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RS/MP Lesson 42: “Family: The Sweetest Union for Time and for Eternity” (Joseph Smith Manual)

Posted by joespencer on August 30, 2009

Unfortunately, I have almost nothing to say about this lesson. All that follows consists of two brief notes.

There is a sense in which this lesson is backwards: the “From the Life of Joseph Smith” part of the lesson is the most heavily instructive, the most “doctrinal,” while the “Teachings of Joseph Smith” part of the lesson mostly dwells on Joseph’s unique family experiences. But this very point is perhaps instructive: Joseph had relatively little to teach about the nature of the family, because he lived it.

The only other point I wanted to make was that I find the introductory part of the lesson a bit surprising because it is so bold: not only does it not shy away from quoting D&C 132’s statement—“then shall they be gods”—but it quotes Joseph’s teachings about “hav[ing] children in the celestial glory.” Unfortunately, though, because of the essential inversion of the lesson, there is no real expansion on these teachings here—they are just reported.

I’m left wondering what else might be found in Joseph’s teachings that has here been missed . . . .

12 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 42: “Family: The Sweetest Union for Time and for Eternity” (Joseph Smith Manual)”

  1. Jon said

    It raises troubling questions for me. According to the arguments of DC 132, God’s direct commands supersede law and commandments as comprehended by human logic. But how do we know when the dictate is accurately conveyed from a prophet, as opposed to clouded or obscured by the sorts of historical anachronisms, language limitations and weakness of human prejudices that we acknowledge sometimes affect the articulation of revelation, despite the truth of its divine inspiration? We don’t reject the inspirational truth in the history of the BOM because of historical anachronisms that reflect the limitations of the human being through which they were conveyed. We don’t reject the underlying truth of inspired revelations about the increasing light and purity of the soul that accompany a movement towards Him just because this revelation has sometimes been misinterpreted and mis-articulated as having some bearing on skin pigmentation – even when those mistakes shamefully retarded acceptance of blacks as equals in their capacity to be worthy of the blessings of the priesthood until 1979. How do we know that the true underlying revelations about divinely sanctioned marriage, the blessings of family and eternal propagation haven’t been distorted by the human limitations of the prophets from which they are received in a way that misleads us into acting in a manner that is unjust according to the logic of human law and not justified by a direct order from Him that would supersede the logic of human law?
    We have to reject human logic in order to move towards faith given the problems with concrete belief in an ultimate divine personality. Similarly, we have to reject the constraints of the logic of human justice and law in order to move towards faithful obedience when receiving direct contradictory revelation. Clearly illegal orders from a limited human commander have to be rejected. Seemingly illegal orders from Him have to be followed because He does not err. The revelation that neither murder nor adultery is wrong if He commands or authorizes it has been used to justify misinterpretations of revelation that resonate with our prejudices rather than our righteousness. We can’t follow even the worldly dictates of true prophets blindly without sacrificing the agency that makes obedience meaningful.

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  3. Ethan said

    Just a thought I once heard from Daniel Peterson. If, as resurrected beings we retain our identity as male and female, it begs the question what purpose having sexual bodies in heaven is for. I have never heard a Religion address this issue, it’s a stunning ommision. Why retain the relics of sexual gender just to spend an eternity with them defunct? I assume men and women will continue to think and act as seperate gender in heaven. Something to think about since the whole purpose of gender is family driven.

  4. Ethan said


    How does D&C supersede human logic? Eternal progression is a perfect mirror of a human’s lifetime progression on Earth. I don’t see a conflict, rather the most elegant similitude in all of organized religion.

  5. Jim F. said

    Ethan, as soon as we start talking about resurrected bodies, I think we are in a realm where about all we can say about them is “I don’t know.” If you think about the descriptions of Christ’s resurrected body, it becomes clear that it is unlike anything we know. So there’s no reason to assume that gender means the same thing in the resurrection that it means for us here. It is true that many in the history of Mormonism have made the assumption that it does mean the same thing, just as they’ve assumed that “family” means the same thing though a few minutes reflection ought to disabuse them of the latter belief.

    (If everyone is an adult and all are sealed to one another, there can be no nuclear families. There appear to be only couples sealed to each other in some kind of order. That doesn’t look like family as we understand it here and now. I take it as interesting that Joseph say “that same SOCIALITY which exists among us here will exisst among us there.” “Sociality” seems to me to be a much broader notion than “family.” And, of course, the condition that is added–“only it will be coupled with eternal glory” adds to making it difficult to know what “sociality” means.)

    So, just as I think it is clear that we do not understand what family relations are like in the resurrection, I don’t think we know what gender will be like. So, it isn’t true that we MUST believe that to be a gendered god means that there will be sexual reproduction. Neither of course do I think that we cannot believe that. The point is that we don’t know either way.

  6. sjames said

    Interesting you should raise this, my wife and I were discussing similar things recently.

    I think it important to note that in the secular world ‘gender’ is often used to describe those behaviours and attitudes which are culturally accepted as appropriate ways of being a woman (femininity) and ways of being a man (masculinity). Whereas the sex of a person is biologically determined, ways of being a man or a woman are learned: they are constructed, reinforced, maintained and reconstructed over time through social practices. Such constructions of gender vary across cultures, social class and time.
    In the context of what is discussed above, such a definition potentially problematises the notion of a universal gendered ‘sociality’.

    From what we know, a resurrected biology differs markedly from what we now experience and inasmuch as that biology is associated with the gendered behaviour of resurrected beings it would suggest the existence of specific reproductive identities associated with that state, and as Jim F suggests, likely a different conception of family.

  7. jennywebb said

    All I know is that, as presented, the lesson in RS boiled down to “don’t henpeck your husband, and make a good effort to have dinner on time, the house calm and clean, and the children quiet.” Not that I’m advocating nagging, lack of food, or chaos, but it did seem to me there were more productive things to talk about …

  8. Kimberly said

    Wow, this is my first time to look at this blog, and it seems you are all so negative about the lesson. Noone gave any insight that I found helpful to teaching an uplifting lesson. You all just complained and found faults in the lesson.
    No thanks to any of you. If you don’t have something to offer of help and value, what’s the point of this blog? To just come and complain?
    By the way, it’s not ‘hen-pecking’ to be told to treat your husband with respect and keep a orderly home. I am of the belief that as women, we have a lot of influence in our home and over our husbands. If they are feeling loved, nurtured and needed, then they will in turn love and nurture us. It is not at all demeaning to women to ‘serve’ your husband. Doing so only leads to a spirit of common love and service to each other and there is no need for fault-finding, score-keeping, and ‘nagging’ on either part.
    Enjoy your bash-blog. I know I won’t be back!

  9. Jim F. said

    Looks like Kimberly only read this one thread. Too bad she didn’t explore a little further.

    She’s also factually wrong about this particular thread. If you include the original post, only 3 out of the 6 posts before hers say something negative about the lesson. (I don’t count the corss-link at comment #2). On the other hand, she is probably right that we haven’t provided her with anything uplifting that she could use for her lesson. Our apologies for that.

  10. Chelsea O. said

    I agree that many comments made regarding this lesson appeared “negative,” but do not honestly feel that was the motivation for bringing them up. My husband, for one, often ponders things deeper than cursory lesson topics (as Sjames expressed) and I found this delving pleasantly surprising.
    Yes, there wasn’t much in the way of where to go with a lesson, but I find better lessons when I do the lesson with my own spiritual prompts. Such a task is much easier to achieve when I don’t procrastinate as I am doing now.
    It’s important, with posts, to read them thoroughly and try to unbiasedly see where the author is going with his (or her) point.
    Besides this soapbox tirade, I thought to mention that I had never considered it a contradiction to be adult couples and eternal families in the hereafter. When first leaving home and “cleaving” to a spouse, one is still connected to siblings, parents, extended family, etc. We just each have our own houses and family units. It’s like a chemical bond -it’s been years, but that weaker one that links the groups of molecules together in a substance.

  11. Jim F. said

    Chelsea O., I didn’t say that there is a contradiction between being adult couples and eternal families, only that “family” doesn’t mean, in most of our usage, “adult couple.” We can use the word to refer to adult couples, but that’s an exception to ordinary usage rather than the norm, whereas it appears that in the Celestial Kingdom it will be the norm. When people talk about eternal families in our culture, they almost always talk as if a father and mother with younger children at home is the model. But if there are younger children in our famililes in the hereafter, I think they will be spirit children rather than those sealed to us here.

  12. AJ said

    I agree with nearly everything above! Yes, there was some negativism, but I can deal with it; I will be, though, because I have found this site quite helpful in the past in opening my mind to other avenues I hadn’t thought of, even if not discussed here; and I agree with Jim and Chelsea in that we have to consider what “family” structure God currently has — He is creating worlds and spirit children, while his resurrected children are either serving Him or creating their own worlds. The “families are together forever” thought is similar to this earth life — we are still connected after the children are grown and gone, and still have close ties and gatherings and reunions, etc.

    My thoughts on the lesson haven’t been presented yet, and may be too late to help anyone. I am concerned with all the women in my RS who have either never been married, are divorced (but maybe sealed to that spouse), are married but never been sealed, and so forth. I am concerned about their feelings and their faith. The sealing ordinance is an individual, saving ordinance that is necessary for exaltation in the celestial kingdom, but we can’t have that ordinance unless we have a spouse to be sealed to. But there are many who won’t have that ordinance in this life. Is that why so many women were sealed to Joseph Smith after his death? Just to be sure they could have that ordinance? Food for thought.

    Any way, just as baptism and the other temple ordinance for children who die before the age of accountability is not necessary to do, I can see that the sealing ordinance is something that at least women do not have to worry about in this life if they continue to strive to be righteous. There are many unknowns and this is where faith and trust must take over.

    I’m no gospel scholar, but I hope this may help someone see a different perspective.

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