The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that our relationship to our wife, our children, our parents and our siblings is a relationship that exists through our body. We were all spirit brothers and sisters before we were born here. My parents were just my spirit brothers and sisters there. My children were as well, as was my wife. Now there is nothing wrong with brothers and sisters, but then again, everyone I have ever met or that has ever lived on earth is also my spirit brother and sister, whereas my parents and children have a relationship with me that is completely unique. That relationship came about through my being born. It is a relationship that is implicit to my body and its relation to their bodies. Before I was born I had no body and was just their spirit brother and sister. When I was born, I took on a body. Through that body and its relation to the bodies of my parents a completely unique and wonderful relationship was formed – I became their son. Similarly to become a husband, as opposed to just a close friend to my dear wife was a relationship that implicitly required a body. Lastly, as my wife and I have used our bodies to create children other spirit brothers and sisters of ours took on bodies through birth. By that means they were transfigured into something new, unique and wonderful to us. They became our children.
The point I am trying to make is that the most wonderful of relationships, the relationships within a family, all exist through the physical bodies of the family members. Without their bodies they were nothing more than spirit brothers and sisters. Sure, we loved each other as spirit brothers and sisters in the premortal world. But then again, presumably so did everyone else you have ever met.
The unique relationship that exists between a parent and a child is created using the bodies of the parents and the body of the child. If you have a son or daughter then after that child was born there is also born in the heart and soul of the parent and the child a love and attachment that is completely unique and wonderful. But before that child is born, that child is only a spirit sibling to the parents and vice versa. It is your body that makes your parents your parents and makes you their child.
The great question that naturally arises is “What about the tragic possibility that someone might lose one’s body?” What if there was a way where I could lose my body, and then find that my wife and I, while we are still attached emotionally, no longer shared the physical bond that makes her uniquely my wife and through which our children’s bodies were created? That would be a truly terrifying proposition.
Of course, I speak of the possibility that one might lose one’s body in jest. It is no possibility, it is inescapable fact. Everyone will lose their body. It is called death, and everyone will experience it. Without understanding that family relationships exist through the body, the enormity of death cannot be rightly understood, not the great gift of the resurrection.
It’s not as if we suddenly lose all interest in our family members, but something seems to be clearly lost. Certainly any good husband and wife can think of something…something that he or she will miss without a body. It is our bodies that brought us together, after all. Eunuchs don’t marry, and a disembodied spirit is definitely not in possession of a body. Whatever is the case, I am convinced that the dead recognized and poignantly feel the loss of the great gift of a body above all that live in mortality.
D&C 45:17 For as ye have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage, I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come,…
Thus the idea of death is a most terrible thought, because death carries with it an end of the means through which our children are our children, our spouse is our spouse, and our parents are our parents. Birth is the means for the creation of families, and death brings about the destruction of families. That is because death separates each of the individual members of the family from the body through which they were made family members. Thus death is a terrible fact of life. All families will dissolve into only the relations each person has with spiritual brothers and sisters, without children, spouses or parents.
I am sure this doesn’t mean that we suddenly lose all affection for family members, any more than a husband who is castrated suddenly doesn’t care about his wife. But at death the means through which the tie is bound is obviously gone. Their bodies are moldering in the earth.
My point isn’t to try and make the afterlife sound awful. Our ancestors clearly love us, their physical descendants, long after their bodies are gone. The brethren have been clear that there is compensating peace and happiness in death. The Lord, Himself, declares that he was giving Joseph Smith “rest” when he allowed him to be slain. But the hope of a resurrection and the return of the full joy of family relationships must be part of the joy to be had there. And without realizing this, we can only have a cursory sense of why the resurrection is so terribly important.
This is what the miracle of the resurrection is all about. The resurrection isn’t about returning individuals to their bodies so they can play basketball again any more than getting bodies was about basketball or any other earthly activity that isn’t sacred. Getting bodies is about becoming part of families, and having one’s own family. Death is not just the end of mortality, it is the end of the great gift of mortality – the joy of partaking of family relationships. Thus the resurrection, which is about restoring bodies and making them eternal, is about restoring families: husbands to wives and children to parents. The resurrection is not about individuals any more than birth is about individuals. The gift of a body is bestowed through birth in such a way that families are created as the gift is bestowed, and death is the loss of that gift through which those family ties existed. Resurrection isn’t about individuals, resurrection is about families. Resurrection restores the bodies through which all of our family relationships exist. Thus covenants involving eternal ties between parents and children are covenants about the resurrection. In the last analysis, while we make the covenants here on earth, and those covenants persist after death, it is in the resurrection that an eternal family finally partakes of its eternal nature in its fullness.
One may object to this since the eternal marriage covenant is intact in the spirit world. It is interesting to note Doctrine and Covenants 132 actually teaches that:
D&C 132:7 And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.
The wording is quite distinctive here. A marriage that is not a temple marriage ends at death and does not persist “after the resurrection from the dead”. Thus the issue isn’t whether marriage persists in the spirit world, the issue is whether it persists when marriage is still a complete concept, i.e. when it could actually be consummated. The issue is whether it persists “after the resurrection from the dead”. The reason given is that all covenants and oaths not by the proper authority “have an end when men are dead”. It is only with a body that marriage has its full meaning.