearing has occurred and is used less frequently so that the desired larger family size can be obtained. Heaton concludes that the larger family size for Latter-day Saints is associated with beliefs of LDS parents regarding the value of having children, involvement with an LDS reference group, and socialization in a context which favors having children (1988, p. 112).

In the general population, as family size increases, so does coercive discipline. Affectional family relationships decrease. But research among Latter-day Saints shows an opposite pattern, with larger families reporting increased affectional relations (Thomas, 1983, p. 274).

Latter-day Saints consistently report lower than national average rates of premarital sexual experience, teenage pregnancy, and extramarital sexual experience (Heaton, 1988). Yet, research reported by Smith (1976) shows that inactive Mormons were changing toward more liberal sexual attitudes and behavior during the 1970s, even while active Latter-day Saints showed no movement toward more liberal attitudes or behavior. The percentages reporting no present premarital sexual activity by active Latter-day Saints actually increased between 1950 and 1972, from 95 percent to 98 percent for men and from 96 percent to 98 percent for women (pp. 79-81).

Current data show that a higher percent of Latter-day Saints will marry than does the general population. They will also marry younger, have a lower divorce rate, and remarry after divorce at a higher rate than is found in the general population (Heaton, 1988, pp. 110-11).

With respect to divorce, it is clear that the most religiously committed Latter-day Saints have divorce rates considerably lower than the inactive or noncommitted Church members, even though Utah is one of the mountain and western states which have generally had higher than national average divorce rates (Thomas, 1983, p. 277). Heaton and Goodman's research (1985) shows that of Latter-day Saints attending church regularly, 10 percent of men and 15 percent of women report divorce, compared to 21 percent of men and 26 percent of women who do not attend regularly. Also, among men with temple marriages, 5.4 percent reported divorce compared to 27.8 percent of the nontemple group. For women with temple marriages, 6.5 were divorced while 32.7 percent were divorced in nontemple marriages.

FAMILY ROLES AND THE CHURCH. With the emphasis upon family found within all of the organizations of the Church, from primary to priesthood quorums, the husband and wife become the main points of contact between family and Church. The wife's involvement with the Church will most likely emerge through primary and Relief Society activities. The husband's contact with the Church can emerge through almost any organization with the exception of the Relief Society, which is limited to women.

Since the Church is organized around a lay male priesthood, more positions of leadership are occupied by husbands than by wives. In addition, the reorganization of Church procedures and functions begun under the general heading of "priesthood correlation" reemphasized the role of the father in conducting family councils, which were seen as part of the councils designed to govern the Church extending all the way to the council of the First Presidency. The family is seen as the most basic unit of the Church, and all Church programs are designed to strengthen the family.

Given the role of the priesthood in LDS Church government, as well as the teachings about the family, Latter-day Saints have been seen generally as encouraging traditional division of labor along gender lines within families, while at the same time emphasizing the authority of the father through priesthood lines. When researchers have asked about who should perform various functions within the family, Latter-day Saints have tended to score high on measures of traditional beliefs regarding who ought to do what in a family (Brinkerhoff and MacKie, 1988). However, in research that asks husbands and wives what they actually do in decision making within the family or how they carry out various duties (that traditionally were seen as belonging to either the husband or the wife), Latter-day Saints have consistently emerged as high on egalitarian measures (Thomas, 1983; Brinkerhoff and MacKie, 1983, 1988). These somewhat paradoxical patterns have not been adequately explained. A common explanation, namely that egalitarian pressures from the larger society is changing the behavior of LDS husbands and wives, is not a convincing one, in light of these recent research findings. Wuthnow advises those who study religious influence to keep a healthy skepticism toward any description of religion "as a force in the service of social conservatism" (1973, p. 128). His advice seems especially relevant to this issue with LDS attitudes and beliefs.

In addition, while the Latter-day Saint father is given responsibility to lead the family, he is expected to do so in a manner which helps every family member grow and develop. LDS beliefs also emphasize the egalitarian nature of men-women relationships. LDS doctrine teaches that there is a Mother in Heaven as well as a Father, that Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit furthered God's Plan of Salvation (see Fall of Adam), that women must perform certain essential priesthood ordinances in the temple, and that the highest order of the priesthood and the complete blessings of exaltation are available only to the married couple; neither can enter exaltation without the other.

This egalitarian relationship between men and women is symbolized in the LDS portrayal of relationships between Adam and Eve after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The two must earn their bread by the sweat of their brows and "Eve did labor with him" (Moses 5:1). They are both commanded to offer sacrifices, and they teach their children all these things (Moses 5:5, 12). Eve along with Adam mourns for the wickedness of their children, and they seek the Lord in prayer together (Moses 5:13-16). After receiving information from God, Eve in turn instructs Adam about some basic points of the gospel (Moses 5:11).

Another egalitarian emphasis emerges in temple ceremonies and ordinances. Without women performing sacred priesthood ordinances in the temple, the highest saving ordinances performed on earth by men and women could not be completed. This is symbolic of men-women relationships generally. Alone they remain incomplete while united man and woman develop their highest divine potential.

PARENTAL BELIEFS AND FAMILY BEHAVIOR. Family commitment is deemed crucial for both husbands and wives, although the wife typically bears the greater responsibility for management of the home and the nurturing of the children. Thomas (1988) studied a sample of LDS parents and documented that the degree to which husbands and wives shared in their child-rearing duties was the second strongest influence on marital satisfaction. More recent research (Thomas and Cornwall, 1990) has documented that it is the wife's marital satisfaction that is highly correlated with shared child-rearing, while the husband's marital satisfaction is unrelated to shared child rearing. This finding corroborates a long-standing general pattern in family research which shows that what happens in family life is more central to a wife's definition of satisfaction than a husband's. It also points to the need for LDS husbands to realize that their increased involvement in child care will be one of the best contributions they can make to their wife's marital satisfaction. Also, those families that score high on the measure of home religious observance (family prayer, scripture reading, and family council) also report the highest amount of shared child-rearing.

In related findings, whether the couple had been married in the temple was the best indicator of whether the family would carry out their home religious observance. These data support the conclusion that temple marriage is related to family behaviors which include more home religious activities, increased husband involvement in shared child-rearing activities, and thus increased marital satisfaction.

The emphasis among Latter-day Saints on family often can lead to greater involvement with members of the extended family. The Church encourages families to organize across generations to foster family history and genealogical work deemed essential to the family's well-being in eternity. Such work is often discussed at family reunions. However, there is not good comparative research available to know to what degree LDS families are different from or similar to other families on extended family interaction.

THE CHURCH AND FAMILY FUNCTIONING. These demographic realities mean that generally LDS families are larger, are more likely to avoid divorce, are characterized by religious commitment and activities centered around child-rearing, and require great financial resources. In addition to providing financially for the family, running the household, and rearing children, adults usually have one or more Church callings that may involve extensive time in service to others. And, since the number of LDS women who are employed outside the home is virtually equal to the national average in the United States (see Mason, p. 103; Heaton, 1986, p. 184, 190), making home a first priority is a genuine challenge. As children grow, parents are encouraged to include them in doing household tasks, with the goal that the resulting skills and attitudes which they develop can contribute to the quality of family life, as well as prepare them for confidence and competence in the world external to the family. Church leaders are encouraged to minimize the time they and other members spend in their callings and to safeguard family time from constant intruding influences.

Sometimes the focus of Church activities on the two-parent family belies the truth that not all members are in a stage of life where they can rear children with a committed mate. Those who never married, are divorced, are widowed, are single parents, or are married to non-Latter-day Saints are always in LDS wards and, ideally, they are included in the community of Saints. Priesthood quorums and the Relief Society are charged both to integrate such families into ward activities as well as provide for special needs. And, when members of any family become involved in such activities as drug abuse, divorce, or family violence, the Church intends that leaders provide a network of emotional support, prevention, and rehabilitation.


Bahr, Howard M.; S.J. Condie; and K. L. Goodman. Life in Large Families. Washinton, D.C., 1982.

Brinkerhoff, Merlin B., and Marlene MacKie. "Religious Sources of Gender Traditionalism." In The Religion and Family Connection: Social Science Perspectives, ed. D. Thomas, pp. 232-57. Provo, Utah, 1988.

Heaton, Tim B. "The Demography of Utah Mormons." In Utah in Demographic Perspective, ed. T. Martin; T. Heaton; and S. Bahr, pp. 181-93. Salt Lake City, 1986.

Heaton, Tim B. "Four C's of the Mormon Family: Chastity, Conjugality, Children, and Chauvinism." In The Religion and Family Connection: Social Science Perspectives, ed. D. Thomas, pp. 107-24. Provo, Utah, 1988.

Heaton, Tim B., and S. Calkins. "Family Size and Contraceptive Use among Mormons: 1965-75." Review of Religious Research 25, no. 2 (1983):103-14.

Heaton, Tim B., and Kristen L. Goodman. "Religions and Family Formation." Review of Religious Research 26, no. 4 (1985):343-59.

Lee, Harold B. Strengthening the Home. Salt Lake City, 1973, (pamphlet).

Mason, Jerry. "Family Economics." In Utah in Demographic Perspective, ed. T. Martin; T. Heaton; and S. Bahr, pp. 91-109. Salt Lake City, Utah, 1986.

Slife, Brent D. "Value of Christian Families: Do They Come from Unrecognized Idols?." BYU Studies 38:2 (1999):117-147.

Smith, W. E. "Mormon Sex Standards on College Campuses, or Deal Us Out of the Sexual Revolution." Dialogue 10, no. 2 (1976):76-81.

Thomas, Darwin L. "Future Prospects for Religion and Family Studies: the Mormon Case." In The Religion and Family Connection: Social Science Perspectives, ed. D. Thomas, pp. 357-82. Provo, Utah, 1988.

Thomas, Darwin L. "Family in the Mormon Experience." In Families and Religions: Conflict and Change in Modern Society, ed. W. D'Antonio, and J. Aldous, pp. 267-88. Beverly Hills, Calif., 1983.

Thomas, Dawin L., and Marie Cornwall. "The Religion and Family Interface: Theoretical and Empirical Expolrations." Paper presented at the XII World Congress of Sociology, International Sociological Assn., Madrid, Spain, July, 13, 1990.

Wuthnow, R. "Religious Commitment and Conservatism: In Search of an Elusive Relationship." In Religion in Sociological Perspective, ed. C. Glock. Belmont, Calif., 1973.


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