Editor’s Note: This is the eighth article in Richard Eyre’s 12-part series on The Parental God. Access the first seven articles HERE. At this point in the series, Richard will take a hiatus for summer reunions and family gatherings, and the series will resume as school begins in August.
Author’s Note: I said in the opening article that I can’t write this series but with the guidance of recorded revelation from ancient and modern Prophets. Let me reiterate here that I am neither qualified nor authorized to declare or even to suggest anything about the nature of God other than by calling attention to what the Restoration has revealed. What I am attempting to do is to organize what we know from prophetic and official Church sources in a way that prompts personal pondering and prayer about our Parental God and perhaps draws us closer even as it influences how we think and how we live our lives, particularly within our families. Because, while I am not a theologian or a religious authority, I am one who believes deeply in eternal families and who has written and spoken about family topics around the world for more than four decades—and I believe that the ultimate example of marriage and parenting is our Heavenly Parents.
The Three most Important Relationships
When asked to name our most valued and important relationships, it is common to say, “With my spouse, with my children, and with God.”
And the more we think about these relationships, and the more conscious we are of them and of their importance, the more we work on them and the better they tend to become.
One way to think about these relationships is in the context of and within the example of our Heavenly Parents. Learning all we can about Them, and pondering what we know of Their relationships and of the love and model they provide us, can be enlightening as we prioritize and pursue each of the key relationships in our own lives.
While we can’t compare our imperfect relationships with God’s perfect ones, we can learn much that will benefit our parenting as we ponder the Parental God, much that will benefit our marriages as we ponder the Married God, and much that will benefit our faith as we ponder what we know of the nature and the glory and the love of God.
The underlying theme of this series is the joy and peace of trying to view Deity in the familial and loving context of a Parental God rather than the distant and sometimes frightening context of a Sovereign God.
But we need to remember that our Heavenly Father is also a Sovereign God. He is the King of Heaven and Earth. His Church is called the Kingdom of God on Earth, and His abode, where we hope to regain His presence is called the Kingdom of Heaven. He created the universe and reigns in glory and sublime power. (And “kingdom” is gender inclusive, meaning a kingdom and a queendom in the neutral form of language.) God is often called King in the Old Testament; and in the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew refers to the Kingdom of Heaven, the Gospels of Mark and Luke talk of the Kingdom of God and Paul speaks of the Kingdom of the Lord. In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin counsels his people to serve their Heavenly King.
The Church’s Gospel Topics Essay on Spirit Children of Heavenly Parents begins with “God is not only our Ruler and Creator; He is also our Heavenly Father. All men and women are literally the sons and daughters of God. Because we are the spirit children of God, we have inherited the potential to develop His divine qualities. ‘Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body’ (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith , 335).”
Our Heavenly Parents are also our eternal King and Queen. Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone said it clearly, “We are all born to be kings in the Kingdom of God. Our Father is a king. Ensign, nov. 75
And an editorial footnote of History of the Church 5:254, quotes Joseph Smith as saying: “Come to me; here’s the mysteries man hath not seen, Here’s our Father in heaven, and Mother, the Queen.”
Our Heavenly Parents’ Family is their Kingdom where He is the King and She is the Queen.
And Jesus Christ is the Heir, the Creator and God of this world, the Only Begotten Son, the Means to the End of Their Plan of Happiness, and all of the other titles and roles that were listed in article 7. And we know that, during the Millennium, Christ will “rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords.” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2000, 3).
And remarkably, almost unbelievably, we, each of us, His younger spiritual brothers and sisters, can become joint heirs with Him. As Paul said to the Romans, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” Romans 8: 16-17
The beauty of it is that all of this majesty and glory does not detract in any way from the Personal and Parental nature of our Heavenly Parents. Rather, it inherits to us the potential of God’s power, the hope and aspiration to someday return to Them, and to be ever more like Them and like Their Son. It holds the hope that we will also become, in that distant future, Kings and Queens in His kingdom. We, His children here on earth, are trying to return and gain entrance into that Kingdom of Heaven. As the Apostle John said, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2
But even as we glory in this fact, and as we add to the awe we feel for the King of Kings, let us not overplay the “sovereign” description of God. Calling God a King originated in cultures where the most powerful and important metaphor available was that of Kings and Rulers. So, in striving for the language of ultimate respect, writers of holy writ used and tried to go beyond that metaphor, calling God “King of Kings.” But the comparison is inadequate and may also become misleading if we think of a King as someone who demands tribute from his subjects or who cares more about his own power or possessions than about those over whom he rules.
And let us make no mistake, God’s form of government is a Family Kingdom. We are that family, His family. And, organized and orchestrated by His Priesthood, the family is, in the words of President John Taylor, “the Government of God.” So if we are to think of Him as a King, let us think of Him as a Father-King whose work and glory is our immortality and eternal life, and who wants to give to us, His children, all that He has.
Still, there is some usefulness and truth and humility in the royal reference, because our relationship with the Godhead must be not only familial, but worshipful. C.S. Lewis reminded us of this when he said “Beware of supposed Christians who possess insufficient awe of Christ.” And Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “The more we contemplate where we stand in relationship to Christ, the more we realize that we do not stand at all, we only kneel.”
All this considered, it is the Parental God that is the hallmark of the Restoration and the core of our Divine testimony, not the Sovereign God. Ours is a Parental God and a Divine Son that are perfect and that we worship in awe even as we hope for progression toward what and where They are.
Our Calling as Parents, from which we are never Released
Linda and I used to joke with our children that our form of family government was a “Benevolent Dictatorship.” Now that I think about it, that thought evolved gradually for us. Early on, with two or three small children, we felt like we wanted a family democracy, where we all had an equal say in things. But once the kids had the majority, we quickly changed our tune and reminded them that we were the parents, and while we welcomed and appreciated their input, we would make the decisions—indeed, a kind of Benevolent Dictatorship. The problem was, of course, that we often were neither very benevolent or very good dictators. And they soon grew old enough and wise enough that the democracy idea quickly re-emerged.
God’s government and our Heavenly Parents could be thought of as the perfect Benevolent Dictatorship, but the description falls short because They recognize and respect, and always have, the agency of Their children. God gives us commandments (loving council from a wise Father) but does not dictate that we obey them. He gives us the Plan of Happiness, but it is we who must decide if we will follow it. He gives us the Covenant Path, but it is we who choose whether or not to stay on it.
Putting our best efforts into trying, in our imperfect and mortal way, to follow Their parental example is the subject of a future article in this series.
When we try to define God’s form of government, none of our earthly terms or forms work, and we begin to understand that His is a Familial Order, a Family Kingdom of Heaven.
The Covenant of Eternal Marriage
When we speak of the Covenant Path, or of a Familial Government of God, or of the beautiful truth that “Families are Forever” it behooves us to remember that families here on earth are different than families there in the hereafter, in His Kingdom of Heaven. It is true to say that we can be together with our spouse and children forever, except that our children will not be children anymore—they will be married and have their own children, who also will not be children anymore, and so on.
We hope to still be with our children in the Kingdom of Heaven, but not in nuclear families like those that many have now here on earth. Thus, perhaps even more there than here, the familial relationship that matters most is with our spouse—with the person that we can literally be with, in oneness, forever.
Because of this, as we make our way along the covenant path, one vastly important point on that path, whether it happens here and now or in later in the millennium or spirit world, is the Covenant of Eternal Marriage. In the Church’s official Institute Teacher’s Manual, under the heading The New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, we read, “We have been promised that through obedience to the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, we may become like God and live forever as families in His presence.”
Learning all we can about God’s union, about the marriage and oneness of our Heavenly Parents who have ordained eternal marriage as a possibility for us all, is the subject of a future article in this series.
The Blessing of Knowing the Parental Nature of God
In this busy, sometimes frantic world where achievements are so valued, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that it is our relationships—not our achievements—that matter most and that will carry forward to the next life. It is these relationships that our Parental God put us on this earth to develop, and it is Their example that we can look to and try to follow. And it is our relationship with Them—“knowing Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent”—that can draw us ever closer to where They are and to who They are.
What an incalculable blessing it is to know the Parental nature of God.
Because that knowledge can guide us in each of the three relationships discussed in the first paragraph of this article:
Our relationship with God, our Heavenly Parents: Can we balance and blend the awe of worship with the intimacy of the familial?
Our relationship with our (Their) Children: Can we balance and blend our stewardship for them as our kids with our respect for them as our brothers and sisters?
Our relationship with our Eternal Partner Spouse: Can we balance and blend our united oneness with the synergy of our individual gifts?
On what will we ultimately be judged?
On our partnership and on our stewardship
What is our partnership?
It is the masculine/feminine perfectible entity emerging from the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage.
What is our stewardship?
It is our children, grandchildren and posterity.
What can we learn from our Parental God about Partnership and Stewardship?
Thank you for reading this eighth article, and please feel free to share your inputs and thoughts and questions directly with me by going to https://valuesparenting.com/contact-eyres/. You can also hear further discussion of this article on our Podcast “Eyres on the Road” which is available on your favorite podcast app or at https://byuradio.org/eyresontheroad. You are also invited to follow the weekly meditations on Christ on Instagram @RichardLindaEyre.
And please continue reading in the early Fall when we will resume this series with the first of the final four articles.
Richard Eyre is the New York #1 Bestselling Author of more than 50 books, a dozen of which are on parenting and marriage. He believes that the ultimate parenting and marriage example is God.