D&C 68:25; 93:40; The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Jesus Christ is the center of the family. If Christ is not central, then the family eventually becomes merely a group of people who share similar DNA patterns. If Christ is central, the family receives eternal glory and eternal exaltation in the kingdom of God.

When Jesus visited the descendants of Lehi, he held a family prayer with them – perhaps the first they had experienced together since the days of Lehi. For centuries, this family had been driven by jealousies and disputes. I imagine Lehi wept beyond the veil to see the Lord Jesus bring his descendants in a circle to pray together to the Father. 

Jesus Stood in the Midst

One of the most sacred passages in all scripture gives an account of this family prayer: “And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought. So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; … he commanded the multitude that they should kneel down upon the ground.” [1]

The Lord’s actions here are highly symbolic. He kneels in the center of the circle to indicate that the family centers on Him and his saving mission. He invites the little children to encircle Him because they are so precious to Him. I imagine that the parents remain quite close behind their children; and so they all encircle the Savior as the family of Lehi and as individual families.

This image of the family circle bound together in prayer, focused and centered on the Christ, is the very essence of the plan of happiness. There were no contentions, no ill feelings among these children of Lehi. The Savior’s prayer softened all hearts.  “Behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written … The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father; … and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.” [2]

The Great Family Council

In this sacred moment Jesus taught us the meaning of the family. Each of us, as modern prophets have said, “is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” In the premortal realm, our lives centered on our knowledge and worship of God the Eternal Father. In a great family council we accepted His plan by which we can progress toward perfection and our divine destiny as heirs of eternal life, and for our families to be united eternally. [3]

That family circle was reconstituted by Adam and Eve and it has been expanding since. We have our own family circles. Family prayer is that sacred moment when the circle comes together once again to meet with Father in Heaven in the name of His Son. We must ask ourselves, do our family prayers bear any resemblance to this:

[Jesus] spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones. And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them. [4]

Do we experience anything like this in our family prayers? Does prayer in our family circles produce an outpouring of the Spirit, of warmth and love from on high, of a sense of the Savior’s presence? Or is it a perfunctory thing devoid of faith and spirituality, just a formality to be gotten over with?

The Home Is the Temple of the Family

Family prayer is not just another duty. It should be the very center of our family life. At family prayer children are converted to the Lord, hearts are softened, the Spirit comes unconfined into our homes, and we experience the joy recorded by the family of Lehi. President Joseph F. Smith taught that the “home is the temple of the family, in which the members of the household gather morning and evening, for prayer and praise to God, offered in the name of Jesus Christ.” [5]

The people of Lehi who experienced this family prayer circle with the Savior never wavered again in their faith. For nearly two centuries their descendants lived in peace because of the love of God in their hearts:

There were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God … They were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God [6]

Today we point with alarm to the evils confronting the family. Emotional and physical abuse, abandonment, domestic violence, abortion, pornography, sexual perversions and predations – all these are simply modern names for the evils that the family of Lehi lived without during their all-too-short period of peace. Those families did succeed in living above these things, not because of fear or legislation or parental threats, but because of the love of Jesus Christ in their hearts. They succeeded because of the profound meaning to each child of the family prayer circle.

Prayer in the Family Circle

A family centered on a burning, ever-renewing testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ need not fear the evils of the world. What parents should fear is the consequence of neglecting that testimony. They should fear the warning of President Joseph F. Smith: “It is a simple thing to pray, yet how generally this duty is neglected. Parents forget to call together their households and invoke upon them the blessings of God; they are too often in a hurry, or are perplexed so much with the affairs of life as to forget the obligations they are under to the Almighty.

  Prayer in the family circle may be looked upon by some Latter-day Saints as a very simple thing, but its neglect will produce very serious results.”

A hurried “perplexity with the affairs of life” is perhaps the greatest threat to the faithful Latter-day Saint family. Parents send the wrong message to children when affairs of the world take precedence over affairs of the Spirit. They subliminally teach their children that the things of the world, not the Savior, are at the center of family life. Note the devastating results of an overemphasis on “the affairs of life”:

Now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel … And they began to be divided into classes … the power of Satan did get hold upon their hearts … they did willfully rebel against the gospel of Christ; and they did teach their children that they should not believe. … and it came to pass that two hundred and forty and four years had passed away.” [7]

Please note that it took 44 years, less than a couple of generations, for pride to turn to division in the families, and for division to turn to outright rebellion.

If you are a parent – or intend to become a parent – ask yourself: What will my descendants be like in 44 years, say, around the middle of the century? Will they be faithfully centering their lives on the Lord, encircling the family table and the altars of the temple in prayer and unity and love for one another and the Gospel? Or will they be strangers to one another, fruitlessly looking for happiness in the wrong places, possibly even “willful rebels against the Gospel of Christ”? What will be my legacy to them? Will my children remember the sacredness and peace of my Christ-centered family circle, and pass that legacy on to their children? Or will they have no such memories?

Parents Have a Sacred Duty

Modern prophets teach, “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives – mothers and fathers – will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” [8]

The Lord feels so strongly about this parental accountability that He warns:

Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, 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 by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. [9]

When a child comes into a family, the Lord has entrusted the parents with the most precious charge He can give; thus, the most severe warnings attach to those who abuse that sacred trust in any of these ways:

  • Abortion.
  • Child Abuse.
  • Neglect.

By contrast, prophets teach us that “husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children” and that “happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” [13]

The Eternal Marriage Covenant

The eternal marriage covenant is not actually made between husband and wife: it is made with the Lord. When we are married in the temple, we make certain promises to God. If we break these promises, we are not merely breaking faith with a spouse but violating a solemn covenant made with our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ. Again, Jesus Christ is at the center of an eternal marriage. If husband and wife continually remember Him, doing all that they do “in the name of the Son,” [14] they will “have the privilege of coming up on the morning of the first resurrection clothed with immortality and eternal life, and resume the relationship that existed between them in this life, the relationship of husband and wife, father and mother, parents to their children, having laid the foundation for eternal glory and eternal exaltation in the kingdom of God.” [15]

Therefore, as President Joseph F. Smith taught, “Nothing should be permitted to come in between you – father and mother, husband and wife; there never should be a thing permitted to come between you and estrange you one from another; you should not allow it … Is it not better to … bury each other’s faults and not magnify them?” [16]

To Receive a Little Child Is to Receive the Savior

When children are born, we receive them in the name of Christ. We cherish them, love them tenderly, and remember with soberness the following promise:

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said … whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.[17]  

To receive a little child into the home is to receive the Savior, and to receive the Savior is to receive eternal life. Such a family – bound together for eternity by a covenant with the Son of God, where husband and wife are at one in Him, where children are welcomed as we would welcome the Son Himself – is promised the highest and holiest of blessings, as President Spencer Kimball observes.

A Glimpse of Heaven

When asked if he had ever glimpsed heaven, President Kimball replied:


  Just an hour ago. It was in the holy temple across the way. The sealing room was shut off from the noisy world by its thick, white-painted walls; the drapes, light and warm; the furniture, neat and dignified; the mirrors on two opposite walls seeming to take one in continuous likenesses on and on into infinity; and the beautiful stained-glass window in front of me giving such a peaceful glow … A well-groomed young man and an exquisitely gowned young woman, lovely beyond description, knelt across the altar. Authoritatively, I pronounced the heavenly ceremony which married and sealed them for eternity on earth and in the celestial worlds. The pure in heart were there. Heaven was there.

When the eternal marriage was solemnized, and as the subdued congratulations were extended, a happy father, radiant in his joy, offered his hand and said, Brother Kimball, my wife and I are common people and have never been successful, but we are immensely proud of our family.’ He continued, This is the last of our eight children to come into this holy house for temple marriage. They, with their companions, are here to participate in the marriage of this, the youngest. This is our supremely happy day, with all of our eight children married properly. They are faithful to the Lord in church service, and the older ones are already rearing families in righteousness.’

I looked at his calloused hands, his rough exterior, and thought to myself, Here is a real son of God fulfilling his destiny.’

Success?’ I said, as I grasped his hand. That is the greatest success story I have heard. You might have accumulated millions in stocks and bonds, bank accounts, lands, industries, and still be quite a failure. You are fulfilling the purpose for which you were sent into this world by keeping your own lives righteous, bearing and rearing this great posterity, and training them in faith and works. Why, my dear folks, you are eminently successful. God bless you.’ [18]


[1] 3 Ne. 17:11, 13.

[2] 3 Ne. 17:15-17.

[3] The Family: A Proclamation to the World,  2-3.

[4] 3 Ne. 17:23-24.

[5] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 25-26.

[6] 4 Ne.1:15-17.

[7] 4 Ne. 24-40.

[8] The Family: A Proclamation to the World, 6.

[9] D&C 68:25, my emphasis.

[10] Hallen, C.L. “The sanctity and importance of human life.” In Strengthening Our Families. Ed. D.C. Dollahite. Bookcraft, 2000. p. 209; Isaiah 49:15-16.

[11] Matt. 18:6.

[12] Mosiah 4:14.

[13] The Family: A Proclamation to the World, 6, 7.

[14] Moses 5:8.

[15] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 181.

[16] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 180-181.

[17] Matt: 18: 2, 4-5.

[18] Spencer W. Kimball, “Glimpses of Heaven,” Ensign Dec. 1971, 36.