During a recent road trip, my family and I decided to stop by the St. George temple visitors’ center, which is located not too far off the main I-15 freeway at the western Utah border near Arizona. Dedicated in 1877, the St. George temple is the oldest temple in the state of Utah, and I have heard that it has had more supposed sightings of dead spirits than any other temple. For example, it is documented in LDS writings that President Wilford Woodruff did work in this temple for the signers of the Declaration of Independence as well as John Wesley and Christopher Columbus.
So we stopped by and walked inside. One elderly missionary insisted that we see a 15-minute video titled “God´s Plan for His Family” that promises the viewer “a greater understanding of God’s plan for each of us in this uplifting “Must See” Exhibit” (emphasis theirs). This exhibit was cleverly done, as visitors spend a few minutes in each of the five different exhibits that were cleverly designed to look like different parts of a home, with a video screen in the background in each station. The story of a baby being born, kids growing up, and the tender care of grandparents and their death as well as their resurrection is told. Kleenex boxes were conveniently located throughout to help those whose heart strings were being pulled. Probably the biggest emotional climax was when the grandfather—whose familiar signal to those he loved was an outstretched hand as if to say “hello”—died. Soon after, his wife joined him in the celestial glory and they’re holding hands once more.
After the video, my family and I were taken into another room and we were asked what we thought of the presentation. This is the dialogue that took place between a sister missionary and me:
Eric: “When you die, do you believe that you will be with your family forever?”
Sister: “Oh yes.”
E: “Will you be in heaven as a daughter? Or a married woman and mother? Or a grandmother?”
S: “What do you mean?”
E: “What I mean is, the video we just watched makes it appear we will be with our nuclear family. The impression given is that you as a woman will be the wife, and yet your kids and their grandparents will be there too. But if these grandparents are faithful to the gospel, won’t they be in their own realm? And won’t you and your husband be in another realm? And each of your kids would be in their own realm, each of them with their eventual spouses. If so, this is much different than what was presented here.”
At this point, the sister (whose mission, she said, was ending the following week after 18 months) became very disoriented. She definitely had no answers. Because she must not have ever thought through these implications, she ended up excusing herself and then returned a few minutes later with one of the visitor center’s leaders. When the elderly gentleman came in, I explained my question. His response? Faithful Mormons will be in the Celestial Kingdom as mature adults. But, I said, that didn’t answer my question. Would he be there as a father? A son? A grandfather? The whole idea with its many possibilities (when you consider genealogical work) just boggles the mind. And, I asked, isn’t it true Mormonism teaches that God the Father was once like us and today is the father of all creation? Isn’t that His main job, as a “father,” and not as a “son” or “grandfather”? Do we have any evidence that God the Father’s grandfather lives in the same realm as Elohim? I’ve never heard this issue addressed in General Conference.
When the phrase “Families are Forever” is used, just what does that mean? According to the elder, it means that the family is “linked” together. They are not necessarily living in the same “house” but have the chance to be “together” through their connections. Again, I pointed out how different this was from what the video was portraying. As far as the possibility that certain members of the family were not faithful, he explained the Mormon idea that they would be required to exist in a lower realm (the terrestrial). Faithful Mormons in the celestial could go down to visit them, but these folks could never go up to visit the faithful Mormons. In other words, everyone in the family must be faithful for this “forever family” scenario to work. I guess we can forget about all the black sheep of our families. Or those family members who just don’t have what it takes.
The presentation at the St. George temple was very slick and emotion-driven. It would be easy for someone who was naively considering the LDS Church to join based on this manipulative piece alone. The way it was portrayed, strictly from a human level, seemed wonderful. Yet the video never mentioned anything about God, Jesus, or salvation by grace through faith. Doctrines were left alone. This presentation was all about being together with loved ones, whom we know end up leaving us at inopportune times through heart attacks and strokes. How desperately we want to see them again! How much we would give to be with them again! But with no basis in biblical truth or any type of logic, such a presentation is nothing more than a pie-in-the-sky promise, as empty as the words it took to deliver the message. How many fall for this promising message but with no basis in hope? Well, in the three minutes it took you to read this article, three more converts have been baptized into the church. Obviously the Mormons are good at growing their church using these methods and I’m afraid it’s just not going to go away anytime soon.