In purely practical terms, families group people together. You and your relations are recognized by your family name. In the Old Testament, we learn how Israel organized its people by taking “the sum of all the congregation . . . after their families, by the house of their fathers” (Numbers 1:2). But families serve far greater purposes than mere order.
What Is Family?
One simple way to define “family” is that it is a household with a father, mother, and children. Family also means people who are genetically related to each other, or descendants of a common ancestor. More broadly, family can include other loved ones in our lives.
But whether we’re referring to immediate or extended relations, those who are related by blood or those who are not, family fulfills an essential sociological and spiritual role.
Purpose of family
Family sustains society
A family is the most practical and efficient way to support and care for people in a society. Parents take on the responsibilities of providing food, clothing, shelter, and emotional care for their children. Society depends on families not only to care for its individual members, but also to sustain its laws by teaching moral values and to perpetuate the society through establishing future families.
Family is key to God’s plan
God also counts on the family to fulfill His purposes. He commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), and He instructed parents to teach His words “diligently unto [their] children” (Deuteronomy 6:7). It is through your family that God expects you to learn and carry out many of His commandments, become a better person, and ultimately be united with Him and your family in the eternities.
Qualities of a strong family
As mentioned above, biology is just one basis for measuring a family. People can refer to “family” when referencing any close relationship. But no matter their makeup, in order for families to be successful, there are generally certain qualities that they share. Several social scientists have studied various qualities of families and have identified six characteristics that strong families have in common.
Sociologists point to appreciation, the active display of love, gratitude, and enjoyment of individual qualities, as a key characteristic in strong families. Scriptures signal again and again the importance of demonstrating love. “Be ye kind one to another” (Ephesians 4:32), counseled Paul in the New Testament. Jesus put it simply when He said, “Love one another” (John 13:34). The Bible further counsels, “Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25) and “teach the young women . . . to love their husbands, to love their children” (Titus 2:4).
Unlike other relationships that may come and go over time, true family connections do not end. Strong families are loyal to each other in good times and bad. The Bible tells of a young woman named Ruth who, even after her husband died, remained devoted to her widowed mother-in-law. Ruth gave up her former religion, traveled to a foreign land, and worked to support herself and her mother-in-law, all because “she was steadfastly minded” in commitment to her family (Ruth 1:18).
Strong family relationships depend on frequent and honest communication. Talk to each other. Be serious. Have fun. Be the shoulder to cry on, the listening ear. Paul’s counsel in the New Testament applies to families today: Be “willing to communicate; laying up in store for [yourselves] a good foundation against the time to come” (1 Timothy 6:18–19).
When families are strong, they are the first place people turn to for support. Working together, family members are more likely to resolve economic, emotional, spiritual, and other problems.
People in strong families describe the importance of God or spirituality in their lives. These feelings of spirituality promote compassion and help family members overcome stress and see beyond their daily problems. Families are strengthened when “all [the] children [are] taught of the Lord” (Isaiah 54:13).
Spending regular, meaningful time together is one of the most important ways to strengthen family relations because it helps us to better know, love, appreciate, and understand each other. Spending time with family is an area that is prized by children and is often where parents most want to improve. Make family time a priority, and strengthen your family each day by spending meaningful time together.
Family, past and future
Your immediate family includes the people you probably know best and relate to most often, such as your spouse, children, parents, and siblings. However, you are part of a long line of generations who made—and will continue to make—your family complete.
Family history counts
Genealogy, the practice of tracing family lines, helps connect you with your ancestors. Some people study family history to identify health issues or physical traits. Others find a deeper, more personal connection to history through the records of their own family. You can also learn more about someone you were named after, or begin to better understand family stories and personalities. Why is family history important? Because your ancestors literally and figuratively make you who you are. Get to know them.
Future generations start now
The decisions you make and your relationships with your family are affecting future generations right now. It is inspiring when you realize that your knowledge, your job, your personality, your commitment to your values, and your outlook on life all help lay the foundation for those who come after you. How do you want to be remembered? Perhaps more important, what kind of people do you hope your future relatives will be?
Family is forever.
Whatever your present family status—single, married, widowed, orphaned, adopted, blended—you are part of a family right now. All people are sons and daughters of God, who loves you, just as mortal parents love their children. We “are children of the most High” (Psalms 82:6), and we lived with God before being born. Our Father in Heaven hopes that we all might return one day to live again with Him in heaven.
The path Heavenly Father planned in order for you to return to Him is founded on family and your obedience to commandments. As you teach and learn from immediate and extended family members, you can become a better person and best develop the traits God intends you to have.
When Isaac died, the Bible notes that he was “gathered unto his people” (Genesis 35:29). In other words, he was reunited with his family who had died before. When you die, you too can join past generations of family and rejoice with loved ones you know now—and family who you have yet to meet. In God’s plan for the family, we can all enjoy eternity with Him.