If strong and loving families are the solution to our world's problems, then we need to understand what a family is, or the definition of family. Recently in our society there has been confusion around the definition of family. Some define family in the traditional natural way with a father and a mother and their children. Others say it is anyone, male or female, who lives together in a household, or anyone who wants to live together and be a "family". Obviously these differing opinions can be confusing and make it difficult to determine just what a family is.
I was raised as a Christian in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We believe that a family is created when a man and a woman make legally binding marital vows with each other. We follow the pattern that God created for us to follow in Adam and Eve; the first man and woman on this earth. In my faith, we believe that marriage is a commitment that a man and woman make to each other for this life, and for all eternity; that families can be together forever. It is a commitment that we take very seriously. Family is not just important to us, it is everything! We also believe that the purpose of marriage is to create a family by fulfilling the commandment given by God to "multiply and replenish the earth", through bearing and raising children in love and righteousness. When society follows this God given pattern, we "fulfill the measure of our creation" and we experience our greatest joy. Not only do we experience lasting joy and happiness in our own family, but we perpetuate the family, the basic fundamental unit of society for generations, thus sustaining a strong, sustainable and vibrant society.
Though you may not share my beliefs about the family, consider the principles taught in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" written by the leaders of my faith in 1995:
WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
IN THE PREMORTAL REALM, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
WE DECLARE the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.
HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and 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.
THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.
WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
Though society is redefining what a family is, it does not change the Creator's definition. As creations of God, we would do well to trust the wisdom and plan of our Creator. His ways are not always our ways, and sadly, often our ways are not always His ways. I have seen much evidence and many studies confirming that God's pattern for family is the best way to form and perpetuate strong and happy families and to raise strong, healthy and happy children. When we have chosen to create families in alternative ways, families and children often struggle to stay together and provide for each other's needs. I believe that every family, no matter what shape or size, has great value in society as long as they support and serve each other. But the most successful and enduring marriages and families follow the pattern given by God; those who have a married father and mother in the home "who love and care for each other and for their children....and who teach them to love and serve each other, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live". Studies and observation have shown that no other institution on earth can raise a child more successfully. As the pattern of family that God has ordained repeats through the generations, we assure the continuation of strong and loving individuals and families who contribute to society and support and sustain our future world. The traditional natural family is the solution to the world's problems and is the secret to a peaceful and happy life!
According to Linda and Richard Eyre, the authors of The Turning, "Families have historically played at least seven critical societal roles that no other group or institution can fully or adequately perform:"
The role of procreation (replenishing the population)
The role of roles. (Boys need a role model for becoming a man, and girls need a role model for becoming a woman.)
The role of nurturing (facilitating children's emotional growth and helping them develop into responsible adults).
The role of providing a lasting identity, something permanent in our lives as everything else (employment, residences, and so on) changes.
The role of instilling values. (Other institutions may help, but the buck stops with the family wherein values are applied as well as taught.)
The role of offering love and fulfillment to individuals at a level beyond what is obtainable elsewhere. (Children should receive unconditional love within families, and parents are refined and completed as persons through the selfless love they give to their children.)
The role of caring for the elderly (ideally in a personal or direct manner, but if not, at least in connection with institutional care)
Society cannot survive, let alone prosper, without these seven roles or functions, and no entity other than the family can perform the full list of roles as well or as efficiently. These can also be thought of as the core purposes of family and, to some degree, as the measurements of a family's success.
As a society, we have a duty and an obligation to future generations, to create, promote and protect the family. It is the foundation for our future success!