Editor’s Note: In this final article of the 12-part series, Richard reviews how distinctive and theologically encompassing our belief in a Parental God is, and how much it can influence how we think, how we feel, and how we act in the day to day. If you have missed any of the series you are invited to find the other 11 articles HERE.
Author’s Note: Thank you for reading this series. Your comments, most of which have come to me privately via the link at the end of each article, have helped me to expand my own view and to better grasp just how unique and pivotal is our beloved doctrine of Heavenly Parents. I will be a little more personal in this final article—and speak more in the first person. When you finish reading, please use that closing link to send any additional input or feedback on the series or on any part of it. If you are like me, writing will help you clarify your own thoughts, and it will certainly help me as I work to transform these articles into a book.
Joy, Gratitude and Power
I want to end this series by talking about the Joy, the Gratitude and the Power that comes with Belief in Heavenly Parents. If we deeply and truly believe in a Parental God, what are the ramifications in terms of what else that allows us to believe? What burdens does it lift from us? How does it help us with setting priorities and making decisions? How does it affect and determine our character? How does it increase our peace and harmony, and decrease our anxiety and depression?
President Ballard has said, “The foundational fact of heavenly parentage is not just my truth or your truth, it is eternal truth.”
How does full acceptance of that eternal truth change us? How does it affect how we view other people? How does it impact how we treat and respect our spouses and our own children? How does it resolve our faith crises? How does it help us answer our critics? How does it change how and for what we pray?
I feel that each of us needs to think about and answer these questions for ourselves. And I believe that with our personal answers will come stronger personal testimony and deeper consistency and connections between the various facets of our faith.
The Trunk of our Theology
I like to think of the doctrine of a Parental God as the trunk of our theological tree—from which grow all of the beautiful branches of the Restored Gospel.
If I were to try to name the branches that spring so naturally from that trunk, my list would begin with what is listed below:
Think of it this way, IF we believe in the trunk of loving Heavenly Parents, THEN it is natural and logical to also believe in the following branches:
- Pre-mortality where we lived with our divine Parents
- Earth as a gift from our Parents and an orbiting school of agency and growth
- Our bodies, in Their image, as a further gift that allows us to be more like Them
- Gender and physical procreation as part of that gift, that we might provide bodies for spiritual siblings
- Complete gender equality and interdependence with vast potential for synergy
- Family as the basic unit of society and as the prime way in which we can model ourselves after Them
- Christ as not only our Lord and Savior, but as Their firstborn son and our perfect eldest brother
- The deepest meaning of the first two great commandments to love our Heavenly Parents and all our spirit siblings
- An opportunity-equalizing spirit world following this earth where any growth and progression opportunities missed on this earth continue to be extended to us
- The need to respect and be tolerant of all people as our equals in our Heavenly Parents’ eyes
- Faith in our repeated ability to repent and in God’s loving and endless forgiveness
- The concept and objective of returning to Them and finding ourselves more like Them
- The covenant path and the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, all leading to being with Them and being like Them.
- The doctrine and challenge of putting family first and being true and faithful to these covenants
- The beauty of Their reflection in all things—in nature and in each of us
- The extreme and preeminent importance of Turning the Hearts of parents to children and of children to parents, both here and on the other side
- The true nature and power of the Priesthood—of our capacity to tap into and righteously use God’s power
- Repentance and forgiveness through the Atonement and ransom of our Eldest Brother
- The combination of justice and mercy that maximizes our growth and gives us second chances
Taken separately, each of these is a remarkable blessing and insight of the Restoration. Taken together, they are the beautiful and harmonious branches springing with life and power from our Theological trunk of a personal Parental God.
Understand by thinking like parents who want Joy for their children
Try to think now like a parent, whether you are one or not. Would you want to live with your children and teach and guide them until you felt they were ready for and in need of the additional freedom and growth that would come when they were on their own? Would you have some kind of plan for their well-being and happiness? Would you offer them second chances when they made mistakes—even if they take completely wrong and painful directions? Would you hope that they prioritized and loved their own families like you have loved them?
All that we know about exaltation, about the Great Plan of Happiness, about the Premortal life before this earth and the Spirit World after, about the need to put our families first, about God’s unconditional love but demanding standards for us….it all fits together better, and is more compelling and makes more sense in the paradigm of the Parental God—of our Heavenly Parents.
If we are parents here on this earth, or if we are children of parents (that would be pretty inclusive of everyone right?) then we understand that there is no other love quite as deep or as unconditional or as unending as the love for one’s child—unless it is the love for a spouse that we see as our eternal companion and partner and as half of the Oneness that can achieve exaltation. If this life is, as some have said, a “love school” then the main class in the curriculum is family—where we assume the roles, for the first time in eternity—roles that before this earth belonged only to God—the roles of husband, wife, parent, uncle, aunt, cousin. These are more than blood relationships, they are the expanding structure of our Heavenly Parents extended family; indeed, they are and will become the very government of God.
As missionaries, we teach that we came to earth to gain bodies and to be tested, and we do it in the context of becoming more like God. But when we really think about it, the thing about mortality that truly makes us more like our Heavenly Parents is to become parents ourselves. As parents, we experience total, irrational and unconditional love for our children, and thus we begin to understand, on a deeper and more personal level our Hevenly Parents’ love for us.
Most of us know, in our most lucid hours, that our deepest joy comes from our families—from our covenants with spouse, from our stewardship of children, from deep bonds with cousins and nieces and nephews. Is it all sunshine and roses? Not by a long shot, but we are not talking about mere happiness here, we are talking about JOY—about the joy that comes as much from challenge and pain as from peace and plenty—the joy that Nephi said was the purpose of this life—”[Eve and] Adam fell that man [and women] might be [mortal]; and men [and women] are [mortal] that they might have joy.”
An anonymous verse that I have always loved goes “Happiness is a thing of here and now, the bright leaf in the hand, the moment’s sun; which lifts the bird more surely on its wing. When things go well, happiness may start, but JOY is secret smiling of the heart.”
And if these earthly families of ours can create such great joy, try to imagine the joy that can and does and will come through our Heavenly Parents. If we find joy now in greeting a returning missionary or welcoming a family member for a visit, imagine the joy of returning to our Heavenly Home. If we find joy now in pleasing a parent or serving a brother, imagine the joy of finding that we have pleased our Heavenly Parents or of assisting in some way in serving Christ or loving Their family.
And think of the power of it! By ourselves we are so little, so impotent, so insignificant. But as literal children of our Parental God, we are heirs of all They have and we can wield and use and magnify the Priesthood Power of their Son and our Savior.
It is our understanding of these things, and our heart-felt and often-expressed gratitude for them that gives joy to others and to God as well as to ourselves.
The danger for Church members—for we fortunate few who have the Restoration of Christ’s Church and a testimony of our Parental God—is that we take this rare and precious knowledge for granted. For those of us who have grown up with it, that is an easy thing to do. This joy and gratitude is a thing that needs constant re-kindling and deliberate and consistent fresh-renewal.
Love for and understanding of Heavenly Parents gives us a wonderful and otherwise impossible oxymoron of confident humility. We are sure and faithful and confident because we are God’s children and can tap into His power, but we are meek and humble because we grasp that we are nothing without Him and that the gap between His perfection and our imperfection is so incalculably wide.
How do we Emulate and Implement what we Know?
The minute we believe in President Oak’s statement “Our theology begins with Heavenly Parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.” it begs the question HOW do we aspire.
The big question (it is always the big question) is “What do we DO about all this?” “How do we implement our beliefs? How do we live up to the gifts of the Restoration? How do we emulate our Heavenly Parents? How do we follow Their will and how do we find and fulfill the foreordinations they sent us here with?
Article #10, two weeks ago, presented a list of 15 things we know about God’s parenting, and challenged us to follow that example. Doing the same kind of specific defining and emulating with the relationship, the marriage and the oneness of our Heavenly Parents is harder to delineate or define because we have virtually no direct revelation or information on our Heavenly Mother, or on Her partnership with our Heavenly Father. In fact, all of what we know about the relationship between our Heavenly Parents is by inference—but it is the strongest kind of inference, since They tell us much about what our own eternal marriages should be within the contest of Their desire that we become like Them.
God tells us to strive to be equal partners in our marriages, and to care for and respect each other on every level. He tells us to love each other completely and exclusively—even to leave father and mother and cleave to each other. His prophets suggest that we can find oneness and synergy in our marriages such that our combined total is greater than the sum of our two parts.
Thus, we know by inference that these are the characteristics and qualities of Their perfect union, and while we can never in this life approach that perfection in our marriages, we can point our relationships in the same directions and seek a similar trajectory that will, over eternity, return us as families within Their Family.
The other question, and certainly not one that I have the right or prerogative or wisdom to answer, is about what the Church can do to spread the Restoration’s pivotal knowledge of our Parental God and our eternal view of marriage and families.
Perhaps some light is shed by what President Oaks said immediately before the phrase “Our theology begins with Heavenly Parents” that this series has gone back to so often. He said, “The purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help all of the children of God understand their potential and achieve their highest destiny. This church exists to provide the sons and daughters of God with the means of entrance into and exaltation in the celestial kingdom. This is a family-centered church in doctrine and practices.”
Perhaps this will be the missionary message of the coming decade. Young missionaries, though not parents or marriage partners or experts in any way, are the product of a Church and a culture that succeeds far beyond the world on family matters. These young missionaries are examples of a family centered Church, and they can share both “doctrine and practices.” They can help people learn the practices of family home evenings, of searching and discovering their ancestry, and of holding family councils.. And from those “practices” it is an easy transition to the “doctrine” of Heavenly Parents and the Premortal Life and the Plan of Salvation.
Let me end with some numbers to remind us of the rarity of our paradigm: There are 2.5 billion Christians in the world who refer to God as “Father.” Among them, 995 out of every 1,000 use the term Father figuratively, or symbolically, or metaphorically. The other five out of every thousand use the term literally. Those five are we. How blessed we are.
Thank you for reading this final 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 reply there if you would like to reserve a copy of the forthcoming book Our Parental God which will be based on these articles.
If you wish to hear further discussion of this article, it is the topic of the latest episode of our Podcast “Eyres on the Road” which is available on your favorite podcast app or at https://byuradio.org/eyresontheroad. I would also love to have you follow and comment on my weekly meditations on Christ on Instagram @RichardLindaEyre.
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.