Mormons tend to have very traditional families. They have not practiced polygamy for well over one hundred years, and today promote a traditional two-parent home with a mother and a father.
Of course, not every Mormon family meets the ideal, but the ideal is still taught and members are encouraged to strive for it. They learn that God created marriage and families with Adam and Eve, and that families are central to God’s plan for His children. It’s within the family that children learn the gospel, are taught about love, responsibility, and self-discipline. Although church programs, school, and other outside activities can help to reinforce the values and characteristics parents want for their children, they can’t replace the parents.
When possible, one parent remains in the home to provide daily needs, while the other provides financially. Mormons believe that raising children is the highest calling. Nothing matters more than preparing a child for adulthood and eternity.
The church has many programs and teachings which help parents to do their jobs well. One well-known program is family home evening. Every Monday evening, Mormon families clear their calendars for an evening spent at home with just their own family. Although many churches, and even businesses now promote family nights, the Mormons have been holding them since 1915, when Joseph F. Smith, an early church prophet, encouraged church members to spend one evening at home as a family. In 1970, church leaders specifically designated Monday nights, in order to ensure no church meetings or activities would be held that might interfere.
Most families follow a specific pattern for their Family Home Evenings. They begin with a song and a prayer. Then a brief lesson is given on a gospel principal, a family concern, or anything else the family feels is needed in their home. The family then concludes with games and fun activities, followed by a treat. The evening ends with a song and a family bedtime prayer.
Family members usually rotate assignments, with smaller children sometimes helped by an older family member. In this way, even young children learn how to lead music or prepare a lesson, which trains them to perform similar tasks in church meetings when they’re older. Following the Mormon tradition, this training takes place in the security of the home.
Mormon families also make a special effort to hold family prayers every morning and evening, in addition to individual prayers and couple prayers (where the husband and wife pray together for their family.) Each day, they study the scriptures with their children, often part of a morning devotional that might include a prayer and a spiritual thought for the day. During this time, families read scriptures and talk about what they mean, so the children learn the gospel first from their parents.
The Church’s official website has materials to help parents carry out these traditions and also help them build strong families. In addition, parents can take classes on strengthening their marriages and improving their parenting skills, and even receive counseling for more serious situations. Young adults take classes that prepare them to marry and raise children. Even teens and children learn in their classes the importance of the family and how each member can contribute to its success.
Mormons place a strong emphasis on the family because they teach that family life is not just for this life, but can, if families work for it, continue into the eternities. By marrying in the Mormon temple, and then honoring their commitments to God and their families, they can take with them into Heaven those people they most love. They know a loving God would not make families so powerfully important to our hearts and joy and then rob us of them as we enter a place where we are supposed to be happier than we’ve ever been before. No loving family member wants to live forever without his or her family.