Perhaps one of the most remarkable and distinctive beliefs of the Mormon Church is that God has revealed information and insight that was lost about His plan for mankind, and about the family-centered purpose of this mortal existence..
We believe that all of us once lived with our Heavenly Parents in a pre-mortal life before this world was. There, as God’s spirit children, we developed and progressed until we were ready to enter this laboratory school of physical life. He knew us as individuals and sent us each into mortal circumstances where our challenges and opportunities would maximize our potential for growth. We understood, as sprits before coming here, that mortality would be full of risk and that pain and difficulty would be as much a part of it as the moments of fulfillment and joy.
This mortal sojourn on a physical planet where we could learn by our experience and our agency was a key part of God’s plan for His family, and at its core was our opportunity to have and to live in families of our own where we could develop new levels of love, commitment and sacrifice.
Thus we recognize babies who are born into this world as our spiritual siblings who come from our common home with God and who each already have distinctive personalities and characters developed during the course of their pre-earth existence. As our literal spirit brothers and sisters, children are worthy of our respect and diligent care, and parents are their stewards rather than their creators–who should do their best to discover who and what each of their children already are and to raise them accordingly. In this context, prayer for help in understanding and raising our children is a direct appeal to the real Parent, who knows them (and us) perfectly.
We believe that mortality’s goal, in simple terms, is to return with our families to God’s family and to be, upon that return, resurrected beings who are a little more like Him through the mortal experiences we have had and the choices we have made.
Since we believe that all mankind are literally brothers and sisters, searching out our ancestors and filling in and linking up our family trees is like doing the research and making the contacts for a massive family reunion.
In this everlasting perspective, marriage becomes profoundly important, as the beginning of a new family that will last forever, and that will be a sub-set of Gods family. Thus, marriages performed in our Temples are not “till death do us part” but “for time and all eternity.” And no one is left out. All are part of families, of extended families, and of Heavenly Father’s family. Those who, through life’s circumstances, find themselves without children or a lasting marriage relationship will have those opportunities in a later sphere of existence.
Because we see family life and commitment as central to life’s experience and God’s plan, the Church puts great effort and resources into the support of families. Programs and activities for children, youth, and families are extensive and absorb much of the resources, time, and energy of the Church’s all lay (volunteer) ministry. And for more than 100 years, the Church has been gathering every genealogical and ancestral record available and made these available to any person anywhere who wants to trace his roots and connect to his broader family.
In this context, we see the family as the basic unit not only of society and of the economy, but as the basic unit of God’s plan and of life’s purpose. Indeed, we believe that, in the hereafter where family relationships will be preserved, families and extended families will form the fundamental organization of the afterlife and the government of God.
Also in this context, we hope it will be easier to view the Church’s advocacy for marriage being defined as the contract between one man and one woman as having nothing to do with any sort of anti-gay sentiment and everything to do with every possible pro-marriage sentiment.