Someone recently asked about the LDS Doctrine of families being “together forever.” While it’s something we as LDS don’t fully comprehend, sometimes I think we don’t apply what we do know in a practical way. We just think of this video and stop thinking after that:
It’s the doctrinal equivalent of a Hallmark card.
But what does being married eternally really mean?
First, LDS doctrine teaches that there are three main “kingdoms” of heaven (the Telestial, Terestrial and Celestial):
After you die, you eventually get resurrected and judged and sent to one of these kingdoms. Now here’s the question:
If a man and woman (“Bob” and “Sue”) are married on Earth and they both die and get sent to the Telestial Kingdom, won’t they get to spend all eternity together?
From everything I can tell, yes. Our resurrected bodies will have our memories of our Earth life. So when Bob sees Sue in the Terrestrial Kingdom, they can hang out together and play tennis and watch Netflix together for the rest of eternity. And if their “kids” are there, then they can do it as a family.
But what if Bob ends up in the Telestial and Sue ends up in the Terrestrial? Well, eternity is a long time compared to the ~100 years we might get on Earth, so presumably they would eventually meet other people and make new friends. They would always remember the fun times they had on Earth with each other, but they would probably move on after a couple hundred centuries. And that’s assuming they even liked each other that much at the ends of their earthly lives.
So the key thing to being “Together Forever” as a family isn’t necessarily being Mormon. It’s making sure the people you want to be with end up in the same kingdom as you. So when missionaries tell a family that they aren’t going to be together in the eternities, they really don’t know. It’s entirely possible the members of that family will all end up together and get to play board games and eat popcorn (see: the video) for the rest of all eternity.
The only factor left in all of this is really one thing: can a man and woman have sex in the afterlife. This seems to be the only distinction between being with a spouse in the Celestial Kingdom compared to the other kingdoms.
For example, look at this lesson for college-age Mormons:
These quotes (from the link above) explain it nicely:
“Mortal persons who overcome all things and gain an ultimate exaltation will live eternally in the family unit and have spirit children, thus becoming Eternal Fathers and Eternal Mothers. (D&C 132:19–32.) Indeed, the formal pronouncement of the Church, issued by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve, states: ‘So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring.’ (Man: His Origin and Destiny, p. 129.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 517). – Bruce R. McConkie
“What do we mean by endless or eternal increase? We mean that through the righteousness and faithfulness of men and women who keep the commandments of God they will come forth with celestial bodies, fitted and prepared to enter into their great, high and eternal glory in the celestial kingdom of God; and unto them through their preparation, there will come spirit children. – Melvin J. Ballard
So an eternal marriage doesn’t mean being “together forever”, and it’s not about the kids you may have in this life. It means being together forever and having operational reproductive plumbing, and the eternal reproduction you’ll have by making new spirit children. That’s something they don’t mention in the video.
But to expand even on that point, the scriptures teach that our resurrected bodies are going to be perfect restorations of our human bodies in every way:
It doesn’t say that some people will have their sex organs sealed up or permanently deflated. So if everything is perfectly restored, then it’s conceivable that they won’t have the power to create spirit babies, but still be able to enjoy the other benefits of the act.
So the selling point might not even be “sex” itself. It really comes down to “eternal increase” and being “kings and priests (and queens)” over your spirit children.