Laying aside the spiritual content of this vision for a moment, the fact that progress and achievement are at the heart of a Mormon’s purpose on earth helps explain why Mormons are so adept at creating, leading, and even rescuing institutions. It is what they understand themselves to be on earth to do. It is the skill set required of their divine calling, and it is nearly the same skill set necessary for real-world success. In other words, there is a direct connection between Mormon beliefs and the triumph of the Marriott Corporation. There is a direct connec- tion between Mormon theology and the remarkable success of Stephen Covey. There is an undeniable link between Mormon religious ideals and the fact that graduates of Brigham Young University are among the most sought after by the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Secret Service, andhundreds of graduate schools around the country.
Mormons make achievement through organizational management a religious virtue. It leads to prosperity, visibility, and power. It should come as no surprise, then, that an Amer- ican can turn on the evening news after a day of work and find one report about two Mormon presidential candidates, another story about a Mormon finalist on American Idol, an examination of the controversial views of a leading Mormon news commen- tator, a sports story about what a Mormon lineman does with his “Temple garments” in the NFL, and a celebration of how Mormons respond to crises like Katrina and the BP oil spill, all by a “Where Are They Now?” segment about Gladys Knight, minus the Pips, who has become—of course—a Mormon.
Mormons rise in this life because it is what their religion calls for. Achieving. Progressing. Learning. Forward, upward motion. This is the lifeblood of earthly Mormonism. Manage- ment, leadership, and organizing are the essential skills of the faith. It is no wonder that Mormons have grown so rapidly and reached such stellar heights in American culture. And there is much more to come.
engine #2—family: for time and All eternity
Another fuel of the Mormon ascent in America—also a reli- gious calling that wins secular success—is the priority of family and community. In LDS theology, the family is not only a sacred institution—something many religions claim— but it is an eternal institution. Mormons believe families existed together before they came to this world—in a state called “premortality”—and they will exist together as families throughout all eternity if they qualify. In fact, they will rule together one day as their Heavenly Father rules this world now with his family. This means that while American society as a whole is experiencing the destruction of the traditional family—with all the poverty, lost legacies, and broken lives that can result—Mormons are building large families that are passionately committed to a family destiny both in time and in eternity. In fact, the phrase spiritual dynasty is sometimes used.
The features of these thriving families are becoming better known as Mormons reach demographic critical mass. A Mormon mother and father believe that they were already joined before their life in this world began. They also already had children. They have a duty, they are taught, to make sure they give birth to enough bodies for all of their preexistent children. Mormon families, then, tend to be large. It is not uncommon for a professor at Brigham Young University to have eleven children. A family of thirteen children in a Mormon family is not unheard of. J. Willard Marriott, the founder of the hotel chain, was one of eight children. David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue, is the father of nine. Stephen Covey, the management genius, is also the father of nine—and grandfather to fifty-two!
As important as the size of these families is the culture they create. If they remain true to Church teaching, children in these families will understand themselves as playing a vital role in an eternal family purpose. They will respect their parents, help their siblings, and embrace their family as almost the central priority of their lives—and not merely a tyranny to escape as soon as the law allows. None of these family members will drink alcohol, smoke, do drugs, have sex outside of marriage, or even drink caffeine. They will serve their Church and their community by way of serving their God. Parents will invest in the education of each child as a religious duty. All will attend meetings in which their eternal calling, unity, character, and purpose will be reinforced. Fatherhood, motherhood, sonship, and daughterhood will not be understood as the product of biology alone. They will be cherished as eternal spiritual states modeled after beloved heavenly beings. When the time is right, members of Mormon families will be “sealed” to each other “for time and all eternity” in sacred Temple ceremonies. The ties that bind will never be broken. Ever.