The apostle Paul explained that "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11).
In the Protestant world many biblical scholars interpret this scripture to mean that men and women are dependent upon each other. By this they mean that men and women have their own unique set of talents and strengths that is lacking in the other but when they work together their character traits compliment one another. This then makes them complete. This is especially true in the context of Paul's remarks where he is specifically referring to the relationship between husbands and wives.
Although this is a correct interpretation, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understands this verse to have a far greater significance than appears on the surface. Through modern-day revelation the Lord has revealed that marriage between a man and a woman doesn't end when each of them die but that relationship is meant to last throughout all of eternity.
However, in order for a marriage to last forever, a man and a woman must be married in one of the temples of the Lord by someone having the priesthood authority to seal that marriage for all eternity. The Lord has revealed, "In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it" (D&C 131:1-3).
For this reason a man cannot enter into the highest degree of heaven without a wife nor can a woman enter into the highest degree of heaven without a husband. This is why Paul said that in the Lord, the man cannot be without the woman nor can the woman be without the man.
When God placed Adam in the garden of Eden and gave unto him Eve to be his wife, the two of them had not sinned yet and were therefore not subject to death. Therefore, their relationship as husband and wife was meant to last forever. But no sooner had God joined them together than He gave them the commandment to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Thus, the purpose of marriage is to have children.
Obviously, the man by himself, nor the woman by herself can't fulfill this commandment therefore it takes the combined efforts of both the husband and wife to bring forth children. But why is this commandment so necessary and important? There are several reasons.
By having children parents literally "replenish the earth" because as one generation grows old and dies a new generation is able to keep the human race alive. If it wasn't for having children, the human race would become extinct. But the earth is a very large planet in comparison to the size of humans, so it is necessary for humans to multiply so they can populate the earth.
The Psalmist wrote "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward... Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them" (Psalm 127:3,5). Thus, another reason for having children is that they are a source of great joy to their parents. Notwithstanding the many times a parent must cope with a rebellious or disobedient child, or worry over them in both sickness and health, the vast majority of parents have a deep and abiding love for each of their children that brings them great joy that lasts throughout their entire life.
People are naturally inclined to live together in groups, which are known as societies. But for that to happen people have to learn to live together in harmony and work together to help one another. Thus, another reason for having children is that parents teach and train their offspring to have the kind of attitudes and skills that will help produce a happy and prosperous society.
This involves teaching children to know what is good behavior and what is unacceptable behavior and helping to reinforce the good things they do so they becomes a part of the child's personality. It involves teaching them good work habits, helping them to develop their talents, giving them an education, and providing opportunities for them to learn various skills. This is what the scriptures means when it says "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs. 22:6).
From a spiritual perspective, God loves man so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us because He wants us to live with Him in heaven, and the more children parents have the more people there are who can become worthy to inherit the kingdom of God. Thus, another reason why it's important for married couples to have children is so they can teach them to love God and keep His commandments and thus increase the number of people who are able to live in heaven with God forever.
But heaven isn't the only place where we can find happiness. The gospel brings joy and peace into the lives of those living here on earth and another reason why God has commanded us to have children is so the earth can be filled with righteousness. As parents teach their children to have faith in Christ and live by His teachings the more Christ's kingdom grows. And the example those children set for others to see will help influence others to come unto Christ. And it is in this way that the gospel spreads, bringing greater joy, happiness, and peace throughout the world.
For members of the LDS Church, there is yet another reason for having children. Joseph Smith taught, "Malachi says, [in the] last chapter, verses 5th and 6th: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
"I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other-and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect." (D&C 128:17, 18).
Not only are husbands and wives sealed to each other as eternal partners but they need to have their children sealed to them and they themselves need to be sealed to their parents. This sealing of parents to children in one continuous link going all the back to Adam is an essential part of God's plan for the salvation of the human race. As Joseph Smith taught, if this welding link of sealing parents to their children is not done then neither we nor they can be make perfect. Furthermore "the whole earth [will be] smitten with a curse and utterly wasted at [Christ's] coming" (D&C 138:48). Thus, having children is an important part of our salvation.
The Lord has also said, "if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!" (D&C 18:15,16).
This also applies to parents. Those who teach their children through word and example to come unto Christ and whose children become saved in the kingdom of God because of their diligence will have great joy in heaven. And if their joy will be great with helping just one child to become saved, how much more will their joy be if they have many children who likewise become saved?
But as important as all these reasons are for having children, there is one that is perhaps the most important of all. To understand why, we need to understand the nature of heaven.
We refer to God as "our Father, which art in heaven," but if God is our Father, then that makes us His children, and if that is so then that clearly shows a family relationship between God and us. Therefore, when we have children we are duplicating or imitating or behaving like God.
The scriptures tells us that God loves us so much that even though we have alienated ourselves from him through our disobedience, He sent His only begotten Son to die for us so we could be reconciled to Him. The love that most parents have for their children comes the closest to the kind of love that God has for us, thus, as we have children and love them we are following the example of God and learning to become a little more like Him.
As Latter-day Saints we not only believe that we have a Father in heaven but logic and reason tell us if we are children of God then we must also have a Mother in heaven as well. If mortal men need a mortal woman in order to become a father then it is only reasonable to conclude that for God to be our Father, He must have a wife who is our Mother.
The scriptures tell us that in the beginning of creation "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; [both] male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:27). The scriptures consistently refer to God in masculine terms, but if He made both male and female in His image then there must be a female God in whose image mortal women are made in.
As children of God, He wants us to become more like Him, and if He has a wife, then it is only makes sense that the reason why He established the institution of marriage was because He wants men and women to become married like He is.
As discussed earlier, marriage between a man and a woman was originally meant to last forever, and in the temples of the Lord, men and women are sealed together as husband and wife for all eternity. But why is marriage meant to last forever?
The very first commandment God gave to both Adam and Even was to "be fruitful and multiply," or in other words, to have children. If we are children of God, and He is our Father, and we have been commanded to become like Him, then it is clear that those who have been married for all eternity will be able to do what God, our Father is able to do, which is to have children throughout all of eternity. Thus the commandment to have children is an eternal principle and is patterned after that which God Himself follows.
Joseph Smith taught that the term "eternal life" should be more accurately translated as "eternal lives," because exalted beings will be able to create lives by begetting children eternally. The very reason why marriage is meant to last forever is so that a man and a woman who have been lawfully wedded as husband and wife by the sealing power of God's holy priesthood, can become eternal parents.
In this life if someone has six or eight children they are said to have a very large family. Not too long ago it was not uncommon for a family to have ten or twelve children. Today we have a hard time imagining having that many children to take care of and provided for their needs, yet when we consider that everyone living on the earth today, as well as all those who have ever lived in mortality, including infants who died at birth, are all children of God, we gain a glimpse of just how large God's family is. And there are still many more people who will yet be born into mortality.
But what does God do as a Father? He declared, "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). God does nothing else than being a Father to His children. He watches over them, provides for the temporal, emotional, and spiritual needs, helps them to learn to live together in harmony and work together to help one another. He teaches them correct principles whereby that can learn to develop righteous attitudes. He guides them and helps them to build good work habits whereby they can develop their talents and gain skills that will be of benefit to them. In short, God spends all of His time helping His children to become the best they can be. And this is the same thing that earthly parents do, except on a much smaller scale.
A favorite game that many children like to play is called "house." The way this game is played is that a young brother and sister will pretend to be mommy and daddy and using some dolls they'll pretend these are their children. Then they will act out being parents, often imitating the things they see their parents do.
In much the same way, all of us are playing "house." If we are all children of the same heavenly Father then we are, in reality, all brothers and sisters to one another. Therefore, a brother and sister from the spirit world will get married to each other here in mortality and have children, but the spirits of those children are also their brothers and sisters. Thus, we are imitating what our Father in heaven does by practicing with one another, except, instead of having millions and millions of children, we practice being mommy and daddy with just four, or six or perhaps as many as twelve or thirteen children.
The ultimate and grand purpose for why God commands us to have children is so that we can learn through experience, and gain the knowledge and skills necessary to someday become eternal parents ourselves and be able to care for our innumerable spirit children in the same way that our heavenly Father cares for us.
But instead of "playing" at being parents, we are actually in training to become heavenly parents. Therefore, our responsibilities are real and our actions have real consequences. Therefore, as earthly parents we can think of ourselves as being in the school of the gods where we are being taught all the things we need to know to become like our Father in heaven. Our instructors are the prophets along with the Holy Ghost, and our textbook is the scriptures. But instead of sitting in a classroom being lectured to, we are engaged in vocational training where we put into practice the lessons we are given.
In this life we often have to leave the home in order to make a living and sometimes we can get so caught up in our vocation that we think that our position or occupation outside of the home is more important than that of being a father or a mother. But after we leave mortality there will be no such positions as famous entertainers or highly successful businessmen, or great politicians. There will be no need for factory workers, or farmers, or engineers, or lawyers. But what will survive after death is our relationship with our family as well as the degree of righteousness we have attained.
This is why President David O. McKay said: "No other success can compensate for failure in the home. … The poorest shack of a home in which love prevails over a united family is of greater value to God and future humanity than the richest bank on earth" (April 1964 general conference).
President Harold B. Lee expanded on this subject when he said, "Now, you husbands, remember that the most important of the Lord's work that you will ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home. Home teaching, bishopric's work, and other church duties are all important, but the most important work is within the walls of your home" (October general conference, 1973).
Ezra Taft Benson has said, "The establishment of a home is not only a privilege, but marriage and the bearing, rearing, and proper training of children is a duty of the highest order" (October general conference 1947).
Here on earth we can afford to make mistakes but such is not the case in the heavenly realms. Here mistakes can be rectified but in heaven parental mistakes can have eternally disastrous consequences. Therefore, getting married and having children here on earth is a grand opportunity for us but it carries with it a great responsibility. However when we come to understand and appreciate why God commands us to get married and to have children we will become better motivated to keep God's eternal law of marriage.