I'm lucky. I have a close, loving family and was recently fortunate enough to have some of my family members come to visit me in Norway for the first time. I love my family and I'm thankful for the relationship that we have with each other.
My family is not limited to biological relatives or in-laws, however. I have four biological brothers, but I also have a brother from Afghanistan (you can read my previous posts for the background story). We're neither biologically nor legally related, but we're family nonetheless.
So how does this type of family fit into Mormon theology?
In early Mormonism, there was a practice known as the Law of Adoption, in which men who were not related to each other were sealed to each other, like as fathers and sons. The practice was eventually discontinued and there is nothing comparable in modern Mormonism that I am aware of, but it's an interesting concept in terms of connecting people for eternity that wouldn't otherwise have a reason to be sealed to each other.
Aside from Islam, which teaches that Muslim couples are married for eternity, I'm not aware of any other religion outside of Mormonism that believes in eternal marriage or eternal families. From what I understand, most other Christian denominations would point to Matthew 22:30 as evidence for the marriage (or perhaps family) relationship being dissolved after death:
"At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they
will be like the angels in heaven."
I understand that to mean that in heaven, all people will be of equal standing and that there will be no husbands, wives, children, etc. Instead, perhaps we'll just be one big "happy family" as opposed to many individual family units.
For those of us who have had a happy family life, the prospect of an eternal family is, of course, something that gives us a lot of hope and comfort. But some people would rather spend eternity with their friends than their families. Some have strained family relationships, or have been abused and betrayed by their family members. Or others may have a good relationship with their families, but they may also have close friends that they love like their families.
I think that most people of faith believe that they will be reunited with their loved ones after death, but how many believe that they will still be a family? And what is the significance of that family bond in the Hereafter? Is it symbolic or literal? And will our eternal family only consist of those who were our "real" family in this life?
I've learned so much in recent months about family and what it means to me. I want to be with my family forever, but my family extends beyond the traditional Mormon definition.
Who is your family? Is it limited to those who are related to you biologically or legally? Do you have friends that you love as family? Do you believe you will spend eternity with them? And if so, how do you think your relationship will be?