The first time I was old enough to realize I was calling adults at church "brother" and "sister" was probably when I was in Sunbeams.
It seemed so confusing. I've always been very literal and I knew these "brothers" and "sisters" weren't even related to me, so why was I calling them my brothers and sisters?
That was a question not just reserved for my Primary-aged self. Members of all ages have often wondered why we call each other "brother" or "sister." It's a practice that has gone back to the beginning of the Church and is kept no matter the language or location of Latter-day Saints.
But why do we do this? As it turns out, there are a few reasons we call each other "brother" and "sister" based on the doctrine of the Church. Here are two reasons that beautifully reflect our doctrine as Latter-day Saints.
1. It Reminds Us We Are All God's Children
Before coming to this earth, we existed as spirit children of our Heavenly Parents. We were all related in that regard; we were all spirit brothers and sisters.
"While members of other Christian denominations may speak metaphorically of all humankind being brothers and sisters and children of God, Latter-day Saints believe it literally in the sense that a Father in Heaven and a Mother in Heaven created spirit children in a premortal existence. Those spirit children, born into this or other worlds as mortal men and women, are therefore all of the same 'generation' and are literally brothers and sisters, children of deity" (Timothy W. Slover, "Brotherhood," eom.byu.edu).
By calling each other "brother" and "sister," we acknowledge our divine heritage as fellow children of God. Speaking to the Relief Society in 1976, President Barbara B. Smith said the following of referring to the women of the Church as a sisterhood.
"We look upon ourselves as being part of the family of the Lord, and so our sisterhood is one that has a deep understanding of this relationship" (Janath Russell Cannon, "Sisterhood," eom.byu.edu).
2. It Reminds Us We Are All Equal
As God's children, we are all equal because " all are alike unto God" (2 Nephi 26:33).
Using "brother" and "sister" reminds us of this. We may have different callings like Relief Society president, bishop, Primary president, stake president, etc., but this doesn't mean we are better than each other. Because we all carry the title "brother" and "sister," we don't set anyone higher than the other. No job position, marital status, or amount of wealth sets us apart because when we walk through the chapel doors, we are all "brother" and "sister" and we are all trying to live the gospel.
"Since all mortals are offspring of deity, all have equal access to saving grace and may, through good works and moral progression while living as mortals, become saved by that grace. This doctrine of literal kinship is a major driving force behind the Church's proselytizing activities: Latter-day Saints believe that they have an obligation to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world because all its inhabitants are their brothers and sisters" (Timothy W. Slover, "Brotherhood," eom.byu.edu).
While we are not all literal brothers and sisters, calling each other "brother" and "sister" at church reflects beautiful gospel principles. It reminds us that we all children of God and that we are all equal. It unites us while stripping away the perceptions that would divide us.
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